Tag Archives: real fellowship

Refreshing!

26 Feb

Saturday night was our first women’s rally at our 6 month old church.  It was AWESOME!! We had 145 women there, and it was such a blast.  We had giveaways, comedy, a wonderful message brought by our Pastor’s wife, snacks, jewelry for purchase (SO CUTE!), a hair & nails room, AND a room for arm and neck massages!

But none of that would have been any fun without this truth.

Everyone, and I’m not being generous with my wording to cover for some people, I literally mean EVERYONE, was SO awesome and friendly toward each other.

See, since we’re just starting out… there isn’t this long history or “knowledge” on each other.  Be it old, new, true, lies, rumors, gossip, experience…. we just simply don’t have it.  And so our pasts are not a stumbling block.  We’re all new.  And that’s how we see each other.

We don’t have long histories of friendships.  Some of the women from the church have been friends for a long time, but that’s the exception, not the rule.  And those women have been nothing short of wonderful to never make anyone feel like they don’t fit in or are not welcome in their group of friends.  In other words, there aren’t any “clicks.”

Everyone who is attending the church is either driven by a strong determination to share Christ with those who don’t know Him, or are just meeting Christ…. which is the PERFECT recipe for lives totally sold out for Kingdom work. We don’t have people who have been “pew sitters” for 15 years, because we’re 6 months old.

We have A LOT of work to do, so there is a spot for everyone.  If you have a heart to serve and help, there IS a spot for you.  You don’t have to sit on the sidelines and put in 10 years of time before you can be recognized and put in a spot to serve.  And better than that – the people attending the church WANT to serve.  We don’t have 10% of the people doing 90% of the work.

I left Saturday night feeling SO refreshed.  My Facebook went NUTS on Sunday and Monday.  I have 15 + new friends on there and over 100 notifications!  I can’t help but sit and weep.

I spent 11 years at a church struggling to make any real friends (especially my age), being judged and accused over past sins and false rumors & gossip, having a split in the church of people who were either friends with “this group” or “that group” because of people picking up other people’s offenses instead of pointing them to forgiveness, and a lack of true hunger for God and His word.

I know our church is new.  And everything is good when it’s new.

So, it’s RIGHT NOW (not after the fact) that we need to be extremely intentional about implementing safety nets, standards, and preventative road blocks from allowing our church to end up like every other church out there.

Practical Application

Talk about this openly and honestly.

Pray & ask for God’s help.

Put things into action now!

 

** If I described your church, I don’t believe it is too late to change if you really seek God’s face and call on others one at a time to get them on board with your vision – you can turn your church back around.  It only takes one person who is willing to sacrifice.

Friendships

9 Feb

Hey ladies!  I’m going to tackle the big topic of FRIENDSHIPS today from a couple of angles.  I’m really excited about this post and hope it’ll be educating, encouraging, and ring true across the board for all of us.

Every girl needs friends.  And it starts at a YOUNG age, the battle for attention and friendship.  Girls don’t start being “catty” with each other over boys (they eventually get to that) but they actually start that nasty habit over jealousy between friendships with other girls.  When a girl thinks she’s got a best friend, and someone else swoops in there to invite that friend to a sleep over, tell a secret to, or WORST of all, she betrays your trust and tells another girl YOUR secret… the feelings are crushed, the claws come out, and the fur starts flying!

Some of you reading this have a best friend right now.  For some of you, you’re lucky enough to have a GREAT best friend.  For others of you, as we talk some more, you might end up feeling a little different about that friendship by the end of this post.

Some of you use to have a best friend, but because of situations, circumstances, or whatever – the friendship has dissolved (or at least is no longer what it once was) and you’re feeling lonely.

Some of you have never had a best friend really ever, and the hurt and disappointment from that is very real, and it doesn’t go away with age.

There are friendships in our lives that are seasonal.  And that is OK!!  Please, this is very important, do not read this post with the mindset that if all your friendships don’t align and fall into a checklist of sorts that we’ll put together, that you should feel depressed or end all your friendships.  That is NOT where we’re headed.

