Monday, April 21, 2014

Why Our Individual Stories Matter by Kristin Smith {Comparison Series}


I'm pleased to have my online friend Kristin Smith as my guest today in the "Comparing Ourselves to Others...and what it does to us" series. We first met last year through Holley Gerth's God-sized Dream Team and it's been a pleasure to get to know her. Kristin writes from her heart at The Riches of His Love and is a mighty prayer warrior. Please take time to visit her blog and welcome her here by leaving a comment. ~Laura

The word "blog" was something I hadn't even heard of until January 2008. My husband and I had tickets to attend a Selah/Point of Grace concert and we heard that the lead singer of Selah wasn't going to be able to attend. His wife was carrying a baby that was "incompatible with life" and she was due to deliver the same week as the concert.

The radio station gave the name of Angie Smith's blog, and asked us to pray.

I wasn't even sure what I would find on this blog, but I wanted to read more about this family. So that night, while using my incredibly slow dial up internet service, I logged on and found myself engrossed in a story I hadn't expected.

Here was a woman, who had made a choice to carry a baby they were being told wouldn't survive, and she was praising God in the middle of it.

I was heartbroken for her and yet inspired by her faith. My own prayer life changed as I found myself praying for Angie and her family. I watched as a community of strangers left comments and encouragement, offered up prayers and showered them with love.

Until that time I didn't know that community could be formed online.

And then in February of that same year my husband and I had a miscarriage. I was really struggling with the loss, even though it was early in the pregnancy, and I needed a way to process everything.

I had journaled as a teenager and thought that maybe this blog thing might help me. And so my first family blog was born.

I had 4 readers, literally 4. My parents and my grandparents. J

Initially, I was writing for me….finding a way to work out my faith in this grief process I was going through. The writing was healing for me and while I didn't have an audience of 10,000….I was so encouraged by the community that I had seen form online, that I kept going.

Then somehow I stumbled onto a few more blogs and "met" other women who were dealing with pregnancy loss and infertility struggles. I was not alone. And while none of us had the same story, I recognized that each individual story mattered. (<=== Click to Tweet)

What I found, was a common thread. Women who loved Jesus, yet experienced heartache and pain. Women who wanted to work out their faith, with fear and trembling, and were doing so by writing.

I discovered that even though it felt like it at times, I was not alone in my struggles.

The stories that I read gave me hope. Encouraged me to keep going, keep trusting God even when it hurt. Even when I couldn't see the light through the pain.

Many of these women have gone on to write books, or be contributors on "big" blogs, even have become speakers for conferences. Some don't blog much anymore while others, like me, don't have a huge following but keep sharing their stories because they want to offer encouragement to others.

No one of us is better or worse. Maybe based on the world's standards, some are more "successful" than others. But that shouldn't be our focus should it?


We should stop basing our worth on the number of "followers" we have, or how many Facebook "likes" we get, and remember that if our writing, our posts, encourage just one person - then it was worth it!

If I spend my time comparing where other bloggers, that also started out in 2008, are today to where I am….I might be pretty discouraged. Instead I recognize the amazing friendships that I am privileged to have, all because of this online community.

That alone has made this journey worth it and I thank God for it!

If you find yourself discouraged by your "stats", remember that God isn't keeping score. Just keep telling your story, the one He has planned for a very individual you.

Your story may be JUST what someone needs to hear, to have the hope or the courage to keep going for another day! Isn't that reason enough to keep telling our individual, unique and important stories?

I think so!

Do you struggle with comparison? It can be our biggest enemy! I'd love to hear if you are struggling and I will be lifting you up in prayer!

*****
Kristin Smith is a wife and mother, but most importantly, a daughter of the King – redeemed by His grace and so very grateful for it. Kristin blogs at The Riches of His Love and is the Prayer Team Leader and a Contributing Writer at God-sized Dreams. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Linking up with Sharing His Beauty


Friday, April 18, 2014

New Life in Jesus Christ


Spring has always been my favorite season. I like that although 50 degrees in the fall feels cold, in the spring it feels like a heat wave. And with the warmer air, there’s hope that winter is nearing its end.

Spring reminds me of new life—buds on the trees, flowers peeking through the ground, the subtle shift of everything turning from brown to green…

And the new life we have in Jesus Christ.

New life because Jesus took on our punishment, and through His death and resurrection, we are set free from sin.
For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.
Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Romans 5:17-18 NLT

My prayer is that you know this New Life yourself, that you’ve experienced His love through Jesus.

Please join me at 5 Minutes for Faith to continue reading.

May you have a blessed Easter!

In Christ,
Laura 


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spiritual Misfit {Book Review}

My friend Michelle DeRusha’s new book Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith releases today. Yay! J

After meeting Michelle last year at the Jumping Tandem Retreat, and hearing her speak, I knew I wanted to read this book. In fact, I was watching for the release date. So, when I heard she was looking for a team who would read the book ahead of time and help get the word out, I was quick to volunteer.

But let me tell you…I’m not recommending this book because she asked me to. 

I’m recommending Spiritual Misfit because It. Is. Good.

Michelle’s story—her faith journey—is heartfelt. It’s real. It’s raw. And…it’s funny. Laugh out loud funny.

And just when I thought I was reading someone else’s story…I felt a tug at my own heart—a reminder of God’s love for me. A reminder that God’s grace is for everyone.

