- 2018Apr 24
I felt ill-equipped and insufficient. Actually, I wasn’t supposed to be there at all. I planned to pop in, make sure all the volunteers had arrived and were good to go, then head off to another project I’d set up for the weekend.
But God had other plans, and it started—and perhaps ended—with my lack.
It was “Big Live” weekend, a time when my church mobilized hundreds of people throughout the Metro to serve. As part of the leadership team organizing the event, I’d arranged numerous projects, one that included facilitating a “spa” night for women at a local shelter while other volunteers watched their children.
The idea seemed like a good one in the beginning, back in the planning stages when I envisioned a sizeable group from my church, sitting around a table, giving mani-peds to these poor, broken women who were fighting addiction, healing, and learning how to parent.
But as the scheduled night approached, I began to worry. We were short on help. In fact, in the most crucial area, the actual spa portion, we didn’t have anyone.
Zero manicurists. Zero women who even felt comfortable pretending to be manicurists.
Simply myself—who routinely makes a mess of my nails whenever I attempt to paint them. And three others who’d come to watch children.
In other words, who also felt completely ill-equipped to paint other people's fingernails. But as the women from the shelter began to arrive, one of the volunteers stepped up and said, “I’ll stay” (in the spa room). “I’m not very good at it, but I’ll stay.”
I could’ve hugged her. I may have squealed. But then, watching yet more women trickle in, and eyeing my very meager supplies, my moment of joy was replaced by sadness. I’d so wanted to spoil these women, to make them feel special. To give them an evening of pampering that would make them feel, but for a moment, as if they were truly at a spa. Or at the very least, beautiful.
And all I could think of was my lack. I didn’t have those smelly scrubs one rubs on women’s hands after they’ve soaked in rose-scented water. I didn’t even have the rose-scented water. I had dish soap. (And soon even that ran out.) I didn’t have nice-smelling lotion, emery boards or pumice to sooth their cracked and tired feet.
These ladies had been looking forward to a luxurious spa night, and I soaked their feet in plastic bowls filled with generic dish soap then dried them with whatever hand towels and dishrags the staff had managed to scrounge up.
I couldn’t paint beautiful designs. I could do base coats—though I messed that up. I could do simple flowers using toothpicks, but yep, I messed that up as well.
I was failing. And as I sat across from one of the ladies barely four months out of prison, having just rubbed her feet with an old tattered rag, I was ready to apologize. For the night, my blunders, the disappointment I know I must have caused her.
But before I could, she looked me in the eye with a grin so large it was contagious and said, “I feel like I’m at one of those fancy spas.”
Tears filled my eyes as I realized how little it took to make these women happy. To make them feel special. I’m sure they would’ve enjoyed the fancy lotions and hand massages. The pumice stones would’ve been nice. They would’ve oohed and ahhhed, had I know how to make fancy nail polish decorations.
But none of those things trumped what they needed most—love. Someone to look them in the eye and say, “I see you. You have value. God loves you.”
That is how God makes much of our little.
Let's talk about this! When have you sensed God asking you to serve someone and felt completely ill-equipped or ill-prepared? Did you obey, and if so, what were the results? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!
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- 2018Apr 17
If you’ve seen me in my sweat pants and favorite tattered nightshirt, chances are we’re besties. You can tell how close we are by how I dress around you and how long it took me to doll myself up. Before Bible study, church, or speaking engagements, I fix my hair, put on make-up, and sift through numerous outfits. But most days, I’m in my writing attire, also known as pajamas, with my hair frizzed and mascara smudged under my eyes.
Ladies, when did our value get tied up in our looks? Men, has your value become entangled in your strength or achievements? Both scenarios have the same root—pride.
When many of us read 1 Timothy 2:9-10, our minds instantly jump to modesty and all the ways we’re rocking this outward expression of piety. So long as our shorts reach a certain length and our bellies and other body parts are covered, we’re good.
