What I Missed In The Melting Pot

What I Missed In The Melting Pot

I’m a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white woman. I was southern-born and raised, and I currently live in the heart of Bible Belt country. I’m an organ donor, mother, wife, Christian, and an introvert. And there’s a good chance that as you read the previous statements you have begun forming an internal opinion about me.

I, like you, have been labeled by things I cannot change or control, like the region I was born into or the color of my skin. Then there are the labels I chose and I love, like being a mom or trusting in Jesus Christ.

I was an extremely sheltered child. My parents exposed me to plenty of scripture, but my interactions with people from other cultures and ethnicities were limited. When it came time for me to fly the nest and go to college, I was most comfortable with people who looked, talked, and thought like I did. I felt safe with “my kind of people.”

It wasn’t until I was twenty-four years old that my eyes were opened to the treasure it is to know and befriend those from cultures unlike my own. With my husband, I lived on a Caribbean island for two years, followed by another two years spent living on Long Island, New York. I was a newlywed and a young school teacher experiencing life on two islands, both melting pots, that shattered so many preconceived notions I didn’t even know I had formed. So many new things going on in my life at once!

Our roommates and closest friends for those four years influenced me tremendously. The families of the students I taught gave me glimpses into their world and I eagerly soaked it all in. The children and their parents even re-defined the concept of grace to my legalistic mind. God used so many people in those four years to chisel away at my label giving, self-protecting heart, forever impacting my life.

But here’s the thing…while my soul was beginning to be awakened, I still wasn’t fully awake yet.

Not once in those years when I saw her every day did I ask my Muslim roommate what it was like for her growing up. I don’t remember ever sitting across from her and genuinely making an effort to get to know her or her roots better. I didn’t take time to ask my precious students’ families what life was like in Asia or Africa – or even Europe for that matter – before they made the move to New York.

All the affection and interest I had for my new friends never made it past my lips. Although intrigued by the different cultures that surrounded me, I still warmed myself by the fire of self absorption and found shelter and refuge in my own little bubble. My southern comfort zone and my severe insecurities prevented me from looking outside myself for even a few moments to make connections. I wasted opportunity after opportunity to form relationships that went beyond the shallow and superficial small talk.

As I have reflected back on that time, I wish I would have done things differently. I’ve had to ask myself some uncomfortable and REAL questions…

What is most precious to you and God?

Is it rules and legalism or relationships and love?

Has your pride engulfed your ability to be humble?

Do you value tradition or seek truth?

Would you rather argue to be right or listen to gain new perspectives?

Are your words dripping in hostility or bathed in understanding?

Have you sought self-preservation over loving your neighbor?

Who have you written off with a label?

Couldn’t you wrap them up with love by pursuing a sincere interest in their lives instead?

I often ask myself these questions trying to redeem the time I wasted, trying to make right where I missed the mark.

God and people – the two most important things on this planet. It may sound cliche, but I’m going to write it anyway. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

If you’re struggling to understand what exactly that looks like, you can take a look at the greatest example who ever walked the earth: Jesus – God in the flesh. He lived a life of sacrifice, daring to venture into the world of those nobody else even noticed. He spent zero time pushing a political agenda. He never responded out of fear, hatred, or self promotion. He responded with intentional love focused solely on PEOPLE. He did not live unto Himself; instead He lived to die for us. The ultimate servant.

THE. Servant.

Today we are watching people hurt each other with no desire to love them or understand them. From my experience, insult has never been an effective form of persuasion. But Love has. Let’s follow the example given to us from God himself. Let’s SERVE one another and seek to know, understand, and love others…just as Christ loved us. There’s no better way to show people who God is than to live as He lived. That’s the whole point isn’t it?

Will you join me in breaking through those self protecting walls? Let’s open our lives up to be vessels and let God use us to show others who he REALLY is.

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Good Good Father

Good Good Father

Last weekend, my family and I attended an event full of loud music, excitement and intense cheering. My three (almost four) year old was so excited, clapping and cheering as he gazed at all the incredible scenes going on around him, dancing, singing, cheering, shouting, and music that was so loud you could feel the beat shaking the floor beneath you. He LOVED the atmosphere, the intensity, the fun …and then…as if someone snapped a finger hypnotizing him…he crashed. He fell fast asleep, drool and all, as the event continued on in its’ excitement and decibels.

He was sitting in my husband’s lap when he faded into dream land, and praise God that he was, because he’s a BIG boy. My arms could never have sustained my son’s weight when he’s in his deepest sleep. It’s like holding massive amounts of concrete. NO joke!

