A Letter to my Sixteen Year Old Self on her Abortion

A Letter to my Sixteen Year Old Self on her Abortion

Hey girl,

Listen. I need to talk to you. It’s not about the hole in the ozone you’re singlehandedly responsible for because of the Aqua Net in that perm of yours or that you need to forgive your dad earlier and love him better because he won’t always be around.
This is serious.
And it will change the way you walk for the rest of your life.
So get some coffee (you’ll be addicted by college anyway) and have a seat, okay?

You’ll soon read a story in high school English about a young woman
who was forced by her
community to wear the scarlet letter A to show her sin of adultery to the world. The marking on her dress, along with her public shaming, was her punishment for her sin and her secrecy. You read it as a strange fiction at the time, disconnected and far-fetched from real life. But not too long after that class ends, you will begin to live out your days marked by your own secret A and it will make perfect sense.

There will be a season in your life you split your time between friends, playing every sport, or learning how to drive. You will fall for a boy who says he loves you. That desire to feel loved will pull you out to sea, away from solid ground, and drown you whole. I wish I could change the story here for you, but you will find yourself pregnant.

You’ll soon figure out you’re on your own in this one.
With a daddy’s words about shame if he ever finds you in this boat ringing in your ears and the sight of the boy you loved with his arm around his new girl, you will feel like you don’t have a choice.
But you do.
And you did.
You will make the decision to have an abortion.

It will be easier than you thought it would…or should be. You’ll walk into the clinic expecting to defend or beg for your decision, hoping no one would try and talk you out of it and also wishing someone would. You needn’t have worried: there will be no care about why you’re there, nor comfort or even eye contact.
Just a signature here with a fake name and discharge directions advising against basketball practice for 72 hours.

You’ll go back to school on Monday and almost hemorrhage yourself into the hospital in math class but just wait for the death that will surely come at home because you don’t want to wear that scarlet letter now, do you?
And you don’t tell anyone.
And you live to see another day.
Sort of.
Because life will be different for you now.
You will wake up one morning a mostly whole young woman and go to sleep that same night as a different half-dead version of yourself.
This will not change for more than twenty years.

One day you’ll sit on the edge of the bed and tell the good man you married about that day so long ago at the tender prompting of a God you barely knew.
You’ll brace yourself for the disappointment you deserve to carry for what you did.
And it will never come.

He will hold you and tell you how sorry he is and how much he loves you. He will never mention it again for all the years and you’ll begin to wonder if he forgot what you told him. This will be your first experience with Jesus in this terrible story.

There will be many times you sit in a church service and listen to the pastor discuss how the murdering of babies is a sin. You’ll wonder for just a breath if there’s still someone who doesn’t know that. You’ll concentrate on a cellular level for your body to not twitch or move in reaction to this still-bleeding wound being publicly probed. You’ll feel the heat rising in both cheeks like two red guilty stains that give you away and imagine everyone is staring at you.
You’ll leave church with a heart more tangled and confused than it was coming in that morning.

For a long time you will feel you don’t have a right to be pro life. After all, you made the wrong choice. You feel like a hypocrite participating in the walks or conversations for awareness or your desire to talk to women about your devastating experience with abortion.
So you don’t and you sit quietly with a soul groaning to speak up.
But after you’ve grown a bit, you might start to notice that the people who have maybe the most right to talk about how dangerous a fire can be are the ones you can see whose skin has melted from the flames. They’re the ones you tend to listen to in life anyway and not the ones who care more about the fact that there’s a fire than the people getting burned up inside it.

There will come a season that you fall madly in love with Christ with the full functioning capacity of the half of your heart you allowed to live past sixteen. And He, calling us deeper still into love, will whisper one morning in the quiet:
It’s time.
You’ll understand what He means and you’ll be scared. But more than the fear? You feel relieved. He’ll send you a sister who walked her own different but still broken road and lived to see the spacious freedom on the other side that only those who understand the dark-honest depth of their need get to experience. She’ll hold your confession tender in her hands and whisper true things in your ear that shed light on things long hidden.

Just like your husband, just like Jesus:

you will be exposed heart-naked and human as the day you were born…

and fully loved anyway.

This will begin to breathe a new kind of life into the deadest parts of you. Once again and sweeter still, life will be different for you now. And while you would change this part of your story in a single heartbeat, you would never give back one inch of knowing this kind of amazing grace.

You’ll own freedom in a different way after the wound in your soul begins to close up, but I also need to warn you: you’ll still have to defend it, fight to believe it some days. There will be this thing called the internet and a week will never go by without your scarlet letter being called out. You’ll take the stones thrown in social media venting about abortion and you’ll feel confused by the church you love, mad for the women being alienated with harsh words, and sad for the unborn babies none of this is helping.

And you’ll stay offline for grace and peace’s sake.
You’ll think there is a better way for the body of Christ to advocate for the life of the unborn, to be a safe place for girls who think they have no choice, and to also heal the bondage of shame for women like you who made the decision to have an abortion. You believe the silence forced on women who have the capacity to change the conversation will be deafening and a blow to the defense of life. But you feel like admitting any of this will earn you a lettered dress forever.

