Monthly Archives: February 2016

Getting Unstuck: The Recap

 

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What an amazing, awestruck, beautiful, intense, engaging day! We are almost two weeks out from our last day-of event for women and I am still hearing stories of life change! Nothing, absolutely nothing is better than that! At the day’s end, after hearing stories of God helping women get unstuck, after exercises and reflection, after reading scriptures that help unstick us, after being honest with ourselves, after breakout classes that covered everything from getting unstuck from all the clutter to getting unstuck in fear and a myriad of other options, after hearing from Erik Johnson, an amazing counselor who challenged us to think about thinking, we opened ourselves to Let God love us.

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As a team, we had prayed and sculpted, planned and sewed, shopped and crafted, and at the day’s end we knew the greatest favor we could give ourselves as women was time to just simply be loved by God. For it is His love that ultimately chases us down and unsticks us if we allow Him to enter our stuck places. So we planned for a time of worship to allow Him to meet us where we find ourselves. And we even planned for these beautiful red hearts to float out of the lofty and high ceilings of First Presbyterian Church. But what we didn’t plan for was this….

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As women were crying out to God to meet them in their marriages, in their pain, in their complacency, in their stuck dreams, these red hearts began fluttering down out of the sky while the worship band led us in song, singing “Oh what love…” And in a moment of spontaneity, little Everly, a daughter of one of the women on the Collide team, lifted her face toward the hearts falling out of the sky. It was like they were calling her. She put one foot in front of the other and slowly walked up to the stage. At one moment she looked back at her mama as if to ask “Iiiiiis it ok?” Both her mom and I nodded a yes, go, having no idea what she was going to do.

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She stood on the stage and allowed the hearts to fall upon her. She stood unabashedly as if the hundreds of other women were not even there. With no care in the world she stretched out her arms and received them. She danced under them. She grabbed them and threw them up to fall upon her again. It was the most beautiful moment. Almost as if God Himself was inviting every women in that room to be like a child again, free of fear, free of insecurity, free of all the reasons we struggle to believe we are loved, and to just stand under His love and let it fall on us. We couldn’t have planned something more beautiful than this spontaneous moment that left us all wanting more. I am blessed by these days and am in awe at how God shows up in ways I do not expect, nor deserve. He is a God who loves His daughters and His love is here, present for us to dance under.

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May we stretch out our arms, and by faith believe His love is for us too. And then may we dance unabashedly.

Here are some pictures that capture a bit of the day we experienced… (to see more, like us on Facebook and there are loads more:)
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Some of the resources from the day are up on our resources page...

Register now for our next day of (it’s actually going to be night of) event for women!

Or keep colliding here….

My Moments of Thankfulness by Angie Blackwell

Angie has been on the Collide team for years and her main role is team care. She is a woman who thinks about others and what they are going through. And then she is a woman that wants to enter into whatever that is and bring comfort, care and hope. I love her words here as she describes her journey over the past few years in choosing thankfulness and what has come out of that. She is a woman that inspires us to care and comfort others in pain and inspires us to find joy and gratitude in our own places of need. May her thankfulness fuel yours. – Willow

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Two years ago I began a quest of sorts: to live a life of thankfulness. As I reflect on the past two years, I realize I have lived a lot of life.  Many things are new and different; where I was emotionally two years ago versus today, friends, ages of my girls, and jobs.  New memories and new moments are everywhere.   By no means have the past two years been easy, but they have been manageable and often times filled with joy.  

As I have purposefully changed my perspective to be thankful in all things- to notice the seconds and moments of joy and blessing that are passing in front of me- I have found the discouraging and life-sucking moments have become less scary or overwhelming.  It amazes me how much of life truly is about perspective.  I want to live a life full of moments of thankfulness.  

Love….bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7)

I am thankful for LOVE.  The mushy, cuddle on the couch, can’t-get-close-enough-to-my-husband kind of love.  The feeling that I always hoped for as a young girl; that happy feeling you get when your husband notices you and truly sees you.  I love the moments when in the midst of the chaos of our lives, I find love with my husband.  Love in a touch, a smile, a quick hug, or just saying thank you for loving me today.  I am thankful for these moments because they are not always there.  I don’t always like him, he doesn’t always like me.  But when we began to purposefully find those moments, search them out, those simple acts of love and recognition, we grew more in love.  The work has to be done and effort must be given.  Loving and being thankful for your spouse is not a lottery, I don’t just win these feelings.  I fight for these feelings and for this time.  I am thankful for love.  I am thankful that we have chosen to fight together for those moments.

