Oh, how challenging, rewarding, hard, helpful, illuminating, thought-provoking, revealing, impactful, life-changing, and heart-piercing this Heart of a Woman study has been! I love it!

The format is so unique. I love the daily homework. I have enjoyed the Scriptures we’ve been provided to pray through each day. It’s new to me to ask the Lord to search my heart and reveal my sin, especially sin that is deep rooted or so familiar I don’t even recognize it as sin.

It has been very helpful to me to systematically work through the sin identification process. We first worked on recognizing our sins, moved to the thoughts and feelings associated with those sins, and now, we are working on identifying the root causes of our sins. This is all by God’s grace. My sin nature identifies with my sin and doesn’t want to change.

Yes, I have loved this study, but it has not been easy! Naming my sin and writing it down have not been fun. I have been forced to admit that my thoughts and feelings are often self-centered and unloving. Now, throw in confessing all of that out loud to a group of women! That requires a willingness to be vulnerable and potentially uncomfortable. Praise God the women of Thistlebend are so warm and loving and genuinely seek to grow in their relationship with the Lord. We are all sisters in Christ. This bond creates a safe place to be transparent. The sharing in our group is precious.

This week has been especially illuminating for me. I have been praying for God to show me my root sins. I have always thought that many of my sins are rooted in selfishness. I covet my “me time” and assumed I did so because I was placing my needs first. But as I thought and prayed about it this week, I was led to ask: “Why am I selfish with my time?” And the Lord led me to a new truth: I am fearful. I am fearful the Lord will not provide the time I feel I need, and so I hold fast to it. I try to control it.

I remember once trying to pull up an overgrown bush in our yard. From the surface, it looked like I would be able to do it myself – if I just dug deep enough, surely I would be able to pull it out by its roots! But I soon learned that the roots were deeper than I thought and twisted together, which strengthened them and made them impossible to move. Ultimately, I had to use a sharp blade to cut through the tangled mess of roots and pull them out in small clumps.

I feel like the roots of the sin of my heart are like that overgrown bush! They have grown together and have formed a dense and tangled mess in my heart. It is easy to feel discouraged when confronted with those roots. It is then that I must fix my eyes on the Lord, and draw upon His strength. No root is too deep or strong for the Perfect Gardener!

Growing in Grace



Last week and into this week our Heart of a Woman study called us to initiate a fast for the Lord. To purposely give up something you love for a certain amount of time just never sounds fun. It’s like I could almost feel my flesh cringe as I read about fasting and what it really means and why we really do it. I knew I was going to fast from something. Even though I didn’t feel it, I did know that the Lord was more important than anything else I wouldn’t want to give up for a time, and I do want to desperately believe that. The question was more of my motives—would I just fast from something to say I’m doing what I’m supposed to do and be “good,” or would this really be to delight in the Lord and say that He really is everything I need?

I had known what the Lord wanted me to fast from for a while, but didn’t want to say it out loud because then I would have to do it and I REALLY didn’t want to fast from this. I kept praying, “Lord just make this really clear, I’m not sure this is really what you want”…ha, it makes me laugh because I definitely knew. In my small group time after Laurie’s lecture that, again, reminded us that fasting is really about saying no to your flesh and it’s a way to be so diligent with our sin, we discussed what we were going to be fasting from. I asked my small group to be praying because I told them I still wasn’t sure what the Lord was calling me to fast. As the discussion continued all of a sudden this came out of my mouth, “I know someone that actually gave up makeup for lent and I can’t stop thinking about that and I think that may be what I’m supposed to fast from.” Everyone in my small group began to encourage me that that would be great for me to fast from, knowing that I’ve confessed finding so much identity in the way I look over the course of our few weeks together. Literally the rest of our small group time I tried to stop my mind from spinning as I kept thinking about how weird it would be to not wear makeup to work and kept thinking about what everyone would think of me. I hate to say it, because I know it’s really such a trivial thing, but I was terrified. I couldn’t get out of my mind how others at work would respond, criticize, think. And of course, at that time I wasn’t confessing any of this to the Lord; my focus was just on me.

I was going to fast for three days from makeup. I want to share what the Lord did during those three days with my prayers and confessions in between.

The night before it all began I prayed to the Lord,

God, I’m really scared to give up makeup for these next few days and I hate that I’m scared—focus still on me. Lord, I want to delight in you. I’m worried what people will think tomorrow, I’m clinging to others saying that I don’t look that different without makeup instead of clinging to you. God, put my flesh to death, put my focus on you.”

