Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Friends are Better than Cheetos

By Emilee Donehoo

“How are you today?” chirped the cashier at the grocery store.

Panic settled into my stomach. My husband has been gone for far too long, and I had been with the kids around the clock because Presidents’ Day is for some reason “Presidents’ Six Day Weekend,” my grandma just died, I’m hormonal, and interacting with adult humans hasn’t happened in a while. Inside my head, a conversation erupted. 

She’s asking how you are, Em. How are you?

Yes, she’s asking, but she doesn’t want the real answer because the real answer is that I’m frustrated and lonely and exhausted from walking through the grocery store with three kids who were hitting each other and tripping over each other and whipping their coats at each other and playing “hot lava” with the different colored tiles on the floor and not paying attention to all of the other people who were just trying to get by so they could get their groceries and get on with their lives while I tried to buy food without gluten, dairy, coconut, peanuts, eggs, tree nuts, and chickpeas. I can’t just say, “Oh. I’m fine.” because I’m not fine, and I’m not a liar but I’m not about to tell all of my problems to the grocery store clerk because then I’ll be the crazy lady crying in the grocery store and gosh, it seems like I cry a lot when the grocery store check-out lady asks me how I am… 

It has been too long since anyone said words. She is staring at you. Say SOMETHING!

“Oh, I am how you are while grocery shopping with three kids, you know...” I finally answer.

She clearly did not know. She smiled in response and stopped asking me questions. 

This isn’t the first time I have had or almost 

had an emotional breakdown in the grocery store. 

One time when Danny was a newborn and had just gotten shots, a lady stopped to say how beautiful he was. I cried in that conversation. Then the time the kids and I all had a tummy bug and I took three sick kids around in a cart to buy ginger ale, saltines, and chicken soup. An older lady told me to “Enjoy every minute.” I smiled and walked away before angry tears and angry words spilled out of me.

Oh, and the time I was pregnant and some sensitive soul said, “Wow!  You’re huge!  How much longer do you have?  You’re about to pop.” And that other time when the super nice check-out lady said, “Kids are hard. You’re doing such a great job with them.”

As I collected my children from the penny horsey ride, I asked myself, Why are you always having weird emotional run-ins at the grocery store?

The answer came, Uh, Em? When you’re a mom, sometimes the check-out lady at the grocery store is the only person who ever asks you how you are.

Oh. That’s sad.

Yes, it is, Em.

We should do something about that!

Yes, we should. 

So I decided to do something. 

I went home and ate a bunch of Cheetos and ice cream while I binge-watched This Is Us and cried. 

It was not a great decision.  

And it didn’t do anything to fix my loneliness. So I texted my friend. “Do not binge-watch This Is Us after your grandma dies and you’re hormonal and your husband has been on work trips for most of the month.” 

Condolence texting ensued. Friend asked how I was. I asked how she was. 

Turns out, she had been needing a friend too. Go figure.

We exchanged prayers and thoughtful words. Actual plans for coffee… like with a date, a place, and a time were made. We didn't have any pretending or competitiveness or anything icky. Why didn't I call a friend sooner? 

I have so many awesome friends, but I forget to text them or I assume they were too busy or bogged down with their tiny people who are covering them in bodily fluids to want to hang out with me and my tiny humans. And I’m guessing that they wrongly think the same. Because I have friends who show up. I have friends who, when I say, “I have this crazy dream that I want to do this thing…”

They say, “Cool!  I’ll do it with you!” I forget how amazing my friends are sometimes. Maybe you do too? Maybe today is a great day to remember. Maybe today is a great day to text a friend and make actual plans with a date and a time and a place to reconnect and be actual humans. 

Maybe today is a great day to ask God to help us not do this crazy thing all alone. 

Because really… God and friends are way better company than Cheetos and ice cream. 

Emily Donehoo is the only female in a family of five. She is a former High School English Teacher and National Trainer for the College Board. These days, when she isn’t scrubbing toilets, administering timeouts, working at book fairs, attempting to tackle dinner, laundry, homework help, dishes, and a preschooler’s incessant questions, she writes authentically about the hard stuff that really matters, hoping to uncover the truth that God has for us whether it makes us cry from laughter, pain or both at the same time. Read more of her writing here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

When Freedom Comes

By Maggie Bartlett

One morning when I was 22 years old, I sat at breakfast with a close friend who spent years of her life pouring into me. She asked, “What do you want to change in you by next year? Where do you want to see growth?”

I responded, “I want to learn to be raw and messy, and be ok with my rawness and messiness.”

