Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Day I let Her Try

As many of you have read here my daughter, Ellie, had a "life outside the shell" moment a few days ago when she conquered her fear of going down a big slide.  As I have seen her step out and overcome her fear of the slide and then go on to blog about it I have seen and learned some things from a moms perspective that I would like to share.

I have to admit that when Ellie first turned down the idea of going down the slide my initial reaction was "don't push her".  I remember the feeling of being talked onto roller coasters as a kid and it was always quite a traumatic experience for me.  But what The Lord reminded me of with Ellie is that there is nothing wrong with equipping them with the power to try something that scares them then leave the ultimate decision up to them.  After he reminded me of that I simply quoted 2 Timothy 1:7(which my kids all know by heart now because I say it so much).  The next thing I did was I got up and I went and got in line for the slide before Ellie had even made up her mind to ride it.  As she stood there starring at me from a far I waved her over to take a look from up top of the people going down.  She was still really nervous but I noticed a shift in her spirit as she said the verse and watched from the top as other people did it.

This whole situation makes me wonder, how often in our lives could we empower someone around us to do something that scared them and we miss the opportunity?  We may not want to be overbearing or simply don't know how to equip them to take a step.  So here are a few tips I've learned:

1. Give them a word to stand on.  People can argue you with you all day long but they can't argue with God's word.  They may not take a verse to heart the first time you share it but eventually it will produce fruit in their lives.  Our only job is to plant the seed and let God water and grow it.

2. Go ahead of them.  Something happens when those around us see us first be bold and walk up to that line and do it ourselves.  If you are bold and courageous others will follow.  Courage is contagious.

3. Let them see the view from the top.  Just like Ellie was encouraged seeing that it wasn't so bad after all, others will do do the same in our lives as we take them to the top and allow them to look at what is to come.  Give them a glimpse of the fun they would be missing if they opted to sit by and watch.

4. Once they do it, make a big deal about it!  I thought I would blog about Ellie's adventure but when God put it on my heart to let her do it I knew he was teaching her something too.  He wanted me to make a big deal about it for her because this will be a day she will never forget....the day she was bold and then got to blog about it!  The really cool thing is that her blog post has gotten more views and comments than anything I have written and I am thrilled about it!  There is nothing more powerful than a leader encouraging someone to step out of their shell than applauding them as they rise above the one who taught them!

I have to admit that watching Ellie blog was a little painful because she typed so slow!  I could have typed in 5 minutes what took her an hour to type but it wouldn't have had near the impact that it did coming from her. Another leader tip here:  LET THEM LEAD!  Everyone has a part to play and if we do it for them we will never know what God wanted to do in and through them.

The best part of this story?  After Ellie has seen how fun it was to live life outside of her shell she has decided to start her own blog called Ellie Joy's Amazing Life.  It really does take just stepping out once, seeing how much fun life can be and then you are hooked!

I leave you with this mission:

Think about your family, friends, co-workers and anyone else God has strategically placed in your life. What gifts do you see in them?  What area can you encourage them to step out in?  You never know the ripple effect that one person stepping out in faith may have on our world.  Dare to live life outside of your shell!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Day I Tried

I took the kids to a water park today and we had a blast!  I was planning to blog with some fun pictures of them but The Lord put on my heart to let my 7 year old daughter, Ellie, give her perspective of our day. Ellie had an "outside of her shell" moment today that I feel will inspire and encourage you.  

The day I tried by ellie Gilbert

today I  went to a water park and I swam. here is a picture of Me and my brother and sister.

We swam for a while then my dad said "do you want to go on the big slide?". I said NO!  I said no because I am scared.

then my mom said " God has not given you a spirit of fear but a power of  love and  a sound  mind ". I was still a little scared but my mom said she will go too. so I whent with my mom  to see how fast it goes I saw that it was slow so I decided to try it. while i waited for my turn I said the verse my mom told me. I was scared but I did it  anyway. it was fun !  i rode it lots of times after that .

 if you ever feel scared just ask god and he will help you. i am glad I went or if I didnt I would have missed the fun.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

5 ways to step away from the donuts!

