In The Wait

In The Wait

Waiting on God can be one of the hardest things to do.
When you have prayed for a particular thing or a person believing for God to move in only ways that he can, and yet, you don’t see change.

Maybe you are waiting for a baby that you have longed for…
A new job/financial situation …
A restored relationship with a parent…
A spouse to come to know Jesus…
Healing for you or for someone you love…
The list could go on and on.
You pray and you Wait. Then repeat.

I want you to know I understand.
I am in the wait too and God is reminding me He is RIGHT THERE. He has heard EVERY prayer and He is shaping and molding every step. He has not forgotten you or me …He has a plan… A GOOD PLAN.  His ways are higher than ours and his timing far exceeds all that we can imagine. We are to wait in full expectation upon the Lord to move. That’s our role… To Wait upon Him.

I love Habakkuk 2:3 because it is such an amazing reminder when we are waiting that His timing is everything!
“But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!”

The following writing piece is a part of my heart and I pray it brings you comfort and renews your expectation of our Amazing God. He will NOT fail – HE is there…In the heartache, in the tears, in the pain and in the wait.

There are days when time seems frozen
and that life is on repeat.
I wonder if you hear my prayers
and every silent plea.
The world around me is still the same,
While time is flying by.
My heart is pounding for desperate change with every tear I cry.

My hunger to run ahead of you
has always been unwise
“Wait upon the Lord”,
help me never to despise.
There is purpose in the waiting
even when the journey seems so long
Soon this season will be over
And My heart will sing a new song.

In the wait
Open my eyes to see you Oh so clear,
In the wait
Break through the walls,
Jesus draw me near.
In the wait
keep reminding me
“Daughter I have a plan”
In the wait
I will rest in you when I feel I cannot stand.

The battle is not mine,
You say it’s yours to fight.
I need only to be still
Resting in the power of your might.
I will wait in expectation
for your goodness to prevail,
Every promise, every prayer
That you will never ever fail.

In the wait
Open our eyes to see you Oh so clear,
In the wait
Break through the walls,
Jesus draw us near.
In the wait
keep reminding me
“Daughter I have a plan”
In the wait
I will rest in you when I feel I cannot stand.

Then light will break forth like the dawn, healing will finally come.
The wait will cease to an end
and we will prepare to run.

Signature_GuestCheryl

cherl'sprofil picCheryl is passionate about Jesus and making Him known. She serves as a leader in women’s ministry and on the worship team of her church. She believes that by His stripes we are healed and we are nothing without Jesus, but EVERYTHING with Him. She believes there is freedom that awaits all our brokenness, all our mess, all our shame, and all our past if we turn our lives over to Him. She is married to her college sweetheart and they are blessed with three beautiful children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Waiting Room

From the Waiting Room

It only took two words to rock my family to the core: brain tumor. Turns out the symptoms my feisty mother-in-law had been experiencing were more than weirdly isolated annoyances. And so on a Sunday night I held my husband as he cried and trembled with fear, imagining the worst and fervently praying for the best. The next day we made the first of multiple three-hour trips to the hospital she was in, and our reality shifted in the way it only can when you receive terrible, life-altering news. Time became suspended. The world as we knew it took a backseat.

Let me add here that we traveled with our three-year-old and three-month-old daughters. Because my mother-in-law was in the ICU, our girls couldn’t go into her room to visit. I ended up spending a lot of time in the waiting room keeping them occupied, looking out the window, and observing the other people I shared that room with. I came away from my time in the waiting room with a perspective I hadn’t thought to have before this experience began.

I’ve never been a fan of hospitals. There’s a stark coldness and a distinct smell that makes me uneasy. Not to mention people don’t usually end up in the hospital because they wanted to be there. There are so many sad stories behind each patient and family member who find themselves laying on a bed or sitting in a vinyl chair. It’s overwhelming and I try to steer clear as much as possible. Until I found myself in that neurosurgery ICU waiting room, I didn’t quite grasp just how many ways a person can experience life-threatening trauma to the brain. Each day I heard snippets of conversation around me with words like “aneurism” and “brain bleed” peppered in the way the rest of us might casually discuss what we ate for lunch. These loved ones huddled in their respective corners came from all walks of life. There were older men and women alongside children and grandchildren. Nobody was immune.

As I eavesdropped on strangers’ conversations and heard the words my own family was speaking, I found myself yearning to connect, to go deeper, to release what was on my mind and in my heart instead of tucking those raw emotions safely away. I saw my husband’s family, and especially his mom, through the lens of their mortality. It mattered that everyone in that waiting room was there for the same reason. The trivial things that usually occupy my mind suddenly lost importance. Who cared if my outfits were on trend and properly accessorized; they just had to be comfortable. Keeping up with my social media feed seemed like a chore I just couldn’t be bothered with. My diet and exercise routine had to be put on hold because I was exhausted from the energy it took to comprehend what was happening to us. Any plans I had made were cancelled. Nothing was more important than being there.

Sitting in the waiting room wasn’t all bad. Without a doubt, my favorite takeaway from the hours I spent at the hospital was realizing all the ways God displays love for His children and actually paying attention enough to notice them. Things like a rainbow, a song, or a ring tone probably won’t mean much to you unless I elaborate…

My mother-in-law saw a vibrant rainbow right outside her window just a day or two before her scheduled surgery. God was saying, “I promise I’m here and I’m not leaving.”

My husband played the song, “Eye of the Storm” for his mom to comfort her during her early days in the ICU. Then we heard that song at least once a day each day we were there. The day after my “second mom” had her surgery, a lady in the waiting room had a ring tone on her phone…you guessed it…”Eye of the Storm!” When I shared with this woman the significance of her ringtone, she wrapped me in a hug and we bonded over the wonder that God uses little things when they can make the biggest impact. I was able to hear her story about why she was there, and I’m still praying for her father, Donald, and his recovery.

Speaking of prayer…the abundance of prayers and support from our friends was the biggest way God showed us He was at work. I can’t even count how many people across the country and even in other nations were praying for our family. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when my mother-in-law’s surgery went better than we had hoped, or when she was awake and talking just hours afterwards. I shouldn’t have been blown away when I saw her the next day and she was cracking jokes like always and making sure her kids were taken care of. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I realized how my faith had given way to worry more than I’d like to admit. God reminded me of His tender mercy as I sat with my daughters. He reminded me just how important prayer is – it’s everything!

I realize that our story has had a happy resolution – at least so far. The very night of my mother-in-law’s surgery, when we were in the cafeteria having a snack and taking turns saying goodnight to her, another family was pouring into the hallway, faces red and splotchy, tears streaming down cheeks. Their news wasn’t so happy, and my heart ached for them and the pain they were experiencing in that moment. But for the grace of God, that could have easily been us. And our journey with this brain tumor isn’t over yet. There’s still a lot of healing, physical therapy, and treatment to come. The future isn’t certain, not by a long shot. But as a family, we’ve changed. I can feel it. Whatever we face in the unknown future, whether it be another difficult diagnosis or struggles in the midst of healing, we’ve already come face-to-face with what we say we believe about God. Our faith has been tested, and even as we wrestled with fear, our faith didn’t falter. We could have easily given ourselves over to despair, but instead we chose to daily place our burdens and questions at the feet of Jesus.

There are two Psalms that brought me comfort over the past few weeks: Psalm 33:18-22 and Psalm 37:25-26 & 39.

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Whatever you’re facing today, your Father is right there in the thick of it with you. Let Him be your hope. Trust that He will not forsake you, but will be your strength today. Rejoice in Him, who is your Help and Shield!

With much love,

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Wait For This Man

Wait For This Man

Dear Daughter,

I’m writing this letter about twenty years early (or forty if your father has his way), but one day you will read these words and they will connect. They will mean something to you. What I need to tell you can be summed up in one word:  WAIT.

Let me explain…

Yesterday I was resting in my favorite chair. It was about 5:00 pm, and I had been feeling under the weather all day. I sat and watched your daddy take stacks of folded clothes from the couch into our bedroom to put them away. Stacks that I folded two days ago and that I could have easily put away, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. He didn’t say anything; he just did it. He did it for me because he knew I needed help. And as I watched him, I had to fight back tears because I suddenly had this thought: “I hope Molly finds this some day.”  And I think you will, if you can remember to wait. Wait on the guy who finishes your chores for you – who comes through in little ways to let you know he cares.

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Wait on the man who looks you in your eyes and holds your gaze as he tells you you’re beautiful. Wait on the man who has a habit of telling you this when your hair is greasy, you’re makeup-free, and you’re wearing yesterday’s sweatpants. You’ll know he means it.

