Whose Standard Are You Measuring Against?

Whose Standard Are You Measuring Against?

(Post 3 of 5 in this month’s guest post series “Keeping Satan Out of Your Bedroom”. Read Post 1 Here or Post 2 Here)

Sometimes I wish my husband would close drawers. Like really. Take a step back, babe, and close a drawer. I have friends who love to share that their husbands do all the cooking. And one who’s gaining weight because her husband is such a good cook. Ya’ll, I didn’t even know that was a thing. Seriously. There are men who cook something more than chicken and eggs? Or who do more than watch the grill – whether or not there’s meat currently cooking on it? Before you get mad at me for bashing my husband, quiet your spirit. I’m not bashing him. I’m using that mostly patient man to prove my own point: sometimes we get so carried away with comparison that we forget we once put on a dress and said, “I do promise to love you through sickness and health” (and any fine print that’s not currently visible in our vows.) I joke about fine print a lot, but when I’m in front of my husband, he reminds me that I’ve exposed some fine print as well. For example, I’m not great with kids. Sometimes not even with my own. And I know you’d never guess it from my shoe collection, but I’m a little high maintenance. Here’s when you’re like, Take a step back, Erin, it’s so obvious you’re high maintenance.

Remember the Jones’s? We all fall victim to the comparison game. It’s obviously a thing when there’s a cliché to go along with it. But what’s happening when we spend too much time looking beyond our own grass and into a place that not only isn’t ours, but a place where we don’t belong? Satan gets to convince us we’re missing out. And the more we play his game, the more times we think “If only my husband did this…” or “If only my husband didn’t do this” or “My marriage would be better if…” When those thoughts start creeping in, Satan gets the upper hand and the unity of our marriage is downgraded…as in going to need a lot of fertilizer to make it green again.

I get there are serious ways we compare our spouses to others, and sometimes, even in our prayers, we ask God why our husband can’t be more like so-and-so’s husband. Maybe your husband doesn’t spend enough time with the kids like Sarah’s husband. Maybe his idea of spending time with you involves watching TV on the couch and never a romantic getaway like Ashley’s husband. The list could go on. But no matter what your husband does or doesn’t do and no matter who you compare him to, there’s a common denominator. You.

Your desire for your spouse and the way he’s not measuring up to your comparisons are more reflective of you than him. That’s because it’s you who has chosen to measure him by a standard that revolves around you and your desires, and not God’s. I used to play the comparison game too. But I learned that the more I focused on my husband’s faults and the ways he wasn’t measuring up to my invisible standards, the more miserable I became. You know what’s worse? The more I allowed my inner dialogue of negativity to swirl inside of me, the more Satan punctuated my thoughts!! And he’s all about the exclamation point when you’re angry and the question mark when you’re hurt. How does he punctuate your thoughts?

Satan has everything to win by keeping my mind focused on what others have and what I don’t have, and what my husband’s not doing instead of what he is doing. He loves the idea of me coveting something that can’t belong to me (this includes the notion of a perfect spouse) instead of focusing on the man God brought into my life and gifted to me with grace and expectation.

I’ve learned that to elevate my marriage instead of dismantling it, I need to let God filter my vision of my husband. I need to spend more time looking into my heart and asking God to refine it, and less time making heartfelt apologies for measuring my husband against someone else’s standard.

“Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” (Galatians 6:4)

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Erin

10696463_950947881586261_3679685812034055593_nErin Whitmer is a blogger and speaker at erinwhitmer.com. She loves to encourage women and remind them they’ve been created to sparkle, even in the chaos of daily life. She is the mother of two boys, a wife to an amazing man who puts up with her shoes obsession, and her daily goal is to step out in boldness in all the ways Christ guides her. Sign up for her newsletter HERE and receive her FREE 7 day devotional, Praying to Move Mountains.

Stay tuned for more posts from Erin on Brave Girl Community as she continues this series on marriage called “Keeping Satan Out of Your Bedroom” where she will share five ways we inadvertently invite Satan into our bedroom (and sometimes even in our bed), along with five ways we can unite with our spouse to keep Satan out. She will share wisdom that will allow each of us to elevate our marriages beyond a stale state of union to a true holy matrimony.

The Last Shall Be Light

The Last Shall Be Light

Today I am writing to the rejected. To the ones scarred by the words of others. The ones who sit in silence way too often and feel lost in the shuffle. Those who look different from everyone else in the room. To the ones picked last.

I see you.

But even more importantly, God sees you. He understands your pain because he walked in your shoes, rejected by a world that had no valid accusation against him.

Isaiah 53:3 describes Jesus as being “…despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…”

The One sent to redeem the world was a man of sorrows, well-acquainted with grief. He was more than just rejected; he was despised. Oh precious forgotten one, if ever you’ve been understood, it’s by Him. 

I have no doubt that God has big plans for you. Because of the rejection you have so often felt, you are more keenly aware of those who walk down the same lonely path you do. Your eyes are well-trained to see the pain lying just underneath the surface of other people’s eyes. You are able to see those whom no one else seems to. Pay close attention to your ability to observe such things.

