So pumped today for you to meet my friend Aubs. She was my roomie for 2 years of college and my faithful marathon buddy. We have been through a ton together, and today she is sharing part of her story.
Aubrey is a 26 year old PhD student studying Old Testament Lit at Emery and is probably smarter than 95% of us will ever be in our whole lifetimes ;o) She is married to a wonderful man named Jeff who is from Australia and still has a sweet accent, and they currently reside in Atlanta with their two Papillion puppies, Grace and Ransom. (Okay, how adorable is she?!)
“When I was a sophomore in college, I knew that I wanted to be a singer. I loved music, I was majoring in voice performance at Wheaton College, and I just knew that this was what I was supposed to be doing with my life. Of course, I was going to succeed in voice “all for the glory of God.” Its funny how much more glory God can get in our absolute FAILURE.
While I was planning and practicing for my sophomore recital (my first big college recital!), I started to lose my voice all the time. I developed a chronic sore throat and instead of getting better, I grew gradually worse and worse. I was so discouraged, and, frankly, embarrassed. I thought being a singer was who I was. But I was failing dismally. My voice teacher tried putting me on vocal rest, “How much are you talking?!” He couldn’t believe how much I would have had to be talking to go from voice major to chain smoker in the course of a short lesson! At the breaking point of frustration that had grown over the year (and after I assured him that I wasn’t that popular ), he referred me to a voice specialist.
The voice specialist informed me that I had a tumor, fortunately benign, on my vocal cords. I would have to have surgery to remove it at the end of the semester, and until then, no more singing. Afterwards I would have to build up from there and just see how it went. My dream of excellence in singing was, very clearly, over.
What do you do when you have reached a limit like this? I couldn’t work harder, invest more effort or time to “push through” this. I was, simply, an artist without an art.
It turns out that that limit was the only way that I could have been halted in my tracks, realize the weakness of being human, and turn around to face God. It was such a small trial, but it taught me that freedom can be found in something so important being taken away, even if at the time I felt like I had failed. I realized that was not the end…so what next?
I found myself with lots of time on my hands. That’s what you get when you’re a voice major without a voice! I turned to the book of Ecclesiastes” ‘What gain does humanity get from all their toil under the sun?” the speaker in the book asks, “who knows what is good for a person?”
In that period where my speech was limited I set out to find the answer to Ecclesiastes’ question. It was that first question that set me on the path to where I am today, still a full-time student of the Bible! And still a full-time student of the lessons that God so graciously taught me as an over-confident college student.
1) We are limited as human beings. Our bodies can fail us, our circumstances can get out of our control. We can put in all that effort to “be all that I can be,” and still be, as Paul says in Romans, “subjected to futility” along with creation (Romans 8:20) BUT
2) Our belief is in one who, though he had no limits, took on all of our limits, in order that we could be redeemed in our failure as much as in our success. This is our mystery, where we are now free to encounter our limits as temporary, we are free to struggle against them in the belief that even the “no’s” are redemptive.
It took my struggle with the small limit of losing my voice for me to be forced to grapple with the nature of a God who embraced all our human limits, even the greatest one, of death. Somehow it was on the other side of that experience where I found a kind of freedom to love my work without a crippling fear of failure. It is a joy, of course, to succeed, but not a need.
So now, maybe we can be free to fail, free to realize our limits, free to realize the weakness of our bodies and our minds, and instead of thinking we have to be excellent for Christ, realize that our failures can be testimonies to his excellence.”
What struggles have you encountered that made your frail humanity very apparent? Did the struggle bring you to your knees?
That woman you see walking her dog by herself. That girl at the coffeeshop. That frazzled mommy at Chick Fil A or Target. That friend of yours who drains you. Your spouse. Your crazy kiddos who you desperately want to see go back to school. That loner you know. EVERYONE!!!
They. Need. Your. Encouragement.
Pour out some joy and (I promise) it will have a reciprocal effect. Say stuff like:
“Hey you look great today.”
“You have a gorgeous smile.”
“Your family is beautiful” (even if they’re the most rambunctious little boogies you’ve ever seen!)
“Thank you for ________. You are so good at _______.”
“You are one of the most _________ people I have ever met.”
