Identity

Six lessons that changed my life in the last three years

This month, it’s been three years since I started this blog, and I am such a different person to what I was back then.
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I’ve been scanning over my posts, reflecting on what God’s been doing in my life. And while I am very much still a work in progress, I feel like he’s taken a person bound up in guilt, fear and worry, and set me free to be the person He made me to be.
Not that I don’t still struggle with all those things. I do.
But only one-tenth the amount that I did when I was 22, this time three years ago.
So here’s my top major changes since November 2013.

God taught me I didn’t need to be terrified that He had something He wanted me to do, but I was missing it

I always wondered if I was in the right job, the right ministry, living in the right place. Any time I had to make a decision, I felt that it would be the wrong one either way. I was certain I was doing things wrong, disappointing God, but I couldn’t figure out how.
In this blog post, I shared how the whole year of 2014 taught me that God will convict me if something needs to change, but never condemn me, and he doesn’t speak quietly in a corner. And, most of all, He loves me.

God taught me that my feeling that He wasn’t using my life for anything that mattered eternally wasn’t true

I struggled for years, because people talked about the power of God changing people, but it seemed that I never saw it.
I see now that was probably due to a number of factors. I’ve also now seen that God’s eternal purposes are fulfilled when I’m obedient, whether I can see anything amazing happening or not. A big part of this has come through the lessons I’ve learned in being a part of a now almost two-year-old church plant. But another major lesson came from Daisy, whose faithful life was lived in isolation for 50 years, yet it brings so much glory to God. Which leads me to another lesson…

God taught me how to trust

I always struggled to understand trust, because saying ‘trust God’ doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen. But Daisy’s  testimony showed me that trust is about believing that God is with you, loves you, and will use your life for His glory, no matter what happens.

God taught me to take a step of faith

In mid-2015, I had three chapters of a second-draft manuscript and a 10 week deadline before I went to an American writing conference. That meant I had to write 60,000 words and put together my book proposal in 10 weeks. The last time I tried something half that difficult, I completely burnt out.
But before I could even start writing, I had to go lead at a Christian youth camp. I was in turmoil for much of the week, about many things, as well as writing. And while we were listening to the song ‘Oceans’, I heard that quiet voice in my head say, “You can stay in this place forever, or you can step out in faith. We have bigger fish to fry.”
I decided to step out. I had to cancel everything in my life except working, eating, sleeping and writing. Every morning I woke up and thought, “I can’t do this again today”. Then I’d have a shower, listen to ‘Oceans’, pray, and go out and do it again.
Ten weeks later I went to the conference with a finished manuscript and a proposal. It didn’t even matter if I had a successful conference – we’d done it! God had sustained me through something I never thought I could do.
(And I did end up having a very successful conference. 😃 )

God taught me not to wrap my identity up in things other than Him, like my job or writing

I have no anecdote for this one, other than to say it’s been a 3 year process (which will probably continue till the day I die) of unwinding my identity from things that are not God.
But the less I depend on things like my financial security, writing career, an interesting job, or relationship status, the more secure I feel in God. I can think of nothing more beautiful than a person who has their identity 100% in God.

God helped me to forgive, especially the church

In the space of 5 years I watched two churches I was involved in fall apart, plus a number of other painful events involving other Christians. And though I knew that I had resentment against the church as an institution, I didn’t know how much until I became a church leader at the beginning of this year.
I love my current church, and the people in it. They had nothing to do with the painful incidents of the past.
But I had so much anger inside at the church as a whole. I thought I’d forgiven those people from before, when a quiet voice in my head said, “Say it”.
And, lying in bed, when I went to whisper, “I forgive–” the words stuck in my throat when I reached the name.
I couldn’t physically say it.
And then I realised that I had a serious problem.
So, I prayed. About all of it. And I had to say, aloud, “God, this person doesn’t deserve forgiveness. But neither did I, and you forgave me. So because of what you did, I forgive XXXX.”
And 99% of that anger and resentment melted away.
I’ll be honest, 1% raises its ugly head from time to time. So I pray the prayer again, and again, and again. And each time, it works a little better.
So, there you have it: that’s most of what I learned in the past 3 years in a nutshell.
Who knows what the next 3 will bring?
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Reminders of Truth

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about identity and stress and confidence in God, mostly because they are all areas in my life that can be improved.

