Stretch Marks

Recently I’ve been marinating on Proverbs 31 Ministries and the tremendous way He’s growing us, in faith and in size.

It made me think of stretch marks. Yes, stretch marks.

I’ve had them on my hips ever since the summer before 9th grade, the summer when I grew 5 1/2 inches in one growth spurt. I was bumbly and awkward back then, towering over all the girls AND guys. Yes, I still am a little bumbly and awkward as a tall drink of water.

I remember aching that summer of growing so much. I felt such weird pain. Little did I know they were growing pains.

Mommas, I can only imagine the sensations you feel as that baby is growing inside of you, stretching you.

One definition says:

“Stretch marks are a form of scarring with an off-color hue. Over time they may diminish, but will not disappear completely. They are caused from the rapid stretching of the skin associated with rapid growth or weight change.”

We won’t worry about the weight change part, shall we?

As leaders it is normal to experience stretch marks and growing pains during growth spurts.  The Lord sometimes grows us rapidly, faster than we feel comfortable with.

In 2016, because of the support of our Proverbs 31 Ministries donors, more than:

  • One Million people are digging deeper into God’s Word with the First 5 mobile app.
  • 700,000 people receive Encouragement for Today daily email devotions.
  • 4.6 million people find encouragement and hope by connecting with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
  • 3,000 people are getting equipped for their ministry calling through our She Speaks Conference and COMPEL writers training.
  • 6 million women and families are hearing biblical teaching through our Everyday Life with Lysa radio show airing on 1,300 radio stations throughout the US.

These few statistics are humbling. All glory goes to God.

In the middle of “growth” is the word “OW.”

Sometime growth is painful.

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Just like a gardener prunes branches to get a tree to grow better, God prunes us and stretches our faith. He is the Gardener of our souls, tending us.

Whatever growing pains you are experiencing at home, at work, at church, or in the community, embrace the stretch marks. They are beautiful signs that God is faithful.

“I am the true vine and my father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” –John 15:1.

Lord Jesus, Thank you for growing our faith, for stretching us,for giving us stretch marks. Every time I look at my stretch marks, I’ll appreciate them much more. Please guide me in the growing, Lord, so I can bear the most fruit for Your Kingdom.

Reflect:

In what areas of my life am I experiencing stretch marks and growing pains?

With God’s guidance, what can you do to prepare for this new fruit that you will bear?

Renew:

“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” –Colossians 1:10

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Feeling Like a Prune

Welcome to the 2015 first full week of Daylight Savings Time. Although it’s not officially springtime yet, the warm sunshine on my face this past weekend caused spring fever to rise within me.

All around my yard this weekend I noticed how much all my dead-looking plants and bushes need pruning back, so that they sprout back out and flourish.  It reminds me of what God is doing in me, in us, as we prepare our hearts and minds for Easter.

Divine pruning sure is a hard concept to grasp. I do liken it to the annual pruning back of the crepe myrtles, roses, and lantana in my yard. After the hardest freeze of the winter, all the dead growth is cut off, so the bushes or trees are almost level to the ground, ugly and barren. By waiting just a few months, they completely bud back out and blossom, many times even more beautiful and healthier than before.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…” (John 15:1-2 NIV)

So often we don’t understand why God divinely prunes us down to our raw, barren nakedness. These times are the toughest on us. Many of us normal people, and even some of the most Godly, inspiring people in my lives, have at one point or another been stripped of everything except our faith.  By trusting in God, He knows we will bud back out and blossom, even more beautifully and more healthy than before.

God also has to divinely prune us to bear more of His Fruit of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit IS love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV).

Notice the verb “is” instead of “are” after the word “Spirit.” That means that all nine fruit are one, not separate. We strive through the Holy Spirit for all nine. What a high calling, impossible to do on our own without Him.

I am my mother’s daughter. We share a deep love for flowers and plants. Growing up, our yard was always immaculately landscaped. Mom even planted a rose garden in our backyard, which expanded until we had more than 100 lovely roses, taking up more than half the yard.

So vividly I remember a wrought iron placard she had staked at the entrance trellis of the rose garden. It was a quote by Dorothy Frances Gurney (1858-1932), English devotional writer and poet:

“The kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the birds for mirth, one is nearer God’s Heart in a garden, than anywhere else on earth.”

Mom’s rose garden was a small paradise, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

One of my chores growing up was to “deadhead” the roses after school. I didn’t realize what a gift it was to inhale the fragrance and witness the beauty, without getting pricked by thorns, as I carefully clipped the dead roses and left the blooming roses. By me pruning off the dead growth, I was allowing space and freedom for the rose to bloom again, bigger and better than even before. What a sweet analogy for our faith.

