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Tammy Brown

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What Being “Relationally Kind” Means To Me

Many of you have heard a version of this before from me, and for those of you who haven’t… Welcome! I am so glad you’re joining us here!

For the month of June in our summer series focusing on ‘Cultivating Community,’ we are highlighting the individual attributes of the vision statement for Cultivate, and there’s no one better on the team to share about the part on kindness than me. But it’s NOT because I am kind 100% of the time. Not because I get it right even most of the time. But because God planted this vision inside of me from the very beginning.

From the very beginning of Cultivate, almost 5 years ago now, I had no idea about everything that Cultivate was supposed to be, but I did know what Cultivate was NOT supposed to be… and that was a place where mean girl behaviors (especially among sisters in Christ) were a thing.  You see, I knew all the reasons why I didn’t want to be a part of  ‘women’s ministry’ and as I asked around to other women I knew I got the same response… “women are mean.”

This was a curious thing to me… because we’re Christians

But, as we all know, even “Christians” can be mean too, can’t we?

As I lamented to God about this assignment He had placed in front of me I said, “God, women are mean! I can’t work with women.

And you know what I heard God say to me?…

“Yes, yes they are, Tam. But they’re not supposed to be.  My girls are not supposed to be mean, and I want YOU to remind them of that

At first, in the raw and unrefined planning stages, I wanted to just get up and shout to the women  STOP BEING B…… (aka mean)! But as I thought more about it, I thought to myself, ‘that probably won’t go over very well…’ I could hear the church chatter ringing in my ears, “Pastor’s wife from Sandals Church called women B…… from stage”,  and since Sandals has already gotten it’s fair share of  attention already for using words on the ‘unapproved list’ and I didn’t want to be the one to add to it. I knew I had to be more creative on how to communicate the message God had given me to share.

In the Bible, Paul wrote this…

I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common. 1 Corinthians 1:10

Let me break this down for us (myself included… because I need reminding too)

First of all, Paul wrote this letter TO THE CHURCH. This wasn’t a letter to the people who didn’t know God, but to those who proclaimed that they did.

This letter would’ve been to US, ladies.

WHY would Paul have needed to include a verse such as this? WHY would he have addressed the need to get along with each other? Because not getting along was a problem in the church.

It was a problem THEN and it is a problem NOW.

You guys…. we as women – even women of the church – women who profess to be Christians, are known for being mean girls more than we are known for being God’s girls.  When it comes to this, there is very little difference seen or experienced between us and the rest of the world.  

THIS IS A PROBLEM!

“You must get along with each other!”

Paul considered not getting along with each other an urgent matter to be addressed. And as I started mapping out what Cultivate would be, I did too!  

He even went so far as to say “using the authority of Jesus, our master.”  It was as if he thought to himself “my words alone won’t be strong or authoritative enough to get this across, I need to pull out the BIG guns.” And so I did too. Paul backed up his message with the authority of Jesus and I’m backing mine up with the words of Paul.

 

When I started inviting women to be a part of what we were doing and heard the response,  “I want to study the bible, I just don’t want to be in a room full of women,” I knew exactly where we needed to get started on our spiritual growth journey together as the women of Sandals Church.  Kindness!

 

By definition, cultivate means to bring a new culture to.

And this is exactly what I set out to do. I wanted to bring a new culture to the women of the church and how they treated one another. I wanted us to cultivate a life in common, and for me ‘a life in common’ meant a culture of women rooted in kindness towards one another.  

So what does relational kindness mean to me?

As I’ve led the charge for creating a culture of kindness among women these past few years I must be honest and say I’m still figuring this out. But here’s what I know so far…

KINDNESS MATTERS!

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way, I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:35

This is how everyone will recognize that we are His disciples, when they see us love one another.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wrong.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

By definition… love is kind.  Love and kindness go hand in hand. They are interchangeable.  When we speak of love, we are by definition speaking of being kind. So if the world will know us by our love.  They will experience this through our kindness.

I like to say it like this…

Our kindness give us our CREDIBILITY!

When we are kind, the world around us (Christians and non-Christians), sees that we are a people who mean what we say and say what we mean. This earns us credibility!

But, and most importantly, the opposite is also true. When we are unkind people could care less about what we have to say. They see us (Christians) as a people who say one thing and live another, and therefore why should they care about what we say in regards to Jesus being our Lord or Savior if we are no different than anyone else?

Our credibility earns TRUST!

When people can trust us because they see that they way we live is in line with what we have to say… they are more willing to listen.

Trust builds RELATIONSHIPS!

When people trust us, and a relationship is built… people feel safe to be real. Real with where they are personally, spiritually, and relationally.

Relationships provide OPPORTUNITY!  

When we have credibility, trust, and relationship… we have an opportunity! Opportunity to share the life-changing good news of Jesus.  And isn’t that what it’s all about in the end?

Kindness>Credibility>Trust>Relationship>Opportunity> Jesus!

KINDNESS MATTERS!

BUT kindness is also tricky. Because life and relationships are messy. It’s easy to be kind to easy, kind, and loving people; right? But what about the people who aren’t easy, kind, or loving? Things get a little trickier then.

 

Here are a few things that help me practice being a woman of exceptional kindness:

I have to remember that I too am not always easy, kind, or loving and I still want people to be kind to me.

I have to remind myself of how it felt when others were kind to me when I didn’t deserve it. And how their kindness made all the difference in my moment, day, situation, and life.

I have to be curious about what’s going on in someone’s life when they’re being unkind. Most people don’t wake up in the morning and set out to be mean.  It’s been my experience that most people who struggle with unkindness have been through hard things, and as a means to protect themselves have developed unhealthy strategies in attempts to do so.

 

Here’s how kindness might look as I practice being a woman of exceptional kindness:

Being intentional!                                                                                                                This is more about what’s going on inside of me than what is coming out of me. It’s asking myself in all kinds of situations with all kinds of different people, “What does kindness look like in this situation, with this person?” More often than not this turns into a prayer. First and foremost adopting a heart of kindness towards others has to become a deep-rooted part of who I (we) want to be and what I (we) want to be about. The motivation is to be more like Jesus. To follow his example. The argument… “they’re not nice to me” carries little to no weight once I (we) focus on being intentional with who I (we) want to be rather than focusing on who others are.  So as I practice being a woman of kindness… I try to focus on who I want to be towards others rather than who others are to me, and it is from here that the other tips I have to offer you stem from.

Being kind first!                                                                                                               Sometimes we mistake unkindness when fear is at play. More often than not people are afraid (of hurt or rejection) and it can come across as being unkind because they are reserved. And so, sometimes I’m kind first. I say hello first, break the ice first, start a conversation first, care first. It’s been amazing to see how when I practice being kind first people soften right up and I’ve gotten to develop the most incredible relationships.

Keeping my mouth shut and my opinions, thoughts, experiences to myself! Sometimes kindness looks like keeping my mouth shut. Kindness doesn’t mean having to be best friends with everyone. It doesn’t even mean being friends with everyone. Let’s be real, there are some people who are hard to be kind to. Especially the ones that have been unkind, maybe even straight out mean, to us.

So what does kindness look like to be kind in these situations?

For me, I’ve learned that kindness towards people I don’t like looks like not saying unkind things about them behind their backs, not trashing them, not gossiping about them, not discrediting them or putting them down, and all the other things that could so easily run off the tip of my tongue. This type of kindness may never be seen or acknowledged by the person you are showing kindness too… but that is not the point. This type of kindness says more about who you are than who they are, and who you are is a child of God!

Not being afraid to be real with myself, God, and others when I’ve been unkind, and being quick to apologize for it!                                                   Sometimes I blow it. I am not kind. I’m anything but kind. It’s been said we can be right and still be very very wrong. So sometimes being kind looks like apologizing first. Since I’ve been on this journey I’ve made lots of apologies first.  I’ve started many sentences with, “That was very unkind of me, I’m sorry.” I’ve even caught myself having behaved in unkind ways and will later call or text and say, “I shouldn’t have talked unkindly about that person or situation. Even though I was hurt, that doesn’t change who I want to be – I want to be a person who is kind.” I call these cleanup jobs for my own moral compass.

I don’t want to be a person who says I care about kindness in public and then behaves differently in private.  

Again, kindness has to do more with who we want to be, not about who others are. So what about the unkindness that comes out when we’ve been hurt or wronged? Isn’t this justified? It sure feels justified, doesn’t it? Here’s how I see this, the hurt and being wronged is a real thing, and real things need to be dealt with so that the relationship can be healed, kept intact, or restored. However, dealing with situations with unkindness rarely leads to healing or restoration. Typically it makes things worse, and more often than not we end up dealing with how I responded unkindly, rather than the offense itself. Now we’re all wrong. This is when I (and I encourage you to do the same) step away from the situation, ask myself ‘What does kindness look like in this situation? What does it look like for me to be real about the wounding or offense without treating the other person unkindly?’ Because the truth is, sometimes people are hard, situations are terrible, people are mean and real relational consequences exist.

Melody says it like this and I love it… “friendly (kind) to all, not friends with all.”  Our closest friends need to be people that have our best interests at heart (and us, theirs), people who care about us, who don’t constantly stress us out, who are like minded in values. NEWS FLASH: Not everyone is going to meet these criteria. Not every single person is our friend. So kindness looks like being friendly to all although you may not be actual friends with all.

 

As you pursue being a woman who is relationally kind, ask yourself these questions:

What does kindness look like in THIS situation?

What does kindness look like with THIS person?

 

You guys…  Titus 3:4-5 says, When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us.” If kindness was Jesus’ relational strategy (and he’s our role model, right?) shouldn’t it be our relational strategy too?

Speaking of strategies… it’s also crucial to remember that there are other strategies at play as well. The strategies of our very real enemy. Strategies to divide us. To distract us. To tangle us up in sin. To get us against each other.  To have us turn on one another, believing the worst, denying forgiveness & grace (although we’ve received it for ourselves), keeping records of wrongs. People –  when we let the unkindness of others become our focus and motivation, and ultimately how we treat others and who we become, the enemy’s strategies win.  But when we pursue Jesus, when we adopt, focus on, practice His strategies for our lives (even when it’s hard, even when others aren’t, even when everything in us wants to not… but we do it anyway), THIS is what it looks like to be transformed. THIS is what it looks like to become more like Jesus… when we have opportunities to say, “not my will but yours,” the Jesus in us wins!

