Posted in Anxiety, authenticity, discernment, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's will

Where the heck am I going?

I’ve always had pretty good direction–I see maps in my head. I like to get my bearings and understand where I am in order to navigate where I am going. I get the shakes when I am just following a crowd. My husband will tell you that I am all about backroads and finding the faster way.

“The faster way” has gotten me in trouble a few times. It reminds me of a trip to London when I was 25. Long story short, due to my mom breaking her ankle, I took my parent’s place on a senior adult tour of England, Scotland and Wales (thankfully my good friend Amber also went). There are many stories from this trip including a stalker that I naively picked up, but that one is for another time.

Now, for you, youngins, this was before you could get walking and driving directions by phone. I didn’t even have a phone on this trip. We were trying to get to a show very quickly using the Underground, and I basically was leading the way on directions with a lot with people following. Which lead me to the brilliant shortcut… Picture it, a winding staircase from the Underground that wound up probably 10 flights of stairs (that I thought would be 2 flights)–with twenty 65-80-year-olds behind me. The map did not show topography…it just showed distance. So, my “shortcut’ almost sent 5 adults into cardiac arrest. Not my finest moment.

At twenty-five, I was coming out of a season where I felt directionless in every way. I had landed on a plan and was in grad school for school counseling while in a serious long distance relationship with Greg. I thought that getting a plan for what I was going to do would lead me into understanding who I was. We easily confuse that as humans, huh?

Looking back with what I know now, it makes sense that I was overcome with making a decision with so many choices before me. As an Enneagram 7, I love spontaneity and new adventures and loathe a plan that buckles me in. However, the world, my parents, and all the little ladies from my hometown were continually asking me the question “what are you doing with your life?” I felt the weight of deciding the rest of the path of life right then and there from career to marriage, and I did not have ONE clue which direction of the 3000 ways I could go was right. My heart is beating faster thinking about those weird conversations I had from about twenty-two to twenty-six.

The “right” part was the thought in which I was stuck. I felt I needed a distinct calling into something to do it.

What would the 43-year old Jen tell the 22 or 25 year old Jen?

  1. It is going to be okay…apart from the marriage choice, these decisions on jobs or cities or careers are not going to make or break or DEFINE your life. And, even in the marriage choice, God is gracious with both of you.
  2. Pursue God and be in His word and with authentic people on the same journey. You are going to meet some amazing friends that will struggle with you, encourage you, stretch you.
  3. You are messy. You tend toward depression. You do not have to be the image of that 10-year-old girl that does everything right to be praised. The best growth and beauty will come out as you share your brokenness and lean into your Gracious Father.
  4. Girl, you are going to try lots of new things. You will paint, sing, speak, write. And, don’t throw up in your mouth, but you are going to be a pastor’s wife as one of your roles along the journey. Breathe…you are going to be okay with it.
  5. You are going to learn how to study God’s word deeply. You are going to grasp and dig deep into the power of the gospel, and you will be transformed and taste greater freedom than you can imagine. In fact, instead of drowning in your feelings, start pursuing that now!!
  6. Life is not about your happiness. Happiness is fickle and a shadow in life. You will learn, through much pain that I will not disclose at this time, that the secret to life is being content in the Lord. In plenty and in want, in sickness (which will come) and in health, in laughter and in tears, in gain and in loss…your roots are going to grow deep into Him. It is going to be really good.
  7. It doesn’t matter your job or career, Jen. I know now it seems it does…but you are going to be you and minister to others with God’s love wherever you are. He is in control–breathe. He is going to take you on many adventures, and you will get to experience new challenges in each season. Be open to the new and do the small things of faithfulness in the midst.
  8. Remember this: the people who have a plan and seem to have conquered adulthood are just as lost inside as you are. Their outside “direction” may look together, but on the inside, they might be feeling the burn of walking up 10 flights of stairs looking for a shortcut. We all are in need. We all struggle.

The verse I was meditating on this morning: “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” 2 Thess 3:5

Wherever you are on the journey, this is my prayer for you.

Posted in Anxiety, authenticity, God's word, grace, humility, the gospel, transformation by truth, trusting God, Uncategorized

Contrary to Popular Opinion…

You are not enough.

You read it right.

That’s offensive, huh?