I didn’t really understand this very well growing up because I was always the little girl who had a best friend, and then would end up feeling “ditched” when the more popular girls were around or life circumstances changed.  So, in an effort to find a best friend, I became very transparent, loved with my whole heart, put GREAT effort into being a really good friend, and then suffered a lot of heart ache when those friendships turned out to be disappointing and not reciprocated in the same way with the same effort.

I know it seems like everyone out there has a BFF – but believe me, MORE women are out there who are lonely, or who have MANY friendships but none of those women REALLY know the woman at all.  They are surface or skin deep for protection.

I have finally reached a place in my life where I have a network of best friends.  It took me a LONG, lonely, painful time to get here.  But some of the struggle was simply letting go of my expectations and realizing that friendships can look really different and still be fulfilling!

For example, here’s my network.

I have acquaintances.  Some I see in person but some are strictly social-media connections that are fun to keep up on major things in each others life, like Facebook statuses, and maybe even chat about old memories.

I have a lot of friends that I hardly ever see or ever (some never) talk to on the phone.  We have different schedules, different priorities, some a large distance to travel between us, and we just can’t connect often.  But we have a great history together, and when an immediate need or prayer request is urgent, they are just a phone call, text message, email , or FB message away and we know we love each other.

I have other friends (which this is depth of where the MAJORITY of  friendships lie for everyone) that I see or talk to often enough, and we can catch up pretty easily, but we don’t have all the same convictions, beliefs, time, schedules, or some other thing that keeps us from being extremely intimate of friends who know every secret.

Then I have two girls that I don’t keep in daily contact with always, but for the most part, we’re always updating each other.  Our text messages, FB messages, and occasional phone calls  or play dates help us stay on top of all the big things and we’re always praying for each other.

And then there’s my best friend.  We talk almost daily.  (Do you have to talk daily to have a best friend – NO!!) But for us, we are so similar that we do very well to yap our jaws 100 miles an hour to each other to sort out our feelings, seek godly counsel/be held accountable, and prevent ourselves from huge disappointments of leaving ourselves with a deep need that our husbands (as men) can’t fill.

She posted this on my FB wall this week – and I love it!

Best FriendI was sick with the stomach flu the day she posted it, so I saw it later that day and wrote “love ya girl” but last night when I was scrolling down my page and saw it again, not only did I smile and feel such a love for this girl… but I noticed something else – so I wrote this back to her “You’re totally the one in the bikini because I would SO never wear anything like that.”  HA! (Let me clarify so you can laugh with us, she wouldn’t wear a bikini either… but truth be told, we both WISH we didn’t have all the hanging stomach skin and stretch marks from the kids that if we ever WANTED to even strictly wear one in the bedroom for our men only, we could.  But we don’t like to talk about that, so we’ll just leave it at, Bikini’s are evil and only prostitutes wear them! : )

The reasons my friendships with my three/four closest friends works so well are because of this check list:

1.) We are BOTH very real and transparent.

At no time will either of us ever put on a mask, pretend to be perfect, withhold relating for fear of how it might make us or our marriage look, or hide our real feelings.

2.) We are BOTH very honest.

Neither of us ever holds back or has fear of the other person.  A great number of friends have a level of fear in them that is unhealthy for keeping that person as a best friend.  It’s the fear that if you tell someone the truth about yourself, it’ll ruin the friendship.  Or that if you tell them the truth about something they’ve done to hurt you or someone else, that the friendship will suffer and you’ll lose them or be punished in some way.

3.) We hold each other accountable.

When we hear or see something that worries us that our friend might be flirting with sin, missing a big red flag, or just so caught up in their emotions that they can’t see things rationally or from someone else’s side, we tell them – and we do it right away.  None of these friendships would ever let me get away with out right sinning without calling me on it immediately. And I’d do the same for them.

4.) We allow for safe venting.

Sometimes we know that our feelings might be teetering a selfish line pretty closely, but we just need someone to listen and validate or justify our feelings.  That DOES NOT mean they justify my prideful actions and encourage selfish behavior, but they do give me a safe place to sort out my feelings and acknowledge that sometimes life is hard and things hurt, even though I need to choose a higher road.

5.) We are TOTALLY FOR each others marriages.

