The One Choice You CAN Make

OBS Leader Steph RaquelHey there, fabulous O.B.S.ers!

Wow, what a week we’ve had  — and what an amazing study this has been!

If you caught yesterday’s post sharing Suzie Eller’s powerful story, then you were privileged to see so many sisters lifting one another up in prayer. What a gift!! THANK YOU for blessing on each other (and me) like that! Wow!

You also might have seen an inkling of what I’m sharing today …

Quite honestly during my childhood, I thought we were a fairly typical family. My parents did their best to encourage my siblings and me, introduce us to Jesus, make happy memories, pray with us and for us and they never called us derogatory names.

Yet things weren’t always fun and games and eventually, my father was diagnosed with a mental illness. The doctors determined it was bipolar disorder (we called it manic depression back then) when I was in the 6th grade. And for about a year or so prior to the diagnosis, and even later when the meds weren’t quite right or he faced tremendous stress or there was a full moon (true story!), he was prone to some pretty interesting manic episodes.

Sometimes it was overspending. Or staying up crazy late. Other times, we’d hear some pretty harsh words for “never” taking out the trash or “always” having a messy room. I’m grateful my dad is a believer and that the majority of the time, a sincere, humble apology would follow. But often my heart still hurt in the thick of it. Oh, did it hurt.

Thankfully just like Suzie, God also brought me an “advocate” who took me under her wing at a critical age. I’ll always remember when sweet Mrs. Sawyer invited me to join her in the teacher’s lounge (gasp! that was super off-limits to little people!) to talk and share an ice cold drink on a warm spring day. She was a God-send who listened intently and poured belief into me.

Later in life, outside circumstances sent trigger-filled memories hurling from my past, and I sought professional counseling to process what it was like to grow up in an “eggshell” environment. The time I spent in counseling was really an investment I made for my future self; learning about how much my Heavenly Father loves me helped me grow in compassion and grace toward my earthly father.

It also helped me gain perspective and choose to be thankful for the many good things I did have while I grew up.

Suzie Eller writes about this in The Mended Heart. Remember those 5,000+ choices we talked about Monday? One of the choices we CAN make is to find joy in the midst of our circumstances. As Suzie says in Chapter 9, “When happiness seems elusive, choose gratitude instead.”

The Mended Heart Week 5 Happiness Quote

Sweet friends, do you know why this is such great advice? Because it’s biblical.

As 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 reminds us, we are to choose joy IN all circumstances. (That’s right — not always FOR those circumstances, but IN them.)

And although I don’t wish mental illness on anyone, I’m thankful for how it shaped me, and especially grateful for these three things:

  1. I grew in my relationship with God. As an adolescent I began to cry out to God in my pain, which often occurred around a full moon. Now whenever I see one, it’s my reminder that God is ever-present, always watching me and I sense a special hug from my Abba Daddy saying, “There, there, child. It’s going to be okay.”
  2. I gained strength to care for myself. After my second daughter was born, I didn’t hesitate to seek help in dealing with post-partum depression because I know God gives us modern medicine to help us cope. It’s life-giving and even life-saving at times!
  3. I gleaned wisdom and a compassion for helping others. Sometimes it’s a knowing glance, or a greater insight as I pray, but God has allowed me the privilege of ministering to others who were battling mental health issues — whether individually or coping as families.

~ ~ ~

Okay, so all of that gratitude business sounds great in theory, right. But HOW do we do that?

Well, let me share some wisdom from a licensed counselor who once told me, “You know, if everybody would just read God’s Word and do what it says, I would be out of business.” And she meant that in the kindest of ways. We’d be less hurt, and as humans we’d do less hurting.

Read God’s Word. Do what it says. Sounds simple enough, right? Sigh … hang with me.

Suzie writes at the end of Chapter 10 in The Mended Heart that as we grow in our personal understanding of God’s Word and spend daily time with Jesus, we change. She tells us:

“The time you spend in His presence and in the Word will gradually change how you think, which changes who you are in your thoughts, which will begin to reflect the words of Jesus imprinted on your heart. It also helps you to hear His voice.”

