May 052015
 

 “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”  Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

My grandmother always quoted my grandfather in an old golf saying, “Never up, never in” she would yell to the scared sole ready to make a difficult putt into the final hole.  As somewhat frustrating as this scenario was at the time, I cannot help but think how these words ring truth to my now.  Character traits of fear, hesitancy, and timidness are not found in Jesus, neither should they be found in us, His followers.

To “swing” our clubs to win the hole parallels how we should live our lives faithfully in whatever season we find ourselves in.  If we seem to find ourselves on the OUTS of normal routines, we live IN to this season of gratitude for God’s provision and the gifts of receiving love.  We are called to live life with Jesus, to be faithful to what He is calling us IN to in the now, and to do it all in the grace, power and strength of His given Holy Spirit.

I know I am called to a new IN with Jesus, but right now all I feel is on the OUTS.  Of pretty much everything I was IN before.  The news of this pregnancy was most definitely God ordained.  (And it seems whenever I mention something in my life to be “God ordained”, it usually involved “not being ordained” by little ol’ me.)

And if I am honest with myself I am having to be vulnerable in my mourning the loss of all my INs from before.  Today I sit in the reality how I am OUT:  Of my previous calling as Worship Pastor at my church.  Of all leadership/life giving commitments.  Of every activity in general.  Of commission to be giving/serving in any capacity to my girls, friends, family and neighbors.  Of schedule with the Love it up-Putting on 15 love attributes in 2015 blog writing.  Of the carpool.  Of my regular Bible reading.  Of control in my bodily functions so much so there is a slim chance I will finish a conversation without having had to go puke at some point.  Of the luxury to plan what tasks will be accomplished in a given day or week.

I am out. Of. my. mind.  in. overwhelming. weakness.

And friends.  This is where I live.  Today.  But I am compelled to write.  Because I believe when we are called OUT of a particular season we are called IN to a new season.  (Another way to look at it, a friend said the other day, “When we are called FROM something, we are called TO something else.”)  And this is where my hope is found.

That even though I feel on the OUTS, I am IN the midst of God’s loving hands.  He put IN me the new life of a growing baby.  It is IN this growing of this baby that I am put IN a state of reliance on God and others.  I believe the Lord nudged my heart to lean IN because this would be a season of receiving.  Refreshment from the kind texts of close friends.  Meals from the body of Christ to keep my family nourished and cared for.  Daily help from a servant hearted mother.

This is what I believe my Father spoke to me in ministering to my heart, but I also believe this is for each of you as well:

Your worth is not determined by your season in life.  Your worth is not determined by your productivity in the day.  Your worth is not determined by the numbers of friends or opinions of friends.  Your worth is IN My Son, Jesus.  Alone.  You are fully loved.  Beautifully and wonderfully made.  And permanently secured in My grace filled arms.     May you stand firmly IN My truth and love today, My precious daughter.

What season/calling/activity do you find yourself OUT of? (something you have found yourself doing in the past but for whatever reason are not currently doing.)

What season do you find yourself IN today?

Will you ask the Lord if you are “swinging your club” to being faithful IN this season? 

Are you looking to anything other than Jesus to find your true worth?  If so, will you lay this down before Him and allow Him to fill you with affirmation and wholeness in His loving arms?

 

 

Jillian

Jillian

© 2012 Standing on Peace

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May 212013
 

When I signed up for a church ministry, I never anticipated it would bring me one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life.

“No one learns as much about a subject as one who is forced to teach it.” – Peter F. Drucker

We had been attending our church for about two years after I graduated from college.  Due to college commitments I had never gotten involved in a church ministry, but now I had time.  News in our church bulletin regarding the eating disorder ministry caught my eye.

Since I was fresh out of working through my own eating disorder and had a massive heart for anyone who suffered from the same agony,  I knew this was the ministry for me.

I had no idea what I would encounter when I arrived for my first week.

My involvement began with attendance to weekly support meetings.  I was simply a background presence as all the participants came to grow, be heard, and be encouraged.

