Category Archives: Your Stories

Each one of us has a story, and everyday adds adventure, romance, mystery, and drama. But being alone in our stories is a very lonely, disconnected place to be. We have opportunities all the time to connect with people by keeping it real. The more authentic we can be in telling our story as it really is, the more our stories will experience God’s grace, transformation and rescue. Enter into this community by reading the stories of others and gaining courage to start sharing your own.

Yoga Mat Collisions by Caroline Williams

The Your stories blogs are a place where women can bravely and authentically tell their story as it really is. We invite women to collide with Jesus and share how He is meeting them, transforming them and redeeming them. We hope this “your story” meets you in yours…

There I was, lying on a yoga mat six inches away from my sweaty Lululemon-clad neighbor, packed like a sardine into a stuffy yoga studio in Washington, DC. The cheap portable speakers played some music you would only ever hear in an overpriced spa. There we all lay, eyes closed, blissed out after stretching and twisting and backbending for an hour.

This was the part of the class called Savasana (translated from Sanskrit as Corpse Pose) where we were all supposed to lie there peacefully, not fidget, and not think about the list of errands you have to run or the first thing you’re going to eat as soon as you’re dismissed from the stuffy blissed out sardine room.

I was having a problem though.

I could not stop the tears streaming from my eyes, down my cheeks, and pooling in my ears. The snot was coming hot and heavy along with the tears, but The Rules of Savasana kept me from wiping either my nose or my ears (where the pools of tears were now overflowing down my neck and into my hair). In a yoga class where the teacher talked about how we all should be a little kinder to ourselves and each other, I felt the presence of God thicker than I ever have outside of a small handful of church services.

“DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU?! DO YOU KNOW HOW PROUD I AM OF YOU?!” the Voice both whispered and roared, over and over, its truth hitting me like the power of hurricane winds in a heart that had not heard those words or felt that Presence, in a very long time.

My body shook with the silent sobs of surrender.

I had practiced yoga on and off for years, loving the physical workout and the emphasis on being present and mindful. As a busy, ambitious, people-pleaser, I always struggled with carving out “quiet time” with God, never being able to really quiet the external and internal distractions. But I always worried a little about the statues of Ganesh or Buddha in the studios I visited. To assuage my anxiety I’d throw up a quick prayer asking God to protect my heart/forgive me if I was, in fact, doing something evil.

That moment on my yoga mat, covered in tears and snot, was not really an anomaly but was becoming a pretty regular occurrence. There was something about moving and breathing, not being able to do anything else for that hour except be present, that opened the door for the Holy Spirit to have some room to speak – “ahh,” He seemed to say, “finally…now I have your attention.” His voice broke through all the noise and Buddha statues and spoke to my weary heart.

Fast forward a few years, a couple of yoga trainings, and a career move (so long politics, hello health + wellness!). Today I practice and teach a style of yoga called Holy Yoga, a beautiful collision of the physical practice of yoga with the Truth of the Gospel woven in. In a Holy Yoga class we play worship music, infuse Scripture into the practice, and use that time moving and breathing as a worshipful experience to connect with God in our heart, soul, and body. I have the great joy to teach those classes in my community and online via my YouTube channel.

What I’ve learned through this journey, is that God doesn’t just exist in a Sunday church service or in the pages of a Bible you scroll through on the way to work. He is a living God, active in the world around us and eager to speak to us in and about every aspect of our lives. You and I and the woman next to you are made uniquely, able to hear and experience God in our own way. He’s eager to speak if only we make ourselves available to listen.

For some of us that might mean practicing yoga. Or maybe it’s running, writing, drawing, cooking, or knitting. Go and do that thing you love doing, that thing that makes you feel like YOU, and in the midst of your run or your recipe, pause for a second. Close your eyes. And just talk to God. It doesn’t have to be formal or complicated, but can be as simple as Thank You. Invite Him into the moment, acknowledge His presence, and give Him room to speak. He is always there. He hears you. And He can’t wait to tell you how in love with you He is.

The Joy of Mentoring by Sue Likkel

The Your stories blogs are a place where women can bravely and authentically tell their story as it really is. We invite women to collide with Jesus and share how He is meeting them, transforming them and redeeming them. We hope this “your story” meets you in yours…

I usually keep this a big secret and don’t tell anyone new this, but I have to out myself:  I have chronic illnesses.  Not one, but four.  Big deal, you might say, why keep that to yourself?  Well…here’s one reason:

I want to be seen as an active person.   Being an extrovert and strong type A personality, I’m someone who likes to be a do-er, to say yes, volunteer, sign-up, work an extra hour….you know the annoying type.  They’re always on the go and get way more done than the average person. You may have noticed I said “likes to be” because that was the old me.  Actually, that’s the me on the inside, but the outside me just won’t allow it. When those two are competing every day within the same body – having the desire to do but not the ability to do – it’s very, very frustrating.  It makes me question much about myself and even God’s plan for how He wired me, yet not allowing me to use my gifts.

It was at a low emotional point (one of many) when I began to pick up the pace in asking God what His plan was in all this.  Why create me to be active, then sideline me?  It made no sense.  At that time, my church began a ministry where volunteers would receive training, then “Walk alongside the hurting for as long as it takes.”  My husband and a few friends urged me to sign up to have a shepherd, someone who could hear my frustrations, encourage me and make the emotional load a little lighter.  It wasn’t long and I received a call from an upbeat, positive and sweet gal.  She was the one I had hoped would call and we hit it off immediately.  We took slow walks, talked on the phone and I listened as she talked about the issues in her life.  

