Praying for God to change others

Have you ever prayed for God to change someone? Maybe they were being a thorn in your side. A royal pain. Maybe you felt like they needed a good, swift kick in the pants. Or maybe you just thought you knew there was something better out there for them.

I used to pray for God to change others…until I realized instead of God changing the other person, He was changing me.

Every. Single. Time!

It’s like he wasn’t concerned about changing the other guy at all! Come on, God!!

He would slowly change my attitude and perspective little by little. It would sneak up on me. God can be tricky like that!

Sometimes I would be the one to fall flat on my face and then realize I was the one with the problem all along. Sometimes after a long period of time, I would look back and see changes in myself along the way and recognize what God had been up to all along.

A few days ago, I was really upset about something. And where I would normally pray for God to change the other person, I found myself asking God to change my heart. To work on me. This is huge for me! I’m normally not that smart! 🙂

I’m finally realizing it’s not my business to try to change others. I am responsible only for myself. I can only do the best I can in difficult situations and believe that God will see me through them. And be open to learning through experiences.

So while it’s easier to hope and pray for others to change, I’m learning that most of the time, I’m the one who needs change. And while it still kind of irks me that I’m the one who has to change, I’m thankful for the lessons I’m learning. For the ways that God is teaching me to think, act and love differently.

What experiences have you had with this?

The greatest commandments and the meaning of life

In Matthew 22, one of the Pharisees asks Jesus a question to try to trap him:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

I’ve thought about these verses a lot lately.

The Greatest Thing
The greatest thing we can do in life is to love God and others. If we truly love as Christ calls us to do, the kingdom of Heaven is near. Love is evident, and Christ is evident.

Love doesn’t sit still. Love moves. It acts. It sees a need and meets it. It fights for injustice. It comforts those who mourn. The list goes on! Love is noticeable. It’s different. It stands out.

The meaning of life
What is the meaning of life? People are always looking for the answer to this question. The reason we are all here in the first place. Something to give this life meaning. We analyze this question and come at it from all sorts of different angles, but maybe we over complicate it.

Lately, it seems to me that the meaning of life may rest in these 2 greatest commandments. Love God. And love others.

We can screw up everything else, but if we open our eyes each day expecting to find ways to love God and those around us, life will be a success. Of course we want to do well at work, have a great family, etc. but in the midst of all that, if the most important thing we do everyday is to show at least one person love, every day is a win. And God wins! Our love can’t help but point others to God. It’s really pretty easy. Well, except for when it’s hard. 🙂

May we learn a little more each day what it means to truly love God and others. May we allow God to transform us through His great love. And may we choose to love freely and openly and be quick to act in love.

Infertility, Messiness and Hope

carry on

When my oldest son was almost 2, I decided I was ready to have another baby.  We had always dreamed about having two kids.  We tried for months and months and months to get pregnant with no luck.  I’m a worrier, so with each passing month, my freak-out factor went way up!  And with each passing month, the more upset I got.  More frustrated.  More sad.  More angry.  More depressed.

When we had been trying for 2 years, I decided to go see a fertility doctor.  All my tests came back perfectly normal, so the doctor thought this was going to be easy.  I wound up doing three treatments with this doctor.  Clomid, injections, and IUI’s.  I had to take breaks in between months because I would develop huge cysts due to the drugs.

Looking back, I realize I was massively depressed.  I couldn’t think about anything for 2 1/2 years besides my pain and trying to figure out how to fix it.  I hurt extremely deeply.  But for the most part, infertility is something we don’t talk about.  At least I didn’t feel like I could talk about it.  It felt like no one understood me.  I felt alone.

During this time, a dear friend of mine was already going to an infertility support group, so I finally decided to go with her.  Previous to this experience, I never ever thought I would step foot into a support group.  And had it not been for my friend, I probably never would have gone.  It proved to be a huge help.  It was great to realize that I wasn’t alone.  It gave me a group of people who knew exactly what I was going through, knew the terminology of the treatments, the feelings I was feeling, and the highs and lows of the journey.  I’m a fan of groups like these now.  If you need help, get it!  Find a group that you can connect with to help you feel as normal as possible.

After I found out my third treatment didn’t work, I hit my lowest of lows.  I had begged God to let me get pregnant before a few of my friends got pregnant with their second kids.  This is horrible, I know, but it shows how low I was.  One night, one of these friends called to tell me that she was pregnant.  The very next night, the other friend called to tell me she was pregnant.  This was more than I could take.  My husband was gone to a school event, so he wasn’t home.  I wound up having to call my parents to come take care of my oldest son because I was absolutely hysterical.  My mom talked with me and did everything she could to calm me down, but I was a huge wreck.  Huge wreck!

