The Prayer Experience

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At the beginning of our “Prayer Experience” on Saturday at the Priscilla Shirer simulcast, Priscilla implored everyone to stay engaged.  Prayer time was not something to be glossed over in between worship and teaching, but it was “the thing” of the day.

She explained how they take prayer requests at each of her events. The requests tend to fall in a few broad categories.  As she introduced each one, she asked for those that felt God had given them victory in that particular area to stand.  Then, she asked for those with prayer requests in that area to raise their hands.  Those with victory were to go to those with needs and pray for them.

The first category was marriage.  If you know our story, then you know I stood up in victory through Christ.  I was able to pray for my sister’s upcoming marriage and the marriage of other women from my home church. 

She then asked for those that had found freedom from addictions—whether it be to a person or thing.  Well, if you know why our marriage was struggling, then you know I had an emotional addiction to a person. I was again able to pray for my sisters in Christ.

She then mentioned finances which hasn’t been an area where we’ve struggled with yet.  And then she asked for those that have been healed, whether physically, mentally or emotionally.  I’ve written here about the healing of my hearing as a child and also just wrote this month about the healing and freedom of my mind.

I was almost laughing as I stood up so many times—probably more than anyone there.  I giggled to my church friends, “I’m such a mess!”  One replied, “No, you’re a testimony!”

And she was right. I’m so, so, so thankful he doesn’t leave us where we are.  We should be eager to stand and give glory to God.

We were all so encouraged by what God had done for the women in the room.  We clapped and celebrated and mostly didn’t even know one single detail.

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On Sunday, my dad finished a 100 mile race after 27 hours.  For real.  He was in extreme pain all over by the end and he declared it the hardest thing he’d ever done.

As I was working out at home during the beginning of his race, I was hating the mountain climbers I was being put through by the guy on the DVD.  But then I remembered my dad at the beginning of his long race.  Surely I could make it for 45 more seconds of mountain climbers.

As my dad’s race was winding down, my sister posted on Facebook, “My dad just finished running 81 miles. That makes my 30 min walk/jog sound doable this morning.”

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After this weekend, I was reminded how much we need someone to stand up and say, “Hey, I’ve been there and God brought me through.”  Even if you aren’t going through something difficult, you are reminded how loving, how gracious our Father is.

 

I want YOU to write the rest of this post in the comments.  It would be so encouraging if everyone could comment on a category where God has really worked in your life—marriage, addiction, finances, healing, salvation, etc.  What is your story?

And, if you have a need, leave your category of need so others can pray for and encourage you.

 

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Gal 5:1

What I Wore Wednesday 4.2.2014

Whew, Wednesday slipped up on me this week.  I finished this post last minute and then hit publish before I went to work this morning only to find out it errored out.  So, this is post a little late in the day.  Anyway, better late than never?

It was a record high of 86 today in the Carolinas. Nothing could make me happier!

 

print shirt, statement necklace, jeans

  sweater, pop of color shoes

  pink shirt, white shorts

Forgive all the wrinkles but y’all, shorts and sandals!   Whee!  I’m so excited for the warmer weather.

blue shirt, bright scarf

The scarf made another appearance this week.  Loving it!

 

Let’s connect so we can do this again  Like AmyJBennett on Facebook.  Follow me onPinterest (where I post these inspirational pictures), Instagram (where you might sneak an early peek of an outfit) or Twitter.

Linked with The Pleated Poppy

Freedom in Health and Wellness

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image by mossholder

Yesterday we talked about the freedom I’ve found in my thoughts around my work. Today I want to share the freedom I’ve found around food and exercise as the 4th part of this series.

In the past weeks, I finally read Lysa TerKeurst’s Made to Crave.  I’d read tweets about it, blog posts about it, even watched webinars about it.  I had it on my Kindle since it came out, but just read it this month.  Again, the timing was perfect.

I have struggled on and off for years with an addiction to sugar, some unhealthy body image issues and difficulty committing to exercise. I’d get off it for a time, but then was right back to it.

Lysa gave me several insights that have really changed my thinking around this and truly think this time the changes are here to stay.  And listen, I’ve heard many of these things before, but since being freed, it’s like so many things are actually “sticking” now where they weren’t before.

The first is Lysa suggests getting some accountability.  I’ve done that in my exercise first with a Facebook group this month.  Knowing they are expecting me to stay on task and are checking in on me totally changes the game for me.  God made us to connect to others, so it’s no surprise this is helping.  Also, Scott is waking up with me when he’s not working and doing the exercises with me.  It’s been great having him beside me.

