Just Do It Scared

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Thank you to Mary Rabe for bringing up some inspiration to the Raising Rices community! I love learning and growing with you! Thank you for opening and sharing where God is taking you! 

Just Do It Scared

By: Mary Rabe

Have you ever gone about your regular routine and had it end up leading to a “milestone moment”? You know, the kind of moment that you look back on later and realize it totally changed you? That happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been attending a fabulous workout/dance class called REFIT that is basically dancing like crazy for an hour and having a blast, followed by an encouraging message and prayer. It’s my favorite workout ever, and something that I’ve done almost every week for about 4 years now. In spite of all of that time, though, and the fact that I’ve learned the dances pretty well, I’d never once wanted to be up on the stage leading a song like the amazing instructors I’ve had do week in and week out. I remember my first REFIT instructors doing a song where they would randomly select people in the crowd to go up on stage and dance, and I would literally flee the room when I knew that was happening. I DID NOT want that kind of attention or pressure! I was content to stay in the back row, hidden in the shadows, enjoying the workout as well as the anonymity.

 

Fast forward a couple of years and now one of my closest friends teaches my REFIT class. I’ve been able to overcome my need to stay in the back row, and actually prefer to be in the front so I can see better (being barely 5 feet tall doesn’t lend itself well to seeing my teachers from behind other people). On this particular night, my friend pulled me aside and told me she had noticed that I knew the dances well, and I had what it takes to lead a song “sometime.” “You know what you’re doing!” she said, “So that means you’re ready to lead a song or two.” I was flattered, of course, especially having it come from someone I admire so much, and I told her “Sure, ok, yeah. I think I could do that now, sometime, as long as I had time to practice beforehand.” Then I let it go, figuring I didn’t need to worry about it for at least another week, when the next class would be. 

Well, halfway into that class, that very night, my friend called me out. “Hey! You know this song. Come up here.” 

 

 

 

“What. NOW?”

I imagine my expression was pretty priceless. I was so not prepared for this. My brain started running a million miles a minute. “DO I know this dance? What IS this song, anyway?!”

I mostly felt blindsided, and didn’t really have time to get truly scared before another friend began physically pushing me toward the stage. So I got up there, heart pounding. And you know what?

I did it.

It scared me to death. I was shaking pretty much the whole time. But I did it.

The girl who would literally run out of the room if there was even a chance of being put in front of others willingly jumped up on the stage and led a REFIT song. It was pretty exhilarating!

 

So, how exactly does one get from that first scenario to the second one? From automatically running away from scary scenarios to jumping in and facing them? I’ve been processing that, and here is what I think.

 

 

1. Having a solid identity in Christ. The main reason I am able to do anything at all that scares me is because of the work God has done in me. I’ve mentioned before about how He has shifted my thinking and brought me to a place of confidence in who He made me to be, and that has taken away so many feelings of self-consciousness and doubt in my abilities. My identity isn’t in what others think about me, how well I can accomplish something, or how silly I end up looking; I am deeply rooted in the security of having God’s “seal of approval”, no matter what, because of the sanctifying work He accomplished on the cross. Knowing that makes even scary things lose their edge, at least a little bit, and makes me willing to take more risks. It isn’t really about me at all; it’s about the work God has done, who He is shaping me to be, and how He empowers me to do what He calls me to.

“…Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:10)

 

 

2. Having friends who call me to more and walk with me in it. My awesome friend knew what I was capable of even more than I did in the moment. She believed in me, and she called me out to move forward in who and what God made me to be. At the same time, though, she didn’t just pull me up there and then ditch me to do the best I could on my own. She led the song with me, and even made sure she was following what I did so I at least appeared to know what I was doing! It helped immensely just knowing I had her next to me to look to if I got lost or froze up. All of those sweet ladies in my class also cheered for me and urged me to do this thing, and knowing they were there for me and were “in my corner” made all the difference. Doing scary things is much, much more doable when you have people who love you, tell you they believe in you, and then walk with you in it. 

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

 


3. Desiring to grow and not just stagnate in my comfort zone. We had a very wise speaker come to our church one morning and share about how we are all either in our comfort zones, or in what he called “The Growth Zone”. We can go through our lives doing what is comfortable and easy, but we will never grow and mature to become all that God intended. Being in the Growth Zone is often scary, and stretches us far beyond what we would prefer (hence the term “growth”), but it leads to so much good. Steve Clark said, “There is no comfort in the growth zone, but there is no growth in the comfort zone.” and Adam Stanley stated, “Without courage we will simply accumulate a collection of good ideas and regrets.” If I want to lead the best life I can (which I do) then I’m going to have to care more about growing and maturing than being comfortable, and that will often involve doing things that scare me. 

“…walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Colossians 1:10-12)

I hope you all know, this story isn’t about me, like I’m suddenly some kind of amazing and fearless miracle of awesome; I guarantee you I will still be scared the next time my friend calls me up on the stage, or I have to talk in front of people, or face some other challenge. Being afraid of certain situations is just part of being human! I know, though, I’ll be able to do it, because God has given me a solid identity, amazing supporters to walk with me, and a desire to grow. He’s provided that to you all, too; so, what scary things are you going to jump in and do now? Let me encourage you to do it; even if you have to do it scared.

 

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Behold, I am Doing a New Thing

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Mary Rabe is a great friend of mine and I was so honored she shared this story of inspiration in person with me, I KNEW that the RaisingRices’ community would be encouraged as well! So thank you Mary for your courage and words of wisdom!

 

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This week God taught me another lesson in letting go. That has been my theme for this year, and He’s already taught me so much in this that I was honestly a bit surprised to realize He had even more for me to take in! See, I had made the difficult decision to step down as a small group leader in the mom’s group of the church I used to attend. This was the last “tie” I had to that church, the last thing I was involved with, so it was a decision I did not enter lightly and that brought up a lot of emotions.

