The Love Dare: Passion, Life, Love (Guest Post by Alise Wright)

Alise on piano

 

I spent two years not touching a piano. And when playing music is where you feel the most like yourself, two years is a long time to go without feeling completely you.

 

I was told that everything I was doing was wrong in the area where I was the most passionate and the most alive. I was told that I could still attend the church, but I could have nothing to do with music. I was told that my passion was self-serving and that what was life-giving was an idol. When you receive that news, it kills passion. It sucks life away.

 

And when passion and life are missing, it can be difficult to love yourself. 

 

I went through a season where this was my existence. A season where the pain of the words that had been spoken to me drowned out the knowledge that I was doing what I had been created to do.

 

For that season, I saw my talents not as a gift from God to be used for God’s glory, but rather as something of a liability to be used for my own glorification. This was not my heart, but because someone in authority had told me that this was so, I began to believe it for myself. The lies became reality and that reality crowded out feelings of self-worth that I had.

 

We are so often afraid to allow ourselves to be identified by what we do. We worry that our value is somehow cheapened by attaching significance to the titles that we have. We worry that if we enjoy the things that we do too much, we will push God out of the picture.

 

But I have found that the more I am fully myself, the more than I fully immerse myself in the passions that God has placed in me, then I am more aware of God’s presence. When I play the piano, and play well, I am more in tune with what God desires for me. When I am fully present with my children, when I choose to be a loving wife, when I write with conviction – these things draw me closer to God.

 

As I am closer to God, I am reminded of my value. I am convinced of the greatness of God’s love for me. And as I gain that confidence, I am able to love myself. Not simply the things that I do, but who I am.

By embracing my passions, I have found life. And by finding life, I have found a deeper Love.

 

Alise is a wife, a mother of four, an eater of soup, and a lover of Oxford commas. She is the editor of Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression with Civitas Press. You can generally find her sitting behind a keyboard of some kind: playing or teaching the piano, writing at her laptop, or texting her friends a random movie quote. You can connect with Alise on her blog, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

 

Pre-order Emily’s new book, Mom in the Mirror, at 40% off, here.

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The binge-purge cycle of our consumer-driven world (Guest Post by Lorretta Stembridge)

Every new January, I find myself mentally and emotionally traveling back to the top of that heap of months where the view is fresh and the air is clear and the days seem to endlessly trip over one another with their blank calendar whitenesses just waiting to be filled with the hopes and dreams for a coming year. There’s something so refreshing and hopeful found in taking down that raggety-edged, worn out old calendar and putting up another one, still shiny and slippery-slick with newness between my fingers.
I think the equation goes something like this:

new year + new resolve (x) new beginnings = new me. (tweet)

Right?

If only it was that easy. Yet, somehow, that’s the way we’ve been conditioned by the world to behave and believe.
I’m über-amused this time of year while waiting in the grocery store checkout line and I see the shelves that for two solid months held rich delicacies and delights, and those ridiculous magazines covered with this seasons “must-have” gifts, bodies, outfits and hair, and recipes for luxuriously decadent holiday meals and desserts….
THOSE SAME SHELVES are now weighed down with exercise equipment and weight loss programs, diet plans and workout clothes. Just two months ago, I could get the recipe and ingredients for the most luscious cheesecake on the planet and now I need to focus on the best bikini butt by summer!

Seriously?!! Do they think I’m that stupid?
Maybe I am.
Or maybe I have been before.

No, not about the crazy binge/purge cycle this consumer-driven world promotes…
… but I have, in the last year, learned a very important thing about myself probably just as sinister.

Fact is, if I’m not very, very careful I can be easily seduced.

There. I said it.

Fact is, I’m convinced, unless they are comatose or living in a hole,
every living person has a “price.” (tweet)

Call it “habit”, weakness or whatever… there’s a little something in us all where, if we are not intentionally anchored to the truth, we’ll find ourselves easily swayed by the “latest” movement or emotion or teaching or fad…whatever.

I know this because I’ve been what the bible calls a “weak woman”.
Ouch.
Yes… this one….here:

“…weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7 ESV)

No, not on purpose…who really decides to be this way on purpose? But it’s an area I have to guard because Satan would love to have his way with me again. People pleasing. Weak. Easily swayed.

The truth of this hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday as I was trying to write this first 2013 post announcing what “one word” God has been speaking to me for the coming year. I wanted to be pretty and profound…full of grace, deep meaning and beauty.

And I couldn’t do it.
I watched the minutes give way to hours. I changed positions and locations and started over more than ten times. And each time I was left chasing the wind.
Why?

Because I was writing for you.
Because I was writing for me.

And that’s not why I must write.
Not really.

