Category Archives: Spiritual Growth

Join Our Summer Women’s Bible Study

Dear friend,

As a reader of Neither Height Nor Depth I want to invite you to join me for a free online Summer Women’s Bible Study I’m hosting. Beginning in July, each week I’ll send out an email with a brief lesson/story and list of daily scripture readings and prayer prompts. Then at the end of the week I will be hosting a Facebook live where we can all come together to discuss. But don’t worry if you can’t make it, the discussion will still be active after the “live” portion so you can read other’s thoughts and comment with your own. And if you’re not on Facebook, that’s OK, too! You will still receive the weekly email, allowing you to dig deeper into the Word this summer.

Our summer study will last 5 weeks, and it’s designed to be flexible, allowing you to study when and where you can!

If you’d like to join us, you can sign-up here.

And if you haven’t already done so, be sure to “like” Neither Height Nor Depth on Facebook so you can join the online discussion.

All my best,
Jelise

You are a daughter of the King

 

I have battled with my weight most of my life, to different degrees. And most of my life I have received messages that because of my appearance I did not measure up, I was less than.

In high school I was told, “you have such a pretty face, if only you weren’t fat.” In college I watched as my girlfriends always got asked to dance when we went out, and I sat alone at the table.

My first real job out of college a colleague and friend told me how she and our boss (a woman) had been talking about me, discussing how I was so smart and hardworking, it was a shame I was overweight because this would hold me back in my career. Years later, a male boss told me I didn’t have “the right look” to be the face of the company in the media, even though I wrote all of our press releases and marketing materials (a male boss who was 50 pounds overweight, I might add).

At my healthiest I was a size 12, having lost 60 pounds after giving birth to my twins. I was running 3-4 days a week, even participating in 5k’s and 10k’s. It was hard to keep up this workout schedule with three very young children and a full-time job with a commute, but I did my best. I felt strong and beautiful. In 2007 I started a new job. I was making good money, doing interesting work, well-respected, and getting to travel the world. I felt really good about myself. About 5 months into this job I went on a business trip to Thailand. I was sitting in the hotel lobby with a male colleague talking…I don’t even remember what the topic of conversation was but at some point it turned to health and fitness and he asked me if I had ever thought about exercising. Before I could answer, he said “you know if you worked out you could lose some weight.”

This colleague had looked at me and decided that I must not take care of myself. Because I did not fit his ideal of health or beauty he assumed I did not exercise. Even though I was the fittest I’d ever been in my adult life. Even though I had just run my first 10k the month before.

In that moment I felt defeated. Like a failure. Because despite all the good things I was doing for myself, to take care of my body, I did not meet his standard of health. I didn’t measure up to what my colleague or much of the world around me declared as fit and beautiful.

And I felt inferior.

Nothing had changed. I still had that job. I still had my health and strength. I still looked the same on the outside. But on the inside I felt unworthy. I felt unloved.

Because I was measuring myself and my worth against worldly standards, it was easy to believe what the world told me. I let one off-hand remark, one opinion from someone I barely even knew, tear me down.

And it’s not just about my appearance. Throughout my adult-life I have at times felt like a bad mom, bad friend, and bad daughter. I have judged my marriage against worldly standards and found it lacking. I have doubted my skill and ability in my career based on another’s harsh words.

I have craved praise and compliments and confused approval for love.

But here’s the truth that the world doesn’t tell us: we’ve already been chosen.

Each of us has been hand-picked with love. And it is a love so deep and so fierce that wars have been waged, enemies cut-down, and evil defeated — for me, and for you.

There is a great King who has claimed each of us as His daughter. And now He’s just waiting for us to claim our inheritance and live like the heirs that we are.

 

Romans 8:15-17 (TPT) says:

15 And you did not receive the “spirit of religious duty,” leading you back into the fear of never being good enough. But you have received the “Spirit of full acceptance,” enfolding you into the family of God. And you will never feel orphaned, for as he rises up within us, our spirits join him in saying the words of tender affection, “Beloved Father!”16 For the Holy Spirit makes God’s fatherhood real to us as he whispers into our innermost being, “You are God’s beloved child!”

17 And since we are his true children, we qualify to share all his treasures, for indeed, we are heirs of God himself. And since we are joined to Christ, we also inherit all that he is and all that he has. We will experience being co-glorified with him provided that we accept his sufferings as our own.

We are God’s beloved children, His daughters. And that means we are not supposed to live in the fear of never being good enough. It means that we will never be orphaned or alone. It means that we, being joined to Christ, will inherit all that He is and all that He has.

And in case you’re wondering what that inheritance is, it’s heaven. Eternal life. And He’s reserved a spot for us at His table. The places are set and our name cards placed with loving care in anticipation of our arrival (1 Peter 1:4).