The next morning before going into work, I prayed to the Lord,

Lord, you are good. You are everything I need. I don’t need makeup on my face, I am perfectly loved by you and your love is enough. I confess I’m trying to make myself believe this, Lord. I’m seeing how much I don’t believe it, but, Lord, I really do want to. I’m scared to go into work, I’m scared of what they’re going to think and what to say if they ask. Lord, I want my identity to be in you, not me and what others think of me. Lord, help me deny myself today and delight in who you are. Help me remember the woman that poured all her oil out to you…”

Once I got to work I prayed to the Lord throughout the day,

“Lord, I want to hide in my office and put my head down when anyone walks by. I’m terrified of the board meeting when I’ll have to face people today. My stomach gets in knots every time someone walks by my office. Oh gosh Lord, I really hate this. Crucify my flesh. I don’t want to care, Lord; you are so much more important.”

“I think I have a headache because I’m so hyper focused on what others are thinking. My flesh really hates this, Father; will you clear my head and help me look to you only?”

Throughout the remainder of that first day the Lord did allow me to contemplate the sacrifice He made for me and did bring me to different Scriptures. I went to the board meeting that afternoon and as I left I could feel my flesh trying to reason me into not doing the fast for the next two days. I kept thinking, I got through this day, I proved that I can look not at self for a day. The more I thought about it, however, the Lord began to speak to my heart and show me my sin at the board meeting and throughout the entire work day. I had isolated myself from everyone, was super quiet, not taking interest in others at all. Basically I had still been focused on myself all day. Instead of confessing all of this to the Lord, I allowed my flesh to let the frustration of my sin spin in my head until I became more and more sickened over myself…yet again, all about SELF! At that time, my husband called and I snapped at him about something that was so silly. When I got off the phone, the Lord sweetly continued to speak to me about how my sin was just leading to more sin. He gently revealed my pride and how my confidence was completely in my feelings all day and not in Him. He revealed how my motive for this fast was to fix my sin of self-focus and pride instead of just delighting and believing in who He is. I was so thankful for Him revealing where my motives were as the fast was going on versus after it was over.

I continued to think about this through the evening. The Lord brought to mind one of my sweetest memories of my husband and me dating. Very early on in our relationship he challenged me to a game. He came up with a just ridiculous word that you don’t hear many people say in normal conversation and challenged me to see who could use the word the most throughout the day. We had to record our conversations to prove that we were using it and we shared all the recordings with each other that night on our date. The word was flabbergasted. That day was the first time I really remember not caring what other people thought of me. When I was trying to use the word as much as possible instead of my focus being on what people thought as I used the word constantly in our conversations it was on my boyfriend and how much I cared about him and our date that we would have that evening where we would laugh about it all. That is one of my sweetest memories with my husband because it was that day that I knew our relationship was different. I knew I loved him because no one else’s opinions mattered and I had never experienced that before. Oh and by the way, I won!

I loved that the Lord brought this to mind. He uses my husband as an analogy to Him a lot and it’s so precious to me. I believe the Lord impressed in my mind, “What if your husband asked you to give up makeup for three days?” When really pondering that question, I realized that if he had asked me to do that, my outlook at work would be completely different than what it had been that day. I would have thought about him and been confident in what my husband had asked me to do and wouldn’t have regard for people’s thoughts because I love my husband more. After I thought about the answer to that first question, I believe the Lord also impressed in my mind, “Why is it different if I ask you to give up makeup for three days?” I realized it should be no different. This fast wasn’t to fix anything, but to just say God is more important and to be confident in that and in His love for me and in who He is, just like I would with my husband.

The Lord gave me so much grace over the next two days of my fast to remind me of these questions. He brought to mind truths like Psalm 37:4-5, Psalm 63:3, Psalm 40:3, 11, Isaiah 61:10, and Colossians 3:1-3 to help me think on. Throughout the next two days I still had to confess to the Lord that I was looking in things that reflected because I still cared what I looked like, I was trying to justify to myself that I didn’t look that different so it was okay, I was battling the thought that people at work would never look at me the same, that they wouldn’t see me as a pretty girl anymore because they knew what I really looked like, and that I really hated the fast the entire time. I also had to confess that while I was fearing what people at work would think of me and that they would never look at me the same, in almost the same breath I was taking pride in doing this fast because of the sweet encouragement and praise I was getting from people in my Christian circles, thinking, oh I can write about this and people will just think I’m so good and godly. I journaled to the Lord,

My mind, my flesh is pulled by two different worlds—the secular world and the religious world and they both make me look directly at me instead of above, to the real world that I should live for. Lord, please forgive me for looking to me instead of you. Father, I really want to fix this, but I can’t. Will you please help me take my mind off that and just delight in who you are, look to where you are, and be confident in that? I need you, please help me, Father.”