After a few months, our contact became less often and then I didn’t hear from her at all.  After waiting an appropriate amount of me, I asked if she was okay and she said she quit calling me because she “didn’t know what to say.”

Thud went my heart.  To hear that as a sad and lonely person….that hurt.  I guess this isn’t something I can do, I thought. But God was about to answer my prayer in another way.  That same week He urged me to go to a different church – just for that week.  Okay…the church He picked was one I enjoyed, my husband was more than willing to go…so off we went.  After the service, the coordinator for Collide’s mentoring program said, “You got my message!”  Uh…what?  I hadn’t received the phone message she left but I HAD heard from the Spirit so there I was with her, laughing as she said, “Well I have a girl who needs a mentor and you’re it!”  

Within a week I sat down with a girl who was tailor-made to be my friend.  We both love books, pizza, chocolate and coffee.  We talk and talk and talk, and I love her so much.  Later, another woman needed a mentor and I was more than happy to agree.  We’re also a perfect match but for different reasons.  The Lord knew we needed each other and our times together are sweet and rich.  

And now I see how God really answered my prayers.  I am more suited to be a mentor than to be mentored.  Not that I can’t be mentored, but I am more comfortable listening, giving feedback, sending encouragement and checking in on someone than the other way around.  It just feels like ME.  And for someone who is ill and often feels like I can’t do much…this I can do!!  The Lord has given me joy!  And I feel more in tuned with my Savior who wept, mourned, listened, noticed, remembered and gave His life for His people.  

When contemplating if this is something you can do, I hope you don’t think, “Oh, I couldn’t do that.”  I know women are busy.  I work and have kids, too.  I fold laundry at 10:30 at night while the dishes wait in the sink.  I ‘get’ busy.  But when God opens your eyes to another’s pain and better yet, allows you the privilege of holding another woman’s story and using your own heart to bless hers – in simple ways, like listening over coffee or sending encouraging texts – how can we say no? At some point, we’ve all felt unheard, abandoned, disinterest.  It hurts.  At those times, I wished someone had put their arm around me and gently said, “Tell me about it.”  And then I could enter a safe place to just be honest with my pain.  Ladies, it’s beautiful.  We all need it. We all deserve it.  It’s what Jesus does for us…but sometimes he does so with skin on in the form of a friend.  

His people, his women, are in desperate need.  We may have cleaned-up outsides but we’re all broken.  Sometimes our brokenness is the very thing that brings us to a place of healing.  Because of mentoring, I feel awakened to the cries of the suffering around me and feel honored that He has chosen me to be an instrument of peace.  Me – the one who looks fine but isn’t; me – the one who thought I couldn’t do much, but is; me – the one who is equipped by a generous Jesus and is dancing on the inside.  

Are you interested in walking alongside another woman by becoming a mentor? Email at info@wecollide.net for more information about the Collide Mentoring Program!

Forever Young by Trina Bedlington

The Your stories blogs are a place where women can bravely and authentically tell their story as it really is. We invite women to collide with Jesus and share how He is meeting them, transforming them and redeeming them. We hope this “your story” meets you in yours…

Forenza sweaters, leg warmers, acid washed denim, and anything neon were a few of my favorite things growing up in the 80’s.  My friends and I rocked the Aqua Net big bangs and cobalt blue mascara while we spent weekends watching Molly Ringwald movies and listening to Whitney Houston belt out her ballads.  The year was 1988 and no dance was complete until the song “Forever Young” by Alphaville was played at high decibels in the high school gymnasium. Large groups of teenagers would sing at the top of their lungs…Forever Young, I want to be Forever Young.  Hmm… well, perhaps I just didn’t sing those lyrics loud enough in the 80’s because that darn mirror keeps telling me I’m not staying forever young, instead, I’m forever growing older.

Three years ago I came to the realization that I indeed was getting older. No matter how many face and body creams I was suckered into buying, I was discovering more and more wrinkles on my face and as much as I scrubbed those dark spots, they weren’t coming off. The hereditary sloped chin was starting to make its appearance and well, let’s just say that lots of things start to slope when you get to be my age. Upon entering my 40’s, it was common for me to play the comparison game in my head, and piece by piece my self-worth and self-esteem gradually began to plummet. I couldn’t figure it out. I was in a great season of life, raising two incredible sons, and I had a husband who loved me unconditionally and believe me, I have some conditions.  Why was I thinking this way? These thoughts spilled over into my workplace, my friendships, my family, and even into my church activities.  I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of those negative thoughts that ran through my head and the way they slowly deceived me into thinking that God was done using me for His purpose just because I was getting older.

A good example of this was my experience at church. I had actively been serving on our church worship team for years, but I was beginning to question whether or not I should still be a part of it with each millennial that joined the team. Was my voice measuring up to the newest vocal styles?  Did my outfit look too frumpy next to the one who could rock the skinny jeans?  Did I not get scheduled this month because they are trying to phase me out to add younger people? I realize as I type this now that it seems so silly to think these things, but in reality, it consumed me and this was just one area of my life that was affected. I knew I needed a different mindset and something had to change, fast.

