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Robot Generated Happy Machines

Robot Generated Happy Machines

“I love your family but just once I wish you would post something negative so I know you’re not a robot generated happy machine.”

This comment on one of my recent Instagram posts caught my eye.  While I usually try to just scroll right past the negative comments, something about this one got me thinking. I started to hit reply then decided this might be worth a long post, and now you’re reading a blog about it. Apparently it struck a nerve, ha!

Before I get on with the thoughts that bring us here, I want to point out how the few negative comments in the line up of mostly positivity somehow always stick out. It’s like they have a highlighter around them.  Have you noticed this in your own life?  Did you know there have been actual scientific studies that show it takes 5.6 positive comments to counteract 1 negative one?  That’s crazy how sticky those negative things we read, or hear, or how about the negative things we say to ourselves, can be.  Please think about this in the way you speak to others and also importantly, to yourself.

Okay, now to address the actual comment, since this person put this out there, it caught my attention, and I actually really don’t believe she is a “hater,” and by that I mean I don’t think this is coming from a place of hate. I think this is a legitimate struggle; that feeling that the lives we see online are somehow more perfect then the ones we are living. Perhaps this is a struggle we are all dealing with in some way or another with the presence of social media in our lives on a constant and daily basis.

Sooo, here are a few thoughts on social media as a whole and how not to find yourself writing this comment on someone’s post.  Here we go:

1. Social media is simply a highlight reel.  You’ve probably heard this before, but I think it’s worth the reminder. People post the moments they want to remember for themselves and/or those they want others to see. I think of social media to some extent like our old photo albums.  Depending on your age, you might not have actually ever seen one of those, but back when we used to actually print pictures, we filled our albums with all the good things: vacations, sporting events, birthday parties, the day at the park, that time our child got an award.  What we didn’t put in the album was a picture of us yelling at our child who dropped his ice cream in the car on the way home from that day at the park, or the mountain of laundry in our living room that stayed there for a month, and there certainly weren’t any pictures of our husband sleeping on the couch that night after our big fight.

My point is this: if we can all remember that this is only a highlight reel, perhaps we can realize that social media isn’t the whole story, and even more importantly, that it isn’t meant to be the whole story. The whole story is what we get in real life relationships, not with people that we follow or that follow us on the Internet. 

2. Everything is edited. I love social media, but we have to use it with our eyes wide open. We don’t need to believe the “I woke up like that” lie that we are being sold. Pretty much everything you see is edited, and if it isn’t edited, then I can guarantee, I walked around until I found the perfect lighting before I snapped that pic. I may have snapped 3 or 4 or maybe even 11 before getting one I liked. Please tell me you do this too!

It’s the same with television. Even the most “real” reality show is carefully edited to show you exactly what the producers want you to see.  It’s a week or more of filming boiled down to 23 min. Magazine photographers take hundreds of pictures to get the one the want and then graphic designers edit it till it looks “perfect.”

In today’s world, with all of this in our face daily, I believe we can enjoy social media and entertainment, and use it well. But, let’s not be naive to the carefully chosen and edited “reality” that it is, so that we start comparing ourselves to an ideal that is not actually attainable. That leads me to comparison…

3. Comparison is always a losing game. It’s so slippery. As soon as we get there, the ideal moves. We reach our “perfect” weight, someone is skinnier, has a smaller waist, or better thigh gap.  We reach a level of success with that number in our bank account that we always thought “if I could get there I would have it made” and inflation happens.  We go blonde—someone just goes brown and everyone is saying how cute it looks.

It’s a big world out there. There will always be someone smarter, prettier, cooler, more athletic, whatever…than you.  Sorry if that sounds harsh, but for real!  That’s a fact that we all need to face and once we face it, we need to break free from the hold it has over us.

To “win” at the comparison game you have to bring others down, and that never actually works out in the long run, because it’s not how God created us.  He created us to act in unity, to encourage one another not to tear each other down. He created each one of us as an original. You can’t compare originals; that totally defeats the very core of what it means to be an original.

Comparison creates anxiety, brings up all of our fears, opens the door for envy, and if we allow it, it will cause us to believe the lie that we are less than.  God created each one of us uniquely and without comparison. There is no one like you therefore there is no room to compare.