I’m just more convinced than ever that a rock solid identity in God – and nothing else – is such an unbelievably freeing and empowering thing.

That’s how we become what we were meant to be in God and break loose of insecurities. In light of that, I’m doing this little exercise myself, and I thought I’d share it in case it’s relevant to anyone else.

So far it’s 3 things :

1 Anytime I look in the mirror and sigh a little at something, I’ll say aloud ‘God loves that’.

2 Anytime I get frustrated with myself for messing up with sin again, I’ll say aloud ‘God has forgiven that.’

3 Anytime I feel stressed I’ll say ‘God’s with me through this and is using it for His glory .’

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Identity, singleness and how it affects everything else

 

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I’ve been putting a lot of thought into identity lately.

Particularly, how your relationship status affects it.

It’s tempting for me to picture having a boyfriend—or a whole family—and think things like:

  • I just want to have someone to belong to
  • I won’t really feel like a grown-up till I’m in a serious relationship
  • I can’t wait to have someone to introduce to my family.

And well-meaning people can reinforce this. At Aunty Fay’s funeral last week, I had someone make about three or four comments about my singleness. It didn’t matter to them that I have a good job, a budding writing career, and am building my first home. No, they just wanted to know when I’d be getting married.

That can really make you feel like you’re not a whole person until you’ve ‘checked that box’.

But I am more convinced than ever that our identities MUST stand secure, completely separate from our relationship status, career progress, financial situation and anything else that affects how we see ourselves.

Because even if I get the things I want, if I allow them to affect my identity, I open myself up to a whole range of insecurities.

If my identity is affected by my writing, on a day that my sales drop, I’m going to feel like a failure. If my identity is affected by my relationship status, on the day my relationship hits a rocky patch, I’m going to feel like a failure.

The truth is, for me to be the fullest version of myself, I do not need to be a girlfriend or a wife. I don’t need to be a published writer. I don’t need to have financial security.

I just need to remember that I’m a lost person saved by God’s incredible love. The other things will come and go, but that will never change.

How God Strengthened my Identity

God's been strengthening my identity

©CreationSwap/Dawn Lamper

 

I’ll admit it; I like to be the best.

Whether it’s beating my friends in a game, coming up with the top idea at a work meeting or winning an award, being the best at something—no matter how small—feeds a deep-seated belief in me.

It says, I am not Most People. 

Throughout my life I’ve striven to be better than Most People. Most People aren’t careful with their money. Most People aren’t diligent about spending regular time with God. Most People don’t bother to turn their ideas into a book. A lot of advice I hear sounds like, ‘most people do this, but you should do that’. And I do. I’ve become proud of it.

But that attitude has crippled my identity. Especially as a wannabe author.

For a long time I’ve equated being like Most People, to failure.  I shouldn’t be like Most People; I should be better than that. I know better, I try harder, I work smarter.

But keeping that (very arrogant) mindset while trying to become an author is … well, it’s soul-crushing. This industry is so hard to succeed in. Even if I become part of the tiny minority that scrapes some profit from a book, the percentage of authors who have a long-standing career is even tinier. Looking at this big, scary industry, I’m overwhelmed with the fear that I will turn out to be Most People after all.

That fear has driven me to write more, learn faster and stress repeatedly. Failure is not an option, but if you judge a writing career by my (ridiculously high) standards, it’s not only possible, but probable. And if my identity as a successful person, a person who’s better than Most People, is tied to my writing career, then my own dream is a massive threat to my identity.

This is something God’s been working on in my heart ever since I decided to start seriously working on my first book, at the start of 2013. I’ve blogged about it throughout the year. Every time I investigated what it takes to get published or ways to promote my work, I’d feel panicked. Every time I tried an idea and it didn’t pan out, the pressure increased.

God repeatedly told me that success is not measured by numbers, but by obedience. And I could acknowledge those truths in my head, but my heart usually just muttered something under its breath and sulked off.

But lately, I’m starting to notice change in myself. The more I consider the idea of self-publishing (not that I’ve decided anything yet), the more I’m okay with not having my name plastered across every Christian bookstore. If God doesn’t plan for me to make money from my writing, that’s alright. If my career is short-lived, that sucks, but it’s okay as long as it’s part of His plan.

Now the pressure to crack the secret of book marketing is decreasing all the time. And thank goodness for that, because it was getting heavy. I want to simply try my best, be obedient, work hard, and then watch my career go in the direction God wants it to go … whatever direction that is. If He plans for me to reach 50,000 people, that’s what will happen. If it’s 500 people, that’s also what will happen. Neither option makes me a better or worse person.

