The Truth About Insecurity

The Truth About Insecurity

Insecurity is an absolute Robber.

It steals joy.
It removes peace.
It dulls vision.
It stops dreams.
It creates fear.
It destroys relationships.
It hinders WHO YOU ARE in every way, shape and form.

Insecurity stops us in our tracks. We will sway to the left or to the right removing our focus on the straight path before us.

The first part of John 10:10 says,

“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy”

BUT hear the good news…

Your God LOVES you.
You are ENOUGH.
You are WORTHY.
You are CHOSEN.
You are HAND PICKED by your God.
He is molding YOU, shaping YOU and forming YOU into his likeness.

Insecurity causes a false belief of who you are. Throw it off and RUN with Jesus! You were made to be secure in Christ and Christ ALONE.IMG_9241

When that revelation penetrates your heart and you know his truth, you can be SECURE. CONFIDENT. FEARLESS. ALL…for Jesus!
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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?

 

Confessions from the Clique

Confessions from the Clique

I’ve got a terrible confession to make. If you know me, you might already know I do this and are glad I’m finally figuring it out. Maybe I’ve hurt you specifically. Hopefully by confessing it here, I will feel a bit more accountable and therefore aware of what I’m doing, so here it goes…

I am extremely cliquey.

I have my cliques and I like them. I love my friends. I love getting really comfortable with certain people and don’t always like to let others in because I don’t feel like I can be myself around them.

I’m comfortable being around people who believe what I believe. I enjoy spending my time with people who are in a similar season of life. I want to be with people who get me. I like to go to bible study and talk to women who agree with me on most big issues. Is this a bad thing? No, unless those are the only people I choose to be around. When I start avoiding relationships with others who are different from me, it’s time to make some changes.

I hadn’t given this a ton of thought until I came across the story of Matthew, a tax collector, who chose to get up from his tax collector’s booth and follow Jesus. He took Jesus to his house where they, along with the disciples, had dinner with many other tax collectors and “sinners”. The Pharisees saw this and asked the disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

Jesus heard this and said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13)

When I read this, conviction rushed through me. I started asking myself some hard questions. When I reach out to others, are they mostly women who are like me? Do I only offer to pray with women I know pray too? Do I spend my time reaching out solely to my own circle of Christian friends, rather than searching for those in need? Do I only share what God has done for me with people who already know Him?

If my goal in life is to strive to be more like Jesus, this just isn’t going to work anymore. Instead of always reaching out to the neighbor I’ve gotten to know, who is my age, and in a similar stage of life, maybe it’s time to take a plate of cookies to the neighbor who lives alone and is a whole generation of life experiences ahead of me. I bet I could learn a lot from her and maybe I could make her feel a little less lonely.

There are so many things I can do, but maybe I’ll just start there. One day at a time. One person at a time. I want to pray specifically for wisdom as I go about my day. Who can I reach for you, Jesus? Who is lonely? Who is struggling? Who is depressed? Who needs to know you? Send me to them so I can be your hands, feet, and voice right here in my community. Show me where to show mercy.

Don’t get me wrong. Close friendships are such a vital part of getting through this messy life. I know from experience that a strong group of like-minded sisters in Christ will help pull you out of a pit like no one else. Don’t give up these friendships. Just look up from that comforting circle every now and then to see who else might need to join in. Just like the disciples joined Jesus and the “sinners” for dinner, include your friends in your attempt to reach those in desperate need of some truth, comfort, laughter, prayer, and friendship.

I don’t want to be “cliquey” anymore. I don’t want to close my dinner table to outsiders. I want to bring them in to dine with me so I can love them like Jesus would.

“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you,

for the glory of God.” Romans 15:7

Brave Girl Robyn

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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.

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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The Other Woman

The Other Woman

So I had a moment when my child’s pediatrician appointment morphed into a therapy session…for me.

Has anyone else ever been there – in that frustrating place of feeling overwhelmed and “not enough?” This is exactly where I found myself last week. My second daughter was born recently, and at this particular appointment the goal was for her to gain back enough weight to break even with what she weighed at birth. As Dr. Jackson and I discussed my daughter’s eating habits, he paused and said, “You know, the expression on your face is telling me that maybe you just need a break.”

With this astute observation from a wise and seasoned doctor, the dam broke and all the insecurities, guilt, and doubt I had been holding inside came flooding out. The gentle, non-judgmental way Dr. Jackson spoke to me made me realize that the voice I had been listening to was the complete opposite: my inner voice had been speaking harshly and critically to my heart. It had been lying to me, and I was believing the lie yet again.

I think that as women, we all have a tendency to buy into the lies our Enemy tries to sell us. Depending on our age, circumstances, and desires, the lies we believe are as unique as we are. These lies feed on comparisons, dissatisfaction, and self-absorption. As I drove home from that appointment, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a thought I had been clinging to subconsciously for days…the lie that was currently holding me captive:

“Somewhere out there, there’s a woman with a three-year-old and a newborn baby, and SHE’S handling life better than I am.”

HER house is clean.

SHE exhibits saintly patience while meeting the needs of two attention-demanding children.