So what does God want in return? I mean He must only reserve a spot for those who can be good and live up to His standards, right?

Jesus put it very succinctly in Matthew 22:37-40: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Are we supposed to keep the commandments and follow God’s teaching? Absolutely. But God knows we will fall short and make mistakes trying keep his commandments. Yet unlike the world He does not condemn us when we fail (Romans 8:1).

He wants us to love Him. He created us, He claimed us, He protects us, He has reserved a spot in heaven for us, and what He wants in return is that we love Him.

This is why the Truth is so hard to believe. How can we believe that we are so important, so loved? How can we walk around declaring we are a princess, a daughter of a King?

The world tells us we are not good enough. The world records and catalogs every mistake and shortcoming. It tells us we have to try harder, do more, be more, and then, maybe we’ll be accepted.

God says: beloved daughter, you are my child and I love you. I have a spot ready and waiting for you in my castle. You need not fear never being good enough. All that I have is yours and all I ask is that you love me and desire to be by my side.

You are a daughter of the King.

you are a daughter of the King

 

 

My soul is crushed

He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38)

 

I had the privilege of teaching the message at our church this past Sunday. The message was on Jesus’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I love this story.

Oh, I know that might sound strange. After all, it’s not an uplifting passage, like the Sermon on the Mount or one that demonstrates Jesus’s mighty power, like when he calmed the raging seas. In this passage our Savior is admitting how crushed his soul feels and praying to God to “take this cup from me”. (Matthew 26:39)

I believe it is probably the most vulnerable, raw example of Jesus’s humanness. And that’s precisely why I love this story so much.

I know what it feels like to have my soul crushed with grief. I know what it feels like to be on my knees, in complete agony, sobbing and sweating and crying out to God to take away the suffering. (Luke 22:44)

About 12 years ago my marriage hit a very difficult spot. I was pregnant with Daniel and Olivia at the time, Hannah was only two and I honestly thought my marriage was over and our growing little family would be forever fractured. I was so overwhelmed with despair and the crushing reality that my marriage, my life as I knew it with the only man I’d ever loved, was not what I thought it was; that our story was not going to end the way I had always planned and hoped for.

I remember one night lying on our bed just sobbing in the most ugly way you can imagine, barely able to breathe through the tears and it actually felt like I was being suffocated because the grief and despair was pressing in on me so much.

In that hour of desperation I cried out to God and prayed similar words to what Jesus prayed in the garden: “Dear God, please take away this pain. Take away my suffering.” And then I prayed, “Tell me what to do! Please tell me your will.”

And I heard God so clearly in that moment…and I think maybe we never hear him more clearly than when we are in this place of soul-crushing pain and despair…but He said to me: “Stay.”

Of course, I don’t know what Jesus heard when he was praying in the garden that night. But given that on the second and third time he prayed Jesus said: “If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done,” (Matthew 26:42) I believe Jesus heard God. I believe God confirmed what Jesus had to do. I believe God spoke to his heart and told him that his agony would be relieved, but only after he walked through the pain. He couldn’t go around it because God had a bigger plan, and Jesus’s death and crucifixion was the cornerstone of that plan. He was to become the “spotless lamb of God” to take upon the sins of the world. (John 1:9)

When I heard God that night telling me to stay, it was because He had a greater plan for my marriage, for me and my husband, and my children. It was greater than what I could see in that moment. We would have to go through months and years of struggle and pain before it was fully revealed. But now, today? I really can’t imagine my life having taken a different path.

Of course Jesus’s anguish was much greater than anything that we could ever imagine or even go through, and I don’t mean to belittle it by comparing it to my own struggles. But if you’ve ever been in a dark place, if you’ve had a season of extreme pain and brokenness, you know how hard it is. So we can take that and imagine how much deeper Jesus’s anguish would have been. Yet he submitted himself to God’s will. He trusted God to take the lead, even if it meant leading him directly to the most brutal, humiliating pain imaginable.

I think maybe we never hear God more clearly than when we are in a place of soul-crushing pain and despair.

Jesus prayed to God in Gethsemane, which was actually an olive grove on the Mount of Olives. Historians believe that there would have been olive oil presses in this place. In fact the Hebrew word for Gethsemane literally means “press of oil” (gat shemen).

While I was preparing for my teaching I did some research on how olive oil was made in Jesus’s time. The olives were placed in a large circular basin in which a great wheel-shaped millstone rolled in a circle crushing the olives — pit and all. The pulp was then collected in baskets, which were stacked several layers high in stone pits. A stone weight was placed on top of the baskets, and a heavy wooden beam, with one end in a hole in the wall nearby (often these presses were found in caves) was placed across the pile of baskets. Stone weights were hung from the beam, applying enormous pressure to the olives and squeezing the oil from the pulp. It was a multi-step process so that every bit of oil could be extracted and used.