But here is the beauty of what I want to share with you about that sweet moment. When the event was over, my husband gently got up trying not to wake him from his sleep. As I watched him carry my son from the auditorium all the way out to our car…I instantly saw a glimpse of our Father. The. Father.

The Father who carries us when we are weak and burdened.

The Father who carries us when we are so overwhelmed and cannot take another step.

The Father who carries us when we are beyond fearful of what’s ahead.

The Father who carried the sins of the world so that you and I can be forgiven…Eternally.

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He’s a Good Good Father.
It’s His nature, the very being of who He is.

My son didn’t have a care in the world. He was enjoying deep sleep because he was SECURE in the arms of his daddy. As hard and long as the walk was for my husband, he was determined to carry his son ALL the way. What a beautiful picture of how Jesus looks at His children and says,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,

and I will give you rest.”

He longs to be good to you and carry ALL your burdens ALL the way…if only you will let him. He doesn’t care about the heaviness, the hurt, the uncomfortable or how long it takes. He is a GOOD Father who longs to embrace His son or daughter simply because He LOVES you.
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He is a Good Good Father…a good daddy…there is no one else like Him. Let him pick you up today, take your burdens and carry you through…All the way. He is waiting to do just that. What burdens are you facing today? Will you let Him carry them…and you?

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Embracing the Mess

Embracing the Mess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BraveGirl Martha

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The King’s Daughters

The King’s Daughters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BraveGirl Martha

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For Those Who Struggle In the Month of Weddings

For Those Who Struggle In the Month of Weddings

June is the month of weddings. My Facebook feed is filled with beautiful pictures of love. Couples getting married and couples celebrating their years of wedded bliss. I read beautiful sentiments of love and adoration from wives and husbands. I see pictures of young love with their whole lives stretching before them and you can see the fairy tale dreaming in their eyes.

Yesterday was my turn. My turn to celebrate 18 years of being married to the guy who loves me best. As we shared publicly our love and commitment to each other and received warm “happy anniversary’s” from loved ones, I could not help but think about the countless people who hurt over broken marriages, unrealized dreams and pain of the past. Many of my friends are battling major hurts in their own marriages. So if I could sit with you this morning and share with you from my heart, this is what I’d say.

You are loved with an everlasting love

“…I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love;

with unfailing love I have drawn myself to you” ~Jeremiah 31:3

In a time when love withers and fades, it’s hard to remember this truth. We love so imperfectly, but our Creator is the lover of our souls. His character is unchanging and it is impossible for Him to stop loving His creation. He chooses to love us. We cannot earn that love nor do we deserve His love. The very essence of His character is love. If you are feeling unloved today, you need to rest in the truth that regardless of any circumstance or situation, your heavenly Father adores you. He delights in you. He rejoices over you with singing. He is your fairy tale and your happily ever after.

Only Jesus can heal your broken heart

“He heals the brokenhearted and bandages up their wounds” ~Psalm 147:3

We often look everywhere but the cross for healing. Your spouse will not make you whole. Your children, money, success, food, sex, alcohol, and friends…will not and can not make you whole. We can not fix ourselves. While counseling is good…counseling in and of itself can not restore what is lost. There is no striving to be done, no work to do.

Healing is a choice to rest in the finished work of the cross. That’s where it starts. Your husband will never be able to “complete you.” You are only complete through the blood of Jesus. When you surrender your agenda, relationships, plans and future to the Lord, He responds with his redemptive work. He alone can change the heart of man, and He can be trusted with your pain. He can turn your mourning into dancing.

Do not walk alone

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed” ~Ecclesiastes 4:9

We were created for community. You do not have to struggle on your own. Reach out. Find a Christian counselor, involve your pastor and get in a small group. Share your story, even when it’s not pretty. Ask to be prayed over. Find a church of grace givers and let them speak truth to you. Fight the urge to isolate and believe the lie that no one will understand or that only condemnation will follow if you share your pain and your sin. God uses his people to point the way to healing and victory in Him. Lean into Jesus and take the risk of trusting His people. We are better together.

Choose joy

“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble and keep on praying” ~Romans 12:12

Even in the middle of dark days, you can choose joy. On days when you don’t know where you will find the strength to face your spouse or when you don’t have it in you to fight for your marriage, remember this truth; the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Joy is found in Jesus, not our circumstances. It is possible to have victory over our emotions and to choose gratitude and joy, even in suffering. It’s a game changer, I promise.