Though, when I thought about inviting friends into the real stuff, I withdrew, crippled by fear. I didn’t want to expose my bitterness, my jealousy, my pride, my need. What would they think if I asked for help? If I was honest? But I wondered, if I didn’t let others in on that messiness, then what did that mean for Jesus? Could he heal and redeem if I only gave Him and others pieces of my heart?

That’s when I realized I needed help. 

I didn’t want to be the kind of girl who sat with my best friend, feeling like my life was hanging on by a thread, bullets flying my way, broken and bruised saying, “Everything is great! I’m fine!”

I turned to friends. I told them my heart was broken, that I was angry and felt abandoned by the Lord. I handed shattered pieces of myself to the Lord, asking for help. 

Slowly, I shed layers of loneliness, fear, and anxiety. 

Over time and through rich relationships, He relentlessly worked to free me from personal and external expectations. He whispered that I was free from fear, free to make mistakes, free to have my heart broken and give it away again. I found freedom.

I knew I was making progress because a few months after my breakfast with my friend I gave a talk exposing myself, unafraid of what anyone thought. I was standing in a room full of goofy, loud high school kids and I started like this: “Let me let you in on a secret. It’s one I don’t like to keep to myself…I’m not perfect.”

I shared a story that I had never shared with anyone. I punched my 16-year-old brother in the nose, causing him to storm out of the car and march down the road in fury and hurt, blood gushing from his nose. Then, I said that Jesus wanted to be in my imperfections, even my temper tantrums; he wanted all of us, not just the pretty stuff.

“It is for freedom, he set us free.” - Galatians 5:1 

I know the damage caused by hiding, the weight of carrying suffering alone. I’m still prone to keep up appearances, especially as a woman, intimated by who thinks this or who has what or who is wearing that. Terrified to impose or ask for help. Tangled up in comparison, stifled by fear.

It requires courage and bravery to hand our broken hearts to friends and to the Lord, but this act of truthfulness and surrender is rewarded with freedom. I’ve witnessed the power of a friend saying “Me too” or “I know” and how in that raw, tender moment Jesus can silence the lies and nudge me toward grace. 

When we live out of the love that freed us, when we invite others into our hurt, we release the expectations of who we think we’re supposed to be, embracing the truth of who we are and giving others permission to do the same. 

Let’s live unrestrained, allowing others to see our imperfections and beauty and give Jesus the space he needs to rescue, redeem and delight our souls.

Maggie Bartlett is a Colorado native, living in Denver with her husband. She works in marketing for an agency and loves to write, climb mountains and explore in her free time.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Living in the "Single-hood" and Learning to Love It

I am single. I am single. I am single.


Sometimes I think if I say it enough times, the truth of my singlehood may finally sink in.
For the past six years, I’ve been “renting space” in the land of singleness. I haven’t quite settled in, hung the pictures on my walls or unpacked all of my things. In my mind I have only taken up temporary residence, hoping my stay would be brief.

I spend precious spare time daydreaming about how I would spend my time were I in the companionship of a man. Would I be hiking, paddle boarding, laying by the pool? I read books on “dating God’s way” and “how to get over rejection so I can move on to a healthy relationship.” As a renter, every prayer, every book, every activity, every act of obedience is a means to an end: Getting the guy.

Over time it’s become evident: my pushing for a relationship isn’t going to make it happen. What if, in order to embrace the fantastic calling God has for me to become a woman He can put to extraordinary use, I need to settle into a more permanent residence in the “single-hood?” Make it mine. OWN IT!

Perhaps then I can put my whole self into God’s purpose for me as a single woman.

That sounds so brave and bold on paper, but what I really feel is defeat.

For me to not go to a defeated, discouraged place God has revealed six truths that have given me enthusiasm for my purchase:

1.    God has purposed and gifted me specifically for His work. Maybe God’s silence in my prayers for a companion are a resounding YES to creating space to learn everything I can about my gifts and how to best use them for His glory.

2.    God uses the deepest, darkest part of our hurts to minister to others. Being crafted for communication has helped me not only draw out the infection from my own wounds but gives me an opportunity to tell other struggling singles about God’s glory and love for us. Maybe I can minister best to other single and divorced people from a place of singlehood.

3.    God is the master relationship guy. If I want healthy relationships with people, I have to learn how to have a healthy relationship with God. I have come understand the power of just being in God’s presence with no expectations or pretense. Just to sit and be, for the love and for the joy of His presence. Approaching this communion from a place of singlehood offers fewer distractions, greater focus. 

