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Personal Stewardship

personal stewardship

 

Today I’m choosing a different path.

Personal Stewardship. Not Self-care.

Why? Because the world (and our culture) has hijacked what real self-care means and it’s been turned into nothing more than self-indulgence and satisfying the flesh.

Here’s the deal, if we have surrendered our life to Christ, then we are not our own.

What is Personal Stewardship? Stewardship is the responsible overseeing and protection of something. Stewardship denotes accountability to someone else. Personal Stewardship is the proper care, protection and managing of yourself, giving an account to God for everything.

Unfortunately self-care as we know it is not good stewardship, it actually falls mostly in the camp of self-indulgence. The world’s view of self-care relies on our-self as the one in charge. Personal stewardship is overseeing, protecting and managing yourself for God.

You are not your own.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us that “you are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body. {Body comes from the Greek word soma, which means living body, your actual living breathing body.}

Acts 20:28 tells us “keep watch over yourselves and the entire flock of which the Holy Spirit made you an overseer. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he purchased with His own blood.

I’ve talked about the importance of spiritual, mental, emotional and physical self-care, through the lens of personal stewardship, but the time has come that we have to make a distinction. I’m choosing a different path and changing the name.

Far too often the idea of “God is my co-pilot” has crept in the body of Christ, not always outwardly proclaimed, but definitely on full display through our actions and choices. He is not our co-pilot, He is our Lord and we surrender to Him.

Personal Stewardship is understanding that our life is a gift and everything we say and do, we do as unto the Lord. Our bodies are to be living sacrifices, they are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Today we call self-care bingeing on a Netflix show, downing a few too many glasses of wine, going on a shopping spree, or locking ourselves in a closet with a bag of chocolate hiding from the kids. This is not self-care and  this is why women are so stressed out and overwhelmed. We’ve believed a lie that what we need is self-indulgence. (labeled as self-care)

Let’s change the conversation. Draw the line in the sand and say “No more!” Let’s emerge from the shallow superficial empty promises that we’ve believed self-care to be and let’s choose a different path. Let that sink in. It takes things to a whole other level.

Personal Stewardship.

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Pain Can Change What You Believe

I want you to think about John the Baptist for a second. He was chosen, he knew Jesus, he baptized Jesus and watched a dove come down from heaven and heard the audible voice of God. When John was in prison the pain of his circumstances (He was in a mindset of “I’ve done nothing to deserve this” just like Joseph in the Old Testament who responded differently) caused him to question what he knew and believed. He sent his followers to ask Jesus if he was the one or should they look for another. Can you imagine the depths of pain that John felt for him to question what he knew that he knew and witnessed with his own eyes? We can’t handle our pain only God can, that’s why we must hand our pain over to God and allow Him to heal and do what only He can do.

Boundaries

1

Boundaries are healthy and they are essential for thriving.

Many people have trouble setting boundaries, it just doesn’t come naturally. Boundaries can be learned and healthy boundaries are something that you want to take the time to learn and implement in your life.

Boundaries are like fences, it keeps in what we want to keep in and keeps out what we want to keep out.

Maybe you are like I was, I never really understood boundaries as fences, I created walls. When I would feel used up and unloved by people, I would build walls in an attempt to hide (protect) myself. The reality was, I was just shutting myself off from community. I had to learn how to engage in community and have boundaries. Boundaries protect, walls cause isolation.

We have 2 little dogs and our yard is not fenced. We have a large lot and they have plenty of room to run around and do their business. But, my anxiety always escalates when I have to take them out, because I never know if they are going to take off chasing a squirrel. I’m convincing my husband to fence our yard because boundaries are safe. That fence would keep in what I want to keep in and it will also keep out what I want to keep out. My anxiety would be low because I would know there is a boundary. The same is true of our personal boundaries, when there are no boundaries, our anxiety is high because we never know what to expect.

