dear single mom

Dear Single Mom,

I want you to know I notice you. I have now for a while. How did I miss seeing you before?

As I watch you I am blown away. I am in awe of all you shoulder, all you bear. Quietly. Without fanfare.  Your tireless, selfless work. Your shoulders sagging a bit under all the responsibility. I don’t know how you do it. With no shoulder to cry on at the end of a long day. Who do you talk to when things are really hard?

I have left you out and I want to say I’m sorry. All the mom meetings, Bible studies, play dates, and “couple’s nights” you felt out of place or couldn’t attend because you were at work. My heart hurts to know I have done you wrong.

I want to know you. I want to include you. I want to cheer you on. I want to offer my shoulder when you need to cry. 

I promise not to put you into a box or a “single mom” category. I don’t know your story, and I don’t need to. I just know you are amazing. You are beautiful. And I want to hear your heart. 

And know that I see you and so does He. 

Come to the table, pull up a chair and let’s start the conversation….

Put On Your Oxygen Mask First!

I am thrilled to have my dear friend, Clare from Peak 313, guest posting today! She shares some wisdom from her heart, and I know you will love her as much as I do! Here is a picture of the two of us at the Relevant conference {now Allume} last year.

Here is Clare:

I was flying Friday to Savannah and heard the same spiel that every flight attendant/plane recording says…

“In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you….. If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.”

Watch the video as I talk about what I want to encourage you with, today!

Clare and her husband and 2 children live in Northeast Ohio. She has her bachelor’s degree in business management and left a promising career to be a stay-at-home mom to her children. She is a certified fitness instructor and teaches pilates and group fitness classes at her church and local university. Clare’s passion (outside of raising and nurturing her children and home) is motivating women of all ages and stages of life to live well physically, emotionally and spiritually. Visit her at Peak313!

He Sees You

*This is a repost from the archives, one that I return to again and again*

Today, I want to encourage you to be God’s YOU.

And,what if you feel like you work hard and no one notices? You pour out your heart, your time, your life, and you are not seeing the results that you want.  You feel like no one sees you.  

Well, I want to introduce you to a friend…..

She goes by Tinang Kule, which means simply, “mother of Kule”.  Her real name? I don’t know….I have never heard it.  It, like her personal identity, has been quieted….never to be spoken again.

Her life is given in total sacrifice to others, even her own name is sacrificed and she is known only as the mother of her first-born.  Her day begins early.  She starts the fire to begin cooking so that others might eat.  It is hot and laborious work.

She smiles and sweats.   She is happy that everyone likes her cooking.  The satisfied nods of appreciation are enough for her.

She stokes the fire and carries on.

Task runs into task as she continues to cook and clean, care for and nurture.  She hears the MAF airplane overhead and she rushes to get a brown paper wrapped package full of fried rice for the pilot….my husband.  She is intent on having it there for him when he arrives.  Each day she does this, for whichever pilot might land in her village to serve her people.

She rushes down the dirt road with a thermos full of hot tea and the brown paper package.

I am humbled.

She asks me if I have any laundry.  I sheepishly say yes.  She picks up the bag of filth and we walk to the river.  She crouches down and begins to beat the clothes one by one against a rock, a rhythm of beating and twisting and soaking and twisting again.  I try to help….the kids bathing nearby in the river giggle as I, the white lady, try to do it right.  It is difficult and monotonous. 

I whisper to the mother of Kule, “This is so much work…it doesn’t matter, you don’t need to wash our clothes.”

She replies with a big smile, “Oh no, I love to wash clothes.”

And she means it.

Seriously? She loves to wake up early with the only thing to look forward to is serving? Where is her recognition, her moment in the spotlight? Where is her identity?

She doesn’t even have a name to call her own.  Tears spring to my eyes.  Am I willing to do the same? To go unnoticed? The answer….embarrassingly is no.

NO.

Sure I am willing to sacrifice, to serve my family, to go mostly without recognition.  But, there is that little part that wants to be known, to be recognized, to be called by my name.

