From Strength To Strength

What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the valley of weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs.  The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings. They will continue to grow stronger and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem (Psalm 84: 5-7).

These verses speak to me so much because it’s in my sorrow and grief that I seem to feel God’s presence the most, or maybe it’s because that’s when I cry out to Him the most. I’m reminded that no matter what happens or how desperate things get, I’m on a journey with Him. As long as I don’t turn my back He will continue to strengthen, teach, and mold me through all of life’s challenges and hardships.

Then the journey, even though hard, becomes exciting as I see that there’s a perfect plan and purpose in my struggles; and although my body grows older, my faith grows stronger. Each new challenge eventually becomes a ‘place of refreshing springs’ because I see that God is invested in me.

Jodie Stevens

It’s been written that ‘success is a journey, not a destination.’ As it relates to spirituality, it couldn’t be more beautifully said than ‘The Peace Prayer’ (or the Eleventh Step Prayer) by St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled, as to console;

To be understood, as to understand; To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Although beautifully written, the process of achieving can be painful, messy, and heartbreaking. So too can it be freeing, joyous, and wondrous. Some days we’re some of these, other days none at all. Perhaps when we pass to eternity we will be all; and that’s the final destination, for now we’re on the journey.

May we also be to ourselves what this prayer asks us to be to one another. And when there is ‘doubt’ let ‘faith’ light the way.

Jodie Stevens

Are You In Control Or Just Afraid?

In a radio interview on Focus on the Family I heard author Larry Crabb say we’ve become personas, not persons to get what we want. We do this because deep down we’re terrified if people saw the real ‘us’ they wouldn’t want us; so we use control to fill the void.

I was on stage in front of a room full of people emceeing an event when I realized he was talking about me. I had my lines memorized and the order of events well-rehearsed. I couldn’t have been more prepared; which ended up being the problem. And then… everything went wrong. There I was in front of all those people experiencing everything I tried so hard to hide ever since I was a little girl. I was embarrassed, afraid, and vulnerable. I fumbled my way through and tried to look professional and all that. But later when I got home I began to ask myself: “who are you without a script?” And “what are you supposed to do when you don’t know what to do?”

I realized the answers were locked inside the ‘me’ I was hiding from the world. The ‘me’ who feared no-one would want if they saw her. When she got ‘exposed’ she didn’t quite know how to respond because she’d stuffed that part of herself away for so long.
Often times the best responses come from being vulnerable with our feelings and reacting from that place of fear or embarrassment or whatever it is we’re afraid people will ‘find out about.’ Sometimes we don’t even know what we’re afraid they’ll see.
You know what was so ironic about that particular event? It was a Joni and Friends dinner full of families with children who had mental and physical disabilities.

God forbid they see an ‘imperfect’ me.

Jodie Stevens

Unhealthy Ways of Getting Our Love Needs Met (In Marriage)

Being vulnerable with another person can be difficult. Especially if we’ve been taught that being vulnerable is a sign of weakness and having emotional needs is wrong. But when we hide our vulnerability out of ‘shame’ it often surfaces in other ways; such as through anger, manipulation, and control.

Here’s an example. I’m somewhat introverted and occasionally I get uncomfortable in social situations. My husband and I were at one such gathering at our church. We were sitting at a table by ourselves waiting for some others to join us. He was playing with his phone and I was getting increasingly more uncomfortable. Now the honest and vulnerable thing to say would have been: “Honey, you know how I can get really uncomfortable at these things, can you please put your phone away and talk to me until this thing gets started? It would really help me feel at ease.”

Of course that’s not what I said because admitting weakness and vulnerability feels shameful. Instead I grab my phone and (after a dramatic sigh) say: “Well, I guess I’ll just play with my phone since I have no-one to talk to.”

Now we’re both irritated and uncomfortable, and later I feel the need to apologize for my indirect and fearful means of communication. Maybe he was wrong to play with his phone and ignore me, but the way I expressed my feelings made me look wrong. You see, it’s possible to be ‘right’ and still be ‘wrong’ because of how we choose to express ourselves.

