Faith

Faith

I used to pray for unshakeable faith. I wanted to be steadfast in belief that God would always come through, never doubting His goodness.

When things go right, when life is smooth… it’s easy to have faith. It’s like breathing, how easy and natural it is to shout His praises and share your good news and blessings.

You breathe in His presence and breathe out your testimony, like Aslan blowing life onto the statues in Narnia.

Our faith and testimony release life-giving encouragement to people in pain, the people in the midst of hardship and struggle. Seeing how mountains were moved for us unlocks their vision, they take heart that their mountains can move too.

But sometimes, we aren’t the Aslan in the story. We are the statue, hardened and in desperate need of the Life-Breath.

Suffering and difficulty swirl around like a funnel cloud of fury and deception. It clouds our judgement and all we see is pain, the Why’s and the When’s of our prayer requests being whipped about like shingles ripped from a storm-torn house.

At first we cling to our knowledge of a Sovereign Father, but as the winds continue to screech and fear rumbles in the distance we might begin to wonder… What if? Where is He?

Grief and bitterness choke us like smoke and our faith doesn’t feel so strong, instead we feel weak and wavering.

The adversary whispers lies, “do you even really believe? Where is God now? There’s nothing left. You can’t do this.”

The steadfastness comes when we dig in our heels. This house will not be uprooted by the storm, because the foundation is 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗼𝗻𝗴.

You might be clinging to your faith by the width of a hair, but all you need is a mustard seed.

“Go,” you whisper to the lies. And they flee. The storm might not be over, but you stand awaiting the victory.

Your faith may shake in the face of the tornado, but the House The Lord Built won’t fall, even if the siding creaks.

The storm passes and the statue comes back to life, your heart beats again and you breathe in deep.

Now it’s your turn, share the story of the storm and breathe the Life-Breath on the next person worn thin by grief and trial.

Steadfast in action, faith like potatoes.

If this piece resonated with you in any way, I’d love for you to share it! You never know who may need the encouragement.

Come follow along with me at my Instagram! I share daily musings on faith, Biblical womanhood, homeschooling, urban gardening, and critical thinking.
Fueled by Jesus, imperfectly learning and living lessons every step of the way!

To The Single Woman of God

To The Single Woman of God

This post is for every woman who loves Jesus and has experienced marriage or family focused ministry and felt left out or forgotten.

This post is for any woman who wants to understand her single sister’s heart.

This post is for the woman who needs to be reminded that she isn’t worth any less because she isn’t married or doesn’t have kids.


I follow quite a few pages and blogs from Christian women; devotionals, inspiration, lifestyle, theology, etc.

Most of it, I’ve noticed, can be geared toward wives and mothers. Attending a few churches and conferences, I’ve seen the same thing.

What about the single women though?

Sometimes women’s ministry isn’t inclusive of divorced women, single women, single moms, or women whose husbands aren’t Christian.

On my personal social media I made a post asking:

Dear female friends who are single, what have been some things that people have said to you that were not helpful in your season of singleness?

What things do you need to hear, or would be helpful?

What ways could the Church better support those who are single?

Do you find that church or ministry is often marriage-centric?

If you could ask for something or bring something to a leader’s attention about your spiritual needs what would you say?

The responses I received grieved my heart.

“You just have to trust God.”

^ so I’m single because I haven’t “trusted God” ? What does that mean to you? How do I not meet the standard?

“Why are you still single?”

“The chances of you finding someone to be equally yoked with are extremely low.”

“I was told because of my weight that if someone (finally) showed interest in me that I should graciously accept because it may be the only chance I get. That if I really cared about quality I would lose weight.”

“What drove me crazy was that there was always the assumption singles were looking for a mate. There was one time during a family series where we were then split into categories for an activity. He said he covered every category but literally the only category for singles was single and looking, everything for that group was around finding a spouse. It was maddening! My divorced mom was also there and had no “category” either. It felt as though my value to the church and to God didn’t start until I had a spouse. I was actually concerned about the opposite- that if I got married it would hinder my pursuit of the Lord. No one in the church seemed to have a grid for someone single who wasn’t longing for a spouse and family.”

I received comments and messages from women who were told their home didn’t have a “head” because their husband didn’t attend church.

I’m not single, but my husband no longer attends church and doesn’t practice any kind of personal faith. In my journey, I’ve had lots of time to see some of the harmful ways the church treats marriage as an idol, and how I had as well.

I’ve sat in sermons where the pastor has said, “There is nothing better than having a spouse who loves the Lord.” As if to say that singles, or those in my position somehow have less than God’s best.

I cling to Christ. Knowing Him deeply and in a way that assures me of the hope found only in Christ is better than any marriage.

I’ve also sat in leadership meetings for children’s ministry where the idea of husband and wife serving together has elevated status. Going to church alone, or taking my kids by myself, is hard enough (seriously difficult emotionally).

I don’t even know what the answer is, but there has to be a better way to approach this topic and not preach as if traditional, Christian marriage is the ultimate God experience and imply that those who don’t have that are not “as Christian.”

Personal message shared with permission.

Dear single woman of God:

You have value. Your worth is not dependent on a marriage or ring. You are a whole being, designed by God, showcasing His glory… Yes even without a husband.

Singleness isn’t a curse, and you aren’t a lower tier of Christian until you find “the one.” Your singleness is more than just preparation for marriage.

You are more than your marital status.

Your faith isn’t lacking or weak because you aren’t married.

You deserve community, I’m so so sorry for how the church at large has neglected that. The Christian media focus on finding your mate is abhorrent, you don’t need a mate to function in the Kingdom!

Where ministry has fallen flat and catered to only married couples, married women, or moms… Please know you are seen. That’s not God’s heart.

Marriage and birth and homemaking isn’t all there is for a woman of God. A wonderful task for those called, but not all will be. And the Body needs to recognize that better.

Your place in the Body of Christ is equally important as any man or married person.

Marriage and babies, while wonderful, isn’t your only purpose. It’s not even your number one purpose! Making Him known is. No part of the Great Commission says “after you’ve been married.”

Dear sister, you don’t need to settle.

If you have high standards and expectations and no one has met the mark yet, that’s okay. You deserve someone who will honor you, share your values, and celebrate your passions! You don’t need to marry someone because someone thinks you should because of age/weight/station/career/finances/etc.

Dear one, you are worth celebrating – right where you are.

You are wanted, you as a whole being. Your friendship is valuable, your presence matters!

Your identity is more than “spouse” because your God-given, Jesus-won, Calvary-redeemed identity is daughter.

Dear friend, you are an incredible champion for the Kingdom.

I am sorry for anyone who made you feel like less than because you weren’t dating/engaged/married.

Keep running your race well, keep fighting for your convictions… you are doing amazing.

As I was talking to God about this post, He highlighted a friend to me. I asked her to write something on this topic, and she was so kind to pray over it and give me a beautiful word from the Lord.

Dear reader, this is for you.

A word from
Kathryn Connors

“I was praying and asking God what he thinks about His single daughters. I was awestruck by the ferocious beauty and gold He wished to pull out of each and every one of them.

I began to see in the spirit young ladies of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, showcasing different hobbies, goals, and varying passions.

Every woman was holding the hand of a little girl version of themself. It was like the little girl inside of them was burgeoning to come out and take part in the building of their life.

I heard the Father say, “Don’t ever let her die because of grown-up things.

Little you is going to light the path of the most authentic version of you.”

I then heard the Holy Spirit say- “You are celebrated in heaven. You are celebrated on earth.

You bring value and permanency to the hearts you touch. You bring peace and you bring joy. You carry the fire, and you bring a cool drink of water to those who need it most.

When others are distracted by the world around them you are waiting, observing, and attentive to those
around you.