Carve out 30 minutes to grab coffee and deliver it to someone you love or maybe someone you don’t know well with the sole mission of encouraging them. Send some snail mail love. Too lazy for the USPS? Shoot a text. Let’s simplify even more, just show those pearly whites to someone in need of a smile.
We are such frail human beings! Encouragement can make the difference someone needs so desperately. For me, words are enough. They are free and so small, but they have changed my life.
Every single time I do a speaking engagement or write a blog and someone says something like: “Thank you so much, that was exactly what I needed to hear today” …I seriously feel like I can change the world. I am filled with joy and fulfillment. I feel inspired and courageous in my calling to write/speak and that tiny phrase someone said to me changes my entire day/week.
On the other hand, anytime I go a week or two without a word of encouragement, I find myself slipping into failure mentality and considering whether or not I should even continue writing/speaking/doing what I do.
WHAT?! I’m SO FRAGILE and frankly, embarrassed to admit my weakness in this way. But I think it’s a common sentiment. We were made to live in community and to encourage one another…yet, we are in a culture of independence (and isolation.)
People are lonely. Lots of us spend our days hunkering down and “doing what we do” and it keeps us from sharing life and doling out ‘words that give life.’ And we start believing lies that we suck. But you don’t suck! You are awesome!!!
Encouraging comes easier for some than others, sometimes depending on how much you were praised as a kid or how insecure praising others can make you feel. BUT, encouragement has the power to change the atmosphere of our friend circles, our community and our relationships…
The people you lord over at work…your lazy co-workers…want them to do better? ENCOURAGE THE CRAPPINESS OUT OF THEM! Say “you’re doing a great job of ______” and they will step up their game. It’s quite opposite of what you might think or expect.
I dare you to encourage your spouse instead of tearing them down when they’re driving you nutso and just watch how that changes the dynamic.
Simply put, human beans need praise. And you should give it away. It costs nothing, brings you joy and could mean everything to them.
Your mission for today: encourage 3 people. Bonus points if you share with me who you encouraged and why.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Encourage one another and build each other up…”
Sometimes you hear a great song for the first time and you’re like “YES!!! THIS IS SO GOOD.” And you just know that it’s going to become a go-to. It’ll sneak its catchy little way into your running playlist and your chillin’ playlist and your holy yoga playlist and your Sunday afternoon drive playlist. Some songs are just that good.
Even with a playlist full of amazing songs though, you can get sick of your music because you’ve heard it a bagillion times.
New music is refreshing…so take a sec and clean up your playlists. Add new songs & take off the stale ones. Don’t have money? Use Spotify, it’s free and flippin awesome. (It’s ten bucks a month to get it on your phone –totes worth it.)
Here we go =) These are the songs that make me jam out like a fool, stretch my stride and make me want to dance or worship Jesus like a crazy person. Some are old and you will know them, hopefully some will be new for you!
10 Awesome Workout Songs
1. Grenade — Bruno Mars
2. Roar — Katy Perry
3. Hey, Soul Sister — Train
4. Some Nights — FUN
5. Best I Ever Had — Gavin DeGraw
6. Sail — AWOLNATION
7. Defying Gravity — Wicked
8. Girl on Fire — Alicia Keys
9. Do You Remember — Jay Sean, Sean Paul
10. We Have Overcome- Israel & New Breed
5 Fun Songs
1. Good Life — OneRepublic
2. Happy — Natasha Bedingfield
3. Best Day of My Life — American Authors
4. Royals — Lorde
5. Good Morning — Chamillionaire
6 Sweet Chillin’ Songs
1. Tapestry — Hillsong United
2. Daisies and Pews — Katie Herzig
3. Free Fallin’ — John Mayer style (ahh)
4. Back to the Earth — Jason Mraz
5. Stick Around — David Ramirez
10 Fav Worship Songs
1. Your Love — Shane & Shane
2. The Lord Our God — Featuring Kristian Stanfill, Passion
3. Your Glory/Nothing But The Blood — All Sons & Daughters
4. Desert Soul — Rend Collective
5. Joy Will Come — Desperation Band
6. All Things New — Elevation Worship
7. I Exalt Thee-Chris Quilala Version — Jesus Culture (not on Spotify, but is on itunes)
8. I’m a Lover of Your Presence — Bryan & Katie Torwalt (not on Spotify but is on itunes)
9. Embracing Accusation- Shane & Shane (you have to listen to the words on this one…the whole song)
10. Messiah/You’re Beautiful — Phil Wickham
Leave me a few of your favorites in the comments too! I’m ALWAYS on the hunt for new jams.
