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.

Swipe Right to Friend: A Review

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Y’all, I have to say that I haven’t been very good with the female friendships in my life. I am more prone to male friendships over the years, as the guys I was close with in college can attest (except for Brooke and Angela). I found that women often brought drama and I wanted as far away from it as possible, still do.

As I have gotten older though I have found that I crave female friendships, women to connect with and talk with. There are certain things that frankly I just cannot with men-and honestly, should not. So I dug into Never Unfriended from Lisa-Jo Baker, her newest out from B&H Publishing over the last couple of weeks.

This book? Well I was prepared to think it was another in a line of gushy women-love books for believers. I was prepped to read alot of fluff and not much content, and oft mis-contextualized Scripture thrown in for good measure. But that was not the case y’all.

It chronicles Lisa-Jo’s own walk in female friendships, starting first with what we fear about them. Chapters dig into the realities of life lived outside of a computer/phone screen in real life with women around us. What holds us back from them, and what keeps us talking about them long after they’ve departed.

“For better or worse, female friendships take courage to start and courage to maintain.” (pg. 43)

She walks you through being the new girl, and y’all, we will always be the new girl at some point. And we’ll also be the girl to include the new girl. Always.

As you dig deeper into this book you’ll find sections on what you can do about your friendships and what you cannot do. We have to embrace both, as Lisa-Jo points out. There are points of application in some areas, and points to pray and seek further wisdom on. There were points where I had to put down the book and reflect on friendships I had let go of and ones I had so desperately clung to when I shouldn’t have.

This book is a much needed resource for women today. It highlights key areas I see continuously besieging friendships I am in, and those I am on the fringes of. You may disagree with her on some points, but allow the Holy Spirit to convict you as you read as well, opening up the space you have guarded off due to broken trust and hurt in past relationships. I highly recommend this book for women in a single context. I wouldn’t encourage a group study on this per say, as you need space to solely process and work through some areas she brings up…or maybe that was just me.

At the end you’ll find where you can start on never being unfriended, but you already have if you’ve picked up this book. Lisa-Jo provides more than platitudes with this book, she provides opportunities for women to connect and grow in community in real-life friendships, not the ones we see plaguing our jealous hearts across Instagram and Pinterest.


In exchange for this review, a free copy of the book was provided by the publisher, B&H. You can pick up this book at LifeWay Christian Stores or on their website, as well as other retailers nationwide.

An Extrovert Goes to Small Group

I am an extrovert by nature. I like to talk and engage people. I really like hearing other people’s stories, their lives…I think about that when I am in a group often. How I can facilitate others shining or sharing. How can I care about them deeper and encourage them further?

You wouldn’t know it though as often I am making dumb jokes or a fool of myself. But that’s who I am, and how I choose to welcome others into my life in order to be in their lives.

Six months ago I stepped out to get involved in a small group community at the church I am now regular attending. For someone who is single (because that’s the perspective I am an expert at, ;)) it’s a scary thing to venture out into a new small group. Navigating new people and new group dynamics is often incredibly nerve-wracking, even for an extrovert like me.

Here I sit months later, the morning after our last get together before summer break, thinking how much these women are such integral pieces of my life, and my week. They have prayed during one of the hardest springs of my life. We have learned from one another, and I have grown so much thanks to their insight and sharing. I didn’t really realize until I was making the short drive home from our dinner last night that these women are some of the most amazing, talented and Christ-like women I have ever met…and I can call them friends now.

small-group-BI think back to going my first night, worrying how things would go, if I would be welcomed into an already established group, and seeking deeper engagement in the Word with women in similar circumstances of life. God has a way of providing if we are but faithful to step out. You’d think after leading a small group while I was in Knoxville that I would know that already, but He surprises over and over again, and I love that about Him.

This spring has shown me just exactly why doing life in the context of a small group (life group/community group/whatever you call it now) is so vital to our relationship with Him. He desires community for us to live in, to work in, to play in, and to grow in. The weeks I had to miss because of an appointment or illness, I knew I’d be missing these godly women sharing their hearts and what He’s speaking to them on…and I knew for me, I’d be missing this community He so graciously brought me.

As we broke for summer last night, it felt bittersweet as we have one woman getting married this summer (yay!!!) and another preparing for a two-year mission journey in Germany (yay!!!). Life will happen to all of us this summer, adventures await, new opportunities and deeper relationships. I am excited to see how He works in us this summer, and know that we are a group text away from getting together for movie nights or burritos.