You bring color to a world plagued by black and white, and you have the freedom to draw outside the lines.

You don’t need to do anything to deserve or earn love, you haven’t done anything wrong to deserve “singleness”, you haven’t missed a step in the process, or have to strive to prove yourself. It is a phase for some, a season for others, a choice for many.

It is not a title tattooed to your self-worth or a sign of malfunction. You are not measured by your singleness. You are far more precious than the finest silver and gold.

You are loved because you simply are and you do not need to overcompensate to be seen.

Your voice is valuable on its own, and what you have to say matters. Do not be silenced by a world that doesn’t know it’s up from down because you my darling are perfectly and wonderfully made.

So worry not of what the future holds, but wrap yourself in blankets of His kindness and mercy.

You are royalty, my daughter. A Queen in all of her glory and splendor. Shine as bright as the stars or as soft as
moonlight.

Your life is soulfully solely yours and you are doing a magnificent job living it!”

You can find Kathryn at https://www.globalgodencounters.com/

May we as Christians remember Paul, apostle and biblical author, was single. And he had quite a bit to say about the topic! (1 Corinthians 7)

Let’s come along side our friends in pursuit of Jesus and sharing the glory of the kingdom. Let’s do life with people from different walks and stages of life, because we all have lessons we can share with other. Your perspective is unique and needed in your church family and friend circle.

If you’re reading this and married, do you have any single friends? Are there single women at your church? Let’s not wait for rings to make new friends. A single woman can disciple a married woman and vice versa!

If you’re reading this and single, or even spiritually single because of a husband who doesn’t believe – You are loved, treasured, and seen. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being present, for showing up, for being who you are.

Because you matter. All of you, just as you are.

I leave you with these final words, from an essay about Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. May we all take it to heart and love our co-laborers in Christ well.

We married people tend to assume a lot about those who are single. We assume that marriage is God’s intention for every individual. …We assume they would make better leaders, teachers, counselors, and better friends if they were married.

What if single members were encouraged to embrace their singleness as a vocation (whether
temporary or permanent) central to the life and ministry of the church?


What if married members were encouraged to look to the single, not as immature inferiors but as unique imitators of Christ and witnesses to Christ’s truth in our midst?

Singleness is no longer a burden or a stigma but a gift-both to those who are single and to those of us who are privileged to be in community with them.

Phillips, Beth (2001) “1 Corinthians 7 and Singleness in the Church,” Leaven: Vol. 9 : Iss. 3 , Article 4. Available at: https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/leaven/vol9/iss3/4

For The Crushed In Spirit

For The Crushed In Spirit

Two years ago a pastor and mental health advocate I adored died by suicide. When I read the news I wept.

He was such a strong, powerful voice for those who loved Jesus and also struggled with depression.

In the days that followed I was mortified to see speakers and influencers denounce him and say he should never have pastored if he struggled with depression.

1) that’s a poor view of God and who He can work through and 2) read the dang room and be respectful in the days of someone’s passing.

Over and over in the Bible we see God use broken, flawed people for His glory.

People who had a speech impediment, people who struggled with depression, people who used to kill Christians.

Every person has struggles. Every pastor, leader, teacher, speaker, and podcaster has a struggle you don’t know about.

Thank you Jesus we are worth more than our private issues! We would ALL be disqualified.

Dealing with anxiety/depression/trauma/intrusive thoughts doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference in the world. It doesn’t discredit your testimony or wisdom you have to share.

Mental health struggles are no different than physical ones, we just can’t see them. They’re a lot easier to hide or make assumptions about.

A pastor who may deal with depression can still speak truth to people’s hearts. A mom who has PPD can still love her children and teach them who they are.

Your bad days do not disqualify you from the race God has called you to run.

2 Tim 1:9 says He gave us a holy calling not because of our works, but because of His grace. Nothing you do can earn His love or freedom, it was given to you.

Our effort isn’t what qualifies us for our calling!

Look at Moses, David, Elijah… Elijah experienced a powerful victory in 1 Kings and a few days later asked God to kill him.

Jeremiah cursed the day he was born. His entire ministry was filled with such difficulty that he’s called “the weeping prophet.” He cried out “why was I born if this is my life?!”

David, the man after God’s heart, someone who did great things but also made terrible choices he had to live with – “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” (Psalm 42:11)

The Word says that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and He saves the crushed in spirit. (Ps 34:18)

If He can use these people, He can use you and me.

If you struggle with an eating disorder, that doesn’t disqualify you from God’s plan and calling.

If you’ve dealt with suicidal thoughts, that doesn’t discredit the giftings God has given you.

No matter your struggles, God has a purpose for your life. No one’s opinions or cruel words should steal that from you.

Don’t receive the lie over your life that you can’t ________ because you have had depression or anxiety or go to therapy or use medications or supplements.

Imagine telling a person with fibromyalgia they aren’t qualified to teach the word of God. They can’t help the condition they have.

Now imagine telling a person who Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that they can’t share God’s heart with the world as they deal with trauma-based anxiety.

That’s like telling God He shouldn’t use David because of all the times he lamented in the Psalms.

Do we believe in the God of the impossible or are we limiting what He can do and who He can use?

Even Charles Spurgeon wrote about the pain of mental health –

The mind can descend far lower than the body, for in it there are bottomless pits. The flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in ten thousand ways, and die over and over again each hour.

Charles Spurgeon

God uses imperfect people to do incredible things. He has taken people with terrible pasts and given them bright futures!

Whatever you may be working through, what matters is that you are working through. Talk to safe people, go to counseling, change damaging situations.

What matters is your heart. Are you living in a way that shows people Jesus? Does your life show the fruit of the Spirit?

Just like a bad day doesn’t make a bad life, a bad mental health day doesn’t mean that’s who you are.

This week was extremely difficult and stretching for me and everything added up until I woke up one morning feeling the tension mounting inside me.

A glass falling off the nightstand and shattering was the small trigger that set off all my overwhelm, spilling over into an awful anxiety attack.

These moments the despair is so deep. The lies try to creep in to disqualify me, and imposter syndrome rears its ugly head.

“How can you expect to help people when you’re so broken?”

It’s easy to keep these thoughts and moments to ourselves, but calling them out takes their power. Reaching out to someone who loves you and will rebuke the lies calls you back into the light.

Here’s the thing, dear reader… The power of your testimony and victories, the stories of your struggles and successes, they will bring freedom to someone else going through it. Share your story, shame doesn’t get the final word.

Your struggles don’t disqualify you; they might just be what draws someone else to the Lord.

Your perseverance through your mental health battles will show someone dealing with the same thing that they aren’t alone, they aren’t worthless, and they have purpose too.

Whatever your calling in life might be: pastor, teacher, mother, writer, social media manager etc., you are an overcomer. You are a more than a conqueror. You are seen, loved, and valued.

If you ever doubt that God can use you, please flip through Scripture and see the long list of imperfect people that God used to prophesy, lead, evangelize, and heal.

You aren’t your bad days, you are more than depression or anxiety.

Most importantly – you are never alone and deeply loved above all.

Of Hopes And Dreams

Of Hopes And Dreams

I have wanted to be a writer as far back as I can remember. Poetry, investigative journalism, novels… I just wanted to write.

Books inspired me, grew me, and kept me alive. In my darkest and loneliest times I had Jesus and books.

I started writing books as a preteen when I learned that Christopher Paolini, who had also grown up homeschooled, wrote and published Eragon as a teenager.

Ever since, I have had big dreams of writing novels and speaking and changing lives. Life took some twists and turns (Good twists! Hard turns!) and writing took a backseat for a while. I have gotten married and worked and had babies and served in ministry and done XY&Z!

And I have never called myself a writer.

