Monday, October 27, 2014

An antidote to envy

I was running on Saturday and it was insanely beautiful all around me. The leaves were exploding with color and the sun was streaming through all the branches without leaves. It was unseasonably warm and the river was sparkling. There was a costume party at the pavilion where we had our rehearsal dinner and there were several people fishing. Even the animals were out and crowding the path to sun themselves. I saw three small snakes, several crickets and a few fuzzy caterpillars.

I wasn't having the best run, but my heart was filling up with all of the beauty. I finally slowed to a walk and found myself tearing up as I started repeating to God, "You are good. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places."

I experienced in that moment what I struggle to experience in my daily life. I felt enough before God and my life felt full despite my unanswered prayers and challenging circumstances. I felt completely free from envy and frustration and full of hope, peace, joy and satisfaction with God, myself and my life.

I have been having other conversations with God about hope and desire. I am still hesitant to open myself up to these things because I have known the bitterness of disappointment and unfulfilled desire in the past. I find it easier to function when I cut myself off from desire in areas where I know, or at least I think I know, that the answer is "No". But, I really dislike the cold, numb feeling of my heart when I take that posture.

I am in a season where I am asking God to help me be open to my desires and hopeful as I remind Him of my unanswered prayers. I find it difficult to manage these desires well and I fight off envy as my hungry heart sees other people enjoying what I am longing for. And, I am finding enjoyable connection with God as I depend on Him to help me steward my heart well. As I present Him with each dream and desire and listen for His response, I am finding companionship and wisdom. He also comforts me when I am sad or angry because His answer is "No" or "Not yet".

I was reading the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 this morning. I confess that I have always strongly identified with the older son. I resent God's extravagant love towards other people because I do not understand what is already mine with my Father in Heaven.

"And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.'" Luke 15:31

Our greatest gift and our greatest need are intimacy with God. He is the only source of life and joy. Beyond that, He is incredibly generous and shares everything that He has with us. If I could understand this better, then I think that I could feel satisfied with God more often. I think that real satisfaction is found in the relationship we have with God while we are asking and waiting, not in the answer to the prayer. I want less envy and more fulfillment with God.
Still Counting Gifts:

  • #1032: Indian Summer Weather!!!!
  • #1033: My plan to make pumpkin bars starting with a real pumpkin
  • #1034: A full weekend with friends and family
  • #1035: Finding new wisdom in a familiar book: Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend
  • #1036: Our forest preserve in Fall
  • #1037: My mom's chili
  • #1038: Fish tacos with friends at Bien Trucha in Geneva, IL
  • #1039: How red wine pairs with cheese
  • #1040: Campfires in the backyard

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Happy Fall

My heart is full today.

I got up early and did my hair. After months of wearing it crazy and curly, it feels nice to wear it straight. It's getting really long now. I find myself getting stuck when I lean against furniture and my hair held in place by my back prevents my head from moving.

I drove Ben to work. It was so nice. I love starting my day with him as I sip coffee. We drove to the farm together so he could get in the fields and I could have my piano lesson.

I am having so much fun playing piano. It's like a delicious secret to me on most days. I am starting to be able to play by ear and I'm just graduating into playing beyond the basic pattern of blocked chords, hands together, then the right and then the left. I've had moments where I'm playing, and singing!, without almost no conscious thought. I led, by myself, for an hour at last month's 12-hour burn with R2HOP and I have been playing on Wednesday nights, when Ben leads, three times now. I can still remember the dread I used to feel when I had to practice as a child and I am celebrating the excitement that I feel when I practice now.

Work continues to be slower than usual. I continue to experience it as a love gift from my thoughtful God, on most days. I have treasured this time off and spent it as wisely and creatively as I can. I feel His loving investment in my development as a person and I know that it is wisdom that causes Him to give me pause in my labor.

The leaves outside my windows are stunning. Yellow, gold that hides still green patches. Sunlight streams through more and more places, falling on my face and in pretty splotches across my office. I know that the days of having to lower the blinds so that my clients can see are coming. I'm enjoying the transition to that point.

Driving, just about anywhere, is beautiful right now. I watched puffy white clouds drifting through brilliant blue skies this morning. There were fall colors everywhere below and I loved the contrast between earth and sky. I'm excited for another drive this afternoon and dinner with friends tonight.

I am so thankful that God gives me eyes to see all of the beauty around me and His many gifts toward me. I am so grateful that He helps me to enjoy the life that I have and protects me from the envy that I could so easily entertain. I pray that God blesses you with joy in your life too.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Self-Esteem

Almost everyone I see in my practice is experiencing insecurity and frail self-esteem, in at least one area of their lives. Even those of us who like to think of ourselves as basically emotionally healthy can find weaknesses in our worth and qualities possessed by others that we find superior to our own. Without an unshakable foundation to hold us up through comparison, the risk of rejection and unmet expectations, we will crumple under feelings of failure, disappointment and shame.