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

I am thankful for second chances.  Too many times over the past two years I have made the wrong choice, said the wrong thing, given the wrong advice.  I need second chances, desperately.  I am thankful that my two incredible daughters give me second chances.  When I have snapped at them or not let them express their feelings, they have been gracious, forgiving and given me a second chance.  My family, friends, husband, employees have all handed me second chances.  I want a life filled with offering and receiving second chances.  

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

I am thankful for moments of grief.  These past two years I have grieved too many hurts.  I have grieved the loss of friendship, the loss of marriages, endured my kids’ heartaches, and the death of a best friend.  Grief rips open my heart and stomps on it. Grief is not simple, easy or explainable.  Grief is pain at the most intimate level.  Grief is ugly, fierce, painful and never ending.  There is grief that will sit next to me for the rest of my life.  Grief so deep and fierce that it has left a hole in my heart and soul that will never be filled, dreams that should have been future memories.  

I despise this heartache but in the same breathe I am thankful for what it has taught me.  The grief of losing friendship has taught me how to be a better friend.  The grief of watching a friend’s marriage end has taught me to be thankful for mine, and to fight for it.  Grief has forced me to be introspective on how I feel, what I see as truth, and honestly, how to heal.  It has altered my life perspective and softened my heart to be more gracious to all around me.  The untold story of grief, that each of us carry, should not be carried alone.  I am thankful that grief has taught me to treasure each moment, walk in forgiveness, and live graciously.  

Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. (Psalm 139:10)

I am thankful for change.  I am weird; I like change. I know, it’s weird.  I like to move houses, apartments, furniture, rearrange things, reshuffle, reorganize, change.  I am thankful for change.  I love it when someone is bold and changes something and it works much better.  These past two years I have seen physical change in my family.  My husband started a new job, I have a high schooler, and I am in my last year with an elementary age kid.  

The emotional and spiritual changes in my life over the past two years have been intense.  I have found my joy again.  It astonishes me that choosing to alter my perspective, forgiving people, and letting go of bitterness has returned my joy.  So often our reaction to life issues causes us to draw into ourselves and become bitter.  We lose our joy, our zest for life, and those moments of thankfulness are lost.  This can change us into bitter, wounded, broken people.  Choosing to say, “It is well with my soul,” doesn’t change any wound or circumstance, but it changes us.  My perspective changes; thankfulness brings joy.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)

I am thankful for friends.  I have the greatest friends, I truly do.  I have friends that I cry, laugh, snort, eat, shop, work out, vacation, play and raise kids with.  I want everyone to have my friends.  A friend makes me a better mom, wife, employee, daughter and friend.  The hard part of friendship is being willing to put myself out there and trust.  We all are wounded, hurt and scared.  Trusting someone with parts of who I am is scary.  What if they think I’m weird or broken?  Well, I am weird and broken.  Everyone is weird and broken.  We need friends.  We need friends who will speak truth and life into our hearts.  Pursue friends who challenge you and make you a better person.  I know that I let my friends down; I have hurt them and wounded them, but we still fight for each other.  Friendship is necessary.  My heart is so full of thankfulness for the beautiful friends God has given me.

Before I decided to change my perspective, to be thankful in all things, I believe that I was stuck.  I had a friend tell me I had changed; that I was different, that I wasn’t as happy as I had been.  She was right.  I let my circumstances dictate how I was living.  I did not invite God to hold my hurts or carry my burdens.  He wasn’t invited to be a part of my sorrow or heartache.  I was going it alone and it was lonely.  I wanted more, so I pursued thankfulness.  What did it mean to be thankful?  How could I find joy when I wanted to scream?  I bought a notebook and started writing: what I loved, who I loved, and what I was thankful for.  It takes time and I fall short every day, but I passionately want to live a life full of joy and thankfulness.  I want to recognize the moments when they are in front of me, and be thankful.