People pleasing is a big boundary issue. I know, I’m a reformed people pleaser. It’s so hard to say no to people in fear of not being liked or accepted. Overtime you say a weak yes, you feel overwhelmed, under appreciated and taken advantage of in different situations. Yet, we will continue to put ourselves in these situations over and over again. I learned that people pleasing was a result of 2 things. The first is fear of rejection and the second is low or no boundaries. If we can’t value ourselves, we cannot value other people. Having boundaries is loving ourselves well and loving others well too. My ah-ha moment came when I realized I was living in a state of always feeling like I was being taken advantage of. But, when I would want to say no, I wrestled internally with the consequences of saying no. “What would they think?” We have to understand that when we say YES to something, we are saying NO to something else. For me, I would always change my plans with family to accommodate other people. It was horrible. I was always available to everyone to do everything. People would even say, “If you want to get something done, have Jennifer do it.” While I loved the accolades of feeling important and competent, I was selling my self short of authentic relationships. We can only do so many things well, then other things will suffer.

Protecting Your Peace

Another way we need boundaries is identifying what we let rile us up and take our power of self-control away. When we view stuff on social media and start to feel the need to react and feel riled up by what people post, that’s a red flag that we have very lax boundaries with our self-control. How can someone post something and it steal our joy or peace? Because we let it. We choose what we let in that fence. We have to work hard at protecting our peace.

KNOW WHAT TRIGGERS YOU:

  • SOCIAL MEDIA?
  • A CERTAIN PERSON?
  • PARTICULAR ENVIRONMENT?

PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT TRIGGERS YOUR FEELINGS OF FEAR, ANXIETY, WHAT RUFFLES YOUR FEATHERS?

Then set appropriate HEALTHY boundaries.

 

Spiritual Self-Care: Healing Spiritual Wounds

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This is a deep topic. It’s also one that many people want to ignore.

Before we dive in, I want to say to you, if you are reading this and you have been hurt by the church or a spiritual leader/mentor, I am so sorry. God never designed his church to wound his sheep. He designed his church to operate in LOVE.

Now, we need to get a few things clear.

God is good. God did not hurt you, a person did, a person with a free-will.

I’m going to speak from my own experience from both sides of the coin. Meaning, I’ve experienced deep hurt at the hands of sheep while my husband and I pastored a church  and I’ve experienced deep pain at the hands of leaders as a sheep attending a church.

First, let’s look at the epidemic of sheep being hurt by leaders.

According to Barna data, it indicate that “28% of the adult population has not attended any church activities, including services, in the past six months. That translates to nearly 65 million adults. When their children under the age of 18 who live with them are added to the picture, the number swells to more than 100 million people….of those who avoid Christian churches, one of the driving forces behind such behavior is the painful experiences endured within the local church context. In fact, one Barna study among unchurched adults shows that nearly four out of every ten non-churchgoing Americans (37%) said they avoid churches because of negative past experiences in churches or with church people.”

This shows the need for hope, healing and forgiveness.

People are flawed and people sin. Sometimes people are oblivious to other people’s needs and sometimes people are void of compassion and empathy.

But, there has to be a point where leaders take responsibility for the sheep they have hurt intentionally or unintentionally.

1 Peter 5:3 says, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is among you, watching over them not out of compulsion, but because it is God’s will; not out of greed, but out of eagerness; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

It’s interesting to me that this verse says, “be shepherds” to the people God has placed under your care. The term shepherd and pastor are the same. You can’t be one without the other. If you are a pastor, you are expected to be a shepherd. You can’t say you are a pastor and not a shepherd. The Bible says, be shepherds. They are the same, they come from the same Greek word. Poimén means shepherd, someone who the Lord raises up to care for the total well-being of His flock (the people of the Lord). The word translates in Latin as “pastor”, different translations of the Bible use shepherd/pastor interchangeably. Also, the word used here is different from bóskō which means to spiritually nourish by feeding people the Word of God. While poimḗn focuses on “shepherding” the flock of God (caring for them), bóskō stresses feeding them His Word.