But that’s surface thinking, and I believe God’s much more concerned with the condition of our hearts than our fashion choice. Now, I'm not encouraging everyone to around like millennial pop stars. What I’m saying is, if we get our hearts right, everything else will follow.
Last summer, my family and I took a Hawaiian vacation. It was an amazing time to relax, enjoy the ocean, and connect with one another. We tried new foods, experienced the Polynesian culture, and battled with a wave or two.
We opted not to rent a car and chose instead to rely on the local taxi service. The man who drove us to our hotel thought that was an absurdly expensive idea. “Why pay $50 or more for a cab,” he said, “when you can catch the bus for a couple bucks a piece?”
That sounded fun and adventurous and like a great way to experience island culture up close. So, the next day, we climbed on a bus and headed toward the North Shore community of Haleiwa. The bus ride was a bit longer than we’d anticipated, but we didn’t mind. We enjoyed meeting the locals that merged on and off the bus—teenagers dressed in flip-flops and swimsuit cover-ups, backpacks in hand. Men and women going to work, others who had just gotten off and were heading home.
Not long into our ride, an older woman climbed on. Her hands were knotted, her face leathery and tired. Her shoulders hunched. I didn’t know her story, but as I watched her, a wave of compassion swept over me. I wanted to somehow brighten her day, so whenever I caught her eye, I offered a smile and engaged her in conversation.
But then … not long after, another woman got on, this one entirely different than the first. She had an air about her—nose raised, back straight. She was eyeing everyone else as if they were beneath them. She soon struck up a conversation with another woman on the bus, someone she appeared to know. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember the overall tone. It appeared the entire point of her conversation was to let everyone else know how great she was.
It was ugly and wreaked of superiority. Filled with attempts at self-elevation—the kind one might call bragging in disguise.
Her behavior probably should’ve disgusted me. Or at the least, irritated me. Instead, it sucked me in. I found myself sitting a little taller, thinking prideful thoughts, in essence, mentally comparing myself to her, making sure, in my estimation, I came out ahead, of course.
Isn’t it interesting how, in such a short time, pride entered my heart, and instead of focusing on loving others, I began to focus on myself?
My ugly self-love took over, and I believe that’s the root of pride. I’m beginning to think this constant obsession with self is one of our greatest faults and most destructive tendencies.
In this verse, Paul tells us not to “draw attention to [ourselves] by the way [we] fix our hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes.” This reminds me of another verse found in Philippians 2:3, which says, “Don’t be selfish. Don’t try to impress others …”
“For women who claim to be devoted to God,” Paul goes on to say, “should make themselves attractive by the things they do” (1 Timothy 2:10, NLT).
I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about our appearance. I’m not telling everyone to toss out their nail polish and lip-gloss. Instead, what I’m saying is, as we’re dolling up, as we’re shopping and getting our nails done, and as we’re interacting with others, may we continually do a heart check. May we ask ourselves: where’s my focus? Am I seeking to elevate myself, to somehow make myself feel as if I’m better than everyone else (which is really a sign of insecurity), or am I finding ways to love others, to build them up, thinking of others as better than myself (Philippians 2:3b, NLT).
That’s hard, and unfortunately, not something I do consistently, But this is an area I want to grow in, because this is the type of behavior and attitude, the type of love, God calls me to.
Let’s talk about this! What about you? What were your initial thoughts when you read today’s passage? How easy is it for you to “consider others more important than yourselves?” What does that look like in the day to day, and how do you think that relates to Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 2:9-10?
If today's post struck or challenged you, I encourage you to visit Wholly Loved Ministries' website and Facebook page where we'll contnue this discussion of finding and developing our true beauty. I also encourage you to sign up for my personal newsletter, which releases at the end of this month. Those who do will receive great content sent directly to their inbox (short stories, devotions, recipes, and more) along with a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (ebook, sent separately). You can sign up HERE. I also encourage you to sign up for Wholly Loved's quarterly emailing to receive even more great content and to stay up to date with our conferences, faith challenges, and more. You can sign up for that HERE.
