Thursday, March 31, 2011

Plan A

I finally was able to attend The True Woman class on Sunday (meets at 11:30am in room 305 if you ever want to check it out!) To no surprise, it was a great hour. Mary is leading this group through Susan Hunt's The True Women book and every lady in there was eager to learn and grow in her quest of biblical womanhood. I left all inspired and filled up inside!

What has stuck with me this week since attending the class is something Mary said, "God's plan for us is always plan A." She explained further...we can't mess up God's plan for us. It's not like we make a poor decision and He thinks to Himself "here we go again! Gotta come up with a new plan for her because she messed up my first plan!" No, we are living in Plan A...right here, right now. Think about that for a second.

As I ponder that, I can't help but think about my biggest unanswered questions in life right now. For me and my family, I'd say it's a long term plan for us. Tell me if you can relate to these long are we going to be in Chicago? Are we ever going to be able to sell our condo with this market? How secure are our jobs? Should we live closer to our family? What do we do about school for our kids? Private? How do we pay for it? Public? Then where do we move to get into a good school? Home school? Oh no. I'd be horrible at it.

There are more times than I'd like to admit that I feel like I'm waiting for Plan A. I'm sure it's coming soon...God will reveal Himself and His plan for us just about any minute now.  And then I hear something like what Mary said. It was like she was talking directly to me, "Simone, you're living out your Plan A. Right now. Make the most of it, sister, because God's plan is perfect and best."

I searched the Bible over the last few days for examples of others living out God's Plan A but maybe not realizing it. Here's what I came up with:

King David -- known as the man after God's own heart, but lived with intense consequences because of some poor decisions. We can read firsthand David's thoughts and prayers, as if reading his journal, in the Psalms. I always like to think of David as a bit moody! One Psalm will be filled with praise and thanksgiving, and then next he will be crying and longing for answers from God. Sound familiar? God's plan for David was never rerouted. The day David wrote Psalm 16 seems like a day he understood his own Plan A, "You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." (v.11) 

Moses -- if you haven't read Exodus 3 and 4 lately, let me encourage you to do so. Moses was definitely struggling with God's Plan A for him. God said to Moses, "I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt." How did Moses respond? "Who am I...that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?" (3:11) And then 4:1 is the kicker when Moses said, "What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say?" I could just hug Moses for his honestly. He asked three questions throughout his dialog with God that I find many of us asking as well: who, what if, and please Lord, are you sure? (see 4:10) Like Moses, we want the details! When you find yourself asking these same questions, try to remember what God says back to Moses: "Certainty I will be with you..." (3:12), "I am who I am" (3:14), "I am the Lord" (6:2).

Jesus -- talk about a plan that would be hard to jump on board with. Plan A for Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, betrayal by his people, and death on the cross. I see the humanity in Jesus when He requests to have this "cup" removed from him if it would be God's will (Luke 22:42). But we know it was God's will for Jesus to die on the cross. And thank Him that Plan A for Jesus was death so that you and I can live. 

I realize this post might be more for me than anything, but I felt responsible to share with you what God is showing me. Plan A is today, right now. And it is good, intended for God's glory, and training us for righteousness. So remind me of this when you hear me question the unknowns in my life and details yet to be revealed. And I'll do the same for you, sisters. 

Here's to Plan A!

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Battle

The luncheon just ended. I came directly from the gathering to my desk to recap all that I just heard...I wanted to relay the information for those of you who couldn't join us from a fresh mind! Three women with three very different stories shared with us how they are living out biblical womanhood in their lives today and the battle they face day in and day out. And although each woman was unique and had a very specific message on what God is showing her today, they did have one common thread: living as God's woman isn't easy. We all face the ups and downs of living a life with a biblical perspective. To be honest, we really aren't that good at it! If we were, we wouldn't depend on Jesus as much as we need to. But with the difficulty of living a godly life, striving to be a biblical woman in every aspect, we are met with God's unending, never-ceasing, always enough, grace. Each of the women today expressed their awareness of God's grace and goodness in their life, even when it was undeserved and unappreciated.

Meet Natalie Worley:
Natalie literally grew up in the church. With her parents both serving in ministry her entire life (her dad was the Executive Pastor at TMC for many years) she is no stranger to watching those around her live out Christianity. From early on, she began serving at the church as well and used her gifts to impact others. Just recently, she graduated from nursing school and began working full time as an RN. It was this transition, Natalie explained, that tested her like nothing she had ever experienced. She felt "ready" to begin working as a nurse full time, but what she wasn't ready for, she said, was the firsthand witness to the deep depravity of the human soul. She knew that her job was to extend the best care to her patients, but she quickly learned the depth of people's needs extended beyond what she could give them. So Natalie explained that she was faced with reality like never before. She was exposed to the darkness of the world and was discouraged by all she saw. She admits that she was overwhelmed by circumstances and began to forget the foundations of her faith that she had been taught her whole life.

