So… I saw Bad Moms, and I laughed.

In case you don’t have any clue what movie I am talking about, here is a promo shot:

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First, I’d like to admit right out of the gate I didn’t walk into this movie with naive expectations.  The trailers gave a pretty good indication that there would be some inappropriate humor.  Second, I am not planning on giving away any spoilers.  There were definitely some parts I thought the movie could have lived without, not only for the story line but even in the presentation.  Sometimes it could go too far.  Third, there were some parts of this that were REALLY unrealistic when you are talking about any group of moms.  Lastly, there were also a LOT of truths.

Overall, I laughed and I laughed hard.  At one point I laughed so hard (as I was taking a sip from my straw) that I pushed air through the straw, which caused a small tidal wave in my cup, and that resulted in my drink landing in my eyes.  Which just caused a whole other fit of laughter for myself and those sitting around me.  I laughed until I cried and my stomach hurt.  Yet, there were some moments that I nodded in solidarity.  There were moments that were uncomfortable.  And, yes… as I said before totally unnecessary.

What I want to write about (and I’m up for conversation too) is WHY a movie like this not only resonated with moms but was drawing us in like moths to a flame.

My first thought is probably the most obvious, there is an enormous amount of pressure on moms to be it all, do it all, and do so perfectly.  Whether it is the perfect birthday party, bento box lunches, or simply making it to every school and sport activity… we feel the pressure.  We notice so much of what is around us, like the mom who has the perfect hair and make up in the parent pick up line… when we were struggling to get out of the house with a bra under our pajama shirt.  We see the kids with the perfectly styled hair, accessories, and sparkling white sneakers…. and we just spent the last 40 minutes looking for eyeglasses or a belt.  Other moms dropping their kids off early, and we are 10 minutes late because we had to go back home and pick up the flute that was left behind… or because our darling child took 15 minutes to brush her teeth.

How do these moms do it?  We cast shade in their direction, but really we are asking ourselves… why can’t I do it?

I think there are a number of moms who have run the scenario through their head of just saying no.  No to the requests by the husband, kids, school, coaches, etc.  An opportunity to just walk away from the pressure and enjoy life again.  To make the choice of not being the perfect mom anymore, and instead be the bad mom.

This brings me to my second thought, as you watch the trailers you see a group of women having fun. We are not talking bunko party fundraiser fun, but the kind of fun we had as teenagers  and young single adults.  The fun we had when we didn’t care what others thought, where it was ok to be silly, and there was an expected freedom in the general knowledge we were going to make mistakes and bad choices.  It takes us back to a time when we didn’t have to be an adult, and could just let loose and be free.

With motherhood came some sort of unwritten code of conduct, that we couldn’t be silly anymore.  We began to take everything too seriously, including ourselves.  Let’s face it, books and the advice of television “experts” reinforced this.  Reminding us over and over again that it was time to grow up, put away childish things, and get our heads out of the clouds.  As we did this, many of us sent fun sailing away for good.  We stopped smiling, we stopped laughing, and we stopped being silly.

The movie Bad Moms called out to that free spirit inside of us, that desperately wanted to laugh… and laugh hard.  So, it pulls out all the stops.  The women let loose in a way we couldn’t, and we live vicariously through them.  They say the things that roll through our minds & do the things we secretly wished we could.  (Ok, maybe not all of the things they say and do, but you get the point).

I also believe this appeals to Christian women so deeply because of the bar that is set for our expected behavior.  If other moms are feeling the pressure to be perfect in their every day life, Christian moms understand the additional expectations put on the Christian mom.  To have perfect children that love Jesus, quote the bible, volunteer with the elderly, and gladly donate all their birthday money to the missions fund.  To be women who are serious about the study of the Lord, leading small groups, inviting women over to mentor and pray together, to dress in simple clothes, and be ever diligent in our choices of entertainment.  There is a pressure that all of our time should be so seriously focused on Christ, that we can’t let loose and laugh until our sides hurt.

Confession… I saw the movie on opening night.  It’s taken me almost a month to admit I saw it, because frankly… I expected to be judged for it.  I was worried about what my church friends, my readers that look to me for wisdom, the women or leaders who are reading through my blog trying to decide if I would be the right speaker for their next women’s event… what would these people think of me?

