My life today is nothing compared to what it was even five years ago, let alone 30 years ago when I began my Christian journey. God planted a seed of change; however, it took almost 20 years to stop living according to my rules and listen to his desires for me.
I am one of those people who isn’t afraid to ask the tough question. I love to get people thinking about opposing viewpoints or scenarios. When these are thoughtful civil discussions, we can begin to see that the alternative perspective has merit. We can begin to incorporate those perspectives into our own and realize a change in ourselves.
I’ve been reading a lot more during this time home alone. Mostly I have been reading about the way God can completely change who we are, if we are willing to open that door. I know he has changed my heart, my thinking, and my desires in many unexpected ways. I know God has forgiven me in ways people never have. I know I have found peace in that forgiveness and a greater willingness to offer that same mercy and grace to others. It all started with God moving in my life when I opened myself to his ways over my ways.
I’m a rules person. I try not to drive more then the ‘acceptable’ five miles an hour over the speed limit. I try be on time (meaning early) for my appointments. I don’t lie about my age to get a cheaper rate; nor did I ever do that for with my child. I want people to think well of me and see me a ‘virtuous’ or ‘law-abiding.’
I’m also a horrific sinner. Yup, me the ‘rules girl’ have broken all the rules, one way or another. And for many years I have carried the guilt and shame of my past with me. Yes, I have confessed most of those lapses in following the rules and as open as I have been about God’s forgiveness of my actions, I still let them define me. I still stopped short of embracing my ministry because someone might unearth and reveal my sins for the world.
Fear can be so crippling. If we let it, it will run our lives. It will cause us to do things out of emotional blackmail and often drive us to make poor decisions, or worse yet, no decision. It can stop us from stepping into the life God intends for us (a calling) because we think we aren’t good enough, not worthy to stand, or that our past has left us irreparably damaged.
Dying drying trees
Brown and lifeless
Waiting for new life?
Branching off, crisscrossing,
Intersecting each other
Giving way to
Solid trees, grown upright,
Branches reaching upward
Unity in growth
Brown transformed to green
Growing, dying, rebirthing
All reaching up
All branching out
All rooted in hope
Watered in love
Growing through faith.
I can still remember standing in the middle of the cafeteria at The Meadows and screaming those words. I was on a perch above the lunch crowd, dutifully acting out my task for the day. At that time I was a woman who felt unseen by her family, her workplace, her church, and even the people in treatment with me.
I had come to this point because for most of my life I felt invisible. I had learned to hide in a family with alcoholism and domestic abuse, to stay under the radar. I had been body-shamed either for developing early, being too fat, or being too skinny; so I tried not to call attention to myself. I grew up at a time when most women were not seen for their value-added in the work environment. And although I knew women in ministry areas, others frequently were held back to certain “lady-like” areas: prayer teams, women’s ministry, altar guild, and hospitality.
I understand how some women today can feel invisible or at a minimum, not heard. It took me three times of yelling out “I AM NOT INVISIBLE” before the people in the cafeteria even turned to hear me–and then they applauded my bravery. Funny thing is, they didn’t really see me after my bold action, but I saw me. I learned that I needed to stand up for myself, even if no one else was with me.
Even when we push forward and make strides as women, some still evaluate us based on our sexuality or ‘beauty.’ One of my challenges in a government position of leadership was to maintain my femininity while asserting myself in a mostly male-run environment. It was not unusual to see women take on more masculine traits to be validated while women who maintained femininity were seen as light-weights (or light-headed?). I still remember a dear friend asking me during an event at a conference: “What would a man do? He would just go right in like he belonged there, even if he didn’t get an invitation.” It was a reminder that we as women need to step up and out of our comfort zone to be seen and heard. And we need to do it for one another.
I can understand why some think that they need special treatment (i.e., legislation) to overcome the bias that continues to exist in work places. Unfortunately, there is no legislation that will change the mind (or behavior) of some individuals about women, anymore than legislation has changed the opinion some have about the LGBT community or minorities. These minds will only be changed as those of us who see the value and worth of women (and other communities) promote their merit and help secure a future for them.
All things are legitimate, but not all things are helpful. All things are legitimate, but not all things are constructive and edifying. (1 Corinthians 10:23)
I know that we need to rise above the negativity and not come down to the level of those using vile language to describe and assess women. We don’t need to repeat their words to be heard – we need a new positive language that validates what we already know. We were all created in the image of God and all have the same value in his eyes and should have it in the eyes of each other. We don’t need to take terms that defile women and turn them on ourselves. Our strength will come from demonstrating and demanding respect for each other.
I have taken my own steps in that direction. I have bonded with other like-minded women and we are uplifting and encouraging one another. I have thrown my hat in the ring for leadership positions because even if I was overlooked, my name was in front of those making decisions. I am committed to building a community of single persons, especially women. I am studying ways to help them see their contribution and to stand with them as they discern their ministry or professional calling. And I am using this platform to share my story of transformation and new life to encourage others to seek out help where it is needed.