 

When she speaks her words are wise,

and she gives instructions with kindness.”

Proverbs 31:26

I know that I’m not where I want to be when it comes to kindness, but  I also know I’m certainly not where I once was.  Grace + Practice = Progress friends! Kindness is a practice.

As is true with anything, the more you practice it, the better you’ll become at it. And I know this to be true because for the past 5 years I’ve seen hundreds of women do just that. I’ve seen people practice these things I’ve shared with you… being kind first, apologizing first, stopping talking about others, and making kindness about who they are instead of who others have been. And the result is a change in the culture of women is happening at Sandals Church.  We are cultivating kindness! Our team gets cards, emails, texts, Instagram messages, and notes constantly telling us about how the women are so kind at our events, in our groups, at our studies. The world is noticing friends, and our kindness is becoming contagious. Keep up the good work in the practice of relational kindness, because we are carriers of the good news. Let’s never forget that!

 

Let us continue to grow relationally kind together!

 

Kindly,

Tammy

 

Let’s dig deeper …

  1. When you think of someone who is an example of kindness, what name immediately pops into your mind?  What is it about them? How does their kindness make you feel? Write them a letter, text, or card this week telling them how their kindness has made an impact on you and why.
  2. Is there a person you struggle being kind to? Is there a relationship in your life where you need to show kindness in by keeping your mouth shut? Ask yourself what could kindness look like with this person. Read Matthew 5:44 and spend some time in prayer for this person/situation this week. (Maybe kindness looks like you praying for them. You might be amazed in how God shows kindness to you as you respond in this simple act of obedience!)
  3. Think of a time when you experienced kindness. What did it look like? What happened? How can this motivate or inspire you to reciprocate kindness towards others?
  4. Read the following passages.  Using the REAL study method, highlight what God’s word has to say in regards to kindness.
    1. Proverbs 11:17
    2. Romans 2:4
    3. Romans 12:8
    4. Colossians 3:12
    5. Ephesians 4:17-32
    6. 2 Peter 1: 1-10
    7. 1 Thessalonians 5
  5. Are there any relationships in your life where you can show more kindness? How?
  6. Are there any relationships in your life where you need to apologize first? Do a cleanup job in?
  7. In your own words, why does kindness matter as a spiritual discipline and practice?

Tammy is the founder and director of Cultivate, the women’s ministry of Sandals Church. She is married to Matt, the lead pastor of Sandals Church. Together they planted Sandals in 1997,  and are proud parents to daughters Madison (20) & Kennedy (19), and son Ethan (14). Tammy loves spending time skiing, hiking, paddle boarding, and eating Mexican food with good friends! Tammy loves helping people live out the vision of being REAL  with themselves, God, and others~ specifically teaching people how to be good receivers of  REAL… what she affectionally refers to as being good “heart handlers”.  Surviving 20+ years of ministry life with marriage & family in tact is one of her greatest achievements, and considers getting to be a part of what God’s doing at Sandals Church one of her greatest blessings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cultivate Justice

Noemi

Do you remember the longest night you’ve ever had? A night when you are the only one awake and it seems like everyone in your home is having the sweetest of dreams while you’re tortured by your thoughts and restlessness. You look at the clock and the time is nowhere near day break. Its dark, its lonely, and it seems like the sun will never come up.

 I have those nights often. And often, God tells me to stay up and pray. On the nights that I actually obey God’s nudging, I will roll off my bed to my knees. As I pray, God shows me the faces of children sitting underground with their faces partially lit and partially shadowed as if they are underground, and there is a grate of metal bars placed above them like a lid and the light partly shines on them as they sit in darkness.

 There are millions of children, women, and even men too living in the dark places under the oppression of an abusive trafficker. Their nights are long and torturous in the worst possible way.  Their days are filled with work, fear and dehumanizing abuse. There is no going back to sleep after a nightmare. There is no light of day for them.

 It is paralyzing to think about what I can do to help them as I am only one seemingly powerless person, but I kneel before a power-full God… and pray! I pray, and I beg God to have mercy on His children. I pray for rescuing hands to save those souls from their oppressor. And, I pray that God continue to wake me up in the middle of the night to pray.

 I alone can’t do anything, but together, with other women, WE can bring the light of day to the oppressed children of God. Let’s pray fervently and let’s give sacrificially to those organizations involved in rescuing slaves. This is why I’m participating in Dressember and asking you to do so also… because the people in charge of Dressember are working directly with organizations like the A21 and the International Justice Mission who are on the ground, doing the work, knowledgeable in how to make the changes and bring the justice that helps free these children, women, and men out of the darkness. And in the meantime… we pray that the light of day, through Jesus Christ, might be theirs too.

“People sitting out their lives in the dark saw a huge light; Sitting in that dark, dark country of death, they watched the sun come up.” (Matthew 4:16; Isaiah 9:1-2) MSG

~Noemi H-Alexander

Cultivate Justice

Nadine

Initially when I was asked to be the lead for the Cultivate Dressember campaign I felt so honored. To say that I am passionate about this topic would be an understatement, but as I began digging into statistics, watching documentaries, listening to testimonies, and really immersing myself in all things human trafficking I could feel an internal friction take place. Suddenly that initial feeling of honor became entangled with odd familiarities and a strange resistance. Learning the truth about a lot of this is hard enough, but watching videos that trigger your own personal memories takes it to a whole other level. So, as I began preparing for the launch of the campaign, I personally had to sit with God for a while and ask what He wanted me to do with all of this.

I remember being 15 years old and being afraid of the dark, so afraid that I would climb into bed with my little sister at night… I felt safer there with her. I would put myself between her and the wall, and then I would pray for the morning to come. The night time had come to represent everything awful about my new reality. Dark car rides that made me want to die, dark parking lots that I’ll never forget, dark living rooms where I prayed to God to change my life and simultaneously felt like He had completely forgotten about me.

I am a survivor of sexual abuse.

When I sit here, with my story written all over my body,  and I read the accounts of these other women who are being trafficked, beaten, raped, imprisoned, and things that I just cannot comprehend, I find myself broken. You see…I know my own pain from the sexual abuse I’ve experienced. I know all of my stories. I live with my memories, and yet I have to say so much of what I have gone through feels tiny and small and almost unimportant in comparison to the research I was doing. This feels silly to me as I see myself writing it, but is such an accurate description of the wrestling my heart does over this subject. I find myself in this really odd place of feeling disabled to fight for them because my own junk is so heavy, and at the same time being fueled by my pain to never give up on them.

In various seasons in my life, and especially over the last few months, I feel the words of Isaiah 61:1 carved into the cracks of my heart:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”

I am a woman who has lived in bondage and slavery to the lies that have been spoken over me and the abuse that has been done to me. This is true, this is my story on many levels, but it’s not my whole story… and it will not be the END of my story. I am a daughter of the King, first and foremost, who has been rescued by redemption and grace. I am a woman who, in my darkest seasons~ in my most painful and unflattering moments, has been blessed by the will of those who intentionally choose to fight for ME. My life has been forever changed by the handful of people who entered into my brokenness with me, fought for the freedom of my soul when I was too weak to fight, and advocated for the truth of my worth when I had lost hope. The course of my life is completely altered and forever different than it would have been because of those who were willing to get uncomfortable and messy for the sake of rescuing and redeeming all that was stolen from me.

This verse in Isaiah tells me that, my own abuse aside, as a child of God I am specifically called to not ignore the injustice and slavery that surrounds me. As I think of all the people who have been uncomfortable for my redemption’s sake, I must ask myself “how are those in captivity not worth the same level of discomfort and risk that I received? Are their lives not as important as mine?” Yes, I have had awful things happen to me, but I have also seen God use others as His hands and feet in my life to breathe a new song into me. And what an absolute honor it is to now be in a position where all of my messy can be used by God to breathe hope into other women who are running out of air. Friends, our hearts SHOULD be broken over this, our souls SHOULD be called to action.  Doing nothing is no longer acceptable.

Wearing a dress every day hardly feels like anything unbearable, I get that. Initially I questioned how this would even serve it’s purpose. “Participate? Sure, I’ll participate”, but (to be real) inside a part of me thought “how will this make a difference?” Yes, I understand spreading awareness. Yes, I want to boldly fight for those in slavery, but the dress… what’s with the dress? It felt silly to me. BUT It only took wearing a dress for 3 days until I found myself totally inconvenienced by the fact that my jeans and flannel were off limits, and there it was. “Oh… this is an inconvenience for you? Have you already forgotten?”

We live in a culture that tells us to live for ourselves, to take care of us and our people first, that we “deserve” a comfortable life. But, do you know that the Bible teaches the exact opposite? Comfortable living is not a part of the gospel, nothing about “picking up your cross and dying to yourself” is comfortable; and I personally have found that my most tangible experiences with God have taken place in my greatest moments of discomfort.

Is the actual action of wearing a dress going to be what saves these women and children? No, It’s not… but it’s not meant to. The truth is, at the end of the day,  the only thing that will save these women and children is God. Our wearing a dress is just a small piece of the puzzle. It’s a jagged piece of a picture that’s connected to other irregular pieces building and revealing a much bigger picture as all the pieces start coming together. Wearing the dress is our opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the lives of these women and children who are suffering in a way that most of us will never understand. It’s our opportunity to speak truth to the lie that God has forgotten them, but rather stand as examples of His unfailing love for them. We aren’t being asked to have it all figured out, and at no point are we expected to solve these awful issues all on our own. All we’re asked to do is be willing… willing to be minimally uncomfortable in an effort to help rescue other women and children from a life of bondage.

Maybe you are like me and you find yourself struggling to sort through your own messy stuff and getting close to a topic like this triggers and hurts, or maybe you find yourself feeling so far from this topic that you question whether you have a right or are intimidated by the thought of getting involved. I hear you, I hear your heart and I want to encourage you to not accept any of those thoughts as truth. All of our stories, no matter how tragic they are or how plain they might seem, serve a mighty purpose in Jesus name. My prayer is that throughout this month we can all gain personal wisdom while spreading awareness, that God would use all of our little bits to bring BIG justice for those enslaved, and that overall His name would be glorified as His daughters stand boldly for those in suffering. Never once did God forsake me, I relish in that truth for myself, and I take action so that it may be the truth of those enslaved. 

