For Those Who Dread Mother’s Day

For Those Who Dread Mother’s Day

As Mother’s Day weekend approaches, I’m looking forward to the special treatment I will receive from my own family, but I’m ten hours away from my mom this year and it will be the first time I won’t get to spend it with her. It makes me think of how difficult this day will be for so many women for so many different reasons.

I lost my dad when I was just two years old and every June when Father’s Day arrives, I feel like I’m hit over the head with reminders that I didn’t even get the chance to have a relationship with him before he was taken from me.

I dread Father’s Day. I can’t hardly stand to log onto Facebook and see all of the heartwarming photos and posts about how much everyone’s dad has enriched their lives and made them who they are. I fight back tears every year at church when they ask all the fathers to stand and I am reminded just how unfair life can be.

I know there are so many of you who dread Mother’s Day too. Some of you have lost your mom at a young age, or maybe even recently. A lot of you live far away from her, like I do. You might have a mother you haven’t spoken to in years or a biological mother you’ve never met, but always wanted to know. You might still be dealing with feelings of abandonment or a broken mother-daughter relationship. So many of you are longing to be a mother yourself, but are struggling with infertility. You are mourning a miscarriage or the loss of a child. Whatever your pain associated with motherhood is, I feel the ache of the empty place in your heart right along with you.

If I could, I would reach through these words and hold your hands so tightly. I would tell you that God sees you. He feels your pain and knows your heart’s cry. He loves you and knows you more deeply than any earthly mother ever could and you are blessed because you know Him. I also know it’s much easier to say those words than to let them sink into your soul and believe they are true.

Even if my father and mother abandon me,

the LORD will hold me close. (Psalm 27:10)

So, try this. Look around you this weekend. Are there strong women in your life who have wrapped their arms around you when you needed it? Do you know a kind woman who has fixed you a meal or taken you shopping? Do you have someone you can count on for sound advice? Maybe God has placed a woman in your life to help fill the void, but you’ve never thought of her that way before. Maybe you are blessed with an incredible dad who has tried his best to make up for what’s missing. God provides, even when we don’t acknowledge it or give him the glory like we should.

Have you been that mother figure for someone else? If not, could you be? Is there a young girl in your life who might need some extra love and attention? Is there a motherless teenager in your youth group you could invite out for coffee? Could you step in and help out an overwhelmed single mom? Is there someone who needs to hear the infertility story that you’ve been too afraid to share? Is it finally time for you to answer the calling on your life to foster or adopt? Maybe you could send flowers to another hurting woman for Mother’s Day this year. There are ways to help fill that void in your life and it might just be to help fill someone else’s.

So for those who are struggling on a day that most people associate with brunch and Hallmark cards, I pray you won’t associate it with grief, pain, or loss. I pray that God will replace those feelings with good memories, a willingness to help others, thankfulness for the relationships that you do have, and hope for what is to come. I pray that when the enemy tries to remind you of what you have lost, God will remind you of all that you have gained by living a life for Him. I pray that you will take that time and look around and honor the women who have been there for you.

For FullSizeRenderme personally, I couldn’t be more thankful to have a mom who stepped in and played both roles for my older brother and me after my dad passed. The strength and courage it took to suddenly find herself as a single mom at 30 and then later raise 9 kids in our mixed family is beyond my maternal comprehension! While it’s so hard to understand how God can allow a young parent to be taken from his children, He helped fill the void through my relationship with my mother and for that I am so grateful. She has enriched my life and made me who I am. Thank you mom.

And when Father’s Day approaches and I’m struggling, I know God will remind me of His goodness and faithfulness and these words I share with you today.

I will comfort you there in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child. (Isaiah 66:13)

BraveGirl Robyn

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How The Battle Changed Me

How The Battle Changed Me

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

“Look, mommy, that girl has cancer.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But God has a way of changing things…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the god of hopelessness or the God of Hope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That God gives the biggest battles to His fiercest warriors.

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

Battles are about accepting every ounce of who God is

in every moment and in every season.

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

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

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

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Jennifer

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

Is Busyness Killing Your Marriage?

Is Busyness Killing Your Marriage?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Erin

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

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

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 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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