Sweet friend who is hurting, whose marriage is on the brink of divorce, you need to know that God is for you. He is for your marriage and He will fight for you. He is merciful and even when our earthly love fails, His never does.

BraveGirl Angie

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Blessings of a Full Dishwasher

Blessings of a Full Dishwasher

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I opened my dishwasher on a Friday afternoon and my eyes filled with tears. But not for the usual reasons. Not because it melted yet another one of my son’s favorite sippy cups. Not because I was so weary of housework that I barely had enough energy to unload it. Not because I’m a wife and mother of two small children, which meant the burden of most of the household responsibilities fell on me and I was feeling sorry for myself again.

Not this time.

No, this time things were different. This time, my tears were tears of joy…and thanksgiving.

I was emotional over a full dishwasher because it meant things had finally changed. We had one more person at the dinner table where there once was an excruciating void.

My husband had come home.

Just four months earlier, my husband of 14 happy years walked out. I was left alone and confused and betrayed. I was served divorce papers. I was left to care for our children on my own. My heart was shattered. I had been told I wasn’t loved by the one person I loved the most. I had been rejected and abandoned.

But not by my Jesus.

He held my hand and my heart. He whispered promises into my very soul. He sent his people to care for me, encourage me, and pray for me. He comforted my children. He provided our every need. He spoke life and truth to me daily through his word. He told me not to give up.

What happened?

My husband came back…in fact, he came home with a new light in his eyes and a fire in his spirit.

Jesus had been working in him just as he had been working in me.

God rescued him and made him a new creation. What I heard God whisper as I fell on my face before Him so many times was true. All things are possible through Christ who gives me strength.

It took a battle like that to open my eyes.

I have a different perspective today. God has placed His divine, unconditional love in my heart. He has restored and renewed my marriage and my family. It took the worst experience of my life to change my perspective.

I know now

A full dishwasher means there have been meals shared on actual plates with conversations and warmth and a sense of family. It means we are blessed with food to eat and more importantly, people to share it with.

Serving my family and loving them as imperfect as they are is a joy, not a burden.

Laundry overflowing means I have a house full of people to love. People who play hard and experience much and have the wrinkles and stains to prove it.

A mess of toys all over my living room floor means I am blessed with children who won’t be children for long, but who find joy and happiness and laughter in my home.

A husband who keeps me awake with his snoring means I share my bed and my heart with someone who has chosen to be there. Someone who continues to choose to be there, no matter how much work it takes to be able to crawl into that bed night after night.

Wives. Mothers. Women. I know many of you today are battling in the trenches facing difficulties in your marriage or with your children, dealing with the busyness of life, the stresses, the fatigue, the worry. I encourage you today…Don’t Give Up! Pray for your family. Fight for them. And…

Strive for a heart like Jesus.

Strive to see and love your family and others the way He sees and loves you.

“God can raise marriages from the dead and He can restore life and purpose to those who have given up. He can forgive and purify the vilest sinner. God’s specialty is raising dead things to life and making impossible things possible. You don’t have a need that exceeds His power.” – Beth Moore

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No matter what you are battling today, never give up. Let Him fight for you. He will reward you for your faithfulness because you are His child.

“Let us not be weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

BraveGirl Robyn

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Scandalous Grace

Scandalous Grace

A sweet friend dealing with resentment, pain, and the raw realities of life, recently suffered a loss within her family. A hard loss because he was a VERY close family member, yet also a freeing loss because he was her abuser (in every sense of the word) when she was a child and even as an adult. So many mixed emotions. I can’t imagine.

She made a very powerful statement through text today followed by an even more powerful question. It was honest and raw, coming from a place of deep wounds that seem immune to healing.

She texted,

“I have learned you can do whatever in life you want no matter how bad and before you die ask God for his forgiveness and you can go to heaven…

so why do the footwork?”

I sat there staring at that text, my heart aching for her, wondering…could I offer any response that would even come close to providing some sense of understanding and comfort to a person that has been affected so deeply by this broken person and our broken world? As I pondered my response, I asked God to show me what to say, and before I knew it, my fingers were texting her back. I’ve summed up part of our text messages in this post and added more thoughts as I’ve continued to work this question out in my head.

We certainly are not forced to accept God or do anything for Him during our time on this earth. So yes, we could live our entire lives rejecting God and “doing whatever we want no matter how bad” and then choose Him as we lay there on our death bed…IF we get that luxury of having the moment to ponder and talk to God before our death.

