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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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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My Story: Overcoming Social Anxiety

My Story: Overcoming Social Anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BraveGirl Martha

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Video Testimony-Marriage and Pornography

Video Testimony-Marriage and Pornography

Austin & Hanna courageously share their true story of how bringing our struggles into the light not only opens the door for God to move, it transforms us into a new creation. Watch their courageous testimony of God’s ability to redeem, restore, and create a new path replacing shame with peace, and sorrow with joy. Bravery at its’ finest.

Click the link below to watch…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEb_dxWxCCk

Sometimes I Can’t

Sometimes I Can’t

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:13

So many people, Christians and non-Christians are familiar with these words. We decorate our homes, our social media, our keychains and coffee mugs with these words. We use them to inspire us, to keep us motivated when we’re working out, and to encourage people in difficult times.

But, as a long-time Christian, can I admit that sometimes I can’t?
“I. Can’t. Even.”
Maybe you’ve seen those words. It could be in the context of joy, empathy, or dismay. I recently was at a point where I couldn’t do anything. I made a mistake which blew into a much greater mess than I could imagine. (lesson learned: think before you speak and sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all)

And? Due to the emotions stirred up in the fray, there were words spoken about me that cut me to my very core. Words that I couldn’t even process. I was paralyzed.
I couldn’t do all things through Christ. I couldn’t do anything but sit there, stunned at what had been said.
I tried to process the situation a hundred different ways, but still I was grieved, angered, and ashamed. Grieved that I had erred, angered at the responses, and ashamed to have to face people after the fact, not knowing who had heard what I said and who had not and who now viewed me differently and who already knew me and would forgive me quickly.

It took a night with some dear women who know me well, who brought comfort to my hurting heart. Then…a song on the radio that God used to shake me awake even more to the REAL truth. Jesus redeemed me. He already paid for that error, gladly, because He knew my mistakes don’t define me or who He has made me to be! The song was called “My Victory” by David Crowder. I hope these words sink deep into your spirit like they did mine…

You came for criminals
And every pharisee
You came for hypocrites
Even one like me
You carried sin and shame
The guilt of every man
The weight of all I’ve done
Nailed into your hands
Oh, your love bled for me
Oh, your blood in crimson streams
Oh, your death is hells defeat
A cross meant to kill is my victory
Oh, your amazing grace
I’ve seen and tasted it
It’s running through my veins
I can’t escape its’ grip
In you my soul is safe
You cover everything
Oh, your love bled for me
Oh, your blood in crimson streams
Oh, your death is hells defeat
A cross meant to kill is my victory
Behold the lamb of god
Who takes away our sin,
Who takes away our sin
The holy lamb of god
Make us alive again

Perhaps you too have had those times where you feel that you just can’t. Hang on tightly to His word and let Him be your guide. Be encouraged today remembering that He holds you in the palm of His hand, knowing that Jesus has truly paid it ALL. Forgiveness is free and you can walk in that freedom. And Christ can do all things in you through His Power and His Might and His Spirit, if you allow Him.

When my heart was grieved

and my spirit embittered,
 I was senseless and ignorant;
    I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

Join me and let’s rest in the freedom our God offers. Blessings, dear friends!

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Tammy

I’m Praying For You…Kind Of

I’m Praying For You…Kind Of

“I’m praying for you!”

How many times a week do we say this? Send it in a text or email? Use it as a Facebook comment?

Do you ever avoid social media because every time you log on you have to add eight new desperate needs to your mental prayer list? It’s just too overwhelming sometimes. It might be a stranger with a missing child, a family member with a terrible illness, or an anxious friend having a hard day. If you’re like me, we want to pray for people. We know they need it. We sympathize with them. Our hearts break with them. We want to comfort them, so we reach out and use the only words we know to offer in that moment.

“I’m praying for you.

We have great intentions, but then we keep scrolling, get distracted, and by the time we log off, we’ve forgotten what we promised we would pray for.

If you’re like me, you know our friend is in need and we genuinely intend on praying when we hear about her situation, but then life happens. By the time you pack lunches, drive your kids to soccer, fix dinner, and catch up on your DVR, you fall into bed and are asleep before your unwashed hair hits the pillow. The day has gone by and you have just forgotten.

Days later, that request for prayer crosses your mind and you beat yourself up for not following through with that reassuring promise to pray. You text or call to ask your friend how she is doing. Her storm has passed and she thanks you for praying.

Oops.