I learned something from the movie though… my eyes were opened to how long it had been since I had laughed so much and so hard.  I realized how seriously I take myself and made the decision not to.  I embraced that silliness is okay and even healthy for my kids to see.  I made the decision that I wanted to laugh more, but with those whom I am the closest to… not a theater full of strangers.  I want that girl posse who has my back, in the most biblical way possible… and who will be silly with me.  Women who know how to laugh, smile, and stop trying to be something that is impossible to attain… perfect.

All of those parts of the movie that I thought were unnecessary, they don’t have to be part of my life.  But the good stuff… I welcome it.  We are all GOOD MOMS despite our imperfections and the times we muck things up… because we are LOVING MOMS.  In the end that is what matters.  The Lord didn’t call us to a life of misery, but of fulfillment and joy as mothers… and laughter.  So much laughter.

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#Write31Days – Post 10 – The Worry of a Mom

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I have three beautiful arrows in my quiver.  I adore my daughters, but I can’t help … much like many a mother … getting caught in moments of worry.

The first time I worried, I was still pregnant with our first.  What if something happens to me while I am pregnant?  My request to my husband was to chose the baby over me.  It is amazing how quickly a selfish woman can become selfless… all from a little pink plus sign in the window of a plastic stick.

The worries continued to build after she was born.  Who could I trust to baby sit her?  What if she got an illness?  What if I was in a car accident, and I was unconscious… would someone help her?  Would someone take her?

When she was school aged, I remember the first time I waited in the parent pick up lane and she was no where to be seen.  My heart was leaping into my throat, while she was totally unaware of my panic as she walked slowly back from the classroom to the outside waiting area.   She had forgotten her lunch box.

It’s been sixteen years, three daughters, and panic still will strike.  My middle school aged daughter is usually one of the first three kids out the doors at the end of the day.  Just a few days ago panic would strike as I watched the number of kids waiting dwindle, and she hadn’t walked through the doors.  She had forgotten her flute.

I can’t completely stop the what if panic attacks from happening, we live in a world where media likes to remind us daily of everything that can happen to our kids.  However,  I no longer let those moments have the debilitating power they once held.

Many years ago, a friend of mine shared with me that her son was going on his first trip with his father out of state.  Her marriage was an abusive one that ended in divorce, but the courts had given him unsupervised visitation of their son.  She had attempted to keep him from being able to take their out of the state, but ultimately the court didn’t agree with her.  As she shared this with me, I could feel my own emotions as a mother starting to boil.  I tried to think of the hundred ways she could keep this from happening.  Yet, she seemed really calm.

“I have to trust the Lord with my son, Gena.  He isn’t mine, he belongs to God.  God can bring him home when ever He chooses.”

Let me assure you, all the air escaped from my lungs as I gasped at the words that came out of her mouth.

Even today, as I type these words… I am still in blown away by her words.  Do not mistake that she wasn’t worried about her son’s welfare.  She knew what her ex-husband was capable of doing.  She also knew that God was more than capable of protecting her son from his father.  She also trusted that if God would take her son, that His ways were not her ways.  She wouldn’t understand it, not from a human mothers perspective… but would trust that God’s plan was bigger and better than her own.

TO HAVE THAT FAITH!

In the years since, I have begun to understand it more.  I understood it when I was staring out the sliding glass doors of our apartment, rubbing my pregnant belly, as tears ran down my face.  In my routine testing precancerous cells were found in my uterus and cervix, I was also pregnant.  I was being faced with a procedure that might affect the pregnancy.  My husband patted my arms and said “God wouldn’t give you this baby just to take it from you.”

I replied:  “God may have given us this baby just to save my life.”

It wasn’t that I didn’t grieve over the thought of losing my baby, but that I accepted that His ways are not my ways.  You see, I was really behind in getting my annual exams done.  Had I not gotten pregnant, I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor… not until symptoms presented themselves.  At which point it would have meant that I was dealing with Cancer… not precancerous cells.

Being on the cusp of potentially losing a child certainly has made me appreciative of the three lives God has entrusted to me.  I do my best as a mom to make the best decisions in raising them.  I have moments where I am absolutely terrified, when they get hurt or take too long exiting the school.  I can’t relax until all my kids are home where they should be.  Even something as simple as seeing a police car too close to the school can be enough to make my imagination run wild.

It is impossible as a parent to NOT worry about your child.  But, I have chosen to not be crippled by that fear.