The thief on the cross next to Jesus got that chance. He said to Jesus, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” The other criminal on the cross rejected Jesus to his death, but the thief that accepted Jesus as Lord lived on with Him into paradise. My thoughts…

Praise God he never gives up on us…no matter how long we have rejected Him…

HE. STILL. WANTS. US.

That simple fact alone makes me love God even more. It may not seem like justice to some, especially those who have pursued God’s will their entire lives or to those who have been deeply wounded like my sweet friend. It can be difficult to understand this level of grace. But that is who God is. He never gives up on us. He never stops loving us. His arms are always open no matter what we’ve done or how long we’ve done it. He just wants us to choose Him.

“So why do the footwork?”

Jesus said,

“You are the light of the world…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:14-16)

If we do the footwork for God on this earth,

we activate His light to people who don’t know Jesus.

He chose US to spread His word.

He didn’t have to. He wanted to. He wants to work His power in and through us while we face the troubles of this world so that we can experience Him and that others may see His work in us and BELIEVE.

His Power is a power that heals.
A Power that transforms…freeing us from the bondage of countless strongholds.
A Power that shows love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, gentleness, self control – qualities that we struggle to possess if we are left to our own will.
A Power that serves others beyond what our human hearts are capable of doing.
A Power that forgives the unforgivable.
A Power that gives us a new confidence to live life boldly for Him.

I could go on and on about what His power can do in us. There’s nothing that radiates His glory more than that transforming power.

I would rather live my days out on this earth experiencing God like that than live them without him… banking on the chance that at the very last moment I’ll get to choose Him. Praise God for that last moment if you are so graciously offered that opportunity. But you still would miss out on so much awesomeness you could have experienced in your time on earth. Let’s get real, living for sin is only fun for a season. It eventually leads to emptiness. That’s because you were created for so much more than that…you were created to DO the footwork.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10)

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It’s IN the footwork where His light shines the most in US.

It changes us and it changes the world.

Because of the footwork,

We Are Blessed and God Is Glorified.

If there is footwork you’re avoiding today, my prayer is that you will take the next brave step towards experiencing God’s power in your life, that you may be transformed, freed, and renewed, that your light will shine even brighter bringing glory to our Father in Heaven. Amen.

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Brave Girl Christy

My Prodigal Husband

My Prodigal Husband

Before I even begin this post, I want you to know that I have full permission from my beloved husband to share this with you today. Every word written in this post has been approved by my one and only…and I appreciate his willingness to allow me to be so transparent in the hope to bring encouragement to someone who needs to hear it. Love you babe!

Now onto my post…

It was a beautiful day in June, 2001, the day we said “I DO”. Every single detail I had planned for the last year had come to life! From the beautiful bushels of off white roses trimmed in pink to the blush colored bridesmaids’ dresses (9 to be exact!). The music was heavenly with the warmth of candles everywhere. The dress…well, it was off white satin and the top of the bodice draped in jewels…it was stunning. It only took me 500 hundred other dresses too pick the perfect one (I KNOW some of you can relate- lol!).

The intro to “Hear Comes the Bride” began to play. The doors flung open and I made my way down the long center aisle. All eyes were on me, especially from the guy at the end…he was my prize. There stood my prince, my best friend, the love of my life…the one God had perfectly planned for me.

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Scott was my college sweetheart. He was handsome, charming, smart and he loved God. He was one of the reasons I had grown so much in my relationship with the Lord at that time. He had a love and a reverence for God that I had never seen in a male before-it was contagious. I wanted a husband like that…So, I snatched him up.

There we stood before our friends and family and our God declaring our love and our promise to each other. We even wrote our own vows filled with promise and truth of what was to come.

We had made a covenant that would not be broken…for better or worse, until death do us part. It was a marriage in pursuit of God being the absolute center. A marriage that would reflect Christ in every way…A marriage that would be built on Scott being the strong spiritual leader of our home, raising our future children to know Jesus…A marriage where we would run our race together. I knew that life may not always be perfect, but with God at the center, we were sure to succeed.

That day was a dream come true for me. Little did I know how my life would change and my vows would be tested…

Fast forward about 8 years and my life was turned upside down.

All that I had planned, dreamed and desired to have in a marriage had been stolen by endless doubt, harassing questions and ultimately Scott walking away from God. He had become my prodigal husband.

We were now a house divided, not a home of unity…

No more spiritual leader. No more praying together. No more God being the center of our marriage. No more leading small groups together. No more praying with our children before bed. No more dreams of running our race together.