Thank God for His grace, but seriously, we need to stop throwing these words around carelessly. Please hear my heart here…this post is not to judge, it’s to remind myself and all of us that prayer is powerful. It’s where the battle begins! Let’s be intentional for each other and utilize the power we have access to. Let’s not take it for granted any longer. God has called us to pray and intercede for each other. It’s serious business. He longs to hear our voice calling out to Him. He wants to answer our prayers.

What if we pulled out our smartphones and used our notes to keep track of more than our grocery lists? Or downloaded a prayer journal app or emailed ourselves a reminder? What if we wrote names down and hung them on the bathroom mirror and prayed while we get ready for the day? How about we treat ourselves to a cute new journal and a good pen just for prayer?

We are all busy, but we can find time for prayer. Let’s get up early. Let’s pray during our lunch hour or while our toddlers are taking a nap. Let’s pray in the shower or on the treadmill. Let’s call out names while we fold laundry or during our commute to work. There are pockets of time that we can use to make a difference in someone’s life.

Join me today…let’s start fresh…let’s make “I’m praying for you” a statement less about comforting others and more about intentionally going into battle and activating God’s power.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14

BraveGirl Robyn

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Staying In Your Lane

Staying In Your Lane

This past week, I sat down with a dear friend who set me straight. She is a friend who speaks truth even when it’s hard. An iron sharpens iron kind of friend. We all need one (or two) like this. It’s good for our souls…whether we like it or not.

Lately, I have been running high on emotions and strong opinions have been flying out of my mouth and I didn’t even realize it.

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My dear friend listened as I talked to her about “my opinions” and the realization that my heart was in a mess. She gracefully listened and when I was done she said, “You need to stay in your own lane.”

And there it was. Bam! (And ouch)

“STAY IN YOUR OWN LANE?”

Everything inside of me wanted to defend myself and not take full ownership of my pride, my control…my sin.

I genuinely do love people, especially those I am close with and I desire God’s absolute best for them and their lives. I don’t want them to stumble and fall. I don’t want destruction and sin to overtake their lives. I don’t want to see them go down a path that God never intended.

BUT…

It’s NOT MY LANE

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I AM NOT GOD.

Ladies – I know I am not alone here. And sometimes it comes out in very ugly ways. How many of us are covered in frustration because we believe we know what’s “best” for everyone else around us? In fact, we know better than they do about their own lives, right??!

I have been trying to run someone else’s race that God never intended me to run. When I jump lanes, I am left burdened, weighted and upset because it’s not going the way “I” think it should.

My own personal life lesson today…We are fooling ourselves if we believe we know better than the Creator Himself. And chances are, there is a deeper issue going on within us that is causing us to jump lanes in the first place.

I realized that at the root of my frustration is control, pride, and a lack of trust that God will take care of them…even if they mess up. He has taken care of me plenty of times when I have messed up. In fact, He’s doing it right now as I write this post.

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We were created to run our race with EVERY stumble. EVERY fall. EVERY bad decision…so that we can get back up, chasing hard after Jesus again…and again…and AGAIN. This was one of those stumbling moments for me. I’m getting back up though…and I’m looking ahead towards Him.

Let’s love those around us when they stumble. Encourage them and run beside them. Pray for them. Speak the truth in LOVE when it needs to be spoken allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us. Maybe they will receive it, maybe they won’t. Ultimately it’s NOT up to you or me. Release them into our Father’s hands and LET IT GO.

So…will you come along side me? Lets stay in our lanes, love like Jesus, and FINISH WELL.

Then when we finish our race, we will hear Him say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

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Sometimes I’m a Bad Driver

Sometimes I’m a Bad Driver

Wow. This wasn’t the post I wanted to write. I wanted to encourage and inspire and share something that would bless other women from my own comfort zone.

Instead, I’m going to tell you something real and exercise the bravery that we try to encourage here at BraveGirl.

I grew up in a Christian home. I was involved in Christian groups at my public college. I even worked at a Christian bookstore (and am currently employed as a schoolteacher at a Christian school).
Honestly, I have really embraced Jesus as my Savior on my own since the year 2000, as a college freshman.

But when it comes to my vehicle, I’m incognito…I don’t claim my Christianity.
I don’t have a window sticker of any of the ministries I support displayed on the back. No artistic rendition of the one cross, or the three crosses. No fish emblem. No Bible verses.
I only have stickers from my local chain coffee shop that I’m very supportive of (they give out really great window stickers btw!)
I have a generic white minivan. The lack of window stickers have helped me avoid awkward moments in the parking lot more than once.