~Nadine 

Cultivate Dressember campaign Lead

“None of you should be looking out for your own interests, but for the interest of others.”  1 Corinthians 10:24

 

Cultivate Justice

Tammy

Dressember. What’s Dressember?

This is what I thought 2 years ago as I was scrolling through my Instagram feed each morning and saw one of the young women in our church posting pictures of her in a dress day after day. FINALLY, after a few days I’m embarrassed to admit (and you know you do it too 😉 ~ like pictures without reading the captions… lol), I took the time to actually read what she was writing. She was talking about this thing she was doing called Dressember. It’s similar to Movember for men which brings awareness and raises money to help prostate cancer. She went on to explain how each day in the month of December she would be wearing a dress to raise awareness about what’s happening in the world in regards to sex trafficking, as well as how people can be a part of helping to eradicate it.  I don’t know about you but for me when it comes to BIG issues like… homelessness, poverty, orphans, and trafficking I feel so small. I feel like ‘what can I do?’. I can’t end it, I can’t even make a dent in it.  I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t even know where to start. I’m a girl and a wife and a mom just barely making it through the day~  let alone eradicating sex trafficking from the planet. And so…. I do nothing.

I think this is why Dressember stood out to me because here was this ordinary girl like me~ and she WAS doing something about it. She was making it known. She was educating people on the issues. She was informing people on the reality of what was going on. She was a small part of something BIG that was making a difference.  I thought to myself… I can do this!

Fast forward to December 1st 2015… I woke up that morning all butterfly’ee excited to start. I put on my dress, headed to work, had a friend snap my pic, and posted it. I was feeling pretty good (about myself). Day 2, same thing…. Day 3 repeat, Day 4…. UGH~ It’s cold and I hate wearing dresses. Everyone who know’s me knows I’m a holy jeans wearing kind of girl. Like… I wear jeans EVERY DAY. I basically consider myself to be a jeans model. I can make them sporty rolled up with Converse, cutesy paired with cute strappy sandals, hipster’ish in a 42 year old kind of way with ankle boots and a cardigan, and then evening wear with heels and a blousy top. I mean seriously, do we even need anything else in the closet outside of jeans?! I say NO.

I tell you this for two reasons…

  1. Because people were used to seeing me in jeans.
  2. Because NOT wearing jeans actually turned out to be quite difficult for me

As I said… people were used to seeing me in jeans, and sooooo when they’d see me in a dress the first assumption was that something REALLY special must be going on, a wedding, party, funeral maybe. And everyone asked,,, Why the dress? Where are you headed? This surprised me.  I wasn’t prepared for just how often I would have the opportunity to share WHY I was wearing a dress.  I soon realized how little I actually knew about WHY I was wearing a dress. I knew I was going to post super cute pictures of me in a dress each day (insert sarcastic/winky eyed emogi here)… but I wasn’t prepared (aka educated) on exactly WHAT the statistics for trafficking were.  About a week in I found that I needed to really start researching so that I’d actually have something to say to people about why I cared about trafficking when I was trying to tell them about how THEY should care about it. As I did this… the reading and researching and getting educated I found that it was actually ME that I was reaching through being an advocate for Dressember. 2 things that stood out to me the most (not that they are the most important 2 things… just 2 that surprised me and stuck with me) were 1. That girls around the age of 12 were the most highly sought after for trafficking and 2. How ginormous of an issue trafficking is right here in the United States.  Up till then when I thought of trafficking I thought of women in far away third world countries not girls right here in my own backyard.  Literally, Riverside County is considered to be a ‘hot bed’ for trafficking~ even finding the 10 fwy interchange a few minutes away from my church mentioned. This shocked me, until…

Until I met someone who I now consider one of my best friends. A friend who I hang out with on a regular basis.  A friend who stays with my children when Matt & I go out of town. A friend who looks like me, went to a private school growing up like me, named her daughter the same name as I named mine. We are samesies in so many ways. Except… what our days looked like when we each came home from our private schools looked very different. You see my friend was trafficked beginning at the age of 12 right here in the US of A.  I was shocked by this. Shocked and convicted and broken hearted and compelled to care! Care  in a new way because now trafficking wasn’t far away~ it was one of my most favorite people’s real story.  And I realized that everyone trafficked is someone’s real people too. Someone’s sister, daughter, mother, friend. Everyone trafficked is loved deeply and matters to someone somewhere who probably feels helpless like I did. And I wanted to be able to help those people now too. Help them rescue their favorite people.

I’m not kidding you when I tell you that I had multiple opportunities a day to share about Dressember. LIKE multiple. I couldn’t believe that wearing a dress could get this much attention.  It works. This wearing a dress every day is a real thing. As the month went on, the pictures were posted, people were inspired, awareness was spread, and funds were raised… I was feeling pretty good. Except secretly I hated wearing a dress. I had a serious attitude problem. The closet…  it was in my closet that this part of me could be on display.  Out there… it was all smiles and cute posted pictures and I was all in.  But in the closet~ I was grumpy and bitter about wearing a stupid dress.  I’d gripe about it to my husband and kids. I loved talking and sharing about trafficking and Dressember, it was just the wearing the actual dresses that I hated.

But then… one morning, about half way through the month, I felt the Lord speak to my heart. He said…

Wearing this dress is not to bring awareness to everyone else, it’s for YOU. It’s a reminder for you, an alarm clock of sorts, to remember right here quietly in your closet each morning where you’ve been your grumbly worst and no one see’s you~ but I see you . A reminder each morning to remember. Remember them by wearing a dress.  A dress on a day even if it’s cold or windy…it’s still your choice. A dress that maybe you’ve already worn already because you don’t have 31 different dresses… wear it again. A dress that’s meant for summer but it’s winter and it’s the only clean dress you have and there’s worse things going on than having to wear a summery hibiscus flower hawaiian dress in winter. A dress on a day where maybe it’s inconvenient or you’re just not ‘feeling it’. These little things… they’re all luxury frustrations you get to afford.  These girls, the one’s you feel so ‘good’ about advocating for… these would be their dream frustrations.  They don’t get to worry about such things so trivial as this. Their worries look much differently. And isn’t this the whole reason you decided to do this? Wasn’t it  to help them? Wouldn’t it be so wonderful if they could have these issues? If these were their daily struggles?  Instead, they are dealing with much bigger issues. Ones they don’t get to decide for themselves. Ones they have no control over. At least you get to pick the dress. At least you get to decide everyday to keep doing this or not. If only they had the freedom to make that same choice.  Let’s remember this!

This is what Dressember became for ME. A reality check. I became aware. This changed me.  Each morning after that little message from the Lord putting on the dress was MY reminder. Reminder to pray.  My prayers began looking something like this…

Lord, I don’t know these women and children but you do. On my own I can’t make a difference, I can’t change things… but you can. You see them and love them and have just as much of a plan and purpose for their life as you do mine or my own children,  I believe this. Today let me live in a way that shines light into this dark place. You don’t need my (our) money to change things, but as you already know~ our hearts are often so tied to our money, let my money and the money of the people who see why I’m doing Dressember reflect our hearts. Fish and loaves… I ask that you take whatever money is donated and multiply it to begin eradicating the sex trafficking that’s big and scary and almost defeating… almost. BUT thank you for what you’ve already been doing through the organizations already on the ground~ specifically the International Justice Mission and the A21 campaign. Thank you that they are not scared or overwhelmed by the gravity of it all.  Thank you Blyth HIll, the founder of Dressember, and her mustard seed faith that she could make a difference… and now mountains are being moved.  Thank you for making a way for me to actually have a way and an opportunity to make a difference in something that we know is so close to your heart. Today let me be bold in spreading awareness and unafraid to ask people to join by giving. I’ll wear the dress on behalf of all of us. I’ll wear it on cold and windy days. I’ll wear it when I’m not ‘feeling it’. I’ll wear the same dress over and over if I have to. Let me know forget that it’s not about the dress.

Amen

Throughout the month many women would tell me they wished they’d done it, OR that they wanted to do it with me if I did it again this year… so here we are! It’s my prayer that everyone who was inspired will join me, and that they’ll inspire a whole new group of people to join. For more information on the Cultivate Women team you can visit our Dressember page on our website, but here’s a quick snapshot of it..

  • Got to Dressember.org
    • Choose ‘join a team’
    • Search ‘Cultivate Women’
    • Create your personal profile page
  • Link your personal profile page in all your social media accounts.
  • Get started…
    • Start wearing a dress
    • Take pics and share to spread awareness and raise funds
    • Tell everyone who asks you ‘what you’re dressed up for?’ WHY you are wearing a dress
  • Pray. Pray everyday for those currently being trafficked
  • Follow along with us.
    • Follow @cultivatewomen on social media for daily updates
    • Read the weekly blog posts
    • Tag us in your posts

I’m so excited about the dozens of women who’ve already joined our team~ and if you haven’t joined yet but want to… it’s not too late. I’m hoping all of the women of Cultivate will participate in one way or another as an act of exceptional kindness AND an opportunity to be about something so much bigger than ourselves.  WHY? because we can, and there’s a lot of us, and our women are truly amazing and generous, and we each have such a unique sphere of influence, and because all of our little bits add up to A LOT.  If you want to be a part and don’t want to wear the dress… I’ll wear it for you! I’m committed to wearing a dress (again;) all 31 days during the month of December. I’ll wear the dress… you can donate. We’ll be a team like that! Together we can be a part of cultivating dignity & justice for all women.

~ Tammy

PS… In the few short years Dressember has been a thing it has raised over a million dollars to help fight human trafficking. This has been done by a bunch of ordinary women just like me!  Each of on our own couldn’t make a dent, but together… together a huge impact is being made! To learn more about Dressember visit http://dressember.org,  and I highly recommend watching the founder Blyth Hill’s Tedx Talk.

PSS… Also~ I’ve also personally officially declared January “Jeans January” for all who want to join! 😉

Cultivate Justice

Amber


Growing up, unknowingly…  I always waited for someone to save me…No one did.

From the very beginning, my idea of  “normal” was certainly skewed.