Only God, who is perfect in love and knowledge, can give us a self-esteem that will last. Only He, who knows us completely, and so intimately, can say that we are delightful and be believed. We need His love and truth to persuade us that we are beloved in order to feel that loved with ourselves and everyone else.

God says that we are dark, but lovely. He uniquely sees our struggle with sin, doubt and fear. He knows who He has made each of us to be and how far each of us actually is from that person. But still, He loves us and gives us worth. God defines us as lovely even in our brokenness and the places where we are stretching and growing into our true selves.

Our only hope for healthy self-esteem is found in relationship with God. We cannot depend on the people around us, even those closest to us, to build up our sense of worth because other people can only confirm what we already believe. We need Gods love to come into our hearts and to convince us to love ourselves. We need Scriptures to show us how God sees us and to tell us how He values us. We need dynamic relationship with Him, so that when we have a bad day or believe that we are anything less than God's beloved one, then we can return to the safety and comfort of intimacy with Him to be reassured of what is really true about us.

Verses:
  • The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
  • I am very dark, but lovely... (Song of Solomon 1:5)
  • You are altogether beautiful, my darling, and there is no blemish in you. (Song of Solomon 4:7)
  • As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love (John 15:9)
Action:

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to let you see what He sees and to feel what He feels when He looks at you
  • Pray-read Bible verses about God's love for you and ask Him to help you believe them
  • Remind yourself of the truth by saying phrases like this to yourself:
    • I am beloved by God”
    • God calls me lovely”
    • God wants me to be able to abide in His love”

Monday, October 6, 2014

Looking back and then ahead

I'm trying to get back into writing a blog post once a week.

I think that Fall prompts me to write because I first started posting to a blog in the fall of 2011. I was an intern with the Fire in the Night program at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. Several people were supporting me financially and many more were praying for me to encounter God in that season. I kept an almost daily record of what I was learning and shared it through my blog.

Here is a quote from my post three years ago:

In the notes today, Mike Bickle suggests the following identity and my heart really resonated:
Our primary identity (value/success) is found in who we are in our intimacy with God which consists of being loved by God and in being a lover of God. I confess, "I am loved (by God) and I am a lover (to God/others) therefore, I am successful." We find our identity or success in being desired by God and in loving Him instead of seeking our primary value in how much we accomplish or the impact we make. Our primary identity is not what we do with our hands but what we pursue with our hearts. (http://jody-fitn.blogspot.com/2011/10/day-9.html)

I was startled and encouraged to read this again today because it is three years later and I am still thinking a lot about the issue of how I define my identity and how I struggle with my insecurities.

I have realized, in celebrating my first anniversary, that I thought that being married would help me to feel more secure in my worth and desirability. Ben is very affectionate and affirming. I believe that he is sincere when he compliments me and tells me that he loves me. I also struggle with doubt about whether or not he is really happy that he chose me. I sometimes wonder if he enjoys me as much as I enjoy him, or if he is just a really faithful, loving guy who is committed to his wedding vows.

It has been scary for me to realize that Ben is doing everything that a supportive and loving husband can do and it is not enough for me to feel secure in my self. It has been intimidating to understand that the only solution is for me to continue to grow in my ability to receive and contain love from God so that I can believe it when other people treat me the same way. It has been humbling to discover that I, an experienced counselor, struggle just as much, if not more, than some of my clients do with insecurities.

In the almost three years that I have had a private practice in counseling, I have worked with a lot of different people. A lot of these people struggle with the same things that I do related to identity, self-esteem and insecurity. I think that God has given me some wonderful insight into how He wants to develop our identity and build up our healthy self-esteem. So much of it goes back to what I was learning during my internship three years ago. I am hoping to start sharing some of it here as I recommit myself to cultivating healthy identity and self-esteem in God.

I'm not going to link these posts to my Facebook page, like I usually do. I'm also not going to count gifts at the end. I am going to copy journal entries and try to provide information in meaningful chunks. I am going to be flexible in what I cover. I will also try to stick to the topics of self-esteem, insecurities and handling related thoughts and feelings. So, if you're interested, then please check back in the next few weeks and look for these new and different posts.

I didn't post anything on this date last year, but I did post on October 6, 2012. Here is the link to that post: http://jody-pursuinglove.blogspot.com/2012/10/31days-to-keep-tender-heart-october-6.html

Still Counting Gifts:

  • #1024: New clients and opportunities to partner with God in encouragement
  • #1025: The grand opening of Rockford Roasting Company 
  • #1026: The most delicious vanilla latte that I have ever consumed (found above)
  • #1027: A day trip with Ben to Port Washington
  • #1028: Enjoying his delight over Duluth Trading Company
  • #1029: A fresh baked cake to celebrate our first anniversary 
  • #1030: A 2 and half hour nap, even though it kept me from falling asleep later
  • #1031: Reading aloud to Ben and discovering books together