Wait on the man who gets up and goes to work. Wait for the guy who sacrifices in order to provide for his family. Wait for the guy who has a strong work ethic and takes pride in what he does. Wait for that man who dreams big and invites you to dream with him.

And when your dreams seem too big, too scary to ever come true, I hope you wait for the one who listens to your insecurities but then speaks truth into your heart and breathes confidence into your spirit. This man will bring you to tears by reading Proverbs 31 to you, telling you YOU’RE that woman, and believing it with every fiber of his being.

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Wait for the man who thinks for himself – the man who stands apart from the masses unapologetically because he is rooted and grounded in God. Wait for the man who doesn’t need anyone’s approval. The man who teaches you how to be brave and courageous. The man who will fight for you and for what he believes in. Wait for this man.

Wait for the man who looks at the stars with you and ponders the mysteries of the heavens. Wait for the one who writes you poems…not all the time, but just enough to remind you how deeply his love for you goes. Wait for the man who buys you jewelry and flowers, but no stuffed animals (because that’s just cheesy)!

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Wait for the man who makes you feel strong, capable, and worthy. Wait for the man who would never disrespect you. The right one will honor you even when he’s out of your presence. You wait on this man, and your heart will never doubt him.

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Wait on the man who allows God to break him down and mold him into the man he’s meant to be. Wait on the one who has a calling to serve his Heavenly Father. Wait on the man who isn’t perfect, but who keeps pressing on, getting back up, and learning from his mistakes.

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And finally, wait on the man who smacks your booty when he walks by, who hugs you for a full 60 seconds when you need him to, and who gives you amazing massages, even though you’re quite possibly the world’s worst masseuse and will never be able to repay him!!

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My darling daughter, one of these days you will be wondering if it’s love and if some boy is the right one. My prayer is that your daddy will set such a high standard in your eyes, that you will never be tempted to settle for anyone less than who you deserve. Don’t get in a hurry to find love. Don’t feel pressured to give yourself away. WAIT. Wait on the Lord, and He will send you a man who is everything to you that your father is to me. God will grow the love between you as the years pass. Your patience will be rewarded.

Wait…please wait!!

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(Check out Emily’s blog here)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting

Waiting

 

Are you waiting for something? Someone? Some time? Does it feel like it’s been forever? Then, when one prayer is answered, you’re left waiting on something else? I think it’s fair to say we’re all waiting for something. A job offer, an acceptance letter, a relationship, a marriage, a long-awaited pregnancy, a change, the coming of Christ…


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I can honestly say that waiting is one of the most difficult things for me to do. Left to my own devices, I am a total Type A, perfectionist, go-getter. I wanna get it done, and I wanted to get it done like yesterday. But God has such a gentle way of giving me opportunities to grow.

 This last summer, after dedicating a year of working with a ministry for little to no income, I set out on my job search. On one hand, the sky was the limit; I could do just about anything and live just about anywhere. But the fact that there were so many options was also overwhelming and intimidating. I started to apply for jobs, jobs I didn’t even really want and got really discouraged when I didn’t get them. I mean, I know it’s a tough market, but don’t these people know who I am? Can’t they see my work history and my excellent education? Isn’t it obvious that I am a super hard worker? And why isn’t God providing for me? Seriously, the ego is definitely something to reckoned with.

I had never had difficulty finding work in the past, even with issues that should have been obvious obstacles. And I would have taken anything, settled for whatever. I wonder how many times I’ve ‘settled’ in the past when God’s ideas were much better… But He is gracious and merciful. I ended up taking a little temp gig doing accounts payable and deposits for a government entity. It was one of the funnest office experiences I’ve ever had and I got to learn a lot and meet some amazing people. Of course my ego told me the job was sooo beneath my qualifications – but it was a perfect distraction for my ‘waiting’ period.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Thankfully, I was blessed with a job that is totally suited for me and my skill set as well as my passions, and offers a lot of growth and learning opportunities to boot. I’m new and I have a huge learning curve, but I know once I settle in, it’s going to be one of those gigs that doesn’t even feel like I’m working.

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But the waiting, in the meantime, was so difficult. It’s easy to see how God worked it all out for good now that I’m on the other side. But while I was going through it, it felt like it would never end. I felt physically crushed at one point by the self-imposed pressure of the whole situation. And though I hate to admit it, and it sounds absolutely insane – I absolutely love those times when the only thing I can do is be dependent on and wait on the Lord.

I may have landed the dream job for now, but of course there are new things I’m waiting on – like learning how to be perfect at my job, of course. And still things I’m waiting on, for like forever… Those close to me that I share my heart with know some things that I’ve been waiting on for over 8 years. Oh the heartache of THAT waiting period. I’m so grateful I get to be honest with those closest to me, invite them to support me in prayer and encourage me with love. Most of all, I know that God is with me, He is enough for me, my focus will remain on Him. As He whispers “wait” into my ear, He is holding me in the palm of His hand, and I pray that is where I remain.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

What are you waiting on? Do you believe that God is with you every step of the way? How do faith and works come together for you during these times?

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The Return of My Prodigal Husband

The Return of My Prodigal Husband

“All that I had planned, dreamed and desired to have in a marriage had been stolen by endless doubt, harassing questions and ultimately Scott walking away from God. He had become my prodigal husband. We were now a house divided, not a home of unity…”

Those words.
Words from a post I wrote a little over a year ago titled “My Prodigal Husband“.
Words that still rang true exactly one month ago today…
But MAY I SHOUT a little here at BraveGirl Community today?!! Because…

MY PRODIGAL HUSBAND HAS RETURNED HOME!!! He is REALLY HOME! Can I get an AMEN?!!!

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So they began to CELEBRATE .-Luke 15:24

Friends – I would love for you to praise the Father for His goodness and His faithfulness for what HE has done! I am in awe of His relentless pursuit of my man.

God NEVER gave up on him.
NEVER.

And can I just say that if you are reading this and you are in the wait for your prodigal to return, you’re in the wait for that miracle, you’re in the wait for that answer to a long awaited prayer…We SERVE a GOD who is Faithful and who is ON TIME…even when we don’t understand. I wrote a post titled In The Wait as I longed for my husband to return. I hope it encourages you and reminds you of who our God is.

My “wait” has been a 10 year journey and I have experienced every kind of emotion and heartache imaginable. And I can tell you, with confidence, that I would not trade a single day. Because without each and every trial- I wouldn’t have grown or known Jesus like I do right now. The fruit I am experiencing in this moment is priceless. It’s a sweetness of the Father lavishly loving on His children…It’s a contagious laughter that had been stifled by the lack of joy in my home…It’s a feeling of UNITY where the enemy THOUGHT he divided and conquered…

BUT THEN…GOD.

JESUS is the way maker where there seems to be NO WAY.

Below is a video of my husband and I having the privilege to share a small part of our story.
I pray it will encourage you wherever you are and whatever you may be going through to remember the relentless pursuit of God and that our Hope is in Jesus ALONE. He WILL NOT stop pursuing the one…

DO. NOT. GIVE. UP.

Scott and Cheryl share a part of their journey. Click here to watch: https://vimeo.com/225758712

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Your Sister In Christ,
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Facebook Blessings

Facebook Blessings

I scrolled through my Facebook feed. Laughing kids. Smiling. New house. Engagement. Marriage.

Everyone was #blessed.

I wasn’t out of the #blessed circle. A month earlier I had announced mine and Kevin’s engagement on Facebook. The congratulatory comments, the likes, the “I’m so excited for you”s — they all made me feel special. Noticed. And I was convinced that I was blessed, because God had brought someone into my life to love and I didn’t have to be alone anymore.

And just 72 hours later, God slapped it right back in my face.

As I opened my journal from less than a year earlier, my eyes fell to the entry from April 24, 2015:

“Lord, right now I feel You in the absence. I feel You in the waiting. The waiting, the hoping for a spouse. For someone to love. Because in that absence, I feel Your arms perfectly around me, holding me, and I am joyful. Moments of this struggle through singleness can be excruciating, but You are teaching me to cling to You more tightly, and I wouldn’t trade the closeness with You for anything. Hold me until You bring my husband and keep holding me when he finally gets here.”

Somehow, amidst the excitement of meeting Kevin and making plans for our future, I’d lost sight of the beauty in the moment. I’d lost the perfect peace in submission, in surrender, in waiting, in reverent worship, in trust through painful struggle. I wasn’t blessed because I’d met Kevin, though he was certainly an amazing gift from the Lord.

