Bethany House Publishers
Two years ago I was visiting my sister in New Jersey when I suddenly got the urge to take the infamous “good hard look at my life.” I grabbed a notebook and pen and then headed outdoors to sit on a picnic bench. As I sat there prayerfully pondering how I had lived up until that point, and considering what I wanted my future to look like, I realized there were only a very few things that actually mattered. My family. My key relationships—with God, myself, and the world around me. My values. My character. It was, for me, a remarkably clearheaded moment. I had started the process by evaluating what I had accomplished with my life and initially planned to continue by listing what I hoped to accomplish with however many days I have remaining. But something clicked.
Life isn’t so much about what you do. It’s more about who you are. Of course, who you are has a profound impact on what you do and how you do it. But I fear many of us get it backward. We define who we are by what we do.
So the question became: what kind of person do I want to be? I sketched out, in words, a picture of the woman I want to be in terms of my relationships, values, and character. If it’s okay with you, I’d like to open up that notebook—and open my soul to you. Each statement reflects not who I am right now but who I hope to become. Some statements you will relate to as universal human goals; others are more personal. Here’s what I wrote, word for word:1
I live my life in a spirit of prayer, practicing the presence of God at all times and in all my affairs.
I strive for health and wholeness in my spirit, soul, and body. I seek healing whenever needed.
I seek to raise godly children who fulfill their full potential in all areas of their lives.
I strive to minister in power under God’s anointing that lives will be dramatically changed through my writing and speaking. I am constantly learning and growing so I have worthwhile things to share with others.
I desire and work toward peace within and around me. I cultivate harmony in all my relationships by being gracious, no matter how difficult the circumstances.
I live every day, every moment, enthusiastically. I receive each opportunity and encounter as a gift to be celebrated.
I am thankful to God and all who deserve my thanks.
I put a smile on my face and inspire a smile in everyone I meet.
I work hard at everything I do. I always do my best.
My mission is to help as many people as I can in as many ways as I can.
I endeavor to show myself, and the world, my “inner princess” by walking with my head held high and caring for my outward appearance.
I liked what I saw and began to get excited. Yes! That’s the woman I want to be! Imagine the impact such a life could make, even if I never accomplished anything according to the world’s standards. Just conducting myself on the planet in such a way would automatically touch the lives of virtually everyone I came in contact with. I wouldn’t have to dream up “stuff” I could do for God (which used to be my personal specialty). I wouldn’t even have to volunteer for any church committees to serve him effectively. Instead, ministry would flow naturally out of my heart directly into the hearts of others.
Then the thought occurred to me: what has held me back from becoming the woman I want to be? Some deep emotional trauma? Permanent personality flaws? Lack of cooperation from the people around me? A shortage of faith? No willpower?
For the next several months I searched for the answer. And I think I just might have found it! The pathway to becoming the woman I want to be is found in actively pursuing maximum health in my spirit, soul2, and body. I realized that each area profoundly affects the others. It’s hard to be a woman of prayer (thus cultivating a healthy spirit) when you can’t get out of bed a little earlier than the rest of your family because you’re too exhausted (because you have an unhealthy body). And it’s hard to have a positive impact on the people around you when you’re negative, discouraged, and depressed (a reflection of an unhealthy soul).
Gradually it became apparent that I could not have optimal health in one area without attending to all three areas. They were too intricately bound. If you’re anything like me, you’ve struggled to keep all of this in balance. Perhaps you’ve had a time of spiritual renewal when you were active in a Bible study or attended a retreat that rekindled the flame of your first love for God. For weeks, or even months, your spirit was vibrant and healthy. But you neglected your body and eventually physical exhaustion wiped out your spiritual zeal.
Or perhaps you joined a gym and began getting in shape—but you skipped your quiet time so you could exercise first thing in the morning. Next thing you knew, you were more concerned about how your clothes fit than you were about the fact that you were routinely throwing fits.
Perhaps you began seeing a counselor to deal with emotional issues in your life and gained tremendous insight into why you do the things you do. You determined to make changes but simply couldn’t muster enough energy or willpower to implement them. Perhaps you didn’t realize all that coffee and those doughnuts were weakening your ability to function effectively. Your soul’s well-being was ultimately compromised by your unhealthy body.
If we are going to become all that God desires us to be, it will require a synergistic approach. We cannot focus on one area to the exclusion of the other two. Our goal needs to be optimal health in spirit, soul, and body.
In the past you may have pursued a variety of strategies—or “Things”—toward becoming the woman you want to be. Perhaps it went something like this:
Next you heard a preacher on the radio who admonished everyone to read the Bible daily. He even offered a little chart you could use to track your progress, so you called the radio ministry and ordered your Bible reading chart. You posted it on your refrigerator. Thing 2.
Then all the ladies at your church were abuzz about the importance of praying God’s Word. So you purchased a book that provided Scripture-based guided prayers. Thing 3.