Through it all, though, I have never stopped writing. And every time I write something vulnerable, something big, something brave, something that makes me want to vomit as anxiety and imposter syndrome creeps in…

Every. Single. Time. That I doubt or am unsure, someone shares with me how much they needed what I wrote.

That’s when I realized… You don’t need to be published with a huge company behind you or have a million Instagram followers to be a writer.

So, I guess this is my announcement to the world that *gulp* I am a writer.

It’s my passion. It’s my God-imbued dream. I have brilliant, complex worlds of people and stories in my mind waiting to come out. I have been slowly working on writing and world building for my dream novel for years now, and it’s time to get the ball rolling.

This week I made an investment into my dream and joined hope*writers. I am a hope*writer!

I want to write books that inspire readers, like Narnia and LOTR did for me. I want to share and empower women to be everything they’re destined to be. I want people to know that there is hope and joy in this world, that life doesn’t have to be all sorrow and pain and despair.

This is why I write. This is why I keep going. I don’t have to have it all figured out right now, I just have to keep going!

Like I’ve told my kids, my youth, my friends: sometimes you have to do it afraid. So here I go!

The Hidden Pain Behind Mother’s Day

The Hidden Pain Behind Mother’s Day

I wrote this post a few years ago on my old blog, but I felt led to share it again.

This was written because I’ve met many other women who were raised in abusive homes struggle with Mother’s Day. There’s so many inspirational posts for new moms, great moms, those who’ve lost their moms, but not so many for those whose mom’s were harmful.

I submitted this post to a well known mom website who wouldn’t publish it because it didn’t fit with the cheerful vibe they wanted to present…. As a mom who has struggles in motherhood because of my lack of a mom that stung.

What about us, then?

Where are the encouraging posts to cheer us in despite our struggles working through trauma?

So I wrote what I couldn’t find. If you struggle with Mother’s Day because of an unsafe mom I hope this speaks to your heart.

Mother’s Day When Your Mom Wasn’t Safe

Around April, beginning of May, you start to see the mom posts. You know the ones – maybe your stomach sinks a bit when you read the titles…

The viral blogs about all the heroic, unseen tasks moms have taken on through the years, for those who can fondly celebrate their mothers.

People share the sweet photos of their moms gardening, cooking Thanksgiving dinner, smiles on graduation. It’s beautiful!

On the other side of that we see the bittersweet articles, the tender memories of those who’ve lost their mothers. We hurt for them as they share their photos in remembrance.

These friends share their favorite moments as they work through a holiday that won’t be celebrated quite the same ever again.

There’s another child who sees Mother’s Day approaching, however.

This one grew up with a mom they can’t, or don’t want to, celebrate on this holiday. Maybe they don’t even speak anymore.

I’ve noticed while there are many of us, there aren’t many blogs or support posts for those who endured abusive, unhealthy, negligent, toxic, manipulative, or addicted mothers on Mother’s Day.

Understandably, it’s a difficult topic to write on. There is a huge spectrum of people in different stages of healing from their trauma.

You seek support from friends or other family, but truthfully- they’ve not experienced it and cannot understand it at your level; and they don’t always know what to say.

They don’t know how hard this day is for you.

I have an amazing mother-in-law. Seriously! A phenomenal mother-in-love who is THE. BEST. NANA. to my girls and crazy loving towards me.

I am grateful for her every single day. And I am consistently reminded by people that while my mom isn’t in my life, I sure do have a great MIL!

Listen, I know! Trust me. I love her so stinking much.

But that’s incredibly invalidating and disheartening to hear – because its apples and oranges.

My mother in law has an awesome mother in law too! But she cannot replace her mother who lives states away, you know?

A square peg, while still a good sturdy peg, does not fit in a round hole. The round hole was made for a round peg that got broken.

I’m thankful for this family that I have through my husband… but they are who they are, and cannot quite replace that ache for what should have been.

I see my husband and his siblings and all the memories they share with their mom and my heart aches for all the memories and laughter I don’t get to have, because my memories aren’t pleasant.

My memories are screaming, threatening, name calling, emotional abuse and gaslighting; mine are my mom taking me on shopping sprees when she was in an up mood, because our house was hell when she was in a down mood.

Threatening to call the police on the family that took me in when she kicked me out. Speaking so cruelly to me that I struggled with horrific self harm and continue to fight anxiety.

Forbidding me to leave the house or have human contact, which drove me insane and led to three suicide attempts. Those are the memories that come to mind for me on Mother’s Day.

To all you who may be reading this with that strange knot in your chest on Mother’s Day. I see you.

You are not alone in that hard space, feeling sadness or envy for what you don’t have, and still feeling all the emotions towards that person who stole a healthy mom experience from you.

What a day, for the kids like us.

The ones who wept everyday, who wanted to die to be free, who were never enough, who hid, who served and gave more than we should, who lost our childhood.

What a day for women who’ve had to learn to mother their own children with no positive, healthy tools in their parenting tool belt, but plenty of fear of turning into her.

What a day for the father who wants to celebrate the mother of his own children and mourns the mother he should have had.

What a day for the people who chose not to have kids because their childhood was so traumatic.

What a day for those whose unhealthy mothers are still a part of their life, those who can’t buy a sentimental Hallmark card for the woman who hurt them, that must sit at dinner on Sunday and grit their teeth while honoring that person on “their” day

What a day for those who are still working towards their healing, plateaued in their healing, afraid of healing.

What a day for those who have moved on and found freedom and strive to do better than what was done to them.

What a day for the survivors.

Oh yes, I said it. You survived.

Its a word that makes some people pretty uncomfortable – it makes them reevaluate what unhealthy really is, what abuse really is, and its unfortunate impact.

I wasn’t beaten but my mind was beaten into submission with so much fear and hateful talk that I would rather end my life than try to leave… I’d say I survived. I know you did too.

You survived. You made it through what tried to break you, and you are on the other side!

You survived the negativity, the lies, the venom – you’re fighting back.

You survived the hitting, the punching, the slamming – they won’t touch you like that again. You are a whole human, even if you still sometimes feel like a bunch of shattered pieces.

I asked some friends to weigh in on Mother’s Day on the other side of a difficult childhood, and I’m sharing their quotes below.

“I choose not to celebrate, but when I did, when I felt forced to, I had the hardest time finding a card with a blank inside. I could never find it in me to profess all the fluffy feel goods that has been Hallmarked for this occasion.


The abuse I’ve been subjected to as a child did not stop at adulthood. Even though it was always denied. That changed on August 4th of last year. My relationship with her has always been on again off again. But on this day, she claimed to be remembering things. She then shared with me one of many memories that I’ve completely blacked out.


I really thought this was going to be a pivotal day in my life. I would imagine the ways the acknowledgment would change my life. How it would set me free.


It was a big deal and I know how much courage it took for her to admit to it.


I felt lighter.


I was so excited to share with a couple people who had the tiniest glimpse into my past.


I felt lighter until exactly two days later when the abuse continued.
I permanently broke those chains my own self and the weight of her lifelong mistreatment ended there.

So I see you. I hear you. I understand your pain and the confusion of such celebrated days for us children who were born to women who couldn’t mother.


I appreciate the glimpse of your family life now and if I can offer any suggestion, it is to celebrate the mother you’ve become despite the place you were raised.”

Staci

“There’s so much conditioned guilt and shame if you choose not to have a relationship with your mother because she is abusive.

Mother’s Day is hard for me. I LOVE being a mom to my kids and motherhood has been so healing for me in many ways, but I also long for that healthy mother/daughter relationship that I know I’ll never get. I feel a lot of grief on Mother’s Day. It’s always bothered me the lack of cards in the store for situations like this. There’s so much pressure to fake it and have relationships with people that are toxic for you, under the guise of “that’s your mother”, as if we should be grateful for years of abuse.”

