Friday, September 28, 2012

What Pelicans Can Teach You

I don't know about you, but for me, sometimes I get sidetracked by the feeding frenzy.  It seems like everyone gets their piece of the pie except for me.  I look at other people's opportunities, accolades, and talents.

But as with most things, I realize that I have the wrong perspective.  I look at this picture and my first instinct was to think that this pelican couldn't get the fish he needed because it was all so crowded below.

But now, I look at this picture and I think that perhaps he is full.  He stands and watches from his perch because he simply doesn't need to be down there.  How often do we check to see if we are really full before we partake?  How often do we continue to partake without fully savoring that which we already have in our mouth?

What would life be like if we moved through life knowing that we are seen?  And even more so, knowing that we have the opportunity to be full?  Full of Him, full of the gifts and talents He has given us, full of knowing we were pieced together by our Almighty God?  What if we climbed up on our perch, surveyed the surroundings, and just sighed with satisfaction?

Linking with Sandra on Saturday, Laura on Monday, and Jennifer on Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Close Enough to Forget: A Man's Perspective


About this series:  We all need encouragement, to be reminded we matter. Sometimes the nearest and dearest to us get the least of that needed encouragement. We've all spread ourselves too thin at times leaving little reserved for the ones we've committed to give to most, our spouse. So we're going to do something about it. We're going to focus on the ones living right under our own roof, sleeping in our own bed. But no worries if you're spouse-free. You can apply the encouragement to someone in your life who needs it: children, co-workers, friends, family members. Any soul will do because we all long to know we are seen and heard. Wherever you see "spouse," substitute someone else's name.  So grab a cup of coffee or whatever it is you're drinking today, and get ready to give a little. You'll be glad you did.

Today, we are excited to welcome Steven.  Lori is hosting this week's edition, but here is a teaser before you head over there:
on a day-to-day basis, I try to interact with my wife in a way that is informed by empathy. I want my actions toward her, and interactions with her, to be grounded in an ongoing desire to understand not only where she's coming from but why and how I can relate to her in a way which allows her to feel safe, loved, and above all, heard.

heard. and therein lies the rub.

because frankly, I've gotten lazy. one of the bittersweet realities of life together is all at the same time, we should seek to develop, and subsequently enjoy, the comfort that comes from knowing and being known on the deepest level. we should also be ever vigilant against the tendency to become too comfortable.  honest discussion, absence of pretense, freedom of expression: these are hallmarks of comfort, even safety, if you will. on the other hand, presumption, assumption, dismissal and ignorance are the hallmarks of a relationship wherein one or both parties has become too comfortable.  in fact, when this happens, it's not about comfort at all; it's about valuation. that's not true. if I'm honest, I would admit it's not about valuation at all; it's about devaluation. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

See ya, Cellulite! and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.
To read more about the Soli Deo Gloria community, please click here.
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I'm wondering about you.  Truthfully, I've been wondering about you all week.  Would you accept the challenge? I thought.

 Do you remember the one I'm talking about?  Well, there were two actually, but I've really been thinking about the one that includes a party of three:

You.  God.  The mirror.

Did you look in the mirror before you put on your make-up, did your hair, even brushed your teeth and proclaim God's Word?  Did you tell yourself that you are:

fearfully and wonderfully made?
knit together by God in your mother's womb?
that the world looks at the outside but that
God looks at the heart?

Truthfully, I felt a little silly, but I cannot issue a challenge and then not do it.  Three days, I did this.  

Day one, I said these paraphrases as I looked in the mirror.  I shrugged my shoulders and said to myself, "Maybe you're not so bad."

Day two, I said these paraphrases as I looked in the mirror and realized that as I went about my day, a lot less junky judgmental thoughts crossed my mind.  And I wasn't even working at controlling them.

Day three, I said these paraphrases and then realized that all my workout capris were dirty, which meant that I had to wear shorts to my strength-training class.  

Shorts.  Shorts that reveal cellulite and pockets of fat I try to keep obscured from view.  I had to repeat my paraphrases but I put on the shorts and I went to class.  And an amazing thing happened to me...

As I dead-lifted a 30 pound sandbag over my head while doing squats, I saw beauty.

I saw how almost 7 years of running had shaped my legs.  I saw the magnificence of how God has woven my muscles together to make me strong and balanced and able.  I saw His craftsmanship inside of me.