I grew up in a church where the pastor embraced the instruction of shepherding. The church grew and when I was a young married mom with 3 little boys, the church had grown to over 2,000 plus people with 3 Sunday services. The pastor was engaged with the lives of the people. There were certainly issues, but there was authentic genuineness, quick repentance and forgiveness. Each time I went to the hospital to give birth to my boys, my pastor was there, waiting for their arrival to pray over them and bless them. When you wept, he wept, when you rejoiced, he rejoiced. When a dear friend of mine discovered her marriage was over because of infidelity, this pastor went to her house and laid in the floor and wept with her for over an hour as her world was falling apart. I was blessed to have such an authentic, Jesus loving, compassionate pastor in my life.

When my husband’s job transferred him to Florida, we were relocated to Miami (he worked for NBC) and lived there for 5 years before relocating to North Central Florida. We just kind of thought that finding a church would be easy. Miami has it’s own vibe, we may have been a bit naive. Then we relocated to Gainesville. We’ve been here for 13 years. We pastored for 2 years in that time. (more on that later)

My experience was not one that was a blessing. It was an experience of deep pain and struggle. I may write about this in depth later, but for the sake of this blog post, I will condense to get to the point. The focus is spiritual self-care.

We relocated to our current city with 4 children, 3 boys that were born up north in West Virginia and a daughter that was born in Miami. We were heavily involved in a church and did many different things. My husband and myself both taught various classes and were involved on many different levels.

Heart-breakingly, we experienced 5 miscarriages in a 4 year period. (my husband traveled quite extensively with his job several of those years) Now, our closest family is 12 hours away. So, it’s just us here in Florida. No one came along side of us during this period of intense grief and loss. The pastor never once said, “let me pray for you”, only one person came to our home to show concern or compassion after the first traumatic loss. I had been to the doctor’s office and saw the baby on the ultrasound screen, but quickly learned it was not in my uterus. It was as if we were invisible. A couple years after the last miscarriage (we pastored during the last miscarriage) I had to have surgery. I was grieving the loss of never being able to have children again. The surgery did not go as planned, it was supposed to only take 1.5-2 hours, it took 6.5 hours. My teenage children were holding the fort down at home by themselves, while my husband was at the hospital with me, by himself. He actually called our children at home and told them to be praying because he wasn’t sure if I was going to make it out of the surgery. It was taking far longer than expected and he had not heard anything except that they were running into some complications. My children were home absorbing this news alone and my husband was sitting in a hospital waiting room for almost 7 hours alone. No one reached out. No one came to be with him or our children. He kept people aware of the situation via social media, but please understand in the age of social media, it is a far cry from anything that resembles authentic compassion or relationship. The funny thing was, that every-time a pastor or leader would call up my husband to “do” something, he always obliged weather that meant traveling 6 hours to another town for a meeting or handling a problem or being a resource. He always gave, but we never received.

Overlapping in that time, we fostered a baby for 15 months (on our own, no state involvement) while her mother was incarcerated. The baby was the family member of a church member and we agreed to care for her until her mother was released. We did not receive any assistance. We paid for everything, diapers, formula, etc, you name it, we paid for it. Also, during that time, we were connected to a mother who was placing her baby for adoption and we were walking through adoption, while still fostering and raising our 4 other children. We received no helping hand from anyone at the church except for a diaper box full of hand me down clothes. Again, we were invisible.

Then my oldest daughter had spinal fusion surgery. We were very nervous about proceeding with this operation, but we didn’t have a choice. We prayed for healing. The doctors informed us that her rib cage was twisting so much that if we did not have the surgery done, she would eventually suffocate because the twisting of her spine and rib cage was compressing her lungs.

We sat in the waiting room at the hospital for over 8 hours while our daughter’s back was sliced open and each vertebrae broken, rods inserted beside her spinal cord, and each vertebrae fused back together with plates and screws. We sat alone. No one from our church came to sit with us or pray with us. In fact, it was a youth pastor from another church who showed up at 6 am to pray before our daughter went back to surgery. Again, we were invisible.

We continued to serve, even though we were deeply wounded and neglected.

We returned back north for a Thanksgiving break and couldn’t wait to visit our old church. That same pastor has maintained contact with us over the 16 years we have been gone. He always touches base to see how we are doing, especially if a hurricane is coming through. He even sent me a very loving letter when I went through a weekend retreat for spiritual growth.

