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this may sound silly

Over the past couple of months the Lord has really been stirring somethings in my heart that he has been (and I believe) will continue to allow me to share. One of those things is the matter of womanhood. Seemingly out of the blue, the term “girl” made me cringe. The “Hey, girl, hey..’ greeting that love so much just seemed…. silly. Not because an ego trip or because I’m a certain age but because of what the label represents: youthful inexperience and immaturity.

Then of course, I began thinking about Biblical history [yup, let’s go there] and never (that I am aware of) has a girl done anything legacy building. A girl is not given the gift of building a home or a family. She isn’t given the honor of leading other women, saving nations, owning a growing business, or saving her family. Girls were not washing the feet of Jesus, at the foot of the cross, or commissioned to tell the other disciples about him rising from the dead… by Jesus himself.

I absolutely love a fun & light “hey girl”…. but, y’all. We aren’t girls. We are grown adults who have responsibilities and influence and abilities to impact our homes, communities, and nation. It’s women who have stood up with wisdom and confidence and grit in the face of danger and rejection.

We don’t cower. We don’t minimize ourselves. We don’t shrink because of what or who is in front of us. We believe in ourselves and whose power we walk in. and we don’t apologize for speaking up. Regardless of how it may sound to anyone else……. we’re going to speak with confidence and pride in who we are and what we believe in. Because that’s what women do.

Why does it matter? Why is changing our language a big deal?

Because it’s a label. And labels give us identity and identities tell us how to behave, how to see ourselves, and how we engage with the world around us.

Girls……. are not responsible for the things women typically are. They don’t need same wisdom we do. They should not have the same level of concern for others that is going to make or break the next generation of her home. They aren’t going to breathe life into their families the way a wife or mama would or own well run businesses or lead with a shrewd mind and make tactical decisions, balanced by kindness and humility. in the same way a woman would for the same reasons a woman has to. They shouldn’t have to. My girls should be learning how to become a woman at their age, not be a woman at their age. We don’t [and shouldn’t] have the same level of responsibility.

A woman’s mindset and behavior, the responsibility that rests on her shoulders is heavy. We are controlled and thoughtful, kingdom minded and submissive. (Haaa… yes! YES!) So, we understand that there is order, that there must be order and while we are not leaders in our homes we are influential beyond measure.

Proverbs has the sweetest, most encouraging and inspiring words about women. This book tells how strong and capable we are – in the home, as business owners, and leaders in the community. We flourish. We build our homes. We raise children who become olive shoots – literally potential olive plants. And, that’s huge because of the many uses of olive plants and trees. Our influence and position is incomparable.

I was reading an article about womanhood and it mentioned how we cannot flourish and breathe the life into our homes and families if there is chaos. And, as I began thinking through my life and experiences, it makes so much sense. In order for us to build our homes, flourish, raise children that call us blessed, and have a relationship with our husbands that cause him to trust us in every way – we have to be well.

Even when things aren’t perfect, when they are downright difficult and broken and painful, I believe that we can still create a space and set a tone of peace and calm so that we are able to function. To think. To plan. To hear from the Lord. To lean on other women for support. To hear wisdom and grow in that, to learn to be discerning and grow in that.

Proverbs 31 paints a beautiful picture of Biblical womanhood. The high standard of a happy, productive woman who makes good decisions and thrives in her role at home. Who is successful in her business endeavors. Who is wise with her money, who prepares her home for her family, who dresses well, and who reaps the benefits of serving and loving her family. She has children who value her contribution.

When she speaks she shares wisdom and instructs with kindness. Instructions are commands, not suggestions. It shows that she is in charge and has authority but also values those she is in charge of because she’s kind to them. She is intentional, not lazy. She’s capable and leans into her abilities to produce.

And, where there is productivity, there is provision. Where there is growth, there is opportunity. Where there is wisdom there is understanding and maturity. And, it seems that while she recognizes that her husband is leader of the home, she understands her role is just as vital and important. That if her focus was competing with and outdoing him, she wouldn’t be able to use her God given gifts and abilities to thrive in areas she was uniquely created for.