I was blessed because I was needy.

Grace floods in when we are emptied. The blessing comes as we are stripped away and left with nothing but Him, and we can see He is sufficient. We KNOW He is sufficient.

What if the greatest blessing, the way God blesses us the most, is when we feel most deeply our need for Him? The Greek word translated as “blessed” is makarioi, meaning “fully satisfied.” To be found in His favor, regardless of circumstances.

This is freedom.

If we are blessed beyond Earthly circumstances, beyond relationship status, beyond monetary status, beyond anything other than God Himself, how then can we despair? This is the joy of abundant life, the precious hope we cling to. This is the freedom from attachment to any person or thing on Earth. This is the freedom that allows us our heart’s greatest desire in intimacy with our Creator.

That’s the Gift…

HE is The Gift and The Giver.

 

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Katelin

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Hi! I’m Katelin, a coffee-drinking, theology-loving, book-reading, piano-playing introvert (also known as a nerd). By day I’m a pediatric speech-language pathologist, but after dark I get a little crazy, blogging about life, faith, and recovery. After spending 15 years of my life in a dark cycle of disordered eating, I’m now learning to live in the beauty of God’s grace. I’m so thankful to be a part of the BraveGirl Community, and I pray you find hope and encouragement while you’re here!

You can read more from Katelin at her website: https://hashtagblessings.wordpress.com.

The Quiet Craftsman (a short story)

The Quiet Craftsman (a short story)

I’m learning a lot about The Craftsman. As most steady, reliable artisans do, he takes great care in the details of his creations. Though capable of mass-producing beautiful works of art, he often chooses to instead make each piece unique, intricate, and with just enough “wow” factor to distinguish his creations as something only He could have made.

It’s unfortunate that it took me so long to realize that such intentionality and beautiful customization requires me to sometimes wait longer for the end result. Also, I’ve come to realize that The Craftsman is most quiet when he’s working. I’m here to tell you about the time I mistook his silence for apathy.

You see, we had a meeting; and though it was, admittedly, mostly one-sided, I was clear about exactly what I wanted and when I wanted it by. Because I heard no audible rejections, I assumed we were on the same page with this vision I had cast. I felt confident as I left my orders in his hands and walked out of his workshop on that bright day full of hope.

The door shut behind me, and I went on with my life for the most part. Occasionally, I thought of the plans I had laid out for The Craftsman, but I knew he was the most skilled artisan in all of the world, and that even if he had to tweak my plans a bit here and there, the end result would be worth it.

Some time went by, and I still had not received an update on the status of my requests. Friends began to ask me about it, and I reassured them that my plans would come to fruition because I knew I had left them in good hands. I spoke with confidence, but secretly wondered if The Craftsman would be contacting me soon.

Time continued to pass, and I began to imagine the worst: perhaps The Craftsman had been so busy with other work orders, he had completely forgotten about mine. Maybe they were lost in a pile of dust-covered plans and though he originally had good intentions of getting to them, they were simply lost in the shuffle. That’s when I decided that maybe he needed a friendly reminder of what I had asked for and the deadline for which I had requested.

I approached his workshop door, and in preparation to knock, noticed a small sign hung outside. It read “Just Trust Me.” I wondered whom he had left that note for. After all, I was sure our issue had nothing to do with my lack of trust and everything to do with a small miscommunication or even just an honest mistake on his behalf. I mean, I understand he’s busy. He’s the best there is, and everyone is constantly piling demands on him. I decided I would be gentle in my reminding him of my orders that I had submitted long ago…way before my friends had put their orders in and already received theirs…but that’s beside the point. I’m sure it was just an honest mistake and The Craftsman merely needed me to pop in to remind him that it was my turn. I was excited to let him know that I wasn’t too upset and that I could forgive him.

I knocked but he didn’t answer, so I left a note asking him to please give me a call so we could discuss the status of my order.

After another period of time passed, my patience began to fade as I watched everyone around me receive what seemed like immediate answers to their requests.

One dark, cloudy day, I marched back to the workshop and pounded on the door. It was silent inside and the words “Just Trust Me” stared back at me from the sign on the door.

Shaking my head, I yelled, “I did trust you!” as I pounded harder on the door. “What did I do to deserve the silent treatment?” I implored. “Talk to me! Give me something!”

The silence that followed was deafening, and bitterness flooded my soul as I nursed the rejection I felt. I paced back and forth outside, shaking my head and casting glares in his direction in hopes that he might see me through the window and feel a taste of the disappointment I felt. “THANKS A LOT, GOD.” And with that, I turned and walked away, convinced he had forsaken me.

What I most regret about that day is reacting based on assumptions of what I thought was going on inside that workshop instead of the reality that I was too impatient to discover. What I couldn’t see was just on the other side of the door with the sign that read “Just Trust Me.” What I couldn’t see was the hands of The Quiet Craftsman, dirty and calloused, working around the clock to widdle, carve, sculpt and weave together the most beautiful masterpiece I could’ve ever imagined. What I couldn’t see was His face, quiet and steady, with a tender and loving visage as he thought about me while he worked. I didn’t see him softly smile at the notches as he carved them with careful skill. I didn’t see the tears that spilled out of his eyes and landed on my masterpiece as I yelled at him from outside. I couldn’t see his heart broken by my lack of trust.

What I didn’t understand was that his silence came not from a place of abandonment or apathy but rather from concentration. The Quiet Craftsman was doing his job. The most intricate of masterpieces take time to complete.

Since that day, I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty of the silence. I’ve learned that in order for The Craftsman to complete his best work, sometimes he needs quiet. And time. And trust.

I know that the day will come when the door of his workshop will swing open, revealing the most magnificent, breathtaking masterpiece I’ve ever encountered. And the best part about it is that it will be my very own, unique in its character and details.

I returned to his workshop one day recently with a marker in hand. I approached slowly, with fondness and reverence. I smiled and ran my fingers across the words “Just Trust Me,” then placed the tip of my marker on the sign and wrote underneath, “I do trust you.”

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BraveGirl Martha

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Unexpected, Finding Joy in Loss, Life, and Love

Unexpected, Finding Joy in Loss, Life, and Love

March 8, 2007-

A time when the world seemed to stand still in disbelief that she was gone.

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It was 10 years ago today that my sweet momma went to meet her Creator, the lover of her soul, her precious Jesus (as she would call him). In one month of time, my mom went from what we knew to be a healthy 62 year old, to a victim of stroke and to find cancer in various parts of her body. I was pregnant with my second daughter at the time, with just about 3 weeks out from delivery. Only one month…one month…and she was gone. Today I don’t share with you my grief or my sorrow, but the unexpected joy that I recall from the loss, the life and the love I have encountered in these past 10 years.

I lived 5 hours away from my mom and I was pregnant, sick and very much waddling around at this point of pregnancy. But I was determined to go and be by her side.  I remember walking into that hospital room, locking eyes with her eyes, only to have to remove myself before the flood of emotion and fear overtook me. She was not able to speak due to the stroke, but she had eyes and a touch of her hand that spoke volumes even in the silence. I collected myself together and went back in to spend time holding her hand…No words exchanged…and really none needed in that moment.

The hospital flooded with friends and family coming to visit and pray over my mom. We gathered to lay hands on her believing in the miraculous work of God and healing over her body. My dear sweet friends from five hours away drove to see her only to bring some laughter to the stale hospital room. RyRy, as we call him, grabbed a hospital rubber glove only to blow it up and make obscene funny noises that brought a half smile to my momma’s face. It may have seemed inappropriate at the time…but man did we need some laughter for our souls!

Nurses would comment how precious or kind my mom was-though she couldn’t say a word. They would come to change an IV, give a dosage of medicine or make her bed comfortable, and somehow, just the touch of her hand on their face brought them to tears. All I can say is they experienced the love and kindness of Jesus through my mom. Her actions spoke louder than words in those moments. She loved to laugh. She loved people. People loved her. One of my favorite memories of that month was my husband staying the night at the hospital with her. Like I said, I was pretty big and prego and the hospital chair wasn’t going to work for me. So my man said he would graciously stay in my place because I so longed to stay with her. Again, no words were exchanged. But I remember him saying, “I did what I know she would love…I read to her from her Bible.”