I am NOT saying you do not have worth. I am NOT saying that you do not have value. I am NOT saying you cannot do hard things. I am NOT saying you are not tough. I am NOT saying you are a failure. I am NOT saying you are less than your neighbor.

I am saying that the voice inside you that feels behind, that sees you cannot spin all the plates, that feels less than adequate for all the adulting, that is constantly on a performance wheel that seems to go nowhere…there’s a reason it is there. Our reality and our experience show us that we fall short all the time. We cannot be all things to all people doing all the things all the time. Period.

Maybe the quote should read–you do not have to perform to someone’s version of enough to have value. OR, your value is not defined by the world’s standard or by your performance.

When we feed ourselves the line that we are enough, we are lying about a huge reality in life. We are incomplete, and at the core, I think we know it. That uncontrollable longing that you feel (or run from) when your mind slows, that anxiety in your belly when looking at life, that wondering in your mind about the deepest questions of the universe, that thing that you have tried to overcome over and over and keep missing, those monumental regrets…all of that is pointing to something more and our lack. It is a need we cannot meet or problem solve.

What happens when we grasp the reality that we are not enough?

We don’t want to face it because that tears apart the scaffolding of our lives. We all try to make sense of and build our lives in different ways with the same problem. We may think if we do it perfectly, or if we are useful to others , or if we produce and achieve enough and gain status, or if we dig deep within enough we can construct meaning, if we learn and conquer knowledge, if we come up with a plan to secure life, if we experience life to the fullest and adventure, if we take charge and lead the way for the underdog or if we can bridge the gap for peace that THEN we will be enough. We will be complete.

There is huge freedom in accepting the reality we are not enough even though it is uncomfortable. I think that this is when true Life begins and is lived. We then see a need for truth, strength, and meaning beyond ourselves. We can quit performing and striving and listen.

Why can we not be enough? We go back to the beginning. We look to the Creator who created in His own image; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27) The Image of God: That is very worthy. And, Then, something jarred everything…made it hard, less clear, brought toil, separated us from the Beauty of God and the peace of being WITH God: The whole process began with “did God really say?” “Surely He didn’t mean…He’s lying to you. He is keeping power and honor, love, fulfillment and glory from you–your rightful identity.” Then, the three letter word was born: Sin. We took understanding into our own hands. We defied the One who lovingly created us to commune with Him. We said: We are enough without You.

That leads us to today–the anxiety, the striving, the loneliness, the frustration, the gaining ground only to fall back down, the one-second glories that take longer and longer to achieve. The line of fulfillment we were fed was a bald-faced lie. Our “freedoms” enslave us all the more. It is grace to see that we are not enough.

There’s a problem: We cannot make it better on our own.

The beautiful part of the truth of God’s word? The promise of redemption was hinted at in the same chapter that the Fall of enough occurred. AND…the Old Testament gives the picture of what enough is through the Law of God. That law is the picture of perfection–of God’s character, otherness, set-apartness (I may have made up a word). AND…trying to be WITH and like God by performance was an epic fail. The way we are reconciled to God is through the enough of Jesus…in fact, the perfection of Jesus’s life on this earth AND His death in the place of ours. There were dire consequences for our rebellion and insurgence–death and separation. God, who is rich in mercy, made Jesus who knew no sin, no rebellion, to be sin for us. He was punished, killed, separated from God (whom He had communed from eternity past) in order that reconciliation might be made and in order that those trusting in Him may be called children of God through the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. For those who see they are not enough and put their trust in Jesus work on the Cross on their behalf, they are given new hearts and lives. The One who is more than enough lives in their spirit, guides them, encourages them, reminds them, strengthens them, renews them.

So, in ourselves, we are not enough. We do not have the tools. We do not have the heart. We do not have the strength.

In Him, though. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. We find joy, freedom, grace, no condemnation, identity, purpose, hope, and deep and abiding love In Him. That helps us take a deep breath. It helps us feel lighter even when things are HARD and the way is very CLOUDY. We are able to see others in the grace afforded to us instead of railing against them for not being enough. There is freedom in this reality and in the power of God in the midst.

So, where are you today? Striving, surrendering, exhausted, or at peace? I pray that you take your heart and your life to the One that is More than Enough.