 4. “Real life” is both the good and the bad.  Although this commenter didn’t even ask for “real life” she just went straight and said can you post something “negative” which is probably more honest as I think this is usually what people mean when they say they want to see “real life.” The truth is, in this last month, our oldest daughter who is breastfeeding her new baby got mastitis in her left breast, had 102 fever and her husband had to be out of town for work for three days so I spent the night with her and helped take care of our new grandbaby. Two of our kids were sick with a sinus infection and a one had a stomach bug.  Our daughter had a wreck and son had a flat tire.  We had a leak in the house that made our wood floors in two rooms buckle so when you walk on them you feel like you are in a fun house. I went to a physical therapist because of back pain that wakes me up every time I try to roll over and also got a mammogram (all clear, whew).  Oh yeah, also, in John Luke and Mary Kate’s new house the septic wasn’t installed and poop came up in their bathtub!

Some of these things I posted about, some I didn’t. Maybe I should post those things more because yes, those things are real, but here’s the thing, things break, people get sick, accidents happens, we deal with it and move on. That’s real life, and nobody is immune to that stuff!

But “real life” is ALSO all the good stuff. In real life, our new grand baby smiled for the first time and our hearts melted! Willie cooked a delicious meal and our family and Rebecca’s mom from Taiwan came over. In real life we just had our first crawfish of the year and they were delicious (crawfish season is a serious thing here in Louisiana).  In real life, I worked out one day out of five and felt pretty good about myself on that day. All of those things are “real life” too! Real life is full of the good and the hard, the beautiful and the messy.  If I’m going to err on one side, I’m going to err on the side of noticing, talking about, remembering the good in my “real life” not all of the bad.

5. Last, but not least, be picky about who you allow to speak into your life. It’s okay to be open and vulnerable about some of the hard things we are going through on our social media platforms, but don’t make the mistake of substituting that for real relationships. The people who you can sit down with face to face–those who have been with you in the good and the bad, have laughed and cried with you–are the ones who really know you and the only ones who can really speak truth into your life. Don’t listen to just anybody.  It’s in the real life relationships that real vulnerability and openness needs to happen. If you don’t have real people in your life you can trust with the hard things, work to find those people. You will not find it simply scrolling the Internet.  Yes, you may find some encouragement, some good advice, some bible study tips or fun fashion advice, but it is no substitute for face-to-face relationships. Find a church or a bible study or invite someone to coffee or give that friend you haven’t talked to in a while a call. You may feel like you know the people you follow on social media and those that follow you, but when the tough times come, we need a real, literal shoulder to cry on, not a comment from someone we have never actually met.  Be that friend to someone and find those friends who will do that for you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts surrounding all of this as we are all wading in the same water of social media and doing the best we can with the changing tide. I hope you know that our lives are not perfect, but because of Christ we do live lives full of joy even in the hardship. We are all human and our lives are filled with good times and bad. Just like yours.  I pray that you have people in your corner who are there for you in your real life ups and downs and you are there for other people as well.  This is what real life really looks like.

Korie Robertson is a New York Times bestselling author and speaker who is passionate about motherhood. Korie (K-Swaggy) is a mom to Sadie — and five other amazing kids. In her free time, you’ll find her playing tennis, drinking coffee and spending time with her kids and new grandson, Zane.

Follow Korie on Instagram @bosshogswife

The Death of a Dream

The Death of a Dream

It was 2007. We were living in Columbus, Ohio.  I remember getting the phone call from my mom around eleven o’clock that night.  My grandmother had gone in for outpatient surgery that day.  It was supposed to be a quick in and out scenario, but something went wrong.  She passed away that night and we didn’t get back home in time to say good bye.  I remember going through so many emotions–numbness…shock…anger…deep sadness…grief. As my husband and I made the two hour drive to where she lived, I couldn’t process what had happened.  The days ahead were full of sorrow and grieving, but also of celebrating the life of a feisty Italian woman who always spoke her mind.  I will never forget walking through her house after she died and seeing her reading glasses sitting on the end table next to her chair. She was supposed to come home.

She was supposed to come home.

Death is always hard. Whether it’s the death of a friendship or a job or a family member or a dream, it’s hard because death means it’s over. It’s final. It’s natural for all of us to think of how we would like something to turn out and then be filled with lots of emotions when it doesn’t turn out that way.  We feel helpless.  We grieve. We hurt. We question.

The death of a dream can be as devastating as the death of a loved one. Have you ever been so passionate about something that it is all you can think about, but then it doesn’t work out? Have you ever gone after something with all your heart, but the unexpected happens?  Perhaps someone told you that your dream will never come true. Or someone said you aren’t good enough. Have you heard words like, “What makes you think you’re able to do something like that?”

Maybe no one said anything, but you ran after a dream with everything in you and it failed. It just didn’t work out and since it didn’t, you reconciled that maybe it wasn’t supposed to. Maybe it wasn’t really your dream. Maybe it was a fantasy. Maybe you were unrealistic, and it’s your fault the dream never happened.

