Freedom to Love Well

Noelle Schwantes, LPC-MHSP, NCC

The other day Marcel, Joseph, and I took a trip to a new restaurant we wanted to try.  Our waiter was friendly, but something was off.  He made a pest of himself.  He hovered, bragged, invaded space, and generally missed the million social cues I was throwing at him.  It occurred to me that he was likely high. I recognized the signs of drugs and I got furious.  I hate being conned and I hate even worse when people think they’re getting away with it.  I felt he was feeding us a bunch of lies in order to try to increase his tip. (Which in my mind was dropping drastically by the minute.)

server at restaurantMy husband and I have been praying for awhile now that God will show us how to love like He does.  So even though we were both irritated, Marcel engaged John (name changed), our server.  My frustration continued to sky rocket because my nice family dinner was being interrupted by someone I didn’t believe would remember the conversation due to his “flight status.”

But, I was nice.

As John talked to my husband he shared that he was in an outpatient program for heroin addiction but planned to quit and get another doctor because he wasn’t ready to face the emotions it was bringing up.  I thought to myself, “bingo.”  My gut appeared to have been correct.

As we pulled out of the restaurant, something inside me was wrestling with the entire experience.  I began praying about my reaction.  I felt my old compulsion as a Christian girl to be “nice” and I followed through with that.  And it made me angry.  It didn’t feel loving.  The actual result was that he seemed to feel we bought everything he said.

God says that the truth will set us free, but I hid every honest emotion I had during that exchange.  I also recall that Jesus never let people’s masks stay in place.  With love, he would gently and without shame (and sometimes not so gently in the case of the Pharisees)  expose their hearts for what was truly inside.

I am quite certain I didn’t love John well.  Being “nice” covered the issue.  

After several days of processing this and praying about it I came up with an idea of what Jesus might have done.  The restaurant was small and he wouldn’t have shamed him in front of his co-workers.  Words may have also gotten lost in a drug fog.  So I believe he may have written the following:

John,

I sense a deep pain in you that you try to cover.  I know you said you weren’t ready to deal with the emotions that were coming up, but I want you to know that God has the answers to your pain and when you’re ready to stop running you will find your freedom there.  When you take off your mask you will find that God is not like the ones who have hurt you and you are passionately loved just as you are.  Know that you are in our prayers and that if you ever want to talk more we’d love to get together.  You can reach us at noelle@stringofpearls3.com.

Noelle and Marcel

Peace came, I didn’t have to fake anything, but I realized this cut to the chase and didn’t buy a lie.  The only sadness came from realizing a missed opportunity.  So guess where I’m going for dinner tonight and guess who I’m requesting?

What I realize is that loving well is not what I thought it was.  It is confounding, confusing, and impossible without a source to draw from.  It’s also a little terrifying.  But as I look over my life, moments where I was loved well changed the course of my life and offered me healing and freedom.  I can’t live with myself if I don’t give it away.

What are the ways love has touched your life?

How do you practice loving well?

 

 

Location for Workshop!!

Today we just wanted to update you about the upcoming workshop.  When we originally began posting and marketing this workshop we didn’t have a location yet!  We were so committed to making it happen though we went forward with faith and boldness. :)  We are happy to announce this week that the Financial Freedom Workshop will be held at  Embassy Suites in the Hamilton Mall area of Chattanooga.  This is a beautiful new hotel and those of you who attend the workshop will hear about the amazing way God brought this about.  So for this week, we simply ask you to click here for updated details about the workshop.  You can register online and reserve your seat now.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Freedom to have Discipline

Seasurf-Shonna Dalusong

At the beginning of December 2013, the Holy Spirit impressed my heart with the thought that my word for 2014 is “Discipline.”

My first reaction was a watered-down version of my old self.  Not a full blown temper tantrum on the floor, but definitely resistance.

He gently reminded me that in the fall of 2012 I had prayed and asked Him for more of the fruit of self-control.  Grumbling, but caught with my own words, I let a bit of my guard down.

