Yesterday, (Monday) was a difficult day in the ole noggin' (my mind.). I think it was largely due to the fact that I did not sleep well the night before. From the moment I awoke my mind was filled with racing thoughts, most of which kept telling me that I am going nowhere, nobody likes me, I am weak-willed and am not a good representation of a strong christian woman.
In addition, to all these "lovely" thoughts, I had a difficult conversation with a friend last night and was feeling all sorts of emotions around it. I have not exercised in a long time because my work out buddy has been away in another country and I am frustrated with myself because I cannot seem to get up and get out of the house to go for a jog. (Plus my knee hurts) One of my good friends moved away to Hawaii. I miss her and I am sad.
Now, please understand that I do not share all this because I am looking to complain. Life is life and things happen. I share all this because, for me, what I am seeing is, in order to live a life with the peace that surpasses all understanding and to live out my purpose I need to be making sure that I am not only reading the word of GOD everyday AND thinking ON IT but that I am leaning on His grace.
So, thankfully, after a tough day, I went outside last night to spend some, much needed, alone time with the Lord. I brought my bible with me and took a seat in a lounge chair facing the west. The sun was setting behind the hill in my back yard, the air was perfectly still and I could hear birds chirping in the trees. It had been a long time since I just sat still and spent time with God so as soon as I began to talk to him I started to tear up. In fact, I even looked away. Hmmmm. That's interesting. Why did I do that? I think it was because I was ashamed at how long it had been since I had taken the time to be with him. I grasped for the words to say to my Father but eventually, as I began to read words from the bible, my heart started to find home again in his loving embrace. The world, the shame, the heaviness, the condemnation and all the pressure I was feeling started to melt away as I sat there pouring my heart out to my Father. As usual he met me there.
I asked him if I had sinned against him and if so to please show me. I asked him to help me to not be such a perfectionist and I asked him to please help me to be courageous to keep going down the path he has placed on my life. And most of all I asked Him to help me grasp what it means to LEAN on HIM for help.. To rest in Him. To remain IN HIM and to be consistent in that.
And then I started to read 2 Corinthians chapter 12.
In it Paul is talking to the people of Corinth and he is speaking of the thorn in his flesh.
What was Paul's thorn in his flesh?
The bible does not say and all we know for sure is that it was some bodily trial which God allowed to come into his life. I love that the bible is not specific about what his thorn was. It could have been that Paul suffered with migraines. It could have been an eye disease or maybe Paul suffered with the thorns that I suffer with which are insecurity and emotional eating. No matter what it was, this passage gives me comfort knowing that Paul suffered with something and its not like I LOVE that Paul suffered. It is the fact that while he suffered he still preached the gospel with passion and zeal. While he suffered he still accomplished what he accomplished in his life. He never gave up. He never lost faith in God. He never grew bitter and quit. AND even more than than that what I love the VERY MOST is that Paul asked for his thorn to be removed three times! I can relate to that. I have wanted my food struggles to go away. I have fantasized about a life where I was always confident and never struggles with emotional eating. Oh what could I accomplish then?!
Hmmmmm. I think that's that point and why I have a thorn in my flesh. Because it is not ME accomplishing the things I am accomplishing. It is Christ within me. SO I CANNOT BOAST!
If you are not familiar with this bible passage, what it talks about next is that Pauls' request to have his thorn removed was to no avail and after realizing that God was not going to be taking away his affliction, Paul then goes on to explain that instead of removing it God basically says this to him:
"I will not remove the thorn, but I will do something better. I will give you grace to bear it and just remember Paul, that although I have not given you what you have asked for, I am giving you what you need most deeply. You want my power and strength to accompany your preaching right? Well, the best way to have that happen is for you to be kept in a place of weakness."
Now I don't know about you but I don't want to struggle with any weakness. Because, for me, I not only realize I have the weakness but then I feel awful and shame about having the weakness. And even though I have wished that my weaknesses would go away I see from this passage that God is saying that he is not taking them away because he is actually grainting me something better than the removal of my weaknesses. What is it that he gives me?
He gives me the companionship of the Son of God and the assurance of His strength and enabling grace in my life.