There are many reasons a dream can die and that death can produce emotions as real and raw as the emotions I felt when I lost my grandmother.  Our dreams are very personal and have a way of seeping into our hearts and becoming part of our heartbeat.  Watching a dream slip through our fingers can be devastating and make us feel like a failure–like we’re not good enough.

How does a person deal with such loss?  Often times we want to shrug it off and place the dream somewhere in the pocket of our heart. We want to hide it, ignore it, and pretend like it was never there.  Hiding and ignoring always seems easier than dealing with loss. Then life can go on with the forgotten dream neatly tucked away.

The problem comes when we let the pain of the loss cause us to forget how to dream altogether.

I am a dreamer. I always have been.  When I was younger, I was always coming up with crazy ideas or talking about things I wanted to accomplish in life.  I admit, some of my dreams were God-sized dreams.  Dreams that I knew I couldn’t accomplish without Him.  Sadly, there were people who would try to shut my dreams down.  They would tell me I was crazy or not being smart and that I needed to realize I didn’t need all of that to live a happy life.

But, I want to tell you something.  God is BIG. He is the master of big dreams.  As our creator, He is also our dream giver.  He places the dreams and the desires in our heart so that He can fulfill them.  The ideas, dreams, and passions that you have inside of you are not there for selfish reasons or for you to ignore.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  God wants you to bring all of those dreams and passions to life.  You are your only limit and God will take you as far as you want to go.

Take a minute to think about a dream that you might have let go or felt disappointed that it didn’t or couldn’t happen.  Maybe you felt like you did everything right and it still didn’t work.  As a result, you have disappointed faith. Disappointed faith is like a bruise.  It becomes sensitive to the touch so you protect it. You don’t want anyone to see it; you keep it covered like a Band-Aid covering a wound.  You are hurt and disappointed that God didn’t come through.

We have all been there.

I recently walked out a dream that God placed in the heart of my husband and me years ago.  Even when we started to see the dream come to life, it was still another 15 months before we saw movement on it.  It was almost six years of waiting for this dream to actually happen.  In the process I learned a few valuable things.

Disappointed faith comes from letting go of the miracle before it’s manifested.

Chew on that for a minute. I remember the Lord speaking that to my heart almost a year ago when we were sitting in the waiting.  We felt God speak something to us so clearly, but we didn’t see anything happening. In that moment, God starting speaking to me about time tables.  He wanted me to see that when He told us to start stepping out, He never gave us a time frame.  Sometimes we put our own time frame on things and then when God doesn’t move within that time frame, we think He has failed. But the truth is, we let go of the miracle before it’s manifested.  We think, well, if it hasn’t happened yet, then it probably won’t happen.  We kill the dream and we blame it on God.

God’s timing is different than our timing, and His timing is PERFECT. If there’s one thing I have seen so clearly over the last 15 months, is He is right on time.  A year ago I didn’t even know how this dream would happen, but here I am a year later watching God move pieces around like a puzzle, and everything is falling into place.  If I had let go in the waiting, I would not be watching this dream come to life. And I would have felt like God let me down.

I want to challenge you to search your heart.  Have you let go of a dream?  Have you experienced the death of a dream?  Have you blamed God for things not coming to pass?  Look in the pockets of your heart and pull that dream back out. Write it down and give it to God.

Maybe you don’t know how to dream.  Maybe you need to spend time thinking about the things that make your heart beat. Things that you feel you have to accomplish during your lifetime.  Write them down.  Ask God for it.  Partner with Him and HIS timing and watch what only HE can do!

There is power in the written word.

Habakkuk 2:2-3 (Message) says “And then God answered: Write this.  What you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. The vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming – it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie.  If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.”

This scripture means so much to me and is something I cling to in the moments where my faith is tested.

Several years ago God spoke to my husband and me about being specific with our prayers and to write down the things we were believing and trusting God for.  So we did just that.  We got out a journal and started writing the specifics of what was in our heart. Even though God places dreams in our heart, we still have to walk out what He lays before us.  We have to trust Him when we are unsure of our next step. Writing our dreams down is an action that says we are believing God can make this happen. It’s as if we are speaking it in partnership with God. We are making our vision clear to ourselves and to God.  There is power in writing it and putting it before the Lord.

I want to leave you with this final thought.  The Bible says you have not because you ask not.  Sometimes we are too afraid to ask because we don’t think that God will do it. Step out in faith, be bold in your ask, and watch God move in ways you have never seen before!

Kendra is the owner of Wonder Management in Nashville, TN and loves to dream big and push boundaries. She is a foodie, loves traveling, and enjoys quality time with her husband and friends.

