Category Archives: Friendships

An Open Letter To My Friend Who Has Cancer

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An Open Letter To My Friend Who Has Cancer

This post is based on an actual conversation with one dear friend, but I know many of you can relate. I hope it encourages you to keep praying, keep calling, keep holding up their arms.

If you are a survivor or are presently in the fight, I know full well that I just visit cancer and you have lived with it. I am speaking  only as a spectator on this journey.

My dear friend,

You are so very brave. I am in awe of your strength and determination. You keep showing up. I don’t know if I could.

You were feeling good today; you and chemo are “on a break”. On this break you’ve remembered how great “good” feels and you are relishing every minute. The break has been glorious, a chance to catch your breath and regain strength.

But you are counting the days until your furlough ends. In your words, you “can’t wish chemo away” even though you would like to.

I told you I would gladly take one round on your behalf, if only that were possible.

Easy words for me to speak, knowing it won’t happen. My words were sincere, but you can’t take them to the bank. They are as counterfeit as a three-dollar bill; worthless. It’s you who has a port surgically implanted in your chest wall. And yet you are gracious because you know I “mean well’. In hindsight, I’m embarrassed that I said them.

You said the chemo is a necessary evil. I’ve watched it ravage your body, turning your cells on each other. It took your hair and turned your skin to ash and yet your smile is radiant, because you hold fast to HOPE – it is your lifeline.

You are about to return to war. We will send cards and care packages, but you are the one on the front line.

I pray, frustrated over my impotence to help and God brought an Old Testament story to mind.

Moses was leading God’s people, a grumbling band of nomads, into the promised land. It was one gripe after another with them. I’m thirsty. I’m hungry. It was like a road trip with me.

The Amalekites were a nasty bunch who had a reputation for not fighting fair. About the time Moses had had it with the Israelites, they arrived in Rephidim, where the Amalekites attacked.

Moses was old and most likely tired from all of the grumbling, so he sent Joshua into battle.

He promised Joshua that he would stand on the top of the hill, with the staff of God in his hands as a show of support.

Joshua headed to battle and Moses went up the hill, accompanied by Aaron and Hur.

What happened next is the part of the story that the sweet Holy Spirit reminded me of as I prayed over you today.

Joshua fared well as long as Moses held up his hands. However, when he tired, his arms fell and the Amalekites gained.

Enter Aaron and Hur. They stood on either side of Moses, holding his arms up. They gave him a place to sit; they held his arms up until the enemy was defeated.

When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him
and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up–one on one side,
one on the other–so that his hands remained steady until sunset.
So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Exodus 17:12-13 NIV

You are a fighter like Joshua; and like Moses, you know that salvation and hope are in God alone.

The visual is so big and beautiful, my friend. All of us who love you are trusting and believing God for your healing have come alongside you.

In the days to come, I pray that you will remember the multitude around you, lifting your arms and your battle to Jesus. I love you!

Because he bends down to listen I will pray as long as I have breath,

lorraine

This is such a hard topic; I write with great care but I don’t know your story. Please use the comment section to share the ways that others have come alongside you in your battle, whether cancer or some other struggle. 

Heaven Wouldn’t Wait for Her

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Heaven Wouldn’t Wait for Her

Every day, without fail, I talked to her. One or the other of us made the call, and never once did I consider that she might be bothered or too busy to talk to me. Our conversations were as natural as breathing. We looked forward to them.

If one of us needed to run to Wal-Mart after the kids were in bed, we called, already knowing that the other would watch for headlights and run out the side door and into the waiting car. It didn’t matter that our homes were not on the way to the ultimate destination.

Our children were best friends. Our husbands loved being together. When someone saw one of us without the other, the immediate question was “Where’s your twin?” We double-dated every Saturday night and took turns hosting Sunday night suppers after church.

