The Beauty of Contentment

The Beauty of Contentment

“There must be more than this provincial life.”
– Belle, Beauty and the Beast

 

Maybe so, Belle. Maybe so.

I think it’s easy to get lost in daydreams of something better when what we already have is actually pretty great. (In Belle’s case, her adoring father, cute hometown, seemingly carefree schedule, unlimited access to books, various admirers, and not to mention her physical beauty and figure…)

I guess what I’m trying to say is that although Belle’s ache for the next big thing is relatable, there’s also something to be said for living a life of contentment.

I’m not talking about a life without dreams and aspirations. I’m talking about a life driven by gratitude rather than dissatisfaction. A life defined by the beauty of simplicity instead of the complexity and pain of comparison.

Like Belle, I’m guilty of getting lost in the wistful woe of wanting something more than what God has provided me with, especially when it comes to my physical appearance. I often compare my body to other women and deem myself inadequate if I feel I fall short. Sometimes instead of accepting the body God gave me and working to make it the best it can be, I wallow in what no longer comes naturally to me anymore, i.e. a fast metabolism and ability to eat a whole pizza by myself and not gain an ounce of weight.

There must be more than this provincial body of mine…who’s with me on this?

Perhaps you struggle with finding contentment with your physical appearance as well.

Or maybe you struggle with contentment in your marriage. Have you ever thought there must be someone else out there who could make you happier than the man you’re married to? Do you compare your husband to your friends’ husbands and take mental notes of what they do that yours doesn’t do?

Maybe your home/car/finances aren’t quite measuring up to what you dreamed they’d be at this point in your life.

What is it about your current situation that you wish were different?

Once you figure out what the biggest areas of discontentment in your life are, ask yourself this: Is the thing you’re struggling to live joyfully with something that at one time you considered to be a blessing?

You see, blessings grow dull and get blurred by discontentment when we allow comparison to creep into our hearts.

Comparison truly is the thief of joy. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.”

There’s not a whole lot that sounds better than a tranquil heart after being worn down by years of discontentment and comparison. The question is, how do we honestly overcome the way we’ve grown to see our circumstances that for so long we’ve deemed as subpar?

My sister went to Honduras a couple of years ago and told me about a woman she saw there who lived in a house with a dirt floor. Yet, every day, this woman was seen sweeping her floors. She didn’t have very much, but she valued it anyway and did her best to take care of it.

Even though I didn’t see her with my own eyes, the image of this lady sweeping her dirt floors stuck in my mind. When I think of her, I’m struck by the beauty of her contentment and the value she placed on what little she had. This is how we are called to care for the blessings we have been entrusted with. I think we keep on taking care of our bodies because it’s the only one we have. We pour into and invest in our marriages because it’s what we vowed to do. We work our hardest for the employer that hired us because they did so in good faith. We value what God has entrusted to us, whether it be a dirt-floor house or just the smallest one in the neighborhood.

I think we start acting like what we have is valuable–we water our own grass–then we watch it inevitably thrive as most things do when they are treated with care.

May we begin to see our surroundings with fresh eyes, full of gratitude and grace so that we may be able to confidently claim contentment in all things. (Phil. 4:11)

 

BraveGirl Martha

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The Quiet Craftsman (a short story)

The Quiet Craftsman (a short story)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BraveGirl Martha

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The Last Shall Be Light

The Last Shall Be Light

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

I see you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You. Are. Adored.

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

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

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

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

 

BraveGirl Martha

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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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Found

Found

There is a phrase in the “Christian verbiage” that I have seen and read many times. A phrase that I myself have even quoted. A phrase that is not a negative term at all. But a phrase that has left me at times wondering what does that even mean? That phrase is “I’m chasing hard after Jesus.”

Now, I understand that some people say this phrase in reference to pursuing and going after the things of God. But for me, sometimes it can feel exhausting, leaving me on a continuous cycle of never being close enough to Jesus. A feeling that I have to “chase” him down in order to find Him…chase Him down to fellowship with Him…chase Him down to know and experience His presence. This phrase has made me feel so distant from my Jesus and honestly…I don’t like it. But let me clarify, I don’t particularly like it because of where I have been in this season with God.

