What I Learned This Week: Finding Contentment Where I Am

I have been struggling with resentment and jealousy because other people have what I want.  There.  I said it.  I wish I could say it feels good to get it off my chest, but it doesn’t.  However, I’m hoping it will help some of you who are feeling it, too.

Lisa Bevere told a story about how she wanted a particular vehicle and asked God for it.  God didn’t give it to her.  However, her neighbor got one instead.  She was not a happy camper, to say the least.  Looking at that vehicle in their driveway made her resentful and jealous.  She was serving the Lord, working hard for the Kingdom.  Why had the neighbor gotten what she wanted?

Then the Lord told her that she had an inaccurate picture of how He worked and all that He had to offer.  He showed her that she had a picture of a heavenly warehouse with a set amount of items in it, and if someone else got an item she wanted, that meant there was one less for her to get.  But that is not how His gifts work.

Our Father has an unlimited number of gifts in his storehouse.  He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  Just because someone else gets something you want doesn’t mean that you are in danger of not getting yours.  He has more than enough of everything for all of us, so we have no need to be afraid of others being blessed.

This goes for activities, ministries, relationships, gifts and callings as well as stuff. You want to teach that Sunday School class, but someone else gets to do it.  You want to lead that choir, but someone else gets that position.  You want a relationship, but another woman gets into one instead. You want to be in full time ministry, but someone else you know gets to do it while you work full time supporting them.  The last one has been a real struggle for me, unfortunately.

Of course, I would love to be in full time ministry, especially counseling women and families.  Instead, I work 42 hours a week or so supporting my household and doing ministry on the side.  My husband, on the other hand, is running our Men’s Recovery House and our church full time – without pay because we don’t want to take any monies until the ministries are self-supporting.  He is doing what I want to do, and I’m not getting to do it.  Honestly, it eats at me at times.

I feel so incredibly petty and ungrateful.  I am so thankful for the ministries which He has entrusted to us, the people to whom we get to minister, for the opportunities to walk in our callings.  So why do I experience discontent, and sometimes, outright jealousy and resentment?

Because I am in a flesh-suit that acts like a toddler when it doesn’t get what it wants.   Despite my spirit’s desire to please God, my lifelong bent toward selfishness in my soul causes me to get upset when I can’t have what I want.   How quickly and easily I turn from remembering all that I have to focusing on the few things I do not have!

But this has been the enemy’s tactic since the beginning of man’s existence.  “Did God really say you can’t eat of this tree?  Surely you won’t die…”  Adam and Eve could have stayed in the garden in unbroken fellowship enjoying eternal provision forever.  It wasn’t until Satan got their eyes off of all they had and focused it onto the one thing they couldn’t have that they became dissatisfied with what God had given them.

God’s instructions to us when we can’t have what we want are pretty clear and specific:

Phil 4: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

  1. First, we are to rejoice, thankful for being in relationship with the God of the universe and for being the recipients of His continual care and provision.
  2. We are to ask for whatever we want, but it must always be tempered with the remembrance of all He has already provided and an attitude of gratitude for it.
  3. We are to remember that He is a good God, even if we don’t get what we want when and how we want it. We need to trust His knowledge and His timing of what is best for us AND for others in His Kingdom.
  4. Most importantly, we LEARN to remain content by God’s grace – His supernatural empowerment in our lives to obey Him.   If we will remain in Him, He will remain in us, and we will have His peace and His contentment.  Notice that when Paul says God gives Him the necessary strength, it is specifically strength to be content in every situation.

Like a car whose wheels need alignment, our steering wheel repeatedly starts pulling to the right or left, away from dead center.   We continually pursue things that we think will bring us joy and contentment OTHER than simply resting in God’s goodness and provision.  Whether it is money, or stuff, or activities, or relationships, we can fall into depression or anxiety because of our focus on it.   It causes us to wander away from our trust in God and pierce ourselves with grief.

1 Timothy 6: But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

God never ever intended for us to find our enjoyment and happiness in other people or things or activities.  He wants us to find our contentment only in Him, and if we do that, nothing in this world can ever take that contentment away.   If our goal is to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness and trust God to provide whatever we need in His timing and His fashion, we won’t yearn for things we can’t have and make ourselves miserable.

I challenge you, along with myself, to make a gratitude list today of the things you already have, and to speak aloud how thankful you are for them.   I challenge you to consciously change your goals from pursuing other things and people to pursuing God and contentment in Him alone.   When you find yourself focusing on what you don’t have, purposefully take those thoughts captive and rejoice for what God has done, is now doing, and will do for you in His timing and wisdom.  Make that commitment to be grateful and trusting today.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

 

What I Learned This Week: The Only Solution To Anxiety

I heard the loud thud of a body hitting the floor.  I had handled his two trips to the ER like a trooper. I even packed food and drink for the second time.  I did flip out a little when I found out he had fallen over face first into the dirt one day outside, but I figured he’d be ok.