God says that His grace is sufficient for me. I don't have to ask him to make his grace sufficient. It already is.
Now I don't know about you but I am asking God to help me to REALLY grasp what is being said here.
So I kept reading in the bible. What was Paul's response to this? Here's what Paul said:
"Therefore, I most gladly will rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upone me."
Wow! OK, so instead of complaining and getting frustrated with the thorn in his flesh and with himself Paul said he would, from now on, boast in his infirmities. He would actually get on his knees and thank the Lord for them.
Um, OK, I don't know about you but this is not my first gut reaction. It is not my first thought to get on my knees and thank God that I have this food issue or that I struggle with insecurity. But what if I started doing that?
"It is when we are conscious of our weakness and nothingness that we most depend on the power of God. And it is when we are thus cast on HIm in complete dependence that His power is manifeted to us and we are TRULY strong." '
So what does this all mean? Well it means everything.
Especially for a perfectionist like me.
God’s favor was all Paul needed to successfully fulfill his life’s calling. Or I could put it another way. God's favor, his grace, is all Mandy needs to successfully fulfill her life calling.
In other words, Mandy does not need to work so hard. To beat herself up when she comes face to face with her weaknesses. NO, she can actually REJOICE in them.
What a radical response!
(I got this next part from a blogger named Kelly Levantino, Find her blog whole blog here.)
God’s grace is sufficient for the following...
1) To survive pain. God’s blessing is enough for us to make it through any kind of physical, spiritual, or emotional pain, no matter how long that pain exists. God’s grace – His favor – is enough, all by itself, to sustain us until He determines that pain should end.
2) To empower us for ministry. God’s Kingdom purposes are accomplished by His endorsement alone, not human approval, ability, or ambition. We all have a ministry, and His grace – His blessing and approval – is enough, all by itself, to make our ministries flourish.
3) To establish our security. We all wonder, to varying degrees, if we are loved, valued, appreciated, accepted, approved of, desired, etc. Too often we look to others to affirm our worth. God’s grace – His approval – is enough, all by itself, to solidify our true worth.
4) To fulfill our life callings. We are all here for two reasons: to know God and to make Him known (Exodus 9:15-16). How we make Him known, and to whom, may vary, but, ultimately, we’re all called to the same thing. And the calling is not for the feint of heart. But, God’s grace – His favor and blessing and approval – is enough, all by itself, to empower us to do what we’re supposed to be doing.
So I guess to put it succinctly God’s grace is sufficient for everything.
(Artwork credit: I got it from Google images. Kingdom Culture.)
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us - Ephesians 3:20.
I have read and re-read that verse over and over, picking it apart, trying so hard to imagine what it means, specifically how it pertains to my life. What is He able to do in my life? What do I need to do to make it happen?
Seeing how it is Monday, Mandy Monday to be exact, I had spent a number of hours writing a blog post toady but then, with one simple click of a button, it all vanished when I mistakenly pressed delete just now.
So, because I do not want to spend another two hours writing another blog post, I am going to keep this simple and share a bit about this verse because this verse is a timely one for me right now as I anticipate some things that I feel are coming my way.
Because I love looking up the definitions to words and what scripture verses mean I referenced the Concordence to see how they expanded upon the meaning of Ephesians 3:20.
Here's what it said....
God is good.
God is able.
God is able to do.
God is able to do what we ask.
Able to do what we think.
Able to do what we ask or think.
Able to do above all that we ask or think.
Able to do abundantly above all that we ask or think.
Able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.
I love this.
I have a dream. Do you?
I have held a dream in my heart for the past 11 years waiting patiently for God to answer it. This dream is to be married to my best friend and as a team we create and sell art, make videos, speak worldwide about the radical love of Jesus and share our testimonies of what God has done for us both individually and as a couple.
There have been times when I was certain that this would happen for me. I could see it in my mind's eye. I could feel it. But then the years would go by and I would be spending yet again another Christmas alone. This will be my 11th one this year. (Or will it?)
There have been times when I have been convinced I have been called to a life of singleness. Now, I have no clue what God's plan is. Yes, I do hope that I get to see my dream come true. I really do but what I have come to discover is that the real dream I have is to take what I just wrote above and believe it, to my core until I am utterly convinced down to my toes that GOD Is able and GOD can do exceedingly above all that we ask and think. NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS.