SHE has managed to shower every day and looks refreshed and pulled together.

HER postpartum body is already bouncing back…abs are showing…jeans are fitting.

Do you see what I did there? It’s amazing to me how effortlessly my mind can be convinced that these statements are absolutely factual, although I personally don’t know anyone who proves the validity of even one of them! So my lie starts to look more and more like truth, unfounded in reality but propagated by the ungodly amount of pressure I put on myself to be some sort of superwoman. Then there’s the guilt I heap upon myself when I fail to be perfect. This cycle of thought is what caused me to break down in a doctor’s office. It’s what grips each of us when we allow ourselves to dwell on that other woman.

For me, the other woman is a mother and wife who has a Pinterest-worthy life complete with planned out healthy dinners, beautifully decorated, uncluttered rooms, and kids who don’t need screen time because their days are filled with art projects, play dates, and enriched learning experiences.

Who is the “other woman” for you?

Is it the newlywed who just shared glamorous wedding pics on Facebook?

Is it the co-worker who dresses impeccably and has an “in” with the boss?

Maybe your other woman is strong, fit, and dedicated to her health. You scroll past her gym selfies while indulging in your favorite fat-filled snack and instantly feel defeated.

Or, perhaps like me, your other woman is mythical, a figment of your imagination. She has everything you wish you had or think you need, and your life seems so “less than” by comparison.

While you ponder the lies you might be harboring in your own heart, consider these three truths about your other woman as well.

1. The other woman is not my competition.
2. I can learn from the other woman.
3. I am the other woman to someone else.

The Other Woman is NOT My Competition

The next time you or I find ourselves comparing our lives to others, I hope we would have enough truth hidden away in our hearts to combat the lies. Galatians 5:26 speaks volumes. “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Wherever you are in life, whatever season you find yourself in, is where you are meant to be in this moment. Instead of being jealous of those who have already reached the next rung on the ladder of life, try to focus on what’s good and holy about your current situation. For me, the harrowing nights with a newborn are a true test of my character. Instead of kicking my feet tantrum-style under the covers and wishing away the multiple midnight feedings, I can choose to focus on the sweet helplessness of my baby and soak up the warmth and innocence of new life that disappears all too soon. I am right where God wants me as I care for my family, and there is joy in claiming that truth.

Envy and resentment make a convenient couple. The more you compare and find yourself coming up short, the more space you’ll find in your heart for bitterness to take up residence. That bitterness acts as a wall, keeping you from forming friendships and building a support system with other women. This is one way Satan works to keep us bound by lies. The only way to break the cycle is to bravely reach out to the women who fit into the “other” category. I’ve found in my own life that the very ones I compared myself to or judged to be too good for me have ended up being some of my closest girlfriends. It took vulnerability and authenticity. It took time. But it’s been worth the effort and my life has been enriched by the deeper relationships that formed once I gave up my tendency to compare and compete with others.

I Can Learn From the Other Woman

Sometimes God uses the other women in our lives to teach us lessons we can’t access anywhere else. I remember when I was in the throes of infertility and it seemed that everyone around me was announcing pregnancies and giving birth. These women were living my dream. It was hard to receive their good news without a twinge of self-pity. To this day I can tell you the names of celebrities who carried and delivered babies during the three years my husband and I longed for a child of our own. But guess what? As I heard stories from these “other women,” I realized many of them had been right where I was. They too had struggled to get pregnant or had lost children through miscarriages – a tragedy I cannot comprehend. Their wisdom gave me hope. They shared verses that I learned to cling to myself. I understood how to faithfully walk through infertility because I let these women in.

Who can you learn from? The women who seem to have it all likely don’t. And what they do have has not come as easy as you believe or been without a high cost. What if the key you need to finally unlock contentment in your life is being held by the other woman? Are you willing to listen, ask questions, and learn from her story?

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I Am the Other Woman to Someone Else

In the journey to learn from these other women, maybe all you need to adjust your outlook is a fresh understanding that you yourself are someone else’s “other woman.” Now that I am a mother, I have dear friends and family members who are where I was all those years ago. They see my daughters and their hearts ache for the children they so desperately want. Now it’s my turn to pour into their pain and love them the way I was so tenderly loved.

So, my friend, the next time you catch yourself comparing or competing, make it a habit to identify lies and replace them with truth. Get to know the other woman in your life and learn from her. And when you begin taking precious gifts for granted, remember that you know someone who deeply desires the very thing you’ve become accustomed to.

Think about those around you and how they might view your life with a sense of longing. There are countless ways to turn your status as the “other woman” from something negative into a thing of beauty. If you allow your life to be a conduit through which God can pass blessings, truth, and love on to others, you will be the embodiment of 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

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May we be women who embrace truth, encourage each other, and enjoy the season of life we’re currently in!

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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.

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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.

Unexpected, Finding Joy in Loss, Life, and Love

Unexpected, Finding Joy in Loss, Life, and Love

March 8, 2007-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Are Your Ambitions Selfish?

Are Your Ambitions Selfish?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Erin

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

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

My Story: Overcoming Social Anxiety

My Story: Overcoming Social Anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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