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.

Play With Fire

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Play with Fire released yesterday from Bianca Olthoff and I couldn’t be happier to have gotten to read this earlier this summer.

I have waited for two months to share my review of this book, and it’s been killing me y’all.

I have to say I was apprehensive about reading this because I wasn’t sure where Bianca would take us. She took us deep within her to what God was showing her throughout many years, having to live through it in order to then turn and share it.

Play With Fire hits on the journey of Bianca Olthoff from a place of doubt and question, choosing to allow God to break her completely at pivotal moments in order to pursue what He would have her choose, what would bring Him the glory and her to a deeper relationship with Him.

“Being chosen, then, clearly doesn’t mean being comfortable.” (p. 31)

This book will make you uncomfortable because He challenges you through Bianca’s words, His moving in her life and what He taught her about being chosen and His timing. Throughout this book Bianca talks about how we are not to fear the fire of life, the fire that can be daunting and wearying.

No, the fires of this life, ones which we can walk into boldly knowing He is with us, or attempt to be drug through kicking and screaming, are ones which refine us. They change us, hopefully towards the better, towards the God of glory and His plan for us. It leads us to understanding Him more in glimpses of the flames and relying upon Him throughout, even in the hard, even in the difficult.

Bianca shares from a vulnerable and honest place about her experiences of pain and suffering, of glimpses of joy and where she ultimately had to get to a place with God to allow Him to work things out in her fully. She admits to being a work in progress, as we all are, in the refining process.

“What survives in the fire will determine what is truly valuable and real.”

(p. 168)

 

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.

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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.

Are They Having Fun Without Me?

That question didn’t plague me until my mid-twenties. Never more did it haunt my thoughts than when I thought about all the other women in the singles ministry at my church.

You see for most of my life I preferred the company of boys. I grew up in a neighborhood full of them, and with a seven year age gap with my sister, I found the boys much more apt buddies. As life progressed for me throughout those awkward middle school (cause let’s just admit we are all awkward in middle school, okay?) and even through most of high school I migrated to being one of the guys. I could count on one hand the number of female friends I had, and down to one or two fingers the besties I would find in the female genre.

I just preferred guys. Things were easier, there was less drama, and they weren’t competing for attention at that point (at least not that I chose to see). Even into college I had two close female friends, and a multitude of male friends. Some of my closest friendships from college were with males, and it didn’t help matters that I was working and majoring in sports administration.

It wasn’t until several years later, as I settled into life as a young professional with a job and a home church that I began to crave that female friendship more. The desire was met by some amazing women in the singles ministry at the church I began to call home. Quickly I realized that all those years of being around the guys had not prepared me for the massive insecurity I felt among a group of women, in various age brackets and stages of life.

Nervously I tiptoed around the women to observe and marvel at how they navigated the large group dynamic, often squaring off to “call mine” on a single man within the ministry. I laughed at this in my naïve heart, not knowing that this is often the case in singles ministries as women are about a billion to 3 ratio to men. (*not scientifically proven, just from a multiple experiences y’all) There were nights though that I wondered if they were all off somewhere having fun without me. Simply because I wasn’t secure enough in my relationships with women to know any different or include myself in more conversations.

Anxiety would rise up as I sought to belong, “be in community” as they often preached from the stage, to know I had a place with these women. No where did fear, doubt and insecurity play a bigger and louder song on repeat than in those first months dipping into a ministry at a church. Admittedly this has happened since then as well, as I navigate visiting a new church, seeking out the home I wanted to call mine in a new city, desiring others who would welcome me and challenge me as that first group did many years ago.

Now I sit on the opposite side, desiring to create women’s ministry within my church as once again our ratio sits at about a billion to three males. I am one of a tight group of women who seek to serve and love others within our church because we are called and commanded to do so. My heart goes out to the new faces and new hearts that step through the doors each week, because I was once in those very cute heels myself. Wondering if I was being judged for what I had chosen to wear, worrying that women were saying “Oh great, another single female when there’s already a bajillion of us here”, or never being engaged in conversation simply because I am overlooked, because I blended.

I know those doubts and lies that our hearts want us to believe because our hearts are flesh. They deceive even on our best days. When our heart yearns for community, we will never feel more alone than in a room full of people. Our minds tell us that everyone else is having fun without us, and we weren’t meant to be in community. When in reality, we are all desiring after the ability to be known, by others and by God. We take those steps into church doors because of God’s whisper for us to be in community with one another, loving one another as we love Him.

So if that’s you…the one who believes fun is being had without you I challenge you to step out one foot more, lean in just a bit closer and cast aside the fear of remaining unknown. And if that’s you…the one who is already in ministry I challenge you to step out one foot more, lean in just a bit closer and cast aside the fear of rejection.

 

We are not having fun without you because we are without you in our midst.

The Rachels and Leahs of the World

It’s a tale as old as time it seems…(No, I am not talking about Beauty and the Beast here, at least not now)

The tension of relationships.

Two women find themselves attached to the same man. They do all they can to one-up each other simply to gain his love and devotion, to be the first in his life rather than play second fiddle. I am pretty sure multiple comedies and romances have been based off of this brief synopsis. I know I have been a part of that story in my own life and seen it rip apart friendships over the years.

As I sat reading about this, I could not help but think on the female relationships in the church. You see I was reading straight from Genesis…About real women, in the lineage of Christ, sisters themselves who were thrust into a situation where they desired nothing more than the attention and love of a man. A man who was forthcoming about his preference of one of the sisters over the other. And the resulting dysfunction of tension within the family which laid the foundation for continued disregard of family and sinful actions to perpetuate down their lines.

I wanted to shake Rachel and Leah. I wanted to comfort them both and yet I wanted to brush past their drama as well. But I just couldn’t.

Because it’s too prevalent even now in our midst as women. As the church.

We women are far too good at making it a competition rather than a cheering section when it comes to relationships, leadership and the church. When it comes to the area of singles, we do it simply because of numbers-there just aren’t as many single men in the church as there are women-so we start vying for attentions of the opposite sex to the detriment of our fellow women. I wish I could claim ignorance on this but unfortunately I have been on both the giving and receiving end of this tension over the years, where we find ways to “one-up” the other lady.

I have even seen this among the marrieds and families, with the wonder moms crowd vying for VBS status and church leadership praise. In our pursuit for goodness, we have found instead pride and ego-centered living. We have given up community for temporary attention. We have chosen ourselves over others.

As much as we like to point to the Israelites with their complaining in the desert, here we sit in the same petty arguments that plagued some of the very first families. The desires for our own good apart from God and His purpose, His call to community and love, to engaging the other ahead of ourselves, to servant filled lives instead of self-filled motives.

Maybe it starts with us ladies. Maybe, just maybe, we stop being the Rachels and Leahs in the walls of the church (or the home, or the workplace, or around the coffeshops) and instead we embrace the life of community, comradery and support. We share with one another instead of cutting one another down. We build up rather than seek to one up. Rather than see another woman as our competition we see her as our sister, our journey-woman, our friend.