I didn’t like the picture that was beginning to form in my imagination that included boot camp tyrant personal trainers yelling in my face, and the martyr in the circle watching others eat cake at a party.

When I walked into the Joyce Meyer Power Thoughts class I was attending that day, I found that the Power Thought that day “happened” to be “I am disciplined and self-controlled.”  I laughed.   Of course it was!  How like God!

As the month unfolded, God began to gently reveal His plan.  His idea of the word “discipline” was for me to focus on pausing, asking, listening and obeying step by step, day by day, throughout the year.  Considering I had also been praying that my heart would get into a place where I obeyed immediately, completely, and willingly, this too made sense.

I won’t be surprised if 2014 includes some discipline from a personal trainer and some denial of things that aren’t good for my health, but that’s not the focus.  (How like the old me to go straight to the perfectionism and the works.  Doing.)

I asked Him why we were beginning in December, a month early, and He chuckled and said, ‘This work needs an extra month.”

So enter the middle of January and I had my first A-HA moment for the year.

On a Saturday I was talking with a friend who has honed obedience to God’s voice for many years.  She talked about being obedient to get out of bed at whatever time God awoke her in the morning.  And how when she resisted and went back to sleep those days didn’t work out so well.

Shortly after that conversation I had a day where I was so exhausted that  I asked, when awakened, if I could go back to sleep and was impressed with a peaceful, “Yes.”

Then I had one of those days.  It began to rain while I was out and about.  I hadn’t taken the umbrella.  I’d had a really vague impression to check the weather report and carry it, but I hadn’t paid attention.

I stopped to run into a store for two items and locked my keys in my truck.

When I called AAA, there was a message saying that there were long delays due to the weather and the increased number of service calls. The dispatcher who finally answered told me the wait was going to be over an hour.

 

Maybe the average person wouldn’t care about an hour wait at a store.  One could browse.   But I’ve learned not to do that to myself while on a faith journey with no steady income, living on God’s provision for my needs.  The temptation to feel sorry for myself for all I can’t buy is too great when I browse.

No worries.  I’ve got a good book on the Kindle on my phone.  Then I see the battery status.  I best not even text or my phone might die before the locksmith gets here and calls me from the parking lot.

So I stand under cover and watch my truck… and think… and pray… asking God what this is all about…  And I remember the conversation from the prior Sabbath.

 

My initial temptation was to pick up the idea that God had done this to me… to teach me a lesson.  (And I wasn’t even going to be sore at Him for it!)

But then I realized the lie.

Each day has darkness in it.  My time with God in the morning prepares me to submit my plans to Him and to receive instruction.  When I start my day slow, with Him, I am tuned into the prompts to “check the weather report” and “carry the umbrella’ or to “put the spare truck key in my pocket.”  He KNOWS what is coming in my day and He prepares me for it when I take the time to tune in the radio dial to His frequency and listen before I head out into the day.

I wanted to grumble that He told me it was ok to go back to sleep.  And He reminded me about 2012’s word “freedom” where I learned how much He values choice.  He honored my choice that morning.

I am thankful I wore a hooded sweatshirt.

I am thankful that I had my cell phone and AAA card.

I am thankful that I had a dry place to stand and wait.

And I am thankful that I was listening close enough to catch the subtle heart shift between “He did it to me” and “He works all for good.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom to Wait, Part 2

Noelle Schwantes, LPC-MHSP, NCC

African American Model 2

For those of you who are waiting on a life partner, I ask you this question.  You’ve probably written your list right? Good looking, healthy, good with money, working a stable job, good with computers, Spiritual…the list varies with the unique aspects of each of us.   But while we wait there aren’t many of us who haven’t day dreamed about what he will be like.

OK now I’m really going to ask the question…

On that list, are you the person you are looking for?

Let me explain.  How many of us want someone who’s good with money because money flows through our fingers like water…never to be seen again?  How many of us want someone who’s spiritual because we feel the lack in ourselves?