Women work really hard…. and it can absolutely feel like we are overlooked and not appreciated. Truthfully, there are times that we are. We want and need to be seen and needed for more than washing dishes, clothes, and little baby booties. We are more than chefs and drivers and organizers, and picker uppers, and all the things that leave us feeling drained and even used.

I hope you know how valuable and necessary you are. How everyone depends on you. But, also how much we have to make sure we are taken care of. Refreshed and rejuvenated. Filled and fulfilled. While everyone doesn’t desire to be a mama or a wife, it is still impossible to be our best for our families, jobs, and those who depend on us when we aren’t well. When we’re exhausted, struggling with pain and hormonal imbalance, mood swings and all sorts of other health issues. When we aren’t our best. No matter how we struggle. Even spiritually. We are our best the more closely we are connected to Christ. When we are seeking and abiding and waiting and listening, ready to trade our plans for His. Ready to submit. Ready to obey. Ready to be and do instead of wish and hope. Ready to thrive in every area. Ready to create and build and impact and influence and lead and direct and do all the things you were born to do well. For the glory of God. For the good of yourself and your family.

Woman, your job isn’t easy but no one can do what you do, how you do it. The world, everyone in your world needs you. At your best. You’re healthiest. and, happiest.

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the favor of happiness

Photos by: Tamra Maxwell
@walterbenphotography_

It dawned on me that I never shared our family photos form our Mother’s Day shoot………. or my thoughts about Mother’s Day! We’re a couple weeks late, but here we go!

For over five years I’ve consistently prayed for redemption and restoration of years of a life that had completely imploded. I begged for beauty for the ashes, to experience the gladness instead of mourning…… I wanted to be happy!!!

I had peace. I had joy. But, I was still missing something. I had the girls, work that I enjoyed, friends, jobs, my writing…….. things were good. The Lord was providing in some really incredible ways ….. over the last year, the Lord had been giving me small doses and very clear glimpses that what was would not always be.

For years, I’ve been told.. and you may have been, too….. that happiness isn’t the goal. And, it’s not….. happiness isn’t a Fruit of the Spirit, but what I’ve seen and experienced is that true happiness is a result of living in the fruits. If that makes sense.

Specifically love, joy, and peace.

And, I realized on Mother’s Day, that I had what I’d been waiting for:

Happiness.

“…. for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.” Proverbs 15:15
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Happiness doesn’t just show up on your doorstep. It doesn’t come with a certain income, the pregnancy, the baby, the man, the marriage, the divorce, the promotion. It’s not a sure thing. No matter what you buy, ‘happiness not included’ is printed on the back. You won’t find it in the fine print.
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But, it can come. We can have it! The Lord wants us happy – just as any mother or father! He says he sets the barren woman in families and makes her a HAPPY mother of children. Happiness isn’t bad, something to feel guilty about, or blow over because we think it sounds best to say we have “joy”. You know…. “I’d rather have joy than happiness.”…… I get it, but if the Lord is also offering happy – I’ll accept! Lol! We tend to prioritize joy over happiness and make ourselves and others feel like happiness isn’t something to strive to have, but it’s a GOOD thing.

It’s just not a sure thing. Or the only thing.
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Peace. Joy. Happiness.
In that order.
We can’t have one without the other and I believe that once we are experiencing peace (calm in all circumstances) & joy (great pleasure in all circumstances) – both of which are Fruits of the Spirit, it’s almost impossible NOT to be happy.

Let’s break this down a little bit…..
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FEAST
(n)
A large meal, typically one in celebration of something
(v)
eat and drink sumptuously.
[a sumptuous meal is an expensive one…. had to look that one up!!]

CONTINUAL
(adv)
Repeated frequently in the same way

Nourishing is in God’s nature.
Abundance is in God’s nature.
Consistency is in God’s nature.
He has, is, and will forever abundantly nourish us with consistency.

A feast has a variety!
Blessings.
Favor.
Options.
Opportunities.
Ways to give.
Ways to serve.

Our needs met.

Our hearts’ desires given!
All of this given again and again and again.
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“He withholds no good thing from those who love him.” Psalm 84:11
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The things we love and even the things we don’t prefer make up the continual feast. That strengthens, nourishes, fills, makes glad, and shows the absolute goodness of the Lord.
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Dig and search and work and ask and answer until you find peace and joy so that your heart can be happy in Christ & you can continually be fed to full.