The next day after this, I had another doctor appointment.  When I went in, I was told that I had another set of really large cysts, and I was going to have to wait three months to do another treatment.  And the doctor thought that the next treatment should be my last.  I wound up holding my tears in until I got to the parking lot, and then I lost it.  I called into work and told them that I was not coming in that day and went home.  I sat on my back porch doing everything I could to calm down until my mom came over to cheer me up.

Along the way through this journey, some friends had told me about an N.D. in Arkansas who had helped some friends of theirs.  I always thought that was kind of weird, but when I was out of options, I wrote a short letter to the guy and a few days later he wrote me back to tell me what he thought the problem was.  I immediately started taking the herbs that he had suggested, and after three days of taking the herbs (trust me!), I was pregnant.  I fully believe the Holy Spirit led my friends to tell me about this doctor, and that the Holy Spirit was at work in this whole situation.

When I found out I was pregnant, a ton of feelings and thoughts raged within me.  I was happy, but I still had a lot of emotions I needed to work through.  I was still angry and frustrated at how the last 2 1/2 years had gone.  And it took a good while to work through all of this.

When I was 9 weeks along, I had my first ultrasound and found out that I was pregnant with twins.  Because of all of the ultrasounds I had endured over the last two years, I had gotten really good at telling what was on the screen.  So, as soon as the picture came on the screen, I knew there were two babies.  I knew before the new ultrasound tech knew. 🙂

The pregnancy was hard.  My back hurt like crazy while my body stretched and I became enormous!!  I wanted to do everything possible to make sure that the babies were healthy and minimize the chances of them being born too early.  So, I ate like crazy.  I went to work, but that was it.  If I wasn’t at work, I was at home laying on the couch.  I quit going to church…really anywhere.

When I found out that we were having a boy and a girl, I was really excited!  And on the way back to work after the doctor appointment where we found out, I realized how much of a blessing I had been given by God.  I had always wanted two boys.  Then after my oldest son was born, I started praying for a girl.  On the car ride back to work, I realized God had given me everything that I had asked for.  I had to wait years to have another baby, but I felt like God was telling me that he had heard my prayers and blessed me more than I could have possibly imagined years before.

Sadie and Luke were born on February 2nd, 2011 during a crazy, crazy winter storm.  Sadie was 4 lbs., 15 oz. and Luke was 5 lbs., 15 oz.  They were three weeks early, but they were perfectly healthy and did not have to go to the NICU at all.  As I lay on the table waiting on my doctor to stitch me up after my C-section, hearing both babies cry was the most beautiful sound I may ever hear.  I lay on the table cracking up at how crazy the last 3 years had been, how crazy it was to have two tiny, tiny healthy babies crying nearby and how crazy things were going to be in our house for a while.

I’m not going to lie, the last three years have been majorly crazy.  They have been really hard.  But they have been beautiful!

Sadie and Luke are my miracle babies.  After I found out I was having twins, I asked my OB and my infertility doctor if the previous month’s fertility meds had anything to do with me having twins.  Both doctors said the drugs had nothing to do with it.  The drugs were fully out of my system.

God had everything to do with it!


–My Messy Beautiful

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

Book Recommendation

If you know me much at all, you know that I am a voracious reader. I absolutely love books! Any kinds of books! I’ll read anything! Fiction. Non-fiction. Classics. Sci-fi. Religious. Biographies. Anything! I enjoy it all!

Because I read so much, I’m pretty picky about what I read. I want to read good, quality writing and not waste my time on mediocre or poor writing. (Though I will make an exception at times when I’m in the mood for an easy, fun read.)

But most of the time I base my judgement of a book on how I felt about it. Did I enjoy the story? Could I absolutely not put it down? Did it leave me wanting more?

This all being said, I just finished a book that I absolutely loved. It is Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth by Hugh Halter.

I loved this book! While reading it, I kept interrupting Chris while he was watching TV to read him quotes. I recommended it to the preacher at my church. I highlighted about half of the book, and I now feel like I need to re-read it to fully understand what it was saying. So many times in this book, I found myself saying “Yes. Yes. Yes!!!”

So, if you enjoy reading at all, I suggest you read this book! It is powerful and encouraging, and it has made me want to get off my rear and move!


My Story

I had another realization this Sunday in Bible Class.

I was saved and baptized when I was 9 years old. That’s pretty young, but I fully understood what I was doing and felt called by God. I have always been someone who follows rules, so before my salvation experience, I was a good little 9-year-old kid. Afterwards, I was still a good little 9-year-old kid.  I don’t have a big conversion story where there was a drastic change in my life.

I have always struggled with how to share my testimony when I don’t have much to say about my conversion experience. Of course I sinned before I was saved, but I’ve sinned plenty after I was saved too.