Just a few days ago, I was home trying to have some much needed quiet time. I am a mom of three kiddos, my youngest being a boy who is, lets just say-HIGH ENERGY. Bless him. So quiet time is particularly heavenly and precious to me. I am sure some of you mommas can relate. This particular day they just happen to all be at school. I had high hopes of spending some amazing time in the word and quality time with Jesus.

I have found myself in a very spiritually dry season. There are days that it feels like Jesus is a million miles away. It seems like no matter what I do, no matter what kind of quiet time I have, no matter how much I worship…that I’m not “chasing hard enough after Jesus.” And there it is again…that phrase. I sat on my living room floor trying to get “into” my quiet time. I read my same devotional. I listened to the same worship songs that seem to usher me into His presence. I recited scripture in my head that I absolutely know to be true. And all of a sudden…I lost it. I shut off my music, closed my bible and told the Lord “I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to TRY to make something happen. I don’t want to TRY and manifest something about who you are…I just want You. Please-I just want You.”

I KNOW that the Lord is honored when we pursue Him. He desires us to dig into His word, studying and allowing the word to wash over us-bringing life, healing and a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and who we are in Him. I KNOW that in Psalms it says, “Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!” I KNOW that we are to go into the secret place with the Father and commune with Him. I KNOW these things are important…but it felt empty. My worship felt hollow. Getting into the word felt like routine. And that great devotional-it just wasn’t doing it for me. It felt like Jesus was not within my reach. I was “chasing hard after Jesus”-or so I thought…I had chased until I just couldn’t chase anymore.

What I realized in that moment is that I had forgotten one of the most important factors about being a daughter of the King- I am FOUND in Him. You see, if you and I are on a constant chase…that means no one has been found. And while we are absolutely supposed to chase hard after Jesus in the pursuit to be transformed more and more into His image, we first REST knowing that we are FOUND. I was trying to follow all my same routines to get Jesus to meet with me. I felt exhausted, tired, frustrated and honestly ashamed. Has it worked in the past in how I have done my quiet time? You bet. Have I experienced the Presence of Jesus in a very real way when worshipping Him through those songs? Sure I have. Has spending time in the word refreshed my spirit and at times jumped off the page and into my heart? Oh YES! But sometimes… I think it’s ok to abandon it all for a moment. To stop and simply tell Jesus -“I  simply want You. Help me.”  Again, I am not saying we skip all those important aspects of growing in Jesus for a lengthy period of time because you can’t know Jesus without knowing His word, worshipping Him, seeking Him and loving Him. But I believe Jesus wants a fully surrendered heart to Him, a heart that says I want to know you deeper…I long to be in your presence, more than I want to check off my daily Christian duties.

I sat on my floor and I cried. I told the Lord I didn’t want to chase Him anymore. I didn’t want to strive to try and know Him more. I simply want to be with Jesus.

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I immediately thought of  Psalm 139:7

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

And right there in the middle of my living room, tears flowing down my face, I once again remembered…I don’t have to chase Him down or strive to be close to my Creator. He is right there with me, whether I feel it or not. I cannot EVER be away from His spirit. I don’t have to do enough, be enough, worship enough or study enough because ultimately I am FOUND in Him. While I know the importance of being enveloped in the word of God, soaking up the Joy of devotionals that speak volumes and singing the lyrics of powerful worships songs, I believe sometimes God would rather wreck our spiritual check-list, tell us to lay it aside and simply tell us, “Remember…you are FOUND in Me.”

There is a song by Jesus Culture called Your Love is Fierce. There is a particular part in the song that says:

You chase me down, You seek me out. How could I be lost when you have called me FOUND.

You see, thats how I envision this whole chase thing…JESUS is in pursuit of you and Me.  JESUS chases us down, woos us to the Heart of God and declares that WE ARE FOUND and WE ARE HIS!

So I want to ask you today…where are you? Maybe like me, you find yourself chasing hard after Jesus, but on an empty tank of endless routine and obligation. But sweet sister-you can rest-because the chase is over…you have been Found.

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Strength From Suffering

Strength From Suffering

What have I done to deserve this?