The scriptures are full of reminders that God does big things with those rejected by the world, but my new favorite verse out of them all is Psalm 118:22:

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

How’s that for vindication? He was and is the biggest, most important, strongest and most essential element of our lives. The world may have cast him aside, but Jesus pursued and completed his God-given mission anyway. He fearlessly trusted His Father and kept his eyes on Him, changing the lives of everyone willing to look upon his face and accept his offer of eternal friendship. If he had allowed the world’s opinion of him to dictate his actions, his mission would have been squashed, thus rendering all of humanity hopeless forever.

Likewise, it is important for us to remember that the world’s opinion of us bears no weight on our value. We are valuable because God made us with care (Psalm 139:13-14); He chose us (John 15:16); and He calls us Beloved (Col. 3:12).

To reinforce this truth even further, allow me to remind you of Zephaniah 3:17:

“…He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

You. Are. Adored.

You are treasured. You are sought after. Your company is desired. You are valued, beautiful, and seen. You are rejoiced over with songs.

If you have a hard time believing these truths apply to you, ask God to speak straight to your heart and make them real to you. I believe there’s nothing He wants more than for you to understand how vastly He loves you.

The greater we understand His love, the less validation we need from those around us. The less validation we need from others, the more confident we become in being a light. The more of a light we are to the world, the less others have to feel alone.

We, the rejected, can be the brightest beacons of light the world has ever seen if we allow God to heal the dark, unseen, and hurting places in our hearts with His redeeming grace. Through Him, we can love the unloved; we can see the unseen.

 

BraveGirl Martha

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The Other Woman

The Other Woman

So I had a moment when my child’s pediatrician appointment morphed into a therapy session…for me.

Has anyone else ever been there – in that frustrating place of feeling overwhelmed and “not enough?” This is exactly where I found myself last week. My second daughter was born recently, and at this particular appointment the goal was for her to gain back enough weight to break even with what she weighed at birth. As Dr. Jackson and I discussed my daughter’s eating habits, he paused and said, “You know, the expression on your face is telling me that maybe you just need a break.”

With this astute observation from a wise and seasoned doctor, the dam broke and all the insecurities, guilt, and doubt I had been holding inside came flooding out. The gentle, non-judgmental way Dr. Jackson spoke to me made me realize that the voice I had been listening to was the complete opposite: my inner voice had been speaking harshly and critically to my heart. It had been lying to me, and I was believing the lie yet again.

I think that as women, we all have a tendency to buy into the lies our Enemy tries to sell us. Depending on our age, circumstances, and desires, the lies we believe are as unique as we are. These lies feed on comparisons, dissatisfaction, and self-absorption. As I drove home from that appointment, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a thought I had been clinging to subconsciously for days…the lie that was currently holding me captive:

“Somewhere out there, there’s a woman with a three-year-old and a newborn baby, and SHE’S handling life better than I am.”

HER house is clean.

SHE exhibits saintly patience while meeting the needs of two attention-demanding children.

SHE has managed to shower every day and looks refreshed and pulled together.

HER postpartum body is already bouncing back…abs are showing…jeans are fitting.

Do you see what I did there? It’s amazing to me how effortlessly my mind can be convinced that these statements are absolutely factual, although I personally don’t know anyone who proves the validity of even one of them! So my lie starts to look more and more like truth, unfounded in reality but propagated by the ungodly amount of pressure I put on myself to be some sort of superwoman. Then there’s the guilt I heap upon myself when I fail to be perfect. This cycle of thought is what caused me to break down in a doctor’s office. It’s what grips each of us when we allow ourselves to dwell on that other woman.

For me, the other woman is a mother and wife who has a Pinterest-worthy life complete with planned out healthy dinners, beautifully decorated, uncluttered rooms, and kids who don’t need screen time because their days are filled with art projects, play dates, and enriched learning experiences.

Who is the “other woman” for you?

Is it the newlywed who just shared glamorous wedding pics on Facebook?

Is it the co-worker who dresses impeccably and has an “in” with the boss?

Maybe your other woman is strong, fit, and dedicated to her health. You scroll past her gym selfies while indulging in your favorite fat-filled snack and instantly feel defeated.

Or, perhaps like me, your other woman is mythical, a figment of your imagination. She has everything you wish you had or think you need, and your life seems so “less than” by comparison.

While you ponder the lies you might be harboring in your own heart, consider these three truths about your other woman as well.

1. The other woman is not my competition.
2. I can learn from the other woman.
3. I am the other woman to someone else.

The Other Woman is NOT My Competition

The next time you or I find ourselves comparing our lives to others, I hope we would have enough truth hidden away in our hearts to combat the lies. Galatians 5:26 speaks volumes. “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Wherever you are in life, whatever season you find yourself in, is where you are meant to be in this moment. Instead of being jealous of those who have already reached the next rung on the ladder of life, try to focus on what’s good and holy about your current situation. For me, the harrowing nights with a newborn are a true test of my character. Instead of kicking my feet tantrum-style under the covers and wishing away the multiple midnight feedings, I can choose to focus on the sweet helplessness of my baby and soak up the warmth and innocence of new life that disappears all too soon. I am right where God wants me as I care for my family, and there is joy in claiming that truth.

