Encouragement

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Without even realizing it, the enemy twists our opinions and preferences into some form of counterfeit truth, causing us to believe that if a mom doesn’t do things the ‘right’ way (our way), she’s wrong, ‘less than’, or misguided in some way.  –Jill Savage

Woah!  When I read that, I was so convicted.  I’ve done that to other moms.  I’ve had other moms do it to me.  Let me say I’m sorry if I’ve done that to you, my friends.  I don’t think that is what our intentions are, but we can sure get caught up in our preferences can’t we ?  It’s okay to have them, it’s healthy, and a part of our personality.  Let’s just try to remember that it may not be necessarily wrong, just different.

When you think of yourself and your daily responsibilities, and trying to raise these children to the best of your ability, what’s the thing you seem to need the most?  I think of encouragement.  I think of how many critical comments I get in a day, and it’s a lot.  Whether it’s someone at the store commenting on my parenting, (your kids NEVER misbehave at the store, right?) or the many critical comments my children have on dinner or having to do things they are told.  We live in a pretty negative world, and I too, get worn down and burnt out by it all.  I love that Jill says “encouragement gives courage”.

I can’t say enough, how true that is.  I’ve seen someone completely change in demeanor when I’ve yelled out that I love their hair or purse.  I feel amazing when someone says something like that to me.  Most women feel the same, and welcome encouragement whether they know how to handle it or not.  How can we encourage each other?  Maybe it’s just a smile, or telling another mom how cute her kids are.  I feel good when others tell me the good qualities they see in my children.  It’s so encouraging to know that what we are working on with them, is showing.  We can find ways to help other moms whose hands may be more full than ours at the moment.  When our hands ARE full, maybe it’s just that shared look of “yep this is so hard, and my kids are insane!”.  We can help our friends with things they need done around the house, bring a small gift, or just simply text or call to let her know you are thinking of her.  We moms don’t need much encouragement, but it sure goes a long way!  We can also just be real and honest in our friendships.  Maybe leave your house a little messy, so your friend knows it’s the same at their house!  Those “me too” moments really bond us in a way that so many things can’t. This was the final chapter of Better Together, and it was such a fitting one.  We really can’t be encouraging without the other things we’ve learned about first.  That encouragement can only come from the overflow of love that Jesus puts in us.  We have to be connected to Him, to the vine, then that encouragement to ourselves and others flows freely!

Forgiveness


I can’t believe this is my second to last post on Better Together!  One of the many difficult aspects of friendships is we sometimes let each other down.  It’s bound to happen.  I let you down, you let me down, one of us says something rude, it’s normal.  It’s what’s going to happen as we grow closer together, there will be those awkward and sometimes hurtful moments.  We have to remember to watch and clarify our expectations, and be very forgiving.

With friends, it so important to let each other off of the hook.  It’s also important to be clear of your expectations, if you have them.  I tend to not have many, I just don’t want to put expectations on friends.  Every time I’ve had them, I’m the one who ended up disappointed, and I don’t like when unfair expectations are put on me either!  I do think it’s fair and healthy to kind of talk through needs you may have or even in some relationships define what kind of relationship it is.  Some friendships will be “I’ll see ya when I see ya”, and others will have more commitment.  It just depends on the people you are dealing with, and the season of life they are in.  Even when we give our friends forgiveness and grace, there are going to be things that may need discussed.

When there is an issue in our friendships, Jill has some good tips:

-check your heart

-talk only to her (Matt. 18:15)

-talk soon

-keep the big picture

-be empathetic

-be loving

-bring resolution to the table, own what you need to

I love these tips that are so practical, and are so helpful in figuring out things in time of conflict.  There are times though, when there are more serious problems in the friendship, and it can be toxic.  Those are the times when we may need to pray about ending a friendship.  The signs of a toxic friendship is that the person is either emotionally unhealthy or emotionally immature, according to Jill.

There are also going to be times when a friend may need to bring up something that we are wrong about.  Jill gives tips about handling this as well.  This is so hard.  It’s hard when a friend has something critical to say, but if it’s said in love, she is a true and devoted friend for sure!  Proverbs 27:6 says:

Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.