My mom was 15 years old when I was born, and I was her second child. There isn’t a lot that I remember from when I was younger, but when I was 5 years old my mom left my brother, my 2 younger sisters, and me with a friend of hers for the weekend and she didn’t come back. Each of us had different fathers and so there was a lot of confusion for us for a long time. We waited and hoped that our mom would come back, but weeks turned into months… that turned into almost 6 years.  Life without my mom was my new normal.

I was 11 years old when my mom returned and my new new normal was about to unfold. I turned 12 shortly after my mom’s return, and on a day that should have been filled with my friends, games, and cake and ice cream ended up being a party filled with alcohol and all of my mom’s friends. That evening while “my” birthday party was still in full swing I ended up going to my room.  My mom came up to let me know that some of her guy friends downstairs thought I was cute and that she was going to send them up. I had know idea what that meant or what was about to take place, but what I did know was that I needed to keep doing whatever my mom wanted me to so she wouldn’t leave again. That night six different men came into my room and had sex with me. I was filled with so much fear and confusion, but this was quickly drowned out by complete numbness.

At 13 I met the guy that was soon to become my boyfriend and my daughter’s father. My mom introduced us at one of her parties and in my young teenage mind there was a connection between us. Little did I know that this relationship would turn out to be a continuation of the abuse, only this time HE was getting paid for the services that I was performing. By the time he took over, the sex was a daily occurrence.  I had my daughter at 16…  but that didn’t stop the constant flow of men every night.  Each day I would get up and go to school like every other teenage girl my age, only to come home and be this other person I had grown accustomed to being.  Most of the time my days didn’t end until 2…sometimes 3 in the morning~ just to wake up a couple of hours later to do it all again. Perhaps the most surprising thing about my life was that to an outsider looking in you would never know that there was anything different or wrong going on in my family. We had nice things, nice clothes, nice vehicles. We lived in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, we even had a maid. I went to a nice private school, and I was even on the varsity softball team.

 


This was my life for the next 15+ years!  This lifestyle followed me from middle school into high school, throughout having babies, and even during my time in the military. I’d become accustomed to living the life of a modern day slave quite perfectly.  And when I didn’t get it perfect, I was corrected in a manner that taught me that I never wanted to make whatever same mistake again. I became afraid, afraid of everything! Afraid of making the wrong decision, afraid of looking people in the eye, afraid of failing, afraid of people walking away, afraid of life in general.  However, this was my life.  Even after my “boyfriend” went to prison for his actions, and my mom was now out of the picture due to her suicide, this lifestyle continued on.  You see, I’d gotten to the point where the sex with men for money was a game to me now, a payback of sorts. Even after the people who’d forced this lifestyle onto me were out of the picture it was still very much a part of who I was, it was all I knew… it was normal to me.

In 2007ish, about a year before my mom’s death, I was watching a program on MSNBC that was highlighting a ministry for women in the sex industry.  When I saw this show I thought these girls might be able to help my mom. At the time I honestly believed that SHE was the one that needed the helping, the saving. And so…I reached out to the network and they connected me with the women running this ministry. They were from a church I’d never heard of called Sandals, in a town over a thousand miles away on the other side of the country. Through a crazy series of events that happened after that connection~ God allowed my path to collide with the person who He would, unbeknownst to me, use as the person who would step in and start His process of saving ME. Her name was Lori Albee.  We kept in touch long distance, and she began the process of walking through life with me. After my mom’s death, as well as a few other life happenings, I felt like I was losing my mind. I knew now that MY life needed a drastic change, but I had no idea where to begin. I was exhausted physically and emotionally. Lori began researching places for me to go and get the help that I needed~ only to come up empty handed with every search.  There was nothing out there for girls in my situation. Yes, there were organizations that raised awareness, but that’s where it ended. After countless searches and  phone calls coming up empty every time, Lori and her husband Matt, after much prayer and guidance, invited me to leave everything that my life consisted of and move out to California to live with them and their family and start over.

In 2012 I moved out to California with only the possessions that would fit in my car. It’s been  an eye-opening experience to say the least, and if I’m being honest~ I wanted to give up a countless number of times, especially in the beginning.  It’s been overwhelming to realize that my normal wasn’t “normal” at all, and that I honestly didn’t know what a healthy “normal”  lifestyle looked like~ let alone how to live one. I’ve  had to learn things that many people take for granted on a daily basis. Things like doing laundry, and cooking (seriously boiling a pot of water was nerve wracking for me). I even had to learn how to ride a bike. These things were challenging, but I think one of the most challenging parts has been to learn that when people hug me or tell me they love me it’s because they genuinely care about me.  THIS was not normal for me.  Also, crying! I’m learning that crying isn’t a bad thing or a sign of weakness.  In this area of me so many of my walls are still up… But I’m happy to be able to share that they are slowly coming down. I’m also learning about grieving. Grieving the childhood and family I didn’t have, and grieving for the one that I did.  And when the time comes when I am totally able to grieve my situation I am starting to believe what everyone around me has been telling me… and that’s that the tears won’t last forever.

Over the past couple of years there have been many things that I have been unsure of, but the one thing that I have learned that I can absolutely be sure of is that I can  hold onto the promise that God will never leave me or forsake me. At times I may be barely hanging on, but I know that I have made it to far to let go now. The mask is off.  The secrets are out. And I am learning to step into the light,  and as the dark shadows of the past disappear… I am finding that the little girl I thought no one loved has been loved after all. I am starting to believe that my worth is not determined by or based on my past. God cherished me from the start and He continues to do so now…. even after and despite all that I’ve done and been through. I am beginning to realize that there’s nothing I have done or could ever do to make God love me anymore or any less. To be loved is the greatest feeling one could ever feel.

The Dressember movement with Cultivate is something I am passionate about being a part of because we are taking a stance on the injustice that is happening all over the world.  Injustice not just happening far away in third world countries, but right here in our own backyards.  I am proof of this. We must go from apathy to action. This is what Lori did for me. We have to fight for those who are unable to fight for themselves.  We have to be a voice for those who haven’t found theirs yet. We have to be the ones to move for those paralyzed by fear. We need to let the young girls and women in situations similar to mine know that we see them, that they are loved, that they are not forgotten, and that their worth is so much greater than the label they have been given. We can no longer stay silent with the information we have acquired.  We need to shine light into this dark place of human trafficking.  






Cultivate Book Blub

It wasn’t till I was broken that I started becoming whole!

It wasn’t until I was broken that I started becoming whole.

Week 7 of Cultivate Book Club Fall 2016

Chapters 11 & 12 of Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst

Just being real: I don’t want to write this blog post. I’m afraid. This is the story of why. But, it’s also the story of why I’m writing it anyway.

Here goes…

If you could tell the younger version of me what my life looks like now… I would think you are crazy!  From the earliest age I had a deep love for people of all nations and colors. I felt strongly that God meant for me to become a missionary overseas loving and serving those who are very different from me.  And so,  when I was in high school and college I planned and purposed everything in my life accordingly. I do realize that I’m a bit abnormal in this way. In college I majored in Spanish and minored in Missions and Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) in the hopes that I would eventually be sharing the gospel in a Spanish-speaking country. There was intentionality when I married Adam, a man who also had a heart for missions. Our wedding was a week after our graduation and, immediately after our honeymoon, we moved to California to begin the process of becoming full-time missionaries. Finally, the life I’d dreamed of since the ripe-old age of 6 was coming true right before my eyes.

But (and there’s always a BUT isn’t there?!) life has a “funny” way of doing it’s own thing…

At the age of 22 I was not prepared for all the ups and downs that came with being newly married and living far away from everything and everyone I knew. One year into our marriage, although it felt as if we had already been through five, we’d moved halfway across the country to an apartment we’d never seen (without jobs lined up, because, you know… that’s the wise thing to do~lol), became pregnant while ON birth control, miscarried, not to mention all the rest of the “fun” that comes with adjusting to married life. I wasn’t aware at the time, but I was drowning in a sea of quiet, lonely rejection. I felt rejected by friends because no one reached out after I moved to California. I felt rejected by God because I lost my baby. I felt rejected by my husband because he was emotionally distant after the miscarriage.

But (there’s that BUT again!), life also goes on…

Ten years later my world came crashing down. Adam took me out on a date. Sweet, right? But at dinner he then proceeded to confess his secret addiction to marijuana, an on-and-off addiction he’d had throughout our entire marriage up to that point. I sat there in shock and awe. How could I have not known? Did I do something to cause this? Was I not good enough? How did I fail him? What does this mean for us? There it was again… that old, familiar feeling: rejection. True to my nature I stuffed the hurt, pain, and feeling of rejection and moved on. I honestly ‘thought’ I was ok and moved through the forgiveness piece pretty quickly. I forgave Adam and pretended we could go back to life as it was supposed to be. Needless to say, the pretending didn’t work. At this point, I didn’t think I was the one with any “issues.” This was ALL on Adam. HE was the issue, and once HE figured things out…we could return to that dreamy couple I had idealized, or rather idolized–in my mind. The real end of myself didn’t come until four months later. I could no longer deal with the hurt and pain. It felt as if everything I did to fix THE situation only made matters worse. Wise counsel (thank God for spiritual community) helped me see that I…needed…help! And that maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t ALL on Adam.

Ok, OK, I’m not ok! Now what!?…

I reluctantly went ahead and heeded the advice of my friend and mentor to begin a process of looking at ME. This began what would eventually become the breaking of me and everything I knew. For so long I had relied only on myself. I was convinced that I was the only reliable person that I could trust. Everything and everyone else left me feeling second place, less than, set aside, overlooked, not good enough…rejected. I began to learn that because I didn’t know how to find my worth and value in God, I’d constructed walls and facades of who I wanted to be/thought I should be in order to avoid the pain of feeling second place, less than, set aside, overlooked, not good enough…rejected. I stuffed and minimized, I constantly

adjusted myself, hoping that this might bring the acceptance I desperately longed for.