Posted in Anxiety, authenticity, discipline, grace, margin, sin, spiritual growth, transformation by truth, trusting God

It all started with a “little” project

It all started with a closet project.  Little did I know that it would turn into so much more.  

Our home has more than ample storage, but the problem is we have dumped stuff there.  The stuff that is falling out of the closets and the basement means there is stuff everywhere in our house, as well.  Storage is of no value if you do not use it well. 

That brings me to our downstairs guest room’s closet.  It has looked like this for 3 ½ years. 

I would tidy the middle part of it when things were falling out, but I never took the time to tackle the big job.  It seemed overwhelming and time consuming, and nobody has time for that with 2 active boys, no headspace and a side of tired.  It wasn’t urgent, so it kept getting stuffed around what was urgent.    

This week has afforded a few days where there was no agenda.  It has been a wearying season where there has not been room to unpack my mind and heart let alone a closet that carries baggage that I have to sort through.  I found myself thinking of the closet, and it wasn’t a “should” but a “this would be healthy to do.”

What was in the closet? Letters, pictures, albums (nostalgic girl here), boxes that had not been unpacked since our move 3 ½ years ago, storage bins of art materials, boxes and storage bins filled with random objects where I had to “hide stuff” from company, random throw pillows, important business documents, etc.

I knew it would not be a fast job, and I knew I needed to be mentally and physically prepared to tackle it. 

So, I began taking stuff out which made a bigger overwhelming mess.

There were times I didn’t know what in the world to do next.  I thought—“what have I done? I could be watching Christmas movies, building a puzzle or taking a nap.”  (All my go-to escapes). I toyed with closing the door, and not using the room again.

However, it was time.    It took me a day and a half—going through every box, every paint bottle, every random notebook.  

Thoughtful examination was required to see what should be kept and purposefully used, what should be discarded, and what was worthy to give away.  I examined things that were unfinished projects and asked the hard question—“Am I holding on to this because I ‘should’ or is it a worthy thing to follow through with in this season?” I add, in this season, because that’s where I get myself bogged down.  I see the possibilities in all things, but I end up going nowhere.

Then, I began placing things that I found purposeful back into the closet with a rhyme and a reason.  They are accessible now.  I know what’s there—it is not a mystery.  There is room there to put other things that fit into certain categories.  There is room for a guest to hang clothes and put a suitcase (aka I could actually be hospitable to welcome others).

There was a lot of unusable space in there that can be used now for my art stuff!

As I was walking through the process, I thought, this would be an awesome blog post—there are so many life parallels.  Then, the Lord awakened me at 2 am in the morning and started really dealing with my heart, gulp. 

He asked me to look without background noise or distraction, without the sounds of the day at what I was storing in my life.  Jen, What is superfluous and crowding out what is truly life giving?  What do you think is a harmless habit that literally is stealing room in your soul to have margin and peace?  Where is the baggage that you just keep stuffing (like your closet and basement) that is literally encroaching on every area of your life?  Jen, do you feel peace and purpose or just a lot of noise?  It is time to look and to deal and to see what you want to expel from your heart and your head and what you want to pass on and what you want to keep in an orderly fashion. 

It is scary—actually terrifying—to ponder what is really in our hearts, huh?  It takes time, courage, grit, humility.  The real beauty though, is that the One who created, sustains and redeems us, will guide us in GRACE.  If we will take the time to truthfully and bravely tackle our stuff, He will meet us in the middle of all the piles that seem completely impossible and overwhelming.  He will teach us what to hold on to, what to let go of permanently and temporarily, and what to literally destroy in the trash.  God is not a God of confusion or disorder, but I will tell you, it takes time to sort through the things we have experienced and stuffed trying to handle it on our own. 

We think our fear is telling us the truth, but fear is a liar.  Fear tells us to throw it in there and ignore it—stuff it.  Fear tells us, “He really doesn’t know what He is doing—this is a much better plan to numb yourself or to take control on your terms.”  Fear says, “did He really say or mean this?”   Once we make a habit of listening to that fear, we become weary of substance.  We run out of space in our closets and basements and our junk pours forth into the public areas of life.  We cannot hide our stuff.  There is no margin to deal with it. 

When we walk (however TERRIFIED we are) with The Lord, He who calls you is FAITHFUL to walk with us and transform us.  It’s gonna look messy as we continually bring piles before Him, but it is going to be freeing in all the ways.  He calls us to draw near to Him to sort what is good and purposeful and life-giving and honoring in our lives.  There is space and margin and ROOM when we take COURAGE to go there with Him. 

