For All

In an effort to get healthy, my husband and I recently joined a gym.  For many years of my adult life I have had a gym membership, but this habit had gone by the wayside in my 40s.  As my body started aching more and the post-partum weight hung around (never you mind that I'm almost seven years post-partum!), I decided to humble myself and get accountable at a gym. The slogan at our particular gym is "Fitness For All".  The words are emblazoned on the windows and the walls.  Last night, as I was strengthening my tired triceps, I glanced around at the other people there.  Everyone was either 25 or freakishly toned for their advanced age.  Feeling insecure, I reassured myself with the slogan.  If "For All" is what this gym really meant, then that "For All" included a woman approaching 50 with less-than-average tone and strength.  I persisted despite my self-doubt knowing that what I was doing was good for my body.  What's my alternative?  Quit, like so many other times before?

I wonder if women ever feel this same way, though, at church or in Christian circles?  Do we realize that Christ is "For All" whom the Father gives to Him?  Or do we begin to disqualify ourselves as we look around at those 'Christian heavyweights'--you know, the women who have memorized huge chunks of the Bible or those who just always seem to obey or the ones who serve before you've even figured out there was a need?  Do we wallow in self-doubt and stop attending Bible study or rarely come to church?  Do we 'quit'?

This is a real problem, I know.  This happens when we take our eyes off of the truth and the purpose, or calling, on our lives.  When we stop exercising our faith and begin looking around and...comparing ourselves with others.  Ugh.

We must set our minds on Christ and lay aside everything that hinders us so we will run with endurance the race set before us.  We do this by looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and not by looking around at others.  Others may certainly be encouragers and spur us onto good works, but if we are stumbling instead, then we must re-align our eyes on Christ and persevere to the end.

Keep your purpose ever before you as the apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:1.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Glorify the Lord in your walk with Christ.  Obey when it's hard; work that "faith muscle" when you want to give up.  Keep your eyes fixed on Him.

Love, Wendy


Strengthened by Joy

Some women are very strong.  Like, physically, they are beasts.  I started an exercise program and am being shamed by the woman on my DVD.  Oh, she's smiling at me and encouraging me with supportive words, but her body can do things that I doubt mine ever will.  I'll keep working and trying, but I do know that I have some limitations as I've never been super strong or athletic.Rosie Riveter

Yet, even physically weaker women like me have a tendency to forget their limitations sometimes.  We take on the grime of toilet bowls, coordinate a three-ring circus, manage the entire education of (sometimes) multiple children, serve and minister to many in need...the daily list of a woman is so long that I could spend the next year blogging on the details.  I've not even mentioned the women who work outside the home and come home and manage that domain too.  As we emulate Wonder Woman day after day...after day...there are many times we become exhausted.  We get irritable.  We fall apart.

Often this happens over a period of time.  We wake up fresh.  Our new shiny chore chart is ready to be enforced.  I will dust on Mondays, vacuum on Tuesdays, do the laundry on Wednesdays.  It's a great plan!  But, we eventually become weary.  We get behind or we just get bored.  Whatever it is, I generally get grumpy.  That grumpiness wears off onto the rest of my household then and soon nobody's having any fun at all.  Have you ever noticed that this can happen when you're doing those "good godly things" too?  Like, reading the Bible every day or meeting together weekly for Bible study or regularly cleaning the bathrooms at the church or serving at a local soup kitchen.  We can often start off well, but end on a sour note.

What's going on here with us?  Is it just that we're not strong enough?  Do we need to pull up our bootstraps and just push through?  Roll up our sleeves and cheer one another on with Rosie the Riveter... "We can do it, girls!"  Is this the solution??

In forgetting our limitations, we tend to believe we can do it all.  On our own.  It sometimes takes me awhile, but when the joy has been sucked out of my life then I better look around and see what I have attempted to do in my own strength.  Because when I start doing things on my own then I will fall apart sooner or later.

It's critical that I'm working hard at home.  If we are workers outside of the home, we must glorify God with our excellent work ethic.  Being in the Word, serving and meeting regularly with other Believers is essential for spiritual growth.  However, when we leave God behind, when we are independent from Him for our source of strength, then I guarantee you that joy will soon be lost as well.