But this was different.  The thud and then the profound, horrible silence was too much for me.  I ran into the bathroom to find my husband on his back on the file floor.  He was alive, and despite me telling him not to move until I got help, he of course did exactly the opposite, claiming he wasn’t hurt.  Then he got up and revised his assessment of the situation. He hurt his hip.

I just clung to him and started crying.  Now, you probably don’t know that I rarely cry.  First, it was because I stuffed my feelings, or rationalized them away for so many years, there was no reason to cry.  Then, when I had received a large measure of healing, I had no need to cry.  But this was anxiety-release crying – it just spurted out, without any deep emotion.  I don’t know if it was relief that he was alive, or if it was a wake-up call that it could have been much worse.  Either way, I was scared, and that’s when the anxiety started creeping back in.

Anxiety is really unbelief in God’s ability and willingness to take care of us.  It starts out like a little pinhole that allows a trickle of nervousness and doubt to start flowing.  It’s so small, you don’t even realize it is there.  It increases so slowly that you don’t realize you could drown until it reaches panic inducing heights.  Only then do we wonder how we even got here and what to do.  What happened to my peace?

If you remember that PEACE is a FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, it becomes clearer.  Peace cannot be manufactured, nor can it be lost like a locket hanging around our neck. It must be borne. We BEAR fruit, we can’t create it. Peace blooms only as the Life flows through the Vine and we remain grafted into that vine.  Therefore, the question should not be “what happened to my peace?”  but more accurately, “when did I separate myself from the PRINCE OF PEACE and try to handle or figure out things on my own?”

I’m going to tell you exactly how real grafting works with grape vines.  Both the receiving and grafted vines must be cut, with the grafted piece tailored to fit into the receiving vine.  Both vines have arteries through which their life-giving sap flows. The most crucial issue is that the grafted bloom’s arteries must be perfectly lined up with and in permanent contact with the vine‘s arteries so there is a continual, uninterrupted flow of the sap from vine to graft.   Then they use a compound or tape to keep them bound and packed together so no infection can seep in through separation.

Jesus is the Vine, we are the branches, and I believe that the compound that keeps us bound together is faith in His Word.  Faith allows us to say that we KNOW who we have believed and are persuaded that He is able to keep everything we have ever committed to Him until we arrive in Heaven.  But faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.  The Holy Spirit can quicken and speak to our spirits what the Father wants us to know as we read those God-breathed scriptures. He can direct and guide us into all truth in the midst of any situation, reminding us of the faithfulness and power of our God.

So if we are anxious, it means that we have lost our tight connection with the Vine – the packing has come loose.  When there is a gap, infection can find a way in and make us sick.  Instead of nestling closer to the vine, we start falling away and living apart from the Vine, but apart from Him we can do nothing – nothing but be anxious.

Isaiah 30 says:

15 This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

In repentance/returning and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength,
    but you would have none of it.
16 You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’
    Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’
    Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
17 A thousand will flee
    at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
    you will all flee away,
till you are left
    like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
    like a banner on a hill.”

You see, our immediate knee-jerk response to danger and fear and anxiety is to flee to our own devices, to what we think will rescue us, NOT to God Himself.   But we must repent of trying to fix things our own way return to Him and quietly wait for Him, which means trusting and resting in Him.  The only true remedy for anxiety is resting in faith in Him, and that only happens when you bolster your faith through the Word of God.

I know that some of you struggle with reading the Word right now because your faith is not as strong as it once was, and the lethargy of your emotional issues has drained you of the energy to even try.  But you must remain in permanent contact with the Vine, and that means being bound to Him through His Word.  You can start small with just a few scriptures a day.  Sign up for a scripture a day service, or you can use my Jesus Text Me service/app.

Every counseling technique is only good if it leads you back to the Source of Peace.  If you are not securely bound to Him, no techniques or medications will cure you.  If you haven’t read my CRAZIFIED & OUT OF CONTROL ebook, or haven’t been using the ABC method, then I suggest you read and start practicing it.  It is what I used to stop the anxiety in its tracks, and what allowed me to return to my Daddy’s lap in quietness and trust.

Fortunately for all of us, Isaiah doesn’t stop there.

18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all who wait for him!

The Lord wants to be gracious and compassionate to you.  He wants to fill you with His supernatural  power and with His loving kindness. He doesn’t expect you to do anything to earn it either.  He just wants you to return to Him in trust and wait for Him to take care of all the situations that you can’t fix anyway.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

 

 

What I Learned This Week: When Your Love Tank Is Empty

You don’t have to be single to have your love tank be empty.  You can even be surrounded by people and have no one ministering to you in a way that makes you feel loved.  An empty love tank is actually the driving force in Codependency, when parents are too broken or busy or simply uninterested to make a child feel safe, secure, loved and important, and the child grows up always on the hunt for that love they never knew.