I was crafty and creative; she was creative and practical. I was quick to panic and she always had a calm and confident response. I was raised by a mid-western farmer’s daughter; her parents were from the South. She taught me to cook fresh fried okra and for that alone my family is forever indebted to her. Together we learned to make something out of nothing – we could decorate the fellowship hall with a box of random scraps of fake greenery and ribbons (it was the 80’s – pre-Pinterest, okay?).

We shared our love of diet Pepsi and Almond Joy bars, Hardee’s biscuits and gravy and Chinese food. We both shopped right up until Christmas eve and wrapped gifts until just before dawn on Christmas morning.

But something happened at church. My family left and it wasn’t nice and neat; it certainly wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was the most difficult event of my life to that date. As with most fractured relationships, there was a ripple that went out from the epicenter of separation.

The fallout changed the amount of time we spent together. Too many fingers of relationships in that place couldn’t be untangled. And the thing that we had most in common – church – was no longer ours.

Our lives were more separate, but always along parallel lines. She had time to develop deeper relationships with some amazing women in her circle and I had a lot of healing to do from the brutality of the breakup with the church we had attended our entire married life.

When she told me her diagnosis I was sure it couldn’t be true. Cancer couldn’t happen to someone as pure as her. I prayed, certain that God was going to show himself mighty in her healing. I claimed a verse. I laminated it on a bookmark with a beautiful autumn leaf I found along a path on the way up to Chimney Rock and I gave it to her. It was a bold step of faith, but one I had to take for my dear friend.

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And then I watched cancer and the harsh treatments ravage her body. I sat by the bed where she lay dying in her parent’s home, silently praying as Judge Judy meted out justice on the television. I prayed and asked Jesus to make this right, to mete out some justice for my dear friend.

The call came early one evening; I remember sitting in the living room of a house we were renting; being strangely surprised and not at all surprised at the same time. I was not a stranger to grief, but I was overwhelmed by it; I was glad when they said I could come see her once more.

Her face was no longer distorted by pain. She looked peaceful and serene, the Sandy that I had known and loved. I told her that I loved her. I said the things that I had been afraid to say before, afraid she would think I had given up. I knew as sure as I was standing there she was in the presence of Jesus. She was finally healed and she was walking among the truly living, in a place where there is no more dying.

It’s been sixteen years since my dear friend left her body behind and joined the saints in Glory. There are so many days that I miss her, but I’ve learned to listen for her. When I get still, when I stop overloading my senses with information and noise, I consider what she would say.

“It’s going to be okay. We don’t need stress over this; we just need to do what we can with what we have and it will be good. And we are going to have fun doing it! Now, I’m thirsty – let’s grab a drink!”

I love you, Sandy. Happy birthday! I hope that you are enjoying heavens equivalent of candy corn, Pepsi (because who diets in heaven?) and Southern cooking. One of these days, I’m coming, so watch for the headlights and meet me at the side door okay? You can show me around.

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This is one of my favorites of us!

 

By his grace we carry on,

lorraine

 

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I’m Way Too Busy for You!

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I’m Way Too Busy for You!

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Don’t you just love it when you ask someone how they are and they quickly respond “Busy!”? There are times that I walk away from that person, feeling that I’ve been an unwelcome distraction from the important stuff that just lagged behind because they slowed a bit to respond to my question.

I absolutely understand that often people are truly busy. Everyone has a lot going on.

I have some little grandchildren who are BUSY. On a recent visit I followed one toddling little munchkin along a trail of pint sized clothing to find that he had opened a dresser drawer and was methodically removing all of the carefully laundered, folded and matched up tops and bottoms and scattering them about the house.

I tried, to no avail, to interest him in play with age-appropriate, entertaining toys. He preferred running amuck and creating havoc. He is the cutest little mess and I love him!

Ellie and Eli

As I’ve thought about my penchant for overscheduling, overcommitting and overextending, I keep going back to that toddler’s mess. I wonder if that is how my life looks to my heavenly father as he observes me dashing from one thing to another rather than settling down and allowing him to lead me into worthwhile, enjoyable activity. Thankfully, he loves me!

