The Quiet Craftsman (a short story)

The Quiet Craftsman (a short story)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BraveGirl Martha

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The Last Shall Be Light

The Last Shall Be Light

Today I am writing to the rejected. To the ones scarred by the words of others. The ones who sit in silence way too often and feel lost in the shuffle. Those who look different from everyone else in the room. To the ones picked last.

I see you.

But even more importantly, God sees you. He understands your pain because he walked in your shoes, rejected by a world that had no valid accusation against him.

Isaiah 53:3 describes Jesus as being “…despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…”

The One sent to redeem the world was a man of sorrows, well-acquainted with grief. He was more than just rejected; he was despised. Oh precious forgotten one, if ever you’ve been understood, it’s by Him. 

I have no doubt that God has big plans for you. Because of the rejection you have so often felt, you are more keenly aware of those who walk down the same lonely path you do. Your eyes are well-trained to see the pain lying just underneath the surface of other people’s eyes. You are able to see those whom no one else seems to. Pay close attention to your ability to observe such things.

The scriptures are full of reminders that God does big things with those rejected by the world, but my new favorite verse out of them all is Psalm 118:22:

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

How’s that for vindication? He was and is the biggest, most important, strongest and most essential element of our lives. The world may have cast him aside, but Jesus pursued and completed his God-given mission anyway. He fearlessly trusted His Father and kept his eyes on Him, changing the lives of everyone willing to look upon his face and accept his offer of eternal friendship. If he had allowed the world’s opinion of him to dictate his actions, his mission would have been squashed, thus rendering all of humanity hopeless forever.

Likewise, it is important for us to remember that the world’s opinion of us bears no weight on our value. We are valuable because God made us with care (Psalm 139:13-14); He chose us (John 15:16); and He calls us Beloved (Col. 3:12).

To reinforce this truth even further, allow me to remind you of Zephaniah 3:17:

“…He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

You. Are. Adored.

You are treasured. You are sought after. Your company is desired. You are valued, beautiful, and seen. You are rejoiced over with songs.

If you have a hard time believing these truths apply to you, ask God to speak straight to your heart and make them real to you. I believe there’s nothing He wants more than for you to understand how vastly He loves you.

The greater we understand His love, the less validation we need from those around us. The less validation we need from others, the more confident we become in being a light. The more of a light we are to the world, the less others have to feel alone.

We, the rejected, can be the brightest beacons of light the world has ever seen if we allow God to heal the dark, unseen, and hurting places in our hearts with His redeeming grace. Through Him, we can love the unloved; we can see the unseen.

 

BraveGirl Martha

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My Story: Overcoming Social Anxiety

My Story: Overcoming Social Anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BraveGirl Martha

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You CAN Sit With Us

You CAN Sit With Us

Have you ever seen those cheeky graphic tees with the phrase “You Can’t Sit With Us” plastered boldly across the chest? Personally, the cute factor of such an isolating phrase is lost on me, but maybe I’m still working through some residual pain of being that middle-school-aged girl who truly was uninvited.

I’m thankful my Savior would never say that to me. In fact, if Jesus had worn graphic tees back in his earth-inhabiting days, I’m sure His would have said, “You CAN sit with us.” And the invitation would have been real and all-inclusive. That’s just how Jesus lived his life; he made a pointed effort to notice the unnoticed and call the unworthy to do big things with their lives.

Romans 5:11 says that because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we have been made “Friends of God.”

You guys, we’re in. We’re worthy. Not because of anything we can do but because of everything Jesus did. I’m blown away by this title: Friend of God. My natural inclination is to question my place in Jesus’ group, to feel I haven’t earned my spot, or worry Jesus might notice I’ve crept into his circle and decide to cast me out.

But Jesus will never do that to you or me. He’s the best friend we could ever have.

And because we have been eternally accepted by Him, our lives become part of something so much bigger than anything we could ever accomplish on our own:

Romans 5:2:

“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of UNDESERVED PRIVILEGE where we now stand, and we CONFIDENTLY and JOYFULLY look forward to sharing God’s glory.”
[emphasis added]

Being a friend of Jesus means so much more than just getting a front-row seat to all the incredible ways Jesus works and touches lives; it means that sometimes we get called onstage to play a significant part. We get to participate right alongside Jesus in getting our hands dirty and changing the world. As members of his crew, we have a purpose, and are delegated unique tasks by Him that only we can accomplish.