She smiles and I see Jesus all over her.  His is the name that she is known by….it is her identity.  He sees her.  And it is enough.

It is E-N-O-U-G-H.

He sees you.  He is proud of you.  He adores you.  His praise is the only praise we need.  His love fills our need for identity

Zephaniah 3:17 says, “He will rejoice over you with singing, He will quiet you with His love.”

Do you believe it? Is it enough for you?

 

Thanks for visiting! I invite you to subscribe to GraceFullMama here.

 

Sisterhood….The Finale

On this journey toward understanding sisterhood we have covered a lot of ground!  We have talked about the call to sisterhood, embracing who God has made us to be, risking getting real, learning to accept each other’s differences, encouraging one another, how comparing ourselves with others steals our joy, and lastly, rejoicing over the fact the He sees each one of us.

And, so as we end this journey I want to ask you a few questions that you can ponder in your own heart:

-What is your greatest hindrance keeping you from getting real?

-Where have you been comparing yourself to others?

-Do you really believe that He sees you? Are you finding your identity in Him?

As I shared this at the Relevant conference, I asked the ladies to put their hand on the shoulder of a woman near them.  Let’s do this virtually!  Think of someone, a friend that you can pray for right now….

-Pray for her heart, that she would rest in who God has made her to be.

-Pray over her ministry, that she would be so filled up with His love that it would spill out of her both online and off.

-Pray for her friendships, that she would seek to love others as He has first loved her.

As we end, just this:

The world is watching us. They arewatching how we love one another, to see if we truly practice what we preach. We have the unique privilege and responsibility to be missionaries to a watching world. We can present to the world a picture of unity in Christ, and be a shining testimony for Him to a world that is lost.

This is our Esther moment. Let us not waste this opportunity to stand firm together in a beautiful picture of sisterhood, unity, and a true picture of the body of Christ. Each of us using our unique callings, abilities, personalities, and gifts to reach a world that is lost.

Let me pray for all of us:

O Lord, you know that we are weak and frail women. But, O Lord, we do so want to be used by You, to shine Your glory. Lord, I pray that You would bind us together, to become a picture of the unity of Christ to the world. May we stop looking at ourselves, at our insecurities, our failings, our mess-ups, but rather only to You. Use each of us with our unique capabilities however you will.  We pray, O Lord, that you would mold us into Your image and use us as a sisterhood of women. May we only seek your applause and rest knowing that we have followed You. Amen.

Thank you for joining me on this journey!! You can read all the posts in this series here.  And if you want to hear the audio of the talk, go here.

I invite you to subscribe and join me here every day or join me over at the Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Darcy

I’m linking up here today:

Sisterhood….Comparison

Source: elembee.com via Joy on Pinterest

 

So, we’ve talked about the call to sisterhood, embracing who God has made you to be, learning to get real with one another, accepting the differences of others, and then how we need to encourage one another as sisters.

And here comes the doozy….

In order to build a true sisterhood of Christian unity, we REALLY need to stop comparing ourselves with others. Seriously.

Each one of us is an important part of the body of Christ.  Each person adds something beautiful.  Let’s join our individual songs together…all of us together in unity and praise of our glorious Father.

Don’t let comparison steal your joy.

What is your thing? What has the Lord put into your life that drives you?  Whatever it is that the Lord has given YOU to do, do that well, and relax and enjoy it! Do it well, and do it for the glory of God.

And don’t compare the results of your work with another.  And for bloggers, in God’s economy there are no subscriber numbers, no page views, and no follower numbers.

For the body is not one member, but many.  If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ and if the ear says, ‘because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ is it not for this reason and less the part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now, God has placed the members, each one of them in the body, just as He desired.” 1 Corinthians 12:14

And, here is where I get really honest.  Last year, I was asked to speak at the Relevant conference as one of the speakers.  I was flattered and humbled and I said yes.  That was when I blogged at The Stay at Home Missionary.  I was excited and nervous and slightly overwhelmed.  Then, when all of the speakers were announced, and I found my name among them, I was terrified.  I looked at the list and felt overwhelmed and small.  It seemed that nearly everyone had a book published, had a ginormous following, and I felt small. I’m not saying this was right, but it is honest.