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I will never forget gathering with my siblings in the stairwell of the hospital to discuss my mom’s current status-and at that moment realizing things were most likely not going to get better-but we were still believing God for big things. I am the youngest of five siblings -and I am sure they would all agree -my mom spoiled me rotten. But hey, I was the baby…so of course I was! So even though my mom was in the state she was in, I selfishly wanted her to immediately get better so we could get back to “normal” life. I would stand next to her hospital bed and she would lay her hand on my belly. I would remind her that she needed to get better to help me finish all the things she was sewing for my nursery -things she had just been helping me decorate a few weeks prior. I would remind her that I needed her to stay so that she could meet sweet Payton. I reminded her that I NEEDED her…and so did this grand baby. I knew things weren’t going to change, but I wanted it so bad. Time seemed to last forever that month and yet it seemed so incredibly short all at the same time. She soon stepped from this fallen world, releasing all pain and suffering and walked into the light of Eternity.

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One month from her departure from this earth-we welcomed our second Beautiful baby girl-Payton. And can I just tell ya-weeping may last for the night, but JOY comes in the morning. And that is what this baby represented…JOY in the midst of sorrow and grief. A tangible expression of the goodness of God wrapped in this incredible and beautiful 7lb baby girl. When I think about God’s timing of it all, how I wanted to be angry that my mom would never meet her this side of heaven, I couldn’t help but be so overcome with Joy. There was significant timing for her birth-for many reasons-but for such a time as this. It was one of the greatest distractions that kept a blanket of peace and joy in the midst of heartache. I remember feeling that the presence of my mom was in the hospital room as Payton made her way into the world. This baby girl is now about to turn ten in a few weeks and boy is she the spitting image of yours truly. My mom would defintely say I am paying for my raisin’-but Oh she would be so in love with this girl. A girl full of life and love for others…A girl who is as messy and scattered brained as her momma….A girl who jumped up on my bed at the age of five insisting that she wanted Jesus in her heart.(She had been asking at that point for almost a year). A girl, who I know, God has BIG plans for -she’s confident, she’s a warrior and she desires to see people healed everywhere. Her Gigi, my mom, would be so incredibly proud. And can I just tell you, the story only gets more beautiful from here…

Momma Sharon (or that is what we have come to know her as) a woman who is a tangible gift from the Father to my family. A woman who came into my life only a few years ago only to bring an unexpected Joy. (Do you see the theme here?) You see, the day I met Sharon was at VBS through our church. And within moments of meeting, I will never forget my words to her, “I know this may sound weird, but you look just like my mom.” I proceeded to stare and then asked her to take a selfie that I quickly sent to my siblings! I couldn’t believe the resemblance. Sharon and I formed a pretty quick relationship which turned into a bond that I can’t describe. Her mannerisms, her handwriting, the way she gets on to me like my mom and even deals with my dramatic self-it’s really quite unreal.

IMG_3344But the thing I am drawn most to about Sharon, that is most like my mom, is her absolute Love and honor for the Lord…She loves Jesus with all her heart, all her soul, all her mind, and all her strength. She pours truth into my life, into my husband, and into my children like only a momma can. She goes to battle in prayer on our behalf only like a momma can. She encourages, listens and soothes a wounded soul, only like a momma can. I am constantly in awe of the goodness of God through my relationship with Sharon. She will never replace my sweet mom but when I look at my 10 year old daughter and I say “Do you want to know what your Gigi was like-look at momma Sharon.” She gets to see a glimpse of what it would be like. The Lord truly does work in mysterious ways. His ways are higher, His ways are better and His love exceeds them all.

So in the midst of loss, new life and love, I find an unexpected Joy in all three of these stories. Stories and lives that are weaved together through the Father’s hand and His good plan. Today I celebrate the legacy of Colette, my sweet momma, a woman who taught me to love Jesus with all that I have…  A woman who I know can’t wait to greet you and me as we make our way into Eternity. (I use to tease my mom that she should have been a Wal-mart greeter-I am pretty sure thats her job in heaven). Someday, she will meet this beautiful daughter of mine and I’m sure share stories of what a rebellious child I was and how much she reminds her of me. And she will meet momma Sharon, maybe share a coffee and thank her for loving her girls on earth.

Jesus-I am overwhelmed by the unexpected. Thank you.

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Are Your Ambitions Selfish?

Are Your Ambitions Selfish?

(Post 1 of 5 in this month’s guest post series “Keeping Satan Out of Your Bedroom”)

For the last four years I’ve had my own business. I’ve worked intimately with dozens of women, and I’ve stood before hundreds more to encourage, accessorize, and train. When you work with women, you learn pretty quickly that women have a terrible tendency to obsess over what others think of them. I have been guilty of this too. You should see how many outfit and shoe options I can go through before I select the outfit that seals the impression I’m trying to make. When women I work with are insecure (this is more often than not), I remind them that others are typically so concerned with themselves that they fail to notice what’s around them. That’s great news when you’re convincing a woman that no one’s going to notice her love handles, but the dynamic changes a bit when two people in a marriage are too busy thinking about themselves.

Philippians 2:3-4 tells us to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Instead, we are to be humble and value others above ourselves, not looking to our own interests, but to the interests of others. How does that make you feel? Does it prick your spirit a bit? It does mine. I have struggled my entire life with selfishness. Until I had children, it was all about me. I could be intolerable. In truth, I’m thankful for the dark days of our past when I was forced to get over myself and look first to God, and then around me to realize I wasn’t really all that great. I’m greater now that God is driving this balancing act of imperfection and perfect grace. I’m not suggesting you’re full of yourself, but you might be looking inward more than you’re looking outward, and this can impact the stability of your marriage.

I struggle to this day with selfish ambition. My husband reminds me at times that he feels like he sometimes doesn’t make my “To Do” list. Don’t take that literally, ladies. This isn’t THAT kind of blog. What I mean is that sometimes I’m thinking so far in advance of all I want to do – even in my ministry for God – that my husband can get my leftovers. I’m thankful he is open and capable of reminding me. But what if he wasn’t? What if your husband is silent over his concerns about his place on your priority list?

What does selfish ambition look like and how is it getting in the way of your marriage? Selfish ambition for each of us will look as different as our favorite Starbucks drink. Here are a few examples to consider as you look into your own heart:

  • Are you spending too much time binging on Netflix while your spouse is left alone?
  • Is it stealing away on the weekends to go shopping?
  • Is there an obsession with excelling in your career?
  • Are you focusing so much on your children that your husband is waiting for his turn?

Ambition on its’ own is not a negative. It becomes a negative when it affects those who require more from us.

Our selfish ambition affects our heart, our time, our finances, and our family. When our ambition drives us beyond where we’re meant to be, Satan will gladly step in to fill the void.

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Erin

10696463_950947881586261_3679685812034055593_nErin Whitmer is a blogger and speaker at erinwhitmer.com. She loves to encourage women and remind them they’ve been created to sparkle, even in the chaos of daily life. She is the mother of two boys, a wife to an amazing man who puts up with her shoes obsession, and her daily goal is to step out in boldness in all the ways Christ guides her. Sign up for her newsletter HERE and receive her FREE 7 day devotional, Praying to Move Mountains.

Stay tuned for more posts from Erin on Brave Girl Community as she continues this series on marriage called “Keeping Satan Out of Your Bedroom” where she will share five ways we inadvertently invite Satan into our bedroom (and sometimes even in our bed), along with five ways we can unite with our spouse to keep Satan out. She will share wisdom that will allow each of us to elevate our marriages beyond a stale state of union to a true holy matrimony.

My Story: Overcoming Social Anxiety

My Story: Overcoming Social Anxiety

I am a 33-year-old wife, teacher, dog mommy, friend and Pinterest-loving crafter. I am an introvert that loves people. I can be as silly as a 12-year-old and love making others laugh. I am a good listener and love hearing other people’s stories…

…Because we all have a story. And sometimes sharing it with others is the scariest thing we think we’ll ever face because vulnerability can sometimes lead to pain. Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that before God formed us in the womb, he knew us. He knew what he was doing when he gave us our character traits and our flaws. Over the past few years, I’ve come to understand that the imperfections within us are meant to serve a purpose. That being said, here is my story.

Growing up, I was thought of as the shy and quiet girl. I clung to my mother’s leg on the first day of Kindergarten and hoped that if I cried hard enough my parents wouldn’t make me stay. In elementary school, I remember playing alone on the playground and drawing elaborate pictures in the dirt with a stick. My best friend was my stuffed, pajama-clad bear named Chuckles.