When I was little, a child had been abducted from a mall a few hours south of us.  Unfortunately, he was not recovered alive.  This had a profound affect on my mother, who did everything in her power to ensure that we were never in the position for something like that to happen.  When other kids walked home from elementary school, I was picked up by my grandmother.  I was in 8th grade before I could stay home alone after school, but my grandmother still picked me up from the bus stop that was only a few streets away.  Every day, through my senior year of high school, I would call my mother when I returned home from school to let her know I was safely there.

My mother was terrified of what could happen.  Because of that, there were a lot of things I missed out on as a child.  I am not blaming my mom, because now as a mother myself… I TOTALLY GET IT.  Not to mention, my mother was doing the whole parenting thing alone.  There wasn’t a second set of eyes keeping an eye on us.

Today, I am able to find a balance between being concerned, vigilant, and watchful… at the same time as allowing the kids some freedom to do what kids do.  I’ve stopped worrying about car accidents too.  In part, because my children are older versus being infants.  Also, because I have taught them what to do,  included safety cards in the glove box with their information & who to contact in case of an emergency.

The most important part, is that I have surrendered my children to God.

This is why I can send my children to public school every day without being in a constant state of worry over mass shootings, bullying, or whatever other thing that might cross my mind.  I am an involved parent, I have taken the time to understand the policies of the school, put in an effort of being communicative with the teachers and staff, I pray for their safety, and I trust that God’s word is true…

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified

because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you;

he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6

I relieve my worries by:

  • Doing everything within my power to ensure the safety of my kids.  Through educating them and myself.  Talking over safety measures, being mindful and watchful, being prepared and having plans in place.
  • Praying over my children, their schools, our community, and the world at large.  I pray for safety, wisdom, and discernment.  I openly rebuke evil impacting their lives and surroundings.  Which means when I am praying for the protection of my kids… I am praying for the protection of all the kids with them.
  • When the worries or panic come, I call on the Lord.  I find peace in His promises and I do not let my fears overwhelm me.  It’s ok to OWN the worry, acknowledging it… then let it go.  I am far better prepared to deal with an emergency if I haven’t allowed myself to build up into a state of panic.

#Write31Days – Post 9 – False Spirituality

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The lights come on, the camera is rolling, there is beautiful music being played, voices fill the air with their melodic song, and then the speaker delivers a powerful message.  We leave from that place invigorated and inspired to change our ways, to pray more and read the Bible every day.  We agree to hold each other accountable, to volunteer more, and to give more as we become better stewards.  Our lives are so affected and changed that each week we will invite more and more people to hear this person, this godly and spiritual gift from heaven.

This may go on for weeks, months, years and even decades.  Then it happens, one day we turn on the news and that gift is being splashed across the screen.  The person we held in such high regard has been accused or even arrested, or has stepped forward to admit and unexpected truth.  We try to deny it, but ultimately the truth always comes out.  We have to face the fact that this person, whom we held in such high regard, was nothing but a phony.

When I was a child, I remember watching television with my grandmother on Sundays.  There was one particular show she would watch, where a beautiful woman would come on stage… she would sing with such beauty and emotion that tears would stream down her face.  Her husband would then take the stage and preach a message that was convicting and life changing.  They were inspiring people, until the day his fraud was exposed.  People who had supported their ministry were devastated, and many became like me… a hardened skeptic.  I don’t fall for “shows” anymore, and I have learned to watch for the signs of hypocrisy and being disingenuous.

There are people who are REALLY good at faking it.  They may appear to have it all together, the perfect husband, kids and home.  They can spout out bible verses, speak in glorious ways that make them sound learned and wise, they pray out loud using fancy words and phrases, and they know the right lingo that will create an illusion of being holy and righteous.

Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

Luke 12:3

Sometimes I will see right through a person, from the start.  Yet there are other times where it isn’t quite that obvious.  I may be suspicious, but without any evidence.  Or, the person might be really good at hiding their true self.  Humans are incapable of hiding truth for that long though, eventually we begin to see signs that things are not quite how they are being presented.  Then over time, particularly as the person becomes more comfortable with you – or confident in their ability to deceive – they truth beings to come to surface.  We can see through the facade.

The man who acts like a loving and caring father out in public, but verbally abuses his children or wife.

The pastor who gets caught in an affair or misusing tithes and church funds.

The woman who comes off as a sweet and kind woman at church, but in her home she screams and treats her family like they are nothing.