Envy and resentment make a convenient couple. The more you compare and find yourself coming up short, the more space you’ll find in your heart for bitterness to take up residence. That bitterness acts as a wall, keeping you from forming friendships and building a support system with other women. This is one way Satan works to keep us bound by lies. The only way to break the cycle is to bravely reach out to the women who fit into the “other” category. I’ve found in my own life that the very ones I compared myself to or judged to be too good for me have ended up being some of my closest girlfriends. It took vulnerability and authenticity. It took time. But it’s been worth the effort and my life has been enriched by the deeper relationships that formed once I gave up my tendency to compare and compete with others.

I Can Learn From the Other Woman

Sometimes God uses the other women in our lives to teach us lessons we can’t access anywhere else. I remember when I was in the throes of infertility and it seemed that everyone around me was announcing pregnancies and giving birth. These women were living my dream. It was hard to receive their good news without a twinge of self-pity. To this day I can tell you the names of celebrities who carried and delivered babies during the three years my husband and I longed for a child of our own. But guess what? As I heard stories from these “other women,” I realized many of them had been right where I was. They too had struggled to get pregnant or had lost children through miscarriages – a tragedy I cannot comprehend. Their wisdom gave me hope. They shared verses that I learned to cling to myself. I understood how to faithfully walk through infertility because I let these women in.

Who can you learn from? The women who seem to have it all likely don’t. And what they do have has not come as easy as you believe or been without a high cost. What if the key you need to finally unlock contentment in your life is being held by the other woman? Are you willing to listen, ask questions, and learn from her story?

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I Am the Other Woman to Someone Else

In the journey to learn from these other women, maybe all you need to adjust your outlook is a fresh understanding that you yourself are someone else’s “other woman.” Now that I am a mother, I have dear friends and family members who are where I was all those years ago. They see my daughters and their hearts ache for the children they so desperately want. Now it’s my turn to pour into their pain and love them the way I was so tenderly loved.

So, my friend, the next time you catch yourself comparing or competing, make it a habit to identify lies and replace them with truth. Get to know the other woman in your life and learn from her. And when you begin taking precious gifts for granted, remember that you know someone who deeply desires the very thing you’ve become accustomed to.

Think about those around you and how they might view your life with a sense of longing. There are countless ways to turn your status as the “other woman” from something negative into a thing of beauty. If you allow your life to be a conduit through which God can pass blessings, truth, and love on to others, you will be the embodiment of 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

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May we be women who embrace truth, encourage each other, and enjoy the season of life we’re currently in!

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Three Ways You’re Getting Tangled By Temptation

Three Ways You’re Getting Tangled By Temptation

(Post 2 of 5 of this month’s guest post series “Keeping Satan Out of Your Bedroom” – read post 1 HERE)

How are you tempted daily? This question elicits different responses depending on our gender, our age, our life stage, and our priorities. If you’re like me, you’re tempted by hours of Netflix binge watching and junk food. And shoe sales. And Hobby Lobby. If you’re a mom with littles (little children under the age of five), you might be tempted by anything that will get you five minutes of quiet and a sip of your coffee while it’s actually hot. If your marriage is hurting, you might be tempted by the D-word. Or you might be tempted by the man behind you at the grocery store who smiled when you turned around…because it’s been a long time since someone has smiled at you like that. If you’ve dealt with addiction, you might be tempted by things your friends can’t even comprehend, and when they try to relate by bringing up their Chapstick© addiction, you might be tempted to self-isolate. Because what’s the point?

This is a big topic and I want to highlight what temptation might look like and how Satan loves to use it to create a foothold.

Temptation can be broken down into three main categories:

  • Our Vices. They can be big like an addiction or seemingly harmless, like a shoe fetish. It’s not the size of our vice that is as significant as the harm that vice can cause in your marriage. Is your vice driving a wedge between you and your spouse? 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We are no longer our own. Can we take a moment to ask ourselves whether Christ would approve of what we’re about to do? If you can’t do that, I challenge you to think that perhaps it’s your vice that’s not only driving a wedge between you and your spouse, but between you and God.
  • Passions and Desires. Galatians 5:24 says, Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its’ passions and desires. Confession: this is easier to read than do. And part of the danger is that, as women, we have a tendency to think this is a category largely saved for men. Sure, there’s an epidemic of porn addiction and legging ogling, but don’t discount how lust can look on you. It might be subtle. Our lust doesn’t need to be sexual. Sometimes it can come in the form of comparison…wishing your husband were more like another. Sometimes our lust can look a lot more holy when there’s a God factor. After all, it can be easy to swoon over the stylish pastor preaching. But take a heart check, ladies. That’s lust too.
  • Money. Whether you make enough money, not enough money or too much money, without a Godly perspective on finances, Satan can take control of your bank account – and wreak havoc on your marriage. What does financial temptation look like? How about lying about spending? Hiding money or bonuses? Overspending? Or a lack of generosity. God makes it very clear that our possessions are a waste of our resources, and yet we can’t help ourselves. You should see my shoe collection. And my drawer of lipsticks. If you’re not on the same page in your marriage with finances, Satan will have a field day with you. There’s no easy fix to this, but seeking out financial counseling or getting a book by David Ramsey is a good start.