Because the truth is that I have some broken thinking. Thinking that is rooted in lack. Thinking that is rooted in believing that I am the one that has to do all the work. That it's up to me to earn, achieve and make this dream come true. When in reality the dream, if it does come true. will happen because God is able. God is able, period. God would be the one to do it.
I think my only job is to just to prepare myself to receive it. To believe it.
After getting a lot of likes on my Etsy Shop this past week, way more than normal and seeing my reaction it got me thinking. Why do I have a hard time receiving exceedingly abundantly more than I can ask or think? Isn't that what God is able and wants to do? So why then when good things happen like the Etsy Shop thing do I feel guilty, ashamed, skeptical and sometimes even angry about it? Why do I push it away? Do I not feel worthy?
I don't know quite yet exactly what this is all about. I am in the middle of a process but what I do know is that I can bring everything out into the light and I can pray to my Father about things. I can bring these quesitons to him. I also know that the Lord loves faith. So I pray that I believe and I am able to recieve all the he is able to do. Because he is able to make this dream of mine come true. In fact, it is a piece of cake to him.
So, just to be cheesy let's just say that my dream was a cupcake. (I drew this cupcake today and wanted to use it in the blog post)
I pray that I not only can recieve a cupcake from God but the extravagant one he would give me. The almond cashew cupcake with the light pink cream cheese frosting, the warm icy blue glaze, the light and creamy orange creamsicle whipped topping, with a homeade vanilla wafer and a bright red cherry on top.
Because God wants to abundantly and exceedingly more than we could ask or think. He puts the cherry on top of your already amazing dream and I pray that you and I are able to recieve whatever it is that he has for us. I pray I receive it as a confident daughter of a king that knows she is cherished, valued, adored and loved more than she could ever imagine.
And I pray I give all the glory to him.
Yesterday at my church, my pastor, whom I love, talked about the fact that our thoughts literally shape and determine what we do with our lives.
To back this up with scripture he referenced Proverbs 4:23, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."
Aaaaaah, so true! Whether you believe it or not, everything we do stems first from a thought. I mean, think about it. What you think you really become! If you think you cannot do something you won't do it. If you think you can do something, you will, It's really that simple.
Now this is great news if your thoughts are positive and you think you can do anything but what if your thoughts are poopy and you constantly think about how ugly you are (which you are not), how inadequate you are (you are so capable) or how unsuccessful you are compared to the rest of the world? (You can change the world.)
I was so grateful for the reminder yesterday in this area because despite how many times I have heard that scripture verse and how many books and blogs I have read on this topic, I fall into the trap of negative thinking far more often than I want to admit and I don't know about you but I am not OK with this.
AND what I am so grateful for is that there is a solution!
Over the years I have thought some pretty poopy thoughts and was naively believing things about myself for way too long. I did not grow up reading the bible and knowing the truth about who I am in Christ. Nope, I believed that I was not a good artist. I thought I had to earn love. I believed that God was always frustrated with me because I made mistakes. I believed I had to be perfect and thin to be loved. I believed I was fat, ugly, unlikable, the list, unfortunately, goes on and on.
As a result of these poopy thoughts, several things happened. Or should I say, did not happen? I did not attempt to acquire a job as an artist. In fact, even though I graduated college with a BA in ART, I NEVER ONCE went on a job interview because I was convinced that I would not be able to do the job. So, I settled and was in positions far below what I was actually capable of. I was not living out my full potential. This then drove the negative self-talk down deeper which then resulted in more negative self-talk. I then tried to drown the negative thoughts (the ones I was aware of because there were many that I was not even aware of) with food, drugs, relationships and alcohol to appease the torture in my mind but this was a band-aid and not getting to the core of the problem. I needed a brain washing. Thankfully, that's just what I have been doing for a while now and my life is changing because of it.
Here's another illustration:
Because I did not believe that I am forgiven and that my sins have been dealt with by Jesus on the cross I spent a large part of my life trying to feel OK by being perfect. A state I always fell short of and therefore was under constant self-condemnation. BUT if you know the word of God you know that "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," Roman 8:1.