But lately, in our Becoming a Contagious Christian series, we’ve talked a lot in our class and LIFE Group about the “becoming” part. We tend to put a lot of emphasis on the initial conversion experience, but the reality is we will continue “becoming” for the rest of the time that we are on this Earth.

I’ve realized that my story includes my conversion experience, but then it also includes every other experience from that point on. How I’ve screwed up and been redeemed…over and over! Lessons that I have learned along the way. Ways that I have grown.  Ways that God has obviously shown up and in my life and touched me.  How I’ve lost faith over and over again along the way and God continues to bring me back to him.  How God has truly been changing my life.  How God has loved me through it all!

And I’ve realized that because of the experiences I have had, I find it much easier to connect with people.  That doors to spiritual conversations will be flung open wide if I choose to listen to others’ stories and help any way I can from the experiences that I have had.  And people need to see how we are allowing God to change our lives on a daily basis!

Everyone’s conversion experience is incredibly important!  Just don’t forget that the rest of your story is equally important!  And people need to hear about it!

Stop trying to convert people!

I had the realization in Bible class on Sunday that as long as I think that I’m in the converting business, I’m probably not going to do much. I’m going to feel overwhelmed and do nothing.

We have grown up being told that we need to convert people…get them saved! We’ve been trained our whole lives to do this.

But the reality is, the vast majority of us (me included!) are not even attempting it! We’re scared out of our minds about it!

The task seems too great! We are unsure of what to say or do. It seems like such a big deal, a lot of work, and probably a whole of time that we would need to invest in order to see a conversion take place. It’s completely overwhelming.

But if I shift my focus to just having a spiritual conversation, I feel like I can do that. It starts to seem possible. If a spiritual conversation is my ultimate goal…and I give God the job of converting (it’s been his job all along!), that feels like a lot less pressure!

It’s kind of nice to realize that it’s not all up to me. I can be a small step in someone’s journey and not have to feel responsible for the outcome. That’s between them and God. And it’s really kind of selfish of me to think I have a bigger role in this thing than I really do. Yes, God will use us. But ultimately it’s all about God. And we’re here to give him the glory.

Doing Prayer Differently

Prayer for me is a living, breathing thing. It changes as I change…or rather as God changes me. It has evolved over time as I have lived and experienced life.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways my prayers have changed over the years.

As a kid, I knew I was supposed to pray, so I did.  (Rule follower to the max!)  But I remember distinctly that I would pray and then spend quite a bit of time just laying in bed trying to listen for God.  Just waiting to hear a word from him.  I can’t say that I ever heard much, but I’m proud of the young me for realizing that I needed to listen to God and trying to do just that in my own little way.

As an adult, I have gone through a few periods of time where basically my only prayer is “Help me!”  I had too much going on, was too upset, was too unsure of what to pray for, so “Help me!” seemed like the best thing to pray.  Sometimes I would just repeat this over and over.  Sometimes I would scream out to God in my head through desperation.  I still love this prayer for when I don’t know what else to say.  Those two words say a lot for me.  I’m admitting I don’t know what to do.  I’m admitting I’ve screwed up.  I’m asking God to help in whatever way he thinks is the best.  Not putting any of my desires out there.  Realizing that God knows better than I do and that if I let him handle it, things are going to be alright.

Then over the last three years or so, my prayers have changed in another way.  Frequently, I will use visualization.  One Sunday in Bible class, we were talking about prayer and I felt like I really wanted to share my recent experience, but I chickened out.  On the way home, I told Chris that I had felt this way in class, and he said I should have mentioned it.  That it really could have helped people.

One night a few years ago, I was so upset, frustrated, and stressed out to the max.  I decided that I was going to relax in the Jacuzzi and pray.  While I was praying and asking God to help me, I felt like he was telling me that I needed to let him pull away layers of hardness around my heart.  Hardness that I had spent a lifetime building around my heart in hopes that it would protect me.  But I had come to a place where I realized I was never going to get better as long as the fort around my heart was standing.  So, I was like “Alright, God!  Start tearing off pieces!”  And in my mind, I visualized him chiseling at the hardness, slowly taking away piece by piece.  Some pieces took awhile and were really painful to remove.  They were really stuck.  Some chipped off pretty easily.  God was so loving through this.  I’m not sure how long I sat there doing this little visualization, but I can tell you that when it was done I was a changed person.  I could even feel physically that my heart felt better.  It felt raw.  Parts of it felt like they were bleeding a little from the process of removing the hard stuff.  I felt like God had worked a miracle in my life.  I was free from a lot of junk I had been holding onto.  I have repeated this specific visualization experience a few times over the last few years, and I find that it is useful for me to return to it.  To make time to admit to God that I’m letting certain areas of my heart get hard again and allow him to do his work again!