But wait, people who are making a difference, people who are movers and shakers are busy, right? Perhaps, but I’m learning that the people I admire, people who accomplish much, are avoiding busyness – they are taming the beast with intentional planning.

Reaching this stage of life is no joke, friends. There is an undeniable reality; life is now fleeting. Nearly every week we hear news of someone we know who has passed into eternity. This verse is speaking to me, bringing me to a place of longing for God’s plan for every day, so much more than my own:

Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well! – Psalm 90:12 MSG

So, I’ve been paying attention to smart, Godly people when they speak about time management. I’m searching Scripture. I want to know that I am ready for the next thing, especially if the next thing is meeting Jesus.

Here are four things I’m doing to make sure busyness doesn’t rule my life:

  • Plan. Count the cost, for every yes is a no to something else.

    “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” ~ Luke 14:28 ESV

    I’ve found that a planner is a great visual; it is easy to see when the squares are filling up and spilling over into each other. I use washi tape and markers emphasize the important days and events, the time that is sacred to me and/or the ones I love. I find myself protecting it, drawing actual borders around those hours and days. Make dates for happiness and keep them.

  • Build margin into your planning. Make room for the unexpected, the divine encounters.

    “We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it.”.~ Prov 16:9 MSG

    When every square is full there is little opportunity for spontaneity. I don’t want to be an inhospitable, unapproachable busy person who doesn’t have time for people.

  • Establish priorities. While some priorities are set (God, Family, Work) the way that we manage them is fluid. Different seasons of life may change your time allocation to each.

    “There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens…” ~ Eccl 3:1 ESV

    What are your goals?
    Make sure that you have time set aside to work toward them. Write that list of books you want to read this year in the margin of your planner. List the steps required to reach those ambitious goals. You will do it!
  • Establish an inner circle of friends. Are there so many people texting you that you lose track and don’t respond? Have you offended someone close to you because you just didn’t have time for them?

    Consider this. The Lord himself invested himself personally in just twelve others. He narrowed that even more to an inner circle of three who were there for him in his darkest hour.

    “Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.” ~ Matt 26:37-38 MSG

    I’m focused on building meaningful relationships with a few. I will be a better friend and will have dear friends to walk with me through the most difficult days. Influence many, but invest in a few ~ that is the example of Christ.

Time is the one of the few resources that is equally granted to each of us. When the master comes, will he be pleased with the way that I invested mine or disappointed in my foolish spending?

Only by the MARVELOUS grace of God,

lorraine


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Confessions of a Fitwitch

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What good is walking if my steps aren't counted_

Way back in the 1960’s when I was in elementary school the Johnson administration established the Presidential Physical Fitness Award. To test for the award, students completed a softball throw, a broad jump, a 50-yard dash and 600 yard walk/run.

Imagine a skinny little girl wearing black eyeglasses pulling back to throw her hardest, only to drop the ball behind her back. That would be me.

I developed a “stitch’ in my side before the end of the 50-yard dash and the 600-yard run/walk was excruciating.  Although I was an active kid, I was more of a sprinter than a distance runner. And by sprint, I mean to the end of the twenty foot sidewalk in our front yard where we played kickball for hours or to the ice cream wagon as it passed down our street.

As an adult, I talk about getting in better shape. In fact, if talking were an aerobic activity I would be in awesome shape. I convinced myself that I would eventually find the time and energy to devote to a more fit physical body, but it never happened.

Then I got a Fitbit. I synced it up with my iPhone and found some friends. I had no idea how much my life would change over the next few weeks.

For the first few days, I was content to get to know my new device, privately counting steps. The American Heart Association recommends ten thousand steps each day. Let’s just say I was significantly south of that.

I decided that I would strive for the recommended number and began looking for ways to “get my steps in”. I had no comprehension of the dark labyrinth of step counting compulsion.

I have a sedentary job so I added a stroll around the building midday and gained several hundred steps. I vowed to walk the five flights of stairs at least once a day.