Julie

“This is a wrestle point for me this year as well. One of my core beliefs/practices is honor. How can I honor someone who isn’t there? What does it look like to love well when you can not directly love that person? Here’s two things I landed on: 1) I will not let someone’s bad decision steal my joy of celebrating or being celebrated in motherhood. I’m a powerful person because I choose to keep my joy. Toxic relationships steal enough, don’t give it your power too! 2) There are multiple ways to be a mom to someone. Yes, there is a woman who you were “fearfully and wonderfully made” inside of, but there are friends, sisters, cousins, aunts, in-laws, church moms, breastfeeding moms, etc who have poured love, knowledge, wisdom, understanding into my life. It’s ok to have more than one mom. It’s also 100% ok to be in a space to grieve these things not coming from a birth mom. There aren’t words that can fix that reality, but there is healing. Be encouraged, you can celebrate this holiday and be in the tension of grief at the same time.”

Shannon

If you take away anything from this, let it be that last sentence…

Be encouraged, you can celebrate this holiday and be in the tension of grief at the same time.

Our sweet, well-meaning friends, we love them.

Their words may help or they may sting, but we can’t judge them for what they don’t know – that tension, the dichotomy, the salty and the sweet.

The joy and the pain of loss all rolled into your heart as you take on the day. The gratitude for what you have now and the grief for what you went through, and wish you had instead.

Take heart, dear friend reading this, you are not alone here. However you feel about the day, celebrating or not, your feelings are valid.

My advice this Mother’s Day?

  • Hold strong to whatever boundaries you have, and if you haven’t set boundaries it is absolutely time to guard and protect yourself.If your friends or loved ones invalidate you in anyway as you process your grief/anger/emotions on this day, don’t react – choose to respond. And maybe gently enlighten them so they can understand and be more empathetic in the future.
  • Be kind to yourself. Don’t run from the memories – face them, acknowledge them, feel them, then let them free. Process in a healthy way.
  • If you’ve chosen to cut off contact with your mom as your boundary, that is okay. If you feel the need to continue contact and work towards healing your relationship, that’s okay too. Wherever you are in your journey with the woman who raised or birthed you, I stand here with you in a quiet sea of men and women who’ve endured too.

There is community.

There is hope.

There is restoration.

There is wholeness.

There is a healing.

When Shame Writes The Story

When Shame Writes The Story

If you’ve participated in a church community for any length of time, you’ve likely heard the story of the woman at the well. The beautiful story is found in John 4 and usually has these highlights:

Samaritan. Adulteress. Unworthy. Woman. Sinner. 

Shame. Shame. Shame. 

Anytime I hear or read the word “shame”, I get that scene from The Princess Bride in my mind of the old woman screaming “Boo! BOO!” at Buttercup as the sweet girl makes the best decision she knows how to make, even by betraying her one, true love.

As I was reading Without Rival by Lisa Bevere a few years ago, the story of the woman at the well was retold with more cultural context and with the lens of a loving, compassionate Savior.

Let’s dig into more of this story, exposing the traditional lens of shame it is recounted in, with a lens of love – and see what more important truths we can glean.

I’ve often thought it interesting that many teachers highlight that she was a Samaritan, without going into too much of what that would have meant to Jesus and his followers.

In the biblical setting, Samaria, also known as Palestine, and Israel were basically in a race war. The territory of Samaria is found in land allotted to the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim when the Israelites conquered the Promised Land (Joshua 16 &17). Samaria was the capital of Israel when the country split. 

The biggest issue evident in Jesus’ time in this century old conflict was they practiced their faith differently. Samaritans even went as far as to create their own version of the five books of Moses.

Israel, being way more judgey than they should be, looked down on the Samaritans for their overt mixing of Jewish practices and pagan, settling non-Jewish practicing people in their land and claiming that Mount Gerizim should be the home of The Temple instead of Jerusalem.

Unresolved conflict and removing love from interactions had caused generations to hate, literally HATE each other. The fact that Jesus marches directly into this region brings the utter surprise of the disciples into context and begs so many more questions of the later parable of the Good Samaritan. 

Different faith. Different culture. Different skin color. 

Shame. Shame. Shame.

The term “adulteress” frequently visits the retelling of this story from our modern-day pulpits. Why would this woman have had 5 husbands, the most recent she was living with but had not married?

In the first century Samarian culture a woman was unable to initiate divorce from her husband, since they practiced a version of Judaism. The insinuation that she was an adulteress woman is very likely far from true.

Laying down those lenses of condemnation and picking up the lens of Love, we can explore a few other possibilities that showcase Jesus’ heart in meeting this woman in an even greater way. 

First, she could have been widowed.

Since a woman’s worth in that time and place was only determined by who she was married to, can you close your eyes and imagine what that grief and fear would have been like to lose not only your husband, but your position in the village, the security of food and shelter, the very home you had established…four times over?!

Can you open your heart to the fear of being handed off again and again to the “next in line”, likely without your consent, the stigma of death following you everywhere you go in your village? 

Another possibility is that she was divorced or cast away by her husbands.

Causes for divorce in this time and culture could have been a physical defect, infertility, incurable physical or mental illness. When your only job in society is to marry, please your husband, care for your household and raise as many children as you can produce, I can not even begin to fathom the shame this situation would have produced in her heart. 

Some scholars have speculated this immense burden of shame is why she was at the well gathering her daily water in the middle of the day, when no one else was around. At the high heat of the day she wouldn’t have to worry about hearing all the hushed whispers or comments. She could just be alone. 

No good. Unworthy of love. Cast off. 

Shame. Shame. Shame. 

One undeniable aspect of this story is that Jesus was speaking to a woman. This part always makes me cry. Even now, as I write this I’m crying.

Growing up, as this woman did, in a culture where women were second rate citizens has immense impact on one’s heart and mind.

Knowing no matter what, your life is second thought. Your life is a negotiation chip of interests and property. The knowledge of how powerless you are to initiate change infuses every choice, every day. 

It is from this place of utter hopelessness, that the unfathomable beauty of the heart of our Father shines. It shows His heart to see each woman, just as He sees each man, different, yet equal.

Both powerful, with different strengths. 

I don’t believe for a moment that Jesus got a word of knowledge about how many husbands she had to provoke shame in her. He wasn’t trying to keep her in her place or remind her of her status. There was no desire to pour salt in the wounds of her broken heart.

He had no desire to see her turn red and hang her head. That is not how He operates. That is the voice of the Accuser of the Brethren.

I believe Jesus spoke the word of knowledge to her to let her know that even though she was a woman, from a conflicting racial heritage and her marital record was rough, He was speaking to her. Jesus saw her, knew her and wanted connection to her heart.

What happens next in the longest recorded dialogue between someone and Jesus in the New Testament blows me away. Jesus and this woman embark in a lengthy theological discussion! This would have been unheard of in their time.

Yet, this woman holds her own. She knows what her faith culture believes as well as Jesus’. In a day and age when women were separated from men in the temples, she knew her Scripture! 

In the progression of this theological debate, John 4:26, Jesus reveals Himself as the Messiah to this woman. Jesus’ profound compassion on her and His gently delivered prophetic word bring about transformational belief. She knew in her heart that what this man spoke, that the love and gentleness, the equality and patience He showed her set Him apart from any other rabbi.

She knew He was the Messiah. 

The woman is then catapulted by Love into the role of the first missionary we see in Scripture. No fancy schooling. No big ceremony.

Jesus trusted this woman to proclaim Him. She delivered a simple Gospel, “He saw me. Messiah has come.” 

Many in the town believed because of her testimony which exemplifies her as an apostle…all this before Jesus’ death and resurrection. He had yet to even reveal who He was to His 12 Disciples and only one of them actually figured it out (Matthew 16). 