All that matters is my obedience.

 

Sneak peek at my new book

Welcome to the new website everyone!

As I launch this baby and approach the half-way mark in my latest manuscript, I’m celebrating by offering everyone a sneak peek at my novel-in-progress, All I Am.

Just sign up to my newsletter in the sidebar on the right and you’ll receive the back cover blurb of my book, sent to your inbox.

Also, the new site comes a new web address. This site is now http://www.jessicaeveringham.com and instead of ‘Consumed By Him’ it’s called ‘Jessica Everingham Writing’.

But don’t worry—this is just a facelift. The guts are staying the same.

My blog, novels, recommendations and short stories are all still available.

Additionally, I have a guest post up today at Janet Sketchly’s blog. Click here to read My Identity Is Broken.

It’s something I’ve been learning a lot about this past week, so make sure you check it out.

Now go sign up and tell me what you think of the book! All feedback is welcome.  🙂

Freedom in Identity

Who am I?

Photo by Demi Brooke, sourced from everystockphoto.com under license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Photo by Demi Brooke, sourced from everystockphoto.com under license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

It’s something we’re supposed to figure out in our twenties, but in my case it keeps changing.

This time last year I was a journalist, I had just finished my third trip overseas and I was surrounded by terrific friends that I’d grown up with. I was also about to embark on a new adventure in a larger town. Pretty exciting.

Fast forward twelve months. Some awesome things have happened; I’ve written a book, started this blog, worked in a completely new job, met different people and settled into my new home.

But at the same time, at the moment it looks like my journalism career could be over. My book is still a long way from being published, and this is a fairly new blog so I don’t have thousands of readers hanging off my every word. And tonight (New Year’s Eve) all my friends are busy or out of town. So I’m just planning to pick up some of my favourite food on the way home and spend the night on the couch with two of my favourite men, Hamish and Andy. (To my international readers, they are Australian comedians – and some of the funniest guys ever.)

Suddenly I don’t sound quite so awesome.

Look ahead another twelve months. Things could go either way. I could land a journo job, get a publishing contract, and have a full social calendar. Or I could not.

But the thing is… none of these circumstances are in my control.

So why should they affect my identity? Short answer: they shouldn’t.

It’s something I’ve known for a long time, but every now and then I need to remind myself. My identity is in God. I belong to Him. Nothing more, nothing less. I can’t get depressed or puffed up about my position in life, because I know that it can all change. And there’s freedom in that.

If my identity isn’t found in my career, writing or friends, then I’m not afraid to change jobs, move towns, and start working from the bottom up on my writing. I’m not restricted.

So before I look ahead to 2014 and completely freak out that I don’t know what’s going to happen and I’m not where I thought I would be, I can stop and take a breath. It’s okay. I’m valuable to God either way.

The Israelites didn’t know what would happen when they left Egypt, and they had several pretty big freak-outs. But God always came through. They only ever came unstuck when they refused to trust Him.

So I now have a reminder stuck up on the wall next to my bed. It’s in the form of a question.

“What’s the point of trust and faith if I never use it?”

God knows you. That’s right, you!

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

“Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Matt 6:6-8 NIV

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Wow, did you see that? If not, go back and read it again.

Did you see it this time? There are two amazing truths in those verses that make me feel special and loved.

Number one:  God sees what is done in secret. Usually when you say those words, people shrink down into themselves and glance around, looking for the giant eye in the sky that is spying on them. Like they’re ashamed.

But there’s no need for that, not if we’re forgiven. In this verse, God is watching all the good things we do in secret. In other words, He is paying attention.

Doesn’t that make you smile? He notices the small things: that time you bit your tongue so that you didn’t lash out; when you cooked a meal for an ill mother; when you were honest about your mistake at work. And He hears every quiet word you say to Him.

He sees. He knows. He smiles. And He will reward (not that reward should really be our motivation, but still… it’s nice).

Number two: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him”. Just let that sink in for a minute.

Don’t cheat. A whole minute.

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He knows what you need before you even ask Him.

Does your best friend or your spouse know what you need before you tell them? Sometimes they might be lucky enough to guess. But know? And those are the most intimate human relationships in existence!

God is even better than that.

He knows you. He knows you really, really well.