An empty love tank leads to all sorts of coping mechanisms.  Every addiction is trying to fill a hole inside of them.  Every compulsion is simply a way to feel or think about something other than the emptiness that comes with rejection and abandonment.    It might be food, drugs, sex, shopping, depression, working, zoning out watching Netflix, but the result is always the same. We want to permanently feel loved and secure, but when we are not, we accept the consolation prize of temporarily feeling pleasure, or feeling nothing at all.

Empty love tanks are very common, especially when you are in relationships where others continually expect you to give.  Whether out of duty or pride or fear of being rejected, you keep trying to give – even when you have nothing left to give.  However, we were never meant to be empty, nor to try to give what we don’t have.

God always intended for us to be filled with love, having more than enough to spare that it spills over onto other people generously.  However, He never intended us to try and get that tank filled by other people.  We were designed to have our love tanks filled by Him continually.

The problem is that, once we have been rejected or ignored by parents or significant others, we feel we need someone with flesh on to prove that we are lovable, since others communicated to us that we weren’t.   We are so sold on the idea that if you are not adored by another person, you aren’t worthy to live.  In high school, I told myself that if no one kissed me by the time I was 23, I would commit suicide.   It is that type of mentality that I am talking about.

While I was still married to my first husband, I was so desperate to feel loved by and significant to someone that I got emotionally involved with someone over the internet.  I knew it was wrong, and that God should be all I need, but He wasn’t. That became a pattern throughout my adult life – wanting love, thinking I’d found love, then feeling rejected by a man, and then needing to prove my self-worth by finding another man to stamp his approval on me. Being wanted by a man was all that mattered – without it, I was worthless.

I always wondered why God’s love for me wasn’t enough to make me feel loved.  Intellectually, I knew He loved me and should be enough for me, but honestly, He never was.   It was like having a crush on one boy at school, and feeling ugly and rejected because he didn’t like me.  However, if another boy (that I wasn’t attracted to) liked me, that didn’t matter.  Only if the boy I liked requited my attraction did it matter.

I didn’t think God’s love could ever meet my need because I was always taught that other people had to approve of you and want you.  What God thought about and toward me didn’t matter in this case. It was like your parents telling you that you are beautiful – it just didn’t count unless a boy said it.

Because I believed the lie that “real love” could only come from a boy who chose me over other girls, I was never even interested in feeling loved by God.  He was never even a contender for my affection, not even as an adult.  I was missing out on the One true love who knew me best and would still love and adore me and never leave or forsake me.

Only recently have I come to understand the power of feeling God’s never failing love for me, not as God but as my Father who adores  and is so proud of me.  I have recognized in Jesus the love of a beloved fiancé who is waiting for our wedding day.  I read the words He says to me and realize He is so very much in love with me.  I have allowed the Holy Spirit to wrap His arms around me to comfort me just as a human with flesh would do, and the results have been the same as with another person.

If you have ever had a long distance relationship, you know how a text message, email, letter or voice mail can radically change your day for the better.  Your lover doesn’t have to be physically present with you for you to feel loved and important.  It is just the knowledge of how they feel about you, how special you are to them, that makes you walk on thin air.  We can feel loved and important and chosen from God in the same way without Him being physically present.

An empty love tank spells disaster in anyone’s life. We will do very stupid things to get it filled back up, or we will give up hope and become hopelessly depressed.  Keeping your love tank filled doesn’t have to depend on who is in your life, either, if you will accept what God says about you as letters from a long distance admirer.

Search for scriptures that speak of his undying love for you and read them as if from a long distance lover, which Jesus truly is.  I’m actually in the process of writing a devotional book with 365 scriptural messages from Him. I’ll share with you my favorite from Song of Solomon 4:7 –

You are altogether beautiful, my love;
    there is no flaw in you.

How can you not feel loved when you hear this?

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

What I Learned This Week: When The Father Sat Down And Ate Spaghetti With Me

I’ve been in recovery for 6 years now, and therapy throughout my life, and just recently God brought me an answer to a life long conundrum.  Where did my eating disorder really begin?  What makes me afraid of food and ashamed of eating, so much so that I hide it? Why do I feel like I’m not allowed to eat pleasurable foods, and that people are watching and judging me for it because I am overweight?

After all this time, He brought me back to a large plate of spaghetti from my teens that I had totally forgotten about.  He walked me through the memory of being shamed for eating that much spaghetti, “more than a grown man would eat”.  He showed me where the shame started, but He also showed me the fallacy that I learned from that situation – that I SHOULD be ashamed of myself for eating what I eat.

