This is the first blog post in a new series called, “Improve Yourself”. In this series, I will discuss self-awareness, self-improvement, and their intersection with faith.
I was 20, newly married, and had just moved to New Hampshire with my husband, Jason. He was making good enough money to support the two of us so he offered me the opportunity to not work, but rather to use my days volunteering, something he knew I loved. To this day I am so very thankful for the man God brought into my life. God knew my heart and He knew how much something like that would mean to me.
The old saying, “If I had only knew then what I know now.” is never more true in my life than in this story.
I set out looking for ways to volunteer in the community around me. I found several nursing homes where I committed to coming in weekly and reading to the residents, doing the ladies’ nails, playing board games with them, and listening to men’s old war stories – just being present in their lives. I volunteered at a soup kitchen feeding the homeless and serving the community that, oftentimes, is neglected and cast aside. I volunteered at a hospital as a candy striper. I worked with underprivileged youth as a mentor and friend and I volunteered in several other areas. I still look back on those days with fondness and have many great memories, but what strikes me now, in my older years is the lack of vision and true passion I had. What I know now is born out of my own self-improvement and self-awareness.
Cher’s words ring in my ears, “If I could turn back time…”
Over the years I have grown. I didn’t even realize it until I reached my 40’s and looked back at how far God has brought me… and I’m pretty excited about the growth.
- Teen years – accepted Jesus and began learning about Him and how to have a relationship with Him.
- 20’s – had an empathetic and compassionate heart but seemed to not really know who I was yet, so I was kind of walking blindly, volunteering in areas I thought of, but without a real purpose and passion. Soap operas filled my non-volunteer daytime hours, reading was non-existent, and my walk with God was something I knew I was supposed to do, but not something I needed. I had my time with God, but it was more of a “check list” item rather than an item I had the great privilege of doing.
- 30’s – my early 30’s were spent growing in my faith, but still figuring out who I really was. I had dreams and visions for my future “when I grew up”, but with parenting a small tribe, and still not a great understanding of who God really created me to be, I still was floundering, but didn’t really know I was. The Bachelor/Bachelorette was a weekly watch while Jason was living in DC. However, I also began journaling and that was really the beginning of the what 2 Cor 5:16 tells us,”Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].” AMP
Journaling was the catalyst to my life really beginning to be the life I felt God had called me to. I fell deeply and passionately in love with God in those remaining years in my 30’s. The growth in my faith was exponential. My understanding of Scripture and God’s voice speaking to me grew in leaps and bounds. It’s important for me to add, I would’ve said I was deeply passionate about God in my late teens and 20’s too, and for me, at that time in my life, I guess I would say I was, however, comparatively, I can see and note a very clear difference between then and now. I also began reading.
A defining moment also occurred in my low-thirties that awaked a passion that had been so deeply rooted in me from early childhood, just one I hadn’t quite realized until that defining moment. That moment, which you can read about here on my other blog, ExPOSE, was the catalyst for the work I do today and gave me my purpose in life, aside from the calling to be a mom to my small tribe.
- 40’s – There was a defining day that happened in my early forties and that was the day I took 5 personality tests. That same day, my husband was organizing the office and our large library of books. At the end of that day, when all the results were in I saw very clear and defined, and matching results. I was who I was because that was how God – created – me – that – way!I sat at the table, reading through all the results, comparing them all and realizing I was not broken. The comments I had received throughout my entire life fed me lines of, “You’re too much, Bethanee.” or “Wow, you’d be a lot to handle. I don’t know how Jason handles you.” or “You’ve got a very strong personality.” or even, “You’re loud and opinionated.” In all those contexts (and so many more comments), they were all said in such a way as to say, “You’re broken. You’re not a meek and mild Christian woman like you should be. Maybe you should not be so vocal or maybe you should be less opinionated.” They all made me believe that it was not okay to be who I was. But when I took those tests and I saw all those results pouring in, I knew I was exactly who God called me to be! And when He created me He said, “It – Is – Good!”
I am not broken. I am exactly who He wanted me to be. He knew I’d champion for the vulnerable and the less fortunate. He knew I’d fight for the children being sexually exploited and wouldn’t say no. He knew I’d use my past for His good and His glory – both in my “working” world (ExPOSE) and in my “private” world (my life and Mustard Seed Faith).
That same day, after Jason finished organizing our books he called me into the office. This was just minutes after I finished my last test and had been taking in all the results. He walked me in and started giving me the low-down on what each section of books was, “Parenting”, “Finances”, “Entrepreneurship”, “Fiction”, and then he said these beautiful words, “And these shelves are Bethanee books.” I responded inquisitively, “My books?” He said yes, “These are all the books you’ve amassed and they’re almost all the same genre.” I began to cry and said, “I have a genre?” He said, “Yes, look at all these books. They are almost all memoires, biographies and autobiographies.” I fell into his chest and just began to cry.
We can evolve as humans and on that day I realized just how much God had grown me. I reflected on my past and on my dislike for reading and on all the negative comments that told me over 4 decades that I was not enough… or rather, I was TOO much, and I realized I am perfectly perfect in every way, in every way God created me to be. (Before I have theologians and naysayers commenting – I’m not claiming to be perfect and I know only Jesus was- it was just a shout out to one of my all-time favorite movies, Mary Poppins. 😉 )
But seriously, growth is subtle. We may not always recognize it, so take the time to look back and see how God has cast aside the old and made you a new creation in Him. Reflect on the areas you struggled to bring glory to Him and how He has brought you out of them (for me, soap operas and The Bachelor) and then give Him all praise and glory for the continued work He has done and is doing in your life.
How has God grown you?
Feel free to contact me and tell me your story or comment below.
Personality Test Resources: