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SMC Women's Ministry

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Posts tagged grace
I've been doing some soul-searching...

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Welcome to this week’s SMC Women’s blog.

Right now on the SMC Women’s Facebook Bible Study page, we have been studying Thessalonians. So much wisdom in those two letters!

 

In Week 2 of our study, I had a moment. And it coincided with a book I’d been reading. Really, though, that was all God.

 

Have you ever read a book that just smacked you in the face?

Are you a single lady (or dude, if you’re here visiting)?

Are you a mom?

Grandma?

Mentor to the youth of today?

 

It hit me hard, for many reasons. Swipe Right, by Levi Lusko, deals directly and poignantly with “the life and death power of sex and romance.”  And it goes hand-in-hand with the Word we read from Paul in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica. I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book. I’ll lend you mine if you’d like.

 

I’m going to share with you the Wednesday post from Week 2 - minus the posted comments. I hope it speaks to you, too.

If you’d like to join the SMCW Online Study group, just send me your email and I’ll add you (ladies only, please). It’s closed to the public, so you have to be a member to read the posts, comment, or otherwise participate. This allows the group a safe place to be open and free to discuss, much like we would if we were gathered together in someone’s living room.

 

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READ 1 Thessalonians 4: 1-8; SOAP 1 Thessalonians 4: 3-5


“God’s will is that your lives are dedicated to him. This means that you stay away from sexual immorality and learn how to control your own body in a pure and respectable way. Don’t be controlled by your sexual urges like the Gentiles who don’t know God.” (CEB)

 

Ruh-roh. Time for the purity talk (again).

 

Whitney, with LGG, sums this up pretty efficiently (and as a single, and occasionally dating, mom of teenage and tween boys, I can totally identify, both from the single lady perspective, but also from the Mom perspective): “You see, in the flesh we want to have it all. We want the world, and Jesus too. And it just isn’t working for us. We can only squeeze so much into our deepest affections of our heart. Eventually it gets crowded in there. And while God patiently pursues, longing for an intimate relationship with us, we settle for Sunday mornings and half-hearted prayers and rely on people and passions around us to fill our deepest longings that only Jesus was meant to satisfy. We’re running to a world that’s highly accessible, but only temporarily fulfilling at best.”

 

Spot on. And I see my boys (and myself, who ought to know better) grabbing for things that will not bring soul-level fulfillment, and certainly will not bring me closer to Jesus. That video game will not love you back. Those shoes (how many can we possibly need?) will not bring you real contentment. That skin-deep infatuation will not fill the deepest space in your heart where only God meant the Holy Spirit to live. “And God wants more for me. For you. God wants our whole hearts so that we can be satisfied in Him,” Whitney writes. 

“Ever wonder why life feels so crowded, yet so empty? So tempting, yet so unfulfilling? So accessible, yet so shallow? Could it be that Jesus doesn’t really have the first place that He deserves in our lives after all? Paul had a message for the Thessalonians, and God has given the same Word to us. In short, since we know God we ought to live like it. Where the world indulges in sinful desires, we ought to live holy lives (4:7).”

 

*WHEW* I’ve got some soul-work to do. How about you? Feel free to share or comment as you feel led.

 

Let us pray.  Lord, Lord. I haven’t always been a diligent or pious follower. I have allowed my own selfish wants and the leanings of this world to overtake me and hijack my decision-making. Please forgive me. I know I need to be an example who leads as much in action as I do in word for those within my sphere of influence. Please help me to better discern when I need to refocus back to You. Please help me to live the holy life you have called me to. Thank you for your many blessings, patient grace, undeserved forgiveness of my sins. Amen.


Your Soul-Searching Sister,

Jessica

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*Photo credit to Levi Lusko and Life.Church open network

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness"

This week, I’d like to introduce you to Hannah Nelson. First, she’s awesome (read more below to get a glimpse of the awesomeness). Second, she’s one of my heroes. A woman of great faith, and fearless resolve, Hannah speaks to my tender heart, and I hope she’ll speak to yours, too. She says below that she hopes her experience is relevant to each of us and where we are in life. I’m betting it will be. I know it’s true for me.

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Hannah

Realizing how much I have grown in the last couple of years accompanies the knowing that I still have so far to go. Two years ago, I was a very different person. You may not be able to see it, but I can certainly feel it. My faith, which I would have considered strong at the time, felt like it was barely enough to keep my head above the rising flood that is infertility. I try to talk openly about this struggle because I think it is so underdiscussed and because I know how immense the impact this toll can have.

For me, infertility is the great storm that I experienced that required me to ask a lot of questions of God. Maybe you think that you can’t relate to my experience, but I think that my experience is very relevant to yours. For you, it might be finding a spouse, experiencing divorce, struggling with addiction, losing a loved one, battling health issues... A variety of experiences pose the opportunity for us to question God. This might bring us closer, or it might pull us away. How could God let this happen? Where is God now? Why me?

Even though I thought I had put my faith in God, I really didn’t believe that God had my best interest in mind if He didn’t provide me with the blessing of children when He saw how much pain I was in without them. It was through this experience that God illustrated the growth that can come through suffering. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Even though life’s struggles may threaten to weaken us, our weakness makes us strong in Christ! I have been made completely dependent on God in my journey, because I sought Him for peace, strength, and hope. And I found it! Although I don’t believe that God sends suffering our way, I do believe that he can use these things for His glory and that His miracles often bring us through to the other side. Whether that answer to prayer looks as we hoped, or whether it looks a bit different, that is up to my Father in Heaven who is much wiser than I and He who has good, good plans for me.

I have spent a lot of time in the bible looking for answers to these questions, and some of the questions are still left unanswered, but I found many things I wasn’t looking for. I found hope, peace, confidence, and much more! I no longer wait in discouragement or in defeat, but with hope and expectation!