The ministry leader who prays for spiritual purity in the youth, while he is grooming certain students to be abused.

I am not talking about the person who gets caught up in a singular bad decision, where they lost good sense because of the temptation in front of them.  We are all sinners and have the capability of atrocious things.  I am talking about the person who is consistently and purposefully this way.  They put on a good show for others (and maybe they think it’s impressing God) but in their heart they are truly not changed, in their homes they are the exact opposite of what they preach or teach.

These are people who have a false spirituality.  They know all of the right words, all of the traditions, and how to present themselves in a way that sells their best characteristics.  But inside they are corrupt, manipulative, and deceitful.

Would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart.

Psalm 44:21

God knows the heart, and He will shine light on the darkness.

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

Luke8:17

These are people who will even try and garner your sympathies as they wallow in their own sin, but it’s just for show.  They are not really interested in changing themselves, they just want to make sure you can’t speak against them.  It’s a guardrail that they put up to protect themselves.  It allows them to speak their truth (sometimes harshly) by tagging on a “I am not perfect” clause as they critique you.  They will claim deliverance from this or that sin, so that after they have torn you down … they can build you back up in as their own image bearer.

People with false spirituality are not trying to make you look Christ-like… hardly!  What they are trying to do is to mold you to look more like they do, they are doing it for the glory.  They shout “LOOK AT ME!  Look at what I have done.  Come, be just like ME!”… and God is not part of that equation.

So, how do we spot “false spirituality” –

  • Pray for Discernment – ask God to give you the wisdom and the knowledge to see through those who are frauds.

  • Pray for Transparency – pray that God will reveal their hidden truths to you, or the public as a whole.

  • Be Observant & Listen – you will begin to notice things that don’t feel quite right, or they will say something that will cause you take pause.  The more you are around them, the more frequently this will happen.

  • Look to Others – let me be clear, I am NOT advising you to gossip about a person.  What I am saying is see how others act around them.  Are there people who seem to have modeled themselves to be just like this person?  That’s a clue.  Just as much on the other side, do you notice that the wise people in your church or community are avoiding them like the plague!  That’s a clue too.

  • Who Do They Credit – when there is blessing or praise to be given, who does this person credit the glory to?  If they are constantly looking for the pat on the back, the attention, the credit, the glory … be careful.  “Look at what I did…” is just as bad as “Thank you Lord for allowing me this success….”.  In both cases, this is a person who is working in their own strength, on their own agenda. 

No one is going to be perfect, and if you are not careful you can discount just about anyone from being in your life because they are failing or sinful SOMEWHERE.   A genuine person isn’t going to put on the act of spiritual superiority, they are more interested in trying to address their own sin issues than trying to solve everyone else’s.

I recall a woman I was speaking with was sharing a ministry vision, she wanted to create a website where Christians could essential log their community service hours.  She wanted the world to see the good that Christians are doing, so they would see that we are not hypocrites and that we are actively striving to make a better world.

In theory, that sounds good.  But is that biblical? Is that actually a ministry?

Not really.

It was just another way to get a pat on the back for doing a good job.  It was another way of saying “hey, look at me and what I do!”  It didn’t allow God to get the credit, it was a place where instead each person would be able to get the credit they felt they deserved.

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:2-4

This is also an great example of “false spirituality” because it gives an appearance of godliness.  When we boast about ourselves and our accomplishments for God, we are actually boasting only of ourselves.  If we truly wanted God to have all the glory, we would leave our names out of it entirely.  We are warned that as the days draw closer to Christ’s return, false spirituality is going to be on the rise as much (if not more) than sin and decay in the world.  When we encounter false spirituality, we must flee from it so that we are not corrupted by it.

But know this:  Difficult times will come in the last days.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of godliness but denying its power.  Avoid these people!

For among them are those who worm their way into households and capture idle women burdened down with sins, led along by a variety of passions, always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of truth.

2 Timothy 3:1-7

 

#Write31Days – Post 2 – Fall of Faith

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When I was a small child, we would go to the beach often.  I was holding on to a raft, talking with an older woman.  We had been chatting for quite some time but I hadn’t realized we had been drifting.  I was called back to shore, and realizing it would take too long to swim back on the raft, I decided to walk back through the water pulling the raft behind me.  But there was something I didn’t know…

The woman was treading water.  I thought she was standing.  I took a leap of faith and I nearly drowned.  That event has had a major influence in regard to how I view the ocean.  It made me untrusting of the sea.  That doesn’t mean that I stopped going to the beach, or that I wouldn’t get in the water.  I still loved boat rides and splashing along the shore.  However, I learned the hard way to respect the dangers that ocean presents.  I take precautions when I am in the ocean, such as checking the rip current reports or the weather before we head out.  I no longer assume that it’s safe to let go of the raft.