Still straining toward my goal, I sensed my purple friend mocking me. I spoke the words aloud for effect. “This device is designed to serve me; this routine will bring me joy, not condemnation!” I had increased my activity and I was content.

Or was I?  (For full effect, read that with an evil, echoing voice)

FitbitThe bulky purple band had replaced my lovely rhinestone studded wristwatch. At first, I glanced at the beautiful watch as I dressed each morning and thought, “Later, baby. I’ll take you someplace nice later. It’s just that I need to count my steps. I’m in a different place right now…you understand, right?”

It never happened. What good is walking if my steps aren’t counted?

We began walking every evening as a part of my hubby’s recovery from spinal surgery. Little by little, we increased the distance. Before we knew it, we were walking three miles. The first time that band vibrated at the ten thousand step mark was a milestone and I was hooked.

The challenges seemed innocent at first.  I was walking miles every day and I was confident that most of the people challenging me were not hitting the trail for a (by then) four mile walk every evening. For the first time in my life I felt like a competitor.

But winning has been elusive. As I sync my band to the app throughout the day, I gain a lead from time to time. But at the end of the day, the coveted “Workweek Hustle” virtual trophy slips from my hands. The screen on my phone lights with a mocking message, “Friend A just zoomed past you for the lead”.

I’ve obsessed over steps that “weren’t counted” because I was pushing a stroller or a shopping cart. I pay closer attention to the battery indicator on my Fitbit than on my smartphone. I have secret doubts about the legitimacy of others step counts (seriously, what is wrong with me???) I might have a problem.

It’s as if I developed a stitch in my side just short of the finish line. I am disappointed and frustrated over losing challenges. Apparently, I’m not only competitive but also a sore loser.

So I venture out to walk again, this time alone and with no more agenda that to listen. A quiet whisper reminds me that the greatest steps I will ever take are those that bring me closer to eternity with Jesus.

The only trophy that will last is offered for all who make the finish line.

The feet that bring the Gospel are beautiful.

All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. ~ The Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 9:25-26

There isn’t a category on the dashboard of my Fitbit app for transformation of my spiritual heart, but it’s as real and impacting as steps counted and calories burned are to my physical heart. He knows; he sees my struggle and my determination to never give up on the daily work of denying my flesh and choosing to walk after him.

Meanwhile, I’ll catch you later. It rained today and we couldn’t walk so I’m going to go run around my house until I get my ten thousand steps.

May all your steps be counted…

lorraine

 

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Jalapenos Take My Breath Away

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Jalapeno Banner 2I had looked forward to it all week. Family members, my women, would be together in our home for a meal. The simple menu met dietary restrictions and individual preferences while allowing time for me to visit with the girls. It had been a full, busy week and I didn’t want to be bogged down in the kitchen.

I was relieved when my sister Martha arrived early enough to prepare the jalapenos for the poppers since I am hypersensitive to them – even handling them in the store leaves me with burning skin but my daughter loves jalapeno poppers and they were perfect for our casual supper. Once the seeds and ribs are removed I can handle them without much distress and I love the flavor they add to so many of my favorites. As she was removing the ribs and seeds we both began gasping and coughing. It was good to finish that task and have the air clear by the time the girls returned from a shopping trip.

It was pure joy to see these women I love around my table, to hear them laugh and catch up. In fact, I was so caught up in the fun I didn’t notice that the pot of shrimp was foaming up and boiling over. I quickly reacted to the spewing mess and decided it was time to serve.

Surveying the choices of serving dishes and appetizer plates in the cupboard, I recognized a familiar discontent building. Nothing there was nice enough and barely adequate; a quick glance back at the table and I realized that I hadn’t really planned the table setting or meal presentation. Why hadn’t I given more thought to this? Anxiety rose up as I internally chastised myself.

I looked over my shoulder at the girls. They were seated around my bare table, sipping drinks and chatting happily.