I am bad, I am wrong, I am unacceptable because of my eating (and my weight).  If I want to eat, I have to hide it, do it at night, sneak it to escape the shame of being seen eating by others who will judge me as unacceptable and disgusting.  The only problem is that the shame went with me into the dark places I indulged, like a ball and chain attached to my leg. I had swallowed whole the “truth” that I should be ashamed of myself.  I had no idea that the eating and the food and the secrets were not the source of my shame – what others had said to me was the source of my shame.

In my memory, God the Father entered into the room and sat at the table with me. He asked me why I liked spaghetti.  I said because it was sweet and tasted good and made me feel good.  He said that is why it is called “comfort food”.  Normally, people eat comfort food when something is bothering them.  Is something bothering you?

Yes, I answered.  I’m sure I always felt bothered by something.  Kids at schools had ignored or bullied me, so there was always that.  There were things I just didn’t understand about life or myself.  There were family issues. And then there was simply the feeling that I was different from everyone else and would never fit in.

But God the Father recognized that my eating all that spaghetti simply meant that I was having problems and didn’t know how to deal with them or my emotions.  He didn’t judge me or say there was anything wrong with me or what I was doing. Instead, He dealt with the underlying problem without shaming me about my food or my eating.

He said, let’s finish our spaghetti and go walking outside and talk about what’s bothering you.  You can ask me questions and I’ll help you figure things out.  And that’s just what we did.  His actions and words said there was nothing inexplicably wrong with me, that He understood me, and then offered to help me figure life out.

So many of us were left to our own devices when it came to figuring out life.  No one taught us what to do with our emotions in a healthy way.  No one helped us learn how to maneuver life situations.  Comments like, “Keep on crying and I’ll give you something to cry about!”  Or “Don’t talk to me with that tone of voice!”  Or “If you can’t act right, just go to your room.” teach us what NOT to do, but not WHAT to do.

It’s not because our parents didn’t love us or want to help us.  It’s just that they had no clue what to do.  They just did what their parents did, said what their parents said.  They passed on their parents’ values to us.  They were left to just figure it out for themselves.  So we were just supposed to figure it out for ourselves.

But children and teens don’t have adult brains, and CAN’T figure out healthy solutions to life’s complicated problems unless they stumble upon it accidentally.  So we drank, had sex, did drugs, spent money, or ate large plates of spaghetti to try and feel better. The irony is that we chose coping mechanisms which we either learned from our parents or from kids around us. We did as they did, not as they said.

But God knows why we do what we do and doesn’t judge us or shame us for it.  He knows we still have no clue how to process emotions and hard situations, and that our unhealthy coping mechanisms were most likely passed down to us from our parents.  He is not concerned with our outer appearance (except where it has to do with our health), but with our willingness to let Him come in and undo the effect that we and others have had on our lives. He wants to hear what’s bothering us and teach us what to do and how to process our emotions about it.

Whatever your coping mechanisms are that make you feel ashamed, He is not ashamed of you.  He loves you and wants to re-parent you, teach you what you’ve never learned and love you like you’ve never been loved – unconditionally, no perfection (inward or outward) required.  Then you can learn to love yourself, despite your mess-ups and flaws, and see yourself as He does – as a child who is doing the best they can with what they were given, still fully accepted and adored by their Father.

Your Sister In Christ,

Penny

What I Learned This Week: Dealing with Self-Hatred That You Didn’t Know Was There

God has been trying to reveal to me exactly how I see myself, and in order to do that, He has to let me fail.  He lets me do things my own way instead of the right way that He has shown me. He never forces me to learn my lesson – He just lets me live with the consequences of my disobedience, or sometimes sheer laziness.

I started out on a journey over 3 years ago to get victory over my eating disorder, which I believe I have.  I don’t binge and purge any more, I am relatively moderate in my eating and exercise. I don’t eat for every emotion I have.

However, I have been losing my victory over weight loss.  I lost 55 pounds at one point over 2.5 years, but I have regained 35 of it.  The problem this time is not eating too much, it is eating the wrong things.  I know full well how to eat – I ate Vegan for 2 years and it worked wonders.

But when my dreams of what my life would be like after losing weight didn’t come to pass, and my life was just the same, I fell back on my self-comforting foods, and the result has been my weight gain.  In other words, I still had the same hurts and debilitating beliefs in my life, and the weight loss didn’t fix those.  Now, God is making me face those horrible thoughts and feelings, bringing me face to face with the realization that I bring those with me wherever I go, at whatever weight I am.  THOSE are the real problems, NOT my weight.

I am dealing with a combination of regret, fear and self-hatred right now.  “Why did I allow myself to get to this place?  What if I cannot break out of this pattern and change myself?  What if I am always this way?  If you could only control yourself, you wouldn’t be this way!” These are the thoughts that plague me today.  I look at myself with disgust and I can feel the self-hatred.