I am ashamed by the number of times I have asked this question. Suffering has pretty much taken up residence in my life despite my efforts to do good, act good, and be good. It just keeps coming back, no matter how much I try to take control so it can be avoided.

Things can be moving along beautifully, blessings pouring in, and yet I wait. I wait for the dreaded, all too familiar shoe to drop. It’s a pattern in my life I’ve grown so accustomed to that I anticipate it. What terrible tragedy will happen that will break me wide open again, just as I’ve started to heal from the last one? This is not how God intended for me to live, yet the fear of suffering still festers deep inside of me.

If we are truly living our lives on this earth for Christ, shouldn’t we embrace suffering and all that comes with it? I want His glory to be revealed in me, but am I truly willing to suffer for it? Am I able to surrender everything I hold dear and trust that He is good, no matter what?

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10

Suffering brings us closer to our Savior in a way we never could have imagined. It changes the way we perceive and trust and love others. It gives us a testimony that we can’t help but share so that glory can be given to our King. It gives us compassion for others who are suffering. It teaches us how to pray out of true belief rather than routine. But most importantly, it gives us a longing for our heavenly home, the only place where there is no more suffering.

“There are parts of Jesus we will never know apart from suffering.”  

– Kelly Minter, All Things New

Suffering will come into our lives in many different forms. Loss of loved ones, illness, addiction, violence, and severed relationships are all part of living in a broken world. As difficult as it has been, my strength has come in the suffering and therefore, I would not trade it. Would I have been able to say that while I was in the middle of it? Definitely not. It’s not fair. It hurts so deeply. It’s so difficult to understand and usually we never will. That’s why it’s so important to do all we can to stay faithful in the midst of our suffering. Stay in the Word, pray even when we don’t want to, ask for and accept help from others and seek counsel from the right people.

If you are suffering today, I pray that you feel His loving arms holding you through your pain. I know the feeling of hurting so deeply it actually manifests into physical pain. I know what it’s like to repeatedly ask God how He could let this happen. I know how lonely it can feel. God did not promise us that we would not suffer, but the good news is He did promise that we wouldn’t have to do it alone.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

Know that you are not forgotten. You are not being punished. You are so loved. Take this opportunity to breathe in your Savior like never before and search for the beauty buried deep within the ashes with every new day. It is in this sacred place where you will find your strength.

“Jesus, with His pierced side, is always on the side of the broken. Jesus always moves into places moved with grief. Jesus always seeks out where the suffering is, and that’s where Jesus stays. The wound in His side proves that Jesus is always on the side of the suffering, the wounded, the busted, the broken.” – Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

BraveGirl Robyn

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Aching for Approval

Aching for Approval

img_5797I want to be in shape, but I really don’t want to exercise. I want to be a woman with a spotless house, but I really don’t want to clean it. I want to be a great cook, but I hate mimg_5797aking dinner.

Can you relate? So many times we want to be rather than do.

We want to be a perfect mother, rather than simply loving our children. We want be in a happy marriage, rather than intentionally working on it. We want to be friends with everyone, rather than forming lasting friendships. We want to be known as a servant, rather than having a true desire to serve. We want to be a minister, rather than quietly ministering to others right where we are.

Can it be that the desire to be all of these things comes from our desire for approval from other people, rather than God? We want everyone to think we are all of these things, so we just continue to put on a show day after exhausting day.

Meanwhile, we are silently screaming through our holy Facebook posts, staged Instagram photos, and seemingly squeaky-clean images, “Please see me! Please love me! Please think I’m important!” What we don’t realize is that the whole time we’re searching though the crowd for someone to respond, Jesus gently whispers, “I see you. I love you. You are important.”

I remember when I was a kid and I would come home and tell my mom when someone said something mean about me. She would always tell me the opposite and assure me they were wrong, but I remember thinking, “She’s my mom, of course she thinks that.” Instead of believing the loving words of the person who knew me best, I believed the hurtful words of a fellow 12 year old with their own issues and insecurities.

As an adult, I do the same thing. I believe the enemy’s lies about me, rather than the truth given by a loving Father who knows me best. I seek approval from others to affirm the lies are untrue instead of turning to God for my affirmation.