The invitation of this story is not only to watch Jesus wipe out shame from a life but to watch Him rewrite the narrative. Shame is really great at telling us who we aren’t. Jesus is really, really incredible at reminding us who we are in Him.

We lose so much when we stop a story, just like we would lose so much if we stopped at the death of Jesus and never followed the story of His Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, etc. Continuing what we know of the story of this incredible mother of the faith is vital to grasping the glorious story of redemption and restoration.

So who did this famous “woman at the well” become?

Early church historians tell us she followed Jesus’ ministry through His death and resurrection and was one of those 3,000 baptized at Pentecost, along with 5 of her sisters and two sons. It was at this momentous occasion that she received the name Photini.

Photini was known for the boldness that she preached and eventually it gave her the opportunity to share the Gospel with the dreaded emperor Nero in Rome. After sharing the Gospel, Nero tried to severely torture her, hoping she would turn from Christ, but instead Photini succeeds in sharing the Gospel with Nero’s own daughter who choses to become a follower of Jesus. 

Nero ordered Photini to death by fire, which she survived for 7 days, then to death by poison, which she also survived. Her faith was supernatural. Her determination was evident. How can one meet Jesus face-to-face then deny Him existence?

Photini had been captivated by a Love stronger than life. She is revered as a martyr and in the eastern Church she is “equal-to-the-apostles”. 

Where does shame live in this story now?

So many times we let shame tell our story. Something terrible happens and we let that write the narrative of our life. We push back on invitations of healing or cover up the needs of our heart in the searing aloneness of the noonday sun.

Handing our power over to the loudest ridicule, we let the cycle of lies about us tell the story in our mind and weave madness about us in the minds of others.

Your race, faith, gender, marital status, don’t get to hold your value. Jesus does.

The Lover of your soul who sees it all and speaks to you. The Living Water who gave this woman a ravenous hope is not limited to one redemptive story.

Photini says in John 4:15 “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” I like to imagine her saying this, “Jesus, make it stop hurting. Nourish my heart and soul. Give me life. I don’t want to strive for existence anymore. I don’t want shame to write my story.” 

A hallmark of shame running the show is running and hiding. Adam and Eve did it in Eden (Genesis 3) and Jesus invites us into this incredible shame free life in John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The greek word for truth in this verse is alētheia and can be appropriately translated naked or transparent truth.

You can’t give true worship with a naked, transparent heart if you are wearing the dress of shame. 

Shame doesn’t get to write your story, my friend. Jesus died for that shame and in the words of Graham Cooke, “Quit taking that back for yourself. (Jesus) wants that back.” 

Be free, indeed.

SOURCES:

Without Rival by Lisa Bevere

History of Samaria

Women’s Ordination Online – The Samaritan Woman At The Well

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese

The Good Shepherd – St. Photini and her Almost-Forgotten Apostolic Family


Shannon is an incredible friend and wealth of wisdom. She is about to graduate ministry school, and is a powerhouse momma to four boys! You can find her here on Instagram!

Prisms and Purpose

Prisms and Purpose

I’ve got this prism that is eternally smudged.

I ordered it in hopes that it would somehow elevate our cluttered mess of a dining room into one of those Waldorf forest homeschools where kids keep all their Montessori materials sorted in rainbow colored sets and listen attentively to poetry as they finish watercoloring their nature journals.

Alas, it sits covered in sticky fingerprints on a dust covered windowsill next to an abandoned Captain American LEGO project that is missing a foot. Cap has been sidelined for the foreseeable future just like my dreams of a whimsical home in which to educate my children. 

The truth is that the prism brought us a lot of joy at the outset of the year, but has been shuffled aside under math workbooks and the flotsam and jetsam of four kids learning at home full time for the first time. The prism somehow got shifted aside as an afterthought because, if I’m honest, I’m not fully sure what I’m doing, I’m constantly doubting myself, and I never followed through on that light unit like I thought I would.

The prism hasn’t been shattered by my raging and screaming yet, so that’s a mercy. Turns out we’re not the quiet woodland family I had hoped we might be.

This morning as I lamented the wads of hair and dust that somehow always live on my stairs, and the shoddy job my children do of sweeping them, and the shoddy job I am clearly doing as a parent, I was struck by the prism. Its once pristine glass was noticeably clouded and foggy and I’m pretty sure it was handled by someone who had recently been eating cheese puffs.

But my breath caught as I watched a rainbow pour out of the dim prism onto the hair covered hardwood below.

None of this looks like I thought it would.

I haven’t managed to create a space that “measures up,” whatever that means. I live in a sea of uncertainty and often wonder what use my gifts actually are to the world.

It’s easy for me to dismiss my days as less than, to chalk them up to unfinished projects and problems unsolved. But when I consider the prism, I see more.

When I consider the miracle that a rainbow is at hand, that it dares to shine in the presence of my mess, that it is bold enough to shine onto my doubt and my fury and my fear, I am forced to stop. When I step back to take that in, I’m reminded that all is grace. All is gift. 

You see, the truth reflected in the prism is that the miracle cannot be stopped. The rainbow is somehow not dimmed by smudges or filthy fingerprints.

However manhandled and bunged up it may be, the prism still exists to turn light into rainbows. The purpose of the prism is to reveal invisible, but ever-present colors so that they may be seen by the naked eye.

The miracle cannot be stopped because the prism cannot deny its purpose.

As a woman I am uniquely called to die to myself that I might nurture and grow the souls of others. As a woman I am designed to gently steward the souls entrusted to my care.

As a woman I am specially created to hold all that in my heart, to birth beauty out of struggle, to give life out of groaning. 

We’ve all been manhandled and bunged up. None of us is the flawless crystal we might wish that we are.

Things don’t turn out like we plan or expect. People fail us, boundaries are crossed, our hearts are wounded in broad and intimate ways every day. Yet we are all capable of casting great beauty into the neglected corners of our world.

The miracle cannot be stopped because this is what we were created to do.

The only thing that can stop the miracle is if the prism is moved out of the light. If I shove my prism in a drawer, there’s no way for the light to touch it.

The same is true of our hearts, of course. If our hearts are hidden away, shoved in closets, shut down and shamed, it’s true that we won’t reflect much light. You can’t shine a rainbow from a shadow, it’s true.

And if I’m honest, seeking the light sometimes seems futile and foolish. It’s honestly kind of silly that I’ve kept my filthy prism on the windowsill through the gloom and clouds of the Cleveland winter.

To an outsider it seems like an exercise in futility but I believe the miracle. Even when there are days on end that I don’t catch a glimpse of rainbow, I have faith that the sun will come through the clouds and the cheese puff smudges.

I’ve seen it happen before and I have faith it will happen again. I’ve seen the rainbow on the stairs with my own eyes. I have witnessed the miracle. 

And I realize the same must be done for my heart. I think a lot about how the Psalmist reminds us not to harden our hearts. He may as well be saying, “Don’t retreat. Don’t build up walls and separate yourself from the light.”

And I know in order for me to achieve my purpose, like the prism, I must remain in the light. 

Every day I must claim the miracle. Every day I must accept my purpose as undeniable. Every day I must place myself in the light, smears and smudges fully exposed so that the miraculous love of the Father can penetrate my heart and cast His love onto the world through me.

It won’t work if I’m not in the light. It won’t work if I’m not reading scripture and attending Mass, receiving the Sacraments, praying with my friends. It won’t work if I believe the lies that I’m fed by the world, if I deny my belovedness, compare myself to others, or allow my heart to become hard. 

To be in the light, we must be in the truth. If we are women who claim resurrection, the truth that should spur us on is that nothing is irredeemable.