Follow Kendra on Instagram @kendraflack

Break Free

Break Free

The first person I ever knew who had an eating disorder was me.

It was back when I was a teenager, and I spent five years stumbling in the dark in the worst bondage I’ve ever experienced my entire life. Back then, no one talked about eating disorders. It wasn’t on anyone’s radar, so I was left to believe that I was the only one struggling with whatever this was. I made it my highest priority to hide this thing from everyone who knew me. There was so much shame, control, and fear attached to the struggle.

I had done everything that I knew to do, short of telling anyone about it. One New Year’s Eve, my friends asked me to go out with them to a Christian concert and ring in the New Year, but I made the decision to stay home by myself that night. I told God that I refused to go into the new year with this issue. I got down on my knees and cried out to Him in desperation, “I hate this! I need You to set me free from whatever this is!! I can’t live in this prison anymore!! I CAN’T HELP MYSELF. I need You to help me! I give my whole life to You, and I choose to surrender control.”

That night God met me where I was, and that moment was the beginning of the end of five years of bondage. Since that time, I’ve been able to share with thousands of young women, not only my own testimony, but to affirm them for having the courage to reach out for help, to see them completely set free.

Today, eating disorders are devastating millions of lives across the world. There are many who are wanting a way out. Since 1983, I have watched countless young women come into the doors of Mercy Multiplied who have sought prior treatment without successful long-term results, yet they have graduated from the Mercy program completely transformed. Whether you are struggling with an eating disorder yourself, or you have a friend who is struggling, please believe me when I say there is hope and freedom available through Jesus Christ!

Most eating disorders stem from deep emotional, psychological, and spiritual roots. When we have external issues we’re struggling with, like an eating disorder, we often think those issues are the problem. The truth is that those issues are just an outward expression of a much deeper problem. The unhealthy “roots” in our lives are the source of the behaviors that we want to see change.

Our roots draw their power from the different things we’ve walked through in our lives that have affected us. And it’s not until we expose and deal with those roots – things like rejection, fear, and shame, that we will experience true and lasting freedom. Whatever the root of an eating disorder may be, the solution is more than to simply eat balanced meals and keep the food down. Trust me, I tried that.

One very common root of eating disorders is the desperate need to feel in control. Something may have happened – such as trauma or sexual abuse – that made you feel out of control. An eating disorder can make you feel that you are in control, but just the opposite is true. You are actually giving control of your life to something else. The Bible says that we are slaves to whatever controls us. The way to walk in freedom is to choose, like I did all those years ago, to surrender control of your life to God instead of trying to control your life yourself. After all, Jesus came to heal broken lives and set captives free!

Whether someone is dealing with anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating, freedom is available! I have seen hundreds of young women over the years who have spent thousands and thousands of dollars entering treatment programs only to leave the same or even worse. Totally reminds me of the woman in the Bible who had a flow of blood for 12 years (Mark 5:25-26). It says she went to many doctors and spent all she had but instead of getting better she only got worse.

Such was the case with a 20-year-old girl named Kristin who walked through the door of one of our Mercy homes in 2003. Turns out her parents were wealthy, and they had spent massive amounts of money on the best eating disorder treatment programs in America. The doctors finally sat her parents down to say they had done all they could do, and that Kristin would always have the eating disorder, that she would probably always be in and out of hospitals and never be able to live a normal life. The doctors said Kristin had destroyed her body to the point that she would never be able to have children.

As often is the case, a young woman who had previously graduated from Mercy and was healed and restored from an eating disorder suggested they contact us for help. Completely out of any other options, Kristin applied to Mercy as a last-ditch attempt to get the help she so desperately longed for.

She entered the program in 2003 and was with us approximately six months. During this time, Mercy provided a safe place for Kristin to open up about traumatic things that had happened to her in her childhood. Our counselors at Mercy also helped Kristin see that the labels that had been spoken over her life and the things that the doctors told her about never being able to live a normal life were just not true.

Through our wonderful staff and counselors, Kristin was able to understand that it was possible for us to help her get to the root issues of why she had an eating disorder in the first place and through that process she could be healed and restored. Kristin began to renew her mind to God’s Word which caused her to see herself the way God sees her.

We shared with Kristin what God says in Deuteronomy 30:19, that He actually gives us a ability to choose between life and death, blessing and cursing. Through that Scripture, Kristin realized that she had the power to choose life. She also realized that she was empowered to replace lies with truth and to identify with being a child of God rather than a damaged young girl with a severe eating disorder. That is when everything changed.

