God's been challenging me this summer. Actually, He and I have had a few wrestling matches. Through these spiritual wrestling matches, I've learned one thing ... He. Will. Always. Win. Why do I resist? Why do I think that my ideas and thoughts are better than what He has planned? When will I ever learn to trust Him? I'm human. It's in our human nature to want our way. To fight for the right to be heard, to be right, to do things the way we want them done. I'm not making excuses; I'm simply stating a fact.
This summer, Bronie and I have been spending time together doing Jennie Allen's Bible study “STUCK: the places we get stuck and the God who sets us free.” I have had this study on my shelf, collecting dust, for over a year now. Every now and then, I'd take it off the shelf and look at it, knowing that I needed to start it but never did. Finally after a conversation with BV, we decided that we would start. It looked like an innocent enough study, BUT after watching (with tears rolling down my cheeks) the intro video, my heart was pricked. Was it too late to back out? I thought, "Uh, BV, I can't do this! I'm tapping out. Good luck with the study." But I knew in my heart it was exactly what I needed. Over the last few weeks, I've had to analyze myself. (Do you know how uncomfortable that can be?) And through this process, God has called me to surrender. I have had to surrender so many areas of my life; my thoughts, my worry, my anxiety, my family, my everything to Him. That is hard for someone like me who has major trust issues. He even challenged my to surrender that, too! All of these things had become a security blanket for me. If I could worry about it, then in my mind, I had control over it.
Surrender is a daily process. Just like making wise choices about the things we eat, read and listen to, we have to choose daily to surrender to God. If we chase what the world deems right and good, we will lose ourselves. As Christians, when we let Jesus lead us, we find ourselves. We can't ride the fence on this. It's a choice we have to make daily - do we let Him lead us or do we do our own thing? When we surrender to God, we stop resisting Him. And it's in the moment of sweet surrender that we find freedom. FREEDOM!!! Freedom from this world's idea of the best life. Freedom to be who we are created to be. Freedom to trust God with everything. Freedom to live the life God wants us to have. Freedom to embrace life to the fullest.
I love the way The Message puts it in Matthew 16:24-26: "Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. 'Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?'" He is in the driver's seat. He knows where we are going, and He knows how we are going to get there.
Embrace life to the fullest,
Not long ago, it was prom time at the Lockwood Lair. Two of our three daughters headed out for a night of fun with their friends. I think one of the hardest parts of preparing for that night was dress shopping. Abbie and Alex tried on close to twenty dresses each, several during a trip to Missouri. They both have different tastes, but for fun they would try on the same dress. What looked great on one made the other one look like they were playing dress up. As I was watching the dress picking process and giving my humble opinion as a mom, I couldn't help but think of the verses in Colossians 3 that talk about our spiritual wardrobe.
When we become Christians, Christ-followers, we are given a new wardrobe. Our old sinful nature doesn't fit us any more. Paul says in Colossians 3:9-10 (The Message) "You're done with that old life. It's like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you've stripped off and put in the fire. Now you are dressed in a new wardrobe." God strips us of that old life and gives us a new one. We undergo a transformation. I love the illustration of throwing our ill-fitting clothes in a fire. It means we are completely getting rid of it never to wear it again. Besides, who doesn't want a new wardrobe?
Paul continues in verse 11 saying, "Every item in your new wardrobe is custom made by the Creator, with His label on it. The old fashions are now obsolete ... from now on every one is defined by Christ ..." I can just imagine the label saying "Made especially for you, handcrafted by the Father." We are no longer defined by the world, but by God. We are chosen by Him for a new life of love.
Paul even tells us the items that are in our new wardrobe. In Colossians 3:12-14 he instructs us to "Dress in the wardrobe God has picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear LOVE (emphasis mine). It is your basic all-purpose garment. Never be without it." As I write this, I'm being convicted. Am I always "wearing" love? Do I show compassion? Humility? Am I disciplined? No, no, no and NO. Why not? I think sometimes I try to pull out my old wardrobe. I look in the mirror and see my new clothes through the lenses of my past. I let the past dictate what I will wear, sometimes trying to mix and match the two wardrobes. Ill fitting clothes DO NOT go with custom made, tailored ones. I think that is why Paul instructs us to "burn" them. We can't wear them again and shouldn't want to either.