...the joy of the LORD is your strength.  Nehemiah 8: 10b

We will be strong because of the Lord.  Finding great joy in Him will enable us to daily continue walking out powerfully in the good works that He has prepared for us to do (see Ephesians 2:10).  Knowing that the Lord is the One who strengthens me will diminish my need to think I must do everything in my own power.  I get irritable and grumpy when I am weary, when I think I must impress others, when I believe it's up to me to be holy.

Remember, we can do nothing apart from Christ.  We will be barren, not producing any fruit, apart from our Life Source.  We must abide, or remain, in Christ.  We must completely depend upon Him for our every need.  That's where we find joy.  And in that joy of the Lord is where we find strength. Tough Girl

Stop being the "tough girl".  Admit you're weak!  You need the Lord.  Go to Him and repent of any self-sufficiency or independence.  Give the Lord your burdens; He will give you rest.  If there is great work ahead for you today, know that the joy of the Lord will strengthen you and give you great peace and rest in the midst of those good works.

Love, Wendy




Great Expectations

Have you ever felt like you just never measure up to others?  Maybe there's a sense that you should be like 'this' or 'that' and, hard as you may try, you seem to fall short every time.  I really don't believe this kind of thinking is unique to women in the church.  You can find this at your average mom/child playgroup, elementary school, neighborhood gathering, homeschool co-op.  Women compare and women demand.  Nothing lovely develops out of this system, though.  When I'm struggling with a busy week and I look around at my messy house, I imagine a friend stopping by unexpectedly and judging me. This thinking makes me angry at her, at my messy family and at my inability to keep up with life.  Whether the expectations from others are real or not isn't what matters.  Our minds can create a pretty play and attribute all sorts of motives to women who make us feel like we're failing.  They have standards, we have standards and the question is, "Who is meeting all these standards?!?" I wonder how many women in the church are faking it so they can appear like they have it all together.  Lies flow easily so no one suspects we sin.  We put on the smiley-face while we seethe inside.  Our days are consumed by doing, doing, doing and yet we feel further and further from God all the while.

Enough is enough, ladies!  I'm not here to tell you to lower your expectations or to embrace your messy lives as some are prone to do.  No, here's the truth--God's truth:

Be holy, for I am holy.  1 Peter 1: 16 might wonder how that's supposed to help.

And yet this is our expectation from God, and it's a great one.

So, what do we do?  Work harder?  Just give me the checklist, I'll complete it and earn favor with God and man.  While I know it's ludicrous to say it that way, how many times do I find myself doing this very thing?  How often do I hide what I do or proclaim those things that I don't really do?  This isn't authentic.  It's not genuine and we will never have peace living this kind of life.

There is an answer to dealing with all these great expectations, though:  Jesus Christ.  Jesus lived a perfectly obedient life on earth, something we will never be able to achieve.  He gave up His life to die on a cross for our sins.  His sacrifice was given as an exchange--His perfect obedience for our sins.  How unfair is this?!?  He takes my sins; He gives me His righteousness, His holiness, His perfection?  In my place, Jesus incurred all of God's wrath upon my sins.  Instead of consuming me, God now looks upon me, because of Jesus, and accepts me.  He accepts me!  All of my filthy sins have been cleansed so that God now sees me without blemish.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation--if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.      Colossians 1: 21-23a

When we are tempted to pretend, to compare ourselves to others and set up ungodly standards, may we be reminded of the One whose great expectations have been met through His Son, Jesus Christ.  It is only through Him that our works can have value and be received by God.

It's not about striving and proving to others that we've got it all together.  Rather, it's about pointing to Him, Jesus Christ, because He is holy and He has given us all that we need to be called holy by God.  We're called holy and we are being made holy.  This is all done through Christ's work on the cross.  If you feel inadequate or like you'll never meet others' expectations, then you have taken your eyes off of the Cross.  You have taken your eyes off of Jesus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.       Hebrews 12: 1-2

Love, Wendy