If you have turned your life over to God, if you’ve given him control of your life, he is likely putting you in a waiting period so you don’t ruin a good thing when it comes to you.  Do not ever doubt that if you really want a man in your life, you could have one tomorrow.  I’m not kidding.  Lower your standards and you will find men coming out of the woodwork.  If you have committed your life to God and are fully surrendered to Him, He says, “I’m not just going to give you any man, I’m going to give you far beyond what you could ask or imagine.  In the meantime, I want you to grow and be the wife that this man is praying for.”  If the answer to my question is that you are far from who you want to be, my encouragement would be to start to actively “delight yourself in the Lord.” and enjoy the ride while he gets the desires of your heart ready.

You may be thinking that you really are somebody you would like to be with already, God may be waiting on your partner to get his act together in which case some heavy duty intercessory prayer is in order.

Now one of the questions that came in was someone wondering if God means for them to be single.  Paul does talk about some of us being called to be single.  But I also know that God promises to give us the desires of our heart if we delight in him.  And if you delight in God and still desire a mate, my thoughts would be that there will be a mate for you someday.

Here is something important though, when we truly delight in God, we will get to a place where He is enough.  This happened in my own heart (and there are truly no words for how boy crazy I was my entire life) and I have seen it happen in the hearts of other single friends.  When we focus on God and seek Him the most amazing things start to happen.  Ironically, when I no longer cared, when it didn’t hurt anymore to be single because my heart was full of God, that’s when Marcel showed up and I began to experience my own “beyond all I asked or imagined.”

What do you think your future mate is praying for? Are you that woman yet?

DISCLAIMER: This in NO WAY covers all the aspects of waiting but it does cover what I know to be true this far in my journey.  Please do your own searching and feel free to send in other questions.  My baby was using me for a jungle gym during parts of the writing process so also please excuse the errors!

Freedom to Wait

 

 

African American Model 2

Noelle Schwantes, LPC-MHSP, NCC

I’m very excited about today’s post because the topic was suggested by one of our readers!  It also happens to be a topic that is very dear to my heart (while at times I hate it) because I have spent a good deal of my life doing it.  Today’s post, however, is about asking for information from our readers prior to writing the final post.

The topic was brought up in the context of waiting for a life mate.  I waited a good bit for my spouse (and he was worth the wait) but in the midst of the wait I grew tired of people’s pithy responses to my pain.  With that in mind I am very prayerful and interested in knowing what the struggles and questions are for those of you who are currently in a waiting period.

How can we support you best with this post on an often painful topic?  For those of you who prefer to ask your questions in private, please email me at noelle@stringofpearls3.com and for others who wouldn’t mind some dialogue, please post your questions in the comments box below. I will plan on addressing this topic next week.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Freedom to Hear

Noelle Schwantes, LPC-MHSP, NCC

I have mentioned in earlier blogs that I have had the sense that in January God was going to shift some things. Of course we hoped that it would be our financial situation, but regardless of what it was, I had the sense that it would be great.  Whether it was more Spiritual connection or more money!

Due to this sense, I was bound and determined to get some answers once January came so Marcel and I decided to spend New Years Day talking with God and seeking Him for direction.  For Marcel, it looked like writing a list of 10-12 of the opportunities he’s facing right now and asking God which ones to pursue.

BONUS: If you try to do several things rather than narrowing your focus to the things you really want, you will not excel at any of the things and will burn yourself out.

My sweet husband knows this well as a life coach (Leadership From the Core) and was asking God for direction on how to focus.  He got two answers and was rather surprised.

Now I should also say that this, “hearing from God” business is relatively new to my husband.  He is logical and intelligent and has always figured that God works through that.  Often He does, but let me tell you, just as often God will give direction that makes no logical sense but after we obey we see the amazing things that wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t.