Once, in the fifth grade, I had to demonstrate a “how-to” project in front of the class. This is my first real memory of experiencing crippling fear in front of my peers. I went with something I hoped would be quick: How to Draw a Snoopy Face Out of the Number 55. Terrified, I went up to the board and drew that thing out in about five seconds flat. There was no pausing to give my classmates instructions. I drew as quickly as I could with trembling hands as my teacher urged me to slow down and explain each step. I don’t remember what kind of grade I got on that presentation, but I do remember from that moment on having an inescapable fear of not only being called up to the board in class, but being called on in any sort of way by the teacher.

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Fast forward to high school, where every day was spent making sure I didn’t wear a gray t-shirt to reveal my incessantly sweating armpit stains. I refused to eat anything for lunch at school other than crackers because I feared eating a big lunch would cause my stomach to make gurgling digestive sounds in a quiet classroom. My worst fear was being called on by my teacher to read out loud. The phrase, “We’re going to go around the room and read…” was my absolute worst nightmare, and panic would take over my whole being as I waited for my turn.

Then came college, where there was more of the same. Every day was spent fighting one anxious battle after another. I remember my heart beating fast each and every time I walked to class. I wondered: would I get called on to read out loud today? Would I get a tickle in my throat and have an uncontrollable coughing spell during lecture? I told myself that if things got to too stressful in class, I would just get up and leave, pretending I had an appointment. This is an escape route that wasn’t available to me in high school, and I utilized it one day in Calculus to avoid board work.

At the end of the day, I would go back to my dorm room and collapse on my bed, emotionally exhausted. A suite mate might knock on my door, but I wouldn’t answer, telling her later I had fallen asleep.

When Summer came, while other kids got jobs to further their resume and use towards experience in their field of major, I would stay holed up in my apartment, relying on savings to pay my part of the rent and bills. A day didn’t go by that I didn’t feel like a worthless freeloader. I couldn’t apply for jobs because my anxiety was through the roof. I remember multiple instances of my picking up the phone to call a potential employer then hanging up before they answered because my heart was beating so hard, I knew I wouldn’t be able to talk. One morning I was in bed thinking about how all my roommates were at work and I was wasting another day away, a prisoner to fear. My heart started beating erratically, and I experienced a full-blown panic attack that left my heart physically hurting. I was so worried, I actually called my parents and asked them to drive me to the hospital for heart tests. After all the testing, I learned my heart was fine. I was told to stay away from stimulants such as caffeine. I was also told that anxiety is most common in college-aged women trying to figure out what to do with their lives.

No matter what age I was, a common thread coursed through my life: the concept of embracing who I was and simply being myself was never considered. It took all I had to face each day trying to hide my unrealistic anxieties from those around me. But even though it was the only way of life I knew, I never stopped to consider what might be wrong with me until after I got married.

At 23 years old, I googled “social anxiety.” The symptoms laid out on my computer screen sounded like someone was writing a biography about me. I felt exposed. I felt scared that I had an actual diagnosis which I would forever be trapped in and defined by.

According to Wikepedia:  ”Social anxiety is a discomfort or a fear when a person is in social interactions that involve a concern about being judged or evaluated by others. It is typically characterized by an intense fear of what others are thinking about them (specifically fear of embarrassment, criticism, or rejection), which results in the individual feeling insecure, not good enough for other people, and/or the assumption that peers will automatically reject them.”

Boom. There was my life summarized in two sentences. I cried to my husband that night and revealed to him my secret struggle that even he had known nothing about. I worried he would look at me differently, but he amazed me then and continues to amaze with his understanding and full acceptance of me.

I continued to live life crippled by social anxiety for a few more years. My breaking point came when my job (working for a local magazine) required me to go into a few different stores and pick out products to highlight. This involved me carrying in a notebook and pen and asking an employee to help me with what I needed. I couldn’t do it. I broke down, absolutely overtaken by fear. My husband was my hero that day. He took my notebook and pen and went into each and every store and got the information that I had been assigned to get.

Not long after that, I had a talk with my family doctor. My heart beat and my voice shook as I told him about the relentless anxiety I struggled with every day. He listened and acknowledged my struggle. He affirmed that I had truly been living in a secret hell. It was that day that I took the first step of treatment. And my life has been changed for the better since.

Do I still struggle with anxiety? Yes. But the difference is that instead of not making the call, I’ll make it now, even if I don’t feel the most confident. I put myself in new situations now and don’t hide from the world. I have discovered my real personality when not held back by fear of being judged. I am funny. I love people. I’m goofy and not as shy as I’ve always considered myself to be. I love teaching children. I see the value in complimenting a stranger and look for opportunities to be a light for Christ. And going back to what I said in the beginning about our imperfections being meant to serve a purpose: I am a greeter at my church. I struggle sometimes with stumbling over my words or feeling awkward trying to talk to new people, but I’ve also seen God use me just as I am to make others feel welcome and important. And my desire to love on others just as they are overrides my desire to not talk to anyone out of fear that I might not know what to say to them or might stumble over my words.

Awhile ago, I heard this quote and it has stuck with me: “Imperfections have a role to play in our lives and when we forget that, we become unapproachable.”

Therefore, embrace your imperfections. Don’t waste them. Figure out who God wants you to share your story with and tell it. You will be amazed at how many people will be able to relate and how many lives you’ll be able to touch when you take off the proverbial mask of perfection.

I am sharing my story to bring awareness to a disorder that affects millions of adults in America. If you are secretly struggling with social anxiety, know there are various forms of treatment and I urge you to consult with your doctor about which might be best for you.

There IS life beyond the labels, and that life is one of abundance when we choose to not be held back by what has always kept us bound.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalm 139:14a

 

BraveGirl Martha

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Strength From Suffering

Strength From Suffering

What have I done to deserve this?

I am ashamed by the number of times I have asked this question. Suffering has pretty much taken up residence in my life despite my efforts to do good, act good, and be good. It just keeps coming back, no matter how much I try to take control so it can be avoided.

Things can be moving along beautifully, blessings pouring in, and yet I wait. I wait for the dreaded, all too familiar shoe to drop. It’s a pattern in my life I’ve grown so accustomed to that I anticipate it. What terrible tragedy will happen that will break me wide open again, just as I’ve started to heal from the last one? This is not how God intended for me to live, yet the fear of suffering still festers deep inside of me.

If we are truly living our lives on this earth for Christ, shouldn’t we embrace suffering and all that comes with it? I want His glory to be revealed in me, but am I truly willing to suffer for it? Am I able to surrender everything I hold dear and trust that He is good, no matter what?

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10

Suffering brings us closer to our Savior in a way we never could have imagined. It changes the way we perceive and trust and love others. It gives us a testimony that we can’t help but share so that glory can be given to our King. It gives us compassion for others who are suffering. It teaches us how to pray out of true belief rather than routine. But most importantly, it gives us a longing for our heavenly home, the only place where there is no more suffering.

“There are parts of Jesus we will never know apart from suffering.”  

– Kelly Minter, All Things New

Suffering will come into our lives in many different forms. Loss of loved ones, illness, addiction, violence, and severed relationships are all part of living in a broken world. As difficult as it has been, my strength has come in the suffering and therefore, I would not trade it. Would I have been able to say that while I was in the middle of it? Definitely not. It’s not fair. It hurts so deeply. It’s so difficult to understand and usually we never will. That’s why it’s so important to do all we can to stay faithful in the midst of our suffering. Stay in the Word, pray even when we don’t want to, ask for and accept help from others and seek counsel from the right people.

If you are suffering today, I pray that you feel His loving arms holding you through your pain. I know the feeling of hurting so deeply it actually manifests into physical pain. I know what it’s like to repeatedly ask God how He could let this happen. I know how lonely it can feel. God did not promise us that we would not suffer, but the good news is He did promise that we wouldn’t have to do it alone.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

Know that you are not forgotten. You are not being punished. You are so loved. Take this opportunity to breathe in your Savior like never before and search for the beauty buried deep within the ashes with every new day. It is in this sacred place where you will find your strength.

“Jesus, with His pierced side, is always on the side of the broken. Jesus always moves into places moved with grief. Jesus always seeks out where the suffering is, and that’s where Jesus stays. The wound in His side proves that Jesus is always on the side of the suffering, the wounded, the busted, the broken.” – Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

BraveGirl Robyn

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Just One Resolution For The Best Year Ever

Just One Resolution For The Best Year Ever

It’s a new year…time for new goals right? New Year’s Resolutions. My husband and I were traveling for the holidays and having our “car-talk-time” – one of my favs because we’re trapped in the car for several hours with no work distractions, no laundry, no dishes, no errands, nothing to do but just sit…and talk. He can’t escape all my questions! 😉 We have the best conversations in these moments.