The Voice by Hillary Thomsen

Hillary just shared this last weekend at Collide and boy did her bravery bless us! I love how she is facing her pain, the divorce she never wanted, starting over and “the voice” with such courage and grace. Allow her story to bless yours! – Willowhillary my story

This past holiday season was the first I was single again. Last year I was married and living in

Eastern Washington. I was in a miserable relationship, but the voice in my head said it was what I deserved, that I had made my bed and now I had to writhe around in agony in it. I had made a covenant, so that was that.

This year, the voice told me I was all alone, that I had my chance and screwed it up, reminded me I was lonely and single again, and now: divorced.

It’s still hard to say that word, to admit that brokenness. I was so hopeful…and idealistic. I met someone, ignored numerous red flags (because THIS WAS GOING TO WORK, DARN IT) and gave up a life I loved in Bellingham to move across the state to start a life together. Back then, there was a voice telling me this was good enough, as good as I was going to get anyway, and if I tried very hard, he would change and we would be happy.

To say it was humbling to move back after filing for a divorce three years later, would be a little “soft”…it felt shameful. I returned home admitting I chose wrong. This wasn’t “it”. Despite how hard I fought to make it work, I couldn’t. I failed.

The voice started in, reminding me of my failure constantly. “You’re back and worse off than you were before. DIVORCED. 40 pounds heavier. Deeper in debt.” And worst of all, “You’re a disappointment to your community that supported you.”

The overwhelming shame and regret was debilitating. Every time I ran into a friend around town or at church, and had to explain, “No, I’m not just here visiting…I’ve actually moved back—we decided to get divorced…” was brutal. Though most people were quite wonderful—very accepting, understanding, and encouraging—regardless of what people said, the voice drowned them out. “This is so disappointing. Did you REALLY try? You shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place, that was a mistake, you should have known better. But since you did get married…you made a covenant. God wanted you to honor that. You don’t belong here anymore.”

It was with this voice ringing in my ears that I walked into the Collide event last May. There I heard a different narrative: There is no condemnation, but abundant grace being poured out. I am forgiven and being made new. I am loved, and beautiful, and enough…just as I am.

That event also opened the door for me to begin counseling, and start opposing the voice I had become used to accepting as truth.

When I started counseling, my goals were to productively grieve my failed marriage and divorce, and forgive myself and my ex-husband. I had so much shame and resentment I knew I needed to work through and release. I didn’t expect to discover that so much of my struggle pointed back to the voice I was listening to. I’ve been living with this voice for as long as I can remember, and it’s not mine. Or God’s. Or my loving community’s. It doesn’t speak truth, it only reminds me of my failings and holds me down in shame.

I am learning to recognize the voice in all its forms, and the areas it tends to pipe up in. The day I realized all the voices that have accompanied me throughout my life were actually the same voice…well, I’m a little embarrassed to admit how mind-blowing that was! The voice that told me I wasn’t popular enough to go to prom, was the same voice that told me I should settle in my marriage, and was the same voice who told me I had blown my chance at love and happiness. The voice that told me I was only qualified to live the life I wanted after I lost a ton of weight, was the same voice that told me I was a disappointment to my wedding guests now that my marriage was over.

I’m getting better at recognizing the voice, and continue to work at standing up to it. Recently I’ve realized a big part of why I struggle so much in identifying and combating (or simply just ignoring) the voice is because it’s so closely tied to my own. But when I am able to identify it, I try to overpower it again with what I know to be true, what I am reminded of at Collide, and by so many who love me: There is no condemnation, but abundant grace being poured out. I am forgiven and being made new. I am loved, and beautiful, and enough, just as I am.

 

If you want to read more stories that encourage your life and faith, subscribe to the Collide blog on the right and they will come right to you as soon as they are posted!