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Why am I telling you this? Because there’s a reason I don’t have any Christian representation on my car.
I’m afraid.
I know that once in a while, I have been going too fast to stop and it’s questionable if I was all the way through when the light was green or yellow.
I know that sometimes I have changed lanes and cut somebody off.
I am afraid that if I drive poorly, and I am supposed to be representing Jesus, then I will turn people away from Him.

So instead? I hide my faith behind my tinted windows and sunglasses.
There are two solutions to this problem. The first? Become perfect.

Perfect. Driving. Every. Time.

And though I may have good reason to reconsider some of my habits, I don’t think that this is the real answer.

How many of us are waiting to share our faith until we’re perfect examples of Jesus?

Thinking that way means I won’t be sharing Jesus with anyone. EVER. The truth is…our imperfections highlight the NEED for a Savior. Hiding my imperfections says ‘once I needed Him and now I don’t.’ When we claim Him, in spite of our failings, others realize they can also come to Him now. They don’t have to wait until they stop making mistakes.

Plus, it denies them the opportunity to see how Jesus changes us. By letting others see us as the imperfect humans that we are, they will also get to witness Him As He changes us. THAT’S how people see Him most.

So, if I cut you off accidentally or don’t keep my speed in check approaching a traffic light, I apologize in advance. Just know I’m a work in progress. All of us are.

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TammyIf you want more mini van stories…check out clean on the outside and acci”dents” . It seems this van is one of God’s tools for helping me grow.

 

 

Embracing the Mess

Embracing the Mess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BraveGirl Martha

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The Sin Good Girls Won’t Name

The Sin Good Girls Won’t Name

I showed up to a get-together with a covered dish and some juicy news to share. It was an opportunity to shock my friends and therefore receive some odd sense of satisfaction, attention, and praise for revealing such scandalous information. Before I could get it out, one of the ladies asked,

“Who has some good gossip?”

Now I was the one who was shocked! We can’t “gossip”. That’s so sinful! How dare she just come out and say that!

Oh, wait…

At least my friend wasn’t in denial about it. She called it what it was. She named it and it made me think twice about what I was about to reveal. Good southern Christian girls like me don’t like to name our sin because acknowledgement brings that uninvited guest named Conviction to spoil our party.

Gossip seeps its’ way into my perfectly innocent conversations, even ones that start out to be godly and life-giving. It is anything but harmless and we have to stop.

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein

on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”

-James 1:26

I didn’t recognize gossip as a problem in my life until my own filthy laundry became the hot topic. When people have been whispering about you, it is beyond hurtful and embarrassing. It permanently damages friendships and deteriorates trust. It’s anything but harmless.

God, help me not to harm others with my desire for entertaining conversation.

Being highly experienced in this area, I’ve narrowed gossip down to four types so it will be easier to recognize the next time it sneaks into your conversation.

1. Secret Telling Gossip
“Promise you won’t tell.”
Even if you are dying to spill someone else’s secret and you know you can trust your best friend, it’s still gossip. If it’s not YOUR business, keep it to yourself.

“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,

therefore do not associate with a gossip.” -Proverbs 20:19

2. Prodding Gossip
“How’s Sarah? I heard she’s going through a tough time…”
If you are on the receiving end of a gossipy loaded question, you are not required to answer! People will respect that you politely refuse to give up information and you will prove yourself to be trustworthy.

“For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer,

contention quiets down.” -Proverbs 26:20

3. Angry Gossip
“Her marriage is falling apart, so she’s taking it out on me!”
Someone hurts you so you tell others all of the unattractive things you know about her life. Don’t let your short term emotions cause long term effects. You will regret it later.

“Argue your case with your neighbor,

And do not reveal the secret of another.” -Proverbs 25:9

4. Concerned Friend Gossip
“You need to pray for our friend because you won’t believe what happened…”
Of course we need to pray for and support each other. Just always make sure to keep your motives and your sincerity in check when you reveal anything personal about someone else’s life.

As you go back to your workplace, play dates, and PTA meetings, keep in mind what God’s Word says about gossip. Learn to recognize it, call it by name, and put a stop to it. Don’t let this “innocent” sin creep its’ way into what could otherwise be sacred spaces of trust, encouragement and friendship.

“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;

Keep watch over the door of my lips.” –Psalm 141:3

BraveGirl Robyn

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