Recently I was posed with the question:

How do I begin to trust God again, when I took that leap of faith and it failed?

What I have learned since the day, is that the ocean is not the one who was untrustworthy.  The ocean is, as the ocean is.  It doesn’t really change, the dangers are always present.  I was untrustworthy with the ocean.  I made assumptions.  I didn’t look at the environment around me and make a educated decision.  I didn’t ask the woman next to me how deep the water was.  I just jumped, recklessly into the water.

God is trustworthy.  He is unchanging, all knowing, and perfection.  He is worthy of our trust.  If a leap of faith fails, I believe it is the person who was untrustworthy.  A leap of faith is never done recklessly.

If God puts it on your heart to walk across the street and hand a stranger $100 bill, you should take the leap of faith.  Do what God is asking of you, despite not knowing the person or the reason why.  However, that doesn’t mean you cross the street without looking both ways.  That would be reckless, you could get hit by a car.

Leaps of faith are not reckless, they are bold.  When God asks us to take a leap of faith, it is going to be a bold step and potentially will make us feel uncomfortable.  Yet, we don’t make that leap blindly.  We must get the full picture of what that means, so that we make no assumptions and we are not caught off guard.

Occasionally, it may be God’s intention that your leap fails, but understand that failure is only YOUR perspective.  From God’s perspective there was a purpose and a lesson in that failure for you.  It may be a stepping stone to get you prepared for a bigger task ahead, to point you in the right direction, or help refine your call.    If it is a true God ordained failure, that leap will be redeemed somewhere.  It won’t happen just to make you miserable, lose everything, and be a total waste.  It will serve a purpose and you will see it eventually.

If you take  a leap of faith, and it turns into a fall… unredeemable, no purpose, no lesson… you took a reckless leap.  How was it reckless?

  • Your Timing, Not His –  There are times when we can see the destination God is taking us to, we recognize it as a leap of faith, but we want it so badly NOW that we rush God’s blessing.  We try to do it in our own timing and not His.  Then it doesn’t work out, and our faith is tested.  But it wasn’t God who was untrustworthy, it was us by not trusting in His timing.
  • Your Strength, Not His – When a person has a goal or a dream, they are by nature do-ers.  They want to make it happen, and they will put in a LOT of hard work and effort into it.  They will continue to dump time, energy, and money into whatever it is.  Then it fails.  But it wasn’t God who was untrustworthy, it was us by not trusting in His provision.
  • Your Desires, Not His Calling – Sometimes a leap of faith, is really a fall into our own desires.  We want something so badly (even godly things) to happen, that we justify it in our minds as what God wants.  We jump right into the deep end without affirmation , and then everything falls apart.  But, it wasn’t God who was untrustworthy, it was us by not trusting His counsel.

If you examine the scriptures, there is not a single piece of evidence that God is reckless with His people.  Bold?  Yes.  Asking them to do the impossible?  Absolutely!

BUT….

God always goes ahead, preparing the way.

God always is with them, providing for their needs.

God always comes behind, protecting and securing their journey.

Every single time that calamity comes upon His people, it is NOT because God failed them.  It is a result of His people losing faith and trust in Him, trying to do things in their own way, in their own timing, and making reckless decisions.  They took their eyes off of God, and looked only at themselves.

A God ordained leap of faith will never fail in HIS purposes, in HIS strength, and in HIS timing.

If you truly believe you took a leap of faith, that failed, I would challenge you to carefully and prayerfully examine that leap.

  1. Was this God’s desire for me?  Or my own?
  2. Did I rush God’s blessing?  Was I impatient?
  3. Did I try to make it happen on my own?  Did I not trust?
  4. Was I discontent during the process?
  5. Did I make reckless decisions?  Did I seek God’s counsel?
  6. Were there any affirmations outside of myself to confirm this calling?
  7.  Was I faithful in prayer and obedient to His word, during the process?
  8. Did I doubt God’s protection and provision during the journey?
  9. Is there a lesson I was being taught that I might have missed?