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I have truly loved that church. I attended it for well over a decade, and it was part of so many major milestones in my life, from taking on my parents’ faith as my own in high school, to my first years as a wife, to becoming a mommy. With all that, of course it wasn’t an easy choice to leave in the first place, but knowing I would still have a small part of it through this ministry helped the transition. So when I knew God was telling me that I needed to cut even that out to lessen my load in this chaotic season, I felt very anxious. I didn’t want to let people down. I didn’t want to lose relationships I had built there. I didn’t want to let go of a place and people that had meant so much. Still, I knew something had to give, so I let the leader know I needed to step down and that the next meeting would be my last one.
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The “big day” came, and I was so emotional. I was dismayed to realize I was out of place there, and felt like I no longer belonged; I was worried about “losing it” in front of everyone at my table; I felt guilty for letting the leadership and my sweet little group of ladies down…I was a mess. When the break time came, I still hadn’t officially let my ladies know I was leaving because I was so close to tears and couldn’t think of the words to say. I made a hasty retreat to the restroom where I was hopeful I could pull myself together more, and that was where I ran into an old family friend. This dear lady has known me just about the whole time I had attended that church, and is friends with my parents. She asked me about how things were at my new church, and about life in general, and for whatever reason I just couldn’t hold in the emotions anymore. As I tried to talk, the tears just started pouring out. “I’m sorry,” I blubbered, “I’m just so emotional today. It’s my last day here. It’s just really hard.” My sweet friend was so understanding. She gave me a big hug and said, “That’s really hard, I know.” Then she asked if she could pray for me, and her prayer suddenly helped me understand the “big picture” of what was going on in my heart. She talked about how hard it was and how painful it felt to have “one foot in the old and one foot in the new”, and she asked God to help me step out of the past things, to let go of them, and to have both feet firmly planted in the new things He had for me. This wasn’t just about feeling guilty for letting people down, or facing the sadness of not seeing old friends as much; this was God calling me to let go of something that had been so, so good in my life and to fully embrace the new He wanted for me in this new season. It was scary. It was painful. No wonder my emotions were all over the place!
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This wise woman’s prayer, though, gave me so much peace. I knew I had made the right decision, and that now all I had left to do was to “end well”, say my goodbyes, and step into the new things He had in store. I finished the morning with much more clarity and peace; it was still hard, and still very emotional, but there was something very reassuring about knowing I was doing what God wanted me to do, and I had hope for the new things He wants for me.

Maybe you are in a place where God is asking you to let go of something that has been such a good thing in your life, but is no longer His will for you. It could be a relationship, a job, a house, a ministry…there are a myriad of “good” things that could turn out to just not be His “best” for this season. It’s hard to sort through those things in our mind, trying to decide which good things to cut out in order to make room for the best, and it’s only made harder when those things have built-in memories and have been with us for a long time. I believe, though, that it is only when we willingly surrender those things, and release our grip on them, that we are able to fully take hold of the new thing God wants for us. God doesn’t want us to hold onto past goodness with one hand and His new plans and blessings with the other; He wants us to drop the past and wrap both arms around His new plans, fully embracing them with complete surrender and trust.


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This doesn’t mean that we completely cut out everything from the past like it never happened, of course. We still treasure lessons, relationships, and blessings from the past, but we don’t let them hold us back from the new things God has in store. So, Friends, I know it’s hard to move on; I know saying goodbye is so painful; and I know moving ahead is scary. But let’s do this thing. Let’s trust that when God says it’s time to let go, it’s for the best, and it’s only in order to fill our now-empty hands with something just as wonderful–maybe even more so. Think about it: those things we are struggling to let go of now that have been so good were once the “new things” we felt uncertain about grasping! How could the new thing God is doing possibly be anything less than excellent?! I’ve only gotten glimpses of some of the “new” God has for me in this new step of letting go, and I am already so overwhelmed by His grace, mercy, and love in all of it; I can’t wait to see what else He does.

By: Mary Rabe

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The Power of Prayer!

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“Thank you Mary Rabe for sharing your wisdom with us on this incredible gift God has given us on: PRAYER! It is always a pleasure to be encouraged by you! Thanks for your wisdom to our RaisingRices Village!” – Marissa Rice

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A few weeks ago my son came down with a terrible case of croup. Now, we’ve dealt with croup several times, but this time was different. This time all of our usual “tricks” didn’t work, or were a very short-term fix; within an hour our boy was once again coughing and wheezing, and was beginning to seriously struggle to breathe.

After the third time being woken up by an “attack”, we finally decided to pack him up and get him to the ER. As I loaded him into the car, though, he suddenly began to panic and sobbed out, “My chest hurts!” Of course, adding crying to croup is not a good mix, and his already labored breathing instantly worsened. This was probably one of the most helpless moments of my life. I knew I couldn’t do anything to help him, and I began to wonder if I should just call an ambulance for him. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel panicked or as afraid as I thought I would (being raised by a 911 dispatcher definitely lends itself to being calm in an emergency!), so I was able to maintain a soothing, in-control tone as I gently reminded him, “Sweetie, I know this is scary. I know it hurts. But you need to try really hard to stay calm, and not cry, because your lungs will work better if you can try to breathe nice and slow.” Then, I felt a strong sense of God saying, “Pray for him.” So I placed my hand on my little boy and began to pray out loud for him, asking God to help him stay calm, to comfort him, and to help his lungs work well enough to get us to the hospital for help.

As soon as I said “Amen,” my son was able to stop crying, and relaxed enough for us to get him buckled up and headed to the hospital. It was still a nerve-wracking ride, with me calling back to him every 5 minutes, “Give me a thumbs-up if you’re ok, Bud”, but we made it to the ER and got instant help as soon as we walked in. After a little work and time, they got things under control for him, and  we were able to get back home within a few hours. This was not my favorite way to spend a night, of course, but God used it to show me something so amazing: the power of prayer.