Soooo, my husband started working on what he heard and asked God to confirm it.  Without going into all the hairy details, I will just say that God confirmed it in a big way last week.  It also confirmed my sense that something was going to shift in January.  I’m sure I’ll write more as things play out, but here is what I want to leave you with.

When you surrender and obey a few things happen,

1)You get tested to see if you mean it,

2) You find this amazing illogical peace in the surrender, (no matter how you fought it before)

3) God opens doors and shows Himself in amazing, miraculous ways.

4) You find your soul, the very cells of your being, satisfied in ways you never thought possible.

Tell us about a time you surrendered and obeyed?  What happened?

 

Freedom: The Plot Thickens

20 Dollar Bill

Noelle Schwantes, LPC-MHSP, NCC

It started a couple weeks ago on Friday night while listening to a sermon by Bill Johnson titled, “The Theology of Blessing.” The sermon was great and I highly recommend it, but one phrase in particular nailed me to the wall.  Pastor Johnson asks the question, “How much (money) is too much?  I don’t know, it’s whatever amount causes you to withdraw your trust from God and place it in money.”

WHAM.

Those of you who follow the blog know that I have been sharing about our journey lately specifically as it relates to a promise of stewarding wealth and how ridiculous that seems lately due to our current financial circumstances.  Back when we heard about the lay-off I began to pray that this would be the time that God brought us into our callings more fully. I felt I was ready.

Well, Bill changed all that in one sentence. In an instance I knew that when I have a lot of money in the bank my trust is in the money.  I naturally feel more peaceful and confident with a fat bank account.  Maybe some of you are saying “that’s normal”…I would gently respond that it is not the walk of faith.  We are called to walk by God’s promises and not what we see in the natural realm.  This blog is about freedom and to be true freedom, it  has to work under all circumstances.  It has to be something that can’t be taken away from us.   It is my belief that to be ready to steward wealth and know in my soul that it’s God’s means I have to be able to trust Him and rest fully in the lean times.

So all of a sudden I’m at an impasse, something I have no idea how to fix.  I blurted out upon hearing that sermon, “Well God, take it all then if that’s what it takes to learn this lesson.” Crazy maybe, but I ACHE to be in the calling God placed on my heart all those years ago and this is part of the puzzle.  Every time I sought God about this I felt a strong impression that He was not going to reveal any new direction until January.  Strange, but this impression has come consistently with my prayers. And so the ache continued without clear answers, just a knowing that I was to stand firm.

Now let me back up a bit…since this journey began there have always been options.  Savings, stocks, increase work hours, etc.  But I’ve been able to stay relatively calm because there were options.  I may not like them but they were there.  I have always been able to figure something out.

Coming back to current events, Marcel found out that the unemployment we made a part of our current budget was over the last week in December. We thought we had 6 months. This knowledge came just days after my prayer to take everything if it is what I needed to learn this lesson.

It appears God is answering my prayer.  In the next blogs I’ll share more about what has happened thus far in January.

How much money does it take to replace your trust in God?

What  happens when you find you’re out of options?

Freedom to Laugh

Cat CartoonNoelle Schwantes, LPC-MHSP, NCC

I’m a little tired of the seriousness of my posts of late.  Not that they aren’t important and honest, but it is time for a little levity.

This week I got to see a dear friend, the little sister of my heart.  I also got to meet her boyfriend.  After meeting him, I’ve realized he is a man who is worthy of her (And I don’t say that lightly.  She is a truly exceptional human being).

Over the course of the visit we learned of his recent fascination with cats and we got to share my all time favorite youtube video.  I believe I have watched it about 50 times and have almost peed myself laughing every time.

Sooo, bringing my own brand of joy to the season…have at it!