So true!  Criticism is so hard to hear, I think because we beat ourselves up so much already.  But, we all have blind spots, and sometimes hard things need to be said.  One tip that Jill gives that really opened my eyes was to not be defensive when the criticism is delivered.  That’s just automatic almost.  I think out loud, so that one is something I want to work on doin better with.  Another point that Anne points out at the end of chapter 9 is that we can pick up and own what is ours about the criticism, and leave the rest on the table.  I love that.  What is God teaching us in that moment?  What is it that maybe He’s not?

Being a good friend is not easy, and there are so many challenging things about relationships.  Having them, and investing in them is worth every ounce of effort we put into them!  Don’t let conflict or rough patches rob you of beautiful and meaningful friendships!!

Testimony and Prayer

  In the next two chapters of Better Together, Jill covers sharing your story and praying together.  I’ve really enjoyed these two chapters, they really have some great practical tips on both of these topics.  Both of these subjects are very important to friendships, and I definitely think we can overlook their importance.

Jill gives some tips on getting to know people, and how you just share the highlights of your life, then have the other person do the same.  It’s such a great way to start, and a great way to see what you have in common.  It seems like there are always at least a few things you have in common with others.  Jill points out how our appearance does not usually let others know our past or our story.  How we need to be careful when comparing, we have no idea what their back story is.  Trust me, we ALL have one.  It’s easy to get caught up in believing that our story is not as exciting as someone else’s, or maybe our past is a little TOO exciting.  We need to remember this, from Jill:

Our life may be the sum of our experiences, but our value is determined by the totality of our God.

It’s so easy for some of us to share our stories or testimonies, but others, it’s just plain hard.  You may not know when to interject, especially if someone seems to really have a great one!  For me, I just want to share what God wants.  I have a lot of stories about how God has done great things, but is it the right time or place to share?  Maybe not.  As a friend of mine always says, ” your testimony isn’t for everyone.”  I think that’s true sometimes, it’s just not your time to share.  We really have to be listening to the Holy Spirit as we share and listen.  It takes time to learn that, and it’s something I’m still working on.  I only want to say what God wants me to, and know when to really listen.  I love this from Jill about our stories:

More than anything, it’s important to remember that, as Christians, our stories are really not about us at all.  They’re about our God and what He’s done in us through our story.  That’s always the right motive for sharing.

So, how do we listen to the Holy Spirit?  Through prayer, of course!  We also need to be daily reading His word, so that we can know what the truth is.  Lies can come at us so often, and if we are not closely connected with Jesus, then we are going to believe those lies.  I know, because it’s happened to me, and I don’t want to get stuck there any more.  What I’ve learned is that prayer and reading my Bible are vital tools we have in our walk with Jesus.  Through both, God shows things to me, and brings scripture to my mind when I need it most.

Prayer is so important to our lives, but how often do we pray together?  Not enough.  It’s so important, because it’s our way to battle for our families and marriages.  Satan will so often distract us to keep us from praying.  He knows how many of us struggle with it.  Many of us are just uncomfortable doing it, but the more we pray together, the more we realize how important it is to our own lives, and in our friendships.  We walk away from that time in prayer encouraged.  I think we all have stories of how God has answered prayer in our lives.

Jill gives some great practical ways to pray, she mentions that we should pray right then, when someone is asking for prayer.  This way we don’t forget.  A pastor and his wife at our church use this method, and it’s truly a blessing!  It’s something I’d like to do more with people in my life as well.  It should be our first response, but I know for me that’s not always the case.  I’m asking God to make me more that way, and to help me to be courageous enough to boldly pray when He asks, even when it’s uncomfortable.  She also mentions how she would pray with her kids about things out loud.  To just stop right then, and pray.  Her daughter, Anne, who is now a mother says that through her mom doing that, it made her so comfortable with praying out loud in her own life.  It’s just something that feels natural.  That’s what I’m striving for with my kids as well.  I’ve had to learn so much about prayer, I didn’t grow up with that, so what I know now is what God has shown me.  I just pray that it can become something we make a priority in our family, so that our kids don’t struggle with this powerful tool.