You’ll mourn for the one out of every three women who hemorrhage their shame in private because, as we all find out, death is often preferable to judgment. The church will hurt, but it’s also where you find your healing so you’ll need to forgive and love like your Jesus does. Christ took away your letter and put it on Himself just for you, girl. So your response will be to live a life of gratitude.

One last thing before I go?
One night you’re going to come home from confessing the twenty-plus-year-old shame you’ve gotten used to shackling to your own leg to a bunch of women from different churches. Because practicing the freedom you already own is still new for you, you’re going to drive away with tears falling into your lap singing to God with one side of your mouth and cussing with the other side at the anguish it takes to put words around this part of your story. When you get home, your precious husband will ask you, “How’d it go?’
You’ll pause too long and your eyes will flood all over again. He takes you in, he tells you it’s good, it’s all so good.
“This is God’s story and he already took care of that, Baby.”
God is good to send others to tell us the things we sometimes forget to remember. It’s just one of the ways He gets to wrap His arms around us while we are here and whisper low and sweet deep down in our ears:

“I see you and I fully know you.

You are mine, sweet girl, and you are loved.

I exchanged every letter of yours for My own life.

Now go live, and love others, like you believe Me.”

You’ll keep finding out over and over that vulnerability is usually scary, courage often follows obedience, and that this story is not about you.

And one day you’ll decide to believe Him and you’ll want that freedom for others even more than you want it for yourself…
and you’ll write yourself a letter.

I’m sorry to keep you so long. I know you have basketball practice, but this just couldn’t wait another minute. Take care. And go a little easier on your parents, okay? One day you’re going to see how much grace they really needed.

Love,
Me

This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh, Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

-Phil Wickham, This is Amazing Grace 

 

 

 

Melissa

Melissa Blair is a writer and recovering Texan now living in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas where she finds joy dating her husband and raising their three little Blairs. She believes there is always treasure buried beneath the dirt of every day and can be found writing the mess out of life at melissablair.net.
You can also visit Melissa on Facebook: Melissa Blair, or instagram @melblair

 

Unmerited Badges

Unmerited Badges

I was never a girl scout. I never camped out. I never sold cookies. I never earned a sash full of merit badges.

However, the other day as I pondered God’s grace, His unmerited favor, I realized that in many ways I am trying to be a girl scout right now in my everyday life. And, in some ways, without really realizing it, maybe you are too.

For me, I have always thrived on order and doing my best. Making things “perfect.” I never rebelled as a teenager or any other time. I liked following the rules and receiving the praise that accompanied that choice. That was my identity, and I worked hard to keep it intact. Still to this day, that pretty much sums up how others would describe me because that is what the world sees.

Whether you are a rule-follower like me or not, you could still be an unknowing girl scout. Let me explain.

So many of us, get up each morning and put on a sash without even realizing it. It is a sash of our own making, each one different. As we go about our day, we work and we strive to earn badges to decorate our sashes, hoping those awards will prove to ourselves and to others that we have value. That we are worthy of their attention. These badges come in all shapes and sizes.

Some (like me) might be trying to earn the badge of BEST MOM as you precariously balance PTO, potlucks, car-rider lines, sports practices, bed times and bake sales—all with a smile to make it look as if “it’s no trouble at all.”

Others might be working to earn the BEST WIFE badge by catering to your husband’s every wish out of love and a hope that he will notice and return your love in some way.

Still others are striving to receive the MOST RELIABLE EMPLOYEE badge as you work your tail off day in and day out to gain the admiration and respect of your boss, and maybe a promotion as well. Working to pull yourself up the corporate ladder rung by rung as you aim for the top.

The list of possible badges could go on forever. BEST VOLUNTEER, MOST WITTY, MOST FUN AT PARTIES, PERSON WHO NEVER SAYS NO, MOST CONSISTENT BIBLE READER, MOST CREATIVE, PINTEREST WORTHY HOUSE, BEST PHYSIQUE, MOST ADVENTUROUS and on and on.

You name it. There’s a badge for that.

The thing we all have in common when we try to earn these badges is EXHAUSTION—physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, or maybe all of the above. These badges we try so hard to earn and place carefully on our homemade sashes are only temporary, no better than stickers really. They NEVER LAST. We constantly feel the burden to do more and better to keep them in a place of prominence, where we and everyone else can see them. These flimsy badges fall off and fade so we must earn them again. It is a vicious cycle that leaves us feeling worn out and defeated.

The good news is we can stop. Right here. Right now.

We can rip off those homemade sashes that cause us so many headaches and heartaches and toss them into a blazing campfire because there is something better. MUCH BETTER. However, it is not found in ourselves. It is only found in JESUS.

Jesus says we can stop working and striving when we whole-heartedly place our trust in Him. In Jesus we can say good-bye to working and striving and instead embrace quietness and rest.

“And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” (Isaiah 32:17-18)

That. Sounds. Amazing.

This righteousness is Jesus’ perfect righteousness that He gives to us FREELY because of His grace, His unmerited favor. We couldn’t earn it if we tried. He left Heaven and came to Earth to do all that was required. His suffering on the cross, His death and resurrection was enough now and for all eternity to earn the only sash each one of us will ever need, and He holds it out to us as a FREE GIFT.