I’m in my 4th and final week of T25 and have seen amazing results.  And it’s not just physical.  It’s my thoughts towards exercising now. I truly enjoy it and look forward to it in the morning.  For the first time in my life, I’m getting up 30 minutes early to do it.  March is usually my most active of the year, but I’m praying that this “sticks” this time.  I think it will.

The second is that we should measure our progress not by a number on the scale, but by our obedience.  I have weighed myself every single day as an adult and much of the thoughts towards myself were based on whether the scale displayed a lower number or a higher number than the day before.  Lysa suggests that the number can’t tell you many things like how much salt you had, what time of the month it was or most importantly, how obedient you were.  Did you make good decisions that day?  If so good, then that’s the measure of success.  Turning food and exercise into an obedience issue instead of a numbers issue was a revelation for me.  My body is a temple and I am to take good care of it.

The third and final idea that brought me great freedom in this is the idea of temptation during difficult or celebratory times.  Basically, we use food to celebrate everything and to get through everything.  There was always an excuse to why I needed a bowl of ice cream—I had a great day, let’s celebrate or I had a horrible day, let the chocolate fix it or even, I’m bored, let’s eat some ice cream.  If we were at the mall, I’d get Starbucks because it was a “special” day out with the family.  I’d grab some extra dessert at work because I’d been working hard.  Or it was Christmas, or Easter, or Valentine’s Day, or someone’s birthday. There was always a reason to eat something I didn’t need.  And while I truly believe in special moments, I was using them as an excuse to not take care of my body.  In the book, Lysa shares truths from God’s word we can use in times like these.  For me, this was freeing.

I can feel old thoughts already creeping in as I write this—this won’t last, you’re just on a lucky streak, you can’t eat this way forever.  But no, we are more than a conquerors through Christ and we can have lasting freedom in His strength.

 

As we wrap this unexpected series on freedom in our thought life, I can’t help but encourage you to take stock of your thought life.  Are you constantly discouraged, negative, cynical and defeated?  It’s not supposed to be that way!  Seek the Lord with your concerns, read Scripture we’ve talked about and pick up the books that have helped me if you’re not sure where to start.  God wants more for you and so do I. And let me know if there’s a specific area I can pray about with you.

Finding Joy

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You might consider this post to be a third post in an unexpected series.  It began with seeing four ways people are redeemed in Psalm 107.  Then, God led me to the book Battlefield of the Mind and showed me how many of my thought processes were bound up in Green Pastures.

Since that time, I’ve been astounded, quite frankly, with how different my thoughts have been.  Instead of always expecting the worst, feeling negative about myself or my circumstances, I’m finding myself feeling secure in God’s promises, positive about the changes he’s making and content with where has me.

I wanted to share two areas in particular that I truly feel freed from as a result of these thought process changes.  I share them not in an attempt to overshare or boast in the changes, but to share that God has done much work.  And, if you find yourself in a similar situation, that you might reach out to God for the same.

In surprise to no one, God brought me two more books to shed light on these areas.  The first is Brene Brown’s bestseller, Daring Greatly.  Daring Greatly has been read widely and I’m likely the last of my reading friends to check it out, but like many books do, it came at just the right time.

Daring Greatly is about shame and vulnerability.  It’s impossible to do the whole book justice, but let me try to share a few concepts.  First, Brene suggests that whole, healthy people allow themselves to be vulnerable.  They allow themselves to be who they really are and connect with others.  People who are not whole often feel shame in some capacity and do not feel like they deserve to connect.  In order to protect themselves from this vulnerability, they wear armor.

Brene describes three main types of armor that people use to protect themselves: foreboding joy, perfectionism and numbing. 

To explain foreboding joy, Brene says, “In a culture of deep scarcity—of never feeling safe, certain, and sure enough—joy can feel like a setup.  We wake up in the morning and think, Work is going well.  Everyone in the family is healthy.  No major crises are happening. The house is still standing. I’m working out and feeling good. Oh, shit. This is bad. This is really bad. Disaster must be lurking right around the corner.” (Excuse the language)

I need to share that quote because that’s how I’ve lived a lot of my life.  It was ok to be happy, but only for a few moments.  I’d be staring at my newborn and thinking how beautiful she was and how blessed I was and then immediately think, she’ll probably die in a car accident tomorrow.  It pains me to admit that and I want to weep for my younger self.  My joy was so great, but I had to tamper it down so I wouldn’t get hurt.