If we are women who claim the risen Christ, it is our duty to claim Him, to claim the miracle of resurrection in all we do. Our work is to set our hearts on the miracle, to seek it out, to draw our families and communities along with us as we encounter it.

Our calling is to claim the truth of the risen Jesus in ourselves, to speak it over our hurts and our pains, to repeat that truth to ourselves when we are at our weakest and to speak it over our sisters:

“You are redeemed. You are chosen. You are safe. You are loved.”

St. Josemaria Escriva said, “He did not say you would not be troubled, you would not be tempted, you would not be distressed, but He did say you would not be overcome.” 

My place here in my family is not to curate a perfect home or achieve some other lofty goal. My purpose is not to fit any sort of mold of womanhood that’s been manufactured by the world or the church or anyone in between.

My purpose is to shed light, to cast rainbows into darkened corners, to show up and love despite my dinginess and my bruises.

The rainbow is no less beautiful because my prism is smudged. My gifts are no less beautiful because they come from an imperfect source.

If each day is an offering to Christ, I am receiving His light. If each day is a claiming of truth, I am receiving Him.

And if I am receiving the light of Christ, just like the prism on my dusty windowsill, I can be nothing but a channel through which that light enters the world. 

Mary Susan is so dear to my heart! She creates a beautiful space of vulnerability, humor, and encouragement. She can be found at https://oh-bless-your-heart.com/ and here on Instagram.

Deborahs Rising

Deborahs Rising

I recently shared on my Instagram how the Lord is leading me on a new writing journey. I shared it in my most recent post on the blog – Ezer Kenegdo.

Today I wanted to talk about Deborah. She’s one of my biblical heroes, and my first realization that women in Christianity are often slighted in leadership.

Why is that? After growing up in a church culture that had women as Sunday School teachers but never pastors, I read about the female leader of Israel.

Deborah was a prophetess and poet, but most importantly one of the Judges of Israel.

This was huge to me when I learned this. Israel was ruled by judges for some 300 years before they asked for a king, and Deborah was one of those leaders.

This was even more astounding to me because the judges of Israel were appointed by God. That meant, contrary to what I had been taught, that God placed a woman in leadership, over His people.

The office of judgeship in the tribal confederacy of the Israelites, which was centred at a covenant shrine, was not hereditary. The judges arose as Yahweh saw fit, in order to lead an erring and repentant people to a restoration of a right relationship with him and to victory over their enemies. The quality that enabled a person selected by Yahweh to be a judge was charisma, a spiritual power that enabled the judge to influence, lead…”

https://www.britannica.com/topic/biblical-literature/Judges-importance-and-role

The villagers ceased in Israel; they ceased to be until I arose; I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.
Judges 5:7 ESV

Judge here comes from “Shophet” – שׁוֹפֵ
This type of “judge” doesn’t mean a person presiding over legal issues in court. Shophetim were heroic, highest ranking leaders in the land in both the political, spiritual, and military sense.

Let’s set up Deborah’s story

Life in Israel during this season was extremely difficult, and it was because of the Tribes’ disobedience.

When God delivered them into the Promised Land He told them to drive out all the Canaanites, and while some listened– other tribes allowed the Canaanites to stay, perhaps trying to make peace believing things would change or be okay.

In choosing passivity with an enemy they disobeyed God’s command, which was given for their protection and abundance. This led to the Canaanites pushing Israelites from their land and the slow fade of losing who they were as they mingled with these people who did not honor God.

They began to worship false gods and idols and behave in wicked ways. “So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them.” (Judges 2:14)

He allowed them to be overtaken by the culture and people they welcomed. He didn’t do this with a hateful heart, but that they might repent after feeling His absence.

There was a cycle of obedience, bondage, and rescue in the history of Israel. Judges 2:18 says God was moved to pity by their groaning because of the oppression they were under, and yet they would still return to the same patterns that ensnared them.

When God was setting up judges for them, he would be right there with the judge: He would save them from their enemies’ oppression as long as the judge was alive, for God was moved to compassion when he heard their groaning because of those who afflicted and beat them. But when the judge died, the people went right back to their old ways—but even worse than their parents!—running after other gods, serving and worshiping them. Stubborn as mules, they didn’t drop a single evil practice.

Judges 2:18‭-‬19 MSG

The Lord was angry. Can you imagine? Rescuing a prodigal child over and over for them to spit in your face and return to deplorable ways?

Because of His anger and their violation of the covenant, He left them.

Judges 3 shares the compelling story that comes next, the continuous cycle of judge, rescue, and disobedience. One judge, Ehud, defeated an enemy and led Israel to peace and rest for 80 years, one of the longest breaks in the cycle of this 300+year cycle.

As we can expect, again, the people of Israel fell into evil deeds after Ehud passed away. And so yet again the Lord allowed them to experience the brunt of the repercussions for this.

The Canaanite king’s army was led by a man named Sisera. “Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help, for he had 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years.”
Judges 4:3 ESV

During this time, Deborah became judge of Israel.

As I have studied this, some of the commentaries have felt the need to weaken the legacy of Deborah, saying she was only appointed because there wasn’t a man strong enough or worthy enough to take on the position.

Only. I laugh at that! She was appointed not because of a lack of men, but because God saw her fit to lead His people!

I also read that she was permitted to lead because she came under Barak’s authority and leadership. But I can’t find Scriptural evidence that confirms this. Barak was a military leader but Deborah was listed as judge over Israel.

“In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned, and travelers kept to the byways. The villagers ceased in Israel; they ceased to be until I arose; I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.

Judges 5:6‭-‬7 ESV
Image source

In this season of cyclical pain God appointed Deborah to lead His people to freedom again. She rose into her calling, into her position of leadership, and partnered with her military to defeat the oppressive enemy.

The book of Judges says Deborah summoned Barak. When she asks him about the Lord’s command to confront Sisera, Barak tells her he will not go to battle unless she comes with him.

Various theological ideas abound here, might Barak have said this in sarcasm? Because he was spineless and weak? Or because he valued her leadership and prophetic connection to God?

It’s disheartening that so much male-written commentary and opinion seems to discredit Deborah’s authority or worth on some level.

Why would Barak ask her to accompany him to battle in a sarcastic manner (he wasn’t being emasculated), or because he was weak (he led the military forces)?

Could it be that Barak asked the highest leader in the land to join him because that wasn’t uncommon for leadership to go into battle?

He respected her, he recognized the authority given to her from the Lord (Deborah is the only Biblically documented prophet AND judge of Israel, aside from the last judge – Samuel).

Deborah was appointed by God to lead Israel and bring them to peace.

She stepped into a divine calling, obeyed, led her people and brought them into rest as a mother to the land.

“Now Deborah was a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth.” What is interesting here is this word in Hebrew, eshet, can mean wife. Because of the culture at the time, women were often identified by relation to a husband or father.

“Eshet” also means woman. Lappidoth could be a husband or a place, but neither are mentioned in Scripture to confirm.

There is a third way of interpreting “woman of lappidoth.” Rather than being a proper noun, lappidot in Judges 4:4 could be the plural of lappid, a word usually translated as “torches” elsewhere in the Old Testament, including the book of Judges where the word occurs in two fiery and fierce situations (Judg. 7:16, 20; 15:4-5). Did Deborah have a fiery or fierce personality? Does eshet lappidot mean “fiery lady”?[7]

Lappid can also refer to lightning flashes (e.g., Exod. 20:18). This has led a few scholars and rabbis to suggest that Deborah was a “woman of splendours”.

Marg Mowczko (Who has a theology degree and an MA in early Christian and Jewish studies)

Deborah. Wife, mother, prophetically gifted, governing leader. She is an incredible example of Biblical womanhood.

We, too, can be wives and mothers and leaders. We all have a God-created design and purpose.