His sash is infinitely better than our own. It is beautiful. It is eternal. It is completely COVERED by the blood of the Lamb and full of badges. Unmerited badges, gifts that we most definitely did not earn. Not a single spot remains empty because it is complete. We do not have to do a single thing to finish it. And, the badges found on His Sash are far better than those we try to earn. They proclaim not what we have done but the glorious riches we have in Christ. REDEMPTION, FORGIVENESS, AMAZING GRACE, MERCY THAT IS NEW EACH MORNING, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, PEACE THAT PASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING, UNENDING JOY, A GLORIOUS INHERITANCE, PROTECTION FROM THE EVIL ONE, UNFAILING TRUTH, ABUNDANT GOODNESS, THE HOPE OF GLORY.

These are only a handful from an infinite list from our infinite God. I believe the longer we wear His sash and choose it as our permanent, everyday accessory, the more gifts we will see it represents. As Beth Moore wrote, “Make us as eager to wear Your righteousness and holiness as You are to wear our sins.” (JESUS: 90 Days with the One and Only)

So, who is ready to trade in their old, worn-out sash for a beautiful, perfect, eternally-unfading one on which the badges say, “Beloved Daughter of the King”? I know I am. Let’s wear them proudly as we gather around the campfire to rest and sing praises to the one who makes it all possible. JESUS.

I hope and pray you will join me.

(And maybe we can munch on a few of those delicious cookies while we are at it.)

Questions to ponder…

What badge(s) am I trying to stick on?

What has Jesus given me that is better?


Lacey

 

Lacey Lett is a wife and stay-at-home mom to two beautiful children. She fills her days running a small business, chasing kids around to various activities, and trying to find time to read and craft. God has given Lacey a heart for prayer and seeing people realize the power of praying to our amazing God.
The Vine

The Vine

 

We hear about abiding. Abiding in Jesus. Abiding in His Word. Abiding in the vine. But what does that mean? How does this work? It should be easy, right? But some days, abiding can feel hard and maybe even scary. We feel far from God or question if we are “doing it right.”

A few months ago, I was praying and felt like God gave me this beautiful picture of what it looks like to abide in Him:

I look out. My view is breathtaking. I see Amazon-like rainforest stretching out as far as the eye can see. Lush green growth. Hills and trees far into the distance. I am up above it all but also surrounded by thick leafy green. My view is shaded and framed by branches and leaves, a thick canopy above me and a living floor of leaves and ferns below me. I am clinging to a vine, suspended high above the ground. This vine I cling to is The Vine. It is thick and strong and healthy. Even with my full weight on it, it is secure. I am confident it can and will hold forever and never fail if I continue to cling to it. So, I cling. I hold it with a death-like grip that makes my hands ache. I cling with everything I have out of fear of what will happen if I don’t. I am safe, but there isn’t rest. 

As I cling there, I begin to look around. I see other vines hanging nearby. They aren’t nearly as thick and strong as The Vine, but I think, “If I just grab onto one or two of those as well, I will be more secure. After all, more is better. Right?” I reach out and grab one vine. Then I notice two more close by so I grab those as well. These other vines seem to be helpful. They seem to add to my security. They are things like money, recognition, relationships, careers, material things. However, with each small vine I add, my grip on The Vine gradually loosens as it becomes just one among many that I am trying to grasp. 

Suddenly, one of the small vines fails and falls to the ground. I am shaken to the core as the earth seems to crumble around me, and I slip down until I grip The Vine once again. Over time, this happens again and again. All the other vines fail. Some quickly. Some over time. But one by one they all fail. They all fail to last. They all fail to give true security. They all fail to be trustworthy and faithful.  

After surviving these failures and disappointments time and time again, I realize something.

THE Vine is still there. The one that has always been there. The Vine that is secure. The Vine that is strong. The Vine that has never failed and will never fail. 

I realize something else as well. I am still clinging. Even though life has been filled with heartache, I am still clinging, and I still know deep in my heart this is the only vine that will last. I will cling only to it. The other vines are still there, always nearby. From time to time one falls to the ground. But now, their falling does not cause me to be shaken because I am holding on to The Vine.

So, instead of looking around for other vines to grab, I begin to look at and study The Vine. The more I pay attention to The Vine, the more I notice and love about it. I see how full of life it is. How it never withers. I notice tendrils perfectly placed to secure my feet and give my hands a rest. I spot another place where I can entwine my arms. Each of these revelations brings me closer to The Vine. I am becoming part of The Vine, truly abiding and resting in its love rather than clinging to it out of fear. I allow The Vine to wrap around me, it is a restful and relaxing place. My fears, once so strong,—fear of disappointing others, fear of failure, fear of death—have fallen to the ground along with the other vines. Those fears have been replaced by appreciation and admiration and love for The Vine that has held when all others have fallen. I am being held securely by The One True Vine. 