- 2018Apr 10
When in the middle of a crisis, one word dominates my mind—help! I’d do anything, give up anything, if only God would come through. But oh how quickly pride and entitlement creep in, once the chaos has passed.
It was maybe ten years ago, we were living in a beautiful, spacious home in a gated community, attended a church we loved, and I spent my days doing what I loved—homeschooling our daughter.
In a flash, everything changed, leaving me scrambling, fearful, and crying out for aid.
Our daughter and I were sitting at the breakfast bar, completing her lessons, when I heard the familiar screech-rumble of the garage door opening. I glanced at the time, finding it strange that my husband would come home so early.
When he walked past me without a word a moment later, heading straight for our bedroom, I knew something was wrong.
I immediately followed.
The defeat I saw in his eyes tore at my heart, but what he said after weakened my knees.
That morning began a six-month bout of unemployment that left us scrambling and me crying out to God, “Help us, please! Fix this.”
Then one day, He did. By this point, we’d depleted the last of our savings, and, with all our belongings in storage, we’d moved to a 500 square-foot, furnished, rent-by-the-month apartment. My husband had found temporary contract work while continuing to seek something more permanent.
It’s interesting what happens, when life hits hard and everything is reduced to necessity. In that tiny apartment, with its cheap used furniture, paper-thin walls, and stained and torn linoleum, I learned to become content. To rejoice, actually, in what I had. By taking away our big, fancy house and all the other fluff I’d come to rely on, God granted me an incredible gift—the ability to cherish those things that mattered most—time with my husband and daughter.
So when His aid came and He opened a door for my husband at Union Pacific railroad in Kansas City, MO, I thought I’d arrived. I’d learned my lesson, had found contentment, and could move forward, receiving God’s blessings with open hands.
Open hands that, once they quit clinging to Christ, quickly grasped and strived, until my easily-swayed heart became consumed with a sense of entitlement. It started while house hunting. Needless to say, our budget had changed drastically, and the houses our realtor showed us looked much different than the large, newly built home we’d frantically sold in Louisiana. As we toured smaller, older, and less aesthetically appealing homes, a sense of entitlement emerged, initiating an ugly and growing discontentment.
It was as if I’d forgotten all God had done—how He’d held my family together, kept us from debt, and provided for us at just the right time.
I had fallen into the same pattern the Israelites had, after God miraculously freed them from slavery to Egypt, provided for them in the desert, and personally led them, by a pillar of fire by night and a sun-shielding cloud by day, to the Promised Land.
“They forgot what He had done—the great wonders He had shown them” (Psalm 78:11 NLT).
They forgot and became discontent, and their discontentment turned their hearts from God, from the One who saved them, the One who loved them, and who cared for them as a parent for their young.
There’s danger in forgetting. Or perhaps I should say, there’s incredible power in remembering all God’s done. It frees us from entitlement, keeps us humble, grateful, and I believe, surrendered with a heart that’s ready to receive whatever God has for us.
Let's talk about this! Do you ever find yourself slipping into a sense of entitlement? Do you notice, when you do, that your discontentment and misery increases? What do you do to stay centered in gratitude and surrender? In what ways has God used life circumstances to purge the sense of entitlement from you? Share your stories, suggestions, and examples with us, because we can all learn from each other!
If you enjoyed today's post, consider signing up for my free quarterly newsletter. You'll receive great content sent directly to your inbox including a short story, devotion, craft-how to, recipe, and more! Plus, as an added bonus, all subscribers receive a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (ebook version, sent separately). You can sign up HERE. And make sure to visit me at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud to read more encouraging messages from myself and other authors. You can find my site HERE! I also encourage you to visit Wholly Loved Ministries for more inspirational messages that can help you discover, embrace, and live out who you are in Christ. You can find us HERE!