When we visited our home church, the pastor always stands at the door when everyone is leaving and makes sure he shakes hands or gives a hug to his sheep. He has been entrusted to care for over 2,000 sheep. When we were leaving, he grabbed our hands and began sharing with our children, (three of which are now adults, the three he prayed for and dedicated to the Lord) about the impact our family had on the growth of the church. He shared intimate details of our life with our children. Our children were blown away, that a pastor would remember so many details and share so much love about our family who has been gone 16 years. The only words they could use to describe the whole encounter was “genuine” and “authentic”.

 

Now, let’s flip the coin. What do you do when you are the leader and the sheep bite you?

When we were asked to pastor a church an hour north of where we live, we had no idea of the dysfunction we were walking in to. If we had known just a smidgen of the history of that church we would have ran like the wind. No, seriously, if anyone ever asks you to  do a church re-vitalization, that’s code for dead and needs resuscitated. You better hear an audible voice before you move forward. We did hear the Lord and we know we were were placed there for a season for a reason. But, boy was it a season of pure fire. By that I mean a season of WALKING through fire!

We walked in to a place that was so full of bitterness, unforgiveness, dysfunction and really they brought new meaning to the phrase, hurt people hurt people. I’m not kidding, I wish I was.

We experienced everything in those 2 years that most pastors and leaders would hardly ever experience in their life. We were in boot camp for some reason. We were lied about, eaten for dinner every week and flat out disrespected. If people didn’t get their way, they crossed their arms and said, well, we aren’t going to tithe and we will just starve the church to close. And they did just that. One afternoon we were working around the church and a family that had been particularly nasty to us wanted to bring us lunch as an effort of ‘goodwill’. The odd thing was, they wanted to watch us eat the lunch. (RED FLAG #1) We took the lunch into the kitchen of the church and took a couple bites and then I cut into the brownies. They were in the open room off from the kitchen so they couldn’t see us. They were proudly declaring that their teenage son had baked the brownies for us. As I cut into the brownies, I quickly discovered that these brownies were baked with a secret ingredient! The secret ingredient was a handful of dog hair! When I say handful, I mean handful, not just a few stray dog hairs, but enough dog hair to check those brownies for a heartbeat! One woman called me up on my BIRTHDAY, while recovering from miscarriage #5 right before Mother’s Day to tell me about her family’s conversation the night before where they ripped us up one side and down the other because we weren’t giving in to their demands. I walked in to church that Sunday, heavily bleeding from the miscarriage and all I could do was walk straight up to the front row, kneel down and surrender everything to the Lord. I was deeply broken and wounded.

It doesn’t matter what side of the coin you are on. The truth is the same. The truth doesn’t change based on our ability to accept it.

God is good.

God did not hurt us, people with free-will did.

People are flawed.

People sin.

We need to separate God from people. He is perfect, people are not.

We cannot control what happens to us, but we are responsible for our healing. If we wait for the people who hurt us to come back and heal us, we will die in our brokenness.

Jesus designed his church to function in love. The Bible says that they (the world) will know we are his disciples by the way we LOVE one another. Love is a verb. It is action beyond WORDS.

Compassion costs us nothing but awareness.

Healing is our responsibility and it often requires forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation. Forgiveness requires one person, you. Reconciliation requires 2 people. You can forgive and loose yourself from replaying the offense over and over again in your mind. The person who hurt you is not thinking about you, but your thoughts are obsessed with them. Forgiveness releases yourself from the poison. Reconciliation requires 2 people and repentance. You can meet with the person or people who hurt you, but an apology doesn’t change anything. Repentance does.

The difference between a person who is sorry and a person who repents is fruit. A repentant person CHANGES.

Healing spiritual wounds requires us to walk out our forgiveness and then do the work of healing. Your process of healing may look different than someone else’s, but the end result is the same. FREEDOM and WHOLENESS. Jesus came that we may have LIFE and LIFE more abundantly. He did not die for us to remain broken, he took stripes upon his back for our healing. Jesus heals people. He is close to the broken-hearted and BINDS up their wounds. Jesus does not leave you broken.