I let comparison steal the joy of my being asked to speak.  It ate me up so much that I ended up backing out of speaking and eventually quit my blog all together.  Me, measuring myself, comparing myself to others, instead of what God had called me to do.

Well, you know the rest of the story.  I think God has quite a sense of humor, because not only did He have me go back and speak at the Relevant conference, but as a keynote!

God has made each one of us with a specific purpose.  Are you going to fulfill the purpose He has for you by following His lead?  Will you use your gifts, talents, and stories for His glory?

I am, how about you?

Check back next week for the conclusion of this series….the last bit makes me cry every time.

{This series is a slightly edited version of the keynote I gave at the Relevant conference.  If you would like to listen to the audio of that session, you can download it here.}
Here is a list of the previous posts in the series:

1. The Call

2.Embrace

3.Get Real

4.Accepting Differences

5. Encourage

I’m linking up here:

Sisterhood….Encourage

After we begin to accept the differences in others, we need to come alongside of one another and encourage one another.  We need to be willing to reach out and speak love to one another.

Ephesians 5:19-21, “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord: always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father, and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

I have seen this happen so many times, sisters encouraging sisters, and it is a beautiful thing.  But what if we stepped it up a notch? What if we as a group of women actively pursued encouraging and promoting one another? Look around and ask yourself, Who could use a little encouragement? A little help? A little boost? Maybe there is someone who is struggling and we are so busy taking care of ourselves that we cannot even see it. “Let us not look only to our own interests but also to the interests of others.”  Stef wrote a great post on this very topic!

In the blog world, what if, rather than focusing on our ourselves, our blog, our numbers, we go about the business of promoting others?  Their blogs, their posts, their endeavors?  And when others “succeed”, what if we truly rejoice with them?

While I was at the Relevant conference I was overwhelmed to receive a package from some of my friends and co-workers in Indonesia.  They had taken the time to write me encouraging letters to be given to me on the day of my keynote (and mailed them all the way to the US prior to me going to speak!).

Talk about rejoicing with someone else.  I am sure that they would have gladly traded me places and enjoyed some beautiful fellowship at the Relevant conference instead of staying in Indonesia and helped watch my kids…but no, they chose to rejoice with me and encourage me.  That is a beautiful picture of true sisterhood….wow!

And this beautiful sign arrived for me at the hotel at Relevant.

Monica from The Homespun Heart saw something I had pinned on Pinterest and made it for me to encourage me on the day I was speaking! Now, Monica and I have never met in real life, but she is a true picture of a dear blog encourager.

So I want to challenge you:

Who can you reach out and encourage today? 

Here are the previous posts in this series:

Sisterhood…The Call

Sisterhood…Embrace

Sisterhood….Get Real

Sisterhood…Accepting Differences

If this post has encouraged you, might you be willing to share it with a friend and encourage them as well? I’d love to have you subscribe and join me here every day!

Sisterhood…Accepting Differences

Once we are able to embrace who we are, the next step is to be willing to accept the differences of others.

We are all different, we come from different place in the country and even the world.  We have different backgrounds, goals, needs, and even beliefs. That doesn’t mean that we cannot live in true unity with one another.

Our team of MAF missionaries all come from different places and walks of life.  We have had to learn to overlook some differences in one another for the higher purpose of living and working in unity.  We live in a community that is not primarily Christian, and we feel so strongly that our testimony of unity in the body of Christ is important that we are willing to overlook the differences in one another.

I’m not saying that it is easy, but we work at it in order to promote the bonds of peace and the unity that only Christ can bring as we live and work and minister together.

Ephesians 4:2 says, “..with all humility and gentleness with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace.”

