Bethany’s Story Part 6: Jesus is All I Need

In Parts 1-5 of Bethany’s story, we’ve learned about the relationships in her life and how they changed through divorce, loss and pain. Today, we’re going to examine and discover Bethany’s relationship with her Father…her heavenly Father, that is. Did you just decide this blog isn’t worth reading, not worth your time? I beg to differ with you, friend. It’s very interesting and just a little controversial. Trust me, you want to keep reading.

As we learned in Part 1 of Bethany’s Story, Bethany was brought up in a loving, Christian home. She loved Jesus with all her heart. But once her parents divorced, her life was completely turned upside down, inside out. Neither parent took her to church after the divorce and God was all but removed from her life. We know her story. She grew up, married and had three boys. Bethany always believed in God and would sometimes talk about Him to her husband. When John lost his job, Bethany reassured him that God would provide for them.

When Bethany’s oldest son, Ben, was ten, his friend from down the street invited him to church. Bethany allowed him to go and soon he had an encounter with Jesus and became born again. Being “born again,” is when you understand what Jesus Christ did for you by suffering, dying on the cross and raising from the dead…accepting what He did for YOU and knowing that nothing you have done or ever will do (good or bad) can save you from going to hell or get you into heaven. Believing in Jesus and deciding you will live your life for Him…that is being born again. God’s love will fill you and you will feel totally different. And that is just the first step of an awesome and wonderfully fulfilling life, here on earth and in eternity. If you’re not born again, also known as saved, you’re going to want to experience that ASAP.

Ben was going to church regularly with the neighbors and started begging his parents to go, too. Bethany and John weren’t too keen on the idea, but when Ben was persistent, they decided they should go. They began attending church on and off for a while. John wasn’t really “into it” and Bethany felt strange things when she was there.

“At first, I felt uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure if I liked what I was feeling.”

“There was a short period of time a few years before this when I had started to get serious about the Lord, where I had some real experiences.”

She knew this feeling she was having meant that God was working on the inside of her and wanted to change some things about her life. She was not ready to let go of certain things in her life…

“I began feeling God more strongly than before. I knew for sure that He was pulling me. I felt that way on Sundays and then would live my life like normal during the rest of the week.”

So, she was experiencing the love of God and His presence when she came to church on Sunday mornings. But then, during the week, she’d forget all about Him and live the way she wanted. Sound familiar to anyone? Yes, salvation or being born again is all about what Jesus has done for us. BUT, truly living for Jesus, surrendering your life completely to Him is what He wants for each of us. That doesn’t mean our lives will be boring or not full of fun, but on the contrary, our lives will be abundant. Abundant with God’s love and His blessings. There is nothing better than living your life knowing that you are walking in the plan that God has designed especially for you. That’s true fulfillment! And isn’t that what we all want? To be fulfilled? To be happy? To have peace? To be secure?

Okay, here comes that controversy I eluded to earlier..

“I had been smoking marijuana for a few years. I saw nothing wrong with it because it made me happy and less anxious.”

The marijuana helped Bethany deal with the stress in her marriage and her son who has Asperger’s. It was a coping mechanism for her and she felt like she needed it to make it through each day.

“At first, it was a fun thing to do on girls’ weekends. Then I realized that I liked it way too much. But it made my life easy.”

Everything was better through the high of marijuana. Her kids were adorable and funny. Her husband was great. Everything was awesome after smoking a little weed.

“It got to the point where I made excuses to do it more. It helped me sleep, my kids were hilarious. I had no stress when I smoked.”

“I depended on the marijuana to deal with my stress-husband, kids, money. I would turn to it and it would make everything okay.”

After a while, John started to get concerned with the frequency and amount of marijuana that Bethany was using. She was spending a lot of money, too. She admits that it got to the point that she was smoking all day, every day. John told her, “I don’t know you any other way” (other than high).

Bethany was still smoking when she rededicated her life back to God. She didn’t see a problem with it and wasn’t eager to give it up.

“I was afraid to let it go. Marijuana was my friend. I felt there was no reason to quit.”

Soon though, Bethany began feeling like she shouldn’t be doing it anymore. That’s what happens when you start to draw close to God. He slowly refines you like gold in a fire.

Bethany searched the Bible for scriptures that said she shouldn’t be smoking marijuana. She could only find those pertaining to drunkenness. She reasoned that she had already given up alcohol, so that didn’t apply to her. She couldn’t find anything that said it was wrong or not wrong.

“I had a moment standing in front of my dresser one day. I was ready to light up again. I clearly heard God say to me, ‘You put this before me. It’s the first thing you think about in the morning, in the afternoon and before you go to bed. It’s taking the place of me.’ I put it down and said aloud, ‘Okay, I’m done. It’s all about you. I will never do it again. I will completely lean on You.’ I haven’t touched it since.”