Yet again this week I have a miraculous story of God’s rescue to share with you. The situation looked hopeless… BUT CHRIST. Hear me when I say to you: THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE.
Today i have the pleasure of introducing you to my sweet friend Carly who shares her story courageously and boldly.
“Growing up, I was faced with a lot of different challenges. I grew up in a non-Christian home where love was not played out. My parents weren’t affectionate to each other, and weren’t affectionate toward me. For example, I seldom received hugs or kisses. Even though my parents were legally married, they didn’t act like it. My dad kicked my mom out of his room, so I was forced to share a bed with my mom. It just wasn’t “normal”.
During elementary school, I went through a very traumatic event. I was molested. Molested by someone that I barely knew, someone that I had only been introduced to a couple of times. I remember this event like it was just yesterday. I remember how hopeless I felt and scared I felt. I remember being touched in a way no one should ever be touched. This event, along with many others changed the course of my life.
After this incident, I started attending church. My mom and I went to my Grandparents house quite a bit, and Grandview Church was only a block away. I started attending frequently…by myself… as a third grader. I continued going back because I felt and saw true love. I didn’t know why or how everyone was so happy but I wanted whatever they had.
Little did I know, the reason they were so joy-filled was because of the Lord.
In middle school, a lot of different events happened in my life. First, I made the best decision I’ve ever made which was to accept Christ into my heart. However, this was another very hard year. My parents separated and I was abused yet again. I was a victim of sexual harassment at my Junior High, and this was the time I started my addiction to pornography.
Yeah, you heard that right. I was addicted to PORN.
It was an addiction that lasted 7+ years. It started on accident. One of the most important people in my life didn’t believe me when I told her about the abuse, so I decided to just search it for myself. I knew that what happened to me wasn’t right and that it was “dirty” but I didn’t know what it was called. I knew about sex, so I decided to type it into the search engine. S-E-X.
Immediately…I was bombarded by so many images, videos, etc. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it affected my life greatly and caused a lot of destruction in my life and heart.
High school was hard for me as well. I was sexually abused yet again in 9th grade and was also being bullied at school. At this point all I could think was, “What is wrong with ME? What am I doing wrong? Why would this happen yet again?”
I tried telling the school about it, yet no one took action. I talked to the police, yet no one took action. I also went to my own family members, yet no one took action.
At this point, I felt so hopeless and felt so abandoned. Enter my darkest days. I turned to suicide during the summer of my sophomore year, attempting to take my life many times. It is only by the grace of God that I am here sharing my story today.
Satan had a strong pull on my life that year. I really questioned God. If God REALLY loved me, why would all these bad things continue happening to me? In 11th grade, the addiction grew. I was consumed by pornography. Minutes turned into hours, and hours turned into days of watching, visiting chat rooms, etc. I was enslaved to this sin. I turned to pornography more and more, seeking comfort and intimacy I had never recieved as a child.
I craved affection and attention from everything and everyone. And in a messed up way, porn felt like it delivered that. It was something that I didn’t have to talk to, but it was always there. It became like a friend. And still in High School, no one knew about it…until I moved in with a family from our church, Harvest Bible Chapel. (Melisa and Jim)
I told the parents about my addiction and about all that had happened in my life. Moving in with them was such an incredible blessing. They loved me in spite of my addiction and hurts. They helped me grow in my faith tremendously. They showed me what a Godly (and functional) family can look like and I am so thankful. A couple months after I moved in, Marisa decided that it would probably be a good idea to seek counseling. So she and another youth leader from Harvest took me to an intensive counseling weekend in Indiana called Twelvestones.
Twelve Stones helped me in various ways. They helped me see how deep my sin was, how much it was hurting me and others around me. I learned that I could achieve freedom through Christand that God could redeem and heal all of the wounds in my life left by other people and myself. I came away from that weekend with a better understanding of how much God loves me, because growing up, I never felt loved.