On this last trip, we talked about all the goals we hope to accomplish in 2017. Lose weight, strengthen our marriage, make some financial changes, finish the remodeling in our house, become fluent in Spanish so that I can hang with his family in conversation, run a 1/2 marathon, write more, read more, dream more…and the list continued. After talking we had too many goals to count and an overwhelming feeling came over me. I thought maybe this is why I didn’t reach my goals last year…maybe it’s because it’s all too overwhelming and I just want to quit.

OR…maybe because they’re MY goals and MY ideas of what will bring me the best year ever. Usually MY ideas lead me into living off my own strength and power, which leaves me burned out and tired. It sparks a question in me and for all of us…What if our new year’s resolutions consisted of JUST ONE RESOLUTION and the resolution isn’t about us, but about Him?

THE ONE RESOLUTION – Give God our First and Best one day at a time…Simply focus on what God might want from us in that ONE DAY…EACH DAY. It’s not a new concept. It’s just rarely done. But I’m already starting to relax just thinking about it. We often get too caught up in our own agendas to do this but I would say it’s the most important thing we could ever do for ourselves.

What if by starting our day and spending time with Him we discover His best for our year…we find direction and guidance? What if out of that time came our purpose? What if doing that each day brought forth more peace, joy, love, patience, gentleness, and more discipline? What if as we cultivated our relationship with God first, we became wiser, more secure, and more confident in everything we do because our trust has grown so much in HIS plan?

God’s word tells us those are all results of being led by the spirit.

“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” -Galations 5:22.

If those sweet gifts are a result of pursuing God first, then won’t those things help us tremendously in accomplishing our own goals that we had originally planned? Or maybe, just maybe…they’ll help us accomplish the new goals God’s given us that are different and greater than we could have ever planned for ourselves. Either way, just experiencing God’s fruit in and of itself is already a successful year in my book.

When Jesus was asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” -Matthew 22:37

In order to love Him we musk seek Him and get to know Him. He already loves you and me and is there just waiting for us to say yes to Him. In fact, he loved US FIRST!

Will you join me this new year in giving God your first and your best? Just one day at a time. He may do more than you could ever ask or imagine.

“Now to Him who is ABLE to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” -Ephesians 3:20

I haven’t talked to one person yet who has regretted putting God first in his/her life. But I’ve talked to countless people who have regretted NOT putting God first. It’s a personal relationship with Him that will not only change your year, but it will change you and the world around you.

This is your year to start over, putting Him first in your life. Are you willing to give Him a chance to take the reigns…just one day at a time? Let’s focus together on that ONE RESOLUTION because it’s THE. ONE. that will affect everything else.

Will you join me TODAY in prayer…”Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for this new year and all that you will do in my life as I am giving YOU my First and Best, & letting you take care of what’s best for me. Show me YOUR WILL TODAY. My life is yours. Open my ears and my eyes so that I can hear you and see you. Guide me and strengthen me in following your will TODAY. Amen”

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,

and all these things will be given to you as well.”- Matthew 6:33

Wishing you all a fruitful year filled with God’s blessings,

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Brave Girl Christy

Love Shows Up

Love Shows Up

 

Love shows up in a friend.
In the ones you know you can rely on and depend

Whether you’re in the middle of joy or deep sorrow
They don’t stay away or wait until tomorrow

They show up with coffee, a meal, a listening ear
They speak words of truth and of life without fear

With these you don’t have to pretend
Love shows up in a friend.

 

Love shows up when a stranger
Shows disregard for their own potential danger

And lifts those up who are living on the fringe
The homeless, the orphan, those who make the self-righteous cringe

They offer peace and hope to all whose paths they intersect
They protect, give respect, have an eternal effect

These people are the real world changers
And to God it’s no small thing; its major
Love shows up in a stranger.

 

Love showed up in a stable.
Not in some nursery; not in a cradle

That night when His life here so humbly began
Was part of a grander, divinely-breathed plan
To give His life; to save fallen man
To gather His children – no matter how far they ran

This baby, so often mislabeled,
Was the One to do what we are unable
(It’s not just some Christmas time fable!)
Love showed up in a stable.

 

Love showed up on a cross
He suffered our pain; He endured our loss

For three bitter days He fought against Hell
Bringing freedom to all bound by sin’s prison cell
He arose triumphant – He loves us so well –
Of that kind of Savior we should always retell!

Jesus is the bridge we can now walk across
Love showed up on a cross.

 

So now in this season of giving
Let each of us examine the life we’ve been living
If it’s truly in Christ we’ve placed our trust –
Then let love show up in us!

 

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Pure Joy

Pure Joy

It’s the end of Thanksgiving and I am traveling back from an incredible weekend of family fun, belly laughs and of course… endless amounts of ridiculous food that is sure to add on those awesome lbs (insert eye roll emoji). And as we are traveling home- I couldn’t help but reflect on something so sweet. So pure. It’s the joy that radiates from my four year old son who is currently in the back seat staring out the window with a huge smile.

We just passed through a tunnel on our travel home. My son laughed with anticipation as we approached the tunnel laughing all the way through to the end. To him, its almost as exciting as if we had taken him to Disney world, accept this thrill only last about 45 seconds. Lol! And It happens every time we go through that tunnel… it’s pure joy.

I am currently on a face book fast, putting social media aside to focus on my loved ones.
I have only been on this break since right before thanksgiving. I am seeing things I haven’t seen in a while. I am watching, gazing, taking in and enjoying the moment. And my son, well, he has something special. A contagious laugh and a smile that simply leaves me undone at times.

You see, my four year old hasn’t yet had to deal with the harsh parts of life like you and I. He hasn’t dealt with things like rejection. He hasn’t yet been wounded in the deep places of his heart. He hasn’t struggled with hard issues, broken relationships or fears that will rob him blind. He hasn’t had Joy stolen by the loss or betrayal of a loved one. He hasn’t dealt with not feeling good “enough” or the unending insecurities of how he looks. He views life through the lens of innocence, loving EVERYTHING from a new 99 cent hot wheels car to embracing EVERYONE he meets with a big hug (and yes- this includes strangers!)
He simply is full of Joy.

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You and I can have that same kind of Joy, you know? Because REAL Joy is not measured by our circumstances, by our people, by our worldly value or worth.

It is measured by Jesus.

The authentic, one of a kind, never ending Joy giver. He is our Joy!
Joy was born in the person of Jesus Christ.

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11.

Joy is such an incredible gift to those who belong to Him and the power to choose joy comes from the Holy Spirit. God’s word clearly shows us that joy is an action choice we make because we follow Jesus Christ. The action can result in an incredible, tangible feeling – but they don’t always follow each other.
I believe that you and I can miss out on that gift because we are overloaded with our circumstances, weighed down by our troubles and we are striving to just survive. We don’t stop, listen, look, taste and touch the joy that may be right in front of us…Kind of like me observing my son. We essentially throw away a treasured gift (a free gift might I add) aside while we sit in our misery when Joy can be found right in front of us. Right in the presence of Jesus.

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I want to encourage you to turn up some worship music, make a list of thankfulness and praise or dance if you want to! Come into the presence of God and experience His gift of Joy that is waiting to be unwrapped by you. Take a moment to Stop. Listen. Look. Taste.Touch.
Feast on the fullness of Joy that Jesus longs to give you.

If you’re struggling to do that, then I ask…

What might you need to remove or set aside to experience this kind of Joy? What is stopping you from pursuing Him and living in His presence?

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The Giant

The Giant

God’s calling. How many of us have heard it clearly, know exactly what we are being beckoned to do, but still stand paralyzed in the thick, immobilizing quicksand of self-doubt and uncertainty? God’s calling can feel like a giant that we are compelled to and captivated by, yet at the same time, utterly terrified to approach.

If only we had the confidence David had when he approached Goliath. Though small and ill-equipped for victory according to the world’s opinion, David didn’t falter. His feet walked towards the impending battle with confidence. His hands skillfully placed the stone in the sling, and with unfaltering confidence in what God had called him to do, he carried out the task and conquered the giant.

David was small but bold. He was human but empowered by the One True God. An unworthy man was called, and his obedience made all the difference.

He didn’t question his ability to succeed based on his physical stature, vocation, or social status. He didn’t listen to the discouraging voices around him that said he wasn’t good enough for such a battle. Nor did he accept the help of what the world told him he would need in order to have any hope of succeeding. When they said he’d need heavy armor to survive, David chose instead to go only equipped with the talent and skill God had created him to be specifically confident in: his shepherd’s staff and sling.