Connecting this back to what Joyce talked about in Battlefield of the Mind, this relates to the wondering, anxious thoughts I knew I had.

I’ve done this with many things, but one of those is my job.  In addition, I wrapped a sense of foreboding joy about my husband’s job and some perfectionism I felt around my job and I was a mess.

For those who have read here for years, you might know I have spent years wishing I was home.  I felt like I needed to be a stay at home mom to be a real mom (although I never judged any other mother that worked).  I never really expected to fully enjoy my job.  Surely God was going to send me home soon.  I was good at it and loved my coworkers but the “perfect” mom would be at home with her kids.  And I worried what all those people thought about me being a working mom.

Plus, I had foreboding joy with Scott.  I love him so much and I never, ever worry about him going to work as a highway patrolman, but I am seeing now I have tampered the joy with a deep, inner sense of foreboding about what might happen to him.  I felt like I needed to do everything in order to keep our family running just in case.  I felt an extreme burden to do it all and do it well because Amy, one day you might have to.

Just in the last few weeks God has opened my eyes to this destructive thinking and it’s been amazing the results.

And I don’t doubt for one second his timing.  At work, I was given a new and difficult project just as I started this book.  The weight of it two months ago would have put me into a depression.  Even though it is difficult, I now approach it with joy.  Somewhere along the way I have felt a chain broken about my job.  I’ve been fighting God for so many years, but I have come to peace that God really does want me in my job.  And it’s ok to like it too.

He has shown me that I don’t have to shoulder everything in our family.  It’s ok to let Scott help and fill in my gaps. God put us together because we need each other.  I don’t find it an accident at all that Scott has a schedule that allows him to pick the girls up when I’m at work or that he doesn’t mind fixing dinner when I’m away because his dad did the exact same thing for his family.  If God does ever separate us, then he will provide, but I cannot live my life with that assumption.

Brene says the solution to foreboding joy is gratitude—seeing the small moments for the wonderful moments they are.  The solution to perfectionism is to find beauty in the cracks—we need to come to the point where we believe we are enough.  We aren’t everything, but we are enough.

So, with my family and with my job, which are very intertwined for me, I am learning to do both of those things.  I need to be grateful for those people, for my job, for a meeting well-led and a project much-enjoyed or for dinner cooked by my husband.  I have to believe I’m enough even though I am not everything.

I'm not everything, but  I'm enough

I am so thankful for the work God has done.  In Christian circles we talk a lot about God delivering us and giving us freedom. Many equate that to situations or addictions or behaviors, but the more I follow Christ, the more I see that it is in the heart and mind where we most need freedom.  I think that’s why Jesus was always more concerned about our heart rather than our actions.  True joy is found with a free mind, no matter your circumstances.

There is another area in which I have been finding freedom in the past weeks, but I believe I’ll save that for another 1,000 words tomorrow.  Come back?

Mighty

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I was listening to a podcast fro m Loran Livingston of Central Church of God where I went to church as a teenager this week.  Hearing his preaching still feels like a coming home.

He was talking about how before the world was created that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit came together and decided to make this world and us in it. They understood the fall and our inability to get back in His presence without redemption.  He talked about how Jesus must have agreed that he would make a way, that He would come and suffer and die in our place.  And that God said because he did that, he would give us to him.  That we, lowly and sinful, were his reward.

And that overwhelms me.

How little I give him in return for his great sacrifice.  Me, who is easily swayed and distracted, is supposed to be a living “thank you” for what he did.  God, how can I be more grateful?

But part of that made me angry.  How could they choose to do that knowing that not everyone would believe and be saved?  How could they sacrifice others? Why would they even create them? 

And God asked me, Amy, if you knew that Lexi would not love you back, that there would be pain in her life, and it would be cut short, would you choose not to have either Emma and Lexi in your life at all? Oh, dear God, no.  Whatever time I have with them, no matter how it goes, is precious.  I love to love them.  And how much greater is his love for his children?  I can’t imagine how much it hurts him when one of his children chooses not to love him back.  But oh, his love for all of us anyway.  That all of this—the pain, the time, the sacrifice—it’s all worth it to Him even when we give him so little back.

I don’t understand it all and I know my thoughts are not like His thoughts—maybe that’s not His why or how–but something about hearing that this week made me love him more for my salvation and want to be grateful more.  His love is mighty, indeed.

 

This post is linked to Five Minute Friday with Lisa Jo Baker.

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