Getting Unstuck Responses by Laurie Arndorfer

Laurie Arndorfer is a psychiatrist at Western Washington University as well as treasured woman on the Collide team. She brings a spiritual wisdom and human understanding that is invaluable. As we plan the next day for women coming up on the topic of Getting Unstuck, Laurie lays out some really interesting responses we often when we are stuck and how to combat them. I encourage you to read this! – Willow

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Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” John 5:8

As I have been preparing my heart for the upcoming Collide on Saturday, I have been thinking about what it means to be stuck and what it means to get unstuck.   There are so many ways that we women can become stuck, and these can be subtle or not so subtle.  Some ways that come to mind are the comparison trap, negative thinking about ourselves, isolation, being too busy, people pleasing, trying to fill a hole inside that only God can fill with things like relationships, focusing too much on our children, sexual choices, an eating disorder, or an addiction.  Most of us don’t want to be “stuck” in painful living.  But despite wanting to get well, a lot of things might get in our way.

Sometimes we start off with a lot of energy toward something, then realize how much back-breaking, soul-stretching work it is going to take, and stop moving forward, feeling paralyzed by all that lies ahead.  I think that’s the “fear” response.

Sometimes we say we want to get well to please someone, but in truth we aren’t ready to get off the mat for ourselves.  I think that’s the “wrong motivations” response.

Sometimes we want to get well but other priorities take over and choke the life out of our good intentions.  I think that’s the “life strikes” response.

Sometimes we want to get well but we don’t think we are worth what it will take to get there.  We become comfortable in our old habits and hang-ups. Those feel easier than the unknown and we don’t think we are capable of more, or don’t think God is really offering full forgiveness and healing.  This is the “broken” response.  

With so many distractions, how do we get unstuck?

If “fear” is the culprit, it may be to take the next small step that God puts in front of us.  Pray, read and meditate on scripture having to do with fear.  Surrender all cares to Jesus.  Look at the problem in small chunks instead of one big overwhelming situation to deal with.  Ask the help of trusted friends or seek counseling for ways to combat fear.  Write out the long-term goal and the short-term steps to get there.  Consider a book such as “Mind Monsters,”  “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway,” or “A Better Way to Think” to combat negative thinking that gets in the way of taking a leap of faith.

If “wrong motivations” are the culprit, perhaps we aren’t quite ready to do what we know needs to be done.  Here I think doing some journaling or talking to trusted others or a counselor to discover what it is that we really want is the first step.  Perhaps what we are really stuck in is people-pleasing rather than what we originally identified the problem to be.  If that is the case, the first step is to build our own voice/assertiveness and learn to trust our own judgments. This can be accomplished through counseling, prayer, and/or utilizing various resources such as the books “Your Perfect Right” or “When I say no, I feel guilty.”

If “life strikes” then perhaps the best thing to do is to address the immediate crisis first.  Even though we know that we have to deal with something in order to follow God’s call, we may have to deal with what He puts in front of our face first.  So, if someone needs treatment for depression to get unstuck, but then finds out that their child is critically ill, they naturally must deal with their child’s issue first, then wait to hear from God about next steps.  The depression goes on the back burner for the time being, but can’t be ignored entirely.

If it’s the “broken” response, the need is to learn to see our significance in God’s eyes prior to being able to get off the mat.  Worthlessness is a heavy rock on top of us, keeping us down when we want to get up.  People use so many ways (avoidance, gambling, sex, drugs/alcohol, eating disorders, busyness) to ignore the feelings of worthlessness, but they will only go away with the light of Christ.  Suggestions for getting unstuck from brokenness are again counseling, utilizing tools such as the book “Search for Significance” by Robert McGee, again “Mind Monsters,” or pouring over scripture and memorizing what God says about us rather than the negative messages we may be telling ourselves.  

The process of getting well and getting off the mat is a marathon, not a sprint.  I think that is the key.  We can’t do it alone.   We must realize that in our own strength, we cannot get well. We need the power and the presence of God to go with us on the path to get well.  Only in asking God to take charge, daily, sometimes multiple times per day, can this begin to happen.  

God gave us particular issues to deal with, which can feel overwhelming, but he has also equipped us to deal with those very issues.  He wired us a certain way for a reason.  Whatever keeps us stuck holds within it the key to how we can get unstuck, and in turn, help others to get unstuck.  We are all bonded together in Christ’s family.  We weren’t meant to go it alone.  We can help each other!  And He will help us to overcome whatever it is that is keeping us stuck, if we will only ask. -Laurie

We’d love for you to join us this Saturday, February 6th as we explore Getting Unstuck. Please register here– we’re getting ready for you and are so excited to see what God has in store for the day!