Then I hear God saying, “This is what I wanted you to see – your self-hatred rises up when you don’t like what you look like.  I don’t want there to be a shred of self-hatred in you, regardless of your appearance.  I want you to see why you hate yourself and be healed of that, not hide behind a false reason not to hate yourself.  You know that I don’t judge you on your looks.  I love you because you are my spirit-child, so you are not judging yourself based on my standards.  Whose standards are you judging yourself by?”

I hear in my spirit, “Oh, foolish Galatians, who is it that bewitched you?  Why, when you started with the truth, are you now following after a lie?”  Holy Spirit whispers, “What does the Father say about you?  What do you know to be TRUE? What have we taught you?”

So, deep in my soul still lurk the roots of self-hatred, borne of seeds of judgment sown in my life by others. I swallowed those seeds thrown at me by others, by society and by people I knew personally.  And I have let those roots grow deep in me, and now they are like the roots of California redwoods – massive and seemingly indestructible.

But my Father will not allow those roots to remain. He is determined to rid me of them, but I will have to do the digging to pull them up and destroy them. That means I have to feel when I stumble over one through painful or uncomfortable emotions.  Then I have to dig down to see where it comes from and spend time getting at it and cutting it out.  These roots have been there for decades, they are not coming out quickly, nor necessarily all at one time.  I will have to chip away at them over time.

So in the meanwhile, I’m going to share with you the ways I am fortifying my mind to believe the truth of God so I can continue digging up my roots and pursuing my healing. These are my ABCs for today, and they soothe my soul and help me return to faith in God, that He will complete the work which He has started in me, and that my past does not determine my future.  He loves me, and I am to love myself, not hate myself, and treat myself with loving-kindness and tenderness.  I hope these will help you to love and treat yourself with tenderness as well, while simultaneously transforming you by the renewing of your mind.


I feel like I’ll never conquer my problems because I haven’t succeeded in the past, BUT GOD SAYS that even though Penny hasn’t achieved it yet, Penny is to focus on one thing, forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.  Phil 3:13

I feel so ugly and ashamed of my appearance, BUT GOD SAYS that He does not look at Penny’s outward appearance. He looks at Penny’s heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

I just don’t see myself ever changing, BUT GOD SAYS that He is faithful. He’ll complete the good work that he has begun in Penny. Philippians 1:6

I want to comfort myself with food right now, BUT GOD SAYS Penny’s stomach cannot be her God. (Phil 3:19)

I really want to eat things that are bad for me, BUT GOD SAYS that Penny does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4

No matter how much I consume, I still desire more, BUT GOD SAYS that He quiets Penny’s deep inner hunger because Penny is cherished by him. Psalm 17:14

I just can’t seem to get it all right, BUT GOD SAYS that Penny is to continue to work out Penny’s full salvation as God works in Penny according to His good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13

I just want to do something for myself to feel better, regardless of the consequences, BUT GOD SAYS that Penny experiences true life when Penny denies herself, turns from Penny’s selfish ways and follows Jesus. Matthew 16:24-25

Sometimes I speak or act without thinking, BUT GOD SAYS that Penny is not to act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants Penny to do. Ephesians 5:17

I don’t feel loved or lovable, BUT GOD SAYS that He continually pours out his love into Penny’s heart by the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:5

I feel so weak, like I’ll just keep giving in to temptation, BUT GOD SAYS that His power works best in Penny’s weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I don’t know if I’m strong enough to do this, BUT GOD SAYS that God is Penny’s refuge and strength, always with Penny and ready to help Penny in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1

I am so tired and weak right now, BUT GOD SAYS that He gives Penny strength when Penny is weary and increases Penny’s power when Penny is weak. Isaiah 40:29

I can’t see myself having victory in the long run, BUT GOD SAYS that because Penny places Penny’s hope in Him, Penny can soar like an eagle, run and not grow weary, walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

What I Learned This Week: Why We Don’t Want To Ask For Help

This was a tough week. I had to visit someone in jail who I love like a daughter.  I knew she had been struggling, and had attempted to contact her several times to talk with her, but she wouldn’t respond.  We had talked once on a prior occasion, and she said something to me that I had heard several of my other ladies give as a reason not to meet with me.  She already knew what I would say.

Why, when we know we need help and are careening dangerously out of control, will we not ask for and pursue help?  Why will we stay on the destructive path we have chosen, whether by going full steam ahead into danger or just taking our hands off the wheel in resignation?  The answer is very simple.  Because we want to keep doing what we are doing.

I had another discussion in our Step Study group about how people always do what they WANT to do, NOT what they SAY they want to do.   If you want to know what a person WANTS to do, then watch what they ACTUALLY do.  Ignore their words.

I want to quit smoking.

I want to lose weight.

