Community, James, and Doubts

For the last six weeks I have spent Monday nights with a group of women, talking and getting to really know one another. Let’s just end any similarities to the Bachelor/ette viewing parties right there. Because I was in fact, not at one of those, but spending much needed time in community with women in the Word of God.

Y’all. Can I confess here? I was apprehensive about going. It was a study of James (I had just finished studying it on my own with SheReadsTruth) and it meant adjusting my calendar on Mondays. This is coming from a woman who used to lead a small group, reads multiple faith-based books a month, and writes a devotion for her church. CMON. This should have been right up my basic, white Christian girl alley.

I have been hurt in female groups before and will be again, especially within the church because we. are. human. We are post-fall, culture living, sin-struggling humans. Every single one of us. Including me. But that lie that community will only harm was what had me questioning stepping into the room full of women. Who love Jesus. Who want to study God’s Word.

Just like me.

Little did any of those women know that for the prior eight to ten months my heart and prayer had been for women who yearned for the word of God. To study and be present with one another digging into what God was speaking in His Word to them and through them. The reminders that He still works and moves. He is active among those who seek Him.

19732017_10154738616990963_1382455788602163614_nSo last Monday night, as we wrapped up five weeks of gut-checking study, of sharing and being open with women I held in deep respect and those I never met before, I stood and shared that exact thing. I pointed back to the very first chapter of James where he urges us beyond just hearing the Word, but doing the Word. Doing means stepping out when it might cost me something, when it will cost me something. My self. That pride. That ego. That self that tends to lead me in the opposite way of His Word and into doubt and fear. That leads me into less community and more separation.

It was community right there in that room that showed me exactly what the prayers answered can look like. Prayers of months, of a heart desiring women to gather and dig in to His Word, for them to desire it and step into it, when I was skeptical myself. When I doubted He’d be able to do a thing. It was Him at work, when I felt it wasn’t possible. It wasn’t wanted.

Sometimes your answer to prayer means you are the doer…facing the doubt and lies on something so insignificant in many ways, but something so eternally impactful when stepped into. Because when we are only hearing the word for ourselves, we live in that deception of our own voice, our ego, our sin-soaked selves telling us no one else wants it so why desire it, pursue it, mention it? Why choose to change your schedule and pick a bit of discomfort in order to gain so much more?

Because He is so much more.

The Ping of Death

I heard the ping, ping, ping of a nail going into a piece of wood echo in the room. Words, lies, hurt, anger, things carried by women for far longer than they should of, and some since childhood, getting nailed to a cross. If I am still long enough, a week later, I can still hear it.

And there’s part of me that knows the devil does not want me to remember that. He likes me hearing words, believing lies he’s fed me and living in a place of hopeless regret and bitterness, turning to gossip and envy rather than pouring out love and support, encouragement and joy.

Y’all. I know without a doubt God has given me a desire to work in women’s ministry. To write about faith, singleness, dating, community. To put together studies and gather women to uplift one another. I know that without a single doubt in my mind. But here’s the kicker I have wrestled so hard and for so long with: I don’t do relationships with my fellow ladies well.

That’s the reminder I get when I start writing, when I sign up to lead a small group, when I step out to engage other women. You don’t do it well. Who are you to do this? Your circle is small. It’s like he knows what my downfall is, what will make me stumble and run back to my hiding place. Where I circle up with my self and vow that I won’t put myself out there, to look ridiculous and be known. I’d rather stay to the outskirts and not be hurt or mocked.

Even writing all of this has been a difficult step for me over this last week. Because I’ve had to admit to myself that I would prefer to live in the lie and doubt God rather than trust Him fully with the work He’s doing all along. And so last Monday I sat sobbing…ladies around me not understanding why or knowing what I wrote on that sheet of paper and put down on that cross-knowing Jesus Himself took care of it so long ago so that I wouldn’t carry it anymore, that I should have never carried it to begin with. But I had taken to living in James 3:16, choosing envy of others living out what I believed God had given me and seeking my own selfish ambition in my own strength…I was leaning into words and perceived slights of others as a means of willful disobedience and mistrust of God.

Y’all it’s an ugly place to be in, where you point the finger of judgement and unmet/unreasonable expectations of others, seeking to gossip and cut down fellow believers instead of building each other up through encouragement and support. It’s not mine to define how someone should be a friend to me, nor should I choose to sin against them when they don’t meet expectations I have falsely established for them. My life should look more like verses 17 and 18 of James 3-peace loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy, bearing out the good fruit of righteousness.

And so a work God had long since started in me, came bearing out in the pings of a nail and a hammer onto the cross Monday night. Surrounded by women from across the church, fighting to let go and put the lies, the hurt, the doubt, the anger, all of it. That view was intended specifically for me. That sound. That moment. Because God knew only that would get me to wake up to what He’d been aiming straight at my heart with for months…that the desire of His heart was calling to mine if I would but listen, lay everything else down and pick up the cross instead.

I had to hear that specific ping of death, the death nail of the lies and sin I had chosen repeatedly to finally see the weight of it all…to know He long took it from me, if I’d but put it there for good.