No, donuts aren't the enemy of our soul. But when you lack the ability to stop at just one donut there is something lurking that may need to be addressed and that is the lack of self-discipline. This post is the final post in the 3 part series on 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God has not given me a spirit of fear or timidity, but power, love and self-discipline."  You can read the first two on power and love if you missed them.

Another way self-discipline is translated in this verse is "sound mind". I love both these translations because you can't have self-discipline without a sound mind.  Self-discipline is defined as soundness of mind, self-control and having mastery of ones mind.

I have to admit that this post on self-discipline has been the toughest for me to write.  It has been an area that The Lord has done the most work in my life but it's also the area that has the most skeletons in the closet that are a little scary to share. So bare with me as I share parts of my story with you. :)

As I mentioned in this post I accidentally dropped a lot of weight in high school. It was the first and only time I lost weight on accident.  After I saw my "before/after" I became addicted to staying thin. I would starve myself, take diet pills and workout twice a day.  I prided myself in having "self-discipline" to be able to say no to those cookies or pizza. The problem came, however, when I did reintroduce those junk foods. I became obsessed with food. It was all I could think about. I was either talking myself out of eating something through hateful thoughts about my body OR I was binging on those junk foods out of fear of when I would get to eat them again. It was a vicious cycle that I kept as my little secret well into my twenties.  I am happy to say I am free from this way of life and now view food as my friend rather than the enemy.  When my husband went to chiropractic school we learned how to take care of our bodies the way God intended us to and that was the beginning of my journey of being set free.

I want to share some practical ways I renew my mind and practice self-discipline.  Please note that you may not struggle with eating disorders but these principles can be applied to any area you struggle with self-discipline(such as exercising, finishing projects, sexual addictions, drug addictions, and more).

How to receive the gift of self-discipline(i.e. walk away from the donuts:))

1. Renew your mind!  In order to have a sound mind we must continually renew it. We renew it by taking our thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ(2 Cor. 10:5).  If you allow thoughts like "I have no control over this" to dwell in your thought life than you are will have no control.

2. Get in the word. As I shared with you I thought I had self-discipline by using negative talk to get myself to do what I wanted. The problem is that was on my own strength and I could only be strong for so long. Take a load off, give it to God and use His word as your biggest weapon against strongholds in your life.

3. Talk to God about it. Often times we think God doesn't care about the little details in our life. But in Matthew 6:26 it says "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" If he cares about the birds he most definitely cares about every detail of our life. Be real with him. Let him into your dark places that you dare not tell anyone about. He won't laugh or judge or tell anyone else. But I can promise you this...he will set you free.  He has already unlocked your prison cell now it's up to you to walk through it.

4. Know your temptations. Everyone experiences temptation in some area of their life.  For me, I have learned that when I overeat on junk food it messes with my mind. When my mind is messed with my spirit is messed with. And when my spirit is out of alignment I can't do the work of God. So while many people may think I turn down the junk for superficial reasons, like staying thin, it's actually because I would rather have a sound mind than indulge in the sweets. It might sound strange, but I always plan those indulgences and ask God to show me when I can partake without it affecting my spirit.

5. Just do it.  In the words of Nike "just do it"!  There comes a point where we have to make up our minds that we are or aren't going to allow a certain habit(or lack of) rule our lives. When we make that decision and then allow The Lord to show us how to overcome we will be victorious!

My prayer for this post is that you are encouraged to believe that self-discipline is a gift you can lay hold of and see your life transformed.

What area of your life do you need more self-discipline?  Are you willing to allow God in to that area?  