In each room in my home growing up was a daily bouquet of freshly cut roses. I didn’t realize that all houses didn’t have this blessing. One of Mom’s ministries was to take roses to our church’s members who were hospitalized or home-bound. I know people were blessed by this outreach.

Mom depended on my chore of  “deadheading” the roses for them to grow, bloom and bless others. I know I took this gift of fresh roses, this ministry for granted. Such valuable life lessons were taught in that garden.

May our souls continue to rise with spring fever as we divinely prune within.

Elisabeth Elliot, in her classic book Passion and Purity, so beautifully and poignantly writes,

“There is no ongoing spiritual life without this process of letting go. At the precise point where we refuse, growth stops. If we hold tightly to anything given to us, unwilling to let it go when the time comes to let it go or unwilling to allow it to be used as the giver means it to be used, we stunt the growth of the soul…” p. 163.

Reflect:

–To what are you holding on too tightly?

–What or whom in your life is stunting your growth and needs divinely pruning?

Renew:

–“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43 NIV)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.”(John 15:16-17 NIV)

Recharge:

—-What is your plan to divinely prune those people/items out of your life?

— How will you bear fruit this week?

Resource:

Elliot, Elisabeth.   1984. Passion and Purity.  Grand Rapids: Revell.

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Springing Forward–>Divine Pruning, Post #19

Welcome to the 2014 first full week of Lent and Daylight Savings Time. Although it’s not officially springtime yet, the warm sunshine on my face this past weekend caused spring fever to rise within me.

All around my yard this weekend I noticed how much all my dead-looking plants and bushes need pruning back, so that they sprout back out and flourish.  It reminds me of what God is doing in me, in us, as we prepare our hearts and minds for Easter.

Divine pruning sure is a hard concept to grasp. I do liken it to the annual pruning back of the crepe myrtles, roses, and lantana in my yard. After the hardest freeze of the winter, all the dead growth is cut off, so the bushes or trees are almost level to the ground, ugly and barren. By waiting just a few months, they completely bud back out and blossom, many times even more beautiful and healthier than before.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…” (John 15:1-2 NIV 1984)

 So often we don’t understand why God divinely prunes us down to our raw, barren nakedness. These times are the toughest on us. Many of us normal people, and even some of the most Godly, inspiring people in my lives, have at one point or another been stripped of everything except our faith.  By trusting in God, He knows we will bud back out and blossom, even more beautifully and more healthy than before.

God also has to divinely prune us to bear more of His Fruit of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit IS love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV 1984).

Notice the verb “is” instead of “are” after the word “Spirit.” That means that all nine fruit are one, not separate. We strive through the Holy Spirit for all nine. What a high calling, impossible to do on our own without Him.

I am my mother’s daughter. We share a deep love for flowers and plants. Growing up, our yard was always immaculately landscaped. Mom even planted a rose garden in our backyard, which expanded until we had more than 100 lovely roses, taking up more than half the yard.

So vividly I remember a wrought iron placard she had staked at the entrance trellis of the rose garden. It was a quote by Dorothy Frances Gurney (1858-1932), English devotional writer and poet:

“The kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the birds for mirth, one is nearer God’s Heart in a garden, than anywhere else on earth.”

Mom’s rose garden was a small paradise, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

One of my chores growing up was to “deadhead” the roses after school. I didn’t realize what a gift it was to inhale the fragrance and witness the beauty, without getting pricked by thorns, as I carefully clipped the dead roses and left the blooming roses. By me pruning off the dead growth, I was allowing space and freedom for the rose to bloom again, bigger and better than even before. What a sweet analogy for our faith.

In each room in my home growing up was a daily bouquet of freshly cut roses. I didn’t realize that all houses didn’t have this blessing. One of Mom’s ministries was to take roses to our church’s members who were hospitalized or home-bound. I know people were blessed by this outreach.

Mom depended on my chore of  “deadheading” the roses for them to grow, bloom and bless others. I know I took this gift of fresh roses, this ministry for granted. Such valuable life lessons were taught in that garden.

May our souls continue to rise with spring fever as we divinely prune within.

Elisabeth Elliot, in her classic book Passion and Purity, so beautifully and poignantly writes,

“There is no ongoing spiritual life without this process of letting go. At the precise point where we refuse, growth stops. If we hold tightly to anything given to us, unwilling to let it go when the time comes to let it go or unwilling to allow it to be used as the giver means it to be used, we stunt the growth of the soul…” p. 163.

Reflect:

–To what are you holding on too tightly?

–What or whom in your life is stunting your growth and needs divinely pruning?

Renew:

–“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43 NIV 1984)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.”(John 15:16-17 NIV 1984)

Recharge:

—-What is your plan to divinely prune those people/items out of your life?

— How will you bear fruit this week?

Resource:

Elliot, Elisabeth.   1984. Passion and Purity.  Grand Rapids: Revell.

Leave a comment here | 1 Comment