The pockets of fat were still there, as was the cellulite.  It is not that I saw perfection of my body reflecting back at me, but I saw Him and the work He has done in me.

Perhaps this is what the exercise was about all along -- seeing His craftsmanship within us, seeing His delicate hand in us and on us and around us.

Perhaps it is about yet another perspective shift.

When I appreciate what I have, it changes my spirit.  I'm able to cease my relentless striving and I feel less guilty or less unworthy when I need help.  I am able to say after two rounds:

I cannot continue to dead-lift a 30 pound sandbag.  I need the 25.  And, I can say this even though the girl next to me is still totally rocking the 30.

I can appreciate my limits and marvel at someone else's abilities, not with envy or lust, but with excitement about how God crafted her.

This, my friends, is what breakthrough looks like.  This is just my breakthrough, though.  I am sure that many of use have parts of our bodies or personalities that ignite our insecurities to full flame.  Mine happens to be my legs and God knows this.  And so, He showed me His handiwork that was obscured before now.

I realize that my legs are just part of my outside and that cellulite is a vain thing about which to be concerned, but I think God took the time to show me a new perspective about myself in order to offer me freedom.  If I can see beauty in something that is not perfect in my own body, how much more will I be able to see that in other areas in my life?  It's a lesson taught in concrete terms that can be extrapolated into many different realms of life.

What about you?  I'd love to know if you did the challenge and how it has impacted your life.  Will you share with us?

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I am so happy to see your face here at Soli Deo Gloria.  Did you know we have small groups?  As SDG has grown, it started to lose a bit of the small community feel.  As such, we have groups that visit each other and leave comments for each other on SDG days so that you don't feel lost in this big blog world.  Would you like to be a part?  If so, please email me at jenfergie2000@me.com.  Also, if you are new here, please put "I am new" as your caption so that we might give you a proper welcome.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Invitation & Question pour vous

In March, I'm speaking at a women's retreat outside of Austin.  Which of these seem to be a more welcoming invitation?


Linking with Sandra and Deidra.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What Compromise in Marriage Really Means & New Series Kick-off!

Welcome to our new Wednesday series:  

Close Enough to Forget

About this series:  We all need encouragement, to be reminded we matter. Sometimes the nearest and dearest to us get the least of that needed encouragement. We've all spread ourselves too thin at times leaving little reserved for the ones we've committed to give to most, our spouse. So we're going to do something about it. We're going to focus on the ones living right under our own roof, sleeping in our own bed. But no worries if you're spouse-free. You can apply the encouragement to someone in your life who needs it: children, co-workers, friends, family members. Any soul will do because we all long to know we are seen and heard. Wherever you see "spouse," substitute someone else's name.  So grab a cup of coffee or whatever it is you're drinking today, and get ready to give a little. You'll be glad you did.

Today, we are excited to welcome Theresa.  Here are her words:
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I like percolated coffee. He likes it French pressed. I like mine with cream. He likes it black. We’re on the road with four children for two-and-a-half weeks pulling the weight of a camper and a collision of differences.
When camping, he likes the tasty blend brewed simply and quickly with the French Press. Yet, it tastes too instant and slightly bitter to me.

I’m willing to spend a little more time percolating the coffee for a more full bodied flavor.  He doesn’t taste the difference.

And we each think our own preference is the better of the two.

But we compromise. On mornings that we are staying through the day, we use the percolator and on mornings we are heading on the road, we use the French press.

And that is what we learn to do in marriage – compromise.

Yet, it’s easy to compromise over coffee. However, when circumstances leave one feeling attacked, under-appreciated, or de-valued, it can leave one defensive and scrambling. Learning to compromise in marriage can still leave one thinking better; one right. It can leave one proud and still bitter.

We’re preparing to journey toward the second destination on the third morning of our trip and I’m still feeding the children breakfast and he’s ready to pull the slide-outs in and hook up the camper.

"Didn't we talk about getting on the road by 9:00 in order to hit all the points in Yellowstone and make it to Jackson Hole by dinner?" he wonders. I hear the disapproval in his tone.

We’re on vacation and I haven’t even looked at the clock. I camouflage feeling that I can't measure up with the need to be right then stumble out the door of the camper, ushering kids ahead of me to the playground while he finishes up.