I was on the verge of missing it. Even as joy was filling the room, the nagging notion that this simple supper wasn’t enough was on the verge of choking it right out of my heart. Thankfully, I turned again to the faces of the women around the table, women I love, and I remembered that this exact scene would never again happen. There will be other times, I’m sure; other meals around other tables, in other places. But this present moment was too precious to miss.

As I took down a few perfectly adequate plates and began setting them on the table in front of these people I love, I recalled this verse:

Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.
Proverbs 11:25 NIV

I’m almost certain no one gave a second thought to the serving dishes as they peeled St. Augustine shrimp and ate jalapeno poppers. In the midst of the laughter and love and talk of family trees I doubt they even noticed.

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Familiarity Breeds Compassion

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It’s been an interesting week in blogging world. My post on dating resulted in lots of comments online and some moments of uncomfortable silence face to face. Apparently, everyone now thinks that I’m opposed to married couples dating. When they rolled the announcement video for the next dating night in our church yesterday I could feel the tension. After all, I had shared my opinion that dating is not “the” key to marital bliss with the entire World Wide Web.

It may be true that I am occasionally melodramatic and perhaps only a few people among the hundred had actually read my post. Nevertheless, I felt it.

It also was my most viewed post ever. And by ever, I mean the last seven months that I’ve been at this. Today an edited version appeared on foreverymom.com (check it out here)!! If you don’t follow that one, you should. It’s a great compilation of posts related to moms. Twice. Twice now, Jenny Rapson, the editor, has chosen my stuff to share. I’m amazed and grateful and I might have thought I was doing pretty well at this blogging thing until…

I got my first rejection last week. Already this blogging journey is teaching me that I have a lot to learn. And I’ve got some things to learn about writing, too.

I might have been devastated for a while if not for my honest blogger friend who shared her history of rejections, even as one of her wildly popular posts about….wait for it…vomit, was going viral. If you missed it, do yourself a favor and head over here to read it. Over 90K readers can’t be wrong about that one.

Last week I also started a Facebook fan page. It was one of the things that I knew I needed to do to grow my blog, but I had been wrestling with indecision. I needed a push. And a graphic for the banner page. Again, a nudge and an assist by Jami and the page is up and beautiful!  Please check it out and “like” it. There’s a link at the bottom if this post.

At the end of a very eventful and exciting week, I looked back and realized that I made new friends in this journey simply by reaching out to people with shared passion and they have joined hands with me. It is through these friendships that I’ve been encouraged to take the next step or to just keep writing in spite of setbacks.

There are times that most every heart waxes pitiful or sad and feels like the world is unaware or indifferent to it. It’s tempting to look around and wonder if anyone cares to share or even knows about our current struggle or even success.

A momma in the trenches wearily faces the day after a sleepless night, knowing there isn’t enough coffee in Brazil to ward off the fatigue that threatens to overcome her best intentions to do better today. She might have been nursing a baby or waiting for a teenager who missed curfew, but she’s tired and her patience is thin.

The parents of a newborn wait anxiously outside the NICU for an opportunity to just standbebe-616418_1280 next to the bassinet where their newborn son lies half-naked, connected to wires and tubes, alarms beeping.

A widow, living alone, misses physical contact…a hug or a lingering touch on her hand. It seems that the world has gone back to normal, but normal eludes her.

A daughter is separated from her aged parents by fifteen hundred miles, her father’s health precarious and mother caring from him as best she can on an island that’s barely five miles wide. Good health care is a prop plane trip across an ocean. Helpless to lend a hand and worried, she carries on with her toddler, preparing for the birth of a daughter who may never meet her grandparents.

seniorhandsA grandmother, missing her grandchildren, longs to snuggle with a baby or play Go Fish with a toddler. She’s so desperate she would welcome a mini lecture from an eight year old on the fine points of playing Minecraft!

 

 

I work full time and when not working, I alternate between cleaning frenzies and wandering aimlessly around Hobby Lobby. And yet, I witnessed every one of the scenarios in the last few days among people in my circle of influence.