P.S. I have started a Facebook page called Life Outside the Shell where I am sharing encouragement(like the picture quotes I made in this article) on a daily basis. My heart for the page is to be a place where people can renew their mind and be encouraged to step outside of their comfort zones. You can follow it here 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Beautiful Woman

As I was getting ready this morning I had this thought pop into my mind: what drives you to spend hours in the bathroom getting ready, hours shopping for new clothes, hours working out and so much money on all of it that you have no idea how much you have truly spent in your lifetime?

I've found that when this deep of a question comes up with me it is usually God asking me to dig deeper into a topic that needs some light shed on it.  As you know this really is the age old question, why do we women have such a need to feel beautiful?  

One of the first answers God gave me was to look at Adam and Eve. When Adam first saw Eve he was amazed and enthralled by her beauty.  He loved the way she looked and I am willing to bet Eve had no make-up on, no curling irons, no fresh manicure and definitely didn't have the latest fashion statement piece of clothing. 

Just as satan always does he tries to turn something that God created for good and put a twist on it. I can't help but wonder if the enemy of our soul comes to us on a daily basis and says "if you would only lose 10 pounds, then you will beautiful." Or "If you get this product or that hairstyle then you will be beautiful."  No matter what lies he feeds us the truth is always God's word and according to Genesis Eve was beautiful just the way she was with no modifications.

This drive to feel beautiful starts an early age, as we all know. Here are my beautiful girls getting dressed up because that's what little girls love to do!

God speaks to me through my kids a lot.  As God laid this blog post on my heart I asked my 7 year old, Ellie, what make her feel beautiful. Fully expecting to hear something like "when I'm dressed as a princess" her answer shocked me.  She responded "when I make cards for people".  Wow, I think my 7 year old gets what it means to be truly beautiful.  After all my years of searching for the perfect hair product and awesome new shoes I have also found that to be connected to the heart beat of God and do his work makes you feel beautiful on the inside in ways that we could never achieve on the outside.

Am I saying we all need to ditch the make-up and quit taking care of ourselves?  Not at all. But I am personally challenged to start seeking the kind of beauty that comes from within with more time, money and energy than I used to spend on my outward appearance.  

Remember that God made you perfect just the way you are. He does not make mistakes. Ask Him to show you where you have believed a lie about your beauty and allow Him to restore that area in a way that only He can.  

"Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears The Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Social Media: A Powerful Tool

God put this post so strongly on my heart that I'm up at 1am to write about it. Social Media....we all love it and are part of it in some way, shape or form. I have been a part of Facebook for almost 10 years now...back in the day when you had to be in college to have an account. I have twitter, instragram and have recently started this blog.  If there was a group for social media addicts I would be there introducing myself and facilitating discussion.  I LOVE social media because it connects us to people we wouldn't have otherwise met, we can follow leaders we want to hear more from, stay in touch with old friends and family and share our lives with new friends.

The problem God has been revealing to me is not the connecting with people but more so the worship of this social media "god" and the lack of face to face time with those planted directly around us.

I have to confess that tonight was one of those nights that I spent more time plugged into Facebook & Twitter and not much time at all plugged into my own family.  As I was laying in bed praying and asking God to forgive me for that he spoke very clearly "Don't get so caught up with who is following you that you forget to follow me".  Wow...I was speechless.

While this isn't a blog post to beg everyone to stop using social media because it's the devil, it is a post to beg everyone to evaluate what is getting most of their time and energy.

Here are some warning signs you might be following social media before God:

1. You open your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email, etc before even saying hello to God in the morning.

2. You get annoyed when someone(in person) interrupts you when you are on social media.

3. You find yourself comparing your life to others on Facebook and thus determining your identity or self-worth from there rather than what God says about you.

4. Your idea of a friend is someone you know on Facebook and you can't remember the last time you had a real life or phone conversation with someone.

So besides going to the extreme and abandoning social media all together, how do we manage this ever growing beast?

 Here are some things God placed on my heart to do:

1. Put God first. Do not allow yourself to check-in to the social world until you have connected to God first. Something tells me as we start checking with him each time before we get on we will find our desire to be connected online so much will decrease.