The day Scott walked away, I grieved. I grieved as if he had died. I would have never imagined that our life would change so drastically. For months we struggled to make it work. The hurt, the grief, the sadness, the anger, the division, it was all too much. We were like two roommates living under one roof and we were on very different roads now. The more I went left, the more he went right. The more I grew closer to God, the more he went further away. We had always said divorce was NEVER an option, but suddenly that word was being tossed around like the words “I love you” use to be. Neither one of us were sure we would survive…

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I have spent countless hours in prayer and on my knees over this prodigal husband of mine. I have learned what it means to go to battle. I have learned what it means to be a prayer warrior (a term I thought was for all those “super spiritual” people). I have learned grace, unconditional love and patience. But above all that, I have learned the faithfulness of my God. He’s been so good even in the midst of this hardship. I would not be who I am today without this trial. I can honestly say I am grateful for how God has used every piece to shape and mold me into who I am today. I have been in the deep dark of hopelessness, but I have also seen great light. I have seen God move, heal and restore my marriage in countless ways and I have full expectation to see more!

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Fast forward another 8 years…and here we are. Things are not perfect and we are still a house divided, but we have learned and continue to learn grace and unconditional love. We will celebrate 15 years of marriage in just a few weeks, and looking back, I wasn’t even sure we would ever get here. We have experienced more valleys then I would like to admit over these last eight years, but there have been beautiful mountain tops too! We have three incredible kids, two of which have come to know Jesus- Amen! I am just praying for my three year old son to sit still long enough to even hear from God! Lol!

My husband is incredibly supportive of all that I do with women’s ministry, leading worship and letting me continue to pour Jesus into my children. For that I am forever grateful.

This post is for the woman who has a “prodigal husband” or maybe a husband who has never even known the Lord and you are in the midst of the fight…DO NOT GIVE UP.

DO NOT GIVE UP believing that your God is ABLE.
DO NOT GIVE UP praying for your husband who desperately needs your prayers.
DO NOT GIVE UP when you are weary and want to bail out.
DO NOT GIVE UP in seeing God do what ONLY he can do.
DO NOT GIVE UP when the battle is raging…. you have an enemy who is out for your husband, out for your marriage and out for your family.
DO NOT GIVE UP because he is WORTH it.

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Had I given up years ago, I am not sure what my life would have looked like. But I know this for sure… I wouldn’t have had my beautiful son, who is now three years old. I daily get to see the incredible relationship between my son and his daddy. Scott absolutely adores him. And it is a beautiful picture and reminder of the Father’s love for His son…His prodigal son.

DO NOT GIVE UP.

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Made for Me (A Dress-Shopping Adventure)

Made for Me (A Dress-Shopping Adventure)

Just before Mother’s Day, my daughter turned 7. We celebrated with a trip to Baskin Robbins.

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The next night, we took her gift card to a clothing store so she could buy some dresses.
I decided that for Mother’s Day this year I wanted to buy a new dress.
After 11 dresses, I left the store empty-handed and not feeling great about myself.
You see, before children, I was pretty body-confident. I’d gone up in weight during college, but worked at getting fit before getting married.
After two children, my body returned to the illusion of normal. After my third daughter, my abs never fully connected.
And, in the right outfits, you can’t tell.

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This is my belly button. Color blocking is supposed to give me curves, but the waist hit too high with this dress.

But, given the wrong fit, well, the preschoolers aren’t afraid to ask eagerly if I have “a baby in my tummy”??

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Side-ruching is supposed to give you an hourglass figure. This dress was not too tight, but the fabric gathered at the most unfortunate place for me. (see next photo)

 

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This dress makes me look pregnant. Or reveals that I was pregnant-three times over. So much for side-gathers.

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This was actually the closest to a “yes” all night, but the flowers? Too big.

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It was SO cute on the hanger!

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I wanted to say “yes” to the dress, but this was another “no”.

 

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Modest is hottest, right?

 

By the time I got to that last dress, I just wanted to cover myself up. Why was everything in so many different colors and styles still so wrong?!!

I googled my body type at home that night. It turns out, those dresses I tried on? Not made for me. My body type is not an apple or a pear. (Or any form of triangle or hourglass). I’m a banana.
Or as they now say, “rectangle”. That means that my middle is pretty much the same as my hips and shoulders. It’s nicer than calling me a hot dog. Or an eggplant.
But, the point here is that if something isn’t made for us, it’s not going to fit.
We’re not going to feel comfortable and we’re not going to be confident.

I do have dresses that fit me and that I feel great in.
Maybe I don’t need anything new. Maybe I need to remember what I have. And maybe in my heart, I need to remember who made me.