The day she graduated from Mercy, her parents and family came to celebrate and what a wonderful day it was!!!

After Kristin’s graduation from Mercy, she returned to Texas to live with her family and immediately became involved with a local church. It was there that she met a young man named Ryan. She called to ask that I pray for her because she thought that he might be “the one.”

It was about a year later that Ryan and Kristin got married. It quickly became evident that God, not only set Kristin free from the eating disorder, but He also healed her physical body. Fast forward to the year 2019. Ryan and Kristin are very happily married and have given birth to nine beautiful children. This might be a good time to think back on all the things the eating disorder “experts” told her about her future that proved not to be the truth.

Telling this story is one of the best ways I know to explain to you the difference between treatment and transformation. Kristin was transformed and healed and restored in every way – spirit, soul, and body. She and Ryan are amazing parents. I love to stalk them on Instagram so that I can see all of their beautiful children and get a glimpse into their daily life. We remain in touch and both Ryan and Kristin and Kristin’s parents are supporters of Mercy to this day.

Kristin represents hundreds and hundreds of young women who have moved from the bondage of an eating disorder into a place of total healing and freedom. If you are struggling with an eating disorder or know someone who may need help, please visit www.MercyMultiplied.com for additional resources.

Nancy Alcorn is the Founder & President of Mercy Multiplied, a Christian non-profit that equips all people to live free and stay in Jesus Christ through its free-of-charge residential program for young women ages 13-32 and its Outreach services.

Her new book, Treatment or Transformation: 13 Real Stories Why You Can’t Argue With A Changed Life tells 13 powerful stories where God intervened and radically transformed lives and is available at MercyMultiplied.com.

Stay Connected With Nancy Alcorn:
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Your Testimony Matters

Your Testimony Matters

Growing up, I would get nervous when people asked me to share my testimony. I had my own little speech that I practiced in my head and pulled out only when necessary. It started with a long “ummmm” and the phrase “raised in a Christian household” would be in there somewhere. A few awkward minutes later it would end with “So, yeah, that’s me.” You see, I worried and got nervous about sharing my testimony because my vision of a testimony was all wrong.

When I was asked to share my testimony, I immediately thought, “I have never done anything worth sharing.” And, I was right. I have never done anything worth sharing. Not to this day and, probably, not ever. But, here’s what a few years and lots of deeper thinking has taught be about a testimony: a testimony isn’t a story about how good we are or how bad we were, testimonies are stories of how good God is. My testimony was never supposed to be a story about me; my testimony is a story about God and how I get to be a part of His story.

My testimony and your testimony speaks of the goodness of God as revealed in the land of the living and is a powerful weapon proven to defeat the enemy. Testimonies are displays of God’s splendor, not trophies of our accomplishments. I was once lost in sin, BUT NOW, I am a new creation. My testimony of how God worked in my life to take me from lost to found is a powerful witness of His faithfulness and love for me. It is the very thing that someone else needs to hear to help them move from lost to found. Not because it’s my story, but because it’s His.

And the same is true with you and your story. Your testimony could be the very thing that sets someone free and increases their faith to step beyond comfortability and complacency. It could be the very thing that God uses to break the chains of fear tied around another’s ankles. Chains that hold them hostage to lies the enemy tries to speak in their ears. It could be the very thing that lets someone else know they can do it too. Whatever it is. Every testimony matters.

  • You used to gossip, but now you don’t.
  • You used to find your identity in what others thought of you, but now you’ve found it in Jesus.
  • You used to lie, but now you’re honest without having to be asked.
  • You used to be selfish, but now you put others needs and feelings above your own.
  • You used to constantly compare yourself, but now you know that you are like no one else God created.
  • Somebody broke your heart, but now you know God is your comforter, healer, redeemer, and sustainer.
  • You used to be addicted to drugs, but now walk in complete freedom.
  • You used to use alcohol as an escape, but now you turn to God because you know that He is the only one that satisfies your soul.
  • You used to sleep around to feel loved, but now you know the treasure that you are and hold yourself to a higher standard.
  • Your parents didn’t love God, but now you do and get to be the one who changes things generationally for your family.

All of these testimonies matter.

I didn’t use the words ‘but now’ so many times to simply repeat myself, but to show you that every God story has a “but now.” I’m here to tell you that your current situation has a “but now” coming. The “you” that you are now is not who you’re supposed to be. There is always more. God is always after our hearts. He is in the business of refining hearts to make them more like His own. If you are in a season of struggles or uncertainties, I want to encourage you to take heart because God is on the way with your “but now” journey.

