Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Insecurity




I define insecurity as that uneasy, fearful feeling that we get when we think we aren’t enough and we are vulnerable to being judged by other people.
I work with lots of people who struggle with insecurity. Their circumstances are different, but their feelings are similar. They are not sure of their value. They don’t know if they are acceptable to other people and this makes it hard for them to accept themselves. They feel vulnerable to judgment and think that if they judge themselves harshly, then it won’t hurt so much if other people do it too.
I wrestle with insecurity too. My body looks different than what our media presents as beautiful. I feel beautiful a lot of the time, but sometimes I’m afraid that my body shape isn’t acceptable. When clients suddenly stop coming to see me without an explanation, I wonder if I did something wrong. I feel insecure when someone knows how to do something valuable and I don’t. I’m blessed to be intuitive with the feelings of others, but if someone close to me is feeling angry or sad, then I can usually tell and sometimes I worry that their feelings are my fault. I fear that people are judging the decisions that I’m making with my money, in wedding planning, in how I spend my time and energy and in the changes I am making professionally. I really want people to like me and feel happy with me and it’s hard for me when they don’t.
Even typing this, I’m fighting insecurity. It’s trying to tell me that I shouldn’t give such specific examples of things I struggle with. Now you are sure to know that I am a real person who actually struggles just like everyone else. I’m also thinking of the fact that I just got new business cards printed. I decided to list my blog address on my cards in case my clients would benefit from the things that I write about. Insecurity is insisting that for that reason alone, I should keep this more professional and present my strengths rather than my weaknesses. Insecurity further suggests that I really shouldn’t blog at all since I don’t have actual training in writing and probably no one really wants to know what I’m thinking anyways.
I know that insecurity lies to me. I really want to stop listening and believing those lies.
I was talking with one of my clients about what happens when we use anyone or anything other than God as a reference point for our self-esteem. We feel great when we are getting positive feedback, terrible when we are getting negative feedback and extremely unstable as we go from person to person and the feedback shifts back and forth from positive to negative.
I spoke the truth to myself as I encouraged this person to make God their only reference point. I told them to fix their eyes on Jesus and to let His thoughts and feelings toward them inform their self-esteem. In God, we receive such love and acceptance that insecurity is forced out. How can we feel insecure when everything about God’s pursuit of us reassures us of our beauty, our desirability and our incredible value?
I’ve also started asking God to cover me with His beauty when I’m struggling with feeling unlovely. I think of God, who is perfect in beauty, causing true beauty to live within me through the Holy Spirit. I imagine Him shining through my spirit so brightly that all of my imperfections are covered. I ask Him to lavish His love on my vulnerable places and to make me feel secure in Him.
Still Counting Gifts:
·         #769: Real security found in relationship with God
·         #770: How receiving more of God’s love actually solves problems
·         #771: Perfect running weather
·         #772: When I met the yellow lab/basset hound dog
·         #773: Our neighbor sent a huge piece of delicious cake over
·         #774: Fun catching up with a friend after several months
·         #775: Helping my clients to count gifts in their lives
·         #776: Transition
·         #777: Cold sweet tea on a hot day
·         #778: Declaring the goodness of God in the face of suffering