In fact, I feel so secure and free that I begin to swing. I throw my head back, hair blowing in the wind, and I swing. I feel the freedom of a child on a playground, and I swing. I feel ready for whatever lies ahead because I am with The Vine, and I swing. I laugh and smile and breathe in life as I swing with Jesus, The Vine.

I am so thankful for this beautiful picture God has shared with me, and now I get to share with you. He has reminded me of it so many times when I begin to chase after and cling to something other than Him. He has also reminded me of these truths.

More of Jesus is the only thing that is truly and eternally better.

All other things will pass away. Everything else will wither and fade and disappoint, but God will remain forever—faithful, loving, and true. He will never leave me or forsake me.

Jesus came that I might have life and have it more abundantly. Abundant life is found when abiding in Him. When I abide in Him, He will abide in me. Wrapping His powerful arms around me. Loving me with His perfect and never-ending love. Speaking truth to my heart. Holding me in his nail-scarred hands.

 

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Lacey

Lacey Lett is a wife and stay-at-home mom to two beautiful children. She fills her days running a small business, chasing kids around to various activities, and trying to find time to read and craft. God has given Lacey a heart for prayer and seeing people realize the power of praying to our amazing God.

How The Battle Changed Me

How The Battle Changed Me

I remember when the comments first started. They would sting. Walking through the store, I would suddenly be blind-sided by words. Words.

“Look, mommy, that girl has cancer.”

“Look, daddy, that girl doesn’t have hair.”

Sometimes there were no words. Just a darting glance or an uncomfortable parent shushing their child. I pretended not to notice. I learned how to quickly flash a smile to somehow communicate that it was okay. That I was okay with the stares. With the remarks. It was more than this recovering perfectionist wanted to handle.

My daughter’s bare head often draws attention. I have become accustomed to reassuring others that it is not cancer. That it’s only alopecia. Only alopecia. As if that somehow disqualified us from the battle.

A battle for which I was ill-equipped. A battle against whom or what, I wasn’t sure. Little did I know, I was being prepared for heart surgery. I was about to be forever changed by one familiar story and one precious little girl.

The story was David and Goliath. One I had heard many times before. One whose familiarity put it at risk of losing its’ impact, but it’s hard to ignore something that God keeps putting in your face. This story kept finding its’ way to me – in teachings, on the radio, in conversations.

I wanted to get it…to learn what I was supposed to learn, so I read it over and over and over again, for weeks, each time asking God, “Where am I in this story? Show me what I need to learn.”

At first, I imagined that I was David coming victoriously against the giant, but that seemed too easy; almost juvenile.

Then, I feared that I was Eliab, David’s oldest brother who discouraged David from battling the giant. In the name of being “realistic”, I had become discouraging…

“Don’t you hear what the doctors are saying? They said there’s no cure. They don’t even know what causes it. Why should we expect any different?”

I wanted to accept defeat. My husband wanted to fight — for us, for our daughter, for an answer…for Hope.

Still, I continued asking, “Lord, show me. Where am I in this story?” Then, God gave me understanding. I hadn’t been asking the right question. Instead of being so concerned with who I was in the story, I needed to be asking a very different question. I needed to be asking, “Where are you in this story, God?”

When I started asking the right question, the story came alive…

I saw myself, a soldier on the hillside. Crouched down. Terrified and dismayed. The enemy was across the valley shouting his terrible shouts. Taunting,

“Why even bother to fight? Did you not hear what the doctors said? There are no answers. There is no cure. There is no hope.”

My thoughts were distorted. My heart was paralyzed. Without realizing it, I had begun believing the lie.

I had begun believing the enemy. I had begun believing in hopelessness.

But God has a way of changing things…

He sent a David to bring Bread to the battle lines — broken to give life for weary souls. Bending down low he saw what my mouth refused to speak, “This is too much. I can’t do this. I want to surrender.”

But God doesn’t leave His children on the battle lines to fight alone. He enters the battle with us. No…He enters the battle for us. With grace and mercy, He spoke the words my heart desperately needed to hear,

“Do not lose heart. I will fight for you.”

Then, He set off toward the giant. Reaching into the stream he chose five stones. No sword. No armor. Just stones. With stones in his pouch, He stood before the giant who was still shouting, “Come down and fight me. If you win, I will become your subject. But if I win, you become my subject and serve me.”

Most of us know how the story ends. With one stone, David killed the giant and sent him tumbling to the ground. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, he severed the head of the giant using his own weapon against him making victory a reality.

This battle is one that God has used to teach me much. 

My battle was not so much about my daughter’s diagnosis, but more about learning to choose which god I would submit to in the face of my trial—

the god of hopelessness or the God of Hope.

Throughout this journey, one message has echoed loudly…”Don’t waste your trials.”

When we face a trial, no matter how big or small, we are faced with a choice.  We must choose whether we will believe God’s promises to work everything together for our good and, consequently, submit to His work in our lives. If we choose not to believe His promises and don’t allow Him to work in our lives, then we let our trials go to waste.

Trials are a blessing that have the potential to deepen our walk with Him.

Through this experience, God has grown me to be a true student of His Word. To truly see His Word as the Bread of Life necessary for the sustenance of my soul. To see His Word as the well from which I draw my hope, strength and peace. My heart reveres Him as Holy and cherishes time spent in His presence. My thoughts regularly turn to Him throughout my day.