Let each one of us make it a practice to please his neighbor for his good and for his true welfare, to edify him. Romans 15:3
I am not invisible anymore. I know that I was made for purpose. My purpose, my calling, may differ from yours, and I respect that. We may view world priorities differently, and I am willing to learn from those differences in opinion. I have discovered that being happy and content in my skin may make some people uncomfortable, and that I need to step into leadership respectfully understanding that change is never easy. I will keep my one-woman march forward going, with my eyes turned upward and with the prayers and support of those that believe in my journey. I will be responsible for me and not blame others when things don’t go my way–I will find a way to make it work if I discern it is God’s will.
My prayer for you today therefore is that you become willing to take action to be seen and heard where you are called to be an instrument of change. I pray that you will seek God’s will for your life and step forward with courage. I pray that you will go high when others go low, that they may see up from where they stand. I pray that you will sow seeds of encouragement and that you will be a vessel of compassion for those less fortunate for you. I pray you will go with God wherever he takes you.
For the Lord shall be your confidence, firm and strong, and shall keep your foot from being caught. Proverbs 3:26
The photo used for this post is the ‘invisible’ stealth carrier.
Change is to alter, make different, transform, to switch, and to break from the old. Change can be difficult when we first realize we must do something differently in our lives. Change can be even more traumatic when thrust upon us and outside of our control.
If we have made the decision to change something in our lives, it is likely that we are moving toward or away from something. Angela Dunbar writes that we move away from that which we don’t like or toward something beginning–often with goals set. If we make a decision to change things in our lives and in our environment, we need to consider the actions we should take and then commit to those actions. Through the process of reaching a new state of being, we may discover areas that require healing or we may come upon new information that causes us to re-evaluate the steps we are taking. It is important to remember that this is a journey and while the path may take unexpected turns, we need to stay with the journey to the end. In the pain of change comes true transformation.
And then there is change beyond our control. Some event may occur that knocks us off our feet. This usually happens in relationships. Perhaps the person you thought you would have a long-term relationship with isn’t on the same page as you and your friendship suddenly ends. Perhaps you have unexpectedly lost a loved one–a parent or a spouse/partner. Maybe you lost a job you loved or were forced into retirement when you still wanted to work. This sort of change is much more traumatic because we frequently don’t have the time to process the change; it just happens and we are left without a plan.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
I know for me that without my faith and trust in God to guide me through change, planned or unplanned, I would most likely curl up into a little ball. I have actually done that on occasion; however, I am fortunate that some wonderful women of faith reached out to me and reminded me that I am loved, I have value, and I have worth in the eyes of God. And when I think I am alone, I must remind myself that God will never desert me. I can pick up my bible or a spiritually-influenced book and let the words guide me through my times of uncertainty. Some times its a short process of getting on with the changes while other times I dig my heels in and it takes enormous pain (hitting bottom) before I will do what I need to do. No matter what, the commitment is to embrace the change, to grow, and to become better than I was the day before.
If we were to look through the bible we find it full of stories of individuals who were thrown into circumstances beyond their control and came through the fire, changed for the better. Look at Moses who walked away from a charmed life to live in the desert and ultimately became the voice of the Lord and a leader of change for a nation. David, who made extraordinarily wrong choices that cost people, including his own child, their lives. He became willing to embrace change and altered the course of history. What about a young woman who had a plan for her life only to have the angels tell her nothing she was planning was a great as what God had in mind. And in her obedience, the world was changed.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.(Jeremiah 29:11)
No matter what is happening in your world today, change is going to occur. How we navigate the waters of change will determine our ability to find joy in the change. If we take the perspective that change is an awful painful thing against which we should fight, it is likely that we will drown in depression and anger or sadness. If we can accept or even embrace, the change (planned or not) and seek God’s will for our lives, we will ultimately find peace and maybe even joy.
I pray that you will seek out the positive aspects of change, ask the Lord to reveal his new plan for you, and trust that a new day is coming. I pray that your heart and mind will be transformed and that you will be challenged to share what God has done for you with others who suffer. May you find blessings in your trials and courage to take action.
This past week the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” has been playing in my head. I know it is in large part because I finally gave in and became willing to receive healing prayer for some areas of my life I was hanging onto. I was walking around with a bit of a chip on my shoulder, listening to the voices of long ago tell me I would never amount to anything. I was living out their negative prophecy for my life and it was keeping me from fulfilling a vision I received over 20 years ago.
I love to sit with people and hear their story. I love to encourage others to look for and live out their vision. I love leadership and facilitating community. I love writing and speaking and sharing how God has done amazing things in my life. But I frequently stop short in leading and trusting the gifts and talents with which God entrusted to me.
I have frequently compared myself to other people who use their gifts in the way I should use mine. I’m sure some of you do that too- you see someone who seems to have it all together and you think: “I’ll never be that ____.” But no where can I find Jesus telling us to compare ourselves to another person. He simply tells us to use our gifts or they may not grow or they may disappear. We learn in Matthew 25:14-30 that we are given talents and it is up to us to decide how to use those talents. We can become fearful and hold tight to the gifts given us and make “safe” choices in the limited way in which we use those talents. Or we can take a risk, live boldly and use those talents and invest in others. You see, God gives us what we need and it is up to us to step forward, even if it seems risky.