The ministry was hurting for leaders.  It seemed as though there were many more people suffering from eating disorders than those able to help.  In a hurry, I was leading half of the weekly meetings and asked to take on mentoring girls one-on-one.

I had never felt so inadequate, weak and more like a hypocrite in my life.  I wasn’t actively living in my eating disorder, but I felt far from whole and truly healthy.

Before leading each meeting, before doing each one-on-one, my knees would shake so badly I was sure others could hear them rattling.  I would sweat with fear as I arrived.  And I learned to never hold my notes in my hand, but kept them resting on my lap, so as not to let anyone see how badly my hands were shaking.

It was stretching to say the least.

As time went by, God continued to give me new and meaningful things to share with the group and my girls.  But I was also awe struck by something different than expected.  I could never be entirely sure how the participants were changing – the deep within their hearts kind of change.  But I knew God and the girls were changing me.

I didn’t feel whole or worthy when I began the ministry.  Getting involved was risky, required vulnerability and created accountability for all of us.  But God was faithful to reveal to me how He had already healed me and where I still needed growth.

The group meetings kept me in tune with what healthy looked like.  But my one-on-ones held me accountable to be honest, inspired me to be whole, and kept God in every step along my continued healing path.  I set out to help others, but in turn, they helped me.

My mom used to always say to me, “to take your eyes off yourself, focus on how you can help others”.

Serving in the eating disorder ministry and mentoring girls one-on-one was one of the most beautiful, stretching and life-giving experiences I’ve ever been honored to be a part of.  For me, it gave new life and meaning to Mark 10:45.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Have you ever set out to serve others and found it profoundly changed you?  If you are finding yourself too self-focused these days, how can you look to serve others around you?

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© 2012 Standing on Peace

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Feb 152013
 

I’m not the expert on the topic of vulnerability. In fact, I’m far from it.

I do know, we’ve all been burned, beat up and bruised by our experiences with vulnerability.  We’ve been scared, walled off or numb to it.  Some of us want to open up, but are only at the “thinking about it stage”.

I will say there is wisdom in choosing who will be kind with your heart.  Who will hold it gently, without judgement.  You can be choose-y when it comes to those you want to expose your heart to.

Although I’m not the expert, I can share what my life experiences have taught me.  Maybe something from this page will glitter for you.

  1. Vulnerability is Uncomfortable.  When I am about to share something deeply personal with someone, when I am about to expose a part of my soul, I am usually accompanied by a racing heart, sweaty palms, or churning stomach.  Rarely has sharing my story been as comfortable as talking to myself in the mirror.  Opening ourselves for possible wounds goes against our nature.  It does get a little easier each time though.
  2. Vulnerability Often Breeds Depth.  More times than not, when I have shared my heart with someone or exposed a weakness of mine with them, an unknown depth is introduced into the relationship.  Our souls can connect on a real level.  It does away with the tendency to stay on the surface, which can offer little meaning.  I have a collection of what I call,“heart friends”, now because I am trying to choose the path of sharing the intricacies of me.
  3. Vulnerability Brings Freedom.  Once I have shared my heart and it has been received, a burden is often lifted.  My shame, my darkness, my insecurities no longer fester in the darkness, but are brought into the light to process, heal, and hopefully help others.  “For you are all sons of light and sons of day.  We are not of night nor of darkness.” 1 Thessalonians 5:5
  4. Vulnerability Can Turn Perceived Weaknesses into Strengths.  I used to think my eating disorder was something to be ashamed of.  Something I should keep to myself.  But since practicing talking about it with others, I see that it is changing from a perceived weakness to a strength.  Others who suffer familiar pains can relate.  They can feel less alone.  They can see hope.  Some of the things we are most scared to be vulnerable about are the exact things someone else needs to hear to move on, to breathe, to feel normal.

I love this quote I read today:

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.   Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

– Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead

Are you craving to be more vulnerable in your life?  Are you wanting more depth in a relationship?  Do you have someone who will be kind with your heart?