[Here’s a great video if you want to learn more about this process].

The olive has to be crushed and then pressed with an enormous amount of pressure — multiple times — before it can produce oil.

Sometimes we have to be crushed before we can fully deny ourselves and rely wholly on God. Before we can fulfill God’s predestined plans. But we are never required to do it alone.

Jesus had to suffer and die on the cross before we could be saved, but God was with him in the garden and on the cross. (Luke 22:43, 23:44-46)

My marriage had to go through a period of brokenness to get to a better, stronger place, but God was with me and David in our darkest hours.

God is not in the business of giving us easy.

God is in the business of redemption.

Are your core values what’s driving you?

I clicked the button to confirm my account and the first question popped up: “What are your core values?”

And I had to stop and think. I wasn’t expecting such a deep question from an app.

I was working in my new goal tracking app, Lifetick, and thinking I would just enter in my goals for 2018 and a set a few deadlines and notifications and be done with it. But before I could do that, this app wanted to know my core values.

You see the app takes a pyramid approach where you first identify core values, then set goals based on each core value, and lastly you can set-up specific tasks tied to each goal. This approach is not unfamiliar to me, as it’s very similar to how I’ve had to approach every marketing or business plan I’ve ever worked on (hello grad school, thanks for drilling that into my head!). But for some reason I had never stopped to take that same kind of tiered approach to my personal life. And as I sat there staring at that question on the screen it was a total epiphany moment for me.

Why would I spend my time doing anything or striving for any goal if I couldn’t tie it back to a core value? Or another way of putting that, if I couldn’t identify how my daily tasks and goals were supporting one of my core values, maybe it was time to rethink how I spend my time.

After some thought and reflection, here are the three core values I came up with:

  1. To pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ.
  2. To be a good steward of all that God has given me.
  3. To let the light of Jesus shine through me.

These might seem pretty altruistic or simplistic to you, but when I thought about what I valued most, what I wanted my life to look like at the core, these were it. And you know what, tying goals to these is not very hard.

For example one of my goals is to get moving for 20 minutes a day for the next 30 days. This directly aligns with core value #2 because God gave me this body, and if I don’t take care of it I’m not being a good steward of the gift He’s offered.

It also made me re-look at some of my goals and see if things were a bit imbalanced in my life or didn’t tie-back to a core value. Did I have any goals set that would directly support my core value of pursuing a relationship with Jesus? How did my work goals support my core values?

For now, I’ve only set-up four goals. I’m sure there will be more to come over time, but by keeping a focus on my core values, I was able to give myself permission to take a few things off my list. I’m making sure all of my time and energy is spent pursuing things that tie into the core of who I strive to be as a person. It’s also given me a greater sense of purpose for each of these goals because I can see the big picture. Getting fit isn’t just something I should be doing because everyone says so, or because I feel pressure to do so, it’s something I should be doing to honor God and take care of the body He gave me. That certainly lends a level of motivation I didn’t have before.

Do you know what your core values are? Do you see a direct link between your goals and daily tasks and these values? Maybe spend some time thinking about this and writing down your values. You don’t need an app to do this, but Lifetick is free and so far has been very easy to use!

 

 

photo credit: wuestenigel 2018 Goals in Notebook with a Pen via photopin (license)

 

The Ugly Truth of an Overwhelmed Mom and Resentful Wife

I’m excited to announce that I’ve joined the writing team over at Her View From Home, a lifestyle magazine that connects your view to the rest of the world; embracing everyday living through daily articles about family, kids, fashion and health, recipes and faith. Below is an excerpt from my first article.

It’s 10:30 p.m. and I’m exhausted.

The kids have been in bed for an hour, and my husband is asleep on the couch next to me. I shut down the laptop, turn off the TV, and pick up the cordless house phone to put in the charger. I am aware that if I don’t remember to do this tonight we won’t have use of our home phone the next day because someone has used the other handset, forgotten to put it back, and now it’s lost with a dead battery, somewhere in my house.

I pass by the dog’s food dish and see the child responsible for feeding her did not refill the water bowl, so I stop to fill it. I start to climb the steps to the upstairs, picking up a lost sock, a forgotten toy, and dirty dish towel along the way. With each step I climb, I feel the resentment growing inside of me.

I am the director, the scheduler, the planner, the seer, the doer, the organizer, and the manager.

Why don’t they remember to turn off the lights, and pick-up their shoes, and run the dishwasher, and sweep up the spilled cat food without being asked?

To read the full post, click here.

And while you’re at it, give them a like on Facebook.