In Uninvited, Lysa Terkeurst says that our “enemy loves to take our rejection and twist it into a raw, irrational fear that God really doesn’t have a good plan for us.” This has been so true for me and I can see now that these lies had taken full root in my heart. Over the years I had come to the conclusion that God wasn’t really FOR me, that I had apparently disappointed Him and He must be rejecting me. In my head I KNOW that the enemy wants to keep me (us) in bondage to our fears and for us to find our identity in everything but God, but in my heart it was easier to believe these lies than to feel the hurt and pain. I spent the next few months sorting through my broken pieces. It was so painful. I often chose not to press in and ignore it all because it was just too much. I wanted to hide the reality of my brokenness from everyone, keep to myself and not reveal the hot mess that was my marriage and family. The enemy was so active during this time, discouraging me from picking up my recovery workbook or acknowledging my woundedness with new eyes because the truth is… a healed me would be a dangerous me. We become a threat to the enemy when we start truly living out of the freedom God has graced us with.

The more I began to listen to the truth of God’s word>  the more I began to hear His loving whisper>  the more the broken pieces of who I am began to get put back together. I experienced a divine paradox: it wasn’t till I was broken that I started becoming whole! I started becoming aware of the parts of me that I’d left to die thinking they were not good enough or the cause of my rejection. One of these things was my “Okie” accent, something that I’d suppressed for fear of being looked down upon in our refined Inland Empire culture, and once I realized that this was an OK part of me… wouldn’t you know it~ it started coming back. I’m an “Okie” (meaning from Oklahoma for my west coast friends~ lol), it’s a real part of who I am and where I come from and you know what… I’m OK with that!

Healing had begun in me and I’d begun experiencing a freedom like I hadn’t before.  As Tammy Brown has been sharing in these blogs about her own journey~ I too now know the truth that healing is such a longggggg process (lifelong really).  To be completely real with you… I am still learning how to become whole.  I now look at my healing process/journey and relationship with Jesus like one would look at a potter shaping his clay.  Just as a potter reworks~reshapes~refines the clay into his intended masterpiece, I too am in continual reworking, reshaping, refining process. Sometimes when shaping clay it needs a breaking, and even rebreaking after that, to get the piece just as it’s meant to be, the same is true for me (us).  In order to become the woman that God has called me (us) to be, although it may be painful, a breaking and even rebreaking is necessary!  And the woman I (we) was always meant to be be is one that was not only good enough but INVITED!

OK~ can we be real for a second though… sometimes the whole healing, refining, reshaping process just gets old and I (we) get tired, really tired.  It is especially exhausting and discouraging when we have to revisit something we’ve worked through already (or so we thought). It’s like… been there, done that, don’t need to go there ever again thank you very much!  This past summer this was me. But God~ I’ve processed my rejection issues, It is finished, right? NOPE!  I’d found myself once again in a place of rejection, and I was simply unable to push through this new source of rejection on my own. I knew I needed to seek out my spiritual community, as well as the help of a professional christian counselor. It was crazy difficult to admit my weaknesses and my need of others, but it was also relieving to know that I’ve learned to ask for help and allow others into these vulnerable spaces.  This was a victory for me.  I know that when we try to process within ourselves~ that is where the enemy twists those lies… all the work I’ve done in the past has taught me atleast that much.  God uses others to shine light into dark places, to speak truth into lies.

My heart for you…

I often get tangled up in the thinking that I should “arrive” and eventually live a perfect, sinless life. Seriously. I actually think this. Ugh! Where in the world did I get this idea!? The pit of hell, that’s where. The truth is that the “arriving” happens each and every time we see our Savior face-to-face. So my heart for you is that… if you find yourself discouraged because the healing is taking too long, the pain is still too great, the hurts from long ago are still as real today as they were 20 years ago that you’d loosen your grip on holding together your broken pieces in order to start the process of becoming whole. Talk to people who are safe, seek professional help, do whatever it takes to begin the healing process. Acknowledge the damages done, grieve the losses, and begin to ask Jesus what work He wants to do in you through it all. Whatever you do with your broken pieces, don’t leave Jesus uninvited into the process.

God is our good, good Father who loves irrationally and unconditionally. He longs to draw close to us and for us to seek Him in those uninvited places where we desperately want to be found. Our God is the justice-maker and we have to trust that He will make all wrongs right in His time~ in His way. He will fight with us and for us. This is grace: God sees our sinful response to sin and in return He responds to us with love. He doesn’t expect us to piece it all together on our own.  Let’s cultivate the disciple of worshipping Jesus wholeheartedly and letting the focus of our attention change from being one that is preoccupied with what others have done to us, how they’ve rejected us, by instead being consumed with what He has done for us. Let’s stop exhausting ourselves by trying to keep things from falling apart, and consider the fact that maybe what we’ve been working so hard at keeping together (for the sake of others thinking we have it all together and therefore are worthy of love and belonging and to avoid as much rejection as possible) is actually what is keeping us from becoming whole.  Let’s keep on keepin’ on, and when we just can’t anymore… let’s INVITE Jesus and others in with us.  

The following verses in scripture are ones that have helped me in my healing process/journey and I want to share them for you to cling to in your healing process/journey too.  Let’s live loved and remember that our brokenness doesn’t disqualify us from being INVITED into the life God has planned for us, and that when we fall apart (are broken) is when we actually begin the process of being together (made whole)…. this is what the now~ older version of me would go back and tell the younger version of me who tried so hard to keep everything from falling apart.

Kindly,

Shanalea

Micah 7:7 As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me. (NLT)

Ephesians 1:7-8 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered His kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

Psalm 57:7 My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises.

Psalms 56:3-4 But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?

Proverbs 18:10 The name of the Lord is a strong fortress, the godly run to him and are safe.

Psalm 145:18 The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.

Psalms 130:5 I am counting on the Lord, yes I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word.

Deuteronomy 31:8 Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.

 

This week’s statement to hold on to: 

“There is no attack of the enemy that can withstand the dearly, deeply, and sacrificially loved daughter of God.  Live loved because you are loved.”

This week’s discussion or journal questions:

  1.      God has made it clear that he designed us to live in community with one another.  What are some relationships where you long to cultivate closeness and authenticity?  What do you think keeps you from going deeper?
  1.      Rejection is so painful.  We often avoid it by not letting others really get to know us. What do you do to keep from experiencing the feelings of rejection?
  1.      The enemy works hard to undermine our self-worth, make us doubt God’s goodness, and keep us from authentic relationships.  What does the fear of rejection look like in your life as it relates to yourself, God, and others?
  1.      In Chapter 10, Lysa gave us 10 things to remember when we are feeling rejected.  Which of these reminders was most encouraging to you?

    5.        Lysa gives us some powerful verses from God’s Word. Take a moment to turn to page 237 and      read through these scriptures.  Which verse pops out to you?  Which verse or verses do you need to hold onto to stand firm against the attacks of the enemy?  Share the scripture you chose and why.

Cultivate Book Blub

Sorry, We’ve Never Heard of You!


Sorry, We’ve Never Heard of You!

Week 6 of Cultivate Book Club Fall 2016

Chapters 9 & 10 of Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst

A few years back I was invited to attend an event specifically for pastor’s wives. I was beyond excited because at the time I didn’t have any relationships with other pastor’s wives, and had always prayed for them. I desperately wanted others I could reach out to and ask “have you ever had to navigate this type of situation?, how would you move forward with this?, or have you ever had this happen & if so how did you recover?  I didn’t grow up in the ministry world and felt like I didn’t know what I was doing so when this opportunity came up I just knew it was an answer to prayer.

I arrived at the event to find that most of the women already knew one another. I awkwardly stood back trying to assess the room and figure out a way to enter into what felt like a high school reunion for a high school that I didn’t attend. The only person in the room that I knew was the pastor’s wife who was putting on the event. She spotted me and invited me to sit at her table, which I was so relieved because the other tables were filling up quickly and people were “saving seats” for their other pastor’s wives friends.

There I was sitting at the head table with the event host, who just happened to be the pastor’s wife of one of the largest churches in the state~ so naturally everyone was exceptionally kind to her, greeting her, wanting pictures with her, the whole deal.  She was so sweet to me and began introducing me to all of the “big deal” church pastor’s wives at our table.  Towards the end of the event my host friend said to me, “I want you to meet so & so, she’s put together a network for pastor’s wives to connect once a month online to be able to ask each other questions about ministry, and be a support to one another.”  This was it! This was what I’d been praying for.

I met the woman who was extraordinarily sweet to me while I was with my host friend, who remember is a really BIG deal, she gave me her email and said to email her and she’d get me connected in this community of pastor’s wives of church similar in size and dynamic to mine. Great!  I left the event on cloud nine.  I thought to myself “I found my people, these people know what it’s like, I’ll have friends who understand ministry.”

I played it cool and waited a few weeks to email of course… I didn’t want to seem too excited, too needy. I emailed just like she’d said to and then I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally the response email came from so & so’s assistant and here’s what it said…

“Sorry, we’ve never heard of you!”

I kid you not, that was it. That was all the email said.

I emailed back explaining who I was and that I’d met so & so at the pastor’s wife event, the one I was at with my BIG deal friend who connected us and said this was the “perfect” set of women for me to connect with. And again, the response email…

“Sorry, we’ve never heard of you or your church.”

And that was it. I was rejected from being a part of this group. Rejected from “my people,” other pastor’s wives.

The conversation that followed in my head for years was not good. “Ohhhh I see…. only ‘heard of’ (aka famous) pastor’s wives matter. Only BIG deal church’s ministries matters. Only ‘heard of’ people are allowed in the club.”  AND SO since I wasn’t allowed into the club that must mean… I don’t matter, the ministry I do isn’t significant because they’d never ‘heard of’ it. What I thought was going to be an answer to prayer became the beginning of a downward spiral of identity for me.  Those women I’d met who I thought were going to be my people… I now wished I’d never met them at all.

In the spirit of being REAL… this encounter with these women wrecked me. I felt embarrassed, not enough because literally I was not ‘heard of’ enough to matter, and completely uninvited… which wasn’t a feeling at all~ I actually was uninvited.  This one event with this one group of women caused me to completely invalidate my purpose & value in ministry. What I once prayed for, other pastor’s wives friends, I now avoided at all costs.  And like salt in a wound, good old social media constantly displayed for me all of the wives that were ‘heard of’ enough to get invited into this group.  Each time I’d see their happy pictures from retreats they’d taken together with long posts about how they’d encouraged each other so well blah blah blah… WRECKED! I was wrecked all over again.  With each social media post I’d see… the wound was cut a little deeper, and I began feeling like only ‘heard of ‘ (aka famous) ministries mattered, or were significant. Of which~ mine was not… SOOO what the heck am I doing?!?!