Living in unity doesn’t mean that we agree with everyone else’s beliefs, it doesn’t even mean supporting beliefs that you strongly disagree with, but it does mean being willing to love the person behind the belief.  And, if necessary, taking your concern in conficence to that particular person.  Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.”  Sometimes the most loving thing we can do when we disagree with someone is to love them enough to speak the truth in love, but behind closed doors. 

We have to be willing to stand for truth, but to do so in love and with grace.  And when we feel that one of us is straying, loving that person enough to come alongside of them, to have the hard conversation, to seek truth together, instead of speaking ill of them.

We need to have the courage to speak to one another, instead of about one another. 

True unity isn’t agreeing with everyone on everything.  It isn’t always getting along and never having conflict.  True unity is working through the mess together, not giving up on one another, and spurring one another on in love and truth.  And, there are certainly times where love means quietly stepping back from a friendship, if there is a true impasse. BUT, continuing to love the person and staying committed to their ultimate good.

Think for a minute: Is there someone that you have wronged in this area? Perhaps you have been so intent on standing for truth, you forgot to do it in love? Or maybe there is someone who really rubs you the wrong way and you have spoken ill of them either online or behind the scenes. If so, you may want to think of asking that person’s forgiveness.

Ephesians 4:31-32 encourages us to, “ Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.

The other posts in this series:

Sisterhood…The Call

Sisterhood…Embrace

Sisterhood….Get Real

I’m linking up here:

If you have enjoyed this post, would you consider sharing it with a friend? Thank you! And, I’d love to have you subscribe to join me each day!

Sisterhood…Get Real

As I said last time, I made a pact with myself never to get real.

Fast forward to life overseas, where we serve with a team of people, 11 families, and we are it for English speakers in a city of 200,000. Even though we don’t live on a “mission base” we all live in close proximity within the city. And, just like that, there was nowhere to hide. When there is conflict, sickness, hurt feelings, or need we are all in it together. We have to be each other’s family, co-workers, and friends all wrapped into one. When I get offended, I can’t quietly slip away and move on, because I have to continue to rely on, work with, and spend time with these ladies.

One day, a few years ago, I was preparing for my daughter Hannah’s birthday party.  We were going to have a little tea part in the front yard, and Hannah really wanted lemonade for her special birthday drink. Since I struggle with Lupus and live in the tropics where the humidity makes it worse, there are times when it is really painful to complete everyday tasks like combing my hair, stirring pancake batter, and yes, squeezing lemons.

In a moment of desperation, as Hannah’s party loomed just a few hours ahead, I called my friend and next door neighbor to ask if she might be able to help me squeeze the lemons.  She immediately came over with tears streaming down her face.  She told me how much it meant to her to be allowed to see the real me, the messy me, the one that needs help and doesn’t get it right all of the time.  It was a turning point for me. I realized that by acting like I had it all together, by never asking for help, by wanting to appear perfect, I was actually isolating myself and robbing others of the joy of knowing me and being able to serve me. 

Since that time, the Lord has grown me SO much in this area, and allowed me to be able to reach out for His grace in my daily life and allow myself to be ministered to by others in my life.

Emily P. Freeman says in her book, Grace for the Good Girl,

When I am wearing a mask, not only can others not see me, but I can’t see them.  I see everything through a thin veil of perception…. What would it look like if I allowed Jesus Himself to determine my comfort zone? What if, instead of walking into a room with a wall around me, I was able to walk into a room and move toward others in freedom? Before I am able to do that, I have to be convinced that I am safe.  And that is exactly what Jesus came to do.”

So, I want to ask you….What is the greatest hindrance keeping you from getting real? Are you willing to be your real messy self? The one who doesn’t have it all together? Are you willing to ask for help when you need it and be honest about your struggles?

1 Timothy 4:15 says, “…let your progress be known to all people.” Your progress, not your perfection.

More to come….

I’d love to have you subscribe and join me here every day!

Here are the other posts in the Sisterhood series:

1.The Call

2 Embrace

 

Sisterhood…Embrace

As I have learned in my own life, in order to create true unity with other women, we first have to be willing to truly embrace who God has made us individually to be….and then be willing to get real.

