Becoming – Part 2 This One is Actually Mostly About the Conference

I can say that the women who teach at these SHE conferences live what they teach. They are the real deal. They don’t insist that you do one thing while they do another. In the week leading up to the conference, I was struggling with bitterness and anger and unforgiveness like I mentioned in the last post. It was really getting insane and taking over everything. I was unkind to a couple of people the Wednesday before the conference. One of them was one of the ladies that teach at SHE. I reckon she must have spent the last half of the week laughing at me, knowing what she’d be teaching on, but she swears she wasn’t so I’ll believe her. Ha. I found it more than a little amusing that I had said some things that I shouldn’t have to her, and yet she was speaking about the power of our words. The same weekend the two ladies who spoke about the power of our words taught that session, those same two ladies used their words to edify me and build me up.

Thursday, the day before the conference, I asked a question on Facebook about how to get rid of bitterness and unforgiveness, because I was just done with it. It was consuming me, and the progression had gotten faster in recent months. I’m not going to go back on the 12-step tangent, but suffice it to say that my life truly had become unmanageable in this area. One of my long-time friends replied to my question and said that he prays the Lord ’s Prayer every day. I hit him up in a private message and said: “I asked a serious question, could you please give me your serious answer?” He replied with a smiley face saying that was his serious answer. I was confused. Surely it couldn’t be that easy, I mean, after all, this problem was eating me up. Upon thinking further on his answer, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try what he had said. After all, making a declaration of forgiveness might help me actually do it. I have to say that his suggestion was awesome. I do pray the Lord ’s Prayer every day, even when I don’t pray about anything else, except that I personalize it. Here’s how I say it:

My Father in heaven, may your name always be kept holy. May your kingdom come and what you want be done, here on earth as it is in heaven. Give me the food I need for each day. Forgive me my sins, just as I have forgiven those who sin against me. And do not cause me to be tempted, but save me from the Evil One. The kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours forever. Amen. – Matthew 6:9-13 adapted from NCV.
When I started saying “forgive me my sins, just as I have (past tense) forgiven those who sin against me” it implied that I had already forgiven. I chose to declare it despite my feelings, and I’ve found that the more I declare forgiveness, the more my feelings follow my declaration.

Not only were the two ladies who had chosen to build me up during the week with their words speaking about that very topic, but another of my friends was teaching about forgiveness in her session. They were giving us pieces of colored sea-glass to remind us of all the concepts we were learning, and one of the ones for the session about grace and mercy, was purple, and purple is my favourite color. Yes, I also noticed the irony of that. That something I was struggling so hard with, that I had begged God to help me with, would be symbolized with my favorite color.

The ladies teaching the session on grace and mercy used a quote from the Newsboys that I thought was great, and illustrated mercy and grace very well. “When you get what you don’t deserve, it’s a real good thing. When you don’t get what you deserve, it’s a real good thing.”

God has always used these events for me to speak to me right where I have been at. After the things that I learned that week, this even was great reinforcement, and encouragement. I think it’s so cool how God does that!
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Becoming – Part 1, The One Which is About the Conference But Not Really

This past weekend I attended an awesome women’s conference that was run by some very special ladies. The name of the conference was SHE – Becoming and these conferences are presented by Total Woman U. I’ve been to three of these events now, and they have all met me right where I was at in my journey at that particular moment.

Last year around this time was the first time I attended one of these events. I was new to my church and a lot (but not all) of the women on the faculty at Total Woman U attend my church. One of these ladies (the lovely Jenny) approached me last year and asked me if I wanted to come. Me being a great big ball of hurt said: “are you going to be telling me that my marriage problems are all my fault because I’m not submissive enough, and that I’m a rebellious woman because I work outside the home and am therefore out of God’s will for my life, and that I need to quit college and focus on being a homemaker? Because if that’s the crap you’re peddling, I ain’t coming! I’ve heard more than enough of that in my time.” Yes, I was rude. But Jenny recovered well and smiled and said that that wasn’t their message at all, their message that “you are a unique creation with a God-given identity and purpose.”

In the end I decided to attend the event mostly because I wanted to make friends so bad. But that first event was amazing and they talked a lot about writing which of course really spoke to me. Writing is my craft, my language, the thing that I was born to do and the thing I understand. That first event that I attended made me realize that there was so much more to life, and that I was writing a story with my life, and that if I was writing a story with my life, I wanted it to be a good one.

So, let’s get to the week before this year’s conference. I was struggling a lot with anger and bitterness and unforgiveness. I was on my knees begging God to take it away and telling him that I wanted it gone. I was horrible to a friend because my feelings had gotten hurt in the course of a conversation and I was afraid that she might decide she didn’t like me anymore, and I had already been dumped by almost all of my old friends because I changed beliefs. So instead of taking my friends criticism to heart and learning from it, I decided that I was going to attack before she could. After doing so, I was mad at myself for treating a friend like crap, and I felt unworthy of her friendship. So then I was afraid that I was going to lose her friendship because I deserved to lose her friendship. That just made the situation worse. The anger and bitterness I had towards others, and hurts I had about things other friends had said, festered inside of me.