There is no one in this world that God can’t use or doesn’t want to use. There is not a person in this world that God doesn’t desire a close friendship with. So if you’re wondering where your place is, go ahead and approach Him with the confidence that you have already been called, and there’s a seat saved for you.

Put yourself back in the cafeteria of middle school. Timid, and clutching your tray, you quickly scan the room for an empty seat near someone who desires your presence. To your surprise, instead of multiple tables scattered across the room, each surrounded by various cliques, there is just one large table. Everyone’s favorite friend is seated at the head, and one empty chair is open next to Him. You make eye contact, and all your anxieties wash away. He smiles with radiant joy at the sight of you and waves you over to the empty chair right next to Him. His friends turn to see whom the object of His excitement is, and upon realizing it’s you, excitedly join Him in welcoming you over.

He stands with sincerity as you approach, looks you in the eye, and says, “You can sit with us. You are wanted here.”

 

BraveGirl Martha

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The Giant

The Giant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BraveGirl Martha

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Be Still and Know

Be Still and Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breathe in his goodness. Be still and know.

 

BraveGirl Martha

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Dream Big, You

Dream Big, You

When I was a kid, my brother and I would spend hours recording our favorite Disney shows to a blank VHS tape, then hooking a second VCR to the first one and recording what we called “over and over” repetitive clips of our favorite lines from the show.

We would also spend hours choreographing, styling, and filming ourselves lip syncing to our favorite songs. We wrote and filmed our own short films. We. Filmed. Everything.

Even as an adult, I couldn’t stop with the videos. I discovered the Vine app and challenged myself to come up with funny 6-second creations.

God put particular care and detail into each and every one of us. He instilled within us unique interests, passions, and desires. Because of that, we enjoy different hobbies. I believe that the things we are drawn to are not there by accident. Their purpose is for us to be able to find ways to serve Him that bring us joy and fulfillment.

Today, I channel my love for videography by filming and editing videos for my church. By no means do I consider myself a professional, and I still have a lot to learn. But my passion for it fuels my desire to become more knowledgable, and with knowledge comes better material.

This quote greatly inspires me: “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

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Why is it so easy for us to tell little ones to dream big, yet we ourselves settle for filling our days with the mundane, required tasks of adulthood?

What do you dream of when you can’t sleep at night? And what holds you back from chasing those dreams?

Do you dream of entertaining but immediately count yourself out because your house doesn’t look like Joanna Gaines’, it’s really small, or you can’t afford expensive dishes? (Preaching to the choir, here…) Make the best of what you have. If your table only seats four, invite three women over once a month for intentional conversation. (IF:Table conversation cards are a great place to start.) Scour thrift stores and yard sales to find mismatched dishes that reflect your style. Pick wildflowers from the side of the road and put them in a mason jar. Then brew some coffee, make a pie (or thaw a frozen Edwards pie–they’re delicious), and invite your friends over.

Maybe you dream of owning your own shop, but you can’t afford the start-up. Create a Facebook page, invite your friends to join, then post cute pictures of your handmade or repurposed items. You might be surprised how quickly word spreads about your creations.

Blog. Write a book. Sign up for that course. Start an exercise group out of your home. Pour into others over coffee. Turn trash into treasure, then sell it. Mentor. Feed the hungry. Take pictures. Adopt. Lead a Bible study. Bake. Build furniture. Train for a long run. Explore.

Do that thing your soul was made to love.

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That passion you have is not there by accident. It is God-given, and you’ll never find yourself in a sweeter spot than when you are living fully in the midst of His plan for you.

Chase after your passions. Dream big, You.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
(Philippians 1:6)

 

BraveGirl Martha

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Embracing the Mess

Embracing the Mess

“Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”
Lamentations 3:23

With each new sunrise, we are given a fresh shot at this thing called life. Sometimes we wake up and hit the floor running, creative ideas spinning in our head. On these days, nothing can bring us down. We sing in the shower, wave to the neighbors, and hit all the green lights on the way to work. Other days are just plain hard. Painful circumstances that we feel the weight of can keep us burrowed under the covers and immobilized. But because we are adults, we often have obligations and schedules to keep, so we force ourselves to get up, put on a “happy” face, and keep putting one foot in front of the other until we can drop back into bed at the end of the day.

Pretending and going through the motions of life will always get the best of us eventually. At some point, we have to be real about the struggle we can’t shake. We have to take a day off from pretending and allow ourselves to embrace the mess and face it head on.