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Power of Confession




Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:13-16
I have been reflecting on the power of confession this week.
Personally, I was struggling with feelings of condemnation and fear about something that I had done. I was tempted to struggle in silence, hoping that the feelings would fade. I had already confessed to God, repented and asked Him to let me experience His love and forgiveness, but I was having a hard time letting them come in. Finally, I confessed my sin and my feelings to another and asked them to pray for me. I felt such relief, even as the words were leaving my lips. No longer was I alone in my struggle. I stopped hiding and came into the light through my vulnerability. I felt the warmth of love begin to affect my thoughts and feelings as I received prayer and words of encouragement.
Professionally, my job is similar to that of a priest. People come to me and share their secret struggles and sins. They tell me about the things that they think and are terrified to say. It is in these moments that I especially like to imagine Jesus sitting next to me. I picture Him receiving the confession and extending forgiveness and grace. I listen for the words of truth spoken in love that He has for each specific person and I attempt to repeat them back as accurately as possible.
I hope that my clients will feel like I did when I experienced the power of confession. I want them to feel known and loved. I desire for them to experience God’s rich love and lavish mercies and to discover the courage that they need to respond to God’s commands. I hope that freedom and change will feel possible through Him.
Jesus is our high priest who lives to make intercession for us before the Father. He is the one who knows our confession before we make it and has the power to pardon. Jesus offers us these incredible moments of forgiveness and restoration when we confess our sins to Him. His generosity extends even further when He directs us to include other people in experiencing our redemption. Our feelings of love and acceptance can be multiplied when we share such a moment with Jesus and a friend.
Let us confess our sins to one another. Let us pray for one another, that we may be healed.
Still Counting Gifts:
·         #755: Sharing a weekday with Ben
·         #756: Mundane errands are more fun when we’re together
·         #757: Chocolate dipped ice cream cones
·         #758: Finding beautiful shoes to wear to my wedding
·         #759: How God’s grace really does take effect the instant I repent
·         #760: When God’s love blankets my weak places and strengthens them
·         #761: The session that I was nervous to have becomes one of my most meaningful
·         #762: Freedom to include ministry and discipleship in counseling
·         #763: My car is fixed
·         #764: 3 day weekends
·         #765: Going to sleep with clean sheets
·         #766: Stunning gift wrapping at Poska
·         #767: Sharing gelato
·         #768: Being in bed on time

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Losing Fitness


 
I bought new running shoes yesterday. They feel fresh and they look clean. I purchased my most colorful pair yet and am excited to see where they will take me.
I was sharing some of my running history with the guy who was helping me. I was explaining that I have been running several times a week for almost a month now, but I am still struggling to run distances that used to be easy for me. A 3 mile run used to be my shortest, most basic run and I could run it several times a week. When I was training for marathons and half-marathons, there were seasons where a 5 mile run would feel short. Now, it’s hard to believe that I have even completed a marathon and two half-marathons. I just bumped my weekly runs up to 2 ½ miles and it has been challenging. I’m going to do 3 ½ miles for my long run this weekend because 4 still seems a little too long.
The guy helping me was also a runner and he was empathizing with my experience of losing my ability to run longer distances easily. He told me that we lose physical fitness after only 3 weeks of relative inactivity. My experience confirms that this is true, but it still shocked me a little bit to hear. I have trained my body to run long distances in the past, but seasons of relative inactivity have caused me to lose that ability.
I find this principle to be true in spiritual fitness too.
I can have an amazing God encounter in the prayer room on Monday night and really want to skip out and watch TV by Thursday night. I can easily transition from hungering for God through His word to struggling to read my Jesus Calling devotional for 5 minutes in the span of one day. I can remember when 4 hours in the prayer room flew by during my Fire in the Night internship. I couldn’t get enough time in God’s presence. At other times, even an hour can feel like a long time in the prayer room.
Now, I know that these changes are a normal part of our Christian experience and shifting feelings. But, I am sobered by my heart’s amazing tendency to cool quickly when it is not consistently postured before the fire of God’s love. My spiritual condition is like my physical condition. If I don’t use it, then I will lose it. If I don’t intentionally cultivate relationship with God, then I will quickly feel distant and hard-hearted.
So, I’m running, physically and spiritually. Physically, I really enjoy running and I know that it helps improve my physical health. Spiritually, I enjoy intimacy with God and I want to run the race that He has marked out for me well. I also enjoy when I can do these two together, by praying and rejoicing as I run.
Still Counting Gifts:
·         #741: New running shoes!
·         #742: A vanilla latte from Wired CafĂ© while waiting
·         #743: My mom
·         #744: Our fun family gathering to celebrate Mother’s Day
·         #745: Beautiful weather
·         #746: Green buds on trees
·         #747: Pink blossoms on the tree in the backyard
·         #748: Buying cherries for the first time this season
·         #749: Frosting cupcakes
·         #750: Receiving a personal letter in the mail
·         #751: Walking the rows of new plants, finally tucked into the ground, with Ben
·         #752: Holding hope for my clients
·         #753: When I can’t sleep in the middle of the night and I talk with God
·         #754: Watching Lily through the window as she enjoys lying in the sunshine