So, I encourage each of us to look intently into His word and His purposes and lay our lives next to them.  Let us be brave, reach out to others when we want to hide and when we feel that our closet’s contents will literally suffocate us.  The truth is…they will, apart from Him. In the midst of our piles, the truth of the Gospel allows us to draw near to Him with confidence because Jesus has paid our debts with His life and death and resurrection.  He says “remain in me, and you will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing.”  

Posted in authenticity, the reason for coming alive, transformation by truth

What’s with the blog, jen?

48412520_229472477953462_6827589204122271744_nI picked a title because it moved me.

It sounded inspired.

 

This is a picture of my life.

I get a whim of creativity.

I start something new, and then I backtrack to contemplate the meaning.

 

The Art of Coming Alive

There are two types of people in this world: people who have a plan and are exact and Me.  I don’t know where you fall on the continuum, but the truth is that adult life will have its way with all of us.

 

We start with hopes and dreams and optimism, and somewhere along the way parts of us die in the realities of this life.  There may be small deaths as we are wounded by unmet expectations and disappointments.  It may be blows of death to our spirits as we experience trauma.  It may be a learned death feeling your voice doesn’t matter.  It may be an intense anger that your plans and control have no place here.

 

That dying may mean growing cold, lacking power to move, feel, respond.

It may mean going through the motions while no longer having interest, relevance or significance.

It may mean that you are no longer stirred intellectually or emotionally.

It may mean that you learn not to care and not to think too much about anything—and that’s sort of working for you.

 

I know this is where many of us find ourselves.

Friend, we are made for more.  For those in Christ, we are given a new heart and a new mind.  And, you just tuned me out—“blah, blah, blah, churchy speak that’s not true…blah, blah, blah.”

It sure doesn’t feel true, does it?  When we look at the darkness encroaching, it feels pointless.

 

But the truth is, there is skill to mastering the art of something…

ART: skill acquired by experience, study or observation.

Mastering an art involves wisdom, time, patience.  It involves wrestling with yourself and with your Creator.  It involves grit.

I know some of you are thinking—I don’t even have the energy or desire to think about that or to muster hope.

 

Greg, my husband, has always said that living is hard and dying is easy.  It is so true.  Kill a plant by not watering it—just ignore it. I can do that!

Life takes watering, pruning—those pieces of consistency day in and day out.  It takes tending, attending to all parts of it—it takes fight, time and risk.

 

Then there’s the “coming” part of the title.

COMING: gaining importance, an act or instance of arriving, approaching, impending

 

I was studying the words of Christmas carols and the Christmas story yesterday and saw the repetition of a word: Come.

“Come and Worship”

“O Come Let Us Adore Him”

“Come and Behold Him”

Shepherds came…Wise Men came

The definition of Come: move or travel toward, move closer, approach, draw near

Obviously, there’s movement involved—movement toward.

 

So WHAT Is LIFE?

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things were made through Him…In Him was Life and the Life was the light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ John 1:1-4

 

Life and being alive is found in the One who created us, and to find it, we simply move toward, approach it.  We observe, study, and experience Him and the process.  We start where we are…acknowledging our reality.  Our reality may be death—never even knowing Life.  Our reality may be impending death of our spirit.

 

What will you get here? 

You will get an honest woman on the journey toward coming alive in this world that encourages us to deaden ourselves.

You will get real thoughts and writing that hopefully help you wrestle with truth and not give in to the “give up.”

Humor—I mean, for real, we gotta laugh!

A pointing to True Life—that is not found in us alone.

Someone who does NOT have this figured out but keeps drawing near to the One who does.

Grace and Truth

 

What will you not get here?

Ten self-help tips that help you slay your day.

The word slay

A glossing over of pain.

Fashion advice—43-year-old woman who loves overalls might not have a lot to say about that.

Hype.

Condemnation.

Shoulds.

Recipes with long intros about my Great Aunt Sarah’s cheese philosophy

 

So, if you want to follow along and be a part of the conversation, you are welcome here.