Sharing your story with someone can be so simple, just be ready to share what God has on your heart.  He will give you the words.  He’s always so faithful.  As we pray, we will get more comfortable with the practice.  Just keep doing it, it doesn’t have to be perfect, we just need to talk to God.  He just wants us to come to Him, and spend that time talking and listening to Him.  We always walk away from that time filled up, and ready to do what He asks of us.  Why not add prayer more in our relationships as well?  Can you imagine the kind of friendships we can have as we pray for our kids, our families, our church?  They would be the kind of friendships God is calling us to have.

Helping and Asking for Help

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My last post talked about how we we can be confident in our identity in Christ, and as a woman.  Seeking Christ first, and letting Him live in you is the only way we can do ANYTHING!  Sorry, I’m not yelling, but seriously?  I’ve lived my life not fully surrendered to Him, and it was awful, and I can not imagine parenting my children without Him.  In John 15, verse 5, it says:

Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches.  Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.  For apart from me you can do nothing.

Wow.  It’s right there, but yet we all fall into that pattern of trying to do it on our own.  I wish we didn’t!  When we try to live this Christian life on our own, we feel limited.  We get overwhelmed easily, and maybe don’t help others in the way we need to, because we just think we are incapable.  Or, maybe we just get too focused on ourselves, to see anyone else.  I know that’s never happened to you, but it’s happened to me.  Too many times.

In Better Together, Jill Savage talks about the next steps in our friendships.  Helping others, and asking for help ourselves.  I have no problem helping others for the most part.  There are times it’s a stretch for me, but usually, I’m ready and willing! I think most of us like to help others.  Jill says:

When you add in helping each other, you’ve just made your world bigger and your life richer.

That’s so true!  You also really deepen those relationships, and get to show God’s love in such a tangible, beautiful way.  I think sometimes our insecurities and assumptions about someone and their situation can hinder our help.  It’s happened to all of us, but if we push past that, the blessings are amazing.  Helping can be messy, and we are not going to perfectly meet needs, but as we keep doing it, we get better.  It’s worth all of the awkwardness!

So, now the hard thing:  asking for help.  It’s SO hard.  I’m not good at asking, and I hate to inconvenience anyone, but I’m denying people the blessing of helping.  I love that blessing I get when I help, why deny others that same blessing?  I love this quote from Jill:

Pride denies need.  Humility acknowledges need.  There’s a really big reason why we need to address this in our heart:  If you struggle receiving help from friends, you likely struggle receiving help from God.

Ouch.  The truth hurts, but we need to let pride go.   We have to get out of the way, and let God grow us in any way He needs to, whether it’s stretching us while helping others, or asking ourselves.  I’ve had amazing people bring us meals when both our kids were born.  It was such a blessing!  After our second child was born, Olivia, I was really weak for a while.  There were some complications I was recovering from, and people brought meals, and my mom came from Texas to help with my oldest.  What would have I done without that help?  Even though it’s hard to accept help, you get to see it from the other side, and you really appreciate it.  It really changes your perspective, and increases your compassion for those in need.

As moms, many of us can be in the “ministry of availability”, as Jill calls it.  We can just be available to offer help, or just be there for a friend.  In another book by Jill Savage, Real Moms, Real Jesus, she compares our mom lives to the life of Jesus.  He was constantly interrupted, and was available to anyone He ran into.  He was expected to fill many needs, and He poured His life into those around Him.  Sound familiar?  He modeled it all so perfectly, He even let others do things for Him.  This is the way God is calling us to live.  As we grow in Christ, our insecurities and selfishness will fall away.  We will see the needs of those around us, and be willing to let others be there for us.  This is part of being in the body of Christ, and it’s so much better when we walk our paths together!

Knowing Who You Are

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So, I shared how I got to the friendships I have now, and how there are still struggles even when you have great friends.  I wanted to share some practical tips from Better Together and some things that I’ve learned along the way that help to forge these friendships.  It can feel so awkward putting yourself out there.  It’s so hard to be rejected.  I’ve have been, I’ve been blown off, even ignored.  Maybe I’ve even done that to people I have been in contact with, and not even realized it.  I want to say, it’s worth it to put those things aside to find our place in the community of believers.  God will help us find our spot, but I think it’s important to know our identity in Christ first.