SAILING CAT

Freedom to Wrestle

Financial FreedomNoelle Schwantes, LPC-MHSP, NCC

Many many years ago God told me I would be wealthy one day.  This blog is not a debate about how God speaks to us.  You’ll just have to take my word for it that it came out of nowhere and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was Him.  I was horribly poor at the time and when I heard it, my head immediately jerked up to look at the sky and I muttered, “Well don’t give it to me now, I can’t be trusted with it.”  Despite the fact that I had very little, whenever I did get something extra I spent it on clothes, books, movies…you get the idea.  Credit cards were my friend. Money was used to fund my emotional needs and compulsions.  In a nutshell, I knew I was not to be trusted with a lot of resources.

Despite my financial dysfunction, I did know that I was only to be a steward of whatever resources God gave me. Saying I would be wealthy was a fallacy of sorts because I knew that as a steward of a lot of money, it would be God’s and not mine.  Over the years I have never doubted what I heard and I was never anxious to see the fulfillment of the word because I had so much to learn in that area.  It has taken the almost 15 years to learn financial surrender and trust and recently those lessons have been refined by some fire! (The book I’m working on and workshop String of Pearls is planning are both based on these lessons.)  Much of our current circumstances are consequences of the years that I didn’t trust God for financial provision.  Even though I have not lived on credit for quite awhile now, we are still digging out of the debt hole that came because I wanted what I wanted and didn’t trust God to supply. And truly, the debt is insurmountable in our current circumstances.

Recently I realized that every financial lesson I’m aware of God putting in front of me, I have surrendered to and been faithful to.  I do not spend compulsively, I pray about purchases big and small before making them…Seriously, I ask permission before buying ice cream.  We don’t trust in debt or use credit cards.  If we can’t pay cash we don’t get it. The lessons continue and I’m not perfect by far, but I am surrendered. For the first time since hearing that word from God I have felt that I would be able to be a trustworthy steward.  I started looking to God for the fulfillment of His promise to me.

And then Marcel got laid off.  We lived on savings for almost 6 months always expecting that any day, God was going to show up with our miracle.

I was reading in Jeremiah 20:7-12 this morning and I feel like him right now.  God’s words to me burn in my belly, but right now they look absolutely foolish.  When I see my husband’s pain and questions I ache. When I realize that without any debt we would be just fine I struggle with intense shame for the moments when a meal at J. Alexanders was more important than trusting God.

So I will not make that mistake again.  This blog series is a defiant proclamation that I will trust even if the heavens fall.  I refuse to live a Christian walk that is not sold out in dependence on God’s promises and I demand and expect Him to fulfill them.  Even if I limp the rest of my life, I will not let go until God blesses me.  So keep reading this series and see how God handles that!

What are the ways you are desperate for God to show up right now?

What blessing is worth wrestling/limping for?

Freedom: Faith Not Sight

Faith

Noelle Schwantes, LPC-MHSP, NCC

I’ve been thinking about faith a lot lately.  Maybe because it is being required of me in larger doses than ever before.

Several months before Joseph was born Marcel was told he would be laid off of his lucrative corporate job.  When Marcel prayed he felt impressed that his job would last through May even though he was told it would only last through February.  His final day at work was approximately a week before Joseph made his appearance…in May.  He left being able to cash out his vacation, we had insurance until the end of the month, and he received a severance.  It was a slice of humble pie for my very accomplished husband who now began to seek God pretty diligently to understand how to care for us.

A few months later he got a call from a former colleague that the employees had all been let go with no notice, no severance, no nothing…the company had folded.  It was a rather dramatic example of how we were cared for even when it didn’t feel that way.  We’ve been pretty quiet about it, only sharing the details with close friends and family.  But recently, as I’ve studied the impact faith had on Jesus when he walked this planet, I thought about stretching my faith by writing about the gory details we’ve walked through, before we see the miracles.

I don’t want to just survive this time and I don’t want to feel sheepish that I didn’t trust when we’ve come through this time and seen the amazing ways God provided.

So with the support of my sweet husband, I will be writing the next few posts about the snippets of our lives in this challenging time. We pray and trust that when amazing things happen, it will be clear that there is a God who watches over us and organizes details we never could have imagined.  And we hope that our journey will impact yours as well.  Rest well friends.