A new spiritual wardrobe is ours for the asking. God is waiting to dress us; all we have to do is trust Him and let Him do the work. We are the most beautiful version of ourselves when we are dressed in Christ's love and righteousness.
Embrace life to the fullest,
My name is Stefaney, S. T. E. F as in Frank. A. N. E. Y., but family and close friends call me "Stef." I was born and raised all over Alabama, calling it home until moving to Slidell, Louisiana, in 2007. After living in town for six years, my husband and I moved our family twenty minutes north to our own little piece of heaven in Picayune, MIssissippi.
I received Christ as my Savior at the age of four. I was baptized at age seven. I grew up In the church. I heard all of the stories. I knew who Jesus was. BUT because of the father figure I had in my life, my view of God was skewed. I thought God was someone that I could easily anger, that He loved me -- but conditionally, that He would leave. It wasn't until I was eighteen, almost nineteen years old, that I really understood who God is. HE is LOVE and HE loves unconditionally. He is relational. He wants the very best for me (and for you), but we have to be willing to be used by Him. I have to be willing to let Him be in control. He knows more than I do, and He sees the big picture.
Mr. Incredible (aka Kevin) and I have been married for twenty years. I am a stay-at-home/home-school mom to our three beautiful teenage daughters. The girls keep us busy with basketball games and art classes. Kevin and I serve our local home-school community as Presidents of Slidell Christian Home Educators Fellowship (http://www.slidellchristianhomeschool.org/), and I teach High School science for our local Co-op. I also dabble in machine embroidery, monogramming and vinyl personalization. It's a hobby, but family and friends keep me busy.
When I'm not teaching, chauffeuring, or cheering on my girls, you can find me in the kitchen. I taught myself to cook at the age of thirteen in order to help my mother. My kitchen is my favorite room in my house. I read cookbooks like most people read novels. Mr. Incredible is teaching me the fine art of gardening. I love growing our own veggies, and I really want to plant some fruit trees this spring. I "collect" shoes, purses, big necklaces, earrings, rings and jeans. I "heart" iced coffee, homemade ice cream, monogrammed anything, lace tablecloths, doilies, history books, vintage Pyrex dishes and antique stores! I have an eclectic taste in music (60's-90's, jazz, country, worship, etc). I enjoy watching period shows such as Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge (a recent find on PBS), but I also love reality t.v. like The Voice, this season of American Idol, and the Sing-Off. I tend to sing really loud and really off-key in the car, so you won't be seeing me try out for any of those shows. :)
I moved a lot growing up. I mean A LOT. Like fifteen different schools from Kindergarten to 12th grade A LOT. I was very shy as a child and had a hard time letting myself open up and make friends. Even now I tend to be a bit reserved until I get to know someone really well. That being said, or typed, I took our move from Alabama to Louisiana really hard. We left behind my family, all of our friends, and a really great church to move to a place that I equated to Africa. We might as well have moved across the Atlantic to a whole other country. God was working behind the scenes, like He seems to do, and was preparing me for something I never imagined. By 2009, we had found our way to Northshore Church, and I was going to attend a women's event called "Who is SHE?". I didn't know many ladies at the church, and I really didn't want to go by myself. I came up with lots of excuses as to why I shouldn't go, but none of them were good enough. I went to that first SHE event and was so blessed. So extremely blessed, that I found Jenny immediately afterwards and told her that if she did another event, I would love to help behind the scenes. I don't think she heard me because I was asked to speak at the next event. Remember me saying that I was shy? Yeah, I don't think God or Jenny got that memo. Anyway, ten events (nine women's and one teen) later and I 'm still being pulled out of my comfort zone, but it is all good. : ) I love the prep work that goes into the events. I am honored to serve as Co-Executive Director and Secretary of Total Woman U. I firmly believed that God has used Total Woman U to not only equip me but to empower me to do things I never imagined possible. Through TWU, I have made friends that literally walk alongside me and encourage me on this beautiful journey of becoming all God created me to be. Won't you join me too?
Embrace life to the fullest,
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