The tears flow beyond the protection covering my eyes. I’m mad at him and frustrated with me and I point the finger at God.

And that’s okay because God doesn’t get defensive or become bitter, like me, when one points the finger at him. Because directing our hurts toward God actually begins to expose the thief that lays dormant waiting for its trigger.

I brush the evidence off of my cheeks and oblige to play a life-sized game of checkers with my oldest son. I try to be present but only go through the motions, as false messages continue to flow into the open, exposed, and truth begins to seep in.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:12, 13

He walks over and says we’re hitched and ready to go. I don’t look him in the eye. I still want to find a way to be right. He’s patient now and gathers the other three children from the sand pile, watches us a minute, and then says they’ll be waiting for us at the campsite.

We finish our game and I must choose. Choose to stand in a puddle of pride or to walk back.

We arrive and I climb into the passenger seat of the SUV. He takes my hand and apologizes for being short.

I tell him our differences don’t make one less than the other. He knows that. It’s me that needs reminded.

The defensive surge settles and I no longer feel the need to be right.  I simply recognize our reality like our coffee preferences and my ability to choose differently. I recognize my ability to be more thoughtful and helpful to him, and to go out of my way to put him before myself – before my ideas, my rights, and my sense of worth.

And something tells me he’s working out the same resolutions in his own heart and mind.

But it wouldn’t matter if he’s not. Because compromise in marriage should not be an, I’ll give 50 if you’ll give 50.

Compromise, in marriage, must be more than a settlement. It must be an offering – a 100% offering of self.  

“One of the greatest gifts you can give your husband (spouse) is your wholeness. The most effective tool in transforming him may be your own transformation.” Stormie Omartian, the Power of a Praying Wife

There is no condition to this union. Only grace. Because grace is the free gift that fills in the gaps and covers our failures.

And when I lay my burdens before the throne, Christ replaces them with truth, revealing my worth in Him, and opening my eyes to see clearly the man he created differently, yet perfectly for me.     

Two days later we prepare to hit the road toward our third destination and I French press our coffee like we agreed, pour two cups, offer one to a much more relaxed man, then take a sip myself. And that coffee just brewed by the simple, quick, and less-appreciated French Press? tastes just right.

No.  Better than the percolated kind the morning before.  

And over the duration of our trip, the percolator makes its way to the back of the cupboard, shoved behind pots and skillets that are frequently used, as I choose to brew coffee with the French Press each morning for the remainder of our trip.

Thoughts on how to love your spouse intentionally:

1.  The next time you feel frustrated with your spouse, take your frustrations to God before unloading them on your spouse no matter how justified you feel.

2.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to enable you to give 100% of yourself today by loving your spouse without condition.

3.  Think about something that makes you and your spouse different by design. Now go and thank your spouse for that quality.  

**Disclaimer: I believe this message builds a strong marriage that works only when Christ is at the center. It is not a message meant for an abusive marriage clearly in need of intervention. 

Theresa is a wife and mother of four wonderful children. She is a stay-at-home-mom, whose passions are primarily with her family, writing, and in ministries that encourage mothers in this generation. Theresa has been published in MOPS International, MOMSnext e-zine and other on-line publications. Theresa authors Heavenly Glimpses blog, where she captures the heart of Christ through glimpses into the life of her children, marriage, and a humbly inspired heart.

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Are you interested in contributing to this series?  If so, please contact Jen at jenfergie2000@me.com or Lori at loriamcclure@gmail.com.


Monday, September 17, 2012

talking to yourself in the mirror and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.
To read more about the Soli Deo Gloria community, please click here.

Also, SDG retreat registration is still open!!  Click here to find out more information and learn how to register.  Registration for conference closes on September 23rd.
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Today in Bible study, we played with blocks.

Every time we answered "yes" to a question, we added a block to our tower.  We were answering questions like these:
Do you live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood?
Are your children reasonably behaved?
Do you drive a car less than 2 years old?
Is your house organized and clean most of the time?
Are you physically fit?
Do you were designer jeans?

They were superficial questions with superficial answers, but they served a purpose.  See, we were looking at Ephesians 5: 1, which says:

"Be imitators of God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children."