I will forever be grateful for finding Sandra Stanley’s devotional entitled, Comparison Trap…Choosing Contentment in the Age of Awareness.  This devotional changed my outlook and I highly recommend it if you at all find yourself constantly looking to others to see where you fit in. Sandra explains that the comparison trap tricks us into thinking that God’s blessings are in limited supply, but in reality He has a unique plan for us all…no matter what our age. She points out that when we are too preoccupied by looking to the left and to the right to see what other people are doing, we may just miss out on the plan that God has for us. Whoa, that hit me where it hurt and was the harsh reality that I needed to hear.  That is exactly what I was doing and I had been wasting too much time with this silly little comparison game.

You see, I realized that there will always be someone younger, prettier, smarter, and skinnier than me…envy is always going to try to make a mess of things.  Sandra’s devotional helped me realize that God doesn’t ask us to change what we have been given, but what is important is how we use what He has given us.  I decided right then and there that I was going to embrace my age and be ready for anything that God brought my direction.  No more comparing myself to others…my eyes were going to be set on the One who knows my exact age is and STILL has a plan for my life. He had been patiently waiting for me to stop looking to the left and to the right…my eyes were finally looking up!

I am so glad I had that life changing moment.  Yes, I still have  times where I find myself in the comparison trap and that is when I go to God’s word and am reassured that He has great and mighty things for MY life. I am still reminded every morning in the mirror that I am getting older, but instead of looking to the past, I am looking forward into all the things that God has brought into my life in my “seasoned” years. He has blessed me with the opportunity to serve alongside some outstanding women OF ALL AGES on the Collide ministry team. God designed each of us with our own gifts and talents and we use them to help women discover authenticity, wholeness, and purpose through the knowledge of who they are in Jesus Christ.  God has assured me that I am not too old to lead worship, as this is the role I fill within the Collide ministry.  I see His blessings in my life in a way I never have before and I believe the best is yet to come.  My dear friend, Catherine, said it best when she announced at her 50th birthday that she was embracing her new age, as many people are denied the gift of growing older. Yes, I am going to do just that, embrace my age AND be available for God to use me wherever He sees fit.  Besides, there is only one me and I am the ONLY one that can fulfill the purpose that God planned for me even before I was born. I encourage you today to stop the comparison trap cycle and meditate on what the Bible says in Romans 12:5 (The Message):

“… let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.”

God has a unique plan for your life no matter what age you are and only YOU can fulfill it. So, instead of looking to the left and to the right comparing yourself to others…look up! Next summer at my 30th high school reunion, I will be the one busting out my 80’s dance moves and singing those Forever Young lyrics in a whole new way. You see, I have chosen to remove myself from the comparison trap and I plan on staying Forever Young in God’s plan for my life. I hope you will do the same.

Out of Gas by Laurie Arndorfer

The Your stories blogs are a place where women can bravely and authentically tell their story as it really is. We invite women to collide with Jesus and share how He is meeting them, transforming them and redeeming them. We hope this “your story” meets you in yours…

 

I woke up the other day just as tired as I was when I went to bed.  Out of gas.  I am going through a season right now.  A season of insomnia.  This has happened to me numerous times for as long as I can remember.  Yet, each time I am surprised, irritated, exhausted.  Each time I have to force myself to take my own sleep hygiene advice:  set a regular bedtime and awakening time, turn the clock around, don’t nap, don’t lay in bed longer than 15 minutes if you can’t sleep, get up and do something else to help you relax.  Don’t exercise right before bed.  No screen time in the hour before bed.  I know the drill.  Yet sleep eludes me.  

Why do I struggle with this?  I ask myself this question.  I ask God this question.  I may go months with the most minimal amount of sleep.  But I am someone who really needs 8 hours.  So it affects me, a lot.  It is hard to think, I get headaches, I get cranky.  My family can attest to this.   Every day I have so much to do!  How on earth can I possibly get it done if I am tired?  I grouch at God (and everyone around me!) a lot about this, by the way.

But maybe I am asking the wrong question.  Maybe the question is really not “why can’t I sleep?” but “What might You have for me instead of sleep right now, God?”  I’m not saying I’d choose to stay awake late into the night on purpose.  I’m just saying that there is nothing productive about lying there and being upset.  There is nothing productive about worrying about what I won’t be able to do, won’t be able to focus on, won’t be successful at.  Panicking about my lack of sleep has done absolutely zero to change this issue.

So, I try everything I can think of to sleep.  Counting sheep, drinking sleepytime tea, exercising enough, getting enough fresh air.  I cry about it, fret about it, gripe about it.  But many times, I forget to pray.  Truth be told, if I get myself out of bed and spend some time talking and listening to God, it helps.  If I read the Psalms when I am feeling at my most wired and irritated, it helps.  If I write in my prayer journal, it helps.  So, why are these the last resorts?  

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things…and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

I think there is a bigger issue.  I want to be in control.  When things don’t go my way, I get frustrated and upset.  I want to be able to sleep, so I “should” be able to, right?  I do everything I can…  That’s the key.  I am doing everything I can in my own power, but I am not asking help of the One who has the power to fix my issue and calm my angst.  I don’t trust that God will get me through it. I’ve survived a hundred of these bouts of insomnia, or more.  Yes, I am tired when they occur, but they are not life threatening. I come out of them on the other side.