God has taught me the importance of being honest with Him. When I was trying to pretend like everything was okay, God was instead giving me permission to not be okay. I had to learn to simply surrender and cry out to Him. I needed to slow down enough to experience the gravity of what was happening.

God has taught me to trust my husband’s leadership. Under the weight of fear and doubt, I was unintentionally hurtful. I learned to pray in new ways for my marriage. Not only for a spirit of unity, but also for a hedge of protection around my husband…from me. I began praying that God would give him a wife worth more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10). I learned to respect my husband’s opinion even when he disagreed with the doctors. Together we learned that doctors don’t always have all the answers. I learned to trust that God was leading him, too.

God has taught me gratitude. He took my grumbling heart and transformed it to see everything as a gift. Now, my heart can recognize even the smallest of gifts…like eyelashes.

God has shown me that He cares intricately for Brianna. Shortly after turning 3, she told me she wanted hair on her head, for the first time. I delicately explained to her how God made her beautiful without hair. But, God had a different idea. A few weeks later, God led me to cross paths with an organization that provides real-hair wigs to children with hair loss. Through this organization, Brianna received the gift of hair. This was a reminder that God has his hand on Brianna’s life and that He is taking care of her.

We never know how God might choose to answer prayers. It’s not our job to know. All He asks of us is to simply trust Him and His plan. Brianna’s story is just beginning. We know God has great things planned for her. She has already touched so many hearts. Through her, God has deepened my walk with Him. He has strengthened my marriage. He has proven that He is taking care of the details of our lives.

The battle has changed me. Some might think…, “It’s just hair.” I know. I tried to tell myself that for a year. I would feel guilty every time it felt like a big deal to me. I didn’t understand why it was so hard; why it was such a struggle.

What I learned is that every battle is personal. I am her mother. It is my nature to protect her. For me, it’s about protecting my daughter’s heart. It’s about shielding her from the arrows that will come when the world starts telling her a different definition of beauty. It’s about helping her find strength, when she starts feeling different.

And now that I’ve been changed by the battle, it’s about sharing with her what I have learned. I will share with her a powerful secret. 

That God gives the biggest battles to His fiercest warriors.

I will train her for battle and teach her to use the right kind of weapons.

Battles are about accepting every ounce of who God is

in every moment and in every season.

It’s about allowing God to work in every circumstance, the good ones and, especially, the difficult ones.

Whatever you’re facing, right now. No matter how big or small. Find your hope in Christ. Cling to Him. Hold onto His promises. He has equipped you for this battle. Hopelessness has been defeated.

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“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

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Jennifer

Jennnifer profile pic honest conversationJennifer lives in Arkansas with her husband, Jeff, and their four daughters. She is a Christ-follower who doesn’t like to be put in a box. She has experienced first-hand the sweetness of God’s redemptive love and has a passion for helping others see the beauty of God’s way. You can find her sharing stories of faith and encouragement on her blog, www.jennifermariepowers.com. And catch her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/jennifermariepowersblog/

Is Busyness Killing Your Marriage?

Is Busyness Killing Your Marriage?

Think about the last time you saw a friend and she asked you how you’ve been. Go ahead. Take a moment. What did you say to her? Did it sound like, “Girl, things are great – busy!” Or “Ug, I’m so busy.” Or maybe just simply a sigh followed by a weary, “Busy.” We’re killing ourselves in this crazy, gotta-keep-up age of smart phones, kids’ schedules, work schedules, expectations, and To Do lists. I’ve been there. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to wear an adjective like a badge of honor. I don’t want to be defined by something I’ve done to myself – and make no mistake, we take busyness on ourselves. We’ve grabbed onto busyness like life-support and it’s killing our marriages.

I don’t do Pinterest, but if I did, this would be the equivalent of that recipe that should be pinned over and over again. It’s a book called Crazy Busy, and thankfully, for us busy bees, it’s short. In it the author talks about how much of our busyness can be a result of the following (and these are only a few examples):

#1: You’re busy because of the Killer P’s: people pleasing, possessions, proving yourself, pity, poor planning, power, perfectionism, prestige, and posting. What does this break down to? You’re too concerned about what other people think and you’re making yourself busy trying to live up to a standard that’s unrealistic. Pride is usually at the center of this one.

#2: You’re trying to do what God does not expect you to do. Did you know Jesus was known to hop into a boat to escape people who were badgering him? Did you know he could have healed more people than he did but he sometimes said NO? Why? He needed sleep, rest, and balance. He was divine and yet we think we can do more than him – so we overfill and over-highlight our calendar.

#3: You’re losing touch with reality because you’re too engaged in technology. When you’re home from work, are you present or are you still working on your phone? How does your technology and your job follow you? The bathroom? The kids’ playroom? In bed with your spouse? All that time on our phones – in all those moments that are meant to be quiet and private – we’re losing touch with the contents of our hearts because we’re focused on the content of our newsfeed.

