I recently attended a funeral that was different than most funerals that I’ve attended in the past. Some things were the same of course…tears and hugs were definitely shed and shared among family and friends, there was a thoughtful slide show accompanied by worship music displaying a life well lived and loved. There was an anointed preacher, worship music, and the building itself was a church. So, yes, much of it was like a typical funeral.
But there was something different about this one. I sat there trying to put my finger on it. In fact, it was the first funeral where I didn’t really want to leave. Usually I’m ready to get the heck out of dodge when it comes to funerals…and even some weddings for that matter. But there was a peace, a hope, and tremendous love within the walls of the church that day. There was joy and there was laughter. It wasn’t a funeral at all. It was a celebration of a life that honored God and people.
The man’s name was Mr. Doug Lowrey. He was a man that inspired many for his tenacity and perseverance in everything he did. He beat to his own drum and everyone loved him for it. And if they didn’t love him for it, they couldn’t help but admire his ability to do it. And if you knew him well, you might end up beating your drum like his. He was that kind of a leader. A true legacy. He was a people person who relentlessly and fearlessly pursued people for the Lord and as a result, was loved by MANY and lives were changed…eternally changed.
As I reflected on why I didn’t want to leave the funeral, I remembered a line of wisdom I caught a long time ago,
“The people we hang around often reflect who we are.”
I realized the people filling the church that day possessed the same kind of qualities that Mr. Doug did. They were “Doug’s people” and he was theirs. They were people who loved God and who cared about and loved others well. I think most of them understood those words I mentioned above: peace, hope, love, and joy. And there Mr. Doug brought them all into one place and I was surrounded by them. THAT’s why I didn’t want to leave. I saw many familiar faces with hearts of gold and I knew that the faces I didn’t know, most likely shared the same heart. It’s the heart and spirit of God.
“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” -Galations 5:22
I knew that if anyone didn’t know God that day, they surely walked out feeling His presence and witnessing His love. And I know that’s exactly what Mr. Doug would have wanted.
That day was a sweet reminder of the simplicity of our role here on earth yet also the depth, weight, and long distance reach our role can carry if we do what we are called to do…love God and love people.
When the Pharisees asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37
Notice the order Jesus mentioned in loving God and people. He mentioned God first. It’s because God is the source of love, knowing who we are, and why we’re here. God has given us this moment in time in all of history to fulfill a purpose unique to each one of us. We can’t know that purpose until we know God first. And it’s important to note that “knowing” God is much more than believing in Him. It’s an intimate relationship with Him. Not surface level. He has too much to offer than just surface. And if you’re like me and most people, you want more. The good news about our Lord is that He offers limitless abundance. And it’s FREE.
I know Mr. Doug wasn’t perfect. None of us are. But he understood why he was here and many people go their entire lives and never know. He understood because he knew and pursued God. Because of that, his purpose flowed and lives were touched and changed.
So if you’re struggling to find your way, then start where Mr. Doug started… with Jesus. As you discover Him, you’ll find yourself. Your purpose will take root. In fact, it already has. He’s just waiting on you to seek Him and find it.
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33
Thank you Mr. Doug for blessing my life and for the gift of reminding me of the BEAUTY, the POWER, and the IMPORTANCE of pursuing God above all else and how that pursuit not only changes us and guides us, but it changes the lives of those around us. THAT’S a purpose worth living for and there’s nothing else I want more.
R.I.P. Doug Lowrey
“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…”
Words from a post I wrote a little over a year ago titled “My Prodigal Husband“.
Words that still rang true exactly one month ago today…
But MAY I SHOUT a little here at BraveGirl Community today?!! Because…
MY PRODIGAL HUSBAND HAS RETURNED HOME!!! He is REALLY HOME! Can I get an AMEN?!!!
So they began to CELEBRATE .-Luke 15:24
Friends – I would love for you to praise the Father for His goodness and His faithfulness for what HE has done! I am in awe of His relentless pursuit of my man.
God NEVER gave up on him.
And can I just say that if you are reading this and you are in the wait for your prodigal to return, you’re in the wait for that miracle, you’re in the wait for that answer to a long awaited prayer…We SERVE a GOD who is Faithful and who is ON TIME…even when we don’t understand. I wrote a post titled In The Wait as I longed for my husband to return. I hope it encourages you and reminds you of who our God is.
