Monday, September 22, 2014

A Letter to My 18 Year Old Self...{In Honor of My Daughter's 18th Birthday} ~ A New Post by @ShelleyHendrix




My daughter, Macey, turns 18 today. It seems like not too long ago that I turned 18 -- and yet, in some ways, it seems like a lifetime ago. Twenty-two years worth of living life have come and gone since my own entry into "adulthood" and with this in mind, here is my letter to my 18 year old self.




Dear 18 Year Old Shelley,

I can't believe we made it! Eighteen! It seemed like 1992 would never arrive, and yet here we are. You'll get to vote for President in a few months. You still won't be allowed to rent a car for a few years and that is going to feel a little bit embarrassing on a business trip you'll take for a job in 1993. Don't sweat it too much when that happens, though. You'll be old enough to rent cars, run for Senate, run for President and much more before you know it. What the adults around you are saying is true: Life really does go by fast. But this isn't why I'm writing to you.

I am writing to you because before you know it, you're going to be 40. You'll be married soon, and although you and your husband have chosen "The 5 Year Plan" for becoming parents, you'll be surprised in the fall of 1993 to find out you'll become a mom--just before your First Anniversary. You'll barely be twenty years old when you hold your firstborn daughter in your arms. You'll fall in love in a way you never knew was possible. You'll think to yourself, "Wow- by the time she's my age now, I'll be 40." And it will seem like a long way away.

It won't be quite as long as you expect.

Not too long after that baby's birth, you'll find out you're expecting again--just as you planned: babies born two years apart. But you'll go through the pain and loss of a miscarriage and grieve for someone you never even had a chance to know. And this won't be the last time you have to endure this depth of loss and grief.

But then...you're going to have another child; another girl! What a thrill to have two little girls; because there are few friendships in life that can ever compare to what sisters share. And later on, after your world is rocked by a divorce you didn't want or ever expect, you'll love again; and give birth again; and lose 3 more babies through miscarriage; and find yourself in love with two men at the same time. (Don't freak out; I mean your husband and your son.)

You'll love adulthood, but there will be challenges:


  • You'll struggle with self-image far too much and worry about the number on the scale and the size of your jeans far too often.
  • You'll wonder why it takes so long to actually grow up after you've been declared a "grown up."
  • You'll question your life decisions and wonder if you made the right choices regarding education, relationships, and where to live. 
  • You'll spend more time than you want imagining what life could or should be like - longing for a better future - and miss far too many celebration-worthy moments in the present. 
  • Life won't turn out like you planned. 
  • You'll try too hard. - Too hard to make others happy. - Too hard to please people. -Too hard to get folks to like you. - Too hard to prove yourself as a wife, mom, friend, and servant of God. -Too hard to be "enough." And once you've tried too hard too many times, God's grace will meet you and welcome you into a new and better way of living. 
You'll discover things about God, life, yourself and your relationships that will make all the struggles to get there possible;
  • God doesn't just love you, Shelley--He delights in YOU. He LIKES you. He ENJOYS your relationship. It'll take you a while to embrace this, and you'll have setbacks along the way from time to time; but discovering and accepting this will rock your world in the best way possible.
  • You'll begin to take risks in faith knowing that God's got you no matter what. You'll see with your own eyes that His plans, while costing you more than you want to pay, will bless you in ways you wouldn't ever want to miss.
  • You'll stop worrying so much about whether "she" or "he" or "they" like you for who you are and you'll celebrate sincerely and often those in your life who do. (And you'll go on to write a book about this journey to greater peace.)
  • You will learn to give yourself as much grace as you can and will learn to accept grace from others when you don't seem to have any within you to draw from. 
  • You'll begin to live more intentionally in the present, fully engaged, embracing each moment as a gift to be experienced.
This letter could go on and on, but I realize even as I write this that I'm kind of glad I didn't have this information on my 18th Birthday. In fact, there were probably good people trying to pass along this kind of information, but my ears weren't yet tuned to hear it. 

Life is about discovering and you can't discover anything if you already know everything. So, for now, I'll leave you with this: Life is hard; but God is good. Life is hard, but life is also good. Your life will be easier than someone else's life and harder than another's. This kind of reality isn't up to you. What IS up to you is how you steward the life your God has given you. The best way to do this is to take each moment as a gift, trust God with yourself and His plan, and simply obey His leading. Be nice to yourself. 

You think the past 18 years have been an adventure? Buckle up, chick. It's all just getting started!





Friday, September 19, 2014

“Scars and Stretch Marks” ~ A Guest Post by Tricia Lott Williford




Scars and Stretch Marks

I have my share. Four pregnancies and two C-sections later, my wrinkled, puckered tummy looks like a "dried apricot," as my friend L. once said. It's true.


But you know what? I love my stretch marks. They are victory scars. They tell a story.

When I look at those stripes across my abdomen, I remember when my children were growing inside me, when they were just mine, when they went everywhere with me, when only I knew when they had the hiccups.

When I look at the six-inch scar from my C-sections, I think of the moment I met them, when I first heard them cry, when I watched them meet their daddy for the first time in the operating room. I think about how amazing it is, an everyday miracle, and how blessed I am that God let me participate in bringing them into the world. He could have done it all without my help.

Yesterday, I saw a bottle of Stretch Mark Eraser on display at the mall, professing to take those stripes away with some faithful moisturizing.

I didn't even pause to pick it up. First of all, I don't think it would really work. But more importantly, I don't want them to go away.  I love them.

If I could look at my heart - not the beating organ inside me but the spirit that loves and hurts and breaks and heals - I imagine it is covered with its own pink, purple, and red streaks.  Each one tells a story of quick stretching, sometimes so fast, hard, tight that I thought I might tear in two.