Of course I never once thought this would be “my” story. I never once thought I would struggle with abuse…abandonment…suicide…bullying…pornography…etc. But in some ways, I am thankful for all of it. My story has given me so many opportunities to share Christ and has made me a stronger individual.
And what’s even more awesome is that my story isn’t over yet. It’s still being written. I’m still being changed and sanctified and healed. And it’s good stuff, people.
If God uses me to be a light through others’ pain, then it was all worth it. I have seen tremendous healing in my life, and have experienced what true freedom in Christ is. I just want to share the greatness of our God with everyone. HE IS SO GOOD! But for now, I am just a twenty-year old girl trying to live out this thing called life. “
How beautiful and amazing and courageous is she?!?! Please consider sharing or leaving a comment of encouragement for Carly. We serve a God who still does miracles today. If you need help or healing from past abuse or a porn addiction, visit the Twelve Stones website or the Blazing Grace site.
2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is all you need, my power works best in weakness.”
Every Wednesday I’m going to be highlighting a story of God moving in the life of someone I know. I think testimonies are the most powerful way to share our faith and change the world. So without further adieu, meet Cindy. Cindy babysat for me when I was a little girl and through Facebook we have recently reconnected.
“I needed someone to rescue me.
It started in my early teenage years … feeling the need to be perfect to fit in…the intense desire to be loved and accepted. I was trying to please everybody else, which made me feel so out of control of my own life. The one thing I could control was my food intake and my exercise.
What started out as a simple attempt to become “healthy” quickly became much more than that and spiraled out of control. I shut out my family and friends. I turned away from everyone that I needed … including God. I felt hopeless. I felt alone. But that did not matter to me at the time because the numbers on the scale were going down…. and down …and down.
I kept aiming for a smaller number each time I reached my “goal”. It was funny … not ha ha funny, but weird funny. I thought when I got to a smaller number, I would be happy and perfect; however, it never happened. The lower the number got, the more unhappy I became.
When I was 16, I was in and out of treatment centers and hospitals for weeks at a time. My eating disorder got worse after each treatment attempt. I was not ready to let go. My family and friends felt helpless. They saw me slowing killing myself, but they could not stop it.
When I was 18, my doctor gave me two weeks to live. I had starved myself down to 79 pounds. My parents had contacted every treatment center they could find, but I was 18 … I was able to refuse treatment. Remuda Ranch, a treatment center in Arizona, had called to do a phone interview with me. They only take patients who are willing to try to get better. I refused their phone call; therefore, they would not accept me. My parents were devastated.
My parents were taking turns staying home with me because I was so sick. I wasn’t even able to get out of bed. It was a day that my dad was home with me. It was a few days after I had refused Remudaʼs phone call. My dad was crying out to God, praying for a miracle. Within minutes after he finished his prayer, the phone rang. It was Remuda Ranch conducting a follow up call. My father walked down the hall to my bedroom with the phone in his hand, knocked on my door, and told me who was on the phone. By the grace of God, I said I would take the call.
Why they called again? I have no idea. I believe that was the divine intervention of a God who longed to rescue me from myself.
Less than a week later, frail–broken-and-on-the-brink-of-death-little-me flew to Arizona. I had so many emotions…fear, sadness, anger, confusion, and in a strange way, relief.
My rescuer was already working behind the scenes, softening my hard and anxious heart. It was there at Remuda Ranch at the broken age of 18 that I (with a lot of hesitation) decided to let go and let God. He intervened and rescued me from the eating disorder (ED) that was draining me of joy, freedom, and life itself. There the Lord met me in my brokenness, took my hand and started walking with me on a journey to healing.
I never knew what a long (so very long), hard (so very hard) journey it would be. There were so many ups and downs (and I am not just talking about the scale going up and down). I am talking about mental and physical obstacles I had to overcome. I had to rebuild trust with God, my family and my friends. I had to rebuild trust with my very own body.
Fast forward nine years. God provided an amazing man who asked me to be his wife, and he has been such a gift to me. A couple years after that we decided we wanted to start a family.
When I was in the midst of the eating disorder behaviors, I didn’t know (or maybe I knew but didn’t care) what kind of damage I was doing to my body. When I went to my doctor (the doctor that took care of me all through my eating disorder) to happily tell her we were ready to start trying to get pregnant, it hit. me. so. hard.