2. Set boundaries. Assign designated times in your day that you connect to others via social media.

3. Ask God which social medial outlet he would have you use. It will wear anyone out keeping up with everything so just don't attempt it or something will suffer(most likely our kids and husband).

4. Unfriend ex's of any kind. This was something he told me to do a long time ago but I feel so passionate about it I felt I was supposed to share it here. There are no circumstances where keeping up with your ex on Facebook is acceptable or beneficial to you and your family. End of story.
 (In the words of Elsa...Let it go!)

I wish I could say I have never been in a place where I abuse social media but I can't.  I understand all too well the power it has over me if I allow it to. Remember that 2 Timothy 1:7 says God gave us self-discipline...use that gift to set healthy guidelines for using this tool.

Simply put, social media is a tool.  It's just like a hammer can be used to build or destroy, social media can be used to build new relationships but also can be used to destroy existing ones.  If we are going to choose to take on the responsibility to hold this tool in our hands we must use it wisely or it will bring destruction rather than life.

God loves and honors order in our life. As we put him and our own family first he will give us the desires of our hearts and make social media fun.

Me with my beautiful family:)

Monday, June 16, 2014

God is Love

Today's post is a continuation of the blog series I'm doing on 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God has not given us a spirit of fear or timidity, but power, love and self-discipline."
 You can read part 1 on power here.

God not only gave love but God is love.  We see his love for us all throughout the bible.  The most well known scripture that sums up how much God loves us is "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son,  that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

After reading that verse it doesn't make too much sense how the God of the universe could love us so much yet so many of us are wandering about life feeling everything but loved and searching for love in all the wrong places.  The opposite of love is fear.  As we just read in 2 Timothy God didn't give us a spirt of fear but a spirt of love. The Bible also says in 1 John 4:18 that "there is no fear in love. But perfect love cast out fear."  So why do we still have so much fear in our lives?  Fear of the unknown..fear of not being loved?  Primarily because we refuse to fully receive that love.  Let me share a personal story to help illustrate this.

I grew up a pretty overweight and overlooked girl. This picture below is me at church camp. To say I spent most of my free time eating donuts and snickers would be an understatement. :)  I still remember going to church camp and having all the boys come ask me to ask my friends out for them. At the time I shrugged it off but deep down it hurt. Even though we were young and now I am thankful I didn't receive that kind of attention I felt rejected and unloved.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself a high school girl who accidentally dropped a lot of weight. I went from being very overweight and unnoticed to one of the most noticed girls in the school.  Finally I knew what it was to be truly loved(or so I thought).  I have experienced both extremes of being completely overlooked to receiving too much unhealthy attention.  I can tell you that both are dangerous places to be if you don't know the love that comes only from The Lord.

I met my husband, Matt, in college and we got married while we were both still in school.  Because I had such misconceptions about what love truly was I brought all kinds of baggage into our marriage. But thankfully The Lord did a mighty work in me and as I grew closer to God I didn't need the attention from my husband like I thought I did.  I became comfortable in my own shell, if you will.  Now when I start to notice myself wanting attention from outside sources other than The Lord, I stop and disconnect from everyone and everything(yes this includes Facebook) and connect to my first and only true love.  While my husband and I do love each other with everything we've got nothing will ever compare to the love I can receive only from my father. 

What thing or person have you turned to in order to feel loved?  Ask God to show you then commit to connecting to him before you do anything else. The amount of confidence that comes when we are connected to our maker is unlike anything you could ever imagine.

P.S. Look at my adorable turtle my girls got me. Ellie said I should name him Timothy which of course I love because of this 2 Timothy scripture! :)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

God is Power

As you can see from my blog header the foundation in which this blog was started was 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God has not given us a spirit of fear or timidity, but power, love and self-discipline".  This scripture has been a rock for me and my entire family as we dare to take risks that we know God is calling us to.  I want to show you what that looks like for me so this will be a 3 part blog series as today I begin with power. 