Now that we know we’re to blame for our chaos we like to complain about it. What’s this busyness doing to us as couples? Here’s an excerpt from the book that will move my point further in the right direction:

In the “Ask the Children” survey, researcher Ellen Galinsky interviewed more than a thousand children in grades three through twelve…One key question asked the kids what one thing they would change about the way their parents’ work was affecting them. The results were striking. The kids rarely wished for more time with their parents, but, much to the parents’ surprise, they wished their parents were less tired and stressed.

Similarly, Galinsky asked kids to grade their parents in a dozen areas…The biggest weakness, according to the kids, was anger management… (70).

Does this give you a little punch in the gut like it did me? We work so hard to make sure our kids are well rounded by putting them in a million activities that we don’t think how that stress is impacting us and tearing apart our families.

What about our marriages? Whether or not we have kids, when we’re too busy, our stress level increases, and our aptitude to be kind takes a nose dive…among other nasty side affects.

My husband told me once that I have different versions of Busy Erin: one when I’m writing (she’s quiet and moody), another when I’m focused on my business (she’s often on fire and focused), and another when I’m obsessed with the messy house (she’s usually crabby and talks to herself). He didn’t tell me any of this as a compliment. These are the different ways he perceives me, followed by reasons he tries to stay out of my way in those moments. What’s a shame is the things that keep me busy are the same things that push my husband away – because I struggle to find balance. Not only that, I’m so focused that I lose sight of the one who makes it all possible. Usually that would be God, but in this example, it’s my handsome hubby. Our marriage is a union that has made our lifestyle and my passions possible.

Does your spouse wish you were less_____________? Fill in the blank. Less stressed? Grumpy? Touchy? Tired?

Who’s getting the best of you? Your busyness or your spouse?

Because our children and other priorities demand so much of us, our spouses often receive even less – because there’s this notion that they can take care of themselves. They can BUT that’s not what God called marriage to be. God called marriage to be a unity of flesh – two conjoined into one. There’s an innate responsibility in that – on both sides. You give and you take. It’s not either or, and it doesn’t depend on your mood or your calendar. When our spouse is last on the priority list, we’re denying our own flesh. And that will hurt us in the end. And there’s no Band-Aid big enough for when we let that wound fester too long.

If our children can see a correlation between our state of mind and they don’t even have fully developed brains, why can’t we see what’s right in front of us? Why are we doing so much? Why are we allowing ourselves to be distracted by strangers on our phones when we should be connecting with our spouse? Don’t let others – and that includes you, my over-achieving friend – dictate your priorities. God has already given you a guide, and notice that busy doesn’t even make the top three: God, marriage, and your children.

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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.

You can read Erin’s previous posts from this series “Keeping Satan Out of Your Bedroom” by clicking on the following links: Are Your Ambitions Selfish?, Three Ways You’re Getting Tangled By Temptation, Whose Standard Are You Measuring Against? Is Your Marriage United?

Is Your Marriage United?

Is Your Marriage United?

Mark 3:25 says that if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. In the context of marriage, our unity is measured in three different areas:

emotional, physical, and spiritual.

Emotional: Our spouse is supposed to be our best friend, right? But over time we forget what we used to like about each other – even things we previously adored. We all can think of something here. Right? When we got married, my husband loved my passion, but as time moves on he’s learned that my passion comes with a price. My love of writing, for example, can be isolating, and I can become trapped in my head for hours without realizing it. Did you know Satan will use even the good things in your life to break apart the emotional unity in your marriage? My love and gift for writing, for example, is great when I’m writing to show women how they can move closer to God, but it’s a problem when my obsession for words moves a wall between me and my husband. Anything we love can come between our spouse and us: our children, our job, even those hobbies we took on to balance our chaos.

Emotional unity can also be threatened when we isolate and keep quiet, when we bottle anything that needs to be poured out immediately.

Emotional unity is a unique algorithm for every couple. There is no universal code to crack. It comes from plugging into each other, and keeping God at the center of the equation.

Physical: Okay, ladies, I hear you. This one has a tendency to make our eyes roll before another word is said. As we’re pulled in one direction and then another, this is an area where we feel like failure is our middle name. Because let’s be real, men need more than we do, and when we deny it, not only is it a sin against the plan for our marriage, it has its’ own consequences. When we aren’t physical as a couple, we allow Satan to use our tendency for lust, comparison, and our own vices to take control. Before anyone gets angry with me and comes at me with a pointed nail file, remember that physical intimacy isn’t just about that three-letter word. What about the kisses? The hugs? The hand on the back or on the thigh. Momentary physical contact that says, “I’m with you – and no one but you.” We need to come together as a couple and communicate our needs. Try to get on the same page. We might not get what we want 100% of the time (who ever does anyway?), but at least our spouse won’t have unrealistic expectations and we won’t feel like we’re always letting him down.

Spiritual: Our relationships with God are personal and grow at a unique pace. There are right and wrong ways to come together in a spiritual way. This is a simple list of Do’s and Don’ts.

DO’S:

  • Pray for grace for you and your spouse. Allow them to walk at their own pace with Christ.
  • Ask if there’s anything you can pray about for them. (This is not a statement like, “I’m going to pray for patience for you today because you’re being a jerk!”)
  • Connect with God together when possible: praying together, reading the bible, watching faith-based movies, talk about God, etc.
  • Focus on your own relationship with Christ.