Posted in authenticity, discernment, Uncategorized

branding and the heart

Persona:  The aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others

The buzz these days in business, in ministry, in the non-profit world, in sports, in politics, and on social media is building a personal brand.  We all have one, and some of us are experts in tapping into it and being strategic about it.  In my business, I have a lot of interest in coaching people to understand and to develop their personal brand in order to connect genuinely with their audience.  In reality, I see it as helping them know and examine themselves and their strengths and to embrace themselves and what they have to offer others.  I find that many women do not know the beauty of who they are and do not think they have anything “special” to offer. I enjoy encouraging people to live bravely and authentically as themselves.   Sometimes our “brand” is born naturally and sometimes it is painstakingly crafted. I can read somebody attempting to build a brand pretty quickly, and I can read and smell authenticity and the opposite.  I have embraced more of who I am and realize that my brand was there without too much strategic thought.  Truthfully, me living as me on social media has opened up opportunities for me to help others.

I have spent some headspace lately thinking about how much of the true self comes through with social media and the “spin” we execute when building our personal brand. How much of our energy and thinking goes into this?  I’m thinking…what if we actually invested that in our actual character?  Lately, I have heard several people speak of loving the persona of someone but being disappointed with the person in real life–maybe there was some false advertising:).   And, 2 dimensional never translates to 3 dimensional, therefore, it is impossible to share everything.

One of the downfalls of our “branding yourself” society is this:  we can easily spend more time constructing our persona than growing as real people and investing in and serving real people.  In fact, It’s not even just business these days.  With Social media profiles, where we build a following and build a personal brand, we can easily become absorbed with self.   Our hearts and minds can be consumed with what we will say about the hottest topic or how we will be funny or how we can best capitalize on a picture or experience to fit with our “brand.”  We can become obsessed with the “response” of people to us and to our message.  We can equate our worth with how much we are “seen” and “liked.”  It can be a slippery slope to self-promotion where we miss the message that we were created to carry.

The problem is as believers our allegiance is not to promote ourselves.  Our purpose is not to magnify our self-worth.  I began writing this blog last night and was reminded this morning in corporate worship that our mark of faithfulness in this life is in servitude to Jesus and in stewarding the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4:1).  Think of the humility of God coming to earth as a man.  Philippians 2 speaks of Jesus considering equality with God something not to be grasped and making Himself a servant and becoming obedient unto death all for the glory of God.   In John 5:41, Jesus himself said “I do not receive glory from people.” All throughout John, Jesus speaks of listening to the Father and seeking not His own will but the will of Him who sent Him.

So, what are we to do with these conflicting ideas?  Do we run from being business owners?  Do we divorce ourselves from all social media?  Do we cloister ourselves away from all things that can become snares and temptations to us?  Do we not write or speak or create for fear we are self-promoting? This is sometimes the knee-jerk reaction to seeing our sin.  We fear, and then we shut down and pull our voice and influence away.   However, we are called to be a city on a hill, salt and light in a world that desperately needs to see The Glory of the One and Only full of grace and truth.  So, we have to learn the balance of examining our hearts and surrendering our own wills.  We can easily be deceived–we deceive ourselves quite well.

I have learned that some do not have the skills and bent to know how to examine their hearts.  So, I will present several helpful questions we can ask ourselves:

1) Where do your thoughts camp? Do you invest more time in building your persona (thinking about what you will post or how you will promote your business) or in living less of you and more of Him?   Are you spending time being shaped by the Word and the Lord and living out of that?

2) What is your purpose in building a brand or persona? All things can be done and leveraged for the glory of God, and all things can become an idol.

3)Has your “schtick” become the “it” and not your original purpose? Ask your good friends what they see in you.

4) Look at what you are saying and doing (social media and publically).  How are you leveraging your life for the sake of the Gospel message? Is it more about you and your message or His message?

5) What part of your life are you serving others?  Are you using your gifts and brand for the benefit and service of others?

Do not give up your voice.  Work to find the voice and the service God created in you to steward for His purposes.  This takes work and prayer and looking in the mirror.  I champion us all to wrestle on!

Posted in authenticity, comparison, gifts and talents, insecurity, spiritual growth, The body of Christ, transformation by truth, Uncategorized

Encouragement to my fellow women

(These are notes from my last session this weekend…an open letter to my sisters in Christ.)

The more we KNOW him, the more we understand ourselves and who He created us to be.