God & I wrestled.  “I feel like ALL of us should matter God!”  “I feel like ‘Christians’ shouldn’t discard people who aren’t ‘famous’~ that’s what Hollywood does… not the church.” These kinds of prayers and conversations went on and on between God & me.  I couldn’t shake what happened, I found my prayers being ones of complaining and not listening, my head was a jumbled mess and so… I finally got brave enough to bring others into my head.  I had to bring others into this because it was eating me alive from the inside out. And it was through others that I was finally able to hear from God. Community (safe, trusted, spiritually mature & wise) has a way of doing this.  It was through others in community that a different perspective was brought to the discussion in my head.  What if those women and their priority on ‘spiritual celebrity’ isn’t a representation of God’s heart at all?  What if those women have it all wrong and you actually have it right… that we all matter?  What if God wants you to only seek his invitation, his approval, his belonging to validate the work you are doing?  Hmmmm, these were new ideas for me to wrestle through.  Why does them including you or not matter? Who are they to decide who’s important or not?  What if… they’ve got it all wrong?  Is that how Jesus behaved… did he only include the ‘heard of’ people?  NO! None of this is how Jesus decided if people were worthy or not. Jesus didn’t only connect with and include the people that were most ‘heard of’, in fact he did quite the opposite.

During this season of my life very few people knew of the struggle I was battling, of the rejection I’d experienced, or the identity crisis I was in. But the truth is~ I was completely undone in the private. It was in the private wrestle with God that He revealed more of who He is to me, and more of who I am to him.  I questioned him, he answered me. I lamented with him, he let me be uncomfortable. It was in the private that he let me be messy and confused and loved me still. It was in the private discomfort and unrest that I was forced to find my way to him for answers to make sense of what I’d experienced.  And here’s what conclusions I came to…

Jesus included everyone. He didn’t make special invitations to people that were ‘heard of’. He wasn’t about people who build his platform bigger. He didn’t just be seen with people who were the BIG deals. He was about everyone. He saw the crippled, the blind, the lame. He approached the ugly, the messy, the less than, the ‘unheard ofs’.  No, Jesus said…

But among you (my people… aka Christians) it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant…”  Matthew 20:26 

In her Uninvited book, Lysa Terkeurst talks about how the breaking of us in private will be the making of us in public and I love this because it was in private that God deposited this wisdom into me.  It was a lonnnnnggggggg process. Longer than I care to admit, but in hindsight~ I’m thankful for it. Thankful for the opportunity and process, though difficult and messy, where my heart got to become a little more like his.   For a while, and I’m ashamed to admit this, I let my heart be bitter and jealous. Jealous of the women who were invited into that group, jealous of their ‘fame’ that made them ‘heard of’ and so more worthy, jealous of their ministries, their circles (who of course look AMAZING & PERFECT at all times on social media), and jealous of their lives. They were ‘heard of’ (aka “someones”), I was not ‘heard of’ (aka a “no one”).  AND jealousy morphs into bitterness. I was bitter at them for not recognizing me as “someone”, for not validating me, for not ‘picking me’ to be a part of the really important cool kids groups.  AND guess what bitterness morphs into… Pride.  Pride let’s me justify my mean thoughts, my bad feelings, my attitude, my judgment because I’d been hurt. Pride makes me feel they deserve my bad behavior because they’d had bad behavior first. Pride forgets to worry about my character because I’m so focused on theirs. Pride forgets to remind me to make allowances for each others faults.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:13

My heart was dark and ugly. Everyone once in a while it tries to dabble back into those wicked ways, but I remember how rotten to the core and miserable I was there, and my hate for that feeling trumps my desire to wallow in jealousy,  bitterness, pride.

AND SO… that breaking of me in the private has led me to make some new habits in the public. For example, now whenever I attend a function full of BIG deals~ I scan the room for the woman who’s an outlier in the room and I make my way to her and introduce myself. I intentionally sit at the table with the woman who is sitting alone and has that look I had when I felt like a nobody in a room of somebodies.  If a young (or younger than me in ministry) pastor’s wife asks me if she can email me to ask some questions… I say ABSOLUTELY! I try to keep just enough of that sting of rejection from those pastor’s wives with me so that I don’t repeat it to others remembering terrible it felt.

Most likely you aren’t a pastor’s wife~ but you’re something somewhere… a mom, neighbor, coworker, professional, you’re somebody somewhere. And chances are you’ve experienced some type of rejection that’s made you feel like a nobody… ‘unheard of’. Here’s the good news, although we may not be heard of by others, we are completely known of by God. Not cliche I promise~ absorb the beauty in this truth. Someday it will be the only thing that matters… that we are known, picked, and loved by God. Someday it will be the only thing that matters to ALL of us~ because there will come a day when we stand before him and he’s the holder of eternity. Eternity isn’t something that matters much to most in the here and now… which is why being loved by God seems cliche. And this is a scary truth. We’re more concerned about being loved, picked, ‘heard of’ by others than we are of God.  Friends~learn from me… meet God in the private! Let him do a work in you, and let that work change who you are forever in the public. And in the public… point your life back to him. It’s here that your heart is cultivated to be more and more like his. Don’t let pride keep you from taking the rejection you experience from others and letting God use it to transform you into the person YOU’RE meant to be. Hold on to just enough of the sting to love others well, sparing them the pain and helping them live loved too.

Live loved friends,

Tammy

p.s. If you’re wondering how long this “breaking in private” took… FIVE years! 5! Five long years! So don’t be discouraged when the making doesn’t happen over night. All in His timing. We’re all on the journey friends!

This week’s statement to hold on to:

I must learn to judge my pride, not justify it. I cannot be delivered from that which I defend.

This week’s small group discussion & journal questions: 

  1. What were some of your biggest take aways from chapters 9-10?
  1. Why does humility often get associated with weakness and pride with strength?
  1. In chapter 9, Lysa talks about humiliation. Share about a time when you were utterly humiliated. What happened and how did you feel?
  1. Philippians 2 paints a beautiful picture of what humility looks like. Read through verses 1-11 together.  What do we learn about Jesus through this passage? What can we apply to our lives?
  1. Read James 4:6. “God opposes the proud.” That is strong language. Why do you think pride is such a big deal to God?
  1. Spend some time praying for each other…for the strongholds of pride to be broken as we seek to cultivate humility in our lives.
Cultivate Book Blub

Rejection: Maybe It’s Not About You…

Maybe it’s not about you…

Week 5 of Cultivate Book Club Fall 2016

Chapters 7 & 8 of Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst

Recently I was rejected. It wasn’t this BIG blow up, rather the silent but deadly type.  Slowly but surely I stopped receiving replies to my text messages, there was no more “hey let’s…” grab coffee, do yoga, go shopping… all the ways we used to connect.  At first~ I thought it was just coincidence.  They’re really busy with this project they have going on.  Now it’s the holidays,  Christmas~ everyone’s busy at Christmas right?!  Spring break~ same, and now it’s summer.   Traveling in the summer… that’s it!

BUT THEN… Good Ol’e Instagram. A truth teller of sorts!  Ohhhh, hey…  there they are with that friend.  I guess they DO have time, they just don’t have time for ME! OHHH the sting of rejection.

I admit I gave it WAY to much space in my head.

Do any of you ever do this… you spend some much time thinking about the people that don’t want to be with you that you totally forget about and neglect all of the people who do? What even is this about us?!

Of course I did what any mature 40 something would do… I totally let it go. Never gave it a second thought. Moved on in complete peace.   NO I DIDN’T.

I spun about it. Combed through our last few interactions and conversations.  What did I say?  Did I make a joke they took seriously? Was I too much? Not enough?

 

Finally I concluded that “so & so” is just better than me so of course it makes perfect sense that they had time for them and not me. It was because they were off having so much fun together every single day all day long (inferred of course from IG post) that there was no more room or space for me. I didn’t matter. I wasn’t ______________ enough (A. fun, B. smart,  C. interesting, D. all of the above).  It hurt, but of course I smiled and pretended it didn’t because I didn’t want to add needy and overly emotional to the list. AND then I pulled my heart back in… in to that safe place where I don’t let others see the real me. Bars up. Doors locked. Heart back in it’s safe place~in lockdown. When my heart’s in lockdown I can actually operate much better because I don’t feel at risk because it’s got it’s full body armor on. When my heart is in full body armor I am able to still be kind and have friendly exchanges, but I do not fully engage. I risk nothing, expect nothing, accept the loss.

AND… wouldn’t you know it~ here came one of those friendly exchanges when I least expected it. Here’s how this went…

Her: “Hey, do you have a minute to talk?”

Me: “Yes of course. What’s going on?”  It honestly didn’t occur to me that this talk was going to be about us, I assumed it was going to be about how I could pray for her, or help her with something going on in her life because that’s what I do as the pastor’s wife… which I’M SO HAPPY TO DO because I love people and I have a heart for them, and even if we aren’t best friends I still care about what’s going on in their lives and want to help or pray in any way I can. Ok back to the story.

Her: “I owe you an apology”.

Me: “For what?” And I sincerely meant this because although I was hurt, she hadn’t technically done anything wrong. Not wanting to be friends isn’t something to apologize for. It’s not a crime, or a rule broken… it just is what it is.

Her: “I completely cut you off. Rejected you. Rejected our friendship”

Me: “I’m not mad, you don’t owe me an apology. It hurt and I was sad, but you didn’t do anything wrong. It’s OK if you don’t want to be friends with me. You have that right. it’s ok. ”

Her: “That’s the thing. I DID want to be friends. I DO. The thing is, the more we were becoming friends, the more I felt at risk. At risk that if we were friends, you have all these other friends, and I was afraid that you’d want to choose them over me. And I knew I just couldn’t handle the rejection.”

Me: “Wait. What?”

Her: “I’ve been rejected so many times in friendships before. I know how this goes, and so to protect myself I had to completely back out of our friendship before you had the chance to reject me.”

Me: “Wait, What?”