I want to stop doing drugs and alcohol.

I want to stop having sex outside of marriage.

I want to stop lying.

I want to stop stealing.

No, you don’t.  If you did, you would actually be working on it. But there is always something else more important, something else you would rather do.

You see, no one has put a gun to your head to stop you from doing those things. Conversely, you do those things because you want to do them, even think you need to do them.  Therefore, no matter what you might say, your actions reveal your true heart about the situation.

I have been paying attention to my “urges” to eat things when I am not hungry, or when I am suddenly stressed.  Why do I sometimes have perfect self-control and at other times, none at all? Because sometimes I really want something (to be healthier or thinner), and sometimes I want something else more (a container of tapioca or a bowl of Cap’n Crunch). Sometimes I really do want to be self-controlled and lose weight so my knees don’t hurt and my clothes fit better, and sometimes I just have this feeling that I will jump out of my skin if I don’t fulfill my perceived need to have some sugar.  I want the sugar more.

The truth of the situation is that our coping mechanisms have been this way for so long, we are terrified of giving up the things that we tell ourselves bring us relief from our stress and uncomfortable situations.  We absolutely cannot believe that there is another, more satisfying and enduring solution to our negative feelings.  Therefore, we cling to them when the going gets tough.

So when I talk to people who talk about wanting to be happy, or self-controlled, or anything else they are not at present, I look at their actions. If they are going to church, going to recovery meetings, coming for counseling, doing their counseling homework, then I KNOW that they really want to be healed.  The rest just want to continue finding reasons why they don’t need to pursue help for their healing, because they don’t want to give up their coping mechanisms that make them feel better.

Now, let me clarify something.  There is absolutely NO CONDEMNATION if you are not pursuing your healing.    It is easier to stay where you are, feeling hopeless about your situation, than to do the hard work of trying something new and moving into the uncomfortable unknown. But I need to be absolutely clear on this point:  until you want your healing more than you want the miserable comfort of where you are, things will never change. It will not be anyone else’s fault, either – you cannot blame the people or situation around you, or from the past, because they are not causing this.  You are.

But I am here to tell you that there ABSOLUTELY IS another way, more satisfying and enduring, than the destructive cycle in which you find yourself. I don’t do it perfectly, but I’m 1000% more free than I’ve ever been.  I’ve watched ladies I’ve counseled walk away from horribly abusive situations and not look back, changed forever NOT to respond, but to CHOOSE the life they want and need. You can have this, too.

If you want to start, then contact me for a short consultation call. There is absolutely NOTHING in your life that cannot be healed by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. He can reveal the truth to you AND empower you to walk through whatever He asks you to do. Beyond where you are is FREEDOM, peace, joy and righteousness.  Don’t wait another second to break free from what is holding you back. Instead, as one of my mothers in the Lord always says, “Go after your healing like a dog after raw meat!”

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

 

What I Learned This Week: God Can Do The Impossible!

Starting out on a new journey in unknown territory can either be invigorating for some or terrifying and paralyzing for others.  I fall more into the latter category.  “Unknown = possibility of failure” in my eyes, or at the very least, being uncomfortable (which is what most of us avoid like the plague).

Starting this new phase of my ministry, where everything depends on me from a worldly standpoint, can really stress me out.  I feel that underlying current of “what ifs”, not loudly screaming but whispered by the voice of my fears.  The big one that I know is plaguing me is “what if I can’t find enough counselees and members to support myself and our ministries?”

If I am to move into doing this full time so I can also work toward creating the Homeless community which God has called me to build (Koinonia Communities), and also counsel more at Good Shepherd Recovery House (our Men’s Recovery House) and other future women’s recovery houses, then God has to provide the income.  Neither my husband nor I have ever taken any money for pastoring our church, Ministry House, so when I eventually leave a corporate position, we will be living solely by faith. That is admittedly somewhat scary.

But then God reminds me of His enduring faithfulness to me and others I know.  When I needed the money to take my courses to get my Pastoral Counseling License, I had no idea where that money would come from.  Then I did my taxes, and for the first time in our lives, we had a $6,000 refund from all of the money we had to spend fixing up some rental houses we have.  Counseling classes were covered, with a little extra to spare toward a used car WITH air conditioning (still haven’t gotten to that yet).

A friend of mine shared that she was in a deep, dark place, crying out to God, and all of a sudden she heard my voice.  Her phone somehow started playing a voice message from me.  She called me and we talked.  She had no clue I had started counseling, and that I now had the tools to help her through her crises.  God supernaturally answered her prayer through an otherwise impossible means.

I asked people who use my Jesus Text Me service and app how they found it.  One man told me he was really hurting and didn’t know where to turn.  He said that God told him to google the words “Jesus Text Me”, and he found the app.  That proves that God can move directly in other people to lead them where they need to go, and at the same time, bring people to you.