 

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© 2012 Standing on Peace

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Jan 182013
 

My first experience with vulnerability was a train-wreck. I believed those around me who had told me vulnerability would bring connection and healing. Instead, it offered me a lethal blow and left me in pieces for over a year afterwards.

My eating disorder had gotten so out of control, I could no longer function properly and I could no longer hide it.

So I told my boyfriend of 4 years that I had a problem. I needed help.

He told me he could never marry someone as weak as me. We broke up about six months later.

It wasn’t until about four years later I realized I had turned my back on vulnerability. I had built major walls. And I was terribly lonely deep within because of it.

At just the right time, God gave me a growth group leader who would change me.

As is typical with a new Bible study group, many of us did not know each other well. Trust and vulnerability had to be earned and cultivated over time.

Our leader came in every week, wearing her heart on her sleeve. She shared her struggles, her hurts, her joys. She creatively thought of prompts and exercises to help us each open up. Some of us did, some of us didn’t. But she never let on that she was disheartened. She just kept on being vulnerable with us.

Week after week, I watched in sheer amazement at how our leader was able to bring out the “realness” in others. Even if they weren’t planning on sharing, they would. She asked pointed questions, but more importantly, she let us into her soul. And revealing her soul wasn’t usually the easy version either.

I never got to the point of true vulnerability in her group. I never was able to let them into the parts of me that were eating at my soul. But in my heart, I loved and admired her ability to share herself. At times I was envious that she could be so brave. How would I ever be there too?

Through her interactions with our group, she lit a flame inside of me. I wanted to be this kind of person. To be someone who could draw out others, by sharing my heart. To be someone who breaks down the wall of superficiality and prompts sharing stories that run red. To be someone who doesn’t turn her back on vulnerability. To be someone who believes and trusts that vulnerability touches souls.

She touched my soul. She was one person who God used to send me down a very different path. Her example marinated in my soul and has shown me what vulnerability can do.

Our being vulnerable can impact others deeply and have a lasting effect. Even if we don’t see it right away. Even if we never see it’s effect. We must trust it is in sharing our hearts – our joys, our hurts, our fears, our pasts, our futures – we open ourselves up to God’s love, healing and gift of meaningful friendship.

What does your relationship with vulnerability look like today? Have you turned your back to it? Or are you open to sharing your story in order to help others?

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Jan 172013
 

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let downthe nets for

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Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such

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a large number of fish that their nets began to break.

“ ~ Luke 5:4-6

This scripture kept me company 5 years ago when we were considering the purchase of our first house—an old farmhouse in Oregon I had been dreaming of for 4 years. Despite the seeming impossibilities, I felt a strong challenge to believe that God would give it to us. Something this abundant required more faith than I’d ever had to muster before.

It is a vulnerable thing to open ourselves and wait, nets hanging there, for the thing we really want. Letting down our nets requires letting down our guard.

This is especially true when we’ve been working the same stretch of water for a while. At the time we bought the house, I sensed I would need this kind of vulnerable and tenacious faith not just for the move, but for the next season of life.

Fifteen years into marriage and ten years into parenting, sometimes it’s hard to keep expecting a fresh experience of the goodness of God. In addition to my own challenges, I have been buffeted recently by waves of pain in other people’s lives—broken relationships, mental illness, substance abuse, cancer. This stage of life feels like deep water, and it’s no quick easy jaunt to the shore. The stakes are high and evil is real. Sometimes we are sputtering and taking in too much water. Other times we are treading water in the dark…weary, not sure

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what we can count on.

Sometimes when we aren’t experiencing the “catch of fish” we hope for with our kids or our spouse or other situations, it’s tempting to get anxious and controlling—we rev our motors and push for what we think needs to happen.

Or we can have the opposite response: life wears us down and we are tempted to settle for what we can see—we drift to a place of resignation.

But faith, faith is the narrow way between prideful pushing and resentful resignation.

In the deep water, where we feel disoriented and vulnerable, God doesn’t ask us to motor or to drift.

He asks us to let down our nets.