She: A Review

Few books make we want to get to the know authors more than ones where real stories of transparency and vulnerability come through the pages, digging into some matters where I feel like a friend in conversation rather than a reader of a book.

Pasted-image-at-2016_08_12-01_16-PM.png
Photo courtesy of She Reads Truth online. 

She Reads Truth, out now from B&H Publishers, is the dual stories of it’s co-founders and the heart of their ministry with the online devotions. Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams (yes, that’s her real maiden name) have lined up a format in this book that isn’t uncommon but fresh in the Christian living world, where you alternate between their two stories of grief, loss, ministry and hope.

In this book, you see the interwoven story of two women very different now working for the call of ministry in a very unified and straight-forward manner…while showing that it’s not all flowers and butterflies and yet we survive. It’s not in your own will or dependence that you survive or make it through…it’s by seeing Truth as your daily need. To see His words laid out before you and come to write them on your heart, your life.

The women of the pages of this books strive to point each woman daily online and in the SRT community back to being in God’s word. This book does the same thing, interspersing Scripture as they delve into their own stories, and those often shared by many of their online community. While not married or having children, I didn’t feel the tug of awkward or unrelatable in this book.

It felt like hard and deep conversations you have for hours with friends, and now I consider myself a She as well, getting to share in their struggles and revelations on the permanence of God, His Word and His creation. But ultimately it all points back to Him. That He is permanent when all other things are passing away.

It’s that permanence that leads to Truth of Scripture and my need to read it…All of our need to read it daily as women. I highly recommend this read to any woman seeking to dig deeper into how Scripture lives out in our lives, in the very hard and the good.


In exchange for this review, I received the book at no cost from B&H Publishing. Interested in being a review blogger? Apply at bhbloggers.com. Read other reviews here.

Walk A Mile

img_9895It was supposed to be one mile up and one mile back. On concrete stairs, in the cool of the morning. Yes, the incline was steep but it wasn’t something I hadn’t encountered before in hiking in the Smokies or beyond.

I hadn’t expected the heart talk, the overwhelming sense of God in our midst and the whispers of peace that kept flooding over me. We were a group of four women, three visitors and Nicole walking this walk so many Catholics have for penance. We were there to see and talk with Nicole, spend time with her and hear more about this city her family loves, the people and their desire to pursue Christ in the midst of so much darkness.

Of the week we spent in Italy I have so much to process and ruminate on, so much that God spoke into, revealed and called me to conviction on. But these precious hours on Thursday morning spent walking (and huffing and sweating) up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca was the stone of remembrance I’ll place on this trip.

That talk and that walk point me directly to these verses in Ephesians (which were talked about this last week coincidentally)…

In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

Ephesians 4:1-3 (The Message)

img_9979

We walked a road for a short time hearing how God called Nicole’s family to travel this specific one. It also reminded me of the road He’s called me to travel. It’s not one sitting on my hands, just as Paul’s words are translated. It’s not one that is distracted by the view or the people passing by on their own travels. It’s about the one I am walking, the one He purposed specifically for me, unique to my gifts and talents He has blessedly given me.

The mile may be long, it may be far more arduous and heartrending than I had expected, but it’s one that I wish to be steady in climbing and alert for the time I am on it, obedient to the path He has called me to walk (and sometimes run) even when I am tired, out of breath and straining against my own will and lack of strength.

What if Ruth was your call to ministry? To minister to other women, to hearts that were seeing Christ in you? 

I’m reading through the familiar story of her life with a new perspective, new experiences and a God who whispers His truth revealing into my heart at just the right moment…

For me it’s not about Boaz, the widowing or the marriage bond of in-laws. It’s about the women, Naomi especially. God chose to work in her, setting her in a foreign land and then losing the things that would have defined her in context of her land and time. The same we do here, now. Husbands. Children. She was those things. And then she wasn’t.

She was the living God lived out to Orpah and Ruth. She was the God of Israel to women of Moab. One responded and one didn’t. One looked to her life, her God and wanted it so much so that she abandoned all she knew to cling to Naomi, to be in the presence of the God she saw in her. The other went back to what she knew, and we aren’t really sure of her story after that.

But we see the impact of Naomi, of her story. Even in her bitterness she didn’t stray from God. She oversaw her daughter in law, now calling her daughter. She cared for her and her future, a future that didn’t look so great but only asked for faith. Faith in the God Who took her to Moab complete and brought her back empty. Naomi’s faith shone through, even as Ruth sought to glean from a harvest. A harvest God had provided, and knew long before we be pivotal in the story of the lineage of Christ.

Ruth was exercising faith in the simple things because she had seen it lived out by Naomi throughout the good and the very bad. She simply asked to collect God’s provision, and Naomi encouraged her to go and do.

I cannot help but be joyful at this new perspective, of Naomi’s ministry to Ruth, to living out the God of Israel before women who were foreigners, who ended up being family. She loved and lived, even in bad circumstances. She mentored and fostered love in the household in order to bring about God’s provision that He set about far before Naomi could fathom.