In hindsight we can see the great purposes of various women in the Word. Did Esther realize the grand outcome of her story? Did Rahab know the legacy that would come from her?

Are all women called to be political leaders? No. Likewise, not all women will be mothers. Not all women will marry.

Like Paul, there will be women called to not marry. There will be women who mother nations, who mother school rooms, who mother emergency rooms instead of biological children.

I believe we have individual callings for His glory and purpose. We must be careful not to measure another’s role against our own.

If you have been led to be a homeschooling, stay at home mom, I believe there is greatness in the purpose there. You should be supported and equipped on that journey!

If you are called to minister to hearts in social work, there is greatness in the purpose. You also should be supported and equipped well for your journey in that.

A woman’s role is not strictly confined to be a wife and mom. Culturally, in biblical times much else wasn’t always permitted.

In Judges we can see that God does appoint women. In our culture now we have so much more freedom to lead, grow, and serve.

Some of us will serve as wives and mothers. Some will serve in careers. Others will serve in both realms, and all areas covered here deserve our support.

Let’s be women who cheer each other on in our various glorious callings here on earth.

There doesn’t need to be competition or comparison, those are tools of the enemy to divide us and hurt even further.

Women of the Word, let’s rise up like Deborah. Let’s mother our children well, mother our careers well, and mother our callings well together.

Help your spiritual sisters as you can in their own journey. Deborahs partner with Esthers and Tamars and Ruths. Partner with the Baraks and Boazs of our lives!

Let’s dive into biblical womanhood together. I’m excited to dig more into our powerful and divine design! Thanks for joining me along the way.

Ezer Kenegdo

Ezer Kenegdo

I’m going on a new journey with my writing space. I’d love if you would continue to follow along as I share it along with my personal posts, but I recognize the topic won’t be for everyone. That’s okay! If you’re curious, stick around 🧡

Something that I’ve struggled with since childhood is my identity as a woman.

Throughout my journey of religion, disbelief, and discovering Jesus “who am I and what is my purpose” has followed me. Plenty of belief systems have tried to answer that question.

I’ve seen so many mixed messages from so many different crowds. The spectrum in our culture swings from radical feminists who hate men to ultra-controlled wives abused by the term “submit.” I’ve witnessed both ends of it, I’m not here to debate the existence of either side.

I think there’s a middle ground that women are missing out on and honestly, we’re kept from.

Jesus fiercely loved women and advocated for them in a time where that wasn’t the cultural norm.

God desiged women עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ – “ezer kenegdo.” A FASCINATING deep term that goes way beyond “helpmeet.”

I want to dive into this topic, our divine design as warriors, not mice. The incredible stories of women weaved throughout the Word, and what this means for us.

How it can EMPOWER us and free us to walk in our callings and live out our purpose.

Whether you are called to teach the next generation of warriors, or you are called to be salt and light in the courtroom, any role in between…

You were created with purpose. And when you know who you are (and the power behind that identity) you can be an unstoppable Kingdom force.

Ten Years

Ten Years

While I was born in Ohio, I grew up in North Carolina. It will always be home to me, the place I spent my childhood and “grew up” and fell in love with Jesus.

I learned to drive there, I made lifelong friends, I experienced heartache and grief and joy and growth.

Ten years ago I celebrated my first birthday back in Ohio! A decade now of birthdays and life after coming back “home” to where I was born and growing up for real.

Celebrating my first birthday back in Ohio, learning “The Art of Being Happy.”

I’m turning 29! The last year of my twenties. I know that’s still really young to all the people who’ve lived a lot more of life than me, but the Lord has taught me a lot in these few years I have (and I know He has so much more to share).

In honor of my tenth Ohio birthday, I wanted to share ten lessons I’ve learned in my time here.

1. Crazy Faith Looks Like Crazy Obedience

I remember attending a youth conference when I first moved. During this season Crazy Love by Francis Chan was super popular, as well as the song Crazy Love by Hawk Nelson.

If you’ve ever attended a Christian conference you might know the “conference high” after you get refreshed and hyped for Jesus again.

We attend conferences and get amped up, on fire again after a stagnant season. We go home encouraged, ready to take on the world, spread the good news. Right?

But eventually that amped feeling fades. Because the conference high isn’t sustainable. What keeps the fire alive is intimate relationship with your Savior, not any certain speaker or worship singer.

Then, when God asks Crazy Love level stuff, we hesitate. We fear what people might think. We worry about the financial aspect. The “how.” Sometimes we don’t obey.

On the flip side, there are times we hear the call for crazy faith and we do step out. And “the world” doesn’t get it.

Nominal Christianity won’t get “it” either because it doesn’t make sense to human logic.

A friend once shared with our young adults group the time the Lord called her and her husband to tithe their entire paycheck.

If memory serves me correctly, they were paycheck to paycheck and in between jobs at the moment.

That sounds ludicrous and makes zero sense to the average human brain, right?

Yet they obeyed.

And God honored their faith and blessed their finances several times over that week; rent was paid for, her husband got a job, and they were blessed with an advanced check.

God asks some wild things of us sometimes… Give up an ivy league for the mission field. Donate your bonus to a homeless shelter.

My husband and I eloped at 20 + 19 years old and everyone thought we were nuts. Horrible things were said to us, I was almost pressured into signing an annulment by family, and it was a really rough beginning because of the opposition we faced.

Many people thought we made a really stupid decision, but we felt God led us to do so.

Was it always easy? No. But following God and obeying isn’t always easy. It’s often wild, crazy, and takes a lot of courage and hard work.

If we hadn’t stepped out in crazy faith we wouldn’t have the life we have now or be in the season we are now and I can’t even fathom it!

There’s been several crazy faith moments in my life but this one gave me everything I am so grateful for. Definitely worth it.

2. Romance Looks Different From What “They” Tell You

When Justin was pursuing me he took me to church, brought me medicine when I was sick, and made me laugh so much.

We had weekly date nights, went to the movies and geocaching, dinner out, all that good stuff.

But ten years in romance Looks different than the early puppy love. It looks like a husband that listens. It looks like learning what an anxiety attack and helping me through it with patience.

Romance is emergency take out dinners when he’s heard I’ve had a bad day, surprising me with my favorite pop, learning with me how to parent our kids well.

It’s brewing my coffee for me in the morning when the baby nursed all night. Setting firm boundaries to protect me. Hanging twinkle lights without complaint when I can’t reach.

Romance in the movies looks attractive (and sometimes unrealistic, honestly) and then marriages are so often portrayed as dry, loveless, and lacking.

With intentionality, purpose, and thorough communication romance doesn’t have to die off. It can shift and look different, but it gets better and better!

Love can age well.

Every year has been filled with more fun, more passion, more laughter, and more tenderness.

I still love surprise flowers and dinner dates. But I so love the quiet ways we get to love each other too.

Helping me through labor with our third 🧡

3. Boundaries Are Vital

I majorly struggle with people pleasing. I have had a hard time saying no to things, to people, because I don’t want people to dislike me.

In the past few years I’ve learned how unhealthy that is. My mental health is important because it directly impacts my life and family, and taking on too much affects it.

The health and well-being of my spouse and kids is top tier, and we can’t say yes to it all, or they suffer.

This can be anything from jobs, ministry, school opportunities, family, friends… You name it. Sometimes we have to say no. I can’t. We aren’t able to take that on.

Without excuses, without over explaining or justifying. If something isn’t serving you and your family, you don’t need permission or some grand circumstance to turn it down or say “this isn’t okay.”

You can’t speak to me like that. We can’t do that. No.

This isn’t always easy (what in life is). You will inevitably receive backlash, anger, and plenty of upset when you or every aspect of your family/time/finances etc aren’t readily accessible.