For those of us who have grown up in the church and we hear the same things over and over, sometimes we take for granted the fact that we ARE His dear children.  We end up looking more like we belong to the world than to God.  We fill ourselves with things of this world instead of BEing with God. We judge ourselves and others by how we look, what we drive, and how much we do or do not serve.  And we do this because the world says we need to measure up -- to what, I'm not sure -- but we better be better and more than what we simply ARE.

I asked my class to imagine themselves covered with sticky notes, each note representing something that his a part of this world -- a role they have, a talent they possess, something they own.  I asked them to think about God sitting on His throne and them walking toward Him.  With each step they take, I asked them to imagine a sticky note floating onto the floor.  When they finally reach His feet, they are no longer cloaked, but simply in front of God, as they ARE.  As He created them to be.

See, sometimes I think that we bypass the importance of the words "BE" and "ARE" and "AM."  We think they are simply there to help other verbs.  But God, He puts importance on words of this kind.

We ARE His dear children.  We can BE before Him with nothing but ourselves and He welcomes it that way.

When we are comfortable with BEing, that is when we can stop looking around at everyone else, trying to see if we measure up, we can get past comparing and get onto loving.  Here's the next point addressed in Ephesians--
"Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ."

When we BE, we get filled.  When ask God to show us how He sees us, we can receive His love.  When we look in the mirror and tell ourselves that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together in our mother's wombs (Psalm 139), we are affirming His love for us.  When we continue to stand in that bathroom and tell ourselves that Man looks at the outward appearance, but that God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7), we can remember that this life is about being loved by God and sharing that overflow with others.

We finished our towers and discussed how if continue to shield ourselves with what we have or don't have, we cannot love.  Love has a hard time permeating through brick walls.  It's much easier to see each other if we don't have to peer over and above and around the fortresses we build to make sure that we live up to the world's expectations.

So, we knocked our towers down.  We committed to see each other as we ARE.

When we live a life filled with love, we don't compare.  When we live a life filled with love, we rest in the security of how God made us and who He made us to be.  When we live a life filled with love, we have an overflow and we cannot help but share it.

I struggle with comparisons and competition.  And so I'm taking on the same challenges that I asked my class to do.  Perhaps you can join with us?

1.  Take 5 minutes tomorrow to just "be."  For those of you not seasoned in this practice, it can be a little uncomfortable, but start with the sticky-note imagining and see where God takes you.

2.  When you look in the mirror tomorrow, start preaching to yourself, girlfriend.  Say, out loud, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  You, God, knit me together in my mother's womb.  God, Man may look at my outward appearance, but You look at my heart."  

You, friend, are worth more than the world could ever pay.  You are worth so much that Jesus paid...with His life.

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I am so happy to see your face here at Soli Deo Gloria.  Did you know we have small groups?  As SDG has grown, it started to lose a bit of the small community feel.  As such, we have groups that visit each other and leave comments for each other on SDG days so that you don't feel lost in this big blog world.  Would you like to be a part?  If so, please email me at jenfergie2000@me.com.  Also, if you are new here, please put "I am new" as your caption so that we might give you a proper welcome.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Hope

Our nation needs hope.

I need hope.

I wake up in the morning, (sweetly try to) wake up my two sleeping children, and head downstairs to begin breakfast and lunch-making.  Moments later, my husband comes in from his dog-walking adventure and sets down the morning paper.

At some point during all the commotion, I usually glance at the headlines.

Sometimes, they make me physically ill.  Sometimes, they elicit expletives (like the ones on Wednesday).  Sometimes, they make me want to pick up my children from the breakfast table and tuck them back into bed because sleeping through all this pain seems like a better alternative than living through it.

But, no.

Our world is a mess, and with media these days, we cannot help but know.  The bad news infiltrates our lives through TV, newspapers, Facebook, Twitter.  Not only do we get the facts, but we also get everyone's opinions of the facts.  Many of our outlooks are not cheery.  Many of our outlooks pit one against the other.  Many outlooks suggest that we need a radical change in policy, personnel, and __________________ (you fill in the blank).  We might have friends on both sides that have very valid opinions.  It's hard to know where to place our hope, or if we have a place, it's difficult to discern if it's in the right place sometimes.  The information can be overwhelming and we can't possibly know it all.

