What’s Her Story?

We all have them in our churches. Women whose lives are full of hurt and pain, who struggle with job loss, economic woes, health issues, parenting issues, and more. They sit in the pews Sunday after Sunday, trying to trust God with their struggles and frequently wearing a mask to cover their pain. We will never know their stories unless we make the effort to invite them into our lives and discover who they are.

A friend and I listened as a woman shared her story of a son who is struggling with paranoid schizophrenia. She lived in fear as she watched his hallucinations and bizarre behaviors become increasingly more frequent. The hours leading to his involuntary hospitalization were something I would never wish for anyone. My heart ached for her and her pain. We held hands as we prayed for her family. My friend and I both prayed that God’s healing hand would be on this family, but it was her prayer that made me cry as I truly saw the heart of a mother who loved God.

I watched as another woman lost her son to an illness that had robbed him of his job, his marriage, his self-confidence, and eventually, his very life. Losing a child is one of the most devastating things that can ever happen to a mother, and seeing her pain and knowing there was nothing I could do to alleviate it, was extremely difficult.  I saw her grow stronger in the Lord, serve with a humble heart, and lift up others during their times of pain. God has been a constant companion to her and her husband, and her painful loss has not been in vain. Her witness to others is not unnoticed.

woman comfortingUnfortunately, not everyone who sits in our church pews has a strong faith and a story of triumph through tragedy. Some of them are discouraged, some of them are questioning their faith, some of them believe that no one cares about their struggles.  How do we minister to them? How do we find out their stories?

First, we need to pray that God will open our eyes to see and ears to hear the needs around us. Listen for concerns that are expressed by them or others. Do they have a friend they sit with at church? Do they participate in a small group outside of Sunday morning?  Does anyone else at church socialize with them? Are we aware of their family needs? We have many lonely women sitting in our church pews. Do you see them? Do you hear them?

Second, we need to let them know we care. Sometimes women just need to know someone out there cares about what is going on in their lives. A gentle word, a loving touch, a little kindness, a card, a meal–anything that says “I care about you”–goes a long way. When a woman knows that we care, she is much more likely to share her life and her needs.

Third, we need to give them a safe haven. We don’t always know what is happening in a woman’s life and what her story is. Sometimes a woman is reluctant to share her story because she has been hurt in telling others. We need to listen to her without judging, we need to keep her story in confidence and ask permission to share if there is a need, and we need to provide her with a safe place to share her life.

Last but most importantly, we need to show them a God who loves them. God created us for relationship and the most important relationship in anyone’s life is their relationship with God. When that is right, all the other things, discouraging as they may be, are put in a different perspective. When we ask a woman to share her story with us, we want to be sure that our response is a reflection of our Father’s love. We need to be sure to focus on Him.

All of us have a story. Some of them are more dramatic than others, but they are all important in God’s eyes. Get to know the women around you. Find out their stories.  Some of them will shock you. Some of them will surprise you. Some of them will inspire you. Some of them will make your heart ache.

The amazing thing is God uses our stories. He is constantly rewriting and updating them. What’s your story? If a friend asks you why having God in your life matters, what will you tell them? Be real. Be transparent. Let them know you do not have all the answers and sometimes you struggle. Ordinary people serving an extraordinary God – that is the crux of the story. We all need to be ready to share our story so that others can see how God has worked in our lives.

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15 ESV

 

 

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Living with Brokenness

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending a Fresh Grounded Faith conference. I heard Ann Voskamp, Laura Story, and Jennifer Rothschild share their stories and their challenges as women of God. I loved listening to these women because they were authentic and real. They didn’t paint a “rah, rah, everything is good in our lives” picture! Instead, they talked about our wounds and our challenges and our pain–our brokenness.

thAs I listened this weekend I thought about the multitude of women I know who have shared their stories with me through the years. Stories they have never shared with anyone, secrets so deep and painful they affected the rest of their lives. And I have been a keeper of the stories that have been told to me in confidence. My heart breaks every time I hear one of them. Continue reading “Living with Brokenness”