It wasn’t a perfect fast. I was still confessing the same things on day three that I was confessing on day one and I gotta say, I’m glad I can wear makeup again, but the Lord did move and teach me during this fast. My faith was tested and I’m thankful for His grace that allowed me to do this, I’m thankful for the perspective He gave me. I’m thankful that while I was at work I got to practice coming to Him more throughout the day, seeing that desperate need that I really have. While my flesh fought the fast the entire three days, I got to see who really was more important, and while I didn’t necessarily “feel” that God was more important, I’m thankful the Lord gave me grace to act as if He was and thankful He gave me eyes to see Him at work through it all. And I’m thankful my motives were for Him and not just to be good—what a sweet, tiny victory the Lord allowed even in the midst of imperfection.

Planted for His Glory


In a lecture I listened to a few weeks ago, the main topic was confession. One of the things Laurie encouraged us to do in order to put our old sinner girl to death and live from our new identity in Christ was to be honest with ourselves about our sin, confess our sin, and confess it quickly. I started thinking a lot about that. In my “want to fix everything and make it perfect and right” sinner self, when I see my sin, my first reaction is not to go to the Lord with it and confess it. When I see that once again I am looking at myself and being a brat in my head about how I would rather be anywhere other than work, I try to change my thoughts on my own first, fix them because I know they’re wrong and sinful, and then go to the Lord later and confess what I did wrong. There’s a major difference in saying to the Lord, “God I confess that I was being selfish and my thoughts were only on me and my job and what I want,” and, “God I am looking at myself right now, I don’t want to be here, my flesh wants my way and not yours.” The first example, I’m realizing, does not actually change anything, but keeps my focus more on me as I believe in my sinner self that I can “fix” my sin.

The Lord is revealing how I am truly making light of my sin when I think that I can do something on my own and then confess something I did to Him rather than bringing it to Him right at that moment and asking for His mercy. In reading Donald S. Whitney’s book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, he said something that the Lord really wouldn’t allow me to stop thinking about. Whitney said, “Mere admission is not confession. Christ is dishonored by a frivolous view of confession that does not appreciate how much our sin cost him.” I confessed to my mentor that I feel like a broken record when confessing to the Lord because so many of the sins I confess, I confess over and over and over again to Him. And while only the Lord in His grace, in His perfect time will allow victory over a particular sin, I do believe that I’m one of those women Laurie referred to in her lecture that don’t truly put their sinner girl to death in confession; they don’t truly take their sin as seriously as it is and just accept that that’s how they’re going to be. I have been admitting my sin, but not confessing my sin and humbling myself before the Lord in true heartbreak over what my sin really did cost Him.

I started wondering why I was trying to cover up my sin and not bring it to the Lord. I couldn’t put into words what it was that the Lord was trying to teach me. I was on the phone with a friend and she said to me something along the lines of, “God has really been teaching me that I can really bring everything to lay at His feet. Even if I know it’s not the righteous response I should be having, He still wants me to bring that to Him.” I was so thankful after that phone call because I knew the Lord had put what I couldn’t into words for me. He really does want all from me. He knows all and He simply says, “Come.” What sweet, sweet love that really is!

Even knowing how loving He is though, it’s still really scary to confess because there are things I know in my head that I think or do that I would never want to say out loud to anyone; they’re embarrassing, they’re awful, they’re cruel. But after meeting with my mentor and talking this through with her and confessing to her, I knew that I had to be real with the Lord. In an effort to be completely transparent with you, I want to share my prayer journal from the next day after meeting with my mentor about something that I have really been struggling with: my identity in the way I look. I told you a few entries ago that I knew this went deeper than what I may have originally written about!