Another friend needed a down payment for a house but didn’t have the money.  Then she checked out grants for down payments and received the entire amount. Once again, God provided in an unexpected way.

So I want to encourage you today to remember – if God calls you to it, He will make a way for it to happen.  If it is God’s will, no man can stand in your way or shut a door through which you need to walk.   If God is for you, who can stand against you?  It is God who is working in and around you to accomplish HIS will and purpose for your life, so it is not all up to you. It may be impossible for man, but nothing is impossible for God!  Do what He instructs in the way He leads, and He will do what you cannot do for yourself.

Phil 2:12-13

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Matthew 19:26

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Romans 8:8-39

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

What I Learned This Week: Having The Wisdom To Know The Difference

God, grant me
The serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Reinhold Niebuhr

In my counseling, sometimes people misunderstand what the difference is between their temperament, their character and their personality.  They try in vain to change their needs, thinking there is something wrong with them.  But you can’t change your temperament needs any more than you can change the fact that you need air to breathe.

A people person will never be happy doing tasks and vice versa. An introvert will never be happy acting like an extrovert.  Someone who needs alone time to think and regenerate will never be regenerated by staying around people all of the time.

However, when I teach people about their temperament, sometimes they think, “Well, I just am how I am and nothing will change that.”  However, that is not the truth, and I want to clarify that here.  You are more than your Temperament – you are also your character (learned behavior) and your personality (your mask).  Those things you CAN change.

Your Temperament is the biological needs that God put into your soul. These needs will never change.  They are just as real as your need to breathe, eat and sleep.  When you were a baby, you had these needs, before you had a chance to learn any behavior from anyone else.  Some babies cry the second their diaper is wet, others are serene and complacent with a soggy one. Some can sleep through a war movie, while others cry at any loud noise.  The same is true of your temperament needs.

Your Temperament has been defined as the raw materials with which God has made you.  It is how He uniquely designed you so you could complete your specific mission in the Kingdom of God.  There is nothing WRONG with your temperament, no matter what it is.  Some temperaments may present more challenges than others, some may have some internal conflicts, but God doesn’t make any mistakes.   He gave you EXACTLY what you needed to fulfill His calling on your life.  This design, and their inherent needs, will not be changed by anyone.

So you come out of the womb with these Temperament needs.  Then LIFE HAPPENS.  There are endless variables among the effects of care givers and physical environments, decisions made by strangers as well as family members, as well as other biological factors that affect your circumstances.

Maybe you are born to someone with a genetic predisposition to diabetes or addiction which affects you physically.  Maybe you lose a parent before you are old enough to know them, which changes how you are raised and by whom. Maybe one parent gets a new job and moves you and your family to somewhere far from your extended family, and the stress of that move causes marital problems between your parents, which in turn causes you stress.

From the moment you are born, you are reacting to your environment, your relationships and your biology.  You try different tactics to navigate life, protect yourself and meet your temperament needs.  You create LEARNED BEHAVIORS along the way, and THESE are the things you can change.

Even if your temperament makes you feel uncomfortable around large groups of people, you CAN learn to ADJUST your BEHAVIOR so it doesn’t drain you as much.  You can’t live in a hole in the ground, you have to socialize to some degree or another in order to make a living and live in this world. Not to mention, as a Christian, you are called to have contact with others in order to share Christ’s love, either with the unsaved so that they may be saved or with believers to encourage them.

What is the solution to doing things that are contrary to your Temperament? Learning behaviors that keep your Temperament needs met in a godly and balanced way on a continual basis. In this particular case, you can schedule yourself beforehand to spend an adequate amount of time alone to regenerate yourself.  Then you can socialize, or do whatever is outside of your temperament, for a short while without becoming drained, which leads to negative thinking and possibly inappropriate actions.

Your character is the sum of your Temperament PLUS your Learned Behavior.  Your Personality is the mask you wear to get your Temperament needs met.  If you want to be alone and someone is pestering you, you may decide to become sarcastic to make them go away.  If you need lots of people to like you, you may become the life of the party, the clown or the entertainer.  If you need control over people to get tasks completed, you may become a chameleon, changing into whoever you need to be to motivate others to help you accomplish your goals.  Whatever your Temperament need is, you will find a way to act to get those needs met.  Your Personality is another area that you CAN change.

So as you learn about your Temperament, remember that it is only the foundation of who you are.  You still have a layer of Learned Behavior stacked upon it, with the mask of your Personality topping it off.  If you are to fulfill God’s call on your life, and live a life filled with joy, peace and righteousness, you will have to learn to meet your Temperament needs in balanced and godly ways.