I’m sad to say that my first response to trials, conflict, challenges, and emergencies is not usually prayer. Typically I reach for my phone to text or call my mom, husband, or a friend. I want the “instant” reassurance of a human voice, camaraderie, and advice; none of which is wrong in and of itself. However, how much more effective would it be if I instead reached out to my loving, powerful Heavenly Father first? God is there, ready and waiting for me to ask Him for help, comfort, wisdom…whatever I need. His Word tells us in James 5:16 that, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” and that is something that God is really showing to be true in my life lately. Here are some of the things I’m learning about prayer, as well as some changes I’m trying to make in my prayer life.

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Prayer Grows Our Faith

One of the biggest thing I’ve seen in my life as I’ve tried to turn to prayer more is that every answered prayer leads me to grow in my faith and belief in what God can and will do. Seeing how instantly my son relaxed and was able to breathe better after I prayed that scary night was a huge boost in my faith, both in God Himself and also just in the power of prayer. Every answered prayer has the potential to mature and strengthen our faith as we see God accomplish what only He could do.

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Prayer Reveals More of God to Us

As I am working to pray about more in my life, I have been so touched by the different aspects of God being revealed in how He has answered even my most seemingly insignificant prayers. There have been times I have been hurt by someone and wasn’t sure how to handle it, so I poured out my hurt and frustration to God (some might even just call it “venting” to Him) and was so humbled and blessed by how He provided reconciliation and healing. He cares about even our hurt feelings, Guys. I’ve heard that and read it plenty of times, but I have been experiencing it more and more lately, and there is something just so wonderful about seeing that truth about God.

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Prayer Draws Us Closer to Others

There is something so sacred and special about praying for and with others. This weekend I was blessed with a chance to meet with a lady I consider to be my mentor as well as close friend, and we had a great time visiting over coffee. My favorite part, though, was just before she had to go, and she asked if she could pray for me. Holding my hands in hers, she asked God for help and guidance in struggles I’d shared with her, as well as an overall blessing over me and my family. It deeply touched my heart to have her go before God on my behalf, sharing my burdens and challenges with our loving Father. Then I got the blessing of praying for her, and felt the gift of sharing in my friend’s life in a deeper way by bringing her before God. Prayer knits us together in a way nothing else can as we share each other’s burdens and enter into the presence of the One who made us.

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Prayer Gives Us Hope

There are times in life when no one on earth can understand, help, or comfort us, and it is only in turning to God that we receive hope. Whether it is a case of others not being able to grasp our situation, or of us not feeling safe to share with anyone, there is something so reassuring and hopeful in knowing we can cry out to God in prayer and He will listen. He is the only One who totally understands us, knows exactly how to help, and has the wisdom and power to step in and change things.

I can’t count the number of times I have turned to God, knowing He was the only One who could help, and He has always come through. Sometimes it isn’t in ways I expect, but it is always just what I need. One memory of this is particularly sweet to my heart. It was smack-dab in the middle of last year, one of the roughest years I can remember having, and I was struggling in a big way. My husband had already been out of town for three weeks in a row, and we were on the last day of his fourth week gone. Throughout that entire time, the kids and I had taken turns dealing with some kind of tummy bug that just would not stay away. I was knee-deep in laundry, unable to help my poor sick kids, physically wiped out from being sick myself, and lonelier than I had ever been in my life since I had been quarantined (due to the tummy stuff) almost this whole time. I had absolutely hit my breaking point. All I could do was lay on my bed and weep, wishing desperately that someone, anyone, would come and help me. I finally cried out to God in sheer desperation, “Lord, please. Please send someone. I need someone to come right now, or I’m not going to make it.” Immediately, I heard a soft knock on my bedroom door, and then my oldest son timidly walked in. Without saying a word, he crept over to my bed and laid his beloved Monkey lovey, his most treasured possession, next to me. He gave me an uncertain smile as I sobbed out a thank you, and then he walked back out. I don’t think I will ever forget that moment. I didn’t have the words to ask anyone on earth for help; even my prayer to God was very disjointed and, honestly, a bit hysterical. Yet in spite of that, God sent the perfect little messenger of hope and comfort, and it got me through the rest of that time.

As I am learning all of these beautiful truths about prayer, I feel called to make some changes to the way I approach things in my life. Here are some of the applications I hope to make:

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  1. Pray first. When I face a trial, challenge, emergency, or even just an irritation, I want my first response to be to pause and pray. Ultimately God is the One who can help more than anyone else, and I want to act like I truly believe that by making Him my first resource.

 

  1. Offer to pray for others when they share a hurt, trial, or challenge they are facing. It’s one thing to say, “I will pray for you”; I want to actually offer to pray, in the moment, with those who open up and share with me. I know that I cannot always offer the right comfort, advice, or help to others; but saying a prayer with them, bringing them before God in faith and hope that He will help them, seems like one of the best things I can do for them.

 

  1. Pray like I expect God to act. Sometimes I think I treat prayer like something I am supposed to do that doesn’t actually do much. I want to pray now, though, with expectancy, recalling all of the ways God has come through when I have prayed, and remembering His promise that if I ask, I will receive.

 

I feel like God has taught me so much about prayer lately, but I also know that there is still a lot left for me to discover. I hope you will join me in seeking to know all we can about this wonderful gift of communication with our powerful, loving God.

Words of Wisdom brought to us today from one of our own: MARY RABE! Check out her blog at: HERE and her Facebook HERE!

 

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How to Be Happy!

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Our dear friend to RaisingRices, Mary Rabe has written a GREAT piece to share with us about How to Be Happy! This is practical, biblical and thought provoking! Thank you Mary for your wisdom and letting God mold and change you!