I have to find a place for hope that doesn't change.  I need to be able to wake up and no matter what, send my children about their days with an infusion of hope.  I need to be able to see beyond the headlines, beyond the terror, beyond the slander.  I need to see because who else will teach them to see?

I carry this verse with me, to remind me that I have a very secure place for my hope - in Jesus:

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
John 16:33, NLT

The truth is, friends, Jesus is our Hope and our Peace.  But He does not give us only this knowledge to sustain us.  All around, there is evidence that He is here and that His spirit is alive and living within us.  But we must take our eyes off the headlines for the moment and see what He shows us.  

Here is a perfect example with which to start.  One that came out of my old high school:

Where do you see hope today?

Linking with Sandra and Deidra.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Break the Tape: When Love Wins

Welcome, friends, for today's edition of Break the Tape.  Essentially, our goal is to identify the lies that repeat themselves over and over again in our minds, break the tape that automatically begins plays when ever we feel we've fallen short, and learn a new song to sing in its place.  Today ends the Break the Tape series, but come back next week for a brand new one!
 Meet Bina.  Yes, she's been here before and her words still captivate me from the very beginning.  When she writes, she pours out honesty.  When she writes, she takes a risk, knowing that her words are not only a message to others, but a message to herself.  But she is brave...
Email Subscribers, click here to see the video


I love love.

•Fairy tale love.
•Chick flick love.
•Romance love.

Seriously. If there was a dictionary that let you look up those three things for a real-world definition...you would see my picture...goofy grin, crazy eyes and all. My favorite movie is He's Just Not That Into You ... mainly because I relate so much to the lead character, Gigi, as she is:

•Massively impetuous.
•Totally head over heels in love with being in love.
•All or nothing.
•So innocent that you can't help but like her...unless you are the guy she has already planned the wedding for after only five minutes together.

My husband always rolls his eyes and groans when I leap across the couch to snatch the remote from his hand to select it from the TV menu...doesn't matter at what point it is in the movie, I am already living it in my mind. Just waiting for the end, when the right guy finally tells Gigi that she has found true love...that she is his exception. He kisses her and says the line...and before I can get the question out of my mouth, my ever patient man says "Yes, dear...you are my exception."

*sigh*

...but I realize that love is the tape that runs in my head, pushing and pulling at me, telling me to be more, do more...no matter the cost.

Like Gigi, I am so hungry to be loved that I try to force those I hunger for to fit into the pre-fashioned molds that I carry with me...and when they don't, I am left feeling broken and alone. Messages fill my mind, distracting me from truth...and I crumble within, shutting off all avenues of conversation and reality.


No one will ever love you...because you are unloveable.

A late evening drive a few weeks ago gave me the chance to ponder that sentence with God.

It is the one I have heard since I was very little...and one that I still wrestle with 30 years later.

And as I talked it out, I realized that I really don't see how people can love me. It wasn't a pity party kind of feeling - but one of flat-out honesty. All my insecurities and fears wrapped up...fed from one statement that is tattooed on the walls of my heart and mind...now laid bare before the God I have spent my entire adult life trying to keep it away from Him.

Why?

Maybe because I knew, somehow, that once I let Him in on that one...once I gave Him the ok to start scrubbing the walls of that darkened corner of my heart...I would have to change. I would no longer have the excuse that I believe that lie...and I would become accountable on the pain I cause others because of it...and I would no longer be able to hold God off at arm's-length because His love overwhelms me to the point of emotional melt-down.

No...not maybe.

Definitely.

...I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1-3

He gave me this LifeVerse years ago...and now, it finally makes sense.

Fairy tale love says the Prince will risk all for the love of His Princess...and mine did just that. He spread out His arms on a cross, saying He was willing to die to excuse my sin...so that I can be His exception.



About Bina:
I am happily married to my husband of 11 years and together we raise our blended family of five kids, ages 10 to 15. I am a stay-at-home mom, although I am rarely AT home as (when I am not being the family taxi driver) I am involved with church and school events, take care of my mom and spend time with my friends. I love to read, write and sing at the top of my lungs whenever a song comes to mind. I enjoy discovering God in my every day life...whether He is whispering my name, showing me His face in delicate parts of nature or just sending me a dragonfly to brighten my day. I know I am flawed...but I also delight in the One who uses what I just can't seem to fix.

Want to read more of Bina?  She blogs here at her pad.