I have empathy for those who can’t sleep, probably precisely because I am their worry-wart bosom buddy, their companion in the wee hours of the night.  Yet when I do turn to God and surrender this issue to him, things get better.  I’m not saying that all of a sudden I can sleep the next night.  But I am able to view it differently.  I am able to thank God for the extra time with Him.  I’m able to do a lot of creative thinking and journaling and planning if I can let God have the sleeplessness, and use the time He gives me for good.  I can be calm instead of panicked.  At peace instead of fighting and struggling and pushing myself to “JUST SLEEP!”  

So I may be out of gas, but I’m not out of hope.  Not by a long shot.  Little sleep means more time to hear from God.  So I’m going to try to let Him have the reigns.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…” (James 4:8)

In the Valley of the Call to Joy by Sarah Willett

The Your stories blogs are a place where women can bravely and authentically tell their story as it really is. We invite women to collide with Jesus and share how He is meeting them, transforming them and redeeming them. We hope this “your story” meets you in yours…

As I settled into the one and only mat in the yoga studio, the story of 100 year old wood boards stretched out beneath me as far as my eyes would choose to see. The beauty of streaming early evening light prompted me to keep my promise – show up, begin, root in and rise up, travel the spectrum of all that honors, extend out from hip to heart, sternum to shoulder blade and gather courage towards my fingertips, float the hands to prayer and let the tears flow into the uneven cracks of so much loved!

Have you been there – the inner there – rotating and twisting inwards to meet oneself while the woven fabric of your structure is stuck in places others have determined, loss has determined, self has determined?  I think we might share the echo of a story, and perhaps if you will allow me, I believe it goes a bit like this…

And I then in my promise kept, heard the quietest voice of the CALL to move between the mountains of pain and gift in climbers reposeto be met in the Valley of the Call to Joy.

It is in the valley the echo is amplified, carries the voices further, and returns!

The seeking eye can align, the comforting ear can identify, the gentlest touch can adjust the hold on rock and rope; then the Lord asks you to pause, asks you to be present on a precipice of the unknown, indeed nimble on every ledge, and He answers years of prayer in return:

I see you

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

I trust you

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. (Psalm 143:8)

I know you  

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace removed, says the Lord who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)

Hello I’m here, you are not alone  

Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:4)

I see you have already turned the page, knowing the next chapter of this promise we together move within; do you recall the valley melts away below, and the ebb and flow of rising timbers and precious undergrowth create a deeper footing – a stronger hold into the foundation that ascends to where the road of Living Word and stillness meet?

I once hired a young women for a seasonal holiday position.  During the interview process I was struck by her boldness when she asked for redemption– clearly an area I had no authority to give on any level; she said her word was good though her skills were lacking!  I had never been on this road, so I put on my armor and prepared for the journey ahead. And what a road this was to travel on! The dendrochronology of those timbers was one of the darkest valleys Ive ever heard of and then she told of the JOY that saved her life. You see she, as we, exit the valley and embark on all the moments He waited for us, He wrapped us up warmly, He sang us to sleep, and He wrote us into eternity:

“What do you pray” she asked me “when you have nothing to offer?”

Silence

“How can I fold my hands together” she asked me “when I have broken so much with them?”

Silence

“When I didn’t know a love that was real” she said to me “how could I be worthy of asking for God’s love?”

Silence by silence by silence

“I know those answers” she said to me

Exhale

I have been sober and drug free for 3 years. I decided to bring myself to a place called thank you, and it has been the greatest JOY I have ever knowshe said. It is the only prayer I have ever said. Thats it, she delivered with a candor not only from a valley etched in perfection, but also a road such as that to Emmaus – might we not each desire such a companion as . . .

Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us? (Luke 24:32)

It is here I started SEEING the expanse of His beautiful valley and how Christ CALLS us into His pure JOY. God holds us, protects us and always belays, for clearly I had no authority to be given it on any level!!

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever. (Psalm 23:1-6)

Road ventures into journey as I sequence the memory of the studio perimeter, leaning into the union of closeness, pray hereHe calls to me; into the fractured places of my depravity and the bonded broke-open-ness of our human heart crevasses – I pray! Together as intrepid adventurers of boldness, do not forget that we learned to practice the pause of leading up into this new posture on the road to abandoned JOY. In fact this journey is ever more familiar as we are invited to roll up the mat, put back into their bags the carabiners and ropes, and look not up but down, across the valley floor from where the searchbegan so many woven together years ago.

O Lord you have searched me and you know me. You know where I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence. If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mothers womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:1-6)

We adore thee. Thank you Heavenly Father that I am so much loved… she is so much loved… he is so much loved… we are so much loved. WE ARE HIS JOY.

As you inhale this breath that is life I invite you to consider, what if your valley is not your fight, what if instead it is your freedom by His grace, and the pen that writes your chapters is His light? Can you imagine how beautiful that verse would be…

Then Feed My Sheep by Meredith LaPlante

The Your stories blogs are a place where women can bravely and authentically tell their story as it really is. We invite women to collide with Jesus and share how He is meeting them, transforming them and redeeming them. We hope this “your story” meets you in yours…

My journey from California to Washington state started with this quote about feeding sheep, and it’s still moving me today. Jesus said it, but I read it in a book by Jen Hatmaker prompting me to question my way of life—to jettison the excess and simply to focus on feeding people that are hungry.  Reading Hatmaker’s book, Seven: A Mutiny Against Excess, invited me to question my own assumptions, like the fact that my husband and I each had found our lifelong career and would continue in our respective jobs until the day we retired and traveled the world and spent all our savings.  I had taught high school for seven years and was finally feeling effective in my role as (mostly) motivational speaker and (partly) Latin teacher.   And yet, coming out from under the rock of postpartum depression I was looking for meaning beyond worldly security, and I found that longed-for meaning in this basic request of Jesus— in the exhortation to feed His sheep—to give of myself and pursue God wherever He should lead me.