FOR MONTHS  I’d made it all about ME! I’d played over everything I “might” have done or said wrong. Everything that wasn’t fun or special or good enough about me.  All the reasons they’d had to, of course, not choose me.  MONTHS! I did this for MONTHS!  And you know what… NEVER, not one time did any of what she said occur to me in the dozens of scenarios that I’d played out in my mind, the conclusions I’d come to about myself or the situation, not did any of it involve HER being afraid of being rejected by ME. Her feeling not _______ enough. Her being sad.  Wait. WHAT? I was so confused.

It had never even occurred to me the issues rooted in rejection that she was bringing to the table. Never. I only thought about me and mine.  Of course this was all about ME.  Except that it wasn’t.  Not at all.

At first I felt relieved. But then I felt curious. Curious about other situations and circumstances and relational fall outs that I’ve experienced rejection in, I wondered if there were ever other times that maybe it also wasn’t all about ME? Other times I’d made it about me, made assumptions, pulled my heart back into safety, protected myself from being hurt, put on the body armor, let a relationship die… all for a lie I had created and believed when I made it about me.

And so here’s the thing, the thing I learned (or should I say~ the thing I’m learning)… if we’re going to cultivate the practice of living loved, we’re going to have to practice being curious too. Curious about other people. Curious about their stories, their background, their wiring. Curious about what they’re bringing to the table. We have to remember we’re not the only ones bringing our stuff to the situation.

I love how Lysa Terkerst says in chapter 8 of Uninvited that “relationships don’t come in packages of perfection, relationships come in packages of potential”.  If we practice being real with ourselves then we already KNOW what we’re bringing to the table when it comes to friendship, what we too often forget is that the person sitting across from us at the table of friendship is also bringing their own fears of rejection, insecurity, imperfection, need for grace.

As our conversation went on, I feel like I got to know my friend somewhat for the first time despite the fact that we’ve sorta been friends for several years. She shared about her childhood and friendship interactions growing up, her family experiences, and how rejection has taught her that eventually you are always left.  NONE of which had anything to do with ME. Go figure.

Hmmmm, SO…  it’s not always about ME… There’s a new concept!  And I’m guessing some of the rejection you’ve experienced wasn’t about you either. So be careful friends… careful about what conclusions you draw about yourself when you feel rejected. Conclusions that you aren’t ________ enough. Because when you do this you’re creating and believing a lie in regards to who you are and your worthiness of love and acceptance.  We begin to veer off from who we are that we’ve decided isn’t ________ enough and begin trying to be whatever it is that we believe we need to be to be    ________ enough to be picked, liked, popular, accepted, loved.  We become an imposter version of ourselves and who we think we’re supposed to be instead of the real version of who we are.  When we do this we’re polluting ourselves and our relationships, and cheating the world out of who God made us to be.  The real version of who we are is exactly who this world needs to know.

 

I believed I wasn’t ______ enough for my friend. She believed she wasn’t ________ enough for me. We were both wrong. We now both understand that neither needs to be perfect, and that there’s so much potential between us as long as we live loved rather than rejected~ believing that what we bring to the table has more good than garbage, more potential than poison, more life than death because grace fills in the cracks. Grace for ourselves, grace for each other, grace from God.

Here’s what I want you to absorb this week, the statement I want you to hold on to…

“We can learn to live loved by recognizing that

the rejection we experience affects us but may not be about us.”

Live loved friends,

Tammy

 

This week’s small group discussion & journal questions: 

  1. What were your biggest takeaways from chapters 7 & 8?
  2. After seeing how Abigail responded to rejection, Is it possible that in some of the rejections you’ve experienced in the past that maybe the rejection had to do more with what was going on in that person than what wasn’t “good enough” about you?
  3. When an opportunity arises~ do you tend to be a person to de escalate or instigate conflict?
  4. If you can think of one, share a rejection experience that you can now see had more to do with THAT person’s past rejection experiences than to do with your current situation? Is there a lie about yourself you’ve held onto that you need to confess and let go in light of this new perspective?
  5. Read Proverbs 15:1. How has a soft answer from someone changed the course of your actions or your response in a tense situation?
  6. Spend some time praying together as you cultivate these truths into your lives.

 

 

Cultivate Book Blub

Friendship Breakups are a Real Thing!

Friendship breakups are a real thing!

Week 4 of Cultivate Book Club Fall 2016

Chapters 5 & 6 of Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst

There must be like 5.2 bazillion songs out there about couples breaking up. Seriously, you can search the radio stations at any given time and find at least one song on a station talking about  the heartache of a couple breaking up. WHY?… because breaking up sucks! It breaks our hearts, it leaves us wounded, and it feels really really bad and sucky.  And mostly because… everyone can relate! When we break up with a boyfriend there’s so much room to lament over it, there’s language to use to describe it, and there’s a basic universal understanding that it’s a painful thing.  However, when it comes to a  friendship break up… not so much.  There’s no songs to lean into or speak to the condition of our hearts. When someone asks “what’s wrong?” it just seems weird to say “Me and Suzy broke up”. But friendship breaks up are real. I wish they weren’t but they are. I know this because I’ve experienced them first hand. And regardless of if you’re the breakup’er or the breakup’ee~ it still sucks!  I’ve been both the unfriended and the unfriender.

At first thought it seems like it’s much better to be the breakup’er doesn’t it? Because then it’s YOU making the choice instead of having the choice made for you. However, having been the unfriender/breakup’er myself before I’m here to tell you that it still sucks! It sucks (and just get ready because I’m going to use the word ‘suck’ a bazillion times because there’s few other words that accurately describe what we’re talking about here) when a friendship that once was the pinnacle of joy for you now is a source of sorrow. It’s quite crazy making actually to try to figure out HOW something and someone that once was so life giving is now causing you pain, frustration, and sucking your soul dry. I know in the few situations I’ve been in like this, the unfriending was never the first  choice, rather it’s was ALWAYS a last resort.

It sucks when you have to come to terms with the truth that the friendship that once was no longer is.  Sometimes the reasons are super clear, “something” happened!  It’s someone’s fault! There is clear blame.  Other times it’s sorta a mystery. Sometimes it’s loud, ugly, in your face, messy.  Other times,  quiet, passive aggressive, distant, and cold (I could argue that this is the worst of the two for me). But, for whatever reason, you feel the friendship as it is (and I think it’s very important to note the phrase as it is here because despite how much you wish it was what it was~ you have to come to terms with what it is)  needs to come to an end. Maybe there’s a competitive spirit involved, maybe it’s lying, anger, co dependency, or jealousy. Maybe the friendship isn’t family friendly (meaning it causes strife among your immediate family members… ie. husband or children).  Is it a friendship that is bonded in being against others or rooted in gossip~ meaning if you made a pact to not talk about anyone else… would you guys still have anything to say? Maybe the friendship isn’t encouraging you to be a better version of yourself, but you see yourself being the worst version of yourself when you’re together.  Maybe it’s a friendship that pulls you away from Jesus instead of pushing you towards Him. Whatever the case, you just know that you know that it isn’t good for you. I think it’s also important to note that being the breakup’er also doesn’t mean that you want it more than the other person, it might just mean that you were brave enough to do it first.  I know for me I spend a lot, like a lot a LOT, of time wishing things were different, wishing what has happened wasn’t true, wishing it was what it once was.  There’s never been a time when I was the breakup’er that I was happy or excited about it. Even as the unfriender, my heart has been broken… I mean B-R-O-K-E-N! There’s never been a time I didn’t grieve and my heart didn’t ache for a long period of time. No one wins when friendships break up, not even the breakup’er.

 

When you’re the breakup’ee, even if  you have all of the above knowledge and feelings, now rejection has been added into the mix, and let’s be honest… now all we focus on is the sting of the rejection~ even if we know it’s best and right for us too. That’s the thing about rejection~ it completely clouds our judgement and causes us to live feeling anything but loved.  Being unfriended (aka rejected) sucks! Sucks so bad! Especially if it’s not what we want at all.  It makes us question ourselves and others. It can make us call into question our value and worth. “If this person doesn’t like me anymore, am I likeable?” Sometimes we feel replaced or we actually are (let’s just be real) replaced by someone else, this happens. Being replaced sucks.  I literally have had a situation in my life where I would see my (ex) friend and think to myself,  “there’s her new Tammy”.  Guess how that feels? You guessed it… it feels SUCKY!  No one wins in a friendship breakup, especially the breakup’ee because they now only have the loss BUT also the sting and lies rejection leaves with us.

So why do friendships breakup? The answer to this… for a bazillion different reasons, but most of all because we’re a broken people. We’re broken, they’re broken, two broken people in a relationship are going to, well… have some breaks. You’re messy broken places are going to come out on them, and their messy  broken places are going to come out towards you. There’s no getting around this. This is us living in a fallen, broken, sinful world. Some people’s brokenness is going to rub your brokenness all wrong, and your brokenness is going to rub their brokenness all wrong. Typically when we start out as friends we’re in a best foot forward/honeymoon phase. Everything is fun, easy, natural… and then! And then, eventually, as time goes on and life get’s real… inevitably there’s going to be rub. And why some friendships can withstand more rubs than others I have no idea but they just do. And the one’s who can’t… they breakup.

Whether you’re the breakup’er or the breakup’ee here are somethings I know to be true when it comes to friendship breakups:

“THEY” are not the devil.

Although the friendship is over… that person isn’t the devil himself.  STOP IT,  they’re not! You yourself used to love them dearly. WHY?… because there is something loveable about them. In the friendships I’ve lost, especially the one’s that hurt me the most, regardless of who unfriended who, I now try to remind myself of the things that are really great about that person. Which, in the spirit of being real, sometimes is like rubbing salt in the wound because it makes me miss those things, miss what was. BUT it’s still the right thing to do~ to remember the good in them.  If we don’t, we put ourselves in harms way of being prideful and bitter. Two things that are spiritual cancers to our souls. Not worth it I tell you!

“THEY” are not your enemy.