Thankfully, with time, Natalie was able to refocus and remember her first Love. But she explained that the Gospel has a new meaning to her -- that without Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you truly are lost and hopeless. She shared Psalm 32:1-2 with us as a reminder for those who do know Jesus as Savior, "Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit."

Natalie, I want to personally say to you that the radiance of Christ is all around you! When you shared your story, your vulnerability and honesty about your tough times encouraged every woman there. Mary said it best when she said, "Tough places in life is where God grows you up." I believe fully that God is using you in the lives and souls of those you serve both at work and in life. I pray you continue to pursue your quest to be an authentic Godly woman with your entire self, as you showed today. Thank you.

Next meet Jocelyn Carter:
I was ready to jump up and high five Jocelyn when she finished her story. Jocelyn spoke on a topic that is (1) difficult to talk about and (2) not always easily understood. She tackled submission. As a self-proclaimed high-achieving, self-made, go-getter, perfectionist, Jocelyn was influenced to believe that headship and submission was...ridiculous. Based on several circumstances in her life growing up, she was determined to rely only on herself to get things done. Then, she meets Les (her now husband.) Les had an entirely different background than Jocelyn and she said the two of them could not have been any more opposite! So when they fell in love and began to prepare for marriage, they had to work through the concept of submission. It was Jocelyn's first and foremost submission to the Lord that helped her begin to understand this tricky and misunderstood (but very biblical) concept. She explained that submission isn't about power but love. It isn't about losing yourself to someone else, but willingly giving of yourself to someone. She described it as an "exercise of faith." She began to see that she could trust Les as someone God would use as a leader in their family and that it didn't mean she would no longer have a voice. She described their marriage as a partnership that doesn't place value on roles or expectations (for example, she does most of the cooking and Les does most of the cleaning...this is just they way it works for them!), but instead, they commit to each other to always work at placing the needs of the other before themselves. That, ladies, is no easy task.

She reminded us of the Proverbs 31 woman and how "Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life." (Prov. 31:11-12)

Jocelyn, I already told you this, but I am so thankful that you were bold enough to talk about such a touchy subject. Many women, myself included, have struggled with the calling of submission and I know that many of us were encouraged to hear about your journey through it. Thanks for your honestly and obedience (can I say submission!?) to God's leading you to share this today. Praise be to God!

Finally, meet Joyce Lowman:
Joyce is the type of woman that when she speaks, you want to listen. There is a certain tone in her voice, twinkle in her eye, and love in her spirit that you are just drawn in to her! She was just as delightful when she shared how she battles with being a biblical woman and I found incredible comfort in her story.  Joyce said she knew from her early days that all she wanted to do was grow up and be a mom. She remembers loving children from early on and always being a part of children's ministry. So when the day came she and her husband were ready to begin their own family, Joyce was blindsided when they were unable to get pregnant. Years went by and still no children. Finally, when Joyce was in her 40s, she said she realized that she would never experience this dream of being a mom. Understandably, Joyce said she questioned God and didn't understand why He wouldn't bless her with a family. The questioning led to pity for herself. Then finally, Joyce began to question her significance. If she couldn't be a mom, what could she offer the world? It was in this state of brokenness that God began to show Himself to Joyce in new ways. Her mind shifted to believe that she is priceless because she is a daughter of the King. Things, relationships, children, careers -- they don't define us. But a true woman of God will search out her calling that God has for her, even if it is different then what we desire. Joyce began serving the church with a fresh heart. She has served as a mentor in our Shepherding Program for years and has impacted countless women with her story. And now she and her husband are facing another difficult phase in life -- how, when, and what will retirement look like for them? But this time around, she is facing adversity with a different approach. Joyce is facing it head on because her theology is grounded: God is Sovereign.

Joyce reminds me of verse 30 in Proverbs 31, "...a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised." 

Joyce, you are an example to us all on how to humble yourself before the Lord and trust Him in all circumstances. Thank you for your openness and courage to share the ups and downs of your walk with Jesus over the years.