Don’t allow a bad experience with people to ruin your relationship with God or with church. Pray for wisdom as you walk through your healing. Ask the Lord to direct your steps to a church where your needs will be ministered to and you can serve others as well. Find a place where there is reciprocity in compassion and action. Find a place where love is lived out beyond words. Jesus is the Chief Shepherd and he knows how to care for His sheep. He is our example.

My heart is for you to walk in freedom and wholeness, you can heal and you can thrive!

FORGIVENESS GRAPHIC

 

 

 

 

The Deception Of Self-Indulgence

5.3 million women in the us, drink in a way that threatens their health and well-being. women are turning to alcohol to self-medicate their stress.

Self-Indulgence can become a habit of self-medicating. We may find ourselves continually seeking out something for comfort that brings no long term value or solution. Women self-medicate in many ways like food, caffeine, drugs, alcohol, shopping, television, video games or social media as examples.

This is the deception.

We think if we can escape and ignore our stress or pain, that it will just go away.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Self-indulgence would be classified as an unhealthy coping skill. The temporary euphoria we may feel from self-indulgence, never lasts and leaves us wanting more. Self-indulgence is not healthy or beneficial. When we are overwhelmed, it’s easy to see how choosing indulgence would be appealing. We just want quick relief from the stress.

But, the truth is, self-indulgence bears no good fruit.

Think about shopping. Some women find that shopping brings happiness and temporarily makes them forget about their problems. But, once the effect wears off and they get the credit card bill, they actually created a bigger issue. It’s all about healthy responses to stress.

I knew a woman who struggled with lots of stress and unresolved pain. She would get stressed and head to the mall and shop like she had no budget. The high she got from shopping, temporarily numbed the pain she was dealing with. She would spend $300-$600 at a time on random clothes and accessories. (I know because I was the sales clerk who checked her out.) I knew that within the next few days, she would be back returning most if not all of her spending binge. The sad reality was that no matter how many times she repeated this cycle, her stress/pain never got better.

We have a mom-wine culture that is exploding. You can’t be on social media long without seeing some kind of reference to motherhood and wine.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 5.3 million women in the US, drink in a way that threatens their health and well-being. Women are turning to alcohol to self-medicate their stress.

So, how do you know if you are operating in self-indulgence?

A couple ways you can tell if you’ve been operating in self-indulgence is first, the choices you are making do not leave you feeling refreshed, beyond the temporary. There is no fruit of positive change and you wake up the next day with the same issue. Secondly, the choices you make are actually creating bigger issues like debt, addiction, damaging relationships, compromising your health, mental well-being or spirituality.

The dictionary defines self-indulgence as excessive or unrestrained gratification of one’s appetites, desires, or whims. Note the words unrestrained and excessive. Most things in excess and unrestrained are out of balance. Too much is not always better.

So what choice should you make to practice healthy self-care?

Compassion & Action

Remember, compassion is being aware of distress AND having a desire to alleviate it. We follow up compassion with action. Positive action that brings healing.

You can listen to the Podcast on Self-care in {REAL} Life under the tab at the top called Thriving in {REAL} Life® Podcasts. I’ve also included a free printable Self-Care Guide that you can print out and use to set some new healthy goals for self-care.

Follow us on social media @thrivinginreallife as we continue to unpack Self-Care in {REAL} Life.

Wrong Narratives

I’m an extrovert, but I used to get very frustrated with people. I couldn’t stand many. I was bothered by facades, masks and the unauthentic. My eyes have almost rolled out of my head at superficial Christianity and community.

I kept checking my ‘perspective’ since that’s what is always taught. Change your perspective…… take thoughts captive (which we should)…… think differently….etc.

Somehow, I was always running with the wrong narrative in my head, no matter how many times I tried to change my perspective.

One day several years ago, after a small group meeting at my house, I asked the Lord “why can’t I love people the way you do? Why can’t I see people the way you do?”

That’s when He downloaded some revelation. “You can’t love and see people the way I do because you can’t love and see yourself the way I love and see you.” Woah.

It was like a light switch went on in my heart.

We always talk and teach about perspective, but there is a missing piece, there is a step BEFORE we think about things and determine narratives and beliefs.