Being vulnerable means digging beneath the anger, hurt, or fear and getting to the real need; then communicating it in a healthy way. When we do it can lead to healing in ourselves, and it can strengthen our relationships with others. When we don’t it can be destructive because it further isolates ourselves from others; and isolation is the perfect ‘soil’ for anger and bitterness to grow.

Jodie Stevens

Unhealthy ways to get our ‘love needs’ met (in friendship)

If you read my last post about unhealthy ways to get our love needs met in parenting, I addressed how some parents spoil their kids to keep them dependent. This can create a sense of entrapment for the child who always feels indebted to the parent. The child may grow up and do the same thing to their children, or they may believe that relationships need to be earned (as in my case).

For years I tried to ‘buy’ people’s friendship based on what I could do for them. Unfortunately, these relationships usually didn’t last because while I was trying to earn their love, they sometimes felt indebted to me because of it.

We may think we’re adding value to ourselves by all the things we do to try and earn love and approval from others, but actually, the opposite is true. They unconsciously sense what we’re doing and our value decreases in their eyes.

I’m telling you this because I’ve learned it the hard way. Choose who you will be friends with and let it happen on the natural. Then you will end up with genuine friendships, and you’ll feel valued.  Don’t try to earn it or force it. If you do, your friendships will be disingenuous, un-authentic, and you will feel devalued and perhaps even trapped.

Or worse yet, they may ‘turn in tear you to pieces’ as it talks about in Matthew 7:6.


Jodie Stevens

Unhealthy Ways We Try To Get Our ‘Love Needs’ Met (Parenting)

In the next few posts I’d like to talk about some unhealthy ways people try to get their ‘love needs’ met.

One of the ways can be through our own children.

Some parents who were neglected as children spoil their kids in an attempt to recreate their own childhood, make up for what was lost, and give them what they never had.  Sometimes parents do this to keep their children dependent on them, because they’re afraid if they don’t, they‘ll lose the child’s love. The constant reminders of the parents ‘sacrifices’ make it almost impossible for the child to ever really enjoy them. And it never satisfies the parents ‘love need,’ because children raised in this manner often end up resenting their parents and they may not even know why. They just know they’re lost and confused adults full of shame and guilt.

As babies we come into the world with nothing really to give. Our ‘love tanks’ are pretty much empty, as is described in the book Love is a Choice:

“…to meet their own innate needs they (parents) draw from the child’s tank what little he or she has, leaving the child with less than nothing.” (Dr. Robert Hemfelt, Dr. Frank Minirth, Paul Meier M.D.)

Children need to get love (and see it modeled) from the parent, not the other way around.

And real love that is unconditional and eternal comes from God our creator and ultimate supplier of love; the One who never runs out of it.

In the next post I’ll talk about some unhealthy ways some of us (including myself) have tried to get our love needs met through friendship. Stay tuned.

Jodie Stevens

Do You Give Yourself Permission To Be You?

Over the years I’ve prayed for God to give me a real love for others as described in 1 Corinthians 13:5. One that it is “not self-seeking” (as in wanting something in return), “is not easily angered,” and “keeps no record of wrong.”

It wasn’t until I gave myself permission that I began to develop this kind of love:

Permission to not be afraid of my own power.

Permission to choose my relationships, instead of the other way around.

Permission to say no to people.

Permission to not take responsibility for everyone else’s feelings.

Permission to be a woman in a male dominated environment.

Permission to care about my own feelings.

Permission to be vulnerable to another.

Permission to cry.

Permission to be me.

In my fear I quenched my own authenticity; the channel for love to flow freely out of ourselves and into another, and vice versa.

I could not ‘force love’s hand,’ nor could I ‘earn love’s approval.’

Real love allows for freedom.

Real love is a choice.

It was one I had to give to myself before I could give it away to anyone else.

Jodie Stevens