How to Be Happy

5 Keys to Happiness from Someone Who’s Learned the Hard Way

By Mary Rabe

If you had seen me at this time last year, I would not have described myself as a happy person. There were some difficult circumstances I was going through at the time, and it had just been a tough year overall, but I also had a lot of beliefs and behaviors that were definitely not conducive to happiness. It’s only been through many months of gaining wisdom and insight through my counselor and putting her advice into practice (as well as countless hours of prayer and dependence on God) that I realized that truth, let go of those negative attitudes and actions, and was able to discover tangible ways to live a truly happy life. Here is what I’ve learned, and some of the changes I’ve made.

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  1. Find your value in God, and enjoy who He made you to be. I wish I could lay out a step-by-step plan to attain this gift for those who are struggling with insecurity and low self-esteem like I was. I think this is one thing that just takes a lot of time, work, processing, and prayer for some people, but I also believe that one positive to that is that those who work to discover who they are and learn to truly enjoy it have a deeper appreciation for that healthy self-esteem. I lived so many years finding my worth and value through what others thought or said about me, and I needed constant reassurance and encouragement in order to be ok with myself. Giving people that kind of power never leads to happiness. It is only by desperately seeking God for His opinion and then believing what He says about us that we can have the kind of settled, peaceful contentment about ourselves that brings real happiness(that doesn’t get blown away the next time a person says something mean or critical). I’m not talking about pride or sinful self-reliance; what I mean is seeing the unique, beautiful creation that you are, accepting how God designed you, being willing to see your flaws and work on them (but notget hung up on them or degrade yourself for them), and being so “ok” within yourself that you don’t need other people to build you up.
  2. Get rid of jealousy, competition, and any others-centered attitudes/behaviors. We can’t be happy if we are too busy focusing on other people, whether that is by being jealous of what they have, feeling like we need to be better than them, or even centering our lives on making sure everyone is happy. God does call us to love others and even to set their interests above our own (Philippians 2:3) but that does not mean that we spend all of our time trying to make everyone happy, fretting about their opinions and striving to meet their expectations. That kind of a life is just too much work, and it never leads to true fulfilment. Likewise, being competitive with or jealous of others only leads to broken relationships, heartache, and frustration. Any life that is overly focused on other people will not have lasting, genuine happiness.
  3. Assume the best in others. On the flip side, we can’t have happiness if we are consistently thinking negatively about other people. Going through our days getting offended by everyone, seeing their actions as a personal attack, leaves us viewing the world in a pretty negative light (and who could possibly be happy while believing the world and all of the people in it are “out to get us”?) We do live in a fallen world, and every person we meet is sinful, struggling with their own vices and downfalls. Just think though, what would happen if we gave each other the benefit of the doubt. What is the person who cut you off in traffic wasn’t being a selfish jerk, but was a distracted mommy trying desperately to comfort her screaming baby? What if your spouse never intended to come across as unfeeling in that text message, but was just caught up in a really bad day and was floundering? What if the grumpy checkout cashier is reeling because he just lost a loved one that week and is barely holding it together? What would happen if we took on the practice of purposely excusing each other instead of automatically jumping to being offended? This, of course, does not mean we ignore or excuse blatant sin; the Bible is clear that we are sometimes called to confront sin in the church (an excellent article in how to do that can be found here https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/when-should-you-confront-someone-about-their-sin) but even that is done in a spirit of humility and meekness, not anger or selfishness in the moment.

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  1. Slow Down. We hear this all the time, don’t we? We are urged to “stop and smell the roses” and enjoy the season we are in, but do we really do this? I can’t count the number of times I have rushed through my day, striving to check off tasks, dragging my poor little ones along behind me while being driven ahead by the incessant urge to “do, accomplish, succeed”. There is such a balance to be found between being responsible adults caring for what God has entrusted to us and remembering to be still and enjoy the gifts He has poured out on us. We aren’t going to get a bigger trophy in Heaven for having a longer to-do list accomplished. If our tasks and goals become a slave driver forcing us ahead and rolling over those around us rather than a helpful map to help us navigate life purposefully, then it’s time to STOP. Put away the lists. Set aside the goals. Push pause on the resolutions. Take a day, a week, a month, and stop doing. Get your mind and heart back on track, pray for God’s guidance and wisdom, and learn how to enjoy life again. Once you feel peace and the crazy race inside your soul has ceased, you can prayerfully and slowly add in one thing at a time, checking to make sure you’re still on track and that you are the master of your goals and schedule, rather than the other way around.

 

  1. Love what you have. I think one reason so many of us struggle with the point above (slow down) is because we always feel the need to get more. We need to work hard so we can get the next raise and buy a better car/house/fill-in-the-blank. We need to push our kids to excel in school so they can get good grades and have a leg up in life. We have to add in that extra workout so we can lose these last 5, 10, 20 pounds. What if we took time to just celebrate what we have? What if we stopped and said a genuine “thank you” to God for every little thing that “gives us the happiest”? Now, there are some really hard circumstances that we are called to deal with, and God even tells us that “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12), so it isn’t at all wrong to wish for something we don’t have,unless we let that longing steal from our enjoyment of what we do have. I’ve written about this before (https://raisingrices.com/2018/04/24/i-scream-you-scream-we-all-scream-for-contentment/) but I think it really bears repeating. We can’t fully appreciate and enjoy the life we have, and experience happiness in our days, if we are wrapped up in what we don’t have. Counting your blessings, savoring each moment, finding good in tough circumstances…all of these things “flip a switch” in our brain to go from wanting to appreciating, longing to thankfulness. A practice I’ve found extremely helpful in this arena is doing the Joy Dare challenge from Ann Voskamp. Each month she has daily prompts for finding gratitude in everyday life, and I’ve found it so helpful in getting my mindset right. I’ve written the prompts in a journal, and also taken photos of each one in seasons when I have a little more time. You can find the original post here http://annvoskamp.com/joy-dares/and the entire collection of joy dare prompts here https://s3.amazonaws.com/a.voskamp/BlogFiles/JoyDareCollectionFinalRevision.pdf

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I am so thankful for all that God has done in my heart and mind in the last several months to bring about the changes I needed to make in order to experience happiness again. I’m still a work-in-progress, just like everyone else, and I definitely still have seasons of feeling anything but glad; but overall, I can honestly now describe myself as a happy person, and I hope that can be true for each of you as well.