DON’TS:

  • Push them regarding where they are in their walk. Example: “You should be”, “You need to”, “Why don’t you”… you get the point.
  • Beat Jesus into them (this is my husband’s specialty).
  • Compare your walk to theirs.
  • Demand…anything.

For Mike and me, our category of disconnection can depend on the day and the week, and on how open our hearts are to each other, without distraction to wedge a space between us.

Signature_Guest

 

 

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.” You can read Erin’s previous posts for this series by clicking on the following links: Are Your Ambitions Selfish?Three Ways You’re Getting Tangled By TemptationWhose Standard Are You Measuring Against?

 

Whose Standard Are You Measuring Against?

Whose Standard Are You Measuring Against?

(Post 3 of 5 in this month’s guest post series “Keeping Satan Out of Your Bedroom”. Read Post 1 Here or Post 2 Here)

Sometimes I wish my husband would close drawers. Like really. Take a step back, babe, and close a drawer. I have friends who love to share that their husbands do all the cooking. And one who’s gaining weight because her husband is such a good cook. Ya’ll, I didn’t even know that was a thing. Seriously. There are men who cook something more than chicken and eggs? Or who do more than watch the grill – whether or not there’s meat currently cooking on it? Before you get mad at me for bashing my husband, quiet your spirit. I’m not bashing him. I’m using that mostly patient man to prove my own point: sometimes we get so carried away with comparison that we forget we once put on a dress and said, “I do promise to love you through sickness and health” (and any fine print that’s not currently visible in our vows.) I joke about fine print a lot, but when I’m in front of my husband, he reminds me that I’ve exposed some fine print as well. For example, I’m not great with kids. Sometimes not even with my own. And I know you’d never guess it from my shoe collection, but I’m a little high maintenance. Here’s when you’re like, Take a step back, Erin, it’s so obvious you’re high maintenance.

Remember the Jones’s? We all fall victim to the comparison game. It’s obviously a thing when there’s a cliché to go along with it. But what’s happening when we spend too much time looking beyond our own grass and into a place that not only isn’t ours, but a place where we don’t belong? Satan gets to convince us we’re missing out. And the more we play his game, the more times we think “If only my husband did this…” or “If only my husband didn’t do this” or “My marriage would be better if…” When those thoughts start creeping in, Satan gets the upper hand and the unity of our marriage is downgraded…as in going to need a lot of fertilizer to make it green again.

I get there are serious ways we compare our spouses to others, and sometimes, even in our prayers, we ask God why our husband can’t be more like so-and-so’s husband. Maybe your husband doesn’t spend enough time with the kids like Sarah’s husband. Maybe his idea of spending time with you involves watching TV on the couch and never a romantic getaway like Ashley’s husband. The list could go on. But no matter what your husband does or doesn’t do and no matter who you compare him to, there’s a common denominator. You.

Your desire for your spouse and the way he’s not measuring up to your comparisons are more reflective of you than him. That’s because it’s you who has chosen to measure him by a standard that revolves around you and your desires, and not God’s. I used to play the comparison game too. But I learned that the more I focused on my husband’s faults and the ways he wasn’t measuring up to my invisible standards, the more miserable I became. You know what’s worse? The more I allowed my inner dialogue of negativity to swirl inside of me, the more Satan punctuated my thoughts!! And he’s all about the exclamation point when you’re angry and the question mark when you’re hurt. How does he punctuate your thoughts?

Satan has everything to win by keeping my mind focused on what others have and what I don’t have, and what my husband’s not doing instead of what he is doing. He loves the idea of me coveting something that can’t belong to me (this includes the notion of a perfect spouse) instead of focusing on the man God brought into my life and gifted to me with grace and expectation.

I’ve learned that to elevate my marriage instead of dismantling it, I need to let God filter my vision of my husband. I need to spend more time looking into my heart and asking God to refine it, and less time making heartfelt apologies for measuring my husband against someone else’s standard.

“Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” (Galatians 6:4)

Signature_Guest

 

 

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.

Three Ways You’re Getting Tangled By Temptation

Three Ways You’re Getting Tangled By Temptation

(Post 2 of 5 of this month’s guest post series “Keeping Satan Out of Your Bedroom” – read post 1 HERE)

How are you tempted daily? This question elicits different responses depending on our gender, our age, our life stage, and our priorities. If you’re like me, you’re tempted by hours of Netflix binge watching and junk food. And shoe sales. And Hobby Lobby. If you’re a mom with littles (little children under the age of five), you might be tempted by anything that will get you five minutes of quiet and a sip of your coffee while it’s actually hot. If your marriage is hurting, you might be tempted by the D-word. Or you might be tempted by the man behind you at the grocery store who smiled when you turned around…because it’s been a long time since someone has smiled at you like that. If you’ve dealt with addiction, you might be tempted by things your friends can’t even comprehend, and when they try to relate by bringing up their Chapstick© addiction, you might be tempted to self-isolate. Because what’s the point?