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Erin

10696463_950947881586261_3679685812034055593_nErin Whitmer is a blogger and speaker at erinwhitmer.com. She loves to encourage women and remind them they’ve been created to sparkle, even in the chaos of daily life. She is the mother of two boys, a wife to an amazing man who puts up with her shoes obsession, and her daily goal is to step out in boldness in all the ways Christ guides her. Sign up for her newsletter HERE and receive her FREE 7 day devotional, Praying to Move Mountains.

Stay tuned for more posts from Erin on Brave Girl Community as she continues this series on marriage called “Keeping Satan Out of Your Bedroom” where she will share five ways we inadvertently invite Satan into our bedroom (and sometimes even in our bed), along with five ways we can unite with our spouse to keep Satan out. She will share wisdom that will allow each of us to elevate our marriages beyond a stale state of union to a true holy matrimony.

Unexpected, Finding Joy in Loss, Life, and Love

Unexpected, Finding Joy in Loss, Life, and Love

March 8, 2007-

A time when the world seemed to stand still in disbelief that she was gone.

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It was 10 years ago today that my sweet momma went to meet her Creator, the lover of her soul, her precious Jesus (as she would call him). In one month of time, my mom went from what we knew to be a healthy 62 year old, to a victim of stroke and to find cancer in various parts of her body. I was pregnant with my second daughter at the time, with just about 3 weeks out from delivery. Only one month…one month…and she was gone. Today I don’t share with you my grief or my sorrow, but the unexpected joy that I recall from the loss, the life and the love I have encountered in these past 10 years.

I lived 5 hours away from my mom and I was pregnant, sick and very much waddling around at this point of pregnancy. But I was determined to go and be by her side.  I remember walking into that hospital room, locking eyes with her eyes, only to have to remove myself before the flood of emotion and fear overtook me. She was not able to speak due to the stroke, but she had eyes and a touch of her hand that spoke volumes even in the silence. I collected myself together and went back in to spend time holding her hand…No words exchanged…and really none needed in that moment.

The hospital flooded with friends and family coming to visit and pray over my mom. We gathered to lay hands on her believing in the miraculous work of God and healing over her body. My dear sweet friends from five hours away drove to see her only to bring some laughter to the stale hospital room. RyRy, as we call him, grabbed a hospital rubber glove only to blow it up and make obscene funny noises that brought a half smile to my momma’s face. It may have seemed inappropriate at the time…but man did we need some laughter for our souls!

Nurses would comment how precious or kind my mom was-though she couldn’t say a word. They would come to change an IV, give a dosage of medicine or make her bed comfortable, and somehow, just the touch of her hand on their face brought them to tears. All I can say is they experienced the love and kindness of Jesus through my mom. Her actions spoke louder than words in those moments. She loved to laugh. She loved people. People loved her. One of my favorite memories of that month was my husband staying the night at the hospital with her. Like I said, I was pretty big and prego and the hospital chair wasn’t going to work for me. So my man said he would graciously stay in my place because I so longed to stay with her. Again, no words were exchanged. But I remember him saying, “I did what I know she would love…I read to her from her Bible.”

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I will never forget gathering with my siblings in the stairwell of the hospital to discuss my mom’s current status-and at that moment realizing things were most likely not going to get better-but we were still believing God for big things. I am the youngest of five siblings -and I am sure they would all agree -my mom spoiled me rotten. But hey, I was the baby…so of course I was! So even though my mom was in the state she was in, I selfishly wanted her to immediately get better so we could get back to “normal” life. I would stand next to her hospital bed and she would lay her hand on my belly. I would remind her that she needed to get better to help me finish all the things she was sewing for my nursery -things she had just been helping me decorate a few weeks prior. I would remind her that I needed her to stay so that she could meet sweet Payton. I reminded her that I NEEDED her…and so did this grand baby. I knew things weren’t going to change, but I wanted it so bad. Time seemed to last forever that month and yet it seemed so incredibly short all at the same time. She soon stepped from this fallen world, releasing all pain and suffering and walked into the light of Eternity.

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One month from her departure from this earth-we welcomed our second Beautiful baby girl-Payton. And can I just tell ya-weeping may last for the night, but JOY comes in the morning. And that is what this baby represented…JOY in the midst of sorrow and grief. A tangible expression of the goodness of God wrapped in this incredible and beautiful 7lb baby girl. When I think about God’s timing of it all, how I wanted to be angry that my mom would never meet her this side of heaven, I couldn’t help but be so overcome with Joy. There was significant timing for her birth-for many reasons-but for such a time as this. It was one of the greatest distractions that kept a blanket of peace and joy in the midst of heartache. I remember feeling that the presence of my mom was in the hospital room as Payton made her way into the world. This baby girl is now about to turn ten in a few weeks and boy is she the spitting image of yours truly. My mom would defintely say I am paying for my raisin’-but Oh she would be so in love with this girl. A girl full of life and love for others…A girl who is as messy and scattered brained as her momma….A girl who jumped up on my bed at the age of five insisting that she wanted Jesus in her heart.(She had been asking at that point for almost a year). A girl, who I know, God has BIG plans for -she’s confident, she’s a warrior and she desires to see people healed everywhere. Her Gigi, my mom, would be so incredibly proud. And can I just tell you, the story only gets more beautiful from here…