From the first time I really understood that directive in relation to what it means to love Jesus, I felt a continual nudging of the Spirit to simplify my life.  I feared this process of simplifying would mean quitting my job, which would mean having to move from the house we owned on two incomes.  For several months I squelched this nudging, chalking it up to the odd bad day at work (everyone wants to quit their job sometimes, right?!), until I could no longer ignore my Principal giving me an ultimatum to go up to full time or quit my job.  Looking down the barrel of depression that was sure to come for me if I were to heap even more hours of work on my already full plate, I begged with my Principal (and God) to let me keep my job and keep my house and keep my life just as it was.  After a few tense weeks and a lot of prayers I realized that God was desperately trying to give me a gift—an out—a chance to step off the hamster wheel and live a simpler life.  What followed was a mountaintop experience—an outpouring of the Spirit during which God opened big doors and gave us big signs to lead us on a journey to move 1,200 miles away.  As I left my job, my husband found a new one and our house sold, all in less than a week.  There were a ton of other signs and ways God provided, all of which guided us up here to start a new life.  

And then we got here, and the new life started.  It’s hard to know when the mountaintop experience is over when you’re in the midst of it.  When you’re past it, it’s usually pretty obvious; it’s the time when God says, “Okay, you’ve gotten your fill.  I know it’s awesome up here, but now it’s time to go out and do your thing.  You know, that thing I’ve created you to do.”  Okay, so God may or may not have said that in the Bible, but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard those words just after realizing I’m at the bottom of the mountain and have a long journey ahead of me.  Riding the wave of the Spirit up to Washington, I was on fire inside; I was eagerly looking around for what my new role was to be and where I was to serve.  I was getting out my trekking poles to get ready for another climb up the mountain.  

While I was waiting for my next climb, I knew my call was to feed God’s sheep, so I was looking out for the big ways I could feed those sheep.  I was looking for some kind of ministry I could start that would feed the masses, so imagine my surprise when my new role—my call to feed sheep—turns out to be filled with the monotony of life with two kids.  I’m talking about laundry, cooking, cleaning, playing little kid games that are usually less than appealing to an overtired mom, breaking up fights, trying not to yell, mandating chores, managing meltdowns (including my own), maintaining sanity, etc. with very little time left for anything else.   I started to panic, knowing that giving was key to finding joy, to combating depression, and yet, I felt I had no time or energy to give after enduring the daily grind.  

Eventually, after many Bible studies, sermons, devotions, counseling sessions, TED talks, books, podcasts, years, and another baby, I have come to realize that right now, my role is pretty small, but also pretty big in terms of its lasting importance, because my primary role is one of feeding the sheep set right in front of me—my kids.  Now, some people come to this conclusion a lot more quickly and more easily than I did, so I don’t mean to make out like this is groundbreaking news: if you are a mother of little kids, your role is to feed them!  I always knew that on some level, but I didn’t give that truth its proper weight.  This time that they are here with me, especially being little, is so fleeting, I want to do my best with the precious time God’s given me.  

Though I love my kids more than anything and I have realized that they are my primary ministry right now, I still struggle at times with feeling called to a role where there exists so little accountability or control.   In the absence of a mountaintop experience I find my eyes wandering to bigger things—houses, jobs, vacations—anything that demands praise from others.  If I follow this train of thought long enough, inevitably I end up feeling not enough in my small house with my small kids leading my small life.  But each time I’ve wandered down that treacherous path, God calls me back, reminding me to stay the course between mountaintop experiences.  He reminds me in the simplest but most profound ways that He is here with me, always.  I don’t need a bigger life, I just need more of Jesus in my life—more of Him filling up the empty spaces in my heart until they’re endlessly full and spilling over.  

I love the quote from Saint Bernard of Clairvaux: “The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself … Today there are many in the Church who act like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare … You too must learn to await this fullness before pouring out your gifts, do not try to be more generous than God.”

This allure of being more generous than God—I fall victim to its charms when I listen more to the roar of the crowd than to the whisper of the Spirit.  While there are times when I can feed more sheep than my immediate family, it’s when I value the accolades over the calm in my home that I realize I’ve once again overextended my resources; I say yes to too many things and people, consequently burning my energy beyond my limits.  I am tired and, as a result, let the pendulum swing the other way until I feel isolated and depressed.  Alternatively, when I seek God continually through prayer and fill up with His love, I find that I operate out of abundance and not scarcity.  I can pour out onto others—starting with the people I love the most—and then listen to the Spirit’s nudge for where to extend out from there.