This takes the weight off the pressure I used to put on myself to not make a mistake. I know that God is not sitting up on a throne looking down at me ready to pounce on my every mistake. No, in fact, God loves me "an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness." Jeremiah 31:3
Did you see that? God is not mad. God is not mean. God draws us in with unfailing kindness. He loves us more than we can ever imagine.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
For too many years I believed what was coming into my brain. Basically I was defenseless. I had weapons available to me but I did not know it. I knew about the bible but I didn't know the bible. But I know now and boy oh boy, am I ever going to fight back!
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes." Ephesians 6:10-18
Last week, at church during the sermon, one of the other pastor's shared something that he said would be cheesy but would be something we would undoubtedly remember when it came to renewing our minds. Boy was he right because it was a bit cheesy but, like he said, this cheesiness has stuck in my brain and has helped me.
I'll explain the gist of his cheese.
He said that every lie that comes into our minds needs to washed with the word of God and to illustrate this, he brought out a bar of soap and held it up. Pointing to the soap he said, "For every lie there is a lye. (soap, get it?)"
In other words, for every thought you have that is not of God, there is a word that will trump or supercede that negative thought or lie.
Let's say you were thinking something like this:
Lie: "Oh great, they brought in free food again. I am not going to be able to control myself if I am around all those pastries and bagels at work. I'll never get a handle on this food thing."
Lye: "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7
Did you see that? It is NOT TRUE that you cannot control yourself. That is a lie, a lie from the pit of hell and even though it may feel like you cannot control yourself, it does not mean it is true.
"Yah but it feels so real. I have been struggling with food for so long!"
I get it. Trust me I get it more than you know. Food has been an issue for me for a long time. But it is changing and I have found that real freedom with food is found in asking Jesus for help. In those moments when and if a negative thought comes into my brain, I speak the word, the word of God, over myself! God's word has so much power in it. In fact, it has ALL power.
In these moments, you are speaking with the authority of heaven. These are not words like, "go away negative food thought or I don't want to eat that." What you are saying when you speak God's word is FAR MORE POWERFUL than the thought because you are co-laboring with the one that wants to take the burden for you....JESUS. He died so you and I could live a life not controlled by food.
AND if speaking over the thought feels like it is not working then talk to or call a friend. Tell them what is going on. It is not weird. I do every now and again. (Although much less now.) Talking to someone you know takes the power of the lie away. I recommend that you call a friend that will give you God's word and truth to replace the lie. The lye for the lie. (Cheesy, I know, but I bet you'll remember it.)
This takes practice but this is where you find REAL victory and TRUE freedom. It may take a while for the feeling and the thoughts to go away but THEY WILL and eventually you will be walking in the freedom Christ paid such a radical price for.
This is why it is so vital to know what God says about us. If I know what he says about me, if this truth is hidden deep down into depths of my heart, then I will not be tossed around by the world's lies.
So my friend. I exhort you to get in your bible and get to know the character of God. Get to know WHO YOU REALLY are. "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9
If you are being tormented by negative, fearful, anxious or worrisome thoughts then ask Jesus for the word that will supercede it. Ask him for the lye. The solution to your problem is in the bible.
I am doing this right along side you. It is the most important thing you and I will ever do. If you want things to change this is the way to do it. You have to FIRST CHANGE your thoughts and just like En Vogue sang, if you free your mind the rest will follow.
So, have fun with this because it is fun! I realize there may be pain in your life but there is freedom ahead. It is fun to realize that you are powerful and free. It is fun to experience your Saviour BEING your Saviour. It is wonderful to know what Jesus made available to us when he died on the cross for us. It is fun to know what God really thinks about you. So, let's be cheesy and wash our brains with lye and live the victorious life we were created for.
(Normally I post my artwork the brain washing artwork is not mine.)
Motivated by the radical love of Jesus, I create beautiful works of art and passionately share my testimony to free people all across the earth to also fully and completely live the life they were uniquely created for.
I blog about things that I experiene and hope will motivate, guide and inspire you toward greater creativity, fulfillment, peace, and joy in your everyday life.