Momma Sharon (or that is what we have come to know her as) a woman who is a tangible gift from the Father to my family. A woman who came into my life only a few years ago only to bring an unexpected Joy. (Do you see the theme here?) You see, the day I met Sharon was at VBS through our church. And within moments of meeting, I will never forget my words to her, “I know this may sound weird, but you look just like my mom.” I proceeded to stare and then asked her to take a selfie that I quickly sent to my siblings! I couldn’t believe the resemblance. Sharon and I formed a pretty quick relationship which turned into a bond that I can’t describe. Her mannerisms, her handwriting, the way she gets on to me like my mom and even deals with my dramatic self-it’s really quite unreal.

IMG_3344But the thing I am drawn most to about Sharon, that is most like my mom, is her absolute Love and honor for the Lord…She loves Jesus with all her heart, all her soul, all her mind, and all her strength. She pours truth into my life, into my husband, and into my children like only a momma can. She goes to battle in prayer on our behalf only like a momma can. She encourages, listens and soothes a wounded soul, only like a momma can. I am constantly in awe of the goodness of God through my relationship with Sharon. She will never replace my sweet mom but when I look at my 10 year old daughter and I say “Do you want to know what your Gigi was like-look at momma Sharon.” She gets to see a glimpse of what it would be like. The Lord truly does work in mysterious ways. His ways are higher, His ways are better and His love exceeds them all.

So in the midst of loss, new life and love, I find an unexpected Joy in all three of these stories. Stories and lives that are weaved together through the Father’s hand and His good plan. Today I celebrate the legacy of Colette, my sweet momma, a woman who taught me to love Jesus with all that I have…  A woman who I know can’t wait to greet you and me as we make our way into Eternity. (I use to tease my mom that she should have been a Wal-mart greeter-I am pretty sure thats her job in heaven). Someday, she will meet this beautiful daughter of mine and I’m sure share stories of what a rebellious child I was and how much she reminds her of me. And she will meet momma Sharon, maybe share a coffee and thank her for loving her girls on earth.

Jesus-I am overwhelmed by the unexpected. Thank you.

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Are Your Ambitions Selfish?

Are Your Ambitions Selfish?

(Post 1 of 5 in this month’s guest post series “Keeping Satan Out of Your Bedroom”)

For the last four years I’ve had my own business. I’ve worked intimately with dozens of women, and I’ve stood before hundreds more to encourage, accessorize, and train. When you work with women, you learn pretty quickly that women have a terrible tendency to obsess over what others think of them. I have been guilty of this too. You should see how many outfit and shoe options I can go through before I select the outfit that seals the impression I’m trying to make. When women I work with are insecure (this is more often than not), I remind them that others are typically so concerned with themselves that they fail to notice what’s around them. That’s great news when you’re convincing a woman that no one’s going to notice her love handles, but the dynamic changes a bit when two people in a marriage are too busy thinking about themselves.

Philippians 2:3-4 tells us to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Instead, we are to be humble and value others above ourselves, not looking to our own interests, but to the interests of others. How does that make you feel? Does it prick your spirit a bit? It does mine. I have struggled my entire life with selfishness. Until I had children, it was all about me. I could be intolerable. In truth, I’m thankful for the dark days of our past when I was forced to get over myself and look first to God, and then around me to realize I wasn’t really all that great. I’m greater now that God is driving this balancing act of imperfection and perfect grace. I’m not suggesting you’re full of yourself, but you might be looking inward more than you’re looking outward, and this can impact the stability of your marriage.

I struggle to this day with selfish ambition. My husband reminds me at times that he feels like he sometimes doesn’t make my “To Do” list. Don’t take that literally, ladies. This isn’t THAT kind of blog. What I mean is that sometimes I’m thinking so far in advance of all I want to do – even in my ministry for God – that my husband can get my leftovers. I’m thankful he is open and capable of reminding me. But what if he wasn’t? What if your husband is silent over his concerns about his place on your priority list?

What does selfish ambition look like and how is it getting in the way of your marriage? Selfish ambition for each of us will look as different as our favorite Starbucks drink. Here are a few examples to consider as you look into your own heart:

  • Are you spending too much time binging on Netflix while your spouse is left alone?
  • Is it stealing away on the weekends to go shopping?
  • Is there an obsession with excelling in your career?
  • Are you focusing so much on your children that your husband is waiting for his turn?

Ambition on its’ own is not a negative. It becomes a negative when it affects those who require more from us.

Our selfish ambition affects our heart, our time, our finances, and our family. When our ambition drives us beyond where we’re meant to be, Satan will gladly step in to fill the void.