My “wait” has been a 10 year journey and I have experienced every kind of emotion and heartache imaginable. And I can tell you, with confidence, that I would not trade a single day. Because without each and every trial- I wouldn’t have grown or known Jesus like I do right now. The fruit I am experiencing in this moment is priceless. It’s a sweetness of the Father lavishly loving on His children…It’s a contagious laughter that had been stifled by the lack of joy in my home…It’s a feeling of UNITY where the enemy THOUGHT he divided and conquered…
JESUS is the way maker where there seems to be NO WAY.
Below is a video of my husband and I having the privilege to share a small part of our story.
I pray it will encourage you wherever you are and whatever you may be going through to remember the relentless pursuit of God and that our Hope is in Jesus ALONE. He WILL NOT stop pursuing the one…
DO. NOT. GIVE. UP.
Scott and Cheryl share a part of their journey. Click here to watch: https://vimeo.com/225758712
Your Sister In Christ,
“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)
We hear about abiding. Abiding in Jesus. Abiding in His Word. Abiding in the vine. But what does that mean? How does this work? It should be easy, right? But some days, abiding can feel hard and maybe even scary. We feel far from God or question if we are “doing it right.”
A few months ago, I was praying and felt like God gave me this beautiful picture of what it looks like to abide in Him:
I look out. My view is breathtaking. I see Amazon-like rainforest stretching out as far as the eye can see. Lush green growth. Hills and trees far into the distance. I am up above it all but also surrounded by thick leafy green. My view is shaded and framed by branches and leaves, a thick canopy above me and a living floor of leaves and ferns below me. I am clinging to a vine, suspended high above the ground. This vine I cling to is The Vine. It is thick and strong and healthy. Even with my full weight on it, it is secure. I am confident it can and will hold forever and never fail if I continue to cling to it. So, I cling. I hold it with a death-like grip that makes my hands ache. I cling with everything I have out of fear of what will happen if I don’t. I am safe, but there isn’t rest.
As I cling there, I begin to look around. I see other vines hanging nearby. They aren’t nearly as thick and strong as The Vine, but I think, “If I just grab onto one or two of those as well, I will be more secure. After all, more is better. Right?” I reach out and grab one vine. Then I notice two more close by so I grab those as well. These other vines seem to be helpful. They seem to add to my security. They are things like money, recognition, relationships, careers, material things. However, with each small vine I add, my grip on The Vine gradually loosens as it becomes just one among many that I am trying to grasp.
Suddenly, one of the small vines fails and falls to the ground. I am shaken to the core as the earth seems to crumble around me, and I slip down until I grip The Vine once again. Over time, this happens again and again. All the other vines fail. Some quickly. Some over time. But one by one they all fail. They all fail to last. They all fail to give true security. They all fail to be trustworthy and faithful.
After surviving these failures and disappointments time and time again, I realize something.
THE Vine is still there. The one that has always been there. The Vine that is secure. The Vine that is strong. The Vine that has never failed and will never fail.
I realize something else as well. I am still clinging. Even though life has been filled with heartache, I am still clinging, and I still know deep in my heart this is the only vine that will last. I will cling only to it. The other vines are still there, always nearby. From time to time one falls to the ground. But now, their falling does not cause me to be shaken because I am holding on to The Vine.
So, instead of looking around for other vines to grab, I begin to look at and study The Vine. The more I pay attention to The Vine, the more I notice and love about it. I see how full of life it is. How it never withers. I notice tendrils perfectly placed to secure my feet and give my hands a rest. I spot another place where I can entwine my arms. Each of these revelations brings me closer to The Vine. I am becoming part of The Vine, truly abiding and resting in its love rather than clinging to it out of fear. I allow The Vine to wrap around me, it is a restful and relaxing place. My fears, once so strong,—fear of disappointing others, fear of failure, fear of death—have fallen to the ground along with the other vines. Those fears have been replaced by appreciation and admiration and love for The Vine that has held when all others have fallen. I am being held securely by The One True Vine.
In fact, I feel so secure and free that I begin to swing. I throw my head back, hair blowing in the wind, and I swing. I feel the freedom of a child on a playground, and I swing. I feel ready for whatever lies ahead because I am with The Vine, and I swing. I laugh and smile and breathe in life as I swing with Jesus, The Vine.