 

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Podcast – Episode #23 Pursuing Dreams While in the Mom-Stage of Life

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Listen in today on a Podcast I am so excited to share! My dear friend Mary Rabe and I get together to talk about the importance of pursuing passions and dreaming WITH YOUR KIDS! Don’t let being a mom stop you from dreaming! We also talk about, maybe your dream was always to be a mom and now you are HOORAY, but now what? Listen in, I think you will be inspired and encouraged!

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LISTEN HERE: 

 

Show Notes:

CHECK OUT MARY’S NEW BLOG HERE!

 

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PODCAST – Episode #22 Getting Prepared for a Year of Homeschooling

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Listen in on todays Podcast as a GOOD friend of mine MARY RABE and I talk through our thoughts, hopes, and visions for homeschooling. We are in the beginning stages and excited to share what has been on our hearts!

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LISTEN HERE:

 

 

Show Notes:

Mary’s new blog can be found HERE!

More information on Morning Jobs can be found HERE!

 

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Tearing Out Emotional Vines – Mary Rabe

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Tearing Out Emotional Vines

By Mary Rabe

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The other day I went to a friend’s new house to help her pull ivy up from around a big tree she has in the front yard. The ivy had started out manageable, but when the previous homeowners stopped taking care of it, it completely took over the yard! It was everywhere, covering up what once were lovely footpaths, decorative rocks, and even a beautiful water feature; and it was also starting to choke out and kill the other plants in the yard.It was a big job, but one I was happy to help my sweet friend try to tackle.

 

We set to work, pulling on gloves and getting ready to “sweat it out” in the warm summer evening. Things started out slow as we were surprised by how hard some of them were to dislodge (a few so deeply-rooted that they wouldn’t budge, no matter how hard we pulled!) We tried cutting them with hedge trimmers, wrapping vines around our hands and leaning back to pull them out, taking rakes to them…It was hard, hot work with not much progress that we could see.

 

As we worked, I was reminded of a conversation I’d had with my counselor just that afternoon. It had been an emotional and tough session with her as I came to realize that I held a deeply-rooted belief about myself that was completely untrue, but was damaging many of my relationships, as well as adding a lot of anxiety and hurt to my life. This lie started out as a tiny little seed planted in my heart as a child, and as the years passed it grew stronger and bigger and eventually took deep root in my heart, morphing into something just as overwhelming and hard to pull out as the ivy my friend and I were battling.The similarities between my inner reality and the activity of the evening were very striking, and I found it very therapeutic to pull and rip up the ivy, thinking of it as a very real picture of how I wanted to get rid of that false belief in the same way. The next question I had, though, was how exactly to get rid of the vines covering up my heart? With some prayer and thought, here are some things I came up with.

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  • Recognize that the “ivy” is there, and it isn’t a good thing. I think a lot of us have emotional vines covering up our hearts, things we believe or have made up to try to protect ourselves from others or cover over things we are ashamed of. Maybe we hold onto bitterness to protect ourselves from getting hurt again. Maybe we decide it’s easier and safer to hide behind a lie than it is to be genuine and vulnerable with others. Maybe we keep up a false joy because recognizing and dealing with the sadness is just too painful. Just like the vines of ivy looked pretty but were destroying that tree in my friend’s yard, emotional ivy looks beautiful on the outside, but underneath it has deep, ugly roots that are leeching the life out of our souls. I think the very first step to getting rid of this problem is to realize it’s there, to accept that it isn’t a good thing, and decide we want it out.
    “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” ~1 John 1:9

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  • Find others to help you tear it out.Just like my friend needed help to get rid of the ivy in her yard, we need support and help from loved ones to get rid of the deeply-rooted false beliefs, bitterness, or hurt we hold in our hearts. Battling major problems like this isn’t something we were meant to handle alone. Now, I understand it can be embarrassing and really challenging to let people in enough to even know you have yucky vines cluttering up your inner space! I urge you, though, to step out in courage and humility to let in a few trusted people to walk with you in this challenge. Who knows? They may ask you to return the favor!
    “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” ~Galatians 6:2 (ESV)

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  • Call in the professionals. Sometimes our best efforts just aren’t quite enough to rip out the deep roots of a longtime hurt or false belief, and we need somebody with the skills and knowledge to eradicate these things to step in and help us.Like above, this can be a hard and embarrassing step, but sometimes it’s also absolutely necessary and can make a huge difference. I wasn’t even aware of my emotional vines until I saw a counselor and she helped me to recognize them. Don’t be afraid to get help!
    “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 5:16

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  • Remember this won’t be a quick or easy process.Usually things that take root in our hearts didn’t get there overnight; it took months or even years for them to sink their roots down and start growing into what they are today, and it can take that long to get rid of them.Try not to get discouraged when things don’t feel better right away (or even after a long while!) Instead, go into this eradication process expecting it to be a long project, with lots of blood, sweat, and tears.Tearing the ivy out at my friends’ house led to pretty intense blisters on our fingers, and ripping out lies or bitterness in our hearts is no less painful. It takes tenacity, courage, and patience to carry out any large-scale renovation, and those done in our hearts are no different.
    “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” ~Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)

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  • Don’t let that ivy come back.I asked my friend if she was going to leave any ivy behind (since it really can look quite attractive when it isn’t taking over the yard!) and she emphatically replied that she was taking it all out, no exceptions! She knew that it was just too hard to keep up with, and she didn’t want all of our hard work to go to waste when that lingering ivy took over again in a few months. My friend’s wisdom applies to our emotional vines, too. Once you’ve done the hard work of getting the lies, bitterness, or hurt out of there, be proactive in keeping it out! If those old thoughts start to pop up again, trying to leave little seeds behind, stop them in their tracks! It is so much easier to stop little baby vines from growing then it is to tear out full-grown, deep-rooted ones.
    “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” ~Ephesians 6:10-13 (ESV)