What is power exactly?  Many of us probably think of a power lifter who is on a mission to lift as much weight as humanely possible. But the kind of power I am referring to isn't power in our own strength, it is power that comes from the Lord. The Lord not only gives power but he IS power. Think of it this way, if you give a gift to someone you usually leave them and they keep the gift. But God gave us a gift of power(one of our many gifts from him) but then he stays. We will never have greater power than when the presence of The Lord is upon us.  The Holy Spirit brings the kind of power into our lives that no man or demon can steal. 

The dictionary defines power as "the ability to do something or act in a particular way".  While on the contrary, timidity is defined as "lacking in self-assurance, courage, or bravery; easily alarmed; shy".  Wow how different these two are yet both have one thing in common and that is our actions.  

It used to never occur to me that I had been given power by God. Once I learned of this power he has given to us I had to decide what I would do with it.  Would I give the power to God and let him work in and through me or would I give the power to the enemy and allow him to keep me in my shell, too terrified to speak or act for fear of rejection or failure?  In my opinion, we never stop making that decision on a daily basis. 

I read an article that described an illustration a university professor did on the first day of class.  He drew a black dot on a white board(as I have illustrated below) and asked the class what they saw.  Everyone said they saw a black dot but not one person mentioned all of the white around it.  

This black dot represents the one thing that holds us back from stepping out, taking risks and believing God's word. It also represents the "goliaths" in our life. If we aren't careful those Goliaths get more praise than our God. 

How do we move from a place of timidity to a place of power?  For me, God's power is released in my life when I press into him in prayer and reading his word then choosing to focus on how BIG the white is(our God) and refusing to allow any black dots(circumstances, etc) to dictate my days, thoughts and actions.  

As we choose to focus on the things above everything here on this earth will fall into place. 
"Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth." Colossians 3:2

My final thought to you today:  What is holding you back from moving forward? Take a step of faith and the power of God will be with you. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Big 3-0!

As I mentioned here I share a birthday with my son Zeke.  We have never thrown him a real party so this year I decided to go all out and have a backyard splash party for him.  I am not a party planner so when I do throw one it totally consumes me.  I have told my husband from the day our son was born to not include me on his birthday celebration because I always wanted him to have his own special day. So, honestly, even though it was my 30th birthday I really had no idea anything was being planned for me. Truth be told I thought maybe my mom would "surprise" me with a homemade cookie cake since that's what she made for me growing up(still craving that btw mom). :)  I thought my sister, Sarah, would personalize a unique gift for me because that's what she does. And most importantly I thought my husband, Matt, would give me a night alone with no kids to get a mani/pedi and do whatever I please because let's face it...these days just going to the bathroom with no kids around is a real treat!

After Zeke's party Sarah suggested we get a pedicure and do a little shopping. So we went shopping and then tried to find somewhere to get a pedicure but being Saturday afternoon every place we stopped at said it would be an hour wait.  Little did I know that Sarah was texting with my family & friends while we were out making sure we made it back to the house at the right time. She told me she needed to get back to the house since she left her daughter, Maeva, there napping. At this point I honestly had no idea anything was going my mind we would go home, grab all the kids and head out the door to church, then that night we would go out to eat or Matt would give me some free time with no kids:)  

Here is a picture of the kids upstairs preparing for us to walk in:

When I opened the door and saw this I was more confused then surprised!  Almost everyone at my party was just at Zeke's party a few hours before so I couldn't figure out why they were there again:)

Here is a picture of me with my family.  Luckily I had a cute dress on because I left the house ready for church but as you can see in this pic my hair was frazzled and make-up was non-exsistant from the party earlier that day.

Next they showed me the amazing picture my sister Sarah designed and had everyone there put a thumbprint on:

Here is the yummy food table filled with my favorite treats(sugar cookies, cake and Kristen's most amazing homemade hummus!):

And how about this 30 collage my sister Sarah designed?!  Thank you Sarah...I will cherish this forever!