I was then I realized that this situation was ridiculous and insane and that I was powerless. (Is this sounding familiar to anyone but me yet?) And finally that lead to that first step of admitting I was powerless over this situation and that my life in this area had become unmanageable. So then I came very quickly to the second step, where I came to believe that God (a power greater than myself) could restore me to sanity. Which lead to step number three where I made the decision to turn my will and life over to the care of God as I understood him. Then I got to step four, where I had to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself and this situation, and I had to admit that the incident that hurt my feelings was nothing compared to what I had done, and I specifically listed the ways in which I had done wrong, and then I admitted to God, and to myself, and to someone else, the exact nature of my wrong. (In this case, I admitted it to the people I had sinned against). Then I got to the sixth step where I was entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character. This was a huge deal for me, until this point in time I had been guarding my bitterness like a prized possession, thinking that if I let it go, I was going to lose something valuable to me. I thought that I was going to lose a part of who I was, since all these incidents had shaped me.

The seventh step is to humbly ask God to remove my shortcomings. Well, I don’t know if it was humbly or not. I was on my face begging God to remove them. I then made a list of the people that I had wronged in this specific situation, and became willing to make amends to them. Then I got to step nine and made amends as best I could, although I could not take back my words and my actions, I could apologize. I could ask for forgiveness, which was the most humiliating of all since I was asking forgiveness from a friend who knew I had issues with unforgiveness myself. That was the hardest thing for me. I tried to justify apologizing to her without asking for her forgiveness, but in the end I just couldn’t do it.

The final three steps are ongoing; the tenth is to continue to take personal inventory and, when I am wrong, to promptly admit it. That is harder to do with some people than with others. The eleventh is to use prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God, which is one that I am currently struggling to do. Step twelve is having a spiritual awakening as a result of taking the rest of the steps (and yes, it happens every time if I follow those steps) and to try to carry the message of the usefulness of these steps to personal healing to others (which is what I am doing when I write posts like this or encourage my struggling friends to come to a meeting with me and sharing how it has helped me) and to practice these principles in all of my affairs, which is why it was that I even thought to take this route in the first place.

And I just totally went off my original subject, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing, and so I am going to leave it like this. All of this is an important introduction to what I learned over the weekend at any rate, and it’s also a pretty good example of how to use the twelve steps as a spiritual discipline, how to use them in everyday life. These steps are not magic, and I know that it is Jesus who is the healer. But having some practical steps to follow so that I can recognize my situation and my need for God, and steps on how to repent and turn back to God, are very useful for me, and I know they can be useful for other people. It may not be the right thing for everyone, but for me it works very well, and sometimes when situations happen now, the steps start going through my head, or as it was in this case, I start working the steps without even realizing it.

In the next post I will actually take you to the conference itself. J

What I’ve Been Reading

I haven’t abandoned blogging, I’m still here. Life has just gotten crazy even though I love to write every day and I should write every day (well, that’s what all the writing books say, anyway). I have so much to say but if I don’t have the time to craft it and say it intelligently there probably isn’t a lot of point in writing it.

When we evacuated for Hurricane Isaac, I actually read some fiction, furthermore it was Christian fiction. It was one of those rare Christian fiction books that I actually enjoyed, and I think that might be because I could related to it. The book is called “When Sparrows Fall” by Meg Moseley. It it is about a woman with six children whose husband died and the woman is trapped in fundamentalism but wants a way out. Through life circumstances, she is given a way out, if she can recognize it and is brave enough to take it. I think the author captured some of the struggles of leaving fundamentalism very well.

My complaint with a lot of fiction, but Christian fiction in particular, is that it is shallow and that it ends abruptly. I also read “Angel Song” by Sheila Walsh and Kathryn Cushman, and it had a really good and fairly engaging story line. However, it’s a huge let-down to go through so much conflict, to have a relatively good climax, just to have the resolution shoved in at the end in one chapter, ending abruptly as if the author ran out over her word count and had to hurry to finish it. In fact, it didn’t even really seem like an ending to me, I read the final word and flipped the page, expecting to start the next chapter, when all I saw were the acknowledgements. I felt like the story was left unfinished. The story was unique though in incorporating angels, and I think she did that quite well. I believe in angels, I’m just not quite sure what I believe about them, but this book at least presented plausible theories.

I’m currently reading “Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus” by Lois Tverberg, and so far this book has been amazing. The book focuses on the Jewishness of Jesus. She takes some of the words of Jesus and adds the cultural Jewish background and it adds so much depth to Jesus’ words, I feel like I will know him better after reading this book.

I’m also currently reading “The Audacity of Hope” by Barack Obama. The more I read of his thoughts, the more I like the man. This is currently the book I have stashed in my purse for when I’m sitting in a waiting room or something of that nature.

I just finished “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller, and that I have to say that book was amazing and now I just have to watch the movie! Basically the book is about living a Christian life in a totally non-religious or even anti-religious environment, doing so encourages a different kind of growth where hypocrisy just isn’t tolerated and will be called it.

All of this is just my non school related reading! In the next few days I plan to post about some great children’s books, all of which I have gotten at the thrift store.