It’s not why I hammered my stake into this piece of blogosphere almost one full year ago.
No, then and now, I was brought to this place from past pain, having looked dead in the face of my own depravity, led through the purging fire by the loving hand of God…. to testify….

to give an answer for the hope I have and you can have… because of Jesus Christ.

And it’s at the beginning of this new year that I wish to be absolutely honest and clear in all I do for our sake and for those who may join us in the coming year because we must be anchored deeply so that

“…we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching.
We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
Ephesians 4:14-16

It’s that important.

I said this to a dear friend today: “To whom much is given, much will be required.” which is drawn from Luke 12:48 and a difficult teaching from Jesus.
All too often we decide this means we’ll give from our happy blessings. And we should. But it also means we should give and give deeply from the wells of blessing we’ve dug and discovered through lessons learned the hard way: In pain.
Not to be morose or joyless but
true
because there’s HOPE.

This will be my “new year” resolution (slightly shaped by Jonathan Edwards) based on this word and this privilege God has given me to walk in for 2013:
Yield

With His help, I can and will learn what it means to yield.
Not simply yielding to just anything or anyone….
but to

The Call.
His voice, His word.

And, also, as the word in Psalm 1 reveals….
there will be a “yield” as a result. It’s His promise as I stay planted, abiding with Him and blooming wherever it is
He plants me.

More to come on that later. Join me?
There will be few changes around here for the coming year.

Perhaps we’ll eat some cheesecake…who cares about bikini butts anyway? Blessings!


(guest post by Loretta Stembridge at Dancing on the Dash)


*2nd edition of Chasing Silhouettes now available HERE

When you hate who God made you to be (Guest Post by Roseann)

I am not sure when the lies began…those tapes that started playing in my head…
“you are not as good as…”
“you’re not loveable”…
“you’re a failure”.
No matter what success I found in life…
These tapes would not be silenced.
by the time I was in college, these tapes were in high gear.

In college I innocently joined the pastime…
a ritual of sorts…taking place in every dorm
a little exercise…and some Diet Tab (that dates me).
But this “innocent” college pastime apprehended me…
and dragged me down a very dark road…
a road of obsessive exercise…a road of starvation.

This obsessive behavior…
was only fueled by those negative tapes.
But I hid this all pretty well…
from the outside, my life looked really good…
in some ways a life others envied.

But those lies continued to steal, kill, and destroy…
not just my mind but my body as well.

After my first year of teaching…I spent a week in the hospital…
a week to figure out why my body was refusing…
It resisted all the medical attention given to bleed the blood of life…
the blood needed to really be the woman God intended.
While the doctors where figuring out my body…
I lie alone figuring out my faith.
Being very new in my walk with the Lord…
my ears and heart were learning to be tuned to hear His voice.
I cannot say I heard an audible voice…
but oh how clear it was…
this question…
a question not wrapped with judgment nor condemnation…
but a question asked in compassion…
from a heart of love for my brokenness…
”Why are you spitting in my face and telling me you hate who I created you to be? “
I answered back through my tears in a loud cry…
”I do hate who you made me to be.”
This sickness called anorexia is a slow death…
and I was telling the Creator of the universe…
what He created did not deserve to live.
And with that confession…something changed…
I could not bare the thought of spitting in my Savior’s face…
I wanted to be healed.

Did this end all the self-hatred?
Oh, I wish I could tell you yes…
but I did walk out of the hospital changed…
slowly but surely…little by little more freedom came.
Freedom from every bite controlling my thoughts…
freedom from a minimum requirement of daily exercise to find peace.

but the tapes…those tapes…
they were not so easily erased.

I found the healing of the body happens more easily…
than the healing of the heart and mind.
Renewing my mind and transforming my heart was a very slow process.
God came in many ways to heal me… body, soul and spirit.
He patiently wooed me to trust His Love for me.
He showed me what His unconditional love looked like through the love of my husband.
Over time my thoughts toward God were finally finding
a safe place to land…
therefore my thoughts toward myself were becoming
more kind…more forgiving…more safe.

After all these years, I am still surprised …
when I can trace thoughts back to self-hatred…
But now when God comes and tugs on that weed of
self-loathing thoughts…
its roots are no longer wound through very fiber of my being.
Instead, it’s like pulling up a weed whose root system is almost dead.
God has brought a freedom I wasn’t sure was possible.
But praise be to Him …
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. Ephesians 3:20

My heart breaks now when I meet another…
One whose mind if full of these same lies…
At the same time…my heart is so full of hope…
Because…
The same Kind and Gracious God who loved me to healing…
Whose love never grew weary…
whose Light was bright enough to penetrate even the darkest places…
whose Truth was stronger than the lies…
whose blood came and healed my wounded heart.
This same God will meet each woman…heal each heart…
and each one will walk in more freedom than she could ever imagine.