I have candles on the windowsill above my kitchen sink, and sometimes when I don’t really have words anymore for a worn-out issue, I light a candle. I let my prayer just burn there for a bit while I do dishes or other chores. I hold out to God whatever the tangle is, along with my own heart in its vulnerability. Lately I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what comes of it…

What are some worn out issues in your life? How could you tread the vulnerable path of faith?

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Jan 112013
 

Real Women Challenge: Audi from Jillian Willis on Vimeo.

Perfectionism and being vulnerable with others have been two of my deepest struggles over the past twelve years.  They’ve caused me a lot of heartache.  My need to be perfect, at times, drove me away from family, friends and God, and into unhealthy relationships, an eating disorder and isolation.  It has taken me a long time to realize so much of my wrestling has stemmed from these two roots.

I know I’m not alone in this.  Countless of you women struggle with me.

The pressure we feel to be perfect in so many areas -whether it be appearance, career, athletics, our home or our kids behavior – and our resistance to being vulnerable are often ways we try to tell ourselves we’re ok.  We feel in control, acceptable, good enough and we are less likely to be hurt.

So often, we feel alone.   Maybe we feel other women aren’t safe, aren’t really for us.  And they especially wouldn’t be for us if they saw our “wrinkles and warts” – knew the real us.   (Those of us who have the kind of girlfriends we can call when we are in shambles – well, we should get down on our knees and thank the Lord for those friends.  They are treasures.)

I think Jesus meant for us to share our stories with each other.  Whether they be full of color and beauty or full of grey and pain.

I am learning that far more healing can take place when we open ourselves up, rather than coil ourselves within.  Joy can come flowing into our lives when we link arms and hearts with others who are living life authentically.

I want to ask you, to join me in challenging yourself over the next two months to do two things:

1.  Practice being Vulnerable

  • We are practiced in putting up walls, protecting ourselves and being on guard.  Still for many of us, being vulnerable is linked to being hurt.  But, it is in being vulnerable with safe people where we can find the beginnings of authenticity, connection and healing. Start Taking Notice: I want to challenge you to start noticing when you stop being your “true” self and start building up the walls.  Is it around certain people?  Is it when a certain topic comes up?  Is it based on your performance or lack of performance in something?

2. Embrace NOT being perfect

  • It’s not typically considered popular or perhaps beautiful to be a mess, in a mess, or associated with a mess. Counter to what is ingrained in us,  NOT being perfect can actually bring healing and freedom, for us and others around us.  NOT having it all together can actually make you approachable, helpful and encouraging to others.  Start Taking Notice: I want to challenge you to start noticing when your need to feel or be perfect is highest.  Is it linked to your appearance, your performance, your home, your status, etc.?

I won’t lie and tell you this challenge will be easy.  It will probably make you uncomfortable.  But deep relationship cannot blossom and our twisted hearts cannot be untangled until we are willing to be vulnerable and embrace our imperfections.  I know for myself, it has stretched me, but I do find I am able to breath and be kind to myself a little bit more as I work at this.

I will be praying for you as you bravely take steps towards opening up your heart.  I want you to begin this challenge by reading a previous post of mine called “Simply Undone”.

2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

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Nov 082012
 

It was after I bought the purple skinny jeans.

I started noticing purple everywhere. It wasn’t just Maisy’s favorite color anymore; purple had taken on a life of its own.

There was Maisy in her purple outfits, entreating me to join her in her delight with being a girl. But there was more—for Maisy, all of life involves this kind of delight. Her only priority is play. She is fully present to each new moment, utterly free and spontaneous, immersed in simple joy.

Perhaps there is no gift more precious than the gift of spontaneity, the ability of certain [people] and animals to act straight and fresh and self-forgettingly out of the living center of who they are.” (Frederick Buechner)

For Maisy, purple was on the inside too…and she was drawing it out of me…out from under the grown up layers of preoccupation, plans, and perfectionism.

And then there was my therapist in his sometimes purple sweater, listening me along the precipice of my own depths. We peered over the edge, and there was purple…shimmering under layers of anxiety and worn out coping mechanisms.