“Because of the trauma you put your body through for years and years, you might not be able to conceive or carry children” she said.
I was devastated.
The consequences of my decisions as a young girl had such a massive ripple effect. I was terrified and angry, but again, in my despair God had a plan. I had yet another opportunity to relinquish my plan and control.
*In retrospect I can say with confidence that it’s in the hardest things that we grow the most.*
After a long time of trying, we became pregnant — with the help of fertility treatments and procedures. I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl! I was overjoyed, and our sweet daughter has been such a gift. She is one of many amazing gifts that came as a result of God’s miraculous rescue.
If you have struggled with an ED, you know that they can be so gosh darn persistent. Throughout the years, I have battled off and on with control vs. surrender. When I let God get a hold of my heart, I was able to walk in healing and freedom. When I tried to do it my way, I would get stuck in old patterns. This was the cycle, and it was hard.
When our daughter was 3, we decided we wanted to have another child. Shockingly, we naturally became pregnant. Not only did we get pregnant on our own, but there were FOUR sacs in my womb. What?!?!? Everyone was amazed and perplexed. However, the pregnancy did not progress. At week nine, we had to say goodbye to all four babies in my womb. I was devastated and blamed myself because I had slipped backed into my eating disorder behavior before that pregnancy began. My body could not carry one child, let alone four.
But God wasn’t about to give up on me. He was my patient rescuer, and he fought so hard for my heart. Within the few months following the loss, I gained about 19 pounds and we decided to try again. We were naturally blessed with an identical twin conception. God enabled me to carry those two babies to full term and I gave birth to two healthy baby boys! Another miracle given by my rescuer.
This girl who was once told she had two weeks to live…a woman who was told she may NEVER be able to have children…is now the mommy of three little miracles, ages 6 and 2. And miracles are exactly what they are!!!
WOW … what a journey it has been!!!
When I turned 35 this year, I had a massive epiphany as I looked at my life through a new lens.
I could be dead. I could be childless. I could have missed out on ALL OF THIS! But God—OH GOD—in His amazing grace REACHED DOWN INTO MY MESS AND RESCUED ME. He knew me and loved me every single day. He waited patiently, He is my healer, and He has an amazing purpose for my life.
In those moments of breathtaking gratefulness just a few short months ago, God spoke to me. He wanted to break my chains off COMPLETELY. Not partly. Not for a few months. WHOLLY.
After more than 20 years of trying to fight an eating disorder on my own, I let go of my past. I forgave myself and devoted my life to Him. It’s through this continuous surrender that God’s greater plan and purpose for me can take root, and I cannot wait to fully experience all that He has for me!
For anyone who is struggling, I want you to know that there is hope and there is healing. I know there are times when you feel like there’s no way out. It may seem easier to let the ED take over and not fight back. But your true strength will come from handing it over to God and accepting his freedom. He will speak to you and open your eyes to all that He has for you. It’s a life of great purpose we’re promised in the Bible.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11
Satan still tries to use stress and loneliness to tempt me to fall back into old behaviors, but I KNOW that those behaviors will only leave me feeling more stressed and empty. The way I fight back is by reminding myself that it’s Satan trying to pull me down. Instead of turning to those familiar behaviors, I take a “time out” to notice what is causing me to have those ED thoughts and then I do something healthy and productive to get rid of those thoughts … pray, write, read, call a friend … etc.
Please know that I would love to pray for you, chat with you, encourage you, or help you in any way that I can. I’ve been there. I know how alone, scared, and hopeless you feel. But I promise you … there is hope. Do not give up. You are worth SO MUCH MORE!!!!!!!
No, sicko. (<–remember that word from Jr. High?) Get your mind out of the gutter. 😉 I’m also not talking about the awesome 90s Nike slogan that impressively lives on (I love you Michael Jordan).
I’m talking about doing what you want to do in life.
What are the dreams of your heart?
What when you think of it fully realized makes you feel exhilarated and alive (and slightly terrified)?
What do you want to be known for when you die?
Do you have a burning passion to make something happen, but you’re scared or don’t know where to start?
For me, it’s my book series. My dream is sharing the message of hope with the world. I want to change lives by sharing the gospel and our story of hope through tragedy. I want it so badly MY HEART IS EXPLODING IN MY CHEST!