I don’t know when (or if) my world will “get big again” from a worldly view in a productive sense, but I need to remember that God offers unlimited spaciousness within—and it’s here already.  Contrary to what I sometimes believe, I’m not in limbo, I don’t need to wait for the next phase of life or the next mountaintop.  God’s created me to do exactly what I’m doing now, and when I remember that I can be filled with the love of Christ and receive the joy that follows, and I invite you to do the same.  

Learning That I’m Enough by Celeste Fiorillo

The Your stories blogs are a place where women can bravely and authentically tell their story as it really is. We invite women to collide with Jesus and share how He is meeting them, transforming them and redeeming them. We hope this “your story” meets you in yours…

 

 

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”-CS Lewis

Our world these days makes comparisons too easy, and too often I’m caught in the trap of feeling like I’m just not enough. It happens a thousand different ways, and I know I’m not alone. Here are some of the ways I tell myself I just don’t measure up:

  • I’m in a meeting at work and someone is giving really great ideas. I feel insecure that I’m not qualified for this job and can’t think of anything good to contribute. My words start to reflect my insecurity and I poke holes in the other person’s ideas so that they don’t sound as good.
  • I go to the beach with my husband and see really attractive, basically naked women and feel really insecure about my body and appearance. When my husband goes to show me affection later, I squirm away because I feel fat and ugly and not enough.
  • I go to a wedding and feel under dressed when I look at the other guests. I waste the whole evening judging how others are dressed, hoping to find someone who looks as frumpy, or hopefully frumpier, than me.
  • I see some friends at work having lunch and they look like they’re having a really great time. I feel left out and like they are better friends with each other than they are with me. Instead of joining them, I eat at my desk.
  • And here’s one I’m sure we all know: Facebook. I go on Facebook and see someone posting about something romantic and sweet their husband did. Suddenly I’m comparing my life to theirs and then feeling resentful of my husband for the rest of the day for reasons he doesn’t even know or understand (or deserve). I see someone’s crafty craft on Instagram and feel uncreative and lazy and like I love tv too much. Someone posts about their amaaaaazing group of bffs and I feel lonely and question my own friendships. A friend shares about how they love their 5 am morning devotional time with the Lord, and comparing that to my sporadic and inconsistent practices makes me feel like a lesser Christian.

I could go on and on and on. All day, every day, I am worried about people’s judgments, comparing my life to the highlight reel that others put on Facebook, feeling not enough in almost every possible way. When I was working on this and thinking of these examples, it brought me to tears. What an exhausting way to live. Constantly trying to prove myself against unrealistic measures. My identity is often falsely rooted in the fickle opinions of others and my own hard criticisms.

When I find myself struggling with comparison and feeling ‘not enough’ it’s because, in that moment, my identity is rooted somewhere other than in Christ. I have forgotten my true worth and where my value stems from. Luckily for me, God gives me words of truth about my value and identity: I am the light of the world and the salt of the earth. I am a beloved daughter of the most high king. I am a branch of the true vine. I have been set free from the law of sin and death. I am a saint. I am a temple of the Holy Spirit. I am chosen, holy and blameless. I am adopted, redeemed, forgiven and cared for by a completely loving, merciful and giant God. Let that sink in for a minute. That is who I am (and who you are!). Not my hair-do or craft project or job title or wife score or grades or looks or number of friends. I am in Christ. That is who I am.

Don’t those situations I read through before suddenly seem more insignificant and petty? When my identity, value and worth is rooted in Christ, I am set free from anxious self-promotion, from comparison, from insecurity. When I think about my heavenly and eternal identity, my outfit suddenly doesn’t matter. I don’t have to read into and analyze a sideways glance someone gave me. When I think of my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, suddenly my love handles aren’t a big deal. Maybe the Holy Spirit likes my love handles, I don’t know. And when I view myself as a beloved daughter made in God’s image, it also helps me see others in that way. When someone succeeds, I can be genuinely happy for them without comparison or jealousy.

Simply put, we are enough. We are more than enough.  And we can rest in that truth. So I invite you to step back from your insecurities and imperfections, and to rest in knowing that we are enough in Christ.

 

I Am Strong by Roxanne Burgoon

I am strong, but I am not that strong…

Each day I wake up with a to-do list in my head.  I scroll down the list of the stops to make, the phone calls to do, the emails and texts to answer.  I sort through them and try to rearrange them in my mind as to which ones take priority and try to remember them in order of importance as I am getting ready for work at 4:30 am.

My plans instantly change as I begin to walk downstairs only to find that the dog got into the garbage in the living room, the food from last night’s supper did not get put away, the dishes are piled up next to the sink, and the Keurig is out of water to be able to make my cup of coffee instantly.  Suddenly the to-do list I just had so perfectly arranged in my head during my relaxing 4-minute shower is completely disregarded and becoming drastically longer with all these discoveries of unexpected events.  Now, with the spare 3 minutes I have, I am trying to rearrange my priorities while doing them at the same time.  Thoughts and feelings go rushing through my head, saying things like, “If only I had been more organized before I went to bed,” or, “If only I had more patience in the evening I would have made sure the kids helped pick up dinner.”  “If only I had better behaving dogs like the family down the street.” “If only…if only…if only…”

The day carries on as I meet my coworkers to carpool and I notice that since I brushed my teeth in the dark, I have tooth paste dropped on my scrub pants. Plus I forgot my phone charger, and I’m pretty sure I forgot gum to cover up my coffee breath.  Great. Just great.  I am stronger, smarter, more organized than this…. what’s my problem?