David was just a shepherd who said yes to God. And because he did, his story was written down in history as one to inspire believers such as ourselves that through God, all things are possible.

What if David had disqualified himself from God’s calling on his life because he was “only a shepherd?”

What are you being called to do that you feel utterly unworthy to carry out?

What child might never experience a loving home if you never listen to that still, small voice calling you to foster or adopt? What co-worker might never hear of the saving love of Jesus if you never accept that job in the field you feel called to even though it won’t pay enough for you to keep living with the same level of materialistic comfort? Who will never know they’re worthy if you never tell them? Who will fall between the cracks of society if you never step out of your comfort zone to reach them?

Time is short and precious, and the stakes are high. Ecclesiastes 11:4 says, “Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.”

The time is now. Step out and go boldly towards God’s calling on your life. Not because you are able, but because He is.

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BraveGirl Martha

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Good Good Father

Good Good Father

Last weekend, my family and I attended an event full of loud music, excitement and intense cheering. My three (almost four) year old was so excited, clapping and cheering as he gazed at all the incredible scenes going on around him, dancing, singing, cheering, shouting, and music that was so loud you could feel the beat shaking the floor beneath you. He LOVED the atmosphere, the intensity, the fun …and then…as if someone snapped a finger hypnotizing him…he crashed. He fell fast asleep, drool and all, as the event continued on in its’ excitement and decibels.

He was sitting in my husband’s lap when he faded into dream land, and praise God that he was, because he’s a BIG boy. My arms could never have sustained my son’s weight when he’s in his deepest sleep. It’s like holding massive amounts of concrete. NO joke!

But here is the beauty of what I want to share with you about that sweet moment. When the event was over, my husband gently got up trying not to wake him from his sleep. As I watched him carry my son from the auditorium all the way out to our car…I instantly saw a glimpse of our Father. The. Father.

The Father who carries us when we are weak and burdened.

The Father who carries us when we are so overwhelmed and cannot take another step.

The Father who carries us when we are beyond fearful of what’s ahead.

The Father who carried the sins of the world so that you and I can be forgiven…Eternally.

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He’s a Good Good Father.
It’s His nature, the very being of who He is.

My son didn’t have a care in the world. He was enjoying deep sleep because he was SECURE in the arms of his daddy. As hard and long as the walk was for my husband, he was determined to carry his son ALL the way. What a beautiful picture of how Jesus looks at His children and says,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,

and I will give you rest.”

He longs to be good to you and carry ALL your burdens ALL the way…if only you will let him. He doesn’t care about the heaviness, the hurt, the uncomfortable or how long it takes. He is a GOOD Father who longs to embrace His son or daughter simply because He LOVES you.
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He is a Good Good Father…a good daddy…there is no one else like Him. Let him pick you up today, take your burdens and carry you through…All the way. He is waiting to do just that. What burdens are you facing today? Will you let Him carry them…and you?

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Be Still and Know

Be Still and Know

This weekend I got away with a girlfriend to a cabin on the lake, and it was a refreshing time for my soul. We did some leisurely shopping and ate a lot of yummy, bad-for-us food. It was all wonderful, but my favorite part of the whole trip was the time we spent resting. We threw on sweatshirts and enjoyed a slow morning on the deck, sipping our coffee while nestled under a quilt. We marathon watched HGTV and colored in adult coloring books. We were intentional about not being busy, and we didn’t feel guilty about it.

It got me thinking about the value of resting in the midst of a chaotic, loud, busy world. Jesus created us to work. But he also created us to need rest. Not only does he allow us to rest; he encourages it.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

I know a lot of us struggle with the concept of rest because it can sometimes carry with it a certain amount of guilt. We get used to the busy schedules, traffic jams, ringing phones, and – if we are so blessed – noise from a household that is busting at its seams. We are so conditioned to the busyness, we feel like we are wasting time or being lazy if we carve out some time for quiet.

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Can I just remind you that it was God who created the Sabbath? He is Holy and perfect, and he himself rested on the seventh day after creating everything.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing, so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” (Genesis 2:2)

Resting refuels our soul. It makes us better parents, employees, spouses and friends. It extends a shortened fuse, recharges our enthusiasm, and allows us time to hear God’s voice.

Remember Mary and Martha? Martha thought she was doing right by staying busy in service to God, but Mary was the one who was praised for sitting at his feet. I think God knew we as a people would need lots of reminders that rest is not only okay, but it is very good!

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

God wants more for us than constant motion, service, and completed tasks. He wants us to sit at his feet, hear his voice, and simply be still in his presence. It is a gift he has given to us as his dear children.

When is the last time you sat at His feet and let him refresh your soul? He is ready, waiting and well-equipped to lavish you with love and soothe the unrest that burdens your soul.

Breathe in his goodness. Be still and know.

 

BraveGirl Martha

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Sometimes I’m a Bad Driver

Sometimes I’m a Bad Driver

Wow. This wasn’t the post I wanted to write. I wanted to encourage and inspire and share something that would bless other women from my own comfort zone.

Instead, I’m going to tell you something real and exercise the bravery that we try to encourage here at BraveGirl.

I grew up in a Christian home. I was involved in Christian groups at my public college. I even worked at a Christian bookstore (and am currently employed as a schoolteacher at a Christian school).
Honestly, I have really embraced Jesus as my Savior on my own since the year 2000, as a college freshman.

But when it comes to my vehicle, I’m incognito…I don’t claim my Christianity.
I don’t have a window sticker of any of the ministries I support displayed on the back. No artistic rendition of the one cross, or the three crosses. No fish emblem. No Bible verses.
I only have stickers from my local chain coffee shop that I’m very supportive of (they give out really great window stickers btw!)
I have a generic white minivan. The lack of window stickers have helped me avoid awkward moments in the parking lot more than once.

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Why am I telling you this? Because there’s a reason I don’t have any Christian representation on my car.
I’m afraid.
I know that once in a while, I have been going too fast to stop and it’s questionable if I was all the way through when the light was green or yellow.
I know that sometimes I have changed lanes and cut somebody off.
I am afraid that if I drive poorly, and I am supposed to be representing Jesus, then I will turn people away from Him.

So instead? I hide my faith behind my tinted windows and sunglasses.
There are two solutions to this problem. The first? Become perfect.

Perfect. Driving. Every. Time.

And though I may have good reason to reconsider some of my habits, I don’t think that this is the real answer.

How many of us are waiting to share our faith until we’re perfect examples of Jesus?

Thinking that way means I won’t be sharing Jesus with anyone. EVER. The truth is…our imperfections highlight the NEED for a Savior. Hiding my imperfections says ‘once I needed Him and now I don’t.’ When we claim Him, in spite of our failings, others realize they can also come to Him now. They don’t have to wait until they stop making mistakes.

Plus, it denies them the opportunity to see how Jesus changes us. By letting others see us as the imperfect humans that we are, they will also get to witness Him As He changes us. THAT’S how people see Him most.

So, if I cut you off accidentally or don’t keep my speed in check approaching a traffic light, I apologize in advance. Just know I’m a work in progress. All of us are.

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TammyIf you want more mini van stories…check out clean on the outside and acci”dents” . It seems this van is one of God’s tools for helping me grow.

 

 

The Sin Good Girls Won’t Name

The Sin Good Girls Won’t Name

I showed up to a get-together with a covered dish and some juicy news to share. It was an opportunity to shock my friends and therefore receive some odd sense of satisfaction, attention, and praise for revealing such scandalous information. Before I could get it out, one of the ladies asked,

“Who has some good gossip?”

Now I was the one who was shocked! We can’t “gossip”. That’s so sinful! How dare she just come out and say that!

Oh, wait…

At least my friend wasn’t in denial about it. She called it what it was. She named it and it made me think twice about what I was about to reveal. Good southern Christian girls like me don’t like to name our sin because acknowledgement brings that uninvited guest named Conviction to spoil our party.

Gossip seeps its’ way into my perfectly innocent conversations, even ones that start out to be godly and life-giving. It is anything but harmless and we have to stop.

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein

on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”

-James 1:26

I didn’t recognize gossip as a problem in my life until my own filthy laundry became the hot topic. When people have been whispering about you, it is beyond hurtful and embarrassing. It permanently damages friendships and deteriorates trust. It’s anything but harmless.