You are never going to hear the words come from any of our mouths – “He doesn’t deserve you.  You should leave his sorry butt.  Get out while you’re still young enough to get someone else.  His sins are unforgivable.  You can’t put up with that.”  That just doesn’t happen.  You might hear something like “Oh man, that probably really hurt your feelings.  I’m sorry.  Now let’s look at what he might have been feelings, or where you might have went wrong in the conversation to contribute to steering it that way.”  We ALWAYS want to show each other where our own sins are and how we can be better wives!

6.) We protect each other’s secrets and reputation.

We don’t go around behind each other’s backs blabbing secrets, stories, or slander their reputation in private.

7.) We pray for each other.

Let’s face it.  We’ve all said “I’ll pray for you” and then either just not done it, or seriously forgot about it.  In these friendships, that doesn’t happen.  When we say, we’re praying, we’re really praying.

8.) We don’t let each other get away with gossip.

This looks different all the time.  Remember from above, that I honestly do believe someone can vent to THE RIGHT PERSON to sort out their feelings without being in danger of gossip.  So much of it comes to the attitude of the heart.  If they are trying only to destroy the other person’s name or reputation, then we carefully point out the danger of what they’re doing, or gently change the subject.  If however, they are just trying to sort out their feelings and really figure out the godly way to move forward, then we patiently allow that to happen without making unnecessary judgements.

9.) We don’t judge each other.

We all struggle with different things at different times and there is no room for judging someone because temptation or sin is present.  None of us is above any sin and it isn’t about whose better or anything like that at all.

10.) We love each other deeply.

We’d do ANYTHING for each other.  We forgive quickly. We don’t dwell on mistakes. We offer a lot of mercy and grace.  And we genuinely love each other.

If you were reading through that check list and felt like some of your “best” friendships don’t fit, then maybe it is time to evaluate those friendships.  That doesn’t always mean you cut someone out of your life just because they aren’t your best friend!! But it does mean that you protect your heart from extending an offer at best friendship when a relationship is unequally yoked.

Just like in marriage, if one spouse is a believer and one is not, they are unequally yoked and they face a life of disagreements and different convictions.  The same is true of friendships.

And the truth is ladies, more women than you’d believe are out there praying for a best friend because most of us really don’t have one.

Most often, we need to learn how to be a good best friend ourselves, and then also finding someone who can be one back.

You’d be surprised – some of my closest prayer partners are ladies I just met over the internet 6-8 months ago!  They aren’t my very best friends, but we’re building genuine, honest, faithful friendships through emails and blogs.

Practical Application:

Start by evaluating your own friendships against the check list.  Maybe some friends are really a lot of drama & hurt feelings and need to be demoted in position a little (without some big verbal fall out!!)  Or maybe you have a good friend who you never realized WAS such a good friend and really needs bumped up in position.

Accept different levels of friendship. Maybe you’re like I was for years and you felt like either everyone needed to be a genuine best friend, or they were an acquaintance only.   It’s OK to have seasonal friends, or friends that are awesome to catch up with once a month, who don’t know every intimate detail because of some different priorities or convictions, and that can still be a very fulfilling relationship without having to put unnecessary expectations on the friendship that it can’t live up to, and then losing the friend completely.

Examine the kind of friend YOU are. If there is someone in your life whom you are afraid to be honest with for fear of a fall out, or you could never tell them what you really think about their attitude toward their co-worker,  or you gossip behind their back, or you tell them they’d be better without that loser husband… then you either have some serious work to do to be a good friend yourself, or you are trying to be a best friend with someone you are unequally yoked with and don’t really feel safe with.

Finally, take time to thank your best friends if you truly have them already.  Or spend some serious time in prayer (and fasting) for the Lord to bring this kind of friend into your life AND to help you be this kind of friend.

 

 

 

Dealing with the old.

3 Oct

I don’t know how this post will hit home for everyone, so  I want to offer up a disclaimer that if you have an ugly past, please say a prayer before you read on, (if you even decide to do so.)  I have recently learned that not everyone does well thinking or looking back.

Here is a truth from me.  I’ve written about my past before on the blog.  But truth be told, I didn’t even truly admit in-depth my list of sins and my intense guilt and shame.  I can’t image how long I’d have to sit at my computer to do that justice.  A few months maybe?  I realize many of us view our sins as “worse” than the past sins of others.  Somehow we find a way to give them an excuse. “Oh, you were young.”  “You didn’t know any better.”  “That happened before you were saved.”  “Well, just look at the example you had.”