That ladies, just about sums it up! It was a fantastic time together and I'm continually encouraged by the women at TMC who are seeking after the Lord to honor and glorify Him in all they do. Have I mentioned before that you are not alone on this journey? Remember that when tempted to think otherwise. The battle can be won because our Redeemer has paved the way.

Much love, sisters!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pray to Pray

How many of you can say you've mastered the discipline of prayer? Sometimes I feel like I'm going backwards rather then forward...not a good feeling. As you know, I've been more intentional about being in the Word (so far so good!) which has resulted in (1) an exposure of my sin (yuck!) and (2) a renewed passion for prayer (yay!). You hope that if you see more sin in your life your response is prayer! But now I'm faced with "how do I pray!?" I'm excited about this quest because I'm confident the Lord will show me. Stay tuned.
Pastor Eric had a one liner from his message on Sunday is really sticking with me this week as I'm focusing on prayer, "Stop trying harder and start looking harder." So that's it...I'm praying to pray because I know that it isn't based on how I try. I agree with Eric; prayer (or any spiritual matter) will be better integrated in our lives when we look more intently at the cross and meditate on what Jesus did for us...and how that plays out in our lives today. Have a I seen results yet? Yes. I went a few more hours then usual before loosing my mind with my kids yesterday. Anything is possible.

I want to leave you with this: take a few minutes and watch this video about prayer. I hope you find it as inspirational as I do.

Praying, reading, blogging...all of this sanctification is making me tired! And keep the comments coming, sisters. It is good to hear from you and serves as a good reminder that we're all in it (that is, life) together.


PS: don't forget the Women's Luncheon is this Saturday at 11am. I promise you'll enjoy it! RSVP to

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

40 days of what?

Hi friends, today is the first day of Lent. For the next 40 days, many Christians will be preparing their hearts and minds for Resurrection Sunday. Like many of you, I ponder every year what this season will look like for me. Years ago, I would give up chocolate for Lent just to have a battle with the famous "Thin Mint" Girl Scout Cookies. And every year, the cookies would win out.

Then there was a season I didn't do anything for Lent -- I didn't want to be legalistic and live by a set of rules. But this year, the more I think of it, there is nothing I desire more then to have a heart prepared for worship on Easter. Perhaps a 40-day-get-my-heart-ready journey is exactly what I need. So after some thought and brainstorming, I decided to commit to this: waking up at 5:30 am each morning and spending 30 minutes in prayer and meditation. And here is why:

1) The Challenge -- getting up early isn't easy for me. When asked if I'm a night person or morning person, I always say, "I'm neither! I like my sleep!" It's true. But the challenge of getting up early and committing 30 minutes to the Lord sounds doable...and even a bit silly. Shouldn't I have been doing this all my life? When we face a challenge and muster the courage to overcome it, we are better for it. I think of what Paul said in Philippians, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Talk about the ultimate challenge...that helps put my 5:30 am wake-up call into perspective.

2) The Meditation -- I read a quote recently that impacted me: "How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God...It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God into a matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God." We all know that person who knows so much about God but there seems to be little reflection of that knowledge in their life and actions. I am that person from time to time. I'm motivated now to meditate on God's word with the hopes that this discipline will produce deep love and praise for God. J.I. Packer says that meditation is "an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communication with God." And let's remember Psalm 119:15-16, "I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word."

3) The Denial -- Denying yourself of one thing to remember another thing can be effective. For example, denying myself a new pair of shoes will remind me that I'm on a budget. Or even better, denying myself to not even go to the shoe store (or to be honest, I do most of my shoe shopping online!) will remind me that I don't need a new pair of shoes. You get the idea -- the more I think about new shoes, the more I remember I don't need them! I'm hoping the same effect happens with the denial of my instincts that say I need more sleep at 5:30 am. The denial of my sleep over the next 40 days is supposed to trigger a reminder of my deep, deep need of Jesus. Think of Mark 8:34, "Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.'"

4) The Sharing -- I'm a big fan of community! I think it is important that we remember that we are not alone on this journey. I felt led to share with all of you that this is my goal during the Lent season because I'd like the accountability. It is so easy to start with high ambitious only to scarf down the entire box of Girl Scout Cookies on the second day. But also remember what Jesus tells us on the Sermon on Mound (Matthew 6:16-18):

"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

So if you too are feeling led to fast or try something new during this Lent season, let us know and post what you're doing below. But let us also remember that the Lord requires a humble and meek praise to Him and not to us!

And just to be sure I'm getting the most out of my 30 minutes each morning over the coming weeks, I plan to have a box of Thin Mints by my side!