I’ve been reading, learning, and studying. I’ve been praying. I’ve started taking deep breaths, literally slowing my mind and physical body; and during some of the most stressful months I can remember to date I am finding peace. I am seeing growth. I am learning to be present and at peace. I am so grateful. I am learning that there is so much I am responsible for in my life and in my spiritual growth; but needed the reminders that there is also so much I am not responsible for. There is so much God has already done for me and on my behalf, but I love that I am learning more about what I can do to work toward excellence. Here are 5 ideas that are helping me “become a woman of excellence.”
1. First, keep the main thing the main thing. Live your priorities. Are you saying family, faith, and fun are your priorities; but you allowing social media, your reputation, and personal gratification to rule your decisions and how your time is consumed? I’ve been trying some things in the area of social media. It has taken me a couple of years and I still don’t have it all ironed out, but let me tell you this. I am having people say things like “oh you didn’t know that… I put it on Facebook” (insert your social media outlet of choice) more and more these days and I love it. I love that I’m hearing the stories from people first hand. I love that that constant scroll motion is not a part of my life, as much. I love that my kids are seeing my eyes more. I am grateful for time reading material other than status updates or captions. Your faith should come above anything else – everything changes when it’s THE priority. Oswald Chambers says, “There is only one relationship that matters; and that is your personal relationship to a personal Redeemer and Lord. Let everything else go, but maintain that at all costs, and God will fulfill His purpose through your life.” Let me tell you, I am letting nothing else matter and maintaining my relationship at all costs.
2. This leads me to number two – read. I believe this is crucial. And I know many of you are tuning me out right here. But you have to read God’s Word to know Him. It’s where you will learn of His character, develop yourself, and grow stronger. I also believe that Bible study tools, non fiction books, and even fiction stories enhance our lives and our experiences with our faith. I truly believe there really isn’t another way to glean this information. I wish there was. Listening to a friend or message (in person or online) is a great start, but I am learning that in order to be a woman of excellence I have to be studying for myself. I need to read content from a variety of sources and that I need a large portion of that reading time to be in God’s word. I had the complete joy to review the 30th Anniversary Edition of Becoming a Woman of Excellence by Cynthia Heald this year and the last three tips stem from what I learned through the book.
3. Memorize Scripture. Back around Mother’s Day I got to help write a devotional for mom’s and it was a huge honor. Since then I feel like the Lord has only been affirming in my heart just how important His Word is. You can get that devotional here – and I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ve felt called to memorize Scripture and I’m starting with Philippians 2:13 ” For God is working in you giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” because that is exactly what I need – desire and power. Here’s the deal. I am no rocket scientist. To say that reading God’s Word and memorizing Scripture will help you become a woman of excellence is elementary. BUT what is not elementary and what is my third tip is to actually DO IT. Doing it is a whole other thing. We can make it our goal, we can talk about it, we can procrastinate and postpone or we can do it. I’m doing it. So next time you see me ask what memory verse I’ve most recently learned. And I may just ask you in return. Dwight L. Moody says “The Scriptures were given not to increase our knowledge, but to change our lives.” I want a transformed life. (quoted by Heald, 35)
4. We must develop discipline to speak truth and not let our emotions run away with us. It is okay, good even, to express how we feel [to God] but then we must choose to speak God’s truth over our lives. “We must “exercise our will to think the truth.” (Heald, 78) Becoming a woman of excellence requires surrender, obedience, and discipline. We can receive information but without the application of the information there will never be transformation. I am so grateful to have read Becoming a Woman of Excellence by Cynthia Heald on the heels of Univited by Lysa TerKeurst as these ideas just had a chance to really grow in my heart and root themselves there. Heald talks about the need to discipline the mind, will, our emotions, our body, and our time. Romans 8:5-8 is very clear that we are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you, but do not be naive in thinking this doesn’t take work. It does, take hard work.
5. Have an active faith; abide in Christ. See your relationship with God as the active thing that it is. Heald uses so many action words in this book. I am delighted by the things I know I can do to abide. When I see that word “abide” I have often been discouraged because I felt I wanted to do something but so much of what we must do in our faith just did not feel active. Let me tell you, I was wrong. 2 Peter 1:5-7 talks about what we need to “make every effort to add” to our lives and this quote that Heald included in the book, from Oswald Chambers, changed so much for me.
“Add [in 2 Peter 1:5] means there is something we have to do. We are in danger of forgetting that we cannot do what God does, and that God will not do what we can do. We cannot save ourselves nor sanctify ourselves, God does that; but God will not give us good habits. He will not give us character, He will not make us walk aright. We have to do all that ourselves; we have to work out the salvation God has worked in. ‘Add’ means to get into the habit of doing things.”(Heald, 73)
In the 30th edition of the book Heald includes “thoughts and reflections from an older woman” at the end of each chapter. I found them to be some of my most favorite portions of the book – this was a great improvement for this special edition. In one of these sections that Heald wrote more recently in her life she says,
“the disciplined person is a flexible person… the disciplined person is always free to respond to every movement of divine Grace.” “The purpose of self-discipline is to grow in sound judgement so that we exemplify the character of Christ.” (Heald, 82)
An active faith includes dying to self, serving others, praying fervently, and being in community with other believers. As I complete the study I’m left with a plan, goals, and a belief that “God is working in me to give me the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.”
What habits are you in need of changing or starting? Why not start right now? Let’s become Women of Excellence together.
A brief review of the book Becoming a Woman of Excellence by Cynthia Heald
The book is filled with practical information and gets you into Scripture. I loved her use of both the old and new testament and I was so grateful that she quotes so many wonderful theologians and writers like Oswald Chambers, Hannah Whitall Smith, Elisabeth Elliot, Bill Hull, Jerry Bridges and so many more. Heald’s addition of “thoughts and reflections from an older woman” were a beautiful improvement to the original edition. Her insights and mature outlook challenged me and added an additional dimension to the writing. I love that I was flipping through the pages of my Bible, using various versions, and overwhelmed with the truth of God’s Word as I poured over this book. It’s a great read on your own but also a great one to do with a friend.
I really can’t think of any cons for this book. It is not an in depth study of one book, it’s an in depth study of how to pursue excellence as a woman of God. It is not simple. It is complex and thought provoking and is just what I was hoping for.
I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.