And really recently, I have been asking God to make my heart and my love for people and him bigger.  When I pray this, I visualize my heart spreading out and filling up the room, spreading and growing until it covers the whole world.  I’m not sure yet how this is useful, but this has been part of my prayers.  I’m sure someday I’ll look back and see how God used these prayers.

I love that prayer is a living, breathing thing.  There are so many ways to do prayer, and God honors and loves them all!  I would love to hear ways that your prayer life has changed over the years and ways that you pray!  I encourage you to share your stores!

One way I believe Christians are hurting the church

My church is studying the Becoming a Contagious Christian material by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg. I’ve been really pumped about this study and the potential it has for our church and people. I’m excited about our members learning to be more contagious, how to have more spiritual conversations naturally, etc. I’m excited about more non-Christians finding Christ and enjoying a relationship with him. I’m excited about these people joining churches (not necessarily ours), getting plugged in and being loved on by other Christians. It’s a whole lot of excitement!

But I have to be honest with you.  There’s a part of me that is nervous to ask and bring new people to church.  Again, not just my church…any church.  It would be one thing if church people were absolutely perfect people that always treated everyone well.  But we’re not perfect people.  We’re just as messed up as everyone else.  We still need God to change our lives too!  Daily!  And don’t get me wrong, that is all an extremely beautiful thing.  That we can come together as messed up, broken, nutty people and learn from each other, serve together, experience Christ together, etc.  It’s beautiful!

That all being said, one of the ways that I believe Christians are hurting the church and the influence of the church is by the way we speak to and about one another.  And there are three ways I believe we do this.

We like to gossip.

Honestly, we are just as bad or worse than non-Christians about this.  And we’re so used to it, that most of the time, it doesn’t phase us at all.  We sit there and have no problem listening to friends who are gossiping about someone.  We don’t do anything about it.  It’s so bad that a lot of the time, we don’t even think it is gossip.  It’s just the way we talk!  And most of the time we join in!  How horrible is that!  I would hope that if someone is talking about me, my church friends would step up and stop it!  Not let it go on!  And I believe that is exactly what Christ would want us to do.  For us not to be so complacent and passive when we hear others gossiping.  To be bold and show courage to encourage the right kind of behavior and speech about others.

We like to complain.

Someone recently told me that the easiest way to start a conversation at church is to complain about something.  How true that is!  People can talk all day long about something they’re upset about!  And it’s so easy to join in on these kinds of conversations!  But this griping and complaining never helps things.  It might make us feel better in the short run that we got to vent, but it never solves the problem.  It just creates more problems.  More people are now upset about things that otherwise would not have been upset because they listened to others’ complaints.  It’s like a snowball that keeps rolling faster and faster and getting bigger and bigger until it is out of control and extremely dangerous.

We like to share confidential information.

Sometimes we like to cover this form of gossip up by making it into a prayer request.  Sometimes we just really want to share what we know about someone.  Sometimes we feel like the person we are telling the information to just really needs to hear it.  But here’s the deal, it’s never OK to share confidential information.  Ever!  If someone has shared something in confidence, it does not need to be shared.  Period.  Not much more to say about this.

These ways that we speak to and about one another are dangerous for the church!  Satan would love to get us all riled up about silly things and divide us any way he can so that we are not as effective.  He’s really good at this!  Why do we let ourselves get caught up in these petty things when there are so many bigger, better things out there for us to talk about and do?

The church is a wonderful, beautiful thing!  Let’s (and I’m definitely including myself in this) be intentional about the ways we speak to and about one another!  Let’s be contagious!

Thy Kingdom Come

I’m embarrassed to say how long I’ve thought this, but here goes!

Up until recently, when someone I knew got saved and accepted Christ into their hearts and lives, I was like “Woohoo! Another person escaping Hell when they die! They get to go to Heaven! Yay!!!”

While that is all true, I really missed the point. There’s way more to salvation!

It’s not all about just making sure you wind up in Heaven one day. The truth is that as soon as you are saved, you start the journey of experiencing Heaven on Earth. Life isn’t the same.

Putting Christ on in salvation and baptism is just the first step on the road to having a relationship with God. And in this relationship, and the developing of it, is where you see Heaven on Earth. It’s where you feel his presence, his love, his grace, his forgiveness, his mercy, etc. And these things draw us closer to God.

So, I was wrong. And I’m glad I was wrong and have realized how much more is out there for us!

God’s kingdom is coming…but it’s also already here with us. Because God is here with us!

And it’s just a bonus that we get to spend eternity with him too!