I am so thankful for this beautiful picture God has shared with me, and now I get to share with you. He has reminded me of it so many times when I begin to chase after and cling to something other than Him. He has also reminded me of these truths.
More of Jesus is the only thing that is truly and eternally better.
All other things will pass away. Everything else will wither and fade and disappoint, but God will remain forever—faithful, loving, and true. He will never leave me or forsake me.
Jesus came that I might have life and have it more abundantly. Abundant life is found when abiding in Him. When I abide in Him, He will abide in me. Wrapping His powerful arms around me. Loving me with His perfect and never-ending love. Speaking truth to my heart. Holding me in his nail-scarred hands.
Insecurity is an absolute Robber.
It steals joy.
It removes peace.
It dulls vision.
It stops dreams.
It creates fear.
It destroys relationships.
It hinders WHO YOU ARE in every way, shape and form.
Insecurity stops us in our tracks. We will sway to the left or to the right removing our focus on the straight path before us.
The first part of John 10:10 says,
“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy”
BUT hear the good news…
Your God LOVES you.
You are ENOUGH.
You are WORTHY.
You are CHOSEN.
You are HAND PICKED by your God.
He is molding YOU, shaping YOU and forming YOU into his likeness.
Insecurity causes a false belief of who you are. Throw it off and RUN with Jesus! You were made to be secure in Christ and Christ ALONE.
When that revelation penetrates your heart and you know his truth, you can be SECURE. CONFIDENT. FEARLESS. ALL…for Jesus!
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
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.
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?
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.
May we be women who embrace truth, encourage each other, and enjoy the season of life we’re currently in!
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.
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
Have you ever seen those cheeky graphic tees with the phrase “You Can’t Sit With Us” plastered boldly across the chest? Personally, the cute factor of such an isolating phrase is lost on me, but maybe I’m still working through some residual pain of being that middle-school-aged girl who truly was uninvited.
I’m thankful my Savior would never say that to me. In fact, if Jesus had worn graphic tees back in his earth-inhabiting days, I’m sure His would have said, “You CAN sit with us.” And the invitation would have been real and all-inclusive. That’s just how Jesus lived his life; he made a pointed effort to notice the unnoticed and call the unworthy to do big things with their lives.
Romans 5:11 says that because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we have been made “Friends of God.”
You guys, we’re in. We’re worthy. Not because of anything we can do but because of everything Jesus did. I’m blown away by this title: Friend of God. My natural inclination is to question my place in Jesus’ group, to feel I haven’t earned my spot, or worry Jesus might notice I’ve crept into his circle and decide to cast me out.
But Jesus will never do that to you or me. He’s the best friend we could ever have.
And because we have been eternally accepted by Him, our lives become part of something so much bigger than anything we could ever accomplish on our own:
“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of UNDESERVED PRIVILEGE where we now stand, and we CONFIDENTLY and JOYFULLY look forward to sharing God’s glory.”
Being a friend of Jesus means so much more than just getting a front-row seat to all the incredible ways Jesus works and touches lives; it means that sometimes we get called onstage to play a significant part. We get to participate right alongside Jesus in getting our hands dirty and changing the world. As members of his crew, we have a purpose, and are delegated unique tasks by Him that only we can accomplish.
There is no one in this world that God can’t use or doesn’t want to use. There is not a person in this world that God doesn’t desire a close friendship with. So if you’re wondering where your place is, go ahead and approach Him with the confidence that you have already been called, and there’s a seat saved for you.
Put yourself back in the cafeteria of middle school. Timid, and clutching your tray, you quickly scan the room for an empty seat near someone who desires your presence. To your surprise, instead of multiple tables scattered across the room, each surrounded by various cliques, there is just one large table. Everyone’s favorite friend is seated at the head, and one empty chair is open next to Him. You make eye contact, and all your anxieties wash away. He smiles with radiant joy at the sight of you and waves you over to the empty chair right next to Him. His friends turn to see whom the object of His excitement is, and upon realizing it’s you, excitedly join Him in welcoming you over.
He stands with sincerity as you approach, looks you in the eye, and says, “You can sit with us. You are wanted here.”