PERCEPTION.

We take in information through our senses, but most of what we think about is determined by how we see it.

Perception is how you see things. Perspective is how you think about things. If you can’t see things clearly, you will never think about things correctly; and you will always run with the wrong narrative in your heart and mind…..which flows out of your mouth.

There are 5 hindrances to our perception:

  1. Assumptions– When we make assumptions, we empower an unknown as truth. The majority of the time these unknowns are actually untrue. So basically we empower lies, build cases and run with it. That’s a blurry lens to look through.
  2. Trauma/Pain– Pain has the power to challenge your core beliefs. Pain makes you question truth. Wounds and offense invite you to remain a victim. It’s a different fuzzy lens to look through. Look at John the Baptist, he baptized Jesus, saw a dove come down from heaven and heard an audible voice- yet, he sent his disciples to question if Jesus was the one, while he was in prison.
  3. False Identity– If we don’t know who we are, then we can’t see things clearly. That leads to wrong thinking and feeds the false identity.
  4. Generational/Cultural– Our “God concept” is shaped in our early years. I always say how you parent your children shapes their view of God. Another fuzzy lens.
  5. Bitterness/Unforgiveness– The problem with forgiveness is when you don’t understand it, you can’t apply it and walk in it. We tell people to get rid of bitterness, but if we can’t fully comprehend it, you can’t remove it and that’s frustrating. Bitterness remains because of 1 or 2 things. First is an insatiable desire to answer the question “Why?”. The second is the insatiable desire for justice, but what it actually is, is revenge. We make ourselves believe we are about justice, when it’s actually revenge wearing a justice disguise. That is like trying to look through a blurry & cracked lens.

Be Transformed

Choosing God’s Narrative

109393787_birdsWhat narrative are you believing? What labels do you allow to identify you?

The stories people tell about us, become our identity when we don’t purposely CHOOSE God’s narrative.

God says, ” I love you for who you are, not for what you can do.” Man says, ” I love you for what you do and not for who you are.”

Knowing this, we still fall into the roles we use to hang our worth on. Beautiful. Smart. Competent. Go-Getter. Tenacious. Superwoman. Got-It-All-Together. Perfect Wife. Efficient. Perfect Mom. Career. Wealth. Generous. ____________Fill in the blank.

We fear that if people really knew we weren’t the epitome of our labels, we would be rejected and lonely. If we aren’t hustling and achieving, then who is going to give accolades to feed our need for affirmation? We’ve shifted our focus on filling our tank with man pleasing instead of sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Have you ever thought about life, living in total freedom, to be you? The YOU that God created, not the you that you try to be? I love the picture of the birds in this blog post. Such a good reminder of the uniqueness and way God designs each of us. Only we can be us. Only you can be you. Only they can be them. Why try to be a copy when you were made an original? Sure, not overtly copy another person, but inwardly harbor envy over another person’s strengths or gifting. Meanwhile your unique strengths and gifting is laying dormant at the door of a falsely created identity. Internal turmoil breeds in dissatisfaction.

When we choose God’s narrative, there is peace and freedom. It’s where abundant life is found. When we look back at our own narrative that we tried to write, we’re tired, anxious and most likely endured a lot of pain in the process.

I’m not saying, God’s narrative is pain-free or conflict-free. What I am saying is that He promises to work all things together for our good. We can’t do that on our own.

When we get to the root of wanting to write our own story, ultimately it’s rooted in fear, and lack of trust. We struggle letting go of the pen because we can’t grasp fully that He is for us. That He is good and that He knows what is best. We believe, we do.

Stop striving, stop looking for that next affirmation from those around you, stop over-compensating and over-thinking. Stop hustling for man’s accolades and sit at the feet of Jesus. Stop. Breathe in and stop.

Being set free and walking in freedom are very different things. One was done for us and the other one we choose. Choose to give up control and walk in freedom. We create burdens that we were never meant to carry when we write the story.

Let go of the pen and allow God to write the story of your destiny. Your purpose, ultimately fulfilled in Him. “God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. 28‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:27-28