A few days ago, my sister came over for a marathon viewing of Fixer Upper episodes and just to catch up. Due to my husband and I being in the middle of painting our kitchen cabinets, my house was in disarray. (We’re talking Pyrex bowls and crock pots strewn everywhere from the living room ottoman to our bedroom end tables.) But quality sister time trumped the condition of my home, plus I knew she’d have McDonald’s breakfast in tow, so I swung the front door open and welcomed her into my messy world.

Over our breakfast sandwiches, I told her how overwhelmed I was feeling with everything around me being so out of place. Then, with Joanna Gaines’ shiplap dialogue in the background, I got honest about all the burdens I was carrying: my messy house; all the half-finished projects looming over me; the beginning of a new school year that I as a teacher am preparing for; and, of course, that ever-present desire for a baby. Everything I had been keeping inside came unexpectedly spilling out like a flood.

Even still, I was trying to hold myself together and not lose it completely. Unfortunately, the straw that broke the camel’s back came when I let my new puppy back in the house from being outside. She ran inside covered in clumps of mud and grass, leaving a messy trail behind her. I picked up my puppy to clean her but immediately broke down crying. My sister took it upon herself to get my broom and sweep up the chunks of mud that littered my kitchen floor. She didn’t complain or tell me to get it together; instead, when I apologized for being such depressing company, she walked up to me, wrapped her arms around me, and told me, “It’s okay to have a messy day.”

Her permission for me to not have it all together was exactly what my soul needed. But she also loved me enough to not leave me to drown in my own pity. Instead, she motivated me to get proactive about taking care of business and reclaiming my joy. We gathered up some of the excess clutter I had already bagged up to donate, and we loaded it in my car.

We also decided to treat ourselves to burgers for lunch because not only was it good for me to get out of the house for a little bit, but my sister knows eating out fills my proverbial love tank. (I bet you didn’t know there was a sixth love language. And that it involves cholesterol.)

By the time we got out and about, I was feeling much less burdened. My sister’s presence alone had played a part, but what resonated with me the most was her grace towards me when I was in a very messy place, both emotionally and physically. Her permission to embrace the mess, along with her companionship in the midst, made a world of difference to me.

So many of us are hurting and barely holding it together. There is so much healing to be found when the mask is removed and we acknowledge our struggles. I encourage you to find that safe person whom you trust and invite them into your mess. Find someone who will listen, encourage you with Biblical truth, and pray with you. Find someone who, after doing all these things, will encourage you to put your armor back on and fight for something better.

If you are not currently struggling, then ask yourself: To whom can I reach out, wrap my arms around, and give permission to have a messy day?

BraveGirl Martha

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When My Strength Runs Out

When My Strength Runs Out

I don’t want to write this post. I don’t want to let the world know that I am struggling. I’m okay, but I am struggling. I’m joyful, but I’m sad inside. I’m numb, but I’m trying.

The past few years have been a roller coaster of emotions for my husband and I. And though I feel like a broken record talking about our infertility struggles, it’s where my heart is right now. And I’ve learned that being anything other than real gets pretty draining.

So, here’s the deal: In the past few years, I’ve struggled with sadness, bitterness, numbness, and depression. And because I so desperately want to glorify God through this battle with infertility, I subsequently struggle with shame that I have let myself hit such low points instead of perfectly, at all times, trusting my unknown future to a known God.

I got tired of being let down each month when pregnancy wasn’t achieved, so I tried to convince myself I might be better off if I didn’t care so much. In my efforts to become more apathetic about being a mom, unfortunately, other good, healthy emotions hit the road as well. The “protective” wall that surrounded my heart quickly became hardened and impenetrable. Not only did relationships suffer because of my lack of effort in maintaining them, but my home suffered. I could only muster up enough motivation to do the bare minimum. What that looked like for me was basically just doing the laundry so we would have clothes to wear. I also became good at putting on a facade of a clean house by straightening up but never actually cleaning. My dishwasher ran on schedule, but my floors never got mopped. The bathroom sink might have gotten cleaned, but maybe not the shower. Whatever I could muster up enough stamina to do for fifteen minutes every few days got done. Otherwise, my couch and I shared a lot of wasted, quality time together.

At this point you’re probably wondering why I’m putting all this out there. To be honest, I’m wondering the same thing myself. The only thing I can figure out is that my heart doesn’t want to fake it anymore. I’m done with facades, shame, and secrets. I believe it because I’ve experienced it: secrets lose power over you when you bring them to the light. I know I’m not the only person trying to act like I’ve got it all together on the outside while I’m dying on the inside.