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Erin

10696463_950947881586261_3679685812034055593_nErin Whitmer is a blogger and speaker at erinwhitmer.com. She loves to encourage women and remind them they’ve been created to sparkle, even in the chaos of daily life. She is the mother of two boys, a wife to an amazing man who puts up with her shoes obsession, and her daily goal is to step out in boldness in all the ways Christ guides her. Sign up for her newsletter HERE and receive her FREE 7 day devotional, Praying to Move Mountains.

Stay tuned for more posts from Erin on Brave Girl Community as she continues this series on marriage called “Keeping Satan Out of Your Bedroom” where she will share five ways we inadvertently invite Satan into our bedroom (and sometimes even in our bed), along with five ways we can unite with our spouse to keep Satan out. She will share wisdom that will allow each of us to elevate our marriages beyond a stale state of union to a true holy matrimony.

My Story: Overcoming Social Anxiety

My Story: Overcoming Social Anxiety

I am a 33-year-old wife, teacher, dog mommy, friend and Pinterest-loving crafter. I am an introvert that loves people. I can be as silly as a 12-year-old and love making others laugh. I am a good listener and love hearing other people’s stories…

…Because we all have a story. And sometimes sharing it with others is the scariest thing we think we’ll ever face because vulnerability can sometimes lead to pain. Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that before God formed us in the womb, he knew us. He knew what he was doing when he gave us our character traits and our flaws. Over the past few years, I’ve come to understand that the imperfections within us are meant to serve a purpose. That being said, here is my story.

Growing up, I was thought of as the shy and quiet girl. I clung to my mother’s leg on the first day of Kindergarten and hoped that if I cried hard enough my parents wouldn’t make me stay. In elementary school, I remember playing alone on the playground and drawing elaborate pictures in the dirt with a stick. My best friend was my stuffed, pajama-clad bear named Chuckles.

Once, in the fifth grade, I had to demonstrate a “how-to” project in front of the class. This is my first real memory of experiencing crippling fear in front of my peers. I went with something I hoped would be quick: How to Draw a Snoopy Face Out of the Number 55. Terrified, I went up to the board and drew that thing out in about five seconds flat. There was no pausing to give my classmates instructions. I drew as quickly as I could with trembling hands as my teacher urged me to slow down and explain each step. I don’t remember what kind of grade I got on that presentation, but I do remember from that moment on having an inescapable fear of not only being called up to the board in class, but being called on in any sort of way by the teacher.

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Fast forward to high school, where every day was spent making sure I didn’t wear a gray t-shirt to reveal my incessantly sweating armpit stains. I refused to eat anything for lunch at school other than crackers because I feared eating a big lunch would cause my stomach to make gurgling digestive sounds in a quiet classroom. My worst fear was being called on by my teacher to read out loud. The phrase, “We’re going to go around the room and read…” was my absolute worst nightmare, and panic would take over my whole being as I waited for my turn.

Then came college, where there was more of the same. Every day was spent fighting one anxious battle after another. I remember my heart beating fast each and every time I walked to class. I wondered: would I get called on to read out loud today? Would I get a tickle in my throat and have an uncontrollable coughing spell during lecture? I told myself that if things got to too stressful in class, I would just get up and leave, pretending I had an appointment. This is an escape route that wasn’t available to me in high school, and I utilized it one day in Calculus to avoid board work.

At the end of the day, I would go back to my dorm room and collapse on my bed, emotionally exhausted. A suite mate might knock on my door, but I wouldn’t answer, telling her later I had fallen asleep.

When Summer came, while other kids got jobs to further their resume and use towards experience in their field of major, I would stay holed up in my apartment, relying on savings to pay my part of the rent and bills. A day didn’t go by that I didn’t feel like a worthless freeloader. I couldn’t apply for jobs because my anxiety was through the roof. I remember multiple instances of my picking up the phone to call a potential employer then hanging up before they answered because my heart was beating so hard, I knew I wouldn’t be able to talk. One morning I was in bed thinking about how all my roommates were at work and I was wasting another day away, a prisoner to fear. My heart started beating erratically, and I experienced a full-blown panic attack that left my heart physically hurting. I was so worried, I actually called my parents and asked them to drive me to the hospital for heart tests. After all the testing, I learned my heart was fine. I was told to stay away from stimulants such as caffeine. I was also told that anxiety is most common in college-aged women trying to figure out what to do with their lives.

No matter what age I was, a common thread coursed through my life: the concept of embracing who I was and simply being myself was never considered. It took all I had to face each day trying to hide my unrealistic anxieties from those around me. But even though it was the only way of life I knew, I never stopped to consider what might be wrong with me until after I got married.

At 23 years old, I googled “social anxiety.” The symptoms laid out on my computer screen sounded like someone was writing a biography about me. I felt exposed. I felt scared that I had an actual diagnosis which I would forever be trapped in and defined by.

According to Wikepedia:  ”Social anxiety is a discomfort or a fear when a person is in social interactions that involve a concern about being judged or evaluated by others. It is typically characterized by an intense fear of what others are thinking about them (specifically fear of embarrassment, criticism, or rejection), which results in the individual feeling insecure, not good enough for other people, and/or the assumption that peers will automatically reject them.”