  
Everyone’s faith journey looks different. For some, faith isn’t even a question. For others, there is doubt and wonder, questions and searching. For Michelle, her journey includes 20 years of unbelief.
I denied God for decades. I turned away, refused his love, refused to acknowledge his very existence. And what did he do in return? God forgave me. And like that one lost sheep in one hundred, he did not cease his pursuit of me until I was safe in his loving embrace. – Michelle DeRusha, Spiritual Misfit (pg. 214)
Spiritual Misfit is not a how-to book. It is one woman’s personal experience. It’s a story, I believe, God will use to capture someone else’s attention. Because that’s how God works.
Many of the people I met in the Bible, including the disciples themselves, turned out to be ordinary humans—flawed, fallible, and struggling. Yet through these ordinary people and despite their many imperfections, God accomplished great things. – Michelle DeRusha, Spiritual Misfit (pg. 118)
Flawed, struggling, questioning people…like you and me. If that makes you nervous, you’re not alone. 

But if God is leading…then He’s already preparing the way.

For more information about Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith, visit Michelle DeRusha at MichelleDeRusha.com.

You can also find Spiritual Misfit here:

In Christ,
Laura 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Imperishable Beauty by Joan Davis {Comparison Series}


I'm pleased to have my online friend Joan Davis as my guest today in the "Comparing Ourselves to Others...and what it does to us" series. Joan writes from her heart at The Beauty of His Grip where she encourages women in their personal relationship with Jesus. You can also find her on Facebook. Please use the comment section to make her feel welcome here today. ~ Laura

A few weeks ago, I had a mini crisis in the beauty department. I woke up on a normal Monday morning of a very busy week, expecting to go through my usual routine. But then, I looked in the mirror and what I saw didn’t seem right to me. I turned on the bright overhead light and pulled my magnifying mirror out of the drawer to take a closer look. As soon as I was able to focus clearly on my face, I instantly saw a red swelling beginning in my right eyelid. “That’s strange,” I thought, and for a few seconds I didn’t realize what was wrong. Then, it dawned on me that I had a sty. I had never had one before, but figured this must be what they looked like.

Determined to fix it, I went to the first place so many of us go to when seeking advice - Google J. I read about some home remedies and when it was recommended to go to the doctor. I decided to give it a little bit of time and then decide what to do. By the time I was finished visiting with my mother two hours later, the swelling had doubled in size and there was quite a bit of pain. So, off to the doctor I went. My diagnosis was correct and he loaded me up on very strong antibiotics and a lovely eye gel to use four times a day.

The next day was my Bible study, and being very self-conscious, I instantly told everyone what was wrong with my face…in fact, as ridiculous as it sounds, I even e-mailed them before I arrived so they would be prepared for what I felt was grotesque. I knew I was silly warning them that I didn’t look like myself, but I was also incredibly embarrassed of my appearance.


After Bible study, my week was a busy one. I had errands to run—in public, gasp! And I had appointments to keep. I couldn’t hide out in my home like I wanted to. Logically, I understood that what I looked like didn’t matter, but emotionally and self-consciously I kept on comparing myself to…myself! “I don’t normally look this way,” I said, knowing I sounded silly, and I would go ahead and assure everyone I came across that I wasn’t contagious.

To add to my misery, my face broke out in red marks that I hadn’t had since I was a teenager. They were a sign of my “not young anymore” skin. The antibiotics made me feel sick to my stomach and I was not feeling very feminine. It was not a “pretty” week for me. For the most part, even though I wanted to hide my face, I kept a sense of humor, and mulled over the idea that God was trying to teach me a lesson in humility.

As I think back on it now, I realize it wasn’t really vanity or lack of humility with which I was dealing. It was lack of confidence, the kind of confidence you only get when you put your faith in God before your physical challenges. I was so caught up in what I looked like and what people would think when they saw me that I was not focused on God. I was allowing the “idol” of my appearance to hinder my growth and relationship with Him. And amazingly, I was missing the lesson that God was trying to teach me.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30 NIV

As we go forward in life, our appearances will change. That is a guarantee.  But, as each year passes and unexpected illness and age come, our inner appearance can grow more beautiful with each day. If we keep our focus where it should be and allow God to continue His work in us we will be transformed more and more into the beautiful likeness of Christ. We don’t need to worry about what other people think of us—it is only God’s opinion that truly matters.

But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty
of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:4 ESV

It may have taken a few days, but I finally did get the message. I had been putting my appearance above what was in my heart and focusing on the outside rather than on what God sees and wants for me. My emphasis was on my temporal shell and not on what really matters. The result was a woman who was self-absorbed, self-conscious, and stifled in her service to God. That is not the kind of woman I want to be. I want to be a woman who pleases the Lord in everything I do! So I am welcoming His transforming hands on my life! May He continue to teach me and form me into a woman whose imperishable beauty is found within her heart.

*****

Joan Davis has been a blogger at The Beauty in His Grip for the past 4 years. She began blogging out of her thankfulness to God for His redeeming hand on her life. She believes that everything happens for a reason and the life-lessons learned along the way should be shared with others in order to build up the body for Christ. It is her desire is to encourage other women through the lessons that God has taught her.

Joan shares the incredible truth that we can never fall so far that we are beyond the reach of God.  There are no lost causes, for He loves us all. It doesn’t matter how rocky our pasts, God will always accept us when we surrender our lives to Him. With Christ we can live a life filled with abundant joy simply by knowing and experiencing Him through His mercy, grace and unfailing love. Through both smooth and challenging times in her life, Joan has seen God’s faithfulness and now looks at each day as a new day to celebrate His goodness!

Photo credit: Stock photo: Mirror

Linking up with The Weekend Brew and Soli Deo Gloria