Maybe you grab your Bible and read a Psalm and a Proverb a day. Maybe you get the Proverbs 31 devotions or use the First 5 app to read a chapter a day.

Yes my friends, this is a choice we CAN make. God has equipped us to choose joy in the midst of some pretty challenging circumstances. Will you make that choice today?

Thank You, Lord, for loving and providing for us in the middle of the rough stuff of life. Help us honor You with our brokenness, as You are mending our hearts. Help us take these lessons to heart. Thank You, Father, for Suzie Eller and the encouraging words she writes. Thank You for mending our hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Let’s Chat:  Answer one, two or all three sections! We just want to hear from you! :)

Observe — What have been some of your favorite quotes from this week’s chapters of “The Mended Heart,” Chapters 9 & 10? Share them in the comments.

Bible — Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 and look at the context of choosing joy as Paul gave final instructions to the Thessalonian believers. What’s one way you can choose joy today? Who will you encourage and build up? (See verse 11.)

Stretch — As we stand on the precipice, the edge of jumping into life with a renewed passion and the beginnings of a mended heart, pray about what God wants you to be thankful for. What comes to mind? How do you think having an attitude of gratitude will help you in your mending?

 

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The Beat Goes On — Suzie Eller’s Story

OBS Leader Steph RaquelHowdy, howdy, sweet friends!

Didn’t you just love the Bible Study Skills team sharing their practical tips and wisdom yesterday, on how to build community? All good things, especially as we’re about to take a break between our P31 studies!

Another feature we’ve offered weekly is the true story of a woman whose life has been changed by “The Jesus Factor.” Check out this video from The Mended Heart author Suzie Eller:

Suzie Eller, author of #TheMendedHeart, with part of her story.

Click here to watch the video, if you can’t see it in your email.

Heavy stuff, isn’t it?

If you watched Suzie’s video, then you heard her describe the hurt and shame she experienced as a child while wearing a label that her mom put upon her. Yet you also saw the gift of a caring principal who gave her a glimpse of God — someone who became Suzie’s advocate and went to bat for her.

Some of you lived through similar chaotic and secret-filled experiences. I didn’t quite grow up with that type of home environment. In fact, I remember going on a camping trip with a friend in junior high (whom I didn’t know very well). And hearing her Dad yell at her and call her “Stupid!” was shocking to my naive little world.

It made me sad she had to live through that, day after day. However, more recently as an adult, and especially when I was a director of women’s ministry, I’ve heard countless stories like my young friend’s.

Having said that, I did have my fair share of “family of origin issues” as my dad had a mental illness that took years to diagnose. It also took quite some time to find the right dosage of medication to help him and that was not easy at all. {I’ll talk more about that on Friday, so stay tuned!}

Yet … aren’t we sooo very thankful to see that for Suzie Eller, and so many of us, the Jesus factor totally kicked in. God sent someone to help comfort us and help begin to mend our hearts.

And I pray He’ll do the very same for you!

~Steph

P.S. I learned that in later years, Suzie’s mom began her own journey toward healing. Suzie says, “I love my mom and she’s my friend. I believe she’s brave for allowing me to share such a hard story. Watching her find His healing power was a beautiful thing.” WOW, that encourages my heart!!

What’s Happening Today?TMH Conference Calls

5 Lessons Learned from Women in the Bible: The Mended Heart Conference Call Series ~ It’s our final one! Join us @ Noon ET (that’s 9 a.m. PT!) Learn more or sign up, here.

Proverbs 31 Bible Study LIVE, Thursday, 8 p.m. ET on Facebook. Join the BSL Event Page.

Let’s Chat: We want to hear from you! Answer one, two or all three questions! Everyone who comments will be entered to win a copy of The Mended Heart to share and encourage a friend! Winners will be notified via email by Friday.

Observe — Where has God brought someone to be an advocate for you in your life, or somehow shown you a glimpse of Himself?

Bible – Take a moment to read Psalm 103, especially verses 8-13. Tell us, how do those verses comfort you?

Stretch — What is your fear about moving forward? As you think about it, do at least one of these things: 1) Pray and ask God to give you courage in the midst of that fear. 2) Try to say it in three words or less, then share it with us here. 3) Pray for the person who has commented above yours. (And I promise to pray for the person who comments first!) :)

 

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Bible Study Skills: Community

Melissa SherlinHey all! Melissa Sherlin here with you again for Bible Study skills day!