 

Helping my friend pull up ivy was hard work, but so rewarding. As the evening wore on, my friend’s husband got home and joined our little team, and he added quite a bit more strength as well as some better methods for ripping the vines out. Together, we were able to clear a huge area in their front yard, saving the beautiful old tree that had been choked out by the vines and also revealing some pretty special items, including something that actually brought tears to my eyes because of how much it correlated with what I was battling internally: a large, heart-shaped rock. That ivy had been covering that rock for years, and nobody could see it or even know of its existence until we pulled out the ivy. In much the same way, I knew that until I dealt with the emotional “vines” that had grown inside me, nobody would be able to truly see my heart or know me as I was meant to be known. It was a very meaningful visual from my loving Heavenly Father, and a sweet grace to my heart.

 

It was exciting and fun to see the “treasures” that had long been buried by all of the thick vines in my friend’s yard! Every time we found a new rock or pretty little plant that had been hidden, we all shouted for the others to come and see and had a mini celebration. I’m certain that as we work on removing the emotional vines within us, we will have the same fantastic blessings.I wonder what treasures lay waiting for us underneath the vines rooted in our hearts?Let’s pull on our gloves, call together a team, and get to work finding out.

 

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” ~Psalm 51:10 (ESV)

 

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SAY YES – Mary Rabe

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Say Yes

BY: MARY RABE

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This last weekend I did something I have never done, and never really thought I would ever do: I responded to an altar call…at a church I’ve never really been to…in front of many people I’ve never met. Those who know me well are aware of how out of character that is for me! I am very, very introverted; easily overwhelmed by crowds (especially crowds of people I don’t know well); and prefer to just stay in the background as much as possible. So when the preacher called out for people to come forward if they felt that God was asking them to “say yes” to something, I was 100% certain he couldn’t be talking about me.

For one thing, I am just a “yes” kind of a gal as a general rule and didn’t think there was anything more I should say yes to. I want to enjoy life to the fullest, so I hate missing out on opportunities or fun events, and love to help others as much as I can, so my typical answer to others is a resounding “YES!”
I always thought I was also pretty consistently saying “yes” to God in my life
; I was raised in a Christian home and came to salvation at a young age; I am very careful to pray over decisions and try to stay in line with what I feel God is calling me to; and this year I’m learning to “let go” of my plans and need for control and to say yes to God’s loving authority in my life. Imagine my surprise, then, when I felt that still, small voice in my heart prodding me to stand up and walk to the front of the church!

To make a long story short, I went back and forth with God for a while, arguing and pleading and making excuses about why I shouldn’t do what He had asked me to do; but ultimately, I submitted to Him and went to the front of the church to kneel down, where a precious friend prayed over me and I was able to truly submit to God. My prayer was something along the lines of, “Lord, I don’t know what all you want me to say yes to specifically, but here I am. I’ll say yes to whatever and wherever you call me to, even if that means just continuing the daily routine and challenges we’ve been having lately. I trust you, I love you, and I want to always live saying ‘yes’ to you.”

Since that memorable service, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what exactly it means to say yes to God, and I think there are 3 parts to it:

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  1. Saying yes means doing what you feel God calling you to do.This is the most obvious part of saying yes to God. If you feel God telling you to do something, whether it’s as simple as calling a hurting friend or as intense as becoming a missionary to a foreign country, then saying yes means you do that thing. Sometimes what God asks us to do is really, really hard (like having Super Introvert go to the front of a church she hardly knows!) but refusing to do what he asks will cause us to miss out on so much. It is always worth it to move forward in obedience to what God asks you to do. Part of this is also accepting the situation and circumstances God has placed into your life (more on that in the next point…)

    ~“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke6:46 NIV)

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  1. Saying yes means keeping a positive attitude and a submissive, joyful spirit in whatever God calls you to.This part of saying yes is a little bit tougher than simply doing what He says.I think it is completely possible to obey God and to go through the motions of doing what He’s called us to, but to still be screaming, “NO!” at Him in how we think and feel. God doesn’t want us to obey out of compulsion and to have a bitter, grumbling attitude as we fulfill His will in our lives, just like we don’t want our kids to do what we say with yucky, grumpy hearts. He doesn’t appreciate emotional martyrs who do whatever hard thing He’s asked but complain about it the whole time. This is definitely something I struggle with, and was convicted by at that church service. Sure, I was saying yes to God outwardly, going through the motions of living a challenging season and trying to honor Him, but inside I was nothappy! I was facing my circumstances with fear, disappointment, and even some anger, and I was definitely not trusting that God knows what He is doing. I wanted Him to change my circumstances and make things better, but He wants me to just say yes where I am, with peace and joy, and to stay open to what He has in store. This is true when He calls us to big, challenging, major things; but it is also true in just living out our daily lives. We can say yes to God every day simply by trusting that He has us exactly where He wants us and joyfully living out even the most mundane and repetitive activities of our lives (whether that’s changing the 200thdiaper of the day or answering yet another call at work with a cheerful and loving spirit).

    ~ “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22 ESV)

~ “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 NIV)

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  1. Saying yes means keeping our hands open to God, not trying to hold onto what He no longer wants us to have.I think this is the very hardest part of saying yes to God. Sometimes, God wants us to say yes to Him taking something away, and that can be very painful. Losing a job, moving away, saying goodbye to friends or family…these things hurt so much. Yet part of staying open and saying yes to God’s plans for us can sometimes mean He needs to remove something from our lives. It does us no good to cling to something He doesn’t want for us, no matter how much that thing may mean. It comes down to trusting that God loves us indescribably, He knows what is best, and if He is taking something away it is because that thing is no longer His best for us. I do know that when God takes something, He almost always replaces it with something else. Sokeeping our hands open doesn’t only mean letting Him take what He wants to; it also means leaving room for whatever betterthings He wants to place there instead.