Stretching leaves scars. They tell a story.

What scars are you most proud of?


“Take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying.  A scar means, ‘I survived.’”

~ Chris Cleave, Little Bee


Tricia is a widowed single mom raising two young men who could charm you to the moon with their freckles.  She collects words, books and bracelets, and she believes the best part of coffee is the feel of the mug in her hand.  She has written two books, And Life Comes Back (currently available everywhere books are sold) and Let’s Pretend We’re Normal (coming in June 2015).  She writes about the happenings of life every day at tricialottwilliford.com.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Good Grief! by @clutz40


“So that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope…” 1 Thessalonians 4:13
 
I feared I was slipping into depression last week, and my heart grew troubled within me. Thankfully the Helper (Holy Spirit) revealed to me that I am not depressed, but rather grieving.  Grieving is a positive thing for a former professional “stuffer.”  It is important for each of us to remember any loss is a death.  Loss of health, loss of a dream, loss of a marriage, or as I am experiencing, loss of a church family, are all examples of a “death.” 

Some losses come suddenly and unexpectedly, and some losses are prolonged and expected.  My dad died suddenly.  My mom died slowly of cancer.  I grieved both deaths (though not always constructively).  I grieved for my mom as she was dying.  Most of the grieving for my dad was done afterward.

There are several stages of grief.  Denial and anger are two of them.  If we grieve properly, we will eventually come to the acceptance.

We've grieved the loss of five church families over the course of 25 years. When we left our beloved body of believers at Covenant Church in Hammond, IN, we had a couple of months to grieve before a final decision was reached (calling from God). 

We recently left one of our most blessed of my husband’s pastorates, (Westminster Chapel in Ball Ground, GA), and the decision was quick and unexpected by some.  We have a clear calling from God to move in a new direction, yet the grief runs deep.

I am grateful for the growth God is bringing into my life to allow me to process this pain, and not stuff it down deep where it will pop out in destructive ways.  I am likewise thankful that as 1st Thessalonians 4:3 states, “I’m not grieving like the rest of mankind, (unbelievers) who have no hope.”  

I’m choosing to believe in the HOPE of the resurrection power of Christ, knowing He will provide for Westminster Chapel, and for my family and me.

I’m trusting as Proverbs 3: 5-6 calls us to: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

What about you?

Are you experiencing a loss (death)?

Are you trying to stuff it down deep and ignore the pain, or are you learning to grieve (yet not as one who has no hope)?

Look to Jesus, our only hope in life and in death.

Cheryl Lutz is passionate to teach women how to tear down strongholds and find freedom in Christ. A pastor’s wife for twenty-five years, Cheryl possesses a vibrant love for teaching the Word of God. She is the founder of Securely Held, LLC, where she works as a trained and experienced lay counselor and speaker.
You may contact Cheryl through her blog at: www.securelyheld.com
Twitter: @clutz40
Email: clutz40@gmail.com




Monday, September 15, 2014

Letting Go by @emilylaney




Image via Google Images (creative commons)

 “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” – Isaiah 43:1-3 

I’m writing this to you all from thousands of feet, flying cross country to my beautiful home in Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve been in Tucson, Arizona this week for work. So of course, two plane rides necessitate completing this journey. I’ve been on a lot of planes in my 29 years, nearly 200 if I had to guess. I spent much of my twenties traveling to the developing world doing missions and humanitarian work, and some of my destinations required 6-7 flights. But guess what?

I hate flying.

I really do. I love the destination, but I hate to fly. Some of this is likely due to my control freak tendencies and desire to always have a plan in place. I like to be in control, and when I’m flying, I’m not in control. I have to trust the pilot, mechanics and other involved airline employees to get me where I’m going. Flying, for me, is a practice in letting go. I don’t do it well, but I have no choice. In fact, on this very flight we’ve experienced turbulence during take off. I felt my heart beat rapidly and fear entered my mind. I anxiously picked at my nails and fumbled for my phone so I could listen to some worship music to take my mind off the bumps and impending fear in my heart.  Some of you reading may roll your eyes at this, but others of you know EXACTLY how I felt during that moment.

Fear is part of life. Relinquishing control is part of life. It’s not an easy part of life, but it is a necessary component of our journey. It may be plane rides, or public speaking, or illness, or rejection- but these tough moments happen more often than we would like them to. And much like I have to let go and trust the pilot of my plane right now, I have to let go and trust God in moments of uncertainty in life.

Why is it so difficult to trust God? I wonder that in moments of difficulty. I feel doubt and uncertainty creep in and anxious thoughts fill my mind. God has come through in countless ways for me in my life. He’s rescued me from danger, he’s comforted me during grief, and he’s provided for me when I wasn’t sure how I could make it. In many moments, it’s much easier to try to control situations on my own instead of trusting God. But I know in my own life, the times where I relinquished that control and passed my burdens, my fears and my doubts to my Heavenly Father, a peace that I couldn’t explain washed over me. So whether it be a bumpy flight or a lost job, God is there to wrap his arms around us and soothe our fears. He’s there to provide for us in ways we can’t even fathom, and comfort us in such a supernatural way that it can’t be explained. I’m so grateful for the cross, and so grateful for God’s grace. Without it, I truly don’t know where I would be.

What areas of your life do you need to ‘let go’ and allow God to take control? 

 
Emily Laney is a social worker, educator, and justice seeker.  She has worked with vulnerable populations in the United States and abroad and loves to help startup nonprofits reach their goals.  She is a Passion City Church door holder and leads a team of abolitionists at Not for Sale Georgia.   She loves her husband Brent and their rescue pup Biscuit. Sunsets and Sushi make her happy.

You can connect with Emily on twitter @emilylaney or on her blog 
www.emilylaney.com