For those of us with a happy heart……. Psalms talks about the state of the heart quite a bit. There is so much clarity in what our lives look like with each description of the various states of our heart. And, I’m so thankful for this one.

If …. when ….. you’ve gone through traumas and difficulty, you can think about the state of your heart and how it affected the outlook you had on life, opportunities, and even yourself and those who love you. Life feels bleak. It feels dark. No matter what is going on around you, when your heart is sad……. there’s not much anyone can do to cheer you up.

The Lord says he cares about the details of our lives… he knows the numbers of hair on our head….. knew us before we were formed in our mama’s womb. He guides and protects, provides and blesses…… he is a good father who gives us beyond what we could ever ask, think, or imagine. Can you imagine loving someone that much and not wanting them to be happy?

But, I believe that he first wants us mature. He wants his girls (and, boys!) to know that he is our source for every single thing we desire. That we get down fruits of being in connection and relationship with him…… then, he gives us the cherry on top. One of my favorite movie quotes is “Fundamentals are the building blocks of fun.” Happy is fun. The foundation of & growth from abiding in Christ are the fundamentals.

When I imagined and pictured beauty from ashes, praise for despair, restoration, redemption, and life after trauma, heartbreak, implosion, difficulty…… that when Jesus showed up and changed the situation, I would have the opposite of what I’d lost. In the same way because that’s still my heart’s desire. And, I believe those glimpses to be true pictures of what’s to come…… but I needed this. I needed to find joy, peace, and happiness in nothing & no one but God. And, for him to shape my heart the way has been over the last year first. He did show up and completely breathe new life, give life to dead bones, and restore so much brokenness and hardship. I am & have the opposite of what I lost….. in the exact way and time that we need it.

I pleaded for this, for happy. And, I have it. It’s here, completely a part from everything I thought it would come with. And, I actually like it a lot better this way.

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who do you see?

photo by: Courtney Neely (@courtdione)

For years… most of life, when I looked in the mirror, all I saw was the picture of the negative words spoken to me or about me. I saw negative thoughts, assumptions, and beliefs about me that I allowed to create a clouded, limiting view of myself. I didn’t see talent or promise. Didn’t see ability, influence, or an incredible life. And, I missed out on many opportunities and progress because I didn’t think very much of myself even though there was always a nagging in the back of my mind that would urge me to try, to take steps toward the scary, unknown, and to be more. For a very long time, I never could.

Just recently, I’ve begun to see how the Lord has used the last few years to lay this path that I’m walking now in a different light. I see it as a path that aligns passions I’ve had since a little girl with new ones I’ve acquired over the last few years with gifts that I’m finally, finally confident enough in to boldly stand in and use fully to glorify God + serve others. And, I have no idea where it’s leading. No clue how the dreams I see and desires I have are going to unfold, but what I do know is that as long as I obey and do the work that the things He wants accomplished will happen. A result I don’t have to control, one I don’t have to pick at or manipulate or micromanage. The work is mine, the outcome is his.

This path has involved maturing, creating boundaries, some breaking away, and answering hard questions. I’ve had to choose to allow what is good to outweigh the bad, to nearly blow the speakers with such a loud volume blaring the truth the Lord sees & declares over me to drown out the cynicism & negativity that I allowed to play on loops in my head. To focus my heart and eyes on God and constantly repeat, “So what?” and “…… and, then what?” in response to fears and doubt.

When I look the mirror today, I see a woman who is doing more in spite of fear. Who understands why I was limiting my impact and what I could do. I see that she finally see what she can do. Who she can be. How she can equip, impact, and empower……………. and that she’s finally bold enough to stick her neck out there and do it.

One of the verses that have become a brand new fave is out of Psalm 107, where the declarations of who the Lord is and what he does for his people concludes with (v. 42) “the godly will see these things and be glad…” (v. 43) “… they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.” And that is my hope and prayer as I begin to intentionally work, write, and create – to shine a light on what I’ve experienced and learned. My goal is encourage and empower you with my story so that you will begin to search and look for the Lord’s faithful love in your history, as well.

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