Pray that God would reveal the truths to you about that leap that became a fall.  As we begin to see truth, our trust is restored in God.   We also begin to recognize how untrustworthy we truly are when left to our own devices, and learn the hard lesson to fully rely on God.

Peter took a leap of faith, when he stepped out of the boat.  Not because of what he thought HE could do, but because he believed Jesus.  He didn’t trust his own ability, He trusted Jesus’ power.  It was only when he looked at himself that he began to doubt, and started to sink.

You may think that your Leap of Faith turned into a Fall.  But, God’s work in you may not be completed yet.  He’s reaching out his hand to you, to pull you back up onto your feet, and step out onto the waters of trust.

Gut Instinct = Discernment

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Going back, about four months ago, an interesting string of events happened.  Someone I hadn’t talked to, in quite some time, popped back on the radar.  It didn’t sit well with me, there was a lot of unresolved stuff in that relationship.  I didn’t think sweeping things under the carpet, or pretending like nothing happened was the right way to go.  But, in the end, I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt.  I dropped my guard, a bit.

A few weeks later, it was painfully obvious to me that there was an agenda for this sudden revival.   I really didn’t want to think that to be true.  I really wanted to give the benefit of the doubt.  I even tried to convince myself that this was the enemy, whispering lies in my ear, trying to stop reconciliation from happening.  Scripture tells us that God wants his people to restore and reconcile with their brothers and sisters in Christ.  I convinced myself this was the case, and I wasn’t going to let the enemy win.  I dropped my guard, a bit more.

Several more weeks would pass of little quips of conversation, but I could still feel a nagging at my soul … this was not genuine.  I decided to put that thought to bed, I could deal with a little bit of skepticism.  I wanted our families to be reunited, I continued to drop my guard, and ultimately her family walked through my front door.  Awkward at first, but as time passed, it got more relaxed.  It wasn’t “like it used to be”, but it was familiar.  The evening ended, everyone survived, and seemed like it went well.

After some time passed, the truth of that evening started to reveal itself.  The younger kids were in the back of the house playing, the older kids just hanging out and talking.  My daughter left the room to get a drink.  When she was supposed to be out of earshot, their kids started talking about my daughter behind her back.  In her own room, in our own home… I was broken-hearted.  I had put my own feelings and skepticism aside, so they could rekindle their friendship.  I invited this pain into my daughter’s life.

To her face, her friend was beaming about how she wanted to go to college here in Florida & basking in some crazy notion about moving into our house for this time period…. plotting and planning out how the bedroom could be redecorated to fit them both.  But, the very moment my daughter left the room, the act was dropped… and the criticism began.  At that point, I flashed back to my original thoughts (which I had been trying so hard to dismiss).  We were being used.

And, the more I thought about it, and sorted through the catalog of the past… I realized how often that happened.  Now, I want to point out, that doesn’t mean there were not moments of reciprocity where we helped one another out.  I’m not trying to paint a picture of a person who is solely interested in using people until they have nothing left.  I don’t think that is the case.  I’m not even entirely sure I’d call my suspicions INTENTIONAL.

But, as I looked over some past instances, a pattern had been developing.  Not just between myself and my friend, but between our daughters.  Even more so, with them.

Sleepovers bad become less about them being together, and more about her getting freedoms she wouldn’t normally be allowed at home.  In fact, there was a sleepover planned & my daughter cancelled it when she found out there were ulterior motives behind it.  What was being sold to me as a “window shopping trip to the mall”, was actually a well thought out plan for her friend to meet up with some guy she met via a phone chat app.  When my daughter found out the real reason she wanted to go to the mall, thankfully, she knew better & cancelled the plans.  I was grateful my daughter had the wits about her, and didn’t enable her friends scheme.

Our “gut instincts” about something, are not usually wrong.

We know when we are in the wrong place, or about to do the wrong thing.

We get a vibe about a person that says:  this person is not safe, is not trustworthy.

Our spirit isn’t settled, we don’t have peace… and we can’t ignore that.

God gives us the gift of discernment to protect ourselves.  I should have known from the beginning this was discernment from God.  I should have listened to that unsettled spirit, and kept the boundaries up.  I could have protected my daughter’s heart from being wounded by someone who has been so important in her life, for so long.  I was trying to talk myself out of doubt, when good reason was sitting right in front of me.