I love to hear people’s stories. We think we know someone, but we do not understand them well until we know how they grew up, what adversity they faced, what their family is like.

When I start the discipleship process with people, I ask them to tell me their story. It opens my eyes to see where they are coming from, why they struggle with certain things and what truth we need to tackle with their hearts in order to grow. Divorces, abandonment, losing parents, eating issues and disorders, sexuality struggles, alcoholism, promiscuity, materialism. WE ARE ALL MESSED UP. WE ARE ALL IN NEED OF BEING STILL AND KNOWING THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSES. WE ALL HAVE BROKEN HEARTS BECAUSE OF SIN—OURS AND OTHERS.

Do You know what the common denominator with these women is? Their need for Jesus—the way the gospel has captivated their lives—changed them everyday, given them hope, given them love, given them worth. Do they still struggle? Yes, but the more they take time to be still and to know, the more in Love with the Lord they are, the more hope they have to journey on.

No one is from an ideal family. No one is issue-less. We all have struggles. If we take the time to look around, we might see the reality of the lives of those around us. We see the outside that we are jealous of or that we judge, but there is a deeper story and struggle there. God does not promise a pain free life. In fact, if we had a pain free life, would we even think about Him? Would we see the need to examine ourselves?

I cannot promise what will happen in the next day or 10 years. There will be heartache and joy. There will be things that rock our worlds to the point where we do not know what direction is up. There will be things that we choose to do and find ourselves involved in that will make us question who we really are in the first place. I cannot promise pain free. Here’s what I can promise. If we trust—if we keep stopping and seeking Him…He will never change. He will become bigger to us while these other things become smaller. We will find His promises to be true. We will find that He is our sure thing—not our family, or a relationship, or a husband, or a career, or children, or our talent, or our money or our status. HE IS THE SURE FOUNDATION. Build life upon Him. Seek His word. Seek His character. Savor His beauty. He will build deeper hope and love within us as we sort through our disappointment and pain.

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in Him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing.” John 15:5

See, the world has pain too. Pain is to point us to God, but Pain without His hand of guidance and without knowing Him is pointless. People strive to find a place of belonging—to be accepted, to arrive, to feel worthy.

We feel like to be worthy we have to be well known or recognized or look a certain way or be respected in a certain way. I pray that there are women that are captivated by Christ and learn who they are in Him. I pray that each of us learn our personalities and learn to accept who God made us to be—not our sin but our extrovert, introvert, organized, creative, thinking feeling. I pray that we would realize we cannot be everything. I pray that we would learn to live as God created us to be instead of trying to fit into someone else’s mold and end up being frustrated and defeated. Some of us are more inward and have a few friends that we will encourage deeply—do that. We do not have to be the center of attention to mean something. Some of us have mad organization skills—friends may make fun of us, but use that organization for God’s glory. Help others. Trust the Lord and draw near to Him with confidence, abide and remain in Him and let Him shape us and bring about our transformation to be more and more like Him. We do not have to perform to be this super Christian—ABIDE and OBEY that way. Love will begin to grow as we die to ourselves and live to God.

In my 30s, I have learned my giftings and have developed them more. I have become more comfortable in my own skin. I know I am never going to have a spotless house or a continually organized closet or be an accountant, but I have friends that do! I paint pictures and listen to people and encourage and flounder for last minute plans. What if we, as women, walked in confidence in who God made us to be? What if instead of always asking “why don’t people see me this way? Why can’t I do that?” Or even putting people down because we are jealous, we rejoiced in others’ gifts and cried with others in their pain? How would we treat each other differently? We need those people who are different from us. I need Greg. We get on each others nerves because we are so different, but we fit nicely together because we work together instead of in competition. We are all different in the Body of Christ, but we all need one another. Greg—master teacher, me an encourager/shepherd merciful person. One of my best friends from high school and beyond was also the hardest for me when we were around each other all the time because we are a lot alike. We competed and struggled. And after a lot of hard work, we know how to celebrate and cheer on the other…after 24 years. We have learned our personalities are similar but our giftings are different. There were some frustrating times, but with maturity in Him, we have learned to champion one another. When we practice being still and knowing Him, we will be changed. We will love with His love.