You see, God wants us to completely rely on Him. For our stress, our worries, our sadness, our pain, our guilt, our regrets…for everything. Why? Because He is capable of handling it all. Way more capable than we are. That is why we don’t ever need to rely on drugs, alcohol, sex or other coping mechanisms to deal with life.

Since that day in her bedroom, Bethany has been free. This act of surrender and obedience to God opened up doors in her life. It set into motion many good things for her husband and her entire family.

John was saved and baptized. Her younger boys were saved and baptized. Her mom and stepdad started coming back to church and have grown closer to God. Her brother-in-law and sister-in-law and their kids got saved. And that is just the tip of the iceberg of God’s goodness and favor in Bethany’s life.

Bethany experiences true and powerful moments with God.

“There are times when it is very obvious that He is here with me, like He’s standing right in front of me. Sometimes in worship services, I have a hard time physically standing. I feel completely undone. At times, it’s hard to breathe.”

“Being in the presence of God – it’s like nothing else is even happening around me. I forget where I am. It’s just me and Him. It’s the best feeling ever! That’s how you know that God is real.”

One moment with Jesus, that’s all it takes to convince even the biggest skeptic.

“That’s God showing you He is real. When you experience these moments. I mean, you don’t go to church and just make up those feelings. It’s real. He’s real.”

Some friendships of Bethany’s were lost when she became a Christian. But, God has replaced or restored those friendships one hundred fold. Friendship is so important to Bethany. The Bible talks about how you may lose friends when you follow Jesus. When her friends began to reject her, she clung to God’s promises.

“I trust you. All I need is you.”

Bethany says she never even thought to pray for friends, but alas! God knows the desires of our hearts. He knows what we need and desire before we even ask. God gave Bethany a wonderful church family who love her to pieces.

“I have so many people in my life that I never thought I would have relationships with. When I’m at church, I feel like I’m home.”

Because Bethany has totally surrendered her life to God, she and her family are blessed in so many ways. Yes, salvation is ultimately about not going to hell, but it is about so much more. We don’t have to wait to get to heaven to experience God’s goodness and favor. We can have heaven on Earth. If you have ever prayed the Lord’s Prayer, that’s what it is talking about. “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” That’s exactly what Bethany has been seeing in her life. A little bit of heaven on Earth.

stairway-to-heaven

I Can Do All Things…with a little help!

My hubby, Lew, has been out of town for work since October 30th(!) and is coming home this Saturday. Every time he goes away, I get SO excited for him to come home. It’s a nervous, excited anticipation… kinda like how I felt when I was a little girl on the night before Christmas. It’s cliche, I know, but absence DOES make the heart grow fonder. At least in our case. 😉 Sorry if this made any of you gag…but, I know I’m not the only one who has these “issues.”

Many of my friends have husbands who work out of town. It’s not easy for us when they are away, but our awesome husbands are working hard to provide for our families and make a way for us to stay home with our kids. Our family time is now more precious than ever. Can I get an “Amen?”

And, there are a couple of my friends whose husbands will soon be working out of town for extended periods of time. I want to encourage you. Yes, the days are long (especially if you’re homeschooling) and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged…but you can “do all things through Christ who strengthens you!” Some days (like yesterday), I repeat this over and over and over to myself.

In addition to relying on Jesus to get me through each day, I have a few girlfriends who I can call and vent to anytime to receive support and a sympathetic ear. Sometimes, as women, we just need to talk it out, then we’re okay. My girlfriends are VITAL to my existence! Do you have friends like this, who come along side of you and walk out life with you? If not, then you’re missing out! Do you have trouble making friends? If so, you need to read my blog on Friendship 101.

On that note, I’m heading up to my bedroom to clean it up before Lew gets home this weekend. I finally got around to getting my winter wardrobe out, but have not yet hung everything in my closet. Lew’s side of the bed has been overtaken by a heaping pile of sweaters and winter scarves, hats and gloves!

Susie 🙂

Friendship 101

I have been truly blessed with an abundance of people who call me “Friend.” There was a time in my life a few years ago when I had almost zero friends and (in my pathetic mind) no hope of ever having any again.

I had gone through a divorce and moved to a new city, a new job, and a new church. I picked up and left everything familiar to me, including my friends, to start anew. Sometimes you just have to do that. I’ve discovered in my life that change IS good! Hard, but good.

I prayed and asked God to help me to make friends and He answered those prayers. He sent me women who accepted me as I am, with all my wounds and imperfections, with all my baggage and all my issues. What angels!!! Did they just drop into my life from the heavens? Of course not.