When my friend wasn’t willing to reconcile, which is what God calls us to, I should have known.  Reconciliation and restoration doesn’t come from just “moving on”.  It comes when we are willing to face each other, honestly, and admit to where we messed up.  When we take accountability for our actions.  When we seek forgiveness and offer forgiveness.  It comes in that moment, when we look at another person and say “our relationship is too important for this to go on like this”.  It comes when we own that we are sinning before God by holding anger and resentment in our hearts towards someone in our family of believers.  Sure, it may have boundaries; reconciliation may take time and healing… but it starts out of a spirit of LOVE for the other person & GRIEF over the death of the relationship.

I have repeatedly told my children that truth always reveals itself.  It can’t stay hidden.  Sometimes, it just takes longer for it to show itself.  The sad thing, for me, is that is seems the longer it takes for the truth to reveal itself… the more it hurts.  Especially, when you invited the pain back in.  You opened the door, and let it walk right inside.  And, in doing so, not only exposed your heart to it… but you exposed your family to it as well.

Had I heeded those initial warnings, I could have saved my daughter from learning the truth about her “friend”.  They would have moved, and her memories of that friendship would be GOOD.  Now, it’s broken.

God gives us discernment, but we have to have wisdom to recognize it and understand it.  We also have to be courageous enough to act upon that wisdom.  In my personal situation, I never prayed over it.  I never went to God, seeking His guidance.  I never went to my mentor, to seek godly counsel.  I allowed my fleshly desires (for myself, or family) to let me think I could figure this out on my own.

If you find yourself in a space, like me, where you are wondering if this is discernment or just the enemy attempting to undermine…. PRAY!  SEEK GOD, SEEK COUNSEL.

IN THE WORLD

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My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.
John 17:15

There was a time in my early adulthood, I had to walk away from my friends. All of them. They were not good influences on me. When I had made some decisions in my life to change the path I was going down, they were not supportive. I knew at that time in my life, this was not working. I had to walk away. I had to surround myself with those who would lift me up, encourage me & help me stay on the straight and narrow.

In time, I would begin to surround myself with Christians who shared the same convictions. I would grow stronger in my faith. At first it was all very serious, bible studies, church fellowship. We were not having “fun” in the same sense as I did before. I can’t deny that I missed having fun with my friends. Eventually, I found myself within a group of Christian women who were having FUN. We were laughing until the tears started flowing, we were dancing the night away, celebrating holidays with each other. Creating memories & filling that void in the “FUN” department that I had been longing for.

As I was putting myself back out in the world, I started making non-Christian friends too. We would have a good time together as well. But, admittedly I kept them separate. Let’s face it, they didn’t always use the best language and would sometimes have pretty liberal views on politics, religion and life in general. After several years, I decided I was going to have a small gathering of my friends. I had invited one of my non-Christian friends to attend. Unfortunately at the last minute, she had to cancel. But she said something I will never forget… “Gena, I am so disappointed that I couldn’t come and meet the rest of your friends. I adore you, and you are such a great person…I am sure your other friends are too. I wish I could have met them. If they are anything like you, I bet they are lovely.” She was wanting to surround herself with more people like me. What made me different than any of her other friends or acquaintances? Christ.

She saw me as a Christian woman, who cared about people, was a dedicated wife and mother, but she also saw that I was fun to be around. She heard me, when I spoke about my failures and imperfections. She heard me, when I talked about striving to do and be better. Every conversation wasn’t a deep theological debate. I wasn’t trying to spend every waking moment of our friendship trying to convert her. I was simply being a good friend, who loved her, cared about her, and was there for her. As a natural part of our friendship… God entered the picture. If she was going to get to know me, it wasn’t something that could be avoided. The more she go to know me, the more she desired to know more people that were like me.

God doesn’t want us to surround ourselves with only other Christians. If we do that, we can’t reach those who do not know Him. We have no influence on the world. We are not light in the darkness. However, we don’t walk out into the world without His protection. We wear the Armor of God. We understand His love for us, and His desires for us to follow His word. We pray for His protection. We stand firm in our convictions. It is His spirit within us, that draws others to us. We are just the vessel.

A challenge my husband presented me with was to each day pray to God asking Him to make me a vessel in the course of my day.  Asking Him to give me the right words, at the right moment.  Sometimes we have a once in a life time opportunity to reach a person, other times it is slow through the course of building a relationship.

*Written for the TC3 Women’s Ministry Devotion Blog