God, help me not to harm others with my desire for entertaining conversation.

Being highly experienced in this area, I’ve narrowed gossip down to four types so it will be easier to recognize the next time it sneaks into your conversation.

1. Secret Telling Gossip
“Promise you won’t tell.”
Even if you are dying to spill someone else’s secret and you know you can trust your best friend, it’s still gossip. If it’s not YOUR business, keep it to yourself.

“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,

therefore do not associate with a gossip.” -Proverbs 20:19

2. Prodding Gossip
“How’s Sarah? I heard she’s going through a tough time…”
If you are on the receiving end of a gossipy loaded question, you are not required to answer! People will respect that you politely refuse to give up information and you will prove yourself to be trustworthy.

“For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer,

contention quiets down.” -Proverbs 26:20

3. Angry Gossip
“Her marriage is falling apart, so she’s taking it out on me!”
Someone hurts you so you tell others all of the unattractive things you know about her life. Don’t let your short term emotions cause long term effects. You will regret it later.

“Argue your case with your neighbor,

And do not reveal the secret of another.” -Proverbs 25:9

4. Concerned Friend Gossip
“You need to pray for our friend because you won’t believe what happened…”
Of course we need to pray for and support each other. Just always make sure to keep your motives and your sincerity in check when you reveal anything personal about someone else’s life.

As you go back to your workplace, play dates, and PTA meetings, keep in mind what God’s Word says about gossip. Learn to recognize it, call it by name, and put a stop to it. Don’t let this “innocent” sin creep its’ way into what could otherwise be sacred spaces of trust, encouragement and friendship.

“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;

Keep watch over the door of my lips.” –Psalm 141:3

BraveGirl Robyn

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Joy Comes In The Mourning

Joy Comes In The Mourning

It was a Friday afternoon in February of 2000 when my life suddenly changed forever. 

I’ll never forget the phone call that came after business hours. I was in my office with coworkers and picked up after the first ring. The voice at the other end of the line was my children’s father, my ex-husband.

His voice was filled with concern as he said, “Sharon, you need to sit down.” Of course I didn’t as I recall…and then he said bluntly as if he had to say it before he couldn’t, “Chris is dead.”

I remember being stunned and confused about the words before they sank in, wondering why he would say such a horrible thing. I even remember asking, “Are you sure?” which I know was my mind begging for one more moment of not knowing. My knees weakened as he finished telling me what he knew about what had happened.

He had been out of town on business and upon returning, found our oldest son alone and gone from this world. Mercifully, gratefully, he had gone home to be with Jesus and that ray of Hope would be the shred of life that would survive while my heart and mind pulled on a shroud of deep black darkness.

The next few days I lived the nightmare of my greatest fear since becoming a mother, losing one of my boys. My heart was filled with infinitely more pain than my fear of it ever had. I isolated myself most of the time as family and friends came to the house offering condolences but I wanted to be alone…in my darkness. Even though I took comfort in knowing Chris was a believer and I would be reunited with him in heaven, my mother’s heart was aching and struggling with accepting he was gone from this earth.

Since Chris was an otherwise healthy 24 year old, his father insisted on an autopsy. The following
Monday was a holiday, so in short the funeral was postponed until almost a week later. I’m not sure how, but it was arranged and attended by more than 800 people I was told.

I can recall only bleak snapshots of that miserable week of waiting…my dad sitting in my living room in the navy tapestry wingback staring blankly overcome by grief, food piled up on every countertop and bulging from the refrigerator, and our house busy with well meaning guests. Then I woke up in the emergency room after blacking out for an extended period of time. I remember hoping to see Chris one more time and for some strange reason thought he was at the hospital. In times of deep sorrow and shock, your mind takes strange pathways.

In the following month, there were many beautiful cards, (I still have every one of them), visits and frequent phone calls of consolation. I returned to work way too soon because I didn’t know what else to do. Sorrow and emptiness became my new painful normal.

Grief is exhausting…not only emotionally but physically as well.

I often tried to pray, but the prayers never seemed to make it above the ceiling. Even though Chris’s dad was very angry at God for the untimely death of our son, for some reason, I never was. But I couldn’t feel His Presence.

Weeks turned into months and months into two years. Cards and visits had long since stopped. Everyone had resumed their own lives. The cruel emotions of hurt and self pity were added to the suffering because I felt so alone in my sorrow.

Sadness. Loneliness. Fear. Dread. Pain. Despair. PURE DARKNESS…EMPTINESS.

And then one Sunday morning we were getting ready for church. I was weary and worn thin from the weight of my grief. I had prayed to die so many times, but this morning, I literally looked toward heaven and cried out loud in total desperation, “God, please replace this horrible darkness and grief with some kind of joy!”

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That morning, as I sat in the comfortable stadium seat of our church with hundreds of others, the message was entitled…
“Where Do You Turn When Life’s Not Working?”

I don’t know if there was a single other person in that congregation who needed to hear those words more than I did. I felt as if they had been eternally penned for me. I knew in the depths of my soul that it was God’s answer to my desperate plea earlier that morning, delivered by His obedient servant, a pastor I hardly even knew.

The message clearly charted the course of the healing power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As the words washed over me, I experienced a lifting in my soul. That day I actually felt for the first time the warmth of His Loving Arms enveloping me. I saw a beam of His Radiant Light shining from the far end of the heinous darkness in which I had hidden for the past two years. I saw Him…I felt Hope.

It’s not that I had never heard the things that were presented in that timely message. It’s that I had not chosen them as my foundational truths. I had spent a lifetime of self will ignoring the very thing that sustains us through times like this.

God loves us and is constantly pursuing His independent self willed creation.

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He already knows every detail of your struggle and is patiently waiting for you to turn to Him for help.

Even though I had experienced salvation at the age of eight, and had been in church most of my life, I confess I had not invested in my relationship with my Heavenly Father and had grown very little spiritually. My quiet times were never very quiet and those spent in His Word were hurried and rushed. There is no wonder why my faith was so shallow…

I trusted Him with my eternity through my salvation experience but thought I could handle the “living on planet earth” on my own!

Simply put, when faced with the most difficult challenge of my life, I had chosen darkness instead of His Healing Light!

During those two years, many times, I had begged God to let me die, to be free of the pain. But He had chosen not to answer those misplaced prayers.

He did not send His Son to die so that we would be left in darkness!

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The awakening that day was only the beginning of my healing. Over time, the hole in my heart was graciously being filled with His Truth and Promises as I spent time with Him, meditating on His Word. Leaning on Him for my strength and direction was infinitely the better choice…it was filled with hope and the blossoming of joy and new life.

One day as I was in His Word, He gently reminded me that He had also lost His Son and He knew exactly how I felt.IMG_4958 2
And there it was, the very essence of Truth that sponged up the last ounce of my self pity. How could I have ever felt alone? The Creator of the universe, my Heavenly Father, knew how I felt. He had never forsaken me. I had NEVER been alone.

The realization of His intimacy flooded over me! I finally knew in my heart that throughout every moment of the journey since that Friday afternoon phone call, He had been right by my side. I had missed the miracle of it because of my foolish self will.

I realized His desire for me to live was a blessing. He was not finished with my story. He wanted me to share it and His message of hope with the world!

Would I have ever wished my son would die? Of course not, no mother would. But I will tell you that had I not gone through the devastation of losing him, I may never have ever known the glorious riches of walking with my Lord and Savior!

Someone said, “He never wastes a hurt.”

So be encouraged no matter what you may face, THE God of the universe loves you. So much so that He sent His only Son to die for you. There is nothing too big or bad for His sacrificial Love to cover. You only have to trust and receive His beautiful Gift of Salvation.

Life is full of crossroads and choices…choose life! Let Him lead you into His Marvelous Light!

He is a good good Father and His Mercies are new every morning!

In the past fourteen years, I still grieve over Chris but I have also experienced more Joys than I could have ever imagined because I opened my heart up to Him. Please don’t miss it! He will give you joy in your mourning too. Let Him have that chance. Open your heart up to Him…and ask Him.

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Dear our precious Heavenly Father,

We thank you for your love, your faithfulness, and your son Jesus who died for us. We thank you for the person who is reading this post. I pray for the one who is struggling to open her heart up to you in her time of pain and grief. Please soften her heart to want to know you. Give her a hunger for your word. Give her your peace, your rest, and your comfort as she prays and cries out to you. Give her a humble and open heart that is ready to receive your joy and blessings and lean into you every day so that as you carry her, she finds her rest in you. Amen.

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Sharon