Sometimes, it’s so overwhelming that I just do nothing. Some days, I don’t know where to start, so I don’t start. I just sit there on Facebook or Pinterest and click “like” and “repin” until my kids wake up and then I’m like…crap. I didn’t “do it.” And I can’t get those minutes back.
Moving to action can be hard. Moving outside of our comfort zone can be terrifying.
I want to share a video with you today that will help you stop doing the FB/Pinterest/Twitter/Instagram-time-waster-thingy and start doing whatever it is you want to do.
This video gets a bit repetitive, even annoying at moments, but it’s stinking awesome. It helps me (and you) change desire into action. Watching this Art Williams 5 minute speech will not be a waste of your time. But before you watch it:
Identify ONE THING that you want. What is it? What is your dream? 🙂 Share it with me in the comments below. Putting your dreams on paper is powerful. Then humor me for five minutes and watch the vid.
My disclaimer today is for peeps walking through infertility. Oh friend, I know you want babies. You want to be a momma or a dadda and you can’t just “will it” to happen. It’s one of the few things in life you can’t “just do it” to earn. You can’t work harder and ensure the outcome. My advice to you today is to dig around in your heart to find something else that gets your mind churning…your legs dancy…the joy in your heart bubbling up…and move to action on that. Tomorrow will come.
You know those really cute dialogue things people post?
“This is me the parent saying something.”
“Then my kid says something cute back.”
“I ask said kid some clarifying question?”
“She or he responds with some off-the-wall-hilarious response that you couldn’t make up if you tried.”
I love this kind of facebook post. It excites me for the darndest things my kids will someday say. I will write them down in a notebook of “Coleton-isms” and “Annabelle-isms” and cherish them forever!
I’ve actually been waiting for them to start….but it might be a little while cuz Coleton doesn’t talk too much. He has made significant speaking strides, but he’s still on the “I talk very little” end of the spectrum for his age group. This is what I find myself saying to people who (probably) don’t even notice or care how much he is talking:
“It’s a few things I think:
1) He’s the first kid and I’ve probably anticipated his needs a little too much.
2) He’s a boy. Boys usually talk less than their female peers.
3) He’s an introvert and loves spending time alone in his crib or reading.”
Why do I feel the need to explain his language development to my peers? I would love Coleton the same amount if he hadn’t spoken ONE word in his little life, yet I find myself comparing his milestones to other kids his age and getting self conscious about it.
Sometimes it’s in my head, but sometimes it’s aloud on my playdates. I give disclaimers. I express my frustration or stress or fears about him not speaking conceptual thoughts or more than one, two or sometimes three word sentences. I make comments about how chunky Annabelle is. And frankly I’m embarrassed by myself. Why am I comparing my kids to my friend’s kids when I could just be celebrating my kids for who they are?!
You see, I am 100% in love with Annabelle’s kissable, squishable rolls. I love that Coleton isn’t growing up too fast or talking up a storm yet. He’s my sweet snugly boy who is emerging out of his cocoon on his own timing. I’m straight up enamored with my kids.
When I’m alone, I cherish them well. We have fun in the sprinkler, reading, playing, tickling, eating, etc…and I’m constantly amazed at how they’re growing and changing. These little peeps are magnificent.
But the ugly thing about comparison is that it robs me of delighting in who they are today.
I’m calling BS on myself. I’m calling BS on our culture that obsesses over our kids wanting to be doctors at like age 12. I’m challenging myself and anyone else who is convicted of comparing your kids to their peers to STOP. Whether your kid is the next Einstein or 9 years behind developmentally….STOP COMPARING and START CELEBRATING.
Our kids are these wonderful little beings, and there is no human who has ever been or will be exactly like them. God healed my broken mentality of constant comparison to other women, and He has given me so much joy in parenting these kiddos. Therefore, I will not let comparison sneak into my mom life and rob me of any of that joy. Coleton and Annabelle and any future children God wants to give us will be celebrated by their mommy no matter what they do or who they are. They will be free to grow and learn at whatever rate they grow and learn. They will be free to play and be kids as long as they will stay young.
For those of you who do a wonderful job of not comparing your kids, thank you. You inspire me. For the rest of us, let’s celebrate exactly where our kids are. Today.