God’s word tell us…

“we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

We have to trust this to be true! We have a real enemy, and as much as it might feel like it,  it is not each other.  Just because a friend isn’t good for YOU doesn’t mean they aren’t good at all. Remember this friends. This matters!  When we are at odds with each other, when we are against each other… we are much more likely  to fall into sin. We dig our heels into being right, so much so that we become so very wrong. We justify unforgiveness, we consider ourselves better than each other when the bible tells us to do just the opposite. All of this~ is a win for our real enemy. The one who wants us to do anything but live loved. The bible says he comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  When we forget who our real enemy is, satan, we do his dirty work for him.  All the while being completely distracted from our true calling, identity, and purpose in Christ. Not to mention being anything BUT a light to this world. Instead, we perpetuate darkness.  Yikes right?! 

And finally,

Friendships are for a season.  

As much as we all wish this wasn’t true, it is. In our heart of hearts we women really do want the idea of the BFFEAE (best friends for ever and ever) to be the real thing.  Some seasons are longer than others, but season’s are still seasons. And instead of being upset that a season with someone ended (even if it ended poorly), instead try to be grateful that there was a season at all. For a time that person was life giving to you, they brought you joy, laughter, companionship. God brought you together for a purpose. In this season~ He had something for each of you to  experience and learn together. Maybe they walked through hard times with you or you with them, maybe you achieved something together (like survived high school, or college, or med school), maybe you were neighbors, or coworkers and that intersected your paths. Whatever it was that brought you together~ be grateful. Thank God for the sweet season in your life, for the person they were to you, for the joy they brought to you, for the things you learned, for the life that was had. By doing this simple act of gratitude you choose grace instead of bitterness. No season is ever a waste, each has it’s own unique beauty and struggle.  Appreciate the beauty of the season

You guys, it’s OK to be sad that things are different, I know I am! It’s natural to miss the good times, to wish things hadn’t changed, but that’s not where we stay~ it’s not real (anymore).  But just because that’s not the real you guys anymore doesn’t mean (and this is what I hope you remember most) that you must be enemies now. It absolutely does not!! It means you aren’t close friends anymore. Here’s what you and I are responsible for…

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

As far as depends on us, live at peace… with the friends who used to be some of our best friends but now we’re not friends anymore… as much as it depends on us~ still be kind to those people.  Whether you were the breakup’er or the breakup’ee… you’re still called to be at peace. And peace in these situations most likely will come in the form of kindness.  Saying hello and a smile when you bump into each other at Target, a simple happy birthday text, or maybe just NOT talking about them behind their backs… all of these are simple acts of kindness. Simple and totally doable! Trust me when I tell you that the fewer enemies you have out there, the better off you’ll be.

Recently I’ve found myself in somewhat of a friendship breakup and my heart is still currently broken.  These are not things I say to you from a place of having conquered them, I’m saying them to you while I’m still ‘in’ them.  As I’ve navigated and wrestled with it, with the who’s fault, with the why’s, with the wishing it was what it was and not what it is, reminding myself they’re not the devil, that they’re not an enemy. All of this! And like I’m encouraging you to do… trying to navigate kindness in what is our new normal. I’ll tell you~ it hasn’t been easy, but I know it’s worth it. I’ve sent  texts letting them know how thankful I am for our season… you know why? because I am. When I see them, I say hi, even if I have to muster up the courage and humility to say it first. Pride wants me to wait for them to say it first, but gratitude and grace urges me to say it first because you know why… as far as depends on me I want to be at peace. 

Friendship breakups suck!<<Told you I was gonna say it a ton>> They just do, there’s no denying it, but in the midst of and in spite of…  we need to remember that although that friendship didn’t work out~ we are still worthy of love and belonging, that there is still great friendships to be had, and that regardless of others we are still deeply and unconditionally loved by God.

Live loved friends,

Tammy

 

This week’s statement to hold on to:

“God’s faithfulness is not dependant on my faithfulness” ~ Becca Boganwright

This week’s small group discussion & journal questions: 

  1. In what ways have you been wounded by others that have affected your capacity to trust?
  2. What relationship in your life do you wish you could mend?
  3. How have you allowed your mistrust in people affect your trust in God? Mark 9:24 – “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” Think about the areas that you trust God and the areas that you don’t. Bring this prayer to Him and allow Him to help your areas of unbelief.
  4. What is one specific way you can be a part of mending someone else’s mistrust in people and/or God?
  5. What were your biggest “takeaways” from Chapters 5 and 6?

 

Cultivate Book Blub

Confession: I’m a Manipulator

Confession: I’m a Manipulator

Week 3 of Cultivate Book Club Fall 2016

Chapters 3 & 4 of Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst

Hi~ I’m Tammy, and I’m a manipulator!

Starting off with those words just feels honest. I don’t consider myself a manipulator, but as I’m becoming real with myself and God about my struggles with others and the issue of rejection, I know it’s true. HOW do I manipulate, you ask? Great question. I manipulate with secret strings of expectations. Expectations I have of others, of which they are completely unaware of, but nonetheless they are there. And as I myself am on the journey of living loved, I’m becoming increasingly aware that much of me not feeling loved, has to do with these secret unmet expectations.

Here’s how this looks for me… I do things for others! Good things. Things that are kind, loving, and serving. These are good things to do, and some part of the doing is rooted in right motives. BUT I’m realizing that an even greater motivation for me lies in these secret expectations. Expectations that if I do for others… all that doing will somehow boomerang back to me, and it’ll earn me love.

Key words here: earn love

And then… I’ll be earning SO MUCH LOVE with all this doing, that surely I’ll feel loved… like really really loved.

Except~ here’s the thing. It didn’t work… It’s still not working! I struggle feeling loved.

Instead I find myself exhausted, constantly comparing the perceived return others are getting for their doing, versus the return I’m getting for my doing… which leaves me bitter and angry and not feeling loved at all! Quite the opposite in fact, it leaves me feeling heartbroken> which makes me feel unsafe> which makes me withdraw> which causes deep divides in friendships> which causes me to feel alone> which leaves me feeling unloved!

“But I….” sent you flowers, bought your lunch, remembered your birthday, let you go first, took you on vacation, let you live in my house, remembered your kids’ special events, made your party really special, listened to your sorrows for hours on end, instead of doing homework with my children or cooking dinner for my husband… the “BUT I’s” are endless. And what I’m really saying is…WHAT ABOUT ME?! Remember all the things?……… You owe me. You owe me love!

SO tangled, messy, and ugly, I know!

But what’s even worse than admitting all of this ^ ^ ^ is realizing that although I say God is first in my life, how not true it’s actually turned out to be. You see, much of my doing does have God in mind… What would He want me to do? What would He want this person to know about his/her worth? But the doing isn’t out of a place of love, it’s out of a place to feel loved. Instead of looking to God to feel loved, I look to others to define my value and worth, and worthiness of love. The doing is somewhat of an acrobatic trick. Like…..“Hey~ look at me! Awesome, right.” (insert ‘thumbs up’ emoji here) RIGHT?! (insert ‘BIG eye-stressed face’ emoji here) I let my value, my worth, my sense of worthiness for love, rise and fall on others. And, as you might imagine, this has turned out to be disastrous for this girl.

So how do I cut ties with this unhealthy, emotionally draining, bitterness seeding, exhausting pattern of trying to earn love?

Good question. I’ll let you know when I figure it out! 🙂 J/K

But seriously~ by getting REAL! REAL is just the starting point!
Real with the fact that I first look for love from others, instead of God. That I put a higher value on the love of others, than the love He has for me. By admitting that I have secret motives when I do things for others. And most importantly, that as much as I want to believe God comes first in my life~ He actually hasn’t/isn’t. Evidence for this looks like this……. He doesn’t have the first moments of my day~ that’s typically reserved for checking Instagram (because seriously~ what could I have possibly missed from just hours before when I went to bed?). He doesn’t have my first attention.That attention is reserved for thoughts like these….… “Hmmm what can I do today so someone will think I’m awesome (( and love me))?”. In reality, He’s over there all like… “I’m right here, I already love you~ no doing necessary”. He isn’t my first go-to when I need help or advice, instead I spend hours worrying, playing through scenarios of how I can best control the outcomes, or I text friends. Prayer of course comes later… after I’m completely stressed out of my mind. I realize that thinking about God, and talking to others about God isn’t the same as spending time with God… and I haven’t been doing much of that. Yep… these are some of the things I’m having to be REAL about.  John 15:7 says,

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you,

ask whatever you wish and it will done for you.”

And what do I wish for? I wish to be loved! And the truth is… I never feel more loved than when I’m abiding in Him. When I spend time reading His word, soaking it in, letting it convict me, shape me, cleanse me, love me. And when I abide in Him, when I give Him my first moments, when I go to Him first with my everything-going-on in my life… I feel loved. Loved in the deepest places in my soul. When I abide… I’m reminded that He delights in me, that He dwells with me, and that I am not alone. And I know that when I do this, I’m good! I know who I am, and what I’m worth. And I don’t have to hustle to do for others, as a reminder. I already know. When I’m abiding in Him~ all the doing for others comes out of the right motives, not the secret one with strings attached.

So the answer to “How do I cut ties with this unhealthy, emotionally draining, bitterness seeding, exhausting pattern of trying to earn love?” Get Real + Abide!

And this is my recommendation to you, as you journey towards living loved as well….Get Real about where you’re looking for love, and what behaviors you’re doing to find it. Are there any hidden motives involved? Do you struggle (like me) feeling loved by others because you have unrealistic expectations that honestly no one could ever meet, and how these unmet/unrealistic expectations might be at the root of some of the rejection experiences that have caused us to question our worthiness of love? Then ABIDE. Let Him be the source that is filling you with love. Be reminded that He delights in you and dwells in you. When you are full of His love, you will be more able to live loved!

Live loved friends,
Tammy

 

This week’s statement to hold on to:

“If I’m rooted,  rejection may discourage me but it won’t destroy me” ~ Melody Workman

This week’s small group discussion & journal questions: 

  1. Was there a time in your life when you experienced rejection? What was that like and how did you feel?
  1. Why does isolation feel safer than connection sometimes? Do you struggle with going into your “cave” when you’ve been rejected?
  1. Read Ephesians 3:14-19. What do these verses tell you about Jesus’ love for you? How does that make you feel?
  1. What’s your biggest struggle with living loved? How can you practice this on a daily basis?
  1. Is there someone you have rejected? Or treated unfairly? Is there someone who has rejected you? How can you reach out to them with the love of Jesus this week?
  1. Spend time praying together. That each one of you can live these truths out in practical ways this week.