And in the same way, we decide those excuses aren’t good enough for us because we are living with the consequences of those sins.  And covering it up with “I was young and stupid” somehow doesn’t make it better or fix anything.

I desire to tread very carefully with this post.  I would be as honest as always and share some of what I’m talking about in detail but I do have readers who have been negatively affected by my past sins, and this is not the time nor the place to bring all that to light for their sake.  However, I really think I can still do this post justice.

My husband recently brought to my attention that I do still talk about or bring my past up often.  I’ve been really thinking and digging deep to understand why I do this.

And I think I figured it out.  I have a burning desire to do two things.

1.) Prove that I’m not that person anymore.

Every time I sin currently in a way that reminds me of my past sins, I get physically depressed and ill.  The thought of being anything like my old self is despicable and unbearable for me.  I hate my old self.  I wish I could go back in time and do ALL of it different! (Of course based on what I know now.)

I feel like no one wants to, or even should be willing to give me a second chance or believe that I’m not the person I use to be.  (And I mean that all the way from birth to about 3-4 years ago.)  I feel like each year after high school carries a little less of a burden but I’d gladly erase it all and start fresh with everyone I’ve ever known about 4 years ago.

I think I talk about the past to acknowledge that I’m not a hypocrite.  I own my past sins. Shamefully, in deep humiliation and in sheer disgust, none-the-less I make it clear that I’m not pretending I wasn’t that person.  Almost in a twisted way that a person with an appearance issue makes fun of themselves to acknowledge, say acne, before anyone else can make fun of it or call them on it.  Kinda like that I guess.

2.) To speak the sins and mistakes out loud over and over to remind myself and others HOW MUCH they hurt me, hurt others, and totally ruined my life then and left a path of awful consequences for me to live with and walk out.

I so much hope my kids do not make ANY of the same mistakes that I did.  I want to spare them from so much hurt and shame.  I hope by talking about the real life negative consequences they will honestly believe I know what I’m talking about.

Let me give you this as an example.  “When someone tells you a lie and you catch them in it, lets even say more than once, even if they tell you later that they’ve “changed” what is the likelihood that you honestly believe them and trust them?”

 

On the flip side of this, there are others who bury their old self when they die to it. They want to leave it in the past, they don’t want to talk about it, they don’t deal well with the memories, and they move forward in the easiest fashion by never looking back.

I can’t speak much on that type of person because I’m not that type of person.

 

However, I want to acknowledge that be it in your marriage or even just a friendship, if you have one person who talks about the past and another who doesn’t ever want to bring it up again, you may be in dangerous water.

It is a very good idea if you recognize you might be handling things differently, ESPECIALLY if your past affects or affected the other person, you need to tread very carefully.

~If you’re a person who talks about the past, and you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t… you might be setting them up for temptation to pull forward a past hurt.  Or stumble on old consequences that they’ve already dealt with.

~If you’re a person who never talks about the past, and you’re dealing with someone who does…. look and listen for “why” they are doing it.  Do they need confirmation or validation that they really are “new” and “not a prisoner” to the past?

 

Practical Application:

~ It is really a good idea to think about your relationships and see if you are acting in an opposite fashion as those you interact with.

Even if the person you are sharing with isn’t affected by your past, you can pull forward old hurts they have buried from their own past.

~ If you feel like you handle things differently, set a time to maybe have a once and done conversation about this.  Explain why you talk about the past, or why you don’t, and give them a chance to share honestly as well.

~ Come up with a practical resolution together.

 

The dark.

7 Sep

I had an incredible conversation with a friend today.  She reminded me of something I had told her last summer which brought up some really awesome truths I haven’t talked about in a while.  It was refreshing to my soul, and I think you might enjoy it too.

First of all, I just want to say that I really can’t stand it when people are fake.  I’m not talking about the kind of fake that says “Hi, it is so nice to meet you” when you know they really aren’t even listening to your name.  I’m talking about fake “relationships.”