Through healing prayer I found that I could break from those voices. I could see the lies I had come to believe and embrace the truth that God had already prepared the way for me to take action. Key word being action. We are uniquely made and we are uniquely called to action. So we won’t look like any other individual nor will the actions we are called to take look like any other call to action.
I hope that if you are feeling unable to move forward that you will share that reservation with someone else. Ask them to pray for you and with you. Seek out a coach, a spiritual director, or a healing minister to free you from whatever holds you back. There is such incredible joy when we live in God’s will and presence and not in our self-made fears and reservations.
It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others. (Ephesians 2:10 Living Bible)
All my life I have dealt with the language of men that was designed to belittle, devalue, and intimidate me. Most of my life it worked and left me feeling vulnerable and disadvantaged.
Most of the time it also opened the door to actual sexual harassment or aggressive behavior. As a person who experienced sexual abuse at a young age, I was ill-equipped to understand the difference between acceptable behavior and unwanted attention. I was so overwhelmed by the behavior of others that I wasn’t capable of pushing back or reporting it. This was true until I came to terms with my own behavior and made a personal change in my response.
So what did that negative behavior from others look like? There were teachers in school who openly held sexually charged discussions with impressionable teenage girls. There was my father who made comments about my size and used language that today we find deplorable. There was my brother who said I dressed like a whore. There was the friendly neighbor who took advantage of my vulnerability-grooming me with language and images.
There was the workplace that thrived on adulterous relationships and encouraged young women to have affairs with managers to be part of the ‘in crowd.’ There were bosses who made snide comments about my age, my appeal, and my sexuality as a single person. There was the time I witnessed women who fell prey to the sexual abuse of their management, lose their positions. At one point I was warned that I could be reprimanded if I accepted their advances without reporting these predators. As if we were responsible for their action! Ultimately there was the man in a leadership position who drove me to a nervous breakdown and into retirement to escape his advances because of the earlier warning.
There were the women at a church who shunned me and uninvited me as a single woman who ‘might’ entice their husbands into affairs–with no evidence that I was interested in there spouses. I learned that single women were a threat to marriages and avoided conversations with men in my new church. And finally there was the man in my ministry field whose attention caused me to leave and avoid a ministry into which I felt called.
These examples don’t begin to describe what it was like growing up in an environment in which these things were not only viewed as acceptable, they were encouraged behaviors. One way or another, an attractive woman was seen as fair game. At one point I even dyed my hair because I was told no one would take me seriously as a blond! And then there are the eating disorders- anorexia or over eating- to make me more attractive or to protect myself.
I could not change the men in my world. I could discover more about myself and learn a new way to react to these advances. Thankfully I had a great recovery program at The Meadows and a wonderful healing minister that brought change in my life.
I have my struggles. I’m still afraid to lose the weight and become ‘attractive’ again because I worry that I will trigger old patterns. More healing to be done there. However, I no longer accept behavior from men that includes sexually innuendo, inappropriate body language, or intimidating tactics. I stand up for myself and have passed that on to my daughter.
Change is hard.
- We begin with ourselves. We find an inner strength and the will to call out and push back when someone demeans us.
- We can see ourselves as the valuable women God created us to be.
- We can experience new life as persons of worth with the right to demand respect.
- We can call out negative behavior for what it is, stand against it, and stop running.
I encourage those of you who see yourself in my story to reach out to someone and tell your story. Ask for help to recover from abusive behavior. Step into a new life!
We don’t have to take the abhorrent behavior of others anymore.
The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. The Lord is my inheritance, therefore, I will hope in him. Lamentations 3: 22-23
It has been a while since I felt like myself.
It has been a while since I felt I was hearing God.
It has been a while since I was willing to listen.
I was asking and He was showing me and I was refusing.
And I was isolating and avoiding the life I was once very excited and happy about.
I keep wanting to make things too complicated. I keep letting others say negative things about my calling and letting their voice win out over what I am so convicted I should be doing.
Today I am casting those negative voices and people out of the roles of influence and distractions from a ministry that people I respect have said I need to do.
If you find yourself in the position of thinking you have heard a direction from God, I strongly suggest you meet with a small group of people you trust and ask them to pray with you. Then share with them what you have heard and ask them to let you know honestly and prayerfully if they are in agreement.
There may be one or two who don’t understand or agree; in those cases be sure to ask if it is a personal or a God disagreement. Sometimes jealously may enter the equation. Sometimes we view things through what we ourselves would be comfortable doing rather than making it about the person who hears the call. Therefore make wise decisions in who you call as your inner core to meet and pray with you.
And finally. If you have heard a direction from God and those you trust confirm what you have heard Get Moving!!
Don’t do what I did and let things slip away. I have struggled with an unease for months and in the past few days all of it is gone. I have excitement back in my life. I see God more clearly in everything around me. I have less fear and more hope.I am more of who I am than when I am without direction.
God has given each of you a gift. Use it to help each other. This will show God’s loving-favor. If a man preaches, let him do it with God speaking through him. If a man helps others, let him do it with the strength God gives. So in all things God may be honored through Jesus Christ. Shining-greatness and power belong to Him forever. Let it be so.