Boom. There was my life summarized in two sentences. I cried to my husband that night and revealed to him my secret struggle that even he had known nothing about. I worried he would look at me differently, but he amazed me then and continues to amaze with his understanding and full acceptance of me.

I continued to live life crippled by social anxiety for a few more years. My breaking point came when my job (working for a local magazine) required me to go into a few different stores and pick out products to highlight. This involved me carrying in a notebook and pen and asking an employee to help me with what I needed. I couldn’t do it. I broke down, absolutely overtaken by fear. My husband was my hero that day. He took my notebook and pen and went into each and every store and got the information that I had been assigned to get.

Not long after that, I had a talk with my family doctor. My heart beat and my voice shook as I told him about the relentless anxiety I struggled with every day. He listened and acknowledged my struggle. He affirmed that I had truly been living in a secret hell. It was that day that I took the first step of treatment. And my life has been changed for the better since.

Do I still struggle with anxiety? Yes. But the difference is that instead of not making the call, I’ll make it now, even if I don’t feel the most confident. I put myself in new situations now and don’t hide from the world. I have discovered my real personality when not held back by fear of being judged. I am funny. I love people. I’m goofy and not as shy as I’ve always considered myself to be. I love teaching children. I see the value in complimenting a stranger and look for opportunities to be a light for Christ. And going back to what I said in the beginning about our imperfections being meant to serve a purpose: I am a greeter at my church. I struggle sometimes with stumbling over my words or feeling awkward trying to talk to new people, but I’ve also seen God use me just as I am to make others feel welcome and important. And my desire to love on others just as they are overrides my desire to not talk to anyone out of fear that I might not know what to say to them or might stumble over my words.

Awhile ago, I heard this quote and it has stuck with me: “Imperfections have a role to play in our lives and when we forget that, we become unapproachable.”

Therefore, embrace your imperfections. Don’t waste them. Figure out who God wants you to share your story with and tell it. You will be amazed at how many people will be able to relate and how many lives you’ll be able to touch when you take off the proverbial mask of perfection.

I am sharing my story to bring awareness to a disorder that affects millions of adults in America. If you are secretly struggling with social anxiety, know there are various forms of treatment and I urge you to consult with your doctor about which might be best for you.

There IS life beyond the labels, and that life is one of abundance when we choose to not be held back by what has always kept us bound.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalm 139:14a

 

BraveGirl Martha

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Found

Found

There is a phrase in the “Christian verbiage” that I have seen and read many times. A phrase that I myself have even quoted. A phrase that is not a negative term at all. But a phrase that has left me at times wondering what does that even mean? That phrase is “I’m chasing hard after Jesus.”

Now, I understand that some people say this phrase in reference to pursuing and going after the things of God. But for me, sometimes it can feel exhausting, leaving me on a continuous cycle of never being close enough to Jesus. A feeling that I have to “chase” him down in order to find Him…chase Him down to fellowship with Him…chase Him down to know and experience His presence. This phrase has made me feel so distant from my Jesus and honestly…I don’t like it. But let me clarify, I don’t particularly like it because of where I have been in this season with God.

Just a few days ago, I was home trying to have some much needed quiet time. I am a mom of three kiddos, my youngest being a boy who is, lets just say-HIGH ENERGY. Bless him. So quiet time is particularly heavenly and precious to me. I am sure some of you mommas can relate. This particular day they just happen to all be at school. I had high hopes of spending some amazing time in the word and quality time with Jesus.

I have found myself in a very spiritually dry season. There are days that it feels like Jesus is a million miles away. It seems like no matter what I do, no matter what kind of quiet time I have, no matter how much I worship…that I’m not “chasing hard enough after Jesus.” And there it is again…that phrase. I sat on my living room floor trying to get “into” my quiet time. I read my same devotional. I listened to the same worship songs that seem to usher me into His presence. I recited scripture in my head that I absolutely know to be true. And all of a sudden…I lost it. I shut off my music, closed my bible and told the Lord “I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to TRY to make something happen. I don’t want to TRY and manifest something about who you are…I just want You. Please-I just want You.”

I KNOW that the Lord is honored when we pursue Him. He desires us to dig into His word, studying and allowing the word to wash over us-bringing life, healing and a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and who we are in Him. I KNOW that in Psalms it says, “Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!” I KNOW that we are to go into the secret place with the Father and commune with Him. I KNOW these things are important…but it felt empty. My worship felt hollow. Getting into the word felt like routine. And that great devotional-it just wasn’t doing it for me. It felt like Jesus was not within my reach. I was “chasing hard after Jesus”-or so I thought…I had chased until I just couldn’t chase anymore.