I pray if you too listen to lies…
that you will find encouragement here…
encouragement to let God in…all the way in…
to every lie…every dark place of hiding…to let Him show you and tell you…
of His immense Love for you.. how very precious you are to Him.
you His daughter…you, a daughter of the King.

(thank you, sweet Roseann, for sharing these words today… )

Learning to ignore our feelings (Guest post by Deidra Manning)

I used to live life based on my feelings. We all do that at times, and it is one of the biggest mistakes we make.

It’s nothing new – Satan has used our emotions and feelings to try to separate us from the truth of God since the beginning of time.

Think back to the garden. Eve was tempted by the serpent to eat the fruit God told them not to. She was tempted by her feelings. She was the only woman on the face of the whole earth – no one else to compare herself to, no one else to tell her something was wrong with her – it was already a part of her, the way God made her that Satan used against her.

He told her God lied. Satan told her God didn’t want her to eat the fruit because it would make her like God – she would know good from evil. He played on her emotions, got her to doubt, made her question.

Maybe I’m not good enough the way I am – the way God created me. I need to eat that fruit to make me better, wiser.

And of course, we all know the choice she made. Rather than taking God at His word, trusting His plan, believing that He wanted what was best for her, she took the bait. She, for whatever reason feeling she wasn’t good enough the way God made her, chose to eat the fruit so she could be better.

And that same old trick still works on all of us today, thousands of years later because we still struggle with our feelings. And in the world we live in it is easier than ever.

We have millions of people to compare ourselves to, a society that tells us we must look and be a certain way if we want to be successful and happy. We let our feelings drown out God’s truth – what He says about us. And then we wonder why we’re not happy, why nothing is ever good enough, why we have unsuccessful relationships, bad habits, why we live in the same old cycles and patterns.

It’s because we are still making the wrong choice. I’ve done it all my life – listened to my feelings rather than His fact. I never felt good enough about anything, ever – that me, the way I was, the way He made me just wasn’t good enough. Just like he did with Eve, Satan pointed out an area of inadequacy. And like Eve, I had to come up with a way to be better.

I didn’t talk to God first. I didn’t ask Him what He thought, I didn’t read His word, or believe His truth over my feelings. I made the choice to trust my feelings – to believe the lies. As a result I began the hardest struggle of my life. Over a period of months I became bulimic.

I had been a Christian since childhood and knew God’s word, but I never really, truly believed it. That’s why it was so easy for me to fall victim to Satan’s schemes. I believed my feelings more than I believed God’s facts.

But thin never led to fulfillment, exercise never brought me peace, a smaller pants size never gave me joy. Those things only came when I truly believed in Jesus’ love for me, when I treated the spiritual problem the right way – spiritually.

We have to choose how to treat our problems and issues – with society’s standards and pop culture values or with God’s word. We have to stop making physical issues out of the things that are spiritual. We are left empty every time we seek to fulfill internal needs with external resources. Feelings are based on perception, circumstances, current location, and situation. Facts are based on truth and proven history. Feelings are fickle and temporary – they constantly change. Fact is permanent, cannot be changed, is solid and stable.

Living by feelings leads to fear, fighting, fluctuation, frustration, falsehood, famine, failure, and flesh. Living by God’s facts leads to faith, freedom, fortification, fulfillment, focus, forgiveness, fertility, favor, and finish. We have to choose. The decisions we make show where our belief lies. Everything about us shows our faith, indicating what we believe and how we make our choices – by feeling or fact. Choosing to live by feelings tells God we don’t need Him. It says that we trust ourselves more than we trust Him.

Scripture is filled with facts. God cannot lie and is only capable of truth. His fact tells us that He loved us so much He sent His son to die for us, that whoever calls on Him will be saved, that Satan is a liar and is defeated, that He will never leave us or forsake us, that He has cast out every fear, that we can have salvation, forgiveness, provision, strength, peace, hope, power, love, a sound mind, that He has good plans for us – to prosper us and to give us a future and a hope.

You choose what you will believe and how you will act. You are in charge. You don’t have to be ruled by feelings. Read His word and find out what He says about you, write down His promises, fill your head and heart with His words. Then when Satan comes at you using your feelings against you, you can quote Scripture – that’s what Jesus did to defeat him – he has no come back for that – God always has the last word.

It takes commitment and vigilance. You can’t fight if you’re not prepared. It takes daily practice. We have somehow come to believe that struggling means we’re failing, but struggle doesn’t indicate failure – it indicates fight. It shows you’re not giving up or giving in. It reveals your determination and character. It proves that you are willing to war against those forces against you. Choose to live in His fact over your feelings. Don’t fight alone – fight with His armor. He works only for your good when you are committed and fully trust in Him.

(please visit Deidra at her blog, The Middle)