John 15:9-12 As the father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep his commandments, you will abide in my love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. “

Being Still and knowing God Allows you to obey Him. Obedience breeds obedience. We obey by stopping to be still. We obey studying His word Then we begin to know him more, love his character more, treasure him more He changes us and we respond differently to others . We want to share his character with others and we  love them because ywe are being changed. Then we have to learn to bear with others so we go back to him and seek him again. My fellow women, Seek Him with all your heart and you will find Him. And you will bear much fruit depending on Him and knowing Him. You will become more like Him in his timing and you will learn to love those around you…and help to encourage them to love the LORD.

Posted in authenticity, community, comparison

Looking for a place to belong

When it comes down to it, we all want to belong.  We want to feel accepted and a part of something bigger than us.  That desire can take many different paths–from conquering teenage popularity, to acceptance into a sorority or fraternity, to finding like-minded people who share a passion of yours, to exclusive friendships, to simply finding someone who is safe and will listen.   Some of those places of belonging feel safer than others…some tide us over until we really discover who we are and find a place of acceptance and love for our true selves.

There is a satisfaction and a rest when you discover and accept who you are–giftings, personality, tendencies.  I love seeing women be thankful for how God made them instead of trying to be like someone else.  Then, true serving and living and loving and leadership has opportunity to flow from them.  They can then become a place where others feel safe to share and to belong.  We create places of belonging for others when we relax ourselves.

I am attracted to “real” people.  Real people who can laugh at themselves and know their hangups, people who are not intimidated by me and can encourage me instead of competing with me, people who listen and who share honestly about their fears, people who speak truth about situations instead of skirting around them with what seems proper.  “Real” people seem to be few and far between, but when I meet them, I already feel a kindred spirit with them.

I try to be a “real” person by disarming  all the subtleties that keep us from really knowing one another, but I fail a lot.  It is easy to be intimidated by the airs others put on (usually due to insecurities), to feel less than, or to feel unsafe to be oneself.  The truth is, one person has to choose to be one’s real self first.  If it is not your choice to do so, you may miss out on the real richness of relationships.  You may choose to do so when the other person does not and look weird or feel stupid…I have found the risk is worth it (though it does not feel good every time).

Women are…complicated.  We spend a lot of time assuming what other people think and what they are about and what they think about us.  This builds walls that are almost unconquerable.

In this day of social media where the walls can be the fortresses of perfect looking family pictures, status updates that seem better than ours and more intentional than ours, we can easily give up and choose to shut one another out because we don’t really see the real people.  Yet, we are deceived into creating unreal personas of people…whether they intend for us to or not.

We complicate relationships in public, too.  We can be intimidated by what people have or what people do or the assumed status that people create.  We can allow our fears to turn into walls that look like being “better than” others.  We find myriad ways of shutting people out to self-protect.  We find our “core” group and stick with them allowing no one else in for fear that we lose footing.  So many assumptions and so little truth going on in our head.

To be real, we must first know ourselves.  This takes time and courage and other people to help us discover.  Usually it takes adversity…and a lot of it.  It takes facing our adversity and pain head on instead of relying on the things we turn to that can numb our pain (shopping, drinking, eating, entertainment, drugs, achievement, working out, etc).  It is not easy to be real, but it is freeing to be real.

We also must be willing to know others for who they are and enter their messy places.  Once we face our messiness, the messiness of others is less scary.  We do not have to fix those places in others, but we do need to be willing to be present with them as they sort it out.

Truthfully, the only reason I can be real is because I have come to know the One who made me.  I have faced the fact that I am so so so different from Him (in my character), and I need Him.  In my difference from Him, I only seek myself.  I am completely broken as a human, and He knows that I am bound by my rebellion against His goodness.  I have enslaved myself in greed, in lust, in trying to be better but failing, in thinking that I am the center of the universe.  He sent His son, Jesus, to rescue me from me.  He took the penalty for all my selfishness and rebellion, showed me favor I do not deserve, accepted me, made me a part of Him, gave me a new heart where I can choose to be like Him in character and goodness, and put me at peace with God.  At peace with God, I am free to rest in Him and be myself.  There is no one or nothing than can intimidate me in this freedom.  The wonderful thing, is that I am free to share that with others.  When I think on these truths and learn more about Him and what it means to trust Him instead of myself, I want to be a “real” person all the time and invite others to be real, too.