You will need to have the serenity to accept the Temperament that God gave you, but also the courage to change your Learned Behavior and Personality so that can keep your Temperament needs met.   Understanding this is the wisdom you need to de-stress your life and fulfill your purpose.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

What I Learned This Week – The Point Of Purposely Associating Negative Memories

Now, the ministry to which I am called is all about healing, and that includes healing painful and damaging memories.  But sometimes, instead of replacing negative memories with positive memories, we need to replace positive memories with negative memories.   I’m going to talk about this in conjunction with the lesson I shared last week about why we can’t let go, because one of the reasons people don’t let go is because we don’t want to let go.

When I was a young wife with 2 small children and a deteriorating marriage, I disappeared into fantasy world.  I didn’t want to go to bed with my husband at night, so I stayed up watching cable for fodder for my fantasy world.  I would pick a show, pick a character, and then create my own episode where I was involved, and one of the guys was in love with me. I was meticulous with the detail, and since my temperament thinks in terms of pictures and can live off of vivid images, I could create something that appeared extremely real to me.  It afforded me the only feelings of love and significance that I could extract from my current situation.

I purposely thought about those episodes because of the FEELINGS they created in me.  It was real enough for me to live off of.  They made me happy.  Like a drug addict takes a hit from a substance and gets high, I would replay these fake “memories” to get emotionally high.   I CHOSE to replay these memories to feel good.

Now I know so many women who cannot let go of previous relationships for this same reason – they replay the good memories in order to experience an emotional high.  “It was so good back then.  I felt loved in a way I had never been loved before.”  And when they think of their ex, they associate those memories with him, which keeps them connected to him.

There’s just one huge problem with that – that’s obviously NOT how they continued to act.  There were other problems that caused you to not be together, either things they did that you could not live with, or they no longer wanted you.  In either case, the truth of the relationship was that the “good times”  no longer existed by the end of the relationship.

There was a reason that the relationship ended, but you don’t want to accept that.  You just want that good feeling back.  If you are still ticked off at your ex, it is because you believe he is wrongly withholding from you the love and affection he originally offered.  It is like he stole something from you, did a bait and switch, and you just can’t rest until you get your property back.

When I was a newlywed, my husband let me drive his Trans Am to work one day.  I went into work in the morning and came out in the evening to find the car gone.  Little did I know there was a Trans Am chop shop right behind the lawyer’s office where I worked.  The police found the car completely stripped a little ways away, but it was a humpty dumpy situation – no one could put that car back together.  That white and gold Trans Am was gone forever.  It didn’t matter how much we remembered how great it was to ride in it – it was gone. It was a sad loss, but we had to move on and get another vehicle.

Sometimes robberies occur and you never get your property back.  You feel angry, violated, vulnerable, but that doesn’t change the fact that you will never see that jewelry, cash, tv set or car ever again.  Remaining angry about it and demanding that it be returned to you won’t ever change the situation.  The same goes for relationships.  Demanding you get something you can never have leaves you miserable, angry, frustrated and, to tell the truth, quite useless because of your obsession.

So if you are still wanting your ex to give you the love he withdrew from you, you are stuck in a pit of your own digging.  They are either unwilling or incapable of giving that love to you.  Fantasizing about the good times is destroying your life, because it is most likely never going to happen again.

To be healed and move on to find a healthy and satisfying relationship, you need to disconnect those short-lived, love-filled memories you associate with that person and replace them with the long-term memories of the BAD part of the relationship.   When you think of the person, you need to speak the truth and SEE them as they are, replay the memories of them ignoring you, or treating you badly.  Get rid of the fantasy version of the relationship, and be real about who that person is NOW.

Were you getting anything from that relationship by the end, or was it one-sided?  Were they giving sacrificially to you, or were they just there for the ride as long as things were good?   Take a good look at who they are now, their character, their inability to love you as you need to be loved – either because they truly cannot love in the way you need, or because they simply no longer love you.

When I was betrayed by a man I loved very much, in order to get over him, I had to keep repeating to myself, “He does not love you.  Why do you want a man who does not love you?”  I had to keep that up for months, until it finally sunk in.  Why did I want someone who no longer cared for me, but instead moved on to another woman?  What kind of man is that?  I was not going to get those good feelings back, they were gone forever, so I had to move on. And because I let go, God brought me my current husband of 17 years.

So purposely change the memories you associate with this person.  Make the thought of him so distasteful that it makes you feel grateful for being free from them.  It is not a falsehood – you are replaying truthful memories of how he really was.  Do it every time you think of him.  It is the only way to finally be free and move on to a healthy life and into healthy relationships.

If you need help working on these memories, then let me know.  You can set up appointments by logging in and clicking on the Make An Appointment link under Contact & Counseling.  Or  go into the Forums and let’s talk about it on the Relationship Recovery forum on the I can’t stop thinking or caring about him thread.  You can be free of this – let’s work on it together.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

A Truly Shocking Reason To Adopt Meditation

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