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.

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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.” 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)

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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.

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.

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

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.