Friends, if you are someone who has been changed by God, then you have a testimony to share. The fact that you are not who you once were, in the small things and in the big things, is a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in you. The fact you have turned your heart, your eyes, and your affections towards God instead of whatever it is you once did, matters. Every single thing matters. There’s not one testimony too small, or too simple. There’s nothing that God has done in you that doesn’t speak of Him and His mighty power. It doesn’t matter what your testimony looks like, it matters that it brings glory to God.

I love this passage in Revelation 12. It’s titled “The Dragon Defeated.”

A terrible war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the great dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back. But the dragon did not have the power to win and they could not regain their place in heaven. So the great dragon was thrown down once and for all. He was the serpent, the ancient snake called the devil, and Satan, who deceives the whole earth. He was cast down into the earth and his angels along with him.

If we keep reading, we discover what power allowed Michael and his angels to be victorious. Read this carefully.

They conquered him completely through the blood of the Lamb and the powerful word of their testimony.

They conquered the great dragon, which is the same as any trial or struggle you or I might encounter, by partnering with Jesus and by sharing their testimonies. They knew the power of Jesus and the authority His blood carries and they understood the power of the testimonies that speak of His great works.

In our day to day life, it’s important that we walk in knowledge–not just head knowledge, but heart knowledge– the revelation-light-bringing kind of knowledge of who He is and His power to defeat the enemy. The cross has the final word… through Jesus it is finished. Testimony partnered with the blood of the Lamb will set people free.

No testimony lacks power.

No testimony is too small.

Every testimony matters.

Your testimony speaks of the goodness of God. He’s always been good, He’s being good to you right now, and He’ll be good forevermore. Don’t hold back your testimony.

 

Gracie Tucker is a model with Wilhelmina Miami, and also works alongside her sister at Imago Dei in Franklin, TN! She loves spending time outdoors, traveling, hanging out with her friends and family, and is also known to make a mean milkshake (wink, wink, exciting things to come!)

Follow Gracie on Instagram @hannahgracetucker

When I Was Found

When I Was Found

Remember playing hide and seek as a kid? When it came to hiding, I was always the one no one could find. The older I got, the more hidden I became. I got really good at hiding, but not very good at being found or seen. Here’s the story of how I found God in my dorm room (quite literally) and learned how to truly be seen.

My story begins when I was a sophomore in high school. I grew up in a sleepy little town about thirty miles outside of Boston. On February 1, 2010, I was a normal teenager doing normal teenager stuff. The day started out like every other day. I woke up, carpooled to school with my neighbors, got a bagel in the cafeteria, and sat down in my first period Spanish class. Our principal’s voice came over the intercom with the words that would haunt the halls of my high school for years to come, “Olivia Marchand was shot in her home last night and died early this morning.” The shooting left Olivia dead, her mother critically injured, and her father ultimately turning the gun on himself. Liv was one of those people who loved others well. She represented freedom, peace, and was a friend to all.

In the months following Olivia’s death, I started dating a friend who I had met through a mutual friend. He was a gentleman and went out of his way to make me feel special. When he asked me to be his girlfriend, he pulled out all the stops. I’m talking teddy bear and chocolate covered strawberries on a beach kind of thing. For a sixteen year old, this was a dream come true. My sweet high school “love” became obsessive, controlling, and eventually abusive. The trauma from the things that I experienced during this relationship would weigh heavy on my soul for years to come.

Because of what I experienced, I started to research signs of abusive relationships, domestic violence, and sexual violence. Soon it became my mission to bring awareness to the issue. After my nineteenth birthday, I started a non-profit called Hands for Hope which was dedicated to helping victims and providing awareness for domestic and sexual violence on college campuses.

In April 2014, Hands for Hope hosted a benefit show to raise money for the awareness projects we wanted to implement across Nashville. A couple days after the show, I went to coffee with one of the artists and while we were chatting she asked me the one question that would ALWAYS make me cringe, “Where do you go to church?” The honest answer was I didn’t go at all. This led to her inviting me to attend church with her the following Sunday…before I could say no I said, “YES.”

I need to pause here for a second. This was completely out character for me. First of all, I really had no idea who this person was. We had only met twice, and here I was agreeing to go to church with her? Second of all, I AGREED TO GO TO CHURCH. I spent the coming days freaking out and thinking up ways to get out of it. I didn’t grow up going to church. Our house was what I would call a Godless house – we didn’t talk about God or our beliefs. Not that my parents didn’t have beliefs or faith of their own, it just wasn’t something we talked about (I didn’t even know the true meaning of Easter!). Between my upbringing and the pain I experienced, my heart was never really opened to God. And if I’m being honest, I had no interest in any of it.