This community. These women. Our God.

It’s amazing what He will do for extroverted introverts and introverted extroverts alike when we are faithful to engage in life outside of ourselves. Outside of what we know and what we do. How He will use us and others in such a dynamic way that when we turn around, we aren’t sure how we ever lived fully without this in our lives.

This extrovert today is thankful she went to the Christmas party five months ago and chose to be intentional about community. I encourage you to do the same.

Let Your Words Be Life…

It’s Wednesday…it feels like it should be Saturday. I woke up and could not really take that it was only Wednesday. This week has already been very draining, and I know for certain I am not the only one feeling that drain. The weather is the redeeming factor thus far. It’s given me an extra pep in my step to get out the door and to get back in the door each night.

Currently, I know of people struggling through a serious injury that happened over the weekend, children being in NICU and in the pediatric units in hospitals, of friends standing alongside their loved ones as they grieve the loss of a wonderful woman, and those wondering if they will ever find a job. Right now life just seems to be forcing itself onto us with unhappy gains. I had a dear friend and mentor just this morning post about her mother in law having a severe heart attack…as they sit in Germany as foreign missionaries. There is so much hurt, grief, and fear in so many lives right now. I ache for those individuals

And then there are those who willingly inflict undue hurt onto others. As if this world needed more ugliness and strife. Those who use venomous words to lob insults at people and create a haze of grime to cloud people’s days. I keep coming back to Proverbs with the thought that our words have such power to either encourage joy or inflict pain. While we say actions speak louder than words, people’s words reflect their character. It’s a two-for-one deal. What you say and what you do go hand-in-hand. Your character matters, and so do your words.

You can impart life or death with your words. You have the responsibility with them. Choose wisely.

There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. 

Proverbs 12:18 (HCSB)

Do you create or reduce hurt with your words? What are ways in which you can encourage instead of inflict? A writer friend, Annie Downs, has a new book out called Speak Love that talks directly to using words that matter.

We’re Always Better When We’re Together.

Growing up, I was surrounded by kids in my neighborhood. For the most part, it was males, but I still had others to be around who were similar in age and interest. We would play basketball, wiffleball, and kickball. We would pretend to be the greatest, and for a while, feel like we were. In that community, we were unstoppable forces.

As we grow up though something tells us to seclude ourselves. Something tells us not to trust those around us with those same joys and hopes. We begin the slow slide into seclusion and isolation. For years I have kept a dream of mine strictly to myself, out of fear.

Photo courtesy of www.dancingwithhappiness.com
Photo courtesy of http://www.dancingwithhappiness.com

I think that’s what gets us. FEAR. We are afraid of what will be said, of the judgement, of the questions, of tarnishing that dream we cling to inwardly. We believe people will think of us less, expect more, question and encourage. It’s both sides of the coin because that’s how fear plays us. I have sat in a room with other dreamers yelling out their fears, and often shook my head in agreement or wondered why I hadn’t thought of that one.

When you voice your fear though, it takes away its power. As Jon Acuff states, “Fear fears community.” It hates to be shared. Fear wants to keep you quiet and shut off. The moment you share your fears with others is the moment truth comes pouring in. The blinders that had you focused on the fear are removed for you to see the vast world of truth around it.

Maybe we should take a few notes from our younger, more childish selves. Turn off the television, enjoy one another, share our hopes and dreams, and then cheer on one another when you go after them.

I know I am currently doing that as a part of the Start Experiment along with 23 other writers in Group 8, and alongside a couple of thousand other Starters. We got the start line, and we took off together for the next 24 days. We’re acting like kids, challenging and cheering one another on, and sharing our fears. Because when you tell someone of the monster under your bed or in your closet, you are no longer alone. Truth flips on the light.

Questioning Tuesday: The Fast

I know you’re not supposed to talk about fasting, that it takes the allure or the sacredness of the intent away. I normally don’t go with the flow on those things. I talk about things that you probably shouldn’t talk about with individuals because we only live once, we walk through life and choose to do so in community or alone. I choose community.

So I am taking a break from social media for the next week. I need some rest and refocus. That comes when you shut everything else off.

My question for you today is, when you need a break or quiet, what is the “thing” you have to shift away from or remove?