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.

Play With Fire

14054401_1159532290774341_6537420251915042909_o

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)

 

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.