We were not put on this earth to please others. We were not meant to constantly try to prove our worth. We don’t need to be anything other than a loved child of God who desires to pass that love onto others and make Him known. It doesn’t have to be on a grand scale. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It might look messy or overly simple or terribly flawed to others, but if we were perfect we wouldn’t need God. And we so desperately need to need Him.

Sometimes our fears shift from not being able to please man to not being able to please God. The good news is…grace. God’s grace does not change based on our works or our sin. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever and His grace is sufficient for each and every one of us. We can’t mess up too much to lose His love or do enough to win it. It’s already ours. There is so much freedom in that truth!

On the other hand, does this truth give us the green light to do anything our flesh craves? Of course not.

“Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6:1

A life lived for Jesus is a life that strives to be more like him. We should avoid sin because it can and will lead to destruction in our lives and relationships. However, we are forgiven. We are understood. We are loved without condition.

I want to make a daily choice to look to God and God alone for my recognition, my approval, and my worth. I want to do rather than to be. And when I mess up, I want to breathe in His grace and know that I am loved by Him and that is enough.

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” Ephesians 3:18

BraveGirl Robyn

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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

Pure Joy

Pure Joy

It’s the end of Thanksgiving and I am traveling back from an incredible weekend of family fun, belly laughs and of course… endless amounts of ridiculous food that is sure to add on those awesome lbs (insert eye roll emoji). And as we are traveling home- I couldn’t help but reflect on something so sweet. So pure. It’s the joy that radiates from my four year old son who is currently in the back seat staring out the window with a huge smile.

We just passed through a tunnel on our travel home. My son laughed with anticipation as we approached the tunnel laughing all the way through to the end. To him, its almost as exciting as if we had taken him to Disney world, accept this thrill only last about 45 seconds. Lol! And It happens every time we go through that tunnel… it’s pure joy.

I am currently on a face book fast, putting social media aside to focus on my loved ones.
I have only been on this break since right before thanksgiving. I am seeing things I haven’t seen in a while. I am watching, gazing, taking in and enjoying the moment. And my son, well, he has something special. A contagious laugh and a smile that simply leaves me undone at times.

You see, my four year old hasn’t yet had to deal with the harsh parts of life like you and I. He hasn’t dealt with things like rejection. He hasn’t yet been wounded in the deep places of his heart. He hasn’t struggled with hard issues, broken relationships or fears that will rob him blind. He hasn’t had Joy stolen by the loss or betrayal of a loved one. He hasn’t dealt with not feeling good “enough” or the unending insecurities of how he looks. He views life through the lens of innocence, loving EVERYTHING from a new 99 cent hot wheels car to embracing EVERYONE he meets with a big hug (and yes- this includes strangers!)
He simply is full of Joy.

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You and I can have that same kind of Joy, you know? Because REAL Joy is not measured by our circumstances, by our people, by our worldly value or worth.

It is measured by Jesus.

The authentic, one of a kind, never ending Joy giver. He is our Joy!
Joy was born in the person of Jesus Christ.

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11.

Joy is such an incredible gift to those who belong to Him and the power to choose joy comes from the Holy Spirit. God’s word clearly shows us that joy is an action choice we make because we follow Jesus Christ. The action can result in an incredible, tangible feeling – but they don’t always follow each other.
I believe that you and I can miss out on that gift because we are overloaded with our circumstances, weighed down by our troubles and we are striving to just survive. We don’t stop, listen, look, taste and touch the joy that may be right in front of us…Kind of like me observing my son. We essentially throw away a treasured gift (a free gift might I add) aside while we sit in our misery when Joy can be found right in front of us. Right in the presence of Jesus.

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I want to encourage you to turn up some worship music, make a list of thankfulness and praise or dance if you want to! Come into the presence of God and experience His gift of Joy that is waiting to be unwrapped by you. Take a moment to Stop. Listen. Look. Taste.Touch.
Feast on the fullness of Joy that Jesus longs to give you.

If you’re struggling to do that, then I ask…

What might you need to remove or set aside to experience this kind of Joy? What is stopping you from pursuing Him and living in His presence?

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The Giant

The Giant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BraveGirl Martha

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