This is a big topic and I want to highlight what temptation might look like and how Satan loves to use it to create a foothold.

Temptation can be broken down into three main categories:

  • Our Vices. They can be big like an addiction or seemingly harmless, like a shoe fetish. It’s not the size of our vice that is as significant as the harm that vice can cause in your marriage. Is your vice driving a wedge between you and your spouse? 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We are no longer our own. Can we take a moment to ask ourselves whether Christ would approve of what we’re about to do? If you can’t do that, I challenge you to think that perhaps it’s your vice that’s not only driving a wedge between you and your spouse, but between you and God.
  • Passions and Desires. Galatians 5:24 says, Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its’ passions and desires. Confession: this is easier to read than do. And part of the danger is that, as women, we have a tendency to think this is a category largely saved for men. Sure, there’s an epidemic of porn addiction and legging ogling, but don’t discount how lust can look on you. It might be subtle. Our lust doesn’t need to be sexual. Sometimes it can come in the form of comparison…wishing your husband were more like another. Sometimes our lust can look a lot more holy when there’s a God factor. After all, it can be easy to swoon over the stylish pastor preaching. But take a heart check, ladies. That’s lust too.
  • Money. Whether you make enough money, not enough money or too much money, without a Godly perspective on finances, Satan can take control of your bank account – and wreak havoc on your marriage. What does financial temptation look like? How about lying about spending? Hiding money or bonuses? Overspending? Or a lack of generosity. God makes it very clear that our possessions are a waste of our resources, and yet we can’t help ourselves. You should see my shoe collection. And my drawer of lipsticks. If you’re not on the same page in your marriage with finances, Satan will have a field day with you. There’s no easy fix to this, but seeking out financial counseling or getting a book by David Ramsey is a good start.

Signature_Guest

 

 

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.

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.

Signature_Guest

 

 

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.

Hide & Seek

Hide & Seek

17…18…19…20! Ready or not here I come!

From early childhood, we have learned that hiding is better than seeking. We have not only argued about who the seeker will be, but we hope every time that we will get to hide. Why? Because hiding is much easier and takes much less energy and focus than seeking does. Bear with me a little bit as I incorporate some Psychology into this post. Freud, along with many other Psychologists, discussed the importance that childhood beliefs and environmental factors play in adulthood. So as children, we believe that hiding is an excitable and desirable thing, which often times carries into our adult lives. Soon we start to hide our problems or hide from our problems, our relationships, our fears, and most importantly, we try to hide from God. Similar to the first documented conversation between God and mankind, we try to hide from God because we feel shame due to what we’ve done. If you aren’t familiar with this story, let me refresh your memory.

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” and he answered, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” And God said “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said ” The woman you put here with me-she gave some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” and the woman replied “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3:9-13

From the earliest accounts of scripture, mankind has turned from God and sought refuge in hiding, rather than seeking the Creator of the universe. This shows that our very first recorded dialogue with God contains words of fear, hiding, shame, and blame. Notice that Adam’s response was not to take responsibility for his actions, but to place the blame on another. Instead of responding directly to the question that God asked, Adam chose not to face his sin and hide from what he knew was true. Sound familiar? Now we probably don’t hide from God because we are naked (hopefully), but you can fill in the blank. We could say to God “I was afraid because ________, so I hid from you.” What is that blank for you? Why are you hiding from God?

The apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 5:8-13 “For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather EXPOSE them.”

Expose: to make something visible by uncovering it. Subject to light. By exposing our weakness, our sin, our shame, we are bringing it to the light. When we live in the light, we find freedom. Rather than continually striving to cover up your mistakes, expose them. Let others in on your life.

I would go so far as to say that when we try to hide our sin from God and from others, the root is pride. We don’t want other people knowing that we struggle and that we are weak. This world screams BE STRONG and be okay, even if you’re not. However, in my life the strongest people I know are the ones that are willing to be real about how weak they really are apart from Christ. 2nd Corinthians 12:9 says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness so that Christ’s power may rest upon me. You see, when we are weak, He is strong. He uses our weakness to display His strength.

Instead of hiding from God, I challenge you to seek Him during the times that you want to hide. Give Him the chance to be your strength. Matthew 7:7 says “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened unto you.” Seeking involves calling and pleading. The great promise to those who seek The Lord is that He will be found. Lets think back to the old game of hide and seek. What does the seeker do? He looks. He searches. He doesn’t quit until he has found who/what he is looking for.

Therefore it’s time.

For it is for freedom that Christ has set you free.

Jesus paid the price, He set you free

so choose to walk in the identity that He created you to be.

You no longer have to be bound by sin and shame,

for that is the very reason that Jesus came!

So go now, be free,

open your eyes and begin to see.

Stop hiding and begin to seek,

Remember…He is the key.

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Corissa

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Corissa is a senior in college majoring in Psychology and Addiction Studies as well as an assistant swim coach at a local college in her hometown. She loves getting to know people’s stories and hearing about the beautiful, redemptive work of Christ that can mend our broken lives. You can read more posts from Corissa by visiting her blog www.corissacalico.wordpress.com.