“Will you help me be really honest here with you God? I want to give this all to you, lay everything in front of you. Lord, like I was sharing last night, one thing I believe I’m doing is merely admitting to you what I’m doing wrong. I’m not extremely heartbroken over it and if I am, it’s more of a sadness that I’m not being good. Even now, Lord, as I’m wanting to really say all of this to you, my mind is wandering because I think this is more a formality for me. I don’t think of my sin as sinning against you, I think of how it makes me not good. I make it all about me. I also, Lord, cling to, hope in, have my identity in the way I look. I scan rooms to measure if I’m the prettiest or not. I look and think of people differently based off how pretty they are. Last night, we discussed how the prettiest girl in the room can isolate herself because no one can relate, others are intimidated. I’ve been intimidated by beautiful women and wanted to be like them. When watching a show or a play my eyes are always fixed on the most beautiful one on the stage and that’s who I would watch. I feel superior or inferior based on how I size myself up to others. I want to be that perfect girl that no one can attain to. I want to ‘have it all.’ Last night we also talked about how at the end of our life here we would want people to say they saw you in me. Lord, I really do want that to be my desire, but, Lord, the truth is that I want people to think she had it all—she was beautiful, beautiful family, she was loving, she was compassionate…so I do want people to think I was sweet, but more like a southern belle, not because it was your love coming through me. Lord, I really do hate writing all this down, it’s embarrassing and I do really know how ridiculous it all is. A little more here—I look at my reflection whenever I can, I don’t know if I just want to see myself or what. If I feel like I look pretty or ugly my mood is different during my day or I react differently with friends. I fear getting ugly while pregnant. I fear what people will think of me. I fear what my husband will think of me. Lord this really is the reality of me. I know it’s dumb. I know it’s all lies. I know that there’s much more than this physical world, yet I cling to it so tightly with my looks and how others view me. Thank you that I do desire to deny myself. Last night when talking, my mentor made such a great point about how this is a spiritual battle and focusing on my beauty keeps me from experiencing your real beauty. Your beauty and you that makes everything in this life seem like [a cheap knock off] in comparison—this life is not the real deal. I really don’t know how to deny myself, Lord. My self seems so strong and desires to be remembered for cheap reasons. Please, Lord, forgive me. Will you grant me grace to repent, completely? I want to hope in you alone. I want to cling to the real thing, the real love, the real world….Lord, thank you for this desire, but I don’t know how to make the desire reality. I don’t have the power to do it and that’s honestly really frustrating. I know that if I could do it, it would still be all about me. Lord, only you can free me from this, but will you help me fight? Will you help me say no to me and look to you? Will you help me see who you really are and who I really am in you? Remind me each day who this day is for—and it’s not for me. Father, I don’t want to identify with this sin anymore. Please help me. Can you help me feel your grace today? Thank you, Father, that I really can bare all to you and you’re not turning your face from me.”

When talking to my mentor the night before I wrote this to the Lord, we also discussed how denying our self is like the woman that anointed Jesus’ feet with oil in Luke 7. I recalled the story faintly, but didn’t know where it was in the Bible, nor did I go look it up, but it was something that the Lord really wanted me to see. The evening after confessing all of this to the Lord at another commitment I’m involved with, we read that exact story and talked about this woman who entered into the Pharisees’ house and had no regard for what they thought of her as she wept at Jesus’ feet, cleaned his feet with her tears, and then poured out the most expensive perfume she had to anoint Him without a second thought. She knew the reality of her sins and what she had been forgiven and given mercy for. As I read the story, I believe I can almost see her finally get in front of Jesus and just exhale. She bared all before Him and had faith in who He was, not in who she was; she actually had no thought for herself at all. The Pharisees thought she was so weird and were critical of her, and not only that, but I imagine that was the most expensive possession she owned and she knew it was a cheap item in comparison to the riches of Jesus. Oh how I long to be like this woman.

The Lord has been revealing to me over the past few weeks that this goes deeper than my looks. I bow to others’ thoughts of me in almost every regard. I’ve witnessed so many examples of the isolation that is caused by my sin as I continue to cling to this world instead of clinging so tightly to my Savior. This is a daily battle, but I am thankful that the Lord is opening my eyes to see my sin and the realities of it, I’m thankful for the desire to be like this woman, and I’m thankful that He’s allowing me to see him at work. Today, while I see that my flesh is black with sin, I’m choosing to look instead to my Savior, where my real identity is found and cling to that and praise His name and His name alone. It’s easy to type that, but a whole other thing to actually live that out today. I will probably have to do it over and over and over again and I can only choose this by God’s grace. But God is greater than my sin and He is for me, not against me. And He’s for you too. He loves you, and He doesn’t want any of us settling for the cheap knock off when He’s freely given us the real thing in Him. Be encouraged—we can bring all to him and just exhale.

Planted for His Glory