Healthy eating and working out can be wonderful, but if we’re obsessed with them, they become idols. We are worshiping our bodies instead of the One who made our bodies.
Raising our kids and doing a good job are noble goals, but even our children can become an idol if they become more important than God.
There’s only one throne in our life. It’s up to us to choose who’s on the seat. Is it me and my ability to be “supermom”? Is it my husband? Is it my kids?
I want to surrender that throne to God, and He’s so gentle to remind me when I’m crowding the seat.

The song “Have it All” by Bethel has really ministered to me lately. I’m not the all-Perfect One. I’m not the all-Holy One.
But, if I’m trying to live up to that, then I am trying to be God. No wonder I’m tired and constantly failing to meet my expectations!

God has placed you and I on the Earth right now to minister to people around us. We don’t have to change to be useful. We just have to be willing to be used.

How about you? Have you been discouraged by something lately? How can we pray for you?

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A Beautiful Storm

A Beautiful Storm

I’ve had the phrase “A Beautiful Storm” in my head for weeks now. It’s a strange oxymoron. How can something so tumultuous be considered lovely? How can something painful also contain such beauty?

My husband and I, after almost six years of battling infertility, got a phone call yesterday from the fertility clinic with the results of our first round of IUI (intrauterine insemination). We were giddy and hopeful at what the results might be. I had even taken a photo of the sunrise that morning with the plan to post it the day I announced our good news of an achieved pregnancy. I had allowed myself to imagine hearing the words, “You are pregnant” for the first time in my life.

But instead, I heard the voice on the other end of the line say, “The results are negative.” And the storm clouds rolled in right on cue, bringing along self-pity, hopelessness, and just plain sorrow.

So here I sit, cheeks tear-stung, with the intention (and determination) of telling you that even in the midst of this storm, I still see the beauty in it. Not because I’m anything special or more spiritually mature, but because I can’t deny the beauty I’ve seen transpire over the past few years. I refuse to not see it.

Please, even in the midst of your own struggle, try not to roll your eyes, close off your heart, or write me off. I know what it’s like to read a verse of encouragement quickly, not truly believing those words apply to me. I know what it’s like to feel crappy and want to make a home of it, complete with tacos, a heavy blanket, and no social contact whatsoever.

Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard is that God is big enough to handle our emotions. Whether we’re angry, hurt, or confused by our circumstances, we are allowed to cry out to him and beat our hands on his chest. I believe allowing ourselves to feel pain is healthy and keeps us from putting up so many emotional walls that make us numb. The problems arise when we give ourselves permission to camp out in the negative emotions and to stay in a place of darkness, never opening our eyes to see God’s potential plan or purpose.

Being able to see theIMG_6032 beauty within a storm is understanding God’s presence in the midst of it. For me, I’ve grown deeper in my relationship with God over the past few years because I’ve needed him more. I’ve experienced more intimate conversations with him, spent more time in His Word, and felt his comforting arms wrapping around me when I’ve needed it the most. I can also see God using this season of infertility to work in my marriage. It’s no coincidence that my husband and I are closer than we’ve ever been because of this heartache we are walking through together. Unified in our desire to be parents, we take turns being strong for each other during the hard times. And in moments when we’re both down, God always shows up, surrounding us with friends and family to love on us, check in on us, and care for us.

Recognizing the beauty in your storm also means considering how you will be changed by the time the winds die down and the sun reappears. I’m always fascinated by the weathered, tattered, calloused hands of an older man, roughened and scarred from the labor of a hard but productive life. Those hands tell an interesting story, one worthy of admiration and respect. Those hands tell the story of a man who didn’t give up.

While I’m not saying I want calloused hands when I get older, I am saying I want to leave a legacy of someone who never gave up. I want to walk through trials remembering that I’m someone who has been promised a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). I’m never alone because I am His. (Joshua 1:9; Deuteronomy 31:6)

No beautiful statue is created without some chiseling. The more intense the chiseling, the more intricate and admirable the result. Could it be that the more time God spends chiseling us, the bigger plans He has for us? Could it be that He loves you so much He’s giving you a story worth telling some day?

I encourage you to look around and see the beauty surrounding you. How can you walk away from this storm stronger? What are you learning about yourself? About God?

Let’s pretend we’re seamen and resolve to sail our ships with strong, weathered hearts, doused in truth from God’s word, strong eyes focused ahead on Him. When the waves crash over us, let’s cling to our Solid Rock of Salvation and relentlessly trust Him.

“…But we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

BraveGirl Martha

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