We left the States in 2005 to travel to Indonesia to serve as missionaries.  You might be able to guess at some of the things that were difficult to adjust to:

-Leaving family…..knowing that I was taking grandchildren away from grandparents

-Learning a new language and humbling myself enough to be laughed at when I got it wrong again and again

-Cooking everything from scratch when up to that point I thought that chicken automatically came into the world boneless and skinless

-Adjusting to being gawked at everywhere we went and having my kids cheeks pinched over and over again

-Or, perhaps the snakes….

I’ll admit the day we found this one right near our house was a bad day, one that found me on the bathroom floor crying out to God and telling Him I wasn’t cut out for mission life after all….because I really hate snakes!

But, surprisingly, these were not the things that were most difficult.  The hardest thing for me has been to learn to live in community with other women.  I had to learn to get real. I am truly thankful that the Lord, in His amazing grace, sent me to the mission field to heal me and force me to be real with other women….and build a sisterhood.

You see, I made a pact with myself at a young age to never trust a girl ever again.  I started school a year early and was an energetic 5 year old with a group of older sixes.  It was a small Christian school and once those girls decided I wasn’t “in”, I was forever “out”. They teased me ruthlessly and there was not a day that went by that I didn’t go home in tears.  They made up “days” like “braid day”, “pink day”, and “ribbon day” and they would all discuss it amongst each other.  And sure enough, the next day, everyone would come wearing the appropriate attire….everyone except me.  Finally I decided that I could not take it anymore and begged my parents to let me stay back with my original class, and they finally agreed.  It was when I joined the new class that I decided that I would never be unpopular again, I would be the perfect friend, and no one would EVER see the real me.

What’s more is that I was the daughter of a pastor of a large church with several pastors, among them being two well-known authors.  Growing up in the midst of these other, more “famous” pastor’s kids, I felt like I had to be extra perfect to prove that I was worthy. I wanted everyone to see me as perfect, never having a problem and never needing anything. So I spent my life having lots of friends, being popular, but when it came time to risk or get real with other girls, I would just quietly slip away and move on to other friendships.

More again tomorrow….

How about you? What is your story?

Past posts in the series: Sisterhood…The Call

Sisterhood…The Call

Many of you have asked about my talk at the Relevant Conference. So, I have decided to write it out for you this week (slightly edited).  I will be doing a post about my experience at Relevant, but not until next week, after I have had time to process. For now, all I can say is that it was AH-MAZING. God is AH-MAZING.

In the meantime, here is the first installment:

One of our favorite things to do as a family is to head into a village where my husband flies.  We spend several days just spending time and getting to know the people and encouraging them.  Life there is simple.  No running water, no electricity, laundry is done in the river, beds are mats on plywood floors, and they cook over an open fire.

The thing that interests me the most is the women.  When our family comes, there are lots of mouths to feed and the women trickle into the house one by one each bringing something.  One woman brings a hunk of pig meat, one brings uncooked rice that she recently harvested in her field, another brings ferns she collected near the bank of the river, and yet another brings a root she dug up that promises to add delicious flavor. And then, sitting around the open fire laughing, chopping, cooking and talking, they work to create a meal together.

These ladies are a small group of believers living in a small village in the middle of the jungles of Indonesia, and they show me a beautiful picture of how true Christian sisterhood and unity should work.  No one takes all of the burden or load, and they each bring something to share.  They bring something different and unique and they all work together to create a tasty, satisfying meal.

And so I want to ask you. How can we create a sisterhood both on and offline? One where we bring our unique gifts and talents, and we all work together to prepare a beautiful, satisfying meal for the watching world.

Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

A unity, in spite of our differences, and a picture of the Body of Christ portrayed through us.  That they world may see our unity and see Christ in it. If we are believers we have His light within us and it is our calling to shine that light.  We have been put here to both experience Christ and His love and to portray it to the world.

More tomorrow…..

What are your thoughts?

Photos by the amazing Dave Forney.

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