Purple became a poignant symbol for me of the place inside where blue and red come together, where a well of deep feeling and deep power sloshes and gurgles. The reservoir of our truest energy.

I began to wonder, what would it look like to live all of life from these rich depths, with passion splashing?

It scared me some, because it’s wild and unpredictable down there. And somehow along the way I’ve gotten the message that it can’t be trusted.

The refining of what’s inside us is a necessary part of maturing into

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adulthood and growing in our spiritual journey. Unfortunately, this process can leave many of us pretty disconnected from our purple.

It’s easy to live from a more surface place where responsibility, expectations, and tired striving prevail. Sometimes we’re more comfortable there anyway because our deep feelings can be too tender and our own power scares us.

As mothers overwhelmed with duties and the needs of others, how can we afford to make room for what’s deep inside us?

Yet how can we afford not to? To live otherwise is like trying to drive with the engine turned off.

All the heart, strength, and instincts we really need for life and mothering are in the purple well. So is the lovely energy of our own inner three year old—the straight and fresh vulnerability and trust, the self-forgetting confidence and joy. How desperately we need that!

“You must become like little children…” (Matthew 18:3)

No doubt, accessing

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and living from this place inside will be messy and painful at times. But all the best of who we are is in there. And I believe this is the very place in us where the love and strength of God reside as well.

What is in your purple well? What feelings and longings? What impulses and gifts?

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Oct 022012
 

Ok.  Here it goes. (deep breath). I am taking down the guard and bearing my soul. 

As I have been spending the past weeks and months thinking about, recording and writing my life experiences, struggles, joys and pains – especially in the areas of food and body image – I have become completely undone.

Undone because I feel inadequate.  Undone because I am not the expert.  Undone because this topic of body image has been the cause of deep hurt, heartache and scaring in my life.

It is a continuous struggle for me to not give into the lie that tells me I’m not good enough.  This lie creates insurmountable fear inside of me.  It begs me to not be vulnerable and to believe I have to be perfectall the time.

But I have been learning over the past months.  To write and truly encourage others in the process, requires two things:

  • Vulnerability – It literally means to be “exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally”.  Being vulnerable requires exposure. Without vulnerability, depth is lost and we are left with a hard, untouchable exterior.
    • The positive: We have the ability to bring down others guards.  We allow others to connect in and find similarities.
    • The Negative: We are exposed!  We risk the possibility of criticism or rejection.
  • Not Being Perfect – As much as we wish it, none of us are perfect.  We have struggles.  We have shortcomings.  And we want to know we are not alone in our mess.  Not being perfect goes hand in hand with vulnerability.
    • The Positive: Our quirks or flaws can allow others to be real and embrace their imperfections as well.  It can also show us our need for others.
    • The Negative: We don’t get to hide behind our facade of having it all together anymore.

These two things go against our very core as human beings.  We want to protect ourselves.  We want to maintain a controlled image.  I am desperately afraid to “put myself out there”.  The need to be perfect has been woven into me… and admittedly, I care about others’ opinions of me.

In order to write, every day, I must be in prayer.  I must be ready to sweep out the cobwebs of past lies I have believed about myself.  As I ran today, I prayed, with desperation, that the Lord would calm my fears.  He brought to mind these two verses.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10,

“But he (the Lord) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’

  • The mere thought of sharing my heart and my journey with you causes me to feel insufficient, weak, and insecure.  This is an entirely new journey for me, but one that I know is worth treading.  You will see my weaknesses… and it is my prayer you will see Christ’s power and grace as well.

1 John 4:18-19,

“There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear…”

  • Because Jesus loves me with His perfect love… I do not have to be afraid.  He frees me up to be me, just me.  I can love every. single. person He puts in front of me, near me or beside me… all because He has loved me first… with His perfect love.

I hope you will join me on this journey of not living in fear, of being vulnerable and not being perfect.   I hope you will see a piece of yourself somewhere on these pages.

Have you ever had to do something that left you feeling vulnerable or exposed your imperfections?

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