Surviving Transition

ChangeTransitions. We all have them. Some transitions fill us with expectation and excitement, others fill us with dread and uncertainty.  Some transitions are of our own making, others are sometimes forced upon us.  But there is no doubt, good or bad, we all need to learn how to adjust to transition in our lives.  It is especially difficult to make a smooth transition when change comes our way, not through our own choosing, but through circumstances–sometimes beyond our control or understanding. Continue reading “Surviving Transition”

The Man on the Honor Flight

10686785_10203126098255503_2263128286258544606_nToday is a very special day for a very special man. My brother-in-law, Steve, will be boarding a plane for an Honor Flight to Washington, DC. If you are not familiar with an honor flight, these flights take a veteran to Washington DC, where they can see memorials honoring those who have gone before. What Steve will see today includes the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and The Vietnam Wall, both of which will be moving experiences for him. This blog is a letter to a man who is not only my brother-in-law, but also a brother to me.

Dear Steve, Little did we know how big a part of our lives you would be when Sharron brought you home for the first time. I remember looking up and seeing all 6’4″ of you and being amazed at how tall you were. What I have discovered since then is that not only are you tall in height, you are tall in spirit. We have shared a lot of memories through the years. Continue reading “The Man on the Honor Flight”

Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters

Cast Your Bread upon the Waters

I have been going through the daunting task of selling my home. Literally, months of preparation have taken place. The house was suffering from years of neglect simply because financially things have been difficult for me, especially since my husband’s death six years ago. The interior was dark with dark brown doors on all of the rooms, a tired kitchen and gold and blue bathrooms. The exterior? Well, that is a long, complicated story. Suffice it to say, in this house every time I turned around, some new issue had reared its ugly head. But this is where I can truly say, God is in control. Continue reading “Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters”

Sometimes Life Is Hard

tearsSometimes life is just hard. My heart has been full of sadness for some of my friends and family lately. I cannot tell you how many of them have been going through crisis mode.  The loss of a family member, the loss of a job, the loss of a child, the heartbreak of a broken marriage, the pain of broken confidences, a diagnosis of cancer, and the list goes on.  Each one of them are precious individuals who are reeling from their hurt and pain. I wish I could fix it for them. But I can’t. Continue reading “Sometimes Life Is Hard”

Being Enough

Sometimes I struggle in life with the futility of being enough.  I want to stop being “ordinary” and do something special with my life. You may know what I mean. I think if I am just a better person, or if I work just a little harder, or if I do just a little more, or if I am just a little smarter–I can be loved more, recognized more, rewarded more, respected more . . . and, you get the picture.  In all honesty, that kind of thinking is futile and leads to discouragement and disappointment.  Because I am searching for significance in the wrong things and the wrong people.

That’s why I love God’s grace. Continue reading “Being Enough”

The Throne of Grace

Today I will be perfectly candid with you.  If you are looking for a feel-good, inspirational blog post, you may want to just stop reading now.  This is not it.  This is the real truth, probably one that more people identify with than even I could imagine.

In all honesty, when I was reading everyone’s “Thanks for a great 2014” post on Facebook, I wanted to post “2014 sucked (a word I intensely dislike yet found myself using) and I will be glad when it is over.” Continue reading “The Throne of Grace”

Leaving a Legacy

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking at our annual ladies’ tea and talked about leaving a legacy.  This was actually prompted by the recent death of my mother and knowing what a wonderful legacy she has left. She has touched more lives than anyone can possibly know and the ripple effect will continue on for generations.  As I thought about this, I also thought about how my life is being lived and what kind of legacy I am leaving for my family and friends.

Here are some of my conclusions on leaving a legacy. Shannon Adler said, “Carve you name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” We want to leave a positive legacy. But how do we get there? Here are some areas we need to think about.

Continue reading “Leaving a Legacy”

Safe Haven Friendships

As a women’s ministry leader I have been reminded over and over again that people want true authenticity from their leaders. However, in reality, that is much easier said than done.   While many women are social and friendships are important to them, it is rare to have those true “safe haven” friendships. You know the ones—the ones where you can truly be yourself, with all your flaws, all your doubts, all your hurts and all your disappointments. Those friendships are few and far in between.

I consider myself extremely blessed because last weekend I was able to spend time with two of my safe haven friends. They are women I trust implicitly with my secrets, my hurts, and my dreams. They don’t judge me. Continue reading “Safe Haven Friendships”