~ “In everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven…a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away…” (Ecclesiastes  3:1, 6 ASV)

 ~ “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19a ESV)

So here I am, still in the same circumstances, still facing some challenging stuff…but everything is a little different now. I said yes to God by going up to that altar, and I’m striving to say yes every day now, not just in obeying Him, but in being trusting and joyful in it all and keeping my hands open to whatever He wants to take away or give me. I am excited to see what saying yes is going to lead to in my walk with God; care to join me?

 

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Dear Kids I have No idea what I am doing!

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Dear Kids, I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

By Mary Rabe

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Dear Kids,

I don’t know if you are aware of this or not, but I have no idea what I’m doing. This parenting thing? Yeah, I‘m pretty much winging it. Even after 3 kids, I am no expert. See, each of you are so different, and so unique, and so hard to read at times that I don’t think anyone could really become an expert!

 

Daddy and I have read books, listened to podcasts, turned to pastors and counselors to get wisdom… and yet there are still days and entire seasons when we are at a complete loss of what to do. I try to appear like I have things under control and am “good” at this Mom Thing, and to make you think that I’ve got the answers, but you know what? Out of sight, when you are in bed or I have some alone time, I oftentimes break down. “God, why in the world did you give me these kids? I don’t know what you want me to do. I don’t understand how to reach them, and I am completely overwhelmed by the task of raising them.”

 

See, I’ve wanted this for as long as I can remember. I’ve dreamed of having kids and being a mom, and of having the chance to raise up the next generation to serve our amazing God. Now I’m literally living the dream, and I’ve gotta be honest: there are some days when it resembles more of a nightmare! I had no idea how hard this would be. I thought that reading the books and studying the articles and learning from others would equip me to do this thing right, but it’s so different to do it in real life. I don’t know how to stop temper tantrums. I am at a loss when the potty accidents keep going on, month after month after month. How am I really supposed to respond to defiance—and was that sour look really even defiance or just an overtired/overhungry/anxious kid? There’s no limit to “magic formulas” and “perfect answers” to these problems if I try to look…but almost all of them contradict each other. I always end up back at square one, wracking my brain and struggling to know what to do.

 

I think the thing that is hardest about all of this is that it matters so much to get it right. For one thing, I’ve never loved anyone quite like I love you all. I am smitten with each of you, and care so much about you that it physically hurts sometimes. I would do anything for you and have only the best in mind for you. I treasure every memory with you, cry over how fast our time together is passing, and am still sometimes in awe that you are mine!


Yet hand-in-hand with that love comes this heavy, sobering feeling of responsibility. I have to take care of you. I have been tasked with the job of not only keeping you alive, but of being used by God to help shape you into who He wants you to be. Your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being are, in large part, my responsibility. That pressure feels so heavy sometimes!

 

I also still have my own sinful nature to deal with. Sometimes I still feel like I’m a kid in need of parenting myself! They say that parenting shows us our immaturities like nothing else, and that has been so true for me. I can’t believe how selfish, impatient, anger-prone, and petty I can be! And God wants me to teach you character?! How can I teach somebody else what I am still learning? That’s why Mama has to apologize so often to you guys; I’m really learning right alongside you, even though I’m supposed to kind of know what I’m doing.

 

I wish I could get this right for you guys. I wish I could be the kind of mom I really want to be, all the time, with no (or at least very few) mistakes. But you know what? Just like I’m learning to have faith that God gave me each of you for a purpose, I hope you can grow to have that same belief about me. God picked me for you, and you for me, and He did it for a reason. We are helping each other become the people He desires. All of the conflict, mistakes, apologizing, do-overs, and successes are being used by Him to mold me as well as you guys. And as much as I love you guys, my love is just a teeny reflection of His love for you! So I guess all I can do is trust that God knows what He is doing, apologize when I mess up, and “keep on keeping on”. I can’t promise I won’t get discouraged, and I definitely won’t get it right all of the time (or maybe even most of the time if I’m honest), but I do promise that I won’t give up; I will do my best to make my mistakes right; and I will always love you, more than you’ll ever know, forever and ever.
Love,

Your Very-Imperfect but Crazy-About-You Mama

 

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Let Him Change You – Mary Rabe

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Let Him Change You

By: Mary Rabe

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I think one of the hardest and scariest things to do is also one that can reap the greatest rewards in our lives: to let God change us. I’ve had firsthand experience with this throughout my life, but probably never more than in the last 6 months.

In January I was struggling with depression and felt totally defeated by life. 2017 had been a really hard year, filled with losses, sickness, and intense loneliness, and I was reeling from all of that pain. We were also facing some tough behavior challenges from one of our kids, something that I felt reflected on me and my parenting and made me feel like I was failing in one of the roles I cared most deeply about in my life. I was scrambling to control anything I could, to protect my image and to fulfill the deeply-felt need I had to have at least something “go right” in my life. Now it is June, 6 months later, and a few weeks ago I was blessed with a beautiful picture of just how much God has changed me.

We were invited to join some friends in a fun summer tradition they have of painting canvas shoes to be “summer shoes”, the shoes the kiddos wear all summer and just totally trash in all of their outdoor play. I was so excited to spend time with friends and to let my kiddos enjoy a creative outlet, and I thought for certain that my toddler would be the one most eager to have free reign and paint all over his shoes (I mean, what toddler doesn’t want to try to paint their clothes?)

We all went outside, and 6 mommies set up 18 (yes, 18) kids 9 and under with their shoes and three colors of paint, and invited them to go nuts. Two of my kids gladly dove in and began their artistic venture. The third? He got some paint on his leg, stared at the mess on his skin, and promptly began screaming.