Well, it’s not a problem, but rather a perspective that needs to change.  In my mind, I often argue with myself about how I should be doing things better, not messing up so much, getting more accomplished, not being tired, stop getting so distracted, but instead, be strong.  Guess what? I can’t do this on my own.  I am so far from being strong on my own strength and I have got to change my perspective to rely on God’s strength.  The tattoo on my forearm reminds me daily of this truth from Mark 5:36– “Do not be afraid, just believe.”  The circumstances of my life currently are teaching me that I do not need to act as if I am strong enough to tackle them on my own strength.  I need God’s strength and the strength of those around me. It’s easy to forget this when you are constantly comparing yourself to the coworker, wife, family, or circumstances next to you.  

I am still needing daily reminders from God that His load is light and that I need to give Him the burdens of my heart. Raising four kids is hard, being a wife is hard, working full time is hard, finding time to exercise is hard.  Life is hard, but God is teaching me that as I lean into His strength and grace I can re-teach my thoughts that I don’t have to be strong on my own. I don’t have to hide my insufficiencies to Him and others. I can accept His strength and help and I can accept support and help from those around me who care and love our family.  I am strong, but not that strong without Him! I encourage you to lean into God’s strength and wisdom, no matter what your life season is currently; He cares for you and loves you greatly.

 

When All We Hear Is Silence by Sherri Lewis

Sherri Lewis has been serving on the Collide team for several years. She has a hunger for God and for making her life count. Her desire to do right by God and to live an outstanding life is inspiring. Her ability to speak truth and make people laugh makes Sherri a fabulous friend to many! I love in this post how she puts into words our hope to hear God speak. As you read this, may God speak to you!- Willow

 

This season in my life has been at times wrought with questions of, “God, what’s next? I feel like there should be something more, that I should change course here. Should I think about kids or pursue obtaining a job that I love, a job that I feel I am meant to do? Will I be anything more than an average woman working a Monday through Friday, 8-5 desk job, coming home to a house, a husband and two cats, thinking about children someday, and wondering if I will actually be able to have them?” I found myself mulling over these questions one afternoon as I walked the trails during lunch on my aforementioned 8-5 day job.

As I was walking, I was listening to an audio sermon about the story of a small boy God used to feed 5,000 people. The message to me was, “See! God can use you just like he used this little boy who had little.” My response was, “Well, yeah… God used him and he had little, but me? I don’t have little and I don’t think I have a lot; I am just average and I am not sure if there really is more to life than just trying to make it – make good choices, practical ones, love those around me and read and pray every day.”  It has been hard to believe God will do miracles in my life the same way he did for the little boy. I asked God, in that moment, to speak to me, to give me ears to hear Him, and to know He has a plan for me.

The sermon went on quoting verses such as, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (ESV, Ephesians 2:10). I wasn’t satisfied as these words yielded only more questions of, “Really, God? Is this your message to ME, here today? Am I really anything special?  Do you mean it when you say that I am fearfully and wonderfully made?” (NIV, Psalm 139:14).

Is God really talking to me? I can’t help but sometimes feel like reading the Bible is almost like getting a mass text as I think, “You say that to everyone, God.” Does God really notice me, see me? Why can’t I hear Him talking to me?  These feelings and thoughts have been on my mind as I had hoped that God would do something big for me so that I could write about how He answered me with His booming voice, encouraging others that He would answer them too in the same way. The reality is though, that I heard the opposite. I did not hear any booming voice or experience any miracle on my terms. I heard silence.

In Jesus Among Other Gods, by Ravi Zacharias, Ravi brings a new perspective to the silence and why God seems to be silent amid our questioning. When facing death on the cross, Christ’s response was fraught with few words and more silence. Ravi writes, “With all that Jesus said to Pilate, Pilate marveled most at His silence.” Ravi then quotes Mark 15:3-5, “The chief priests accused Him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of’ (NIV). But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.” There are two conclusions that Ravi draws from Jesus’s crucifixion and His character; God is sometimes silent in the face of those who have already made up their minds, and also, God will not force people to know Him through persuasive words or actions.

As I weigh these thoughts, I begin to understand why I have yet to experience any booming voice from God. It dawns on me that maybe I am not in a place to hear Him, because no matter what He says, I am stuck in my own world. I have put something between myself and God, whether that is negative thinking filled with lies, people that are pulling me down, distractions such as food or shopping, or simply the busy-ness of a full schedule. I realize that these distractions affect my perception of God and His voice all around me.

I am humbled in realizing how often I am envious of my neighbor and all they have that I don’t have: a perfect childhood with parents just a few miles away, a perfect job, the ability to eat a plate of brownies without a second thought as to whether it will indeed hit their thighs by morning, lots of money, or parents with money, the list goes on.  I think for me, and maybe for a lot of women, envy and comparison are traps that often prevent us from truly seeing what God has done for us and the beautiful life he has given us amid our struggles, fears and deep-rooted desires. I struggle with feeling unqualified and uneducated; “I will never have the job of my dreams– a job where I feel I am valued,” and “College is out of reach for me while my husband and I pay off the student loans that got my husband his job teaching.” These are only a couple of thoughts or lies that fill my mind and prevent me from experiencing and knowing God’s truth.

