Boys are my life! Living with a husband, 17 and 12 year old sons is truly loads of fun but there are times when girl time is desperately needed. This weekend was much needed therapy...ladies retreat. I was raised in a family filled with women, my mom and 3 sisters, so often my girl time quota is met with them. However, there are times when you need the love of girls that don't HAVE to love you, ha!
The theme of the weekend was "Seeds". The first session about seeds planted, next seeds interrupted, then seeds multiplied. I was asked to speak on seeds multiplied. I thought I would share a few of my thoughts with you.
If I had been asked to share on this topic 2 years ago I would have laughed, but only when I was alone and then I would have come up with something to say but it would have been a big FAKE! My true growth only started recently. I spent years stuck in a valley of "approval addiction" and to genuinely grow I am letting that go. Okay, I'm getting ahead of myself. My life today compared to my life a few years ago is TOTALLY different. I still love all the people I loved then, I've just added quite a few to that list, but inside there has been transformation. I'm not saying I have figured everything out but I have figured out how to be on a path that is my true north....towards Jesus! This isn't a "how to" guide for connection with God. I didn't even realize the changes that were happening as they happened but looking back I can see what some of them were and proved to be crucial to my growth.
*I began to believe that God really does love me. I was taught this my entire life but for some reason I internalized it as, "God loves me if I behave." To actually believe that He loved me unconditionally scared me at first. I didn't trust myself not to fall into horrific sin. I'm not really sure what I though I would become but knew my entire life had been spent trying to "be good enough" for Him to love me. The idea of raising my children with this kind of grace was even scarier. Yet I began to teach my kids that God, and I, love them no matter what, even if they make bad choices. That God loves us, which is why He doesn't want us to sin, he knows the pain sin causes. Oh my gosh, what a difference this concept has made for me!
*Next I began to genuinely love Him. How could I not love someone that loves me like that? 1 John 4:18-19 says, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us." Loving Him because has loved us is a natural thing. Before, I thought that I loved Him, but the truth was, how could I have loved Him when I didn't believe He really loved me. Don't get me wrong here, I didn't suddenly wake up with this intense feeling of wanting to be in communion with Him, it was more of a gradual change for me. There are plenty of days that I do nothing seemingly spiritual, yet part of my growth has been to realize that it's all spiritual! Relationship with Jesus should be like a friend, you are so comfortable together you can be silent for hours and it's never awkward. Easy, effortless love, no words necessary. No striving!
*I began to love myself. We live in a society that is constantly telling us we should love and take care of ourselves. I shunned that idea because it seemed so self-centered, which I saw as the opposite of what Jesus taught. Yet one day as I was reading in Mark 12, "love your neighbor as yourself" the words "as yourself" spoke to me like a neon flashing sign. In this culture we tend to be extremist. If the world says "love yourself" Christians say "noooo, totally ignore yourself and serve everyone else". In doing so we forget that scripture assumes we have healthy self-love. If we do not take care of ourselves and love ourselves we are in no condition to do the same for someone else. To find that self-love I think there are some intentional things are so beneficial.....
1. Be authentic. A peach tree doesn't produce apples. Don't allow anyone else, and sometimes not even yourself, to define the type of tree you are. God made you and knows you! He is the master of creativity and you can bask in how you were created. Getting to know yourself will help you to connect with God. I have begun to understand myself by taking personality tests, learning about what my values and passions are, taking strengths and spiritual gifts tests. This may all sound a little self absorbed but if you spend a little time understanding yourself you will cease the negative self judgement we often tend to label ourselves with. Meditating on Psalm 139:14-16 helps a lot with this. I love it in The Message version.
2. Find the discipline that works for you. Growth comes from being fed! Being fed will happen as you find spiritual disciplines. That sounds a little "strivey", I know that's not a word but work with me here. I am not saying these disciplines have to be in place for God to love you, but to begin to sink in roots and see your branches grow there must be times of intentional connection. The thing about this is that it can be almost anything. After understanding my personality type I am okay with the fact that I need change OFTEN, my spiritual discipline can change from day to day and that's okay. One day it may be running, the next yoga, the next sitting in silence, or it can even be enjoying a meal with my family. It's simply knowing that GOD IS ALWAYS near you and as you become intentional about bringing your awareness to His presence, you are connecting with Him.
He isn't looking for perfect subject. If you are waiting until you become a "better specimen" then growth will never happen. Look at who you are in this moment and love that person. LOVE is the best fertilizer. God loves you exactly the way you are, understanding that will promote growth. GROWTH PRODUCES THE FRUIT, which may be the "better you" of your dreams. A fruit tree doesn't produce fruit to grow, the fruit is a RESULT of growth.
3. Don't be afraid of your fruit. I love this quote....
Grow anyway!!! Produce the fruit He created you to produce.
4. Do not allow confinement. Jeremiah 17:8 says "They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." I imagine myself a few years ago as a small tree in a small pot. My roots were bound and my growth impended. God took me from that pot and planted me in free soil, with no inhibition, to grow the way He wanted me to. Years ago I would not have even thought about becoming a Holy Yoga instructor, I was bound by religious thinking. I would never have imagined God using something as unorthodox as yoga to bring growth into my life. I invite you to allow Him to break your pot, or pick you up and place you in different growing conditions. If issues from your past hold you back don't make the mistake of moving from one pot to another. It's no one else's fault if I remain bound by a small pot. I have to be willing to allow Him to show me what freedom is.
*Finally after we have accepted His love, learned to love Him back, and developed a healthy self-love, THEN we become able to share that love with others. Until then everything we do is in our own strength. I'm not saying that love can't be given without those but love that flows through us in a natural way, with us simply as a vessel that His love flows through, we do. This kind of love giving returns to the concept of "not striving". How will you know when that is at work in your life? It won't be hard, or exhausting, or feel like work. The tree doesn't work to produce fruit, all the work is from the farmer. Let God water you, give you light, prune you, and then use your fruit to feed others, so that others will see Him and not tired, worn out, pride-filled, you.
Sorry this was so long! I hope you have found encouragement. Have you discovered things that are impending your growth? Are you in a pot that is too small for you? Imagine yourself completely free....what does that look like? I would love to hear your thoughts!
A pic from our early morning gentle Holy Yoga class. Fire in the fireplace, morning sun streaming in, and God's presence nurturing us all. Pure awesomeness!!!