God created us for fellowship.  Very specifically He says in Proverbs “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  Iron can only sharpen iron when it is forcefully and purposefully rubbed against each other.  It strips down rust and old material and exposes the new and raw material.  We are no different.  We cannot fellowship, sharpen, or grow together if our relationships are surface, distant and fake.

No marriage is perfect.  Even when two people are diligently serving the Lord with all their hearts and have a great understanding of how marriage was designed to work, they still have hiccups along the way.  Because no matter what, at the end of the day, you still have two humans.

Who wants to share their deepest struggles and seek godly counsel from someone who says “Our marriage is just simply amazing all the time.  We never disagree.  We live in bliss every minute.  My husband is amazing.  He’s practically perfect in every way.”

It isn’t relatable at all! And it breeds shallow relationships and it quiets those who have a heart to be real and seek godly wisdom because they feel isolated and like something is terribly wrong with them or their marriage because they have struggles.

Please don’t misread this with the interpretation that I’m saying we should expose all of our spouses mistakes and drag them through the mud or have bashing sessions.  That is not healthy for the husband, wife, or members of anyone else’s marriage!!  But being honest, real and sharing godly wisdom requires us to lay down the fake image of complete perfection and share realities and how to grow in Christ through them.  It can be done in a very God-honoring way and really be an impact that helps and heals.

I used marriage here as an example, but this happens in EVERY area of our lives.  Some people call them “masks.”   You know it when you see it (or hear it.) It is often in the response to this question, “How is everything going?”

I’m not even going to share samples because I guarantee you already have responses on the tip of your tongue that you knew were not reality when you heard them.

Here is truth #1: We want to share our struggles, hurts, sins, temptations and battles when we’ve come completely through it, and have a nice pretty testimony to share.

Here is truth #2: When you’re in the middle of a battle, and someone shares a testimony of how everything worked out perfect for them, you don’t receive it with as much hope as you wish you could because you feel like your trial or battle is not headed to victory.

Here is truth #3: When we are willing to share our battles in the midst of the battle, fellowship happens in its richest and truest form and friendships are cemented into place.  We completely relate to each other and can hold each other up.

This is important: Even if our struggles are completely different, chances are your struggle will bring about the same insecurities, temptations and emotions as an area of my life that I can relate to even if our circumstances are different.  Because the bottom line is that we really need each other to work on underline issues that come from our hearts, not necessarily for all our circumstances to change.

I will never ever forget this one specific day in my life.  I don’t remember the date, what I was wearing, or anything more than what I’m about to share, and yet, I will NEVER forget this moment.

I was really having a rough time.  There was a lot that seemed to be falling completely apart.  In all my best efforts to keep my head above water and find joy in the midst of the trial, I was lost in a sea of pain and confusion.

I called my husband on the phone and I said “I need to talk to you.  I don’t understand. What am I doing wrong here?”

And I will never forget his response to me.

He said “Plants grow in the dark.”

Do you know what happened in that season of my life? I experienced a tremendous amount of hurt and disappointment, at the very same time that I was being completely transformed in my character.  God was teaching me things that I could have and would have never learned without experiencing the darkness.

I have faced some dark days.  I assume most of us have.  If you walk this Earth, you’re bound to face the ugly realities of it.  But I’ve learned to be so thankful for the darkness because if means that God is so deeply concerned with my character that He is providing opportunities for me to grow and see Him in ways I couldn’t see in the light. He wants me to know Him intimately.

The darkness makes His light so much brighter and affects our senses in a way that we can’t see, hear, touch, taste or smell when we’re on the mountain top in the light.

Being in the darkness is nothing to be ashamed of and hide from.  It is the perfect opportunity for us to be molded into the best image of Christ we can be this side of eternity.

Practical Application:

~Drop the fake reality and challenge those you love in your life to drop theirs too.

~Take the plunge and share the struggle in the middle of the struggle and experience the depth of fellowship as we were intended to know it. (This requires letting go of fear of man… for another post.)

~Look back at your darkest times and see for yourself if you didn’t gain amazing character improvements that you wouldn’t have known to such a depth before (like mercy, grace, forgiveness, compassion, patience)

I’d love it if you’d share a time when you “grew in the darkness” or how a friendship has impacted your life by the honesty of being real and giving godly counsel in the midst of trials.