Even though I wanted to run for the hills, I went to church that Sunday. After worship, two people shared their testimony. I remember staring at the floor wondering when and how I could run out of there. As I sat, I heard the words from a woman who was broken, hurt, and afraid. She talked about her history of abuse and how Jesus had healed her from the trauma she experienced. My attention immediately shifted. Tears fell from my eyes when I realized this woman was telling my story. Her story mirrored mine as she revealed the details of her abuse and pain. She had insomnia, flashbacks, and bad dreams which was exactly what I was going through at that time. Hearing this woman talk about her pain and how Jesus took her out of it was the moment when a seed was planted in my heart. I started to really wonder who Jesus was.

When I got back to my dorm room, my roommate was anxiously waiting for me. She was the only person who knew I was going to church that day. I told her about my experience at church and then asked her the million dollar question, “Who is Jesus?” She started to get emotional and told me that during church she felt the Holy Spirit call her to tell me about Jesus and the gospel. While we were sitting on our dorm room floor on April 6, 2014, I made the decision to walk with Jesus. I sat there in awe of God as she told me that there were so many people praying for me in this process.

A couple of weeks later, we had an awareness week planned through Hands for Hope that included several speakers. I kept feeling a pull to speak at one of the events. It was all about unveiling the lies we tell ourselves in order to find freedom. When God asked me to share my story that day, I told Him that if He wanted me to do it then He needed to give me the words to speak. He totally did! The atmosphere in the room shifted as the words poured out of my mouth. I’ll never forget the line of girls who came up to me after the event – some had been through similar things as I, some were going through it at that moment, and some just wanted to encourage me. I was no longer hiding. This was the moment that I realized the power of one simple yes to God.

The biggest question that I had to learn was, what does it mean to let God into your story? I didn’t know how to let anyone into my story. I had to let go of the lies that I was believing about my story specifically: You are an embarrassment. Your story doesn’t matter. You need to work harder and be better. You are weak. You aren’t loved. God had to do a lot of heart work in me to shift my perspective. I had to let go of the lies that I believed and learn how to be loved. To be loved means to be seen, being seen means there is vulnerability, and with vulnerability comes great risk.

 What do we gain from being deeply seen?

It takes courage to speak truth. The day that I told my story in front of a room full of strangers was the first day that I asked the Lord to heal me. It was then that I realized I wasn’t just hiding from other people, I was hiding from God. I was paralyzed by fear and felt that I couldn’t tell anyone what I was going through. Speaking out about my pain gave me the power and authority over my circumstance.

I love this Brene Brown quote: “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

When we ignore the brokenness we have experienced, we are ignoring what makes us who we are. God can take the most broken parts of your story and turn it into beauty if you let him (Romans 8:18). Rather than hiding from it, what if you took a step into the light? I encourage you to let the people you trust into what you are going through. Bring them into the process (Galatians 6:2). Don’t wait until God’s promise is fulfilled.

My prayer for you is that you take the step into accepting the broken parts of your story. That you can be vulnerable, messy, and real in that process. I pray that you would make the choice to be seen. God gave us community so we can walk through it together. In the moments when we accept vulnerability as a gift, God meets us where we are and we can begin to heal. In these moments, we are truly seen. Or, truly found.

Christina is a music loving, laughter enthusiast who never shy’s away from digging deep into a good conversation. She believes in finding joy in all things and has a gift of finding light in the darkest of places. Day to day you can find her at the Wonder Management office where she helps curate artists dreams.

Follow Christina on Instagram @christinakgregory

 

Hold Things Loosely

Hold Things Loosely

“Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”- Corrie Ten Boom

At the beginning of last year, if Marie Kondo came into my home and asked me to declutter and donate most of my belongings, I would have told you I wouldn’t have minded. I would have imagined myself cheerfully ushering her in and helping her haul away my things. I would have told you it was just “stuff”. Then, I would have followed up with a comment about how I never thought of myself as the type to struggle with holding material possessions too closely or gripping onto people and things for my security. I like to think Marie Kondo would have high- fived me and offered me an apprenticeship with her.

So, if you would have told me the greatest lesson I learned in 2018 was, “hold things loosely”, I would have been confused.

Let me take you back to the summer of 2018. I received a call that my Mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor and a rare form of cancer. I remember instantly saying to the Lord, “this is my Mom, you can’t take her!”. I felt entitled to have her here on earth and for her to be healthy. I could sense my grip of control and desire to fix the situation was strengthening. I could feel my hands tighten as I desperately held onto my Mom and begged God to make things right.