While I continue to wait for the blessing of children, I have received so many blessings that I didn’t ask for, such as a strengthened marriage, a positive attitude, and amazing friendships. Many of these amazing friendships came from an amazing group of women that are a part of the Moms in the Making small group in Whitsett, NC. Each week we laugh together, support one another, and participate in a bible study that allows us to lessen the burden of infertility and focus on our God that provides the ultimate comfort, hope, and guidance from His many promises that He has left in His word for us to uncover.

If you or someone you know is walking through infertility, please share this group with them so they might also be blessed by this amazing group of women. Reach out by email to hannahdnelson94@gmail.com for more information, or go to exploresmc.org to register (look for it under Groups, then Women, then Current Women’s Groups).  Regardless, I hope that whatever you are waiting on God for, that you can wait with expectation of God’s good plan for you and in fellowship with your community that loves you so much!

MOMS

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We lift you up, dear Reader, in whatever waiting you are in (or will be in). Amen.

~Jessica 

How It's OK To Be Forgetful

Is there something in the future of your life you sometimes wonder?  And even worry a little bit – hey we’re human and I know Jesus tells us not to, but we just do sometimes. What is yours?  I admit I wonder when I get older if I'll be diagnosed with dementia and have memory loss.  After college, I worked for several years in a retirement community in the health services where the residents who did have dementia lived.

I loved spending time with them and keeping them active, but I understood when anxiety arose in situations because they couldn't remember what they said one minute earlier.  I just wonder if I’ll be one who asks your name five times in one minute!

Even now, I can be forgetful.  But I think that has to do with how filled my noggin is with the mile-long to-do list, raising teenagers, work and other responsibilities.  Or maybe it’s just being a mom.  Anyone else out there who calls your daughter your son’s name or your son your dog’s name?!  Or you forget to send your cousin a birthday card for no good reason.

Just last week though, I decided that I want to be forgetful and to see things from a different perspective.  I want to be self-forgetful.

I want to be SELF-forgetful and always remember who GOD is, all HE’s done for me, and how much HE loves me.  Moses wanted all the people with him wandering through the desert searching for their Promised Land to forget about their selves and instead thank God for all HIS goodness and holiness.  They were good at that right after He split the river for them to walk though and when He provided them manna but after a while they complained having to walk so far and ran out of ways to cook manna and started grumbling because they got tired of it and forgot the blessing God had continued to provide them.  (Exodus 16, Numbers 11)

Instead of forgetting what God has done for me, I want to forget how to put myself before Him.  I want to forget about my selfishness.  How I think of myself more than my family, friends and other people I may not even know, how I’m self-absorbed in my busyness and make little time for prayer, how I’m self-centered, pitch a tent, and won’t let anyone in, including Jesus.  Somehow, I easily forget the faithfulness and sovereignty of God.  I once read a book by Alan D. Wright, God Moments, and he addresses this disorder and called it spiritual amnesia - forgetting God’s goodness in our lives.

Can you find yourself being one of those wilderness wanderers and grumbling how things aren’t going the way you want it to because you had forgotten God’s goodness to you earlier?  If so, you’re not the only one who has a case of spiritual amnesia because I do too.

There’s been times, and maybe for you, too, where I’ve had a spiritual mountain-top experience – and grown closer and become more intimate with Jesus.  But then after a few weeks back into work or school and day-to-day life, a challenge will arise.  Or something will occur that I wasn’t expecting that bombs my world.  Why, God?!  Then tension and stress take over and somehow I forget the many ways God has been there for me.  Those memories somehow vanish!  As Christ-followers with spiritual amnesia completely forget about those moments when God was evident and obvious.  We begin to whine, moan and groan and even become frustrated, resentful or angry at Him.  We forgot the small and big blessings that God continues to give us every day.

I think we’re all subject to be forgetful of God’s faithfulness in the past.  We’re all subject to laziness instead of acting on the promises of God and we’re probably all guilty of putting off until tomorrow what Jesus has asked us to do today.

I just finished reading a book where I underlined sentences and drew big circles around sentences on almost every single page.  Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God by Brennan Manning.  He wrote this:

Our trust in Jesus grows as we shift from making self-conscious efforts to be good to allowing ourselves to be loved as we are (not as we should be).  The Holy Spirit moves us from the head to the heart, from intellectual cognition to experiential awareness.  An inward stillness pervades our being, and the time of prayer is characterized by less rational reflection and speaking and more contemplative quiet and listening.  Self-absorption fades into self-forgetfulness as we fix our gaze on the brightness of the Lord. p. 92

So, self-forgetfulness is an act of worship.  It is a gift to God. It allows us to feel His presence, hear His Voice and “gaze on the brightness” of Him.  God desires us to replace self-centeredness with self-forgetfulness and put Him first in our lives.  He wants us to live in the moment, in the present, in the NOW – not dwelling on past mistakes or worrying about the future.  Manning said, “Self-forgetfulness is a prerequisite for truly being in the now.”

Will you join me and help hold me accountable to be self-forgetful?  I'm going to close this with prayer if you'd like to join me:

Abba, I surrender my will and my life to you today, without reservation and with humble confidence, for you are my loving Father.  Set me free from self-consciousness, from anxiety about tomorrow, and from the tryanny of the approval and disapproval of others, that I may find you and delight simply and solely in pleasing you.  May my inner freedom be a compelling sign of your presence, your peace, your power, and your love.  Let your plan for my life and the lives of all your children gracefully unfold one day at a time.  I love you with all my heart, and I place all my confidence in you, for you are my Abba.  Amen.

(from Ruthless Trust p. 132)