It’s always worth it to protect your family, your marriage, your mental health, your home, your budget, and your time.

4. I’m Worthy Of Good Things

I grew up thinking I was an inconvenience. It felt like I was a problem that ruined my mom’s life, that stole her freedom, and I wasn’t worth it (whatever “it” was in my little mind).

The burden sat heavily on my shoulders for far too long. It’s an inner voice I still have to ignore and fight off sometimes (aka way too often).

“The way we speak to our children becomes their inner voice” hits me hard. Because it’s so true.

But I’m not an inconvenience. I was designed by a Creator who fashioned me carefully, every detail for a reason. I was created with purpose for a purpose.

I’m not useless, I’m not an imbecile, I’m not worthless. These are not my identity.

My identity is beloved. Daughter. Redeemed. Worth dying for. Treasured, adored, fiery, lovely.

His voice is louder than all the rest, when I remember to listen.

I’m worthy of good things. I’m worthy of joy, love, laughter, and friendship.

I deserve people in my life who love me well, respect me, and don’t mistreat me. I don’t need to accept treatment that doesn’t align with that.

5. Feelings Aren’t Facts

I used to think if I felt something, it was true. This was before I learned that anxiety is a liar, that my inner dialogue can be abusive talk still ingrained in me, and that the heart can be deceptive.

We need to keep our thought life in check. We can hold space for hard feelings but we can’t keep holding on to them, lest they become bitterness taking root in our hearts.

I might feel ______ but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s truth. I might entertain ______ for so long and it’s fine, but then it spirals me into a bad place for my heart.

The what-if’s and the but if I‘s aren’t helpful. Intrusive thoughts aren’t reality. And assuming the worst doesn’t actually prepare me for anything.

I could feel like my husband is mad at me because his tone was off, assume the worst, and act out of that assumption and let it affect my mood and behavior towards him…

Or I can assume the best and turn those thoughts around, maybe he’s having a hard day, maybe he needed to burp and it came out funny (I speak from experience).

I can communicate with him and ask instead of assuming the worst.

Learning about feelings and the power of my thought life has been a game changer for me and my freedom and emotional regulation.

6. It’s Okay To Have Bad Days

I used to think if I had a bad day, and wasn’t cheerful all the time, or made a mistake/lost my temper/had an attitude that I was a bad Christian.

We have to be the salt of the earth! I have to be a witness. I need to be the light in the darkness and if I appear to be a human with emotions outside of joy ever than no one will want to know Jesus.

This is not healthy. God gave us emotions, and we can use them as tools to understand what’s going on in and around us.

Losing my temper with my kids after an exhausting day doesn’t make me a bad mom.

Sometimes I’m snarky because I haven’t eaten and my blood sugar is dropping! (Hello, fellow hangry people.)

It’s okay to have a day where things go wrong, or dinner gets burnt, or I yell or spill coffee.

A bad day doesn’t mean a bad life.

A bad day doesn’t mean I’m a failure. And it doesn’t mean I’m a bad Christian. I’m just a human with humanness, who happens to also live Jesus.

7. My Too-Muchness Isn’t For Everyone

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard “you’re too much.”

It’s been said in jest, in anger, in exasperation. It used to hurt a lot.

I don’t wear it as a wound anymore though. It’s a unique badge of honor that I wear proudly (sometimes… Haha).

See, I am a lot. I’m loud, all the time. I am loud in every color and emotion! I am passionate about many things.

There’s some weird stuff too, like sensory overload, stuttering, major fantasy adventure nerdom, ADHD behavior (I could write a whole novel on that topic alone)…

The whole package of *waves at all this* can be a lot for some people. And this really bothered me (recovering people pleaser that I am) for a very long time. I had to prove myself to them, and I was crushed when my Too-Muchness wasn’t their cup of tea.

Some people think I’m weird (I am, but they do in the “that’s a bad thing” way). Some people think I’m too loud. They don’t get it about how I am.

That’s okay. I don’t need to be everyone’s friend.

There are people that love all my Too-Muchness and adore it. My volume, my Lord of the Rings quotes, my passion about whatever soapbox I happen to be on. And I treasure them.

And I try not to hold it against the people who don’t like my Muchness haha.

8. I Am Resilient

My anxiety might like to lie and tell me otherwise, but dare I say – I am resilient. I’m going to toot my own horn here. (My husband inspired me to write this one so I have permission, I won’t be cocky I promise!)

I can do hard things. I have been through the RINGER and back, okay? It’s too much to even sum up in here.

As I mused what I should include here, my husband brought this up to me. That even in darkness and “the depths of despair” (if you’re my level of nerd you’ll get the quote) I don’t give up.

My faith has been through the ringer too, but it just goes deeper.

This lesson is 1000% God, not me. His grace alone has gotten me through suicidal seasons, miscarriages, backstabbing and so much more.

I am resilient because I cling hard to the hem of His garment. Sometimes I’m holding on by a thread, or the skin of my teeth! But guys, I’ve tasted and seen His goodness. It’s all that matters. It’s what’s kept me alive.

This one could take an entire series, a few paragraphs here won’t do it justice. It’s coffee date level. Jesus has brought me through it all, His strength is what makes me resilient.

9. Gratitude Is The Key

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:17‭-‬18

It’s easy to complain. It’s so easy to focus on the bad and not see the good. I got so stuck in that cycle, viewing life through the negativity lens.

It’s where my Finding Daily Delight project came from. I wanted to rewire myself to look for the little things to take delight in again and practice gratitude.

I could list countless scriptures about thankfulness and gratitude! It’s repeated so many times.

Think about it, if you are focusing on the negative only, it will affect your attitude. (Remember earlier when I mentioned thought life? Mindset matters!)

This isn’t about toxic positivity. This is about operating from a grateful heart space. Holding space for the both//and, where you can have both hard moments and joy, and not settling into despair.

Paul was able to worship and praise from a prison cell. David wrote Psalms crying out “where are you God?!” in one breath and worshipping Him in the next breath.

We can too. Both//and. Gratitude unlocks next-level joy and peace.

10. I Like Who I Am

It’s okay to be different and weird and like strange things. I used to despise that about myself.

Surely, I thought, if I just dress more normal or liked this type of music or hopped on that diet wagon or this fad I would come across as more normal and then people would like me.

This was before I discovered my Too-Muchness. Striving to be what people wanted me to be so I’d have their approval led to a lot of unhappiness on my end.

I’m loud, I am neurodiverse, my playlists on Spotify range from anthem worship to punk rock to folk and bluegrass.

I like who I am. I like the things I like because those things make my soul come alive.

Lake Erie might be a smelly mess to some people but it’s where I feel Jesus next to me in the car. I love that I love Lake Erie, I love that Jesus meets me there.

I like that I cry during Hallmark Christmas movies. I’m “sensitive” and feel all the things and Hallmark movies are a safe, cathartic release.

There is not box for me to fit into, my design is unique just as yours is. Quirks, dislikes, the things that make us laugh… Trying to change or fit into someone else’s peg is pointless.

I enjoy who I am growing into. I’m excited to see who I am in ten more years!

29th birthday selfie – 10 years after that Barnes and Noble date night

Here’s the thing about all of these lessons: I don’t have one of them mastered. God still works on these same lessons with me.

Even my birthday today. 90% of this post was already written. My morning was splendid, but by afternoon some stuff hit the fan. My birthday wasn’t sunshine and rainbows.

It could have ruined the rest of my night. I had to fight off those thoughts that I was a failure again. But as my oldest says, we had a restart! The rest of my birthday evening was redemptive and sweet.

Happy ten birthday, Ohio. I’m so glad to be home. When I celebrated my first birthday here I never imagined in a decade I’d be watching my daughters run around our front yard from my porch. This is what dreams are made of 🧡