I sat down by him and tried to explain that it was all ok and would wash off, but he wouldn’t have it. He started an all-out, epic tantrum, flailing around, shrieking, and getting even more paint all over himself, me, and our surroundings. Now, 5 other moms and 17 kids is quite an “audience” for this kind of situation, and 6 months ago I would have been absolutely mortified. I likely would have gone off with my toddler in a huff, cleaned him up, and left the premises as quickly as I could so I could go throw my own little fit and feel embarrassed over my “failure” as a mom because my kid was the only one who “failed” at the shoe painting.

But God. God has done such an amazing work in my life. Instead of getting even remotely upset, I laughed. I looked at my friends, shrugged, and said, “Well that’s unfortunate”. The other moms joined me in my laughter, one of them snapped a picture (a photo that I now treasure as the literal image of how much God has changed me), and we moved on. I did most of the shoe painting for my little fit-thrower and tried to talk him through it. He never did calm down until one of my friends had the brilliant idea to give him some juice and a snack (because Hell hath no fury like a hungry toddler, am I right?), but you know what? It was ok. We still had a wonderful time. I let go of needing to control the situation or my son’s behavior, and now that moment stands out to me as a beautiful example of how God has worked in my life and shaped me into the woman He intended me to be, and the mommy my sweet kids need me to be.

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So, how did I get from “January Me” to this joyful, patient, calm mom I hardly even recognize? Well, it isn’t really what I did but what GOD did. God is in the business of changing people, and He did that for me. It wasn’t always easy, and there were moments that genuinely hurt—in ways deeper than I’ve ever felt pain before.

See, I thought I was doing things “right” before; I mean, my heart was to serve God and raise up fantastic kids and to bring glory to my Heavenly Father in all that I did! What could be wrong with that? When I found out that the way I was doing things was actually doing a lot of harm to me and (worst of all) to my precious kids and family, it devastated me. When God opened my eyes to the truth—that my good intentions had turned into something that was destroying my family—I couldn’t wrap my mind around how He could fix things. I’d been this way for as long as I could remember, and it was overwhelming to know how to get to where I needed to be.

I’ve heard from several precious people that are in that same place: knowing they need to change, but they have no idea how. When they ask me how I got to the “other side”, I’m not sure how to answer! After thinking and praying about it, I keep coming back to the ultimate truth that it is God who changes people, and I just had to reach a point where I knew I wasn’t who He made me to be, decide that “enough was enough” and take steps of obedience and faith that I felt would be used by Him to shape me into a more “whole” woman. I don’t think any person who has spent an entire lifetime trying to control things and “choose the best” and be as close to perfect as possible could ever truly change themselves without God’s divine intervention and help. So before I share anything else, I hope it’s clear that ultimately this was God’s doing, not mine. With that said, there are some “practical” things I’ve done that I believe God used to do His work in me, and I’m happy to share them in the hopes that it encourages those that are “stuck” to start the journey of change with their Heavenly Father.

  1. I am seeing a counselor. My depression and anxiety had gotten so out-of-control at the end of last year that I knew I needed more than the typical solutions to get out of it. It took me a long time not only to “bite the bullet” and admit I needed help, but to even find the right person to go see! I’m so thankful that I stuck with it and that God brought me to the precious woman I now get to share my heart with and get wonderful advice from. She has helped me to see where my long-held beliefs and thinking were wrong, and what I could do to change to a healthier outlook. There was no way I would have been able to see the things she’s brought my attention to unless I had that outside perspective, so counseling has been a huge piece of my turn-around. It took a lot of work and time to find the right person, and it is a big financial commitment, but God has been so faithful in His provision and has shown me that even when things don’t “add up” in my economy, He always takes care of us when we step out in faith.

  2.  I confessed that what I was doing at the time wasn’t working. We can’t change if we don’t see that we even need to. I think this step probably took the longest for me, and it was definitely the hardest. When my counselor told me that I was the one causing a lot of the problems in my life, it didn’t exactly go over well. Nobody likes to be told they are wrong, especially people with a type-A, perfectionistic personality! It took several days for me to accept that my “methods” hadn’t worked, grieve that truth and all of the consequences it had brought up, and then decide that I wasn’t going to stay stuck. Even though my intentions were good, I had gone about things in a way that did more harm than good. I could choose to stubbornly stay where I was, claiming that I couldn’t be wrong because my heart in it all was pure…or I could confess that I got this part wrong, humble myself, and ask God what He intended instead.

     

  3. I spent more time with people I wanted to be like. I have a few friends that are gifted with the ability to be very laid-back and easy-going, and that focus more on grace than performance—the things I am trying to learn—and my counselor “prescribed” extra time with people like them. So, I took a leap of faith, openly told those friends I needed to learn how to be more like them, and have been purposeful in trying to spend more time with them. Seeing examples of calmer, more grace-filled parenting and having these dear women offer advice and just spend time with me has given me a “real-life” picture of the kind of person I’m trying to learn how to be. Now, I’m not saying we should find some friends we like and then try to change to be just like them. I am still absolutely in favor of “being yourself”, owning your “flavor” and staying true to the person God made you to be, 100%. The person I was, though, was not who He made me to be. I had let my natural inclinations for order and plans and being purposeful become too extreme, turning them into a terrible slave-driver, and I needed people who were experiencing freedom to help me see how to get out of my self-imposed cell. I believe that God can and does use other people to help us see where we’ve gotten off-track and how we can find our way back; He has definitely done that for me.

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It is very humbling and painful to come to the realization that we need to change, especially if we’ve gone our entire life thinking we were doing the right thing! I think something that helps in this process is to keep in mind that God is never truly done working on us. We will not become the people He intended us to be until we reach Heaven, so we have a long time to stay open to the changes He wants to make; to learn and grow in Him; and to trust Him to complete His good work in us. So even though it really is very scary and even painful, let’s trust our Heavenly Father enough to let Him change us. I can tell you with full confidence that it is so, so worth it.

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“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Phillipians 1:6
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