I don’t know about you, but it makes me realize the relationships we have with other women is pivotal to our own with Christ. God will use even the bad for His glory and our good. He’s in the small, He provides, if we but be obedient in the simple, the daily steps of faith. It’s a call to minister even when we don’t feel like we can, when we don’t see how any good will come of it, and to allow those women into our lives who desperately want the Jesus they see in us.

 

Well Giddy On Up: A Book Review

I took a bit of a sabbatical from book reviewing for about six weeks this summer. I have read (to date) 26 books since January 1, as my goal for 35 by December 31 looks obtainable. But I had been reading quite a bit on Christian living, dating and leadership over the last few months that I felt the need to breathe and dig in to some candy for my brain.

In doing so, I have consumed far too much fiction in six weeks. I’m currently in the middle of Zoo by James Patterson and will begin the transition back to more focused reading for the fall. I did take some time to read the new book out from Sophie Hudson, better known as BooMama, called Giddy Up, Eunice.

giddy up

In reading this book, it feels like you are sitting with Sophie chatting. She’s sharing her stories and thoughts on women of the Bible. Their relationships, how they cared and mentored one another, and how that translates to our relationships now as women in the church (and mostly outside of it).

There were times when I had to put the book away as I felt the tug of a needed relationship in my life that had gone uncultivated. Or when I felt convicted that I wasn’t giving attention and support to women all around me in our relationships. Sophie can catch you right where you are at, and do so unsuspectingly.

This is a great read for women in their 20’s and up as a means of guiding relationships as peers, mentors, and anything in between. It’s a call to women to be in fellowship and see first hand what that looks like from the women in the Bible who’ve gone before in the Lord and shown us the way. Our circumstances may not be in the same context, but here we are thousands of years later, still looking around at the women of our church for community.

It’s something that has gotten after my heart this summer and challenges me to pursue engaging more in some relationships, trusting others that I felt were going distant, and leaning into unsuspecting areas to foster relationships I hadn’t considered. Sophie’s book gives you thoughts to ponder and some applicable steps to take, as she guides you through real life stories from her own eyes and heart.

I highly recommend this book for women’s ministers, small group leaders, Sunday School teachers, basically any female who has friendships with any other females in their lives. It’s something that can be used as a guide, a resource, and even a teaching platform of sorts. Whether you are just coming to the table of Christian friendships, or you’ve been here a long while, we need you because as Sophie says, “We need each other.”


In exchange for this review I received the book at zero cost from B&H Publishing.

When You Want to Quit as a Woman

I have a shirt that says “Quitter” across it in bold, capital letters. We can thank Jon Acuff for this as it was a book that he wrote that ultimately changed the course of a large chunk of my life. But it’s something that makes me laugh at when I wear it, especially at work as I head to the gym. (My boss at the job I have had less than a year did not find it as amusing the day I walked out of the bathroom with it on)

But I have to say I have been marked by that title one too many times in my life. I once quit the tennis team in high school in the middle of our match, thankfully my mother yanked some sense into me and I walked my ego and pride back to the team seeking forgiveness. So when I saw Nicki Koziarz’s 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit I thought it might be worth checking out, because frankly I was tired of seeing the things in my life that I had quit, given up on and were reminders of a life not lived fully.

Y’all I didn’t expect to be utterly wrecked by this book, published by B&H (and provided to me by them for this review). Nicki leads you through the five habits in such a beautifully simplistic way with chapters leading into it and providing Godly insight as to how to Biblically honor God through these habits. Early on in the Quitzilla chapter (yes, friends, I have been a Quitzilla myself) she just lays the gist of our habits as quitters out there with this: “Usually we are not defeated by what others say or do to us; ultimately we are defeated by what we say and do to ourselves.” (Pg 51) I don’t get down too often about what others say to me, it’s my internal talk that gets me, every. Single. Time.

Nicki does an excellent job in this book of knitting together her own personal struggle with quitting in life, from marriage to motherhood to writing and much more that you feel like a good friend is having a conversation with you at Starbucks instead of just reading another Christian living book. At the end of the chapters she recaps the highlights in one-liners to remember and take to heart. She also provides applicable questions to get you thinking and re-thinking your habits currently employed and how you can implement the ones in the book.

Through her words, Nicki guides you from accepting the assignment of refinement through understanding that your feelings should not be your compass and to finding it is worth it in the end to continue on with your assignment. I believe this book has the ability to change women’s hearts and lives in such a powerful way. I know it’s changed mine already as I seek to accept the assignment of refinement in my own life now, and not allowing feelings to be my master but being open to God’s movement in my life.

Since Quitter, I don’t know that I have a read a book that has pushed me personally, spiritually and professionally as this book. Go grab it from your local LifeWay…and be on your way to developing the habits of a woman who doesn’t quit.


I was not paid for this review. I did receive the book in exchange for posting a review. Of the ones I have reviewed in the last six months, this one is second to Fervent. I want you to have this book, and I want you to share with others about this book. It’s that good y’all.