Then you attended a women’s conference where the speaker emphasized the importance of prayer journaling. So you went to her book table and purchased a prayer journal. Thing 4.
You were juggling these four activities, when one of your co-workers mentioned that your real problem was “sweating the small stuff.” The way to overcome that habit, she explained, was to recite positive affirmations. During your lunch hour, you stopped in at Barnes & Noble to pick up a book filled with affirmations to recite. Thing 5.
Although you rarely watch television (Of course not! You are a devoted Christian and you have more important things to do with your time—like juggling Things 1 through 5), one day you happened on Oprah or Good Morning America. The day’s renewal featured a dynamic author/expert who promised you could change your life or make it over if only you had a new life strategy. “Yes,” you exclaimed aloud. “Enough sitting around pondering. I need to get up and take action.” Fortunately, just before the renewal ended, they explained how you could register for a seminar near you. Thing 6.
While at the seminar (reference the aforementioned Thing 6), the speaker emphasized the importance of getting an attitude adjustment. What you really needed, she explained, was an audio series filled with uplifting messages. So you clambered to the product table, along with a zillion of your closest friends, and procured some uplifting CDs or audiotapes. Thing 7.
One day you discovered a site on the Internet that espoused the importance of maintaining a daily food diary. Indeed, it claimed that research indicates those who maintain a food journal are 90 percent more successful in their dieting efforts than those who do not. So you signed up for the renewal (just $19.95 per month) and added the interactive daily food diary to the favorite pages section on your computer. Then all you had to do was log on each day, go to the Web site, fill in the form, and voila! You jumped ahead of 90 percent of the dieting population. (They didn’t mention that this process takes about twenty minutes since the site is so slow because it’s bogged down with advertisements for every diet pill, potion, and renewal ever conceived by the mind of man. But that’s no problem. You won’t mind the inconvenience. You know you can keep up with it anyway.) Thing 8.
You ran into an old girlfriend you hadn’t seen in several months and she looked fabulous! “What on earth are you doing?” you ask. “Well, I’m following this new fitness renewal that’s sweeping the nation. I might even win a million dollars if I can transform myself in the next twelve weeks. It’s awesome. The book explains, step by step, everything you have to do. You should get it!” Back to the bookstore. Thing 9.
Well, right about now, you’re feeling completely defeated. You’ve tried Things 1 through 9 and haven’t managed to transform your spirit, soul, or body. You’re weary and discouraged. Fortunately, a friend invites you out to lunch, and when you mention feeling down, she gives you the name and number for a great counselor. You call to make an appointment the next day. Thing 10.
Can I make a small confession? I have actually done all of the above! Yes indeed, I know all about Thing 1 through Thing 10. Especially Thing 10. If you pursued even half of those Things trying to find the pathway to becoming the woman you want to be, no doubt you found it impossible to juggle it all. What I’ve tried to do—for your benefit as well as mine—is bring everything together in one place.
Scripture to memorize:
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through
and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body
be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:23–24
Passage to read:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Dear Lord, I acknowledge you today as my God. I desire to love you with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my strength. Jesus said if I love you, I will obey you. Yet how can I obey what I do not know? How can I believe what I do not understand? Lord, this moment, I ask you to press your commandments upon my heart. I want to cooperate with you by meditating upon your Word and letting it fill my mind. Today, as I go about my daily tasks—walking, driving, housecleaning, cooking, exercising, interacting with friends and family—may I be mindful of your Word. I renew my commitment to memorizing Scripture. Holy Spirit, I invite you to remind me, throughout the day, of that commitment and bring to my remembrance those passages I have committed to memory (and those I am studying even now). I ask you to provide at least one opportunity for me to share a portion of Scripture with someone today. Amen.
A prayer from your heart:
Affirmation to recite:
I am cooperating with God as he transforms me day by day. I am pressing on toward the prize God has in store for me. (Based on Philippians 3:14)
Action to take:
Rewrite (or type) the Top Five list you created yesterday and post it somewhere you will see it often. The refrigerator door and bathroom mirror work well for me. Try to read the list every day for the next week or so to remind yourself of the woman you want to be.
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours. -Henry David Thoreau
No doubt you’ve figured it out by now: dreams don’t unfold overnight. I once heard it said, “The average overnight success took twenty years to succeed.” During all that time, they kept the dream alive by working daily toward its fulfillment. Dreaming, envisioning the woman you want to be, is just the first step on a journey you’ll be traveling the rest of your life. You won’t become the woman you want to be tomorrow just because you set some goals today. But you can move closer to becoming that woman if you advance confidently in the direction of your dreams.
If you’re going to dream, you might just as well dream big. Small dreams never got anyone out of bed in the morning. Give yourself permission to believe great things can happen. As the woman you want to be begins to emerge, new opportunities will emerge as well. New experiences. New friends. New insights. Get ready and be on the watch for them!