In all honesty, I realized that if God were to call me on the telephone with His, what I imagine would be a booming voice, I would probably hang up in the same way I hang up on the caller who excitedly tells me I won a free trip to the Bahamas. The reality is I am living in my world, in this world, and not in God’s Kingdom understanding His terms and His truth that has never changed.   The Lord says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (NIV, Isaiah 55:9). What we think we should or want to hear from God really won’t have the impact we think it will. We won’t be satisfied. What we want is not always in line with what God wants for us, because the truth is that we have put something between Him and us. We will hear Him and know Him in ways that exceed our imaginations if we simply lay down our misconceptions and the lies we all hear and sometimes believe.

In looking back at my life and around me now, I see so many blessings, despite so many experiences filled with pain and hurt sometimes from my own choices and sometimes from the choices of others. I am so blessed to have good relationships now with my parents, my brother and sisters. God has given me a bonus family here in Bellingham that I am humbled to be a part of. I have an incredible husband who makes me laugh every day and has been a steady and unwavering force in my life. I am blessed to have a job where I can be my goofy self, work hard and be blessed financially. In it all, God is showing me that He is there watching and providing for me every step of the way.  This is obvious as I remove the mask from my eyes and look back and all around me today and I can trust that God will continue to show me the way in the days, months and years ahead.

He is here with me no matter what is happening around me or to me. We simply need to discern between the lies and His truth. We need to look up and be Kingdom minded, not worldly minded. God will never force himself into our lives or yell at us to hear Him with His booming voice. He will wait for you and me. Whenever you are ready, look for Him and He will be there. Hear Him. Even when it’s silent.

You Can’t Fix People, You Can Only Love Them by Taylor Storey

Oh my gosh people, if you don’t know Taylor Storey, you need to Facebook stalk her or something! Ok, maybe don’t do that, but do read her blog post! She is a joy and a light. Any room she walks into she brings in love, and all who run into her feel that love. If you ever wonder if our future is in good hands, go on a walk with Taylor and you will have more confidence in the what God is doing. Her story and faith are inspiring! – Willow

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Love people. This is my mission. This is why God has chosen to put me, Taylor Storey, in Bellingham Washington, at this time- to love people. I wake up and this is the first thing on my mind. When I am in line at the grocery store, on the soccer field, at work, with my friends… God simply asks me to love the people around me. I know this is my purpose, however, it is not an easy one. Loving people, and trusting that God will take care of the rest is a challenge I wrestle with each day.

Whether it is a friend my age or an absolute stranger, people tend to naturally open up to me about anything and everything. I held my friend crying after cutting herself, I sat with a friend in the emergency room after attempted suicide, and I have taken friends to counseling who couldn’t do it on their own. I grew up surrounded by friends and family members who were hurting and struggling, wanting to help them. I was glad to be a supportive friend, or stranger. But while it was good that these people opened up to me, I was not qualified, nor could I fix them. This broke my heart.

My natural tendency is to try to “fix” people. If only they would stop doing this, start doing this, change this, then their life would be “fixed”. What a ludicrous thing to think- I can’t fix or save someone who is suicidal, struggling from an eating disorder, or who just lost his or her mom to cancer. Only God can save people. But I can love them.

Loving people is without a doubt one of the biggest challenges God has asked me to do. I have learned that I have to set aside my tendency to jump in and try to control the situation. I have learned that I cannot save anyone. Only God, and God alone can do this. So God, doing what only God can do, has made me Hospitality Director at a local church. And oh let me tell you, He has been testing me.

God has placed numerous people at our front doors needing help- a man who had been walking for 3 days straight, with no food or water, needing a place to sleep at night and rest his feet. My first thought was, “Oh, well I have money to buy this guy a nice dinner, and I know a friend who has an extra room, and while I am at it, I will help him find a job, give his life to Christ, and shabam– he will be fixed.” I am sure God just looked at me and chuckled to Himself.  

I also remember the young mom with a five-year-old who just moved here from the east coast with no place to stay and no childcare. So I naturally start doing what I do, “I have 5 roommates, I am sure we can fit two more into the house for a few weeks, I know a lot of people. I am sure someone is hiring, and I can just bring the five-year-old to work with me until the rest gets figured out.” Again, God laughed.

The most recent “Taylor moment” happened last week. A good friend of mine had a double knee replacement and needed help with his exercises and doctor appointments. Even though this is an extremely busy month for me at work and at home, I started thinking, “Well, I have helped someone with the same surgery before, so since I know how to help I might as well take a week off of work, drive him to the doctor’s each day, make him and his family food, and just push back my priorities until he is healthy and able to take care of himself.” Now I think God has stopped laughing and is now rolling His eyes at me.

In these moments, I truly believe that I can fix their problems. Again, if only they would stop doing this, start doing this, change this, then their lives would be “fixed.” However, God is their Savior, NOT me. God died for their sins, God knows what they need, God can perform miracles to heal them- I cannot do any of these things. And thankfully God hasn’t asked me to. God asks me to choose love.

So instead of trying to “fix” people, I try to love them. I chose to sit with the man who had been walking for days, and listen to his story, and believe him. I chose to offer the young mom a friend, who would pray for her and her son. I chose to bring my friend who had surgery dinner, and offer encouragement through his recovery. By choosing love, I am acknowledging that God is God, and He is in control. So each day, I choose love. – Taylor

Will you each day choose love?

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