So, in the spirit of being real, I’m going to share a snippet of one of my journal entries from September of last year:

I’m too scared to say it out loud and don’t want to add another burden to a busy world’s plate. But I think I’m depressed.
I lie on the couch, warm tears softly streaming down my cheeks, thoughts cascading through my mind of my dirty bathroom, unmade bed, half-completed projects, and dust-ridden furniture. My disdain for my laziness is strong, but I’m immobilized by a numbing, dull pain.
I’m tired. Annoyances have become heavy burdens that I feel in my chest. Simple tasks have become laborious exertions.
I’m surrounded by people, but I’m all alone. I’m left behind. I’m not a mom.
Lord, I’m so tired. My soul yearns for you, but I can’t muster up a cry out to you, only a whisper of your name. I continue shoveling food into my ever-swelling face.
God, give me joy. Give me energy. Give me faith that moves mountains.
May I some day be brave enough to share these words with someone to help them.
Though I may be in a pit now, my God won’t leave me here.
Every morning, the sun rises on a new day. Every day is His. I am His.

….

So…are you guys still cool with knowing me, or did I take it too far? This is one of those awkward, I’ve-said-too-much-I’m-just-going-to-walk-backwards-out-of-the-room moments.

But in all seriousness, if you see me on the streets, I probably appear super joyful. IMG_0118That’s because I am. The joy of the Lord is truly my strength, and because he lives in me and I have a strong support system, most days are good.

I am no longer in the pits of depression; thankfully, the Lord carried me through that pretty swiftly. I do, however, still struggle to overcome the numbness. These days, I rejoice when I snot-face cry because that means I’m feeling something. I still entertain the idea of mopping my floors without ever actually getting it done, but Lord knows I’m gonna get there some day.

I have allowed hope to regain entry into my heart, even though that means disappointment could possibly follow on its heels. I’m learning that I can’t feel the good without feeling the bad, and after not feeling much of anything, I’m totally ok with strapping myself back into the roller coaster of emotions and just letting go. I know my God’s got me in the valleys just as much as he does on the peaks.

I take comfort in knowing God knew we would walk through dark days while on this earth, so he filled his word with many encouraging verses such as Romans 12:12, which says: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” That is just one verse out of many that encourage patience through trial; standing firm; relentlessly trusting; and never growing weary.

To those who have been struggling like I have, God’s grace is big enough to cover the mess we’ve been swallowed up in. And when we get to the place where our strength runs out, His is there to carry us the rest of the way.

He is sovereign and perfect. May we all find rest and healing in his massive, loving arms.

BraveGirl Martha

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The King’s Daughters

The King’s Daughters

We are Daughters of the King,
but doubt controls our life.
Consumed by problems of this world,
each day is full of strife.

More aware of others’ thoughts
than those of Him above,
we blend into this fallen world,
loving what they love.

We hate the number on the scale,
a battle we can’t win.
Yet so afraid to tell a soul
we’re starving to be thin.

We find our worth in the words of others
or in the arms of men.
We see ourselves as damaged, ruined;
our souls feel dark with sin.

Addictions fed in secrecy
have led to shame and guilt.
We’re trapped inside a hollow shell
of the “perfect” life we’ve built.

The lies we’ve heard have become truth,
and we’re tired of fighting back.
“Unworthy” has become our name,
defenseless to attacks.

These are the Daughters of the King,
the ones for whom He died.
The ones He aches for when they hurt,
the ones whose tears He’s dried.

The ones He created so fearfully, wonderfully–
the jewels in His crown.
He craves us, sees us, chases us;
He never lets us down.

Already set free, yet walking in chains,
we’re called for so much more.
The victory is ours to claim
when it’s Him we’re living for.

He calls us precious, prized and His,
He’s spoken for our hearts.
He fights for us and pleads for us,
Forgiveness He imparts.

Lights of this world, He tells us to shine.
He made us to stand out.
He calls us brave and capable
to conquer fear and doubt.

He says, “Arise. Converse with me.”
“With you I will abide.”
You’ll find in all things, looking back,
He never left your side.

Beloved in His eyes we are
and safe we’ll always be.
Forever treasured, beautiful,
Accepted and redeemed.

And so it is well with our souls
when we can just believe,
and walk in truth of all He says
of our identity.

We are the Daughters of the King,
the ones no longer bound.
The ones to whom He’s given hope,
a future, and a crown.

BraveGirl Martha

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