Some fun water bottles that Sarah also designed...I missed the crafty gene in our family:)

Here is a pic of me and my wonderful sister Sarah. Thank you Sarah for making my day so special!

Here I am with my wonderful parents.  I definitely wouldn't be who I am without you two!

Here are my amazing friends, Janeil & Kristen, who worked behind the scenes to get this party planned for me...I love you girls more than words can express!

One of my favorite parts of my birthday was when my friends spoke prophetic words over me!

Our first attempt at a group picture:)

Another group shot of everyone but my mom who was taking the picture. 

The surprises didn't stop here!  My amazing husband arranged a sitter(on his own), took me and my family to The Melting Pot for dinner and surprised me with an ipad so I can work on my blogging(that's only funny to you if you remember the Friends episode where Ross works on his music). :)

Here I am with my handsome man at the Melting Pot where he had rose petals waiting for us on the table:

To say I was blessed by the love of my sweet friends and family would be an understatement. There was a season of my life where the Lord asked me to spend less time with friends and get grounded in him.  It was painful and lonely at times but I am so thankful I obeyed because now I have a deep relationship with the Lord, amazing friends, and a rock solid marriage that doesn't waiver when the storms of life hit. Thank you everyone for making my Big 3-0 special!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Outside the Shell

One of my favorite things about God is his amazing sense of humor.  Just when you think you have been stretched he stretches you just a little bit further.  As I shared in my first blog post I am passionate about pulling women out of their shells since that is what God has done to me over the years.  One thing I am quickly learning is that we all have a different level of "shell" in different seasons of life. I once was at a place that the thought of introducing myself or even saying hello to a stranger made my stomach hurt. I am now past that phase of life but just when I thought I had shed all of my "shell" The Lord shows me another area he wants to pull me out in.

As I shared in this post, last summer me and some other women had the privilege of leading a summer class at our church.  I am still completely humbled and grateful for the opportunities The Lord has given me to minister to women and marriages considering the kind of woman and wife I used to be.  The class went so well last year that they asked us to do it again this summer.  I had been praying about the class for months and was so excited until about one week ago when it hit me that I would be speaking in front of a group of women in exactly one week.  I won't lie...fear crept in.  Thoughts of my past and inadequacy started to taunt me asking who I thought I was to speak to women on being a wife and what a Godly marriage looks like.  Over the last week I had to make a decision everytime those thoughts came...would I give it a voice in my head or would I silence it by speaking the word of God?  I felt The Lord asking me journal this last week about my fear of speaking in front of people and here are a few things he showed me:

1. CHOOSE life. Every moment of every day we are faced with the temptation to believe the lies of the enemy or silence them by speaking the word of God.  It's not a feeling but it is a decision. We must choose life through the word of God.

2. Draw near to God. Those feelings of inadequacy and nervousness are true if we are doing it in our own strength. But God loves to show off his strength in our weakness.  As those feelings of fear came, I drew near to him all fear and anxiety just melted away. 

3. You will never go any further in life than your fear of man will allow you.  The Bible says in Matthew 6:24  "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other." Even though this scripture is referring to the love of money I feel it can be applied here to not serving both man and God.  It's pretty simple....if we live our lives to serve man and get mans approval we will completely miss the call God has on our lives.  

So here is a picture for you of me and my friend, Hannah, stepping outside of our comfort zones and speaking today:

My prayer in being vulnerable and sharing my real life, present struggles is that you will recognize that everyone deals with fear to some level. The question is what will we do with that fear when it comes?  We must choose to not let fear paralyze us and just step out in faith and do whatever it is God is asking us to do.  It doesn't matter if you are speaking to a group or doing something as simple as walking over to someone who looks lonely and introducing yourself to them.  Nothing is too small or too big for God so don't ever discount what you are called to on a daily basis.  You just may be the answer to someones prayer.  

"If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities." Luke 16:10

Be faithful with the baby steps and before you know it you will be walking shell free and in God's perfect will for your life.