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Let the peace of Christ


April was a very busy month and we are already 11 days into May. I haven’t been blogging because I just haven’t made time. It’s a little weird to start again after so many days of not writing, but there are things that I have been thinking and wanting to share.
I spent a wonderful week with my parents, sister and niece at the beach in early April. It was refreshing and fun. It was also full of conversation because we had just learned that my dad was losing his job as part of a reduction in force. This was very unexpected and I am so proud of how my parents are trusting God and leaning into Him as they walk through this major shift in their lives. It has been an honor to be involved in some of their conversations about what God may be doing and to declare His goodness in the midst of difficulty.
I also told the partners that I plan to leave Glenwood Center at the end of June, when my lease is up. They were very surprised because I had not given them any indication that I was thinking of leaving and strongly encouraged me to stay. This should have been complementary and affirming, but I received it as stressful because I wanted to please them and their feelings of disappointment were difficult for me to handle. I have discovered that my struggle with people pleasing is still alive and well, which is also frustrating. I believe that God is leading me in this move, which gives me peace, but I wish that the whole process felt more peaceful to me. Because I have decided to change offices, I will now have to engage in the process of telling all of my clients and explaining to them how this switch will work. In order to do that, I have to figure out how this switch will work, which involves a lot of details like contacting insurance companies, settling open accounts and actually moving all of my stuff from one place to another.  
I am excited about where my office is moving to. I will be leasing space from Dr. Koepsell and Dr. Gray, two godly men who practice medicine in Rockford. And, their office is literally across the street from Glenwood Center, so I don’t even have to rent a moving truck. I can carry my office furniture from one building to the other. More importantly, God has been doing some really amazing things in their office and I am looking forward to being a part of that.
In the midst of this, I am also planning a wedding and helping my sister prepare for hers. I have a dress and a date and we know we want to get married at the farm where Ben works and where we met. But, there’s a guest list to establish, invitations to create, supplies to rent, a meal to be selected and so many other details to be determined.
There really is a lot happening in my life right now. And, in all my activity, I haven’t positioned myself before the LORD in quietness and trust as often as I would like to. The result is higher anxiety, stormy feelings, racing thoughts and an overwhelming desire to control, everything and everyone that I can.
I have been praying Colossians 3:15 more often.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…
Let. I have to let the peace of Christ rule in my heart. My natural tendency is to rule over my own heart through a combination of fear and control. The Holy Spirit within me is perfect peace, but if I don’t let Him rule in my heart, then I don’t experience peace. I really want that peace ruling in my heart and I know that this is the only way I will ever be able to experience joy in this busy season of change.
So, I pray, God, please help me to let the peace of Christ rule in my heart.
Still Counting Gifts:
·         #729: My Florida family vacation
·         #730: Courage to make major work changes, again
·         #731: How God sends me professional challenges to show me how much I need Him
·         #732: I’ve been running!
·         #733: Ben is officially a full-time farmer and loving it
·         #734: Time in the HOP in the middle of the day
·         #735: 70 degree weather and sunshine in Rockford
·         #736: When God plays hide-and-seek by sending me blessings to find in my daily life
·         #737: Cooking dinner with my mom this week
·         #738: How oatmeal always tastes good to me
·         #739: Getting my teeth cleaned
·         #740: Being able to make progress in getting out of debt