What I realized in that moment is that I had forgotten one of the most important factors about being a daughter of the King- I am FOUND in Him. You see, if you and I are on a constant chase…that means no one has been found. And while we are absolutely supposed to chase hard after Jesus in the pursuit to be transformed more and more into His image, we first REST knowing that we are FOUND. I was trying to follow all my same routines to get Jesus to meet with me. I felt exhausted, tired, frustrated and honestly ashamed. Has it worked in the past in how I have done my quiet time? You bet. Have I experienced the Presence of Jesus in a very real way when worshipping Him through those songs? Sure I have. Has spending time in the word refreshed my spirit and at times jumped off the page and into my heart? Oh YES! But sometimes… I think it’s ok to abandon it all for a moment. To stop and simply tell Jesus -“I  simply want You. Help me.”  Again, I am not saying we skip all those important aspects of growing in Jesus for a lengthy period of time because you can’t know Jesus without knowing His word, worshipping Him, seeking Him and loving Him. But I believe Jesus wants a fully surrendered heart to Him, a heart that says I want to know you deeper…I long to be in your presence, more than I want to check off my daily Christian duties.

I sat on my floor and I cried. I told the Lord I didn’t want to chase Him anymore. I didn’t want to strive to try and know Him more. I simply want to be with Jesus.

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I immediately thought of  Psalm 139:7

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

And right there in the middle of my living room, tears flowing down my face, I once again remembered…I don’t have to chase Him down or strive to be close to my Creator. He is right there with me, whether I feel it or not. I cannot EVER be away from His spirit. I don’t have to do enough, be enough, worship enough or study enough because ultimately I am FOUND in Him. While I know the importance of being enveloped in the word of God, soaking up the Joy of devotionals that speak volumes and singing the lyrics of powerful worships songs, I believe sometimes God would rather wreck our spiritual check-list, tell us to lay it aside and simply tell us, “Remember…you are FOUND in Me.”

There is a song by Jesus Culture called Your Love is Fierce. There is a particular part in the song that says:

You chase me down, You seek me out. How could I be lost when you have called me FOUND.

You see, thats how I envision this whole chase thing…JESUS is in pursuit of you and Me.  JESUS chases us down, woos us to the Heart of God and declares that WE ARE FOUND and WE ARE HIS!

So I want to ask you today…where are you? Maybe like me, you find yourself chasing hard after Jesus, but on an empty tank of endless routine and obligation. But sweet sister-you can rest-because the chase is over…you have been Found.

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Strength From Suffering

Strength From Suffering

What have I done to deserve this?

I am ashamed by the number of times I have asked this question. Suffering has pretty much taken up residence in my life despite my efforts to do good, act good, and be good. It just keeps coming back, no matter how much I try to take control so it can be avoided.

Things can be moving along beautifully, blessings pouring in, and yet I wait. I wait for the dreaded, all too familiar shoe to drop. It’s a pattern in my life I’ve grown so accustomed to that I anticipate it. What terrible tragedy will happen that will break me wide open again, just as I’ve started to heal from the last one? This is not how God intended for me to live, yet the fear of suffering still festers deep inside of me.

If we are truly living our lives on this earth for Christ, shouldn’t we embrace suffering and all that comes with it? I want His glory to be revealed in me, but am I truly willing to suffer for it? Am I able to surrender everything I hold dear and trust that He is good, no matter what?

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10

Suffering brings us closer to our Savior in a way we never could have imagined. It changes the way we perceive and trust and love others. It gives us a testimony that we can’t help but share so that glory can be given to our King. It gives us compassion for others who are suffering. It teaches us how to pray out of true belief rather than routine. But most importantly, it gives us a longing for our heavenly home, the only place where there is no more suffering.

“There are parts of Jesus we will never know apart from suffering.”  

– Kelly Minter, All Things New

Suffering will come into our lives in many different forms. Loss of loved ones, illness, addiction, violence, and severed relationships are all part of living in a broken world. As difficult as it has been, my strength has come in the suffering and therefore, I would not trade it. Would I have been able to say that while I was in the middle of it? Definitely not. It’s not fair. It hurts so deeply. It’s so difficult to understand and usually we never will. That’s why it’s so important to do all we can to stay faithful in the midst of our suffering. Stay in the Word, pray even when we don’t want to, ask for and accept help from others and seek counsel from the right people.

If you are suffering today, I pray that you feel His loving arms holding you through your pain. I know the feeling of hurting so deeply it actually manifests into physical pain. I know what it’s like to repeatedly ask God how He could let this happen. I know how lonely it can feel. God did not promise us that we would not suffer, but the good news is He did promise that we wouldn’t have to do it alone.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

Know that you are not forgotten. You are not being punished. You are so loved. Take this opportunity to breathe in your Savior like never before and search for the beauty buried deep within the ashes with every new day. It is in this sacred place where you will find your strength.

“Jesus, with His pierced side, is always on the side of the broken. Jesus always moves into places moved with grief. Jesus always seeks out where the suffering is, and that’s where Jesus stays. The wound in His side proves that Jesus is always on the side of the suffering, the wounded, the busted, the broken.” – Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

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Video Testimony-Marriage and Pornography

Video Testimony-Marriage and Pornography

Austin & Hanna courageously share their true story of how bringing our struggles into the light not only opens the door for God to move, it transforms us into a new creation. Watch their courageous testimony of God’s ability to redeem, restore, and create a new path replacing shame with peace, and sorrow with joy. Bravery at its’ finest.

Click the link below to watch…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEb_dxWxCCk