This was the beginning of a marathon of events over the next few months that caused me to question where my security was found and if Jesus was really “enough”. I found myself wrestling with words that I never thought I’d struggle with – “that’s mine”, “that’s unfair, and “give it back”, seemed to top my vocabulary.

In a few short months, my fists began to tighten, stronger and stronger, as I dealt with the mess of an identity theft, thieves that drained my bank account, a stolen car, an unexpected move, the loss of my dearly loved Uncle, the disbelief I felt when the inheritance he left me was stolen, and a whole list of other events, which left me wondering what was next in my life to be stolen, broken, or lost. I truly started to wonder if I was a modern-day version of Job.

Things and people in my life started to feel like sand, sifting through my fingers. Gripping them tight, feverishly trying to hold onto it all. As much as I wanted to escape the injustice and grief that surrounded me, I was not immune to it and I could not control the outcome. No matter how hard I clenched my fists and held on for dear life, I couldn’t make the things I’d lost reappear.

Fast-forward to the Fall of 2018, I was sitting on the long plane ride home from my Uncle’s funeral. I was emotionally spent from everything the last few days, weeks, and months had brought. I flipped open my bible and read the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19. I have read this

verse more times than I could count, but this time I sensed the Holy Spirit speaking directly to my situation. It was as if Jesus was sitting across from me, looking me in the eyes, saying:

“Don’t keep hoarding for yourselves earthly treasures that can be stolen by thieves. Material wealth eventually rusts, decays, and loses its value. Instead, stockpile heavenly treasures for yourselves that cannot be stolen and will never rust, decay, or lose their value. For your heart will always pursue what you value as your treasure.” – Matthew 6:19-21 (TPT)

Jesus, thousands of years ago, speaking to the crowd at the Sermon on the Mount, was already reminding us to be aware that things (a car, cash, an inheritance, clothes, our earthly bodies…fill in the blank) are not meant to provide us lasting value. In this passage, Jesus speaks directly to the posture of our hearts and calls us to find freedom from the anxiety of holding tightly to the things of this world.

Can I be honest? Reading this passage was a deep exhale for my soul. I didn’t realize how exhausted I had become from trying to reclaim and chase after the things of this world. I had been so overcome by the amount of things that were being taken from me, that the reminder of the eternal security found in things outside of this earth, was like soothing balm to my anxious heart.

Hear me out, people should be held accountable for their actions; stealing is wrong, and God delights in justice. Having possessions is not a sin. The problem we face is when these things begin to take the highest priority in our heart, when our hope becomes built on them, and when we look to them for lasting security. Jesus teaches us that there is a better way, a freer way to live our lives. He invites us into the security and peace that comes with finding our greatest treasure in eternal things, which will never be stolen or destroyed.

I became so desperate during this season for the truth in Matthew 6 to sink into my heart. I changed the wallpaper on my phone to a screenshot of this passage, I read it multiple times a day, sometimes twenty or thirty times a day. I began asking God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to help me loosen the tense grip I had on these earthly things that I felt entitled to. I asked Him to help me shift my gaze from the things of this earth and to lock eyes with Him. I asked Him to forgive me for putting so much stock in these things and I asked him to help me forgive those who had wronged me along the way.

There have even been moments recently where I have had to physically look down at my hands, wiggle my fingers, and then slowly open and close my hands. I have had to pause in certain moments and use this as a physical representation as a reminder of the spiritual posture I am learning to carry. Open hands, holding things loosely. Letting go of the grip of fleeting earthly things, and grabbing ahold of lasting eternal treasures.

I encourage you today to read the words in Matthew 6: 19-21. Take a few minutes and ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten some areas of your heart where you might need to loosen your grip on earthly things.

Ask yourself:

Am I finding security in the amount of money in my bank account?

Am I finding a false sense of confidence in a relationship, job, or position?

Have I put too much trust in the things of this world to provide me stability and security?

Are there things in my life that, if they disappeared tomorrow, so too would my hope?

Maybe you need to physically open and close your hands today and ask the Lord to help you loosen your grip on the things of the world and take hold of the lasting, eternal treasures found in Christ.

You are not alone in this journey! I pray you and I would continue to find the overflowing peace that comes from resting in the eternal hope we have in Christ.

 

Steph Vandermolen is a member of the Live Original Team. She loves watching hockey, drinking coffee on chilly days, and knows too many random facts about Iceland.

Follow Steph on Instagram @iceland.obsessed

About Sadie & Live Original

Sadie Robertson Huff is well known for her engaging smile and energetic personality, but there is a lot more to the 25-year-old star of A&E’s Duck Dynasty and runner up on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars season 19

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