It’s pretty hard to be confident when you don’t know who you are, or maybe you’re just not quite sure, now that there is a little one or multiple little ones helping shape your new identity as a mom.  It’s pretty hard to get used to this new you, when you become a mother.  It’s so different than what you’ve known.  It’s putting off self in a way that’s pretty painful, it’s all the time, constant.  It’s uncomfortable, and you are so tired and exhausted, you don’t even have time to think straight.  As your kids keep growing, they challenge you, and you see how selfish they are, as you have grown further from selfishness.  You learn even more lessons about how much God really loves us, as He plays that Father role with us.  He never loses His temper though, and our tantrums never cause Him to question His identity.

We start with who we are in Christ.  Without that, what’s the point, really?  You can read every self help book on the planet, and you will always come up short.  We CAN NOT ever be good enough!  We will never be productive, nice, pretty, skinny, helpful, fill-in-the-blank enough without Jesus.  He is the answer.  He wants to do it all for us, IN us.  He is our identity, when we accept Jesus, and believe His word.  We are HIS.  That’s pretty amazing to think He wants us, and that He calls us His own, even when we act like selfish children.  God says in His word, “See what great love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!”, 1 John 3:1.  He claims us, just like we claim ours, even when they may totally humiliate us.  No matter what happens, or who may reject you, you are a child of God, nothing can change that.  That is who we are in Christ.  I’m going to list some other verses at the end, that also talk about our identity in Him.

The next identity that I have found to be helpful is to know who I am, like the kind of mom I am, what my personality is.  God has given us all unique strengths, and also our own spiritual gifts.  These are the things that may change some, but are pretty much our makeup as a person.  Like whether we like to be home more, or out more.  Are we more introverted or extroverted?  Are we more organized, or do we like things a little more free?  Jill would call that being a “filer” or a “piler.”  I can bet as you read the examples, you identified with them, and knew which one you were.  I’m more of an organized person, who likes to be home, and I’m somewhere between extrovert and introvert.  I love people, but love my alone time.  Think about yourself, and your strengths, and those things about your personality that make you, YOU!  In Better Together, there is a mom personality inventory.  It will also be available on Moody Press’ website soon.  I think you should so take it.  I took it at the Hearts at Home conference, and it really helped me know who I am as a mom, and have confidence in that.

Knowing who we are in Christ, then knowing who He made us to be, can really help us to be confident.  It helps us know what we can take on in life, and what to say yes and no to.  I feel it helps with our comparison struggles as well.  Jill says in Better Together,

What if we could really understand and appreciate who we are?  What if we could better understand other moms and  be more accepting of how they are different from us?  How might that make a difference in our friendships?”

That’s HUGE to me!  It would be so awesome if we could let go of a lot of this comparing and worrying about what type of mom is better!   There is no “better”, it’s just different.  God created each of us in a unique and wonderful way.  Let’s “stay in our lane”, as my friend Amber says.  I say all of this to myself, as well.  I’m not there yet, I’m still on this crazy journey.  As I understand my limits though, and who I am in Christ, I’m not as easily offended.  I don’t take on what someone says in context about their own life, and try to apply it to mine.

All of this takes us back to our relationships.  When we know who we are in Christ, we know He is the only one who makes us complete.  We know He comes first.  When we know how God made us, then we can be friends with someone who is strong where we are weak.  We can see the value of all of the different types of relationships, there are so many, and they all have value in God’s kingdom.  Jill points out that understanding our relationships, helps us to have the proper expectations of them.  I love this from Jill, “One of the biggest benefits of having a tribe is being able to access the strengths of other moms to fill your gaps.”  We are meant for community, we can not do this alone.  God shows us time and time again how much we need Him.  Sometimes, many times, He uses us to be Jesus to each other.

Check out Better Together, coming in March.

Verses about our Identity in Christ:

  • Eph. 2:6-10
  • 1 John 3:1-3
  • John 15:5
  • 1 Cor. 12:3
  • Phil. 4:13
  • Romans 6:11
  • Romans 12:1-2
  • Col. 3:9-10
  • Col. 3:12-17
  • John 16:13
  • Gal. 5:16-17
  • Matt. 22:37-39
  • 1 Tim. 1:5
  • Matt. 28:18
  • Col. 2:10
  • James 4:7