I might have missed them; I often do because I’m lost in the details of my life. Listening is way less fun than talking, and I am a woman of many words.

Experience has taught me that the fault I see in another is often noticeable because of my familiarity with it. Without fail, it’s something that is also a struggle for me. I’m also learning that when I begin to listen to others with compassion, I recognize familiar fears, anxieties and passions.

We are never alone in our thing, whatever it may be. Finding a fellow sojourner may require revealing that vulnerable spot, the place that is most tender, but I promise that you will make a friend and your burden will be lighter even as you take up the weight of another. Familiarity will breed compassion.

I’m aware of the things I can’t do, but every day, I long to do what I can to make a difference and I’m so grateful for those who are making a difference for me.

When you do the things that you can do, you will find a way.” ― A.A. Milne

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To Everything There is a Season

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There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:

 A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.

Ecclesiastes 3

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We have been in the Pacific Northwest for a few days. And this week, pictures will have to speak of the beauty and the sorrow that are all mingled together in my soul. It’s fitting that leaves are falling from the trees, like brilliant tears that will leave the branches naked and exposed. Our souls can feel like that – like a cold wind has blown through and left us empty.

But there is beauty even in the falling away.  The trees have worked all summer producing energy; the shorter and cooler days of fall signal the approach of winter and the end of work for a season. As I linger for one last look at the brilliant color and watch as the leaves are falling quickly, the promise of rest is near.

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I’ve Got to Find Those Keys!

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I’ve Got to Find Those Keys!

I spent the weekend with a group of younger women, some of them half my age. I  have to admit it has been while since I was doing anything at 2 a.m. other than possibly making a sleepy trek to the bathroom. It was so much fun!

It was a “Key Women” retreat, a time to renew and refresh commitments to be and be surrounded by women who, as Ann Voskamp puts it, “free you to be your best you, your unbound you, your beautiful you”. There was a lot of laughter and a few tears.

As I looked around the room I was overwhelmed by the power of what I witnessed. These were diverse women: an attorney, state at home moms, an administrator, and teachers…some are fashionistas and others are most comfortable in yoga pants and t-shirts.

Some struggle with perfectionism and others are comfortable with a sink full of dishes and piles of waiting laundry. Introverts and extroverts, melancholy and sanguine and more.

How can a group of women, so diverse, so different from one another in many ways, love each other at this level?

It began with a choice to stop “holding one another to a standard of perfection instead of letting us all be held by His arms of grace.”[i] (Ann says it so well…take a few minutes to read her post, referenced below)

They’ve decided to release and free one another to be the best and most real version of who God has designed them to be.

It doesn’t matter if they stand at a sink or sit at a screen, spend their days with children or in a courtroom; whether they occupy a cubicle, the corner office or the driver’s seat of a minivan; each one has a unique calling and giftedness.

They won’t judge one another for their housekeeping, design choices, parenting skills, size of their waist or the style of their hair.

I wasn’t there to speak or lead. I was just their mentor, at a very different place in my life. I am amazed by what I see God doing in them, individually and collectively.

My generation was expected to perform with perfection. Perfect walk, perfect home, perfect marriage. The mentors in my life encouraged striving toward clean homes, clean children, clean cars and clean living. It was exhausting and impossible. I felt the sting of criticism rather than open arms of grace.

These women are encouraging one another to become rather than do. They are liberating one another from self-doubt, self-pity and self-loathing. They are encouraging one another to let Christ be real in them.

They are women who have chosen to clothe themselves with love and do the hard work of cultivating relationships that go deep and require looking at women with eyes of love and compassion rather than through lenses of criticism and judgment.

Do you have key women in your life? How are you encouraging them? What have they brought to your life that has helped release you from the bondage of perfectionism and performance?

Praying you’ll find your keys.

 

 

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. – Colossians 3:12-17

 

[i] http://www.aholyexperience.com/2014/07/how-women-can-stop-judging-each-other-a-movement-of-key-women/