Over time, I became involved with the women in my new church and the women at my new job and made more friends than I could ever have imagined. Have I always been outgoing and easily made friends? No way! The prospect of entering a room of new people has always frightened me greatly(it still does). I have a history of being one to isolate myself and keep to myself in order to protect myself from rejection and pain. I had to consciously and repeatedly decide to get up, put my big girls pants on and engage in the life and world around me. I had to become involved even though I was afraid. Yes, I was rejected by some, but welcomed by so many more. I learned that everyone is not going to like you and not everyone has to be my friend. As Joyce Meyer says, “Do it afraid!” All I can say is, if you can muster the courage to put yourself out there, God will give you the strength to do it.

God has taught me many things in the last few years about having friends, being a friend, and making new friends. It takes work, time, and a certain degree of selflessness and patience. It takes a lot of LOVE, above everything else.

Here’s “How to Make Friends” 101. If you would just love people, they will be attracted to you. Does that sound too simple? It may, but I have found it to be true. Show your love for them through your actions. Go outside yourself, outside your life and care about someone else and their life.

Take a lesson from the best friend in the universe, Jesus. How do we know that Jesus loves us? He showed us through His death on the cross. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Making a friend doesn’t require your death…but a small action such as a kind word, a smile, or a thoughtful note is all it takes to start a beautiful friendship.

We can’t expect people to flock to us just because we’re fantastic girls! Stop thinking about yourself and how you have no friends and how no one invites you or includes you! The Bible says in Proverbs 18:24, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” YOU must show that you’re a friendly person by your ACTIONS! How else will people know how great you are?!?!
Now that we’ve decided on how to attract friends, we must also consider with whom to be friends with. Not everyone that you meet is going to be friend material. What?!?! Well, the Bible states some pretty clear and concise directions on who we, as Christians, should enter into friendship with.

Proverbs 12:26, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

I’m not implying that we should become snobs, but use your God-given discernment when you meet a person and are getting to know them.

Proverbs 22:24 also says, “Make no friendship with an angry man.” I believe that verse is self-explanatory.

I have already talked about Jesus and His actions and following His example. But, you say, that He was friends with all kinds of people…good and bad. What about that? It is all about LOVE. Jesus loved all kinds of people. If you notice throughout the Word, the only people Jesus was really angry with or had a problem with were the “religious” people who had no love. In relationships with people who do not know Jesus like you know Him, you need to be the “influencer,” not the “influenced.” So, we ARE to love and develop relationships with people who are in the world in order to bring them to the knowledge of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus!

Lately, I have been examining all my relationships with my “friends” in order to determine if I am being a good friend or vice versa. I was curious about the literal definition of the word “friendship.” I found it very interesting what Wikipedia had to say….
Friendship is a relationship between two people who hold mutual affection for each other..

The value of friendship is often the result of friends consistently demonstrating the following:

  • The tendency to desire what is best for the other
  • Sympathy and empathy
  • Honesty, even in situations where it may be difficult for others to speak the truth
  • Mutual understanding and compassion; ability to go to each other for emotional support
  • Enjoyment of each other’s company
  • Trust in one another
  • Positively strong, deep, close reciprocity, mutuality — equal give-and-take between the two parties
  • The ability to be oneself, express one’s feelings and make mistakes without fear of judgment

These bullet points actually line up with what the Bible has to say about friends! Here are some examples:

Ecclesiastes 4:9
[ The Value of a Friend ] Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor.
Proverbs 17:17
A friend loves at all times,
Proverbs 27:9
Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.
Proverbs 27:17
As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

I challenge you to examine your friendships…are they one-sided? Are you there for your friend when she’s in need, having an emotional crisis or family crisis? Or do you pretend to be too busy with your own life? Are you honest with your friend when something is bothering you? Or do you allow bitterness to grow between you? Do you trust your friend, can she trust you? Is there equal give-and-take between the two of you? For instance, do you monopolize the conversations that you have, never stopping to ask how her day was? Or does she always buy dinner and you never even offer? Is she afraid that if she makes a mistake or expresses her true feelings that you will react negatively by judging her or talking about her behind her back? No one likes to be stabbed in the back by a supposed friend.
A friend loves at ALL times…a friend is a sweetness that gives delight…it’s better to have a friend than to go at it alone…friends are for challenging each other to be a better person. I know a lot of women struggle with being real with one another without fearing rejection and being judged. Be a friend that can be trusted. Be a friend that can be real. I promise you, it is worth it. Put yourself out there. Be honest. Be friendly. Smile. Be happy. Love someone today. The reward is so great!!!!
Earthly friends are a wonderful blessing, but I want to spend a moment talking about being called a friend of God. How do we become His friend? By obeying His word, following His commands, by believing in God. We are no longer servants, but friends of God. I don’t know about you, but that makes me HAPPY! When I had no friends, He was my friend. Friend to the friendless. So, if you’re in transition, be glad that you have someone who already considers you His friend!
John 15:14
You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
John 15:15
No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.
James 2:23
And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.

Thank you, Lord, for all the beautiful women you have placed in my life. Each one is special to me and I am grateful for every one of them. You are faithful! 🙂