Can you believe we’re almost at the end of this study? As we wrap up, I really want to encourage you to stay in God’s Word! Take a look at this video with all of your Bible Study Skills leaders, Sarah Travis, Christa Hutchins & me, who met up last week at #SheSpeaks15!

Bible Study Skills | Community from Christa Hutchins on Vimeo.

Click here to watch the video if it doesn’t appear in your email.

You can check out the archives mentioned in the video by clicking here.

So … can I be honest with you about something?

When I first began to study the Bible, I really struggled not only to understand what I was reading, but also to process some things God wanted to do inside my heart. I prayed for God to send me ONE friend who could dig deeper into my Bible studies with me. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would one day be doing Bible study with thousands of women across the entire world! (Isn’t God so cool like that?)

The truth is, God did not intend for us to do this thing called life and Bible study alone. Community is such an important part of our Bible study, but for so many people who’ve been hurt by others, it could be one of the biggest struggles we have. Check out some of the ways being actively involved in a study community can help us.

  • Community helps us better understand what we read and learn.

Having ladies with varying levels of spiritual maturity is truly a gift. If you’re just beginning this journey with God, please don’t let that intimidate you from sharing your heart or even your questions with those who have been studying God’s Word in depth for years. Chances are they would LOVE to share some of the beautiful truths they have discovered with you.

  • Community helps us process what God wants to do in our hearts.

As we dig deeper into our studies, the Holy Spirit is going to reveal things inside of our hearts that we are going to need to deal with. Having a trusted friend or group of friends to come alongside to help us process these emotions is such a blessing.

  • Community adds accountability for us to stay in God’s Word.

It’s a proven fact whether we are working out at the gym or working out our faith we tend to stick with things better when we have someone to go through it with.

  • Community provides a place to serve others.

Once God mends a place in our hearts that we thought would never be healed, we can’t help but want to share it with others! Author Suzie Eller wrote The Mended Heart out of her desire to help others experience healing that can only come from Jesus because she herself had experienced it. As Steph Raquel mentioned yesterday: “Suzie also brings things full circle and reminds us that as we mend our hearts, we ‘move from needing help to giving help.’ “

So what are some ways we can study in community? I’m glad you asked. :)

  • Get connected in your church.

If you don’t have a local church, I urge you to pray about finding one. You might not find one right away, but the author of Hebrews urges us to continue meeting together and encouraging one another. (See Hebrews 10:25.)

  • Join a Bible Study.

Many churches offer women’s Bible studies and they are such a great way to connect with others in your local community. We love having you here in P31 OBS, but there’s something special about face-to-face interaction!

  • Start a Bible Study.

If your church doesn’t offer Bible studies, you’re just uncomfortable, don’t have time, or whatever reason you can’t get to a study at a local church, there are many options to starting your own in person Bible study. There are many DVD curriculum studies you can do from the comfort of your own home. There have been many spirit-filled moments with just a gathering of a few ladies in homes all over the world.

  • Online Bible Study through Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies.

Of course, one of my favorite ways to connect is through Proverbs 31 Online Bible studies. Melissa Taylor’s vision to bring Real Hope to Real Life is something that really touched me where I was.  My life is crazy (as I’m sure so many of yours are, too) and with #P31OBS our Bible study doesn’t have to be. I must say that I am BLOWN AWAY each time I am in the comment section reading how you ladies are always loving on, praying for and encouraging one another. That is what community is all about.

Let’s Chat:
Observe – WE LOVE YOUR FEEDBACK! :) What’s your favorite thing about P31 OBS? Part of being in community is sharing your heart and knowing someone hears yours. We would love for you to share your thoughts about BSS through this survey. To take the survey, click here.

Bible — We’ve covered some fun ways to dig deeper into God’s Word over the last few weeks here is a link to the skills that we’ve covered. Which ones have you tried or which ones are you planning to try?

Stretch — We’re so thankful you’ve joined us in our OBS community. What’s been your favorite part of this study?

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