4.    As I’ve deepened my relationship with God, I see how he’s never left a prayer for companionship, friendship, provision, or protection unanswered. All the things I cry out to God for in desperation and loneliness, believing these needs are only met in a relationship with a man, God has answered in other extraordinary ways. He has surrounded me with a community of people through my church. I only needed to see the provision and start getting myself out there, unafraid of what people think of me, vulnerable enough to express my deepest self, welcoming the opportunity to love again.

5.    Being chosen by a man does not define my value as a woman. Conversely, my value doesn’t diminish when I’ve been rejected. So much of my time as a single woman has been spent searching for someone who will validate me. I found him, a couple of hims, but they aren’t God’s best for me. I know it, but the feeling of being accepted and valued by a man sometimes overrides the truth that I am the same beautiful, valuable woman with or without a man.

6.    I’ve had to relinquish to God my dream of a marriage. This hasn’t been easy but necessary so I can move on to new dreams that look much different than what I had imagined.

I’ve purchased a place in Single-ville and am on the journey of making it my own. I am now the proud owner of a wide-open horizon with a view of who I can become, unencumbered by who I think I need to be to get the guy. 

My prayer for all of us single women is to embrace your singleness as a gift from God. I know it's easier to say than do but it's possible! 

Own the truth that God loves you with an everlasting love, and He always answers prayers. 

Lori Emery is the Development Director for Community Uplift Partnership, a non-profit dedicated to alleviating poverty through restoring relationships so lives are transformed.  She’s also a writer, speaker and mama of two exceptional boys, 12 and 9.  Lori’s favorite things to do in her free time are hiking, swimming, running, biking and traveling to far off places bringing Jesus to the lost and hurting. It was during the most painful and challenging event in her life that she came to understand the full measure of Jesus’ love for her and she’s been following his lead ever since. To read more about Lori’s adventures as a single woman, please visit her blog.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Get Up and Wash Off the Mud

“Then he anointed the man’s eyes with mud and said to him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam. So he went and washed and came back seeing.” 

John 9:6-7

My life hasn’t gone the way I dreamed. I imagined my life would be simple and easy because I loved Jesus. I believed if I were a “good girl” and followed the rules, I would live happily ever after. Well, not so much.

My freshmen year of college I developed strange neurological issues that I tried to ignore, like shaky hands. As the years passed, my symptoms worsened. I saw many doctors, but none had an answer. I finished college and moved on, adjusting to each new issue as it arose.

I married and then experienced infertility. This was one of the hardest paths I have ever had to walk. 

Like my shaky hands, my faith was shaky too.

Dealing with my infertility seemed similar to dealing with my neurological issues. I saw many doctors. I prayed more. Things got worse. I have never doubted God as much as I did during this time.

Finally, my husband and I were blessed with two beautiful children and I am forever grateful. However, after the birth of my second child, my neurological issues intensified. Walking was hard, and I lost my balance and fell frequently. When my kids were toddlers, I underwent brain surgery. The surgeons hoped to reverse my condition, and I hoped to be cured of all my symptoms. However, nine months after the surgery, my symptoms were worse and new ones had started.

This time I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. Treatment required a monthly infusion that took all day and left me with migraines and flu-like symptoms for three days.  I was told that, because pregnancy caused my condition to progress more quickly, I shouldn't have any more children. I was devastated.

I received infusions every five weeks for four and a half years, planning my life around them. My disease defined me, and I sat on the sidelines of life, anxious when anyone asked me to do anything that required me to walk very far. I prayed constantly for healing, but my faith grew weaker when I didn’t see improvement.

In July of 2016 I was at my lowest point emotionally and physically. But God began to whisper into the dark, discouraged parts of my heart. I am good, He said. Trust me. He brought a team of people into my life as only He could do. These people inspired hope in me that God was working. Then Jim gave a message about Jesus putting mud on the blind man’s eyes and telling him to go wash it off. Then the blind man was healed.

I have heard this story many times but a new idea jumped out at me. When Jesus made the mud and put it on the man’s eyes he wasn’t instantly healed. Why did Jesus even make the mud? I wondered. He could have just spoken the words and the man would have been healed. But Jesus, after putting the mud on the man’s eyes, told him to go and wash.

The man had to make a choice. He could sit and complain that he wasn’t healed. He could have said he couldn’t go to the pool because he was blind. But, instead, the man listened to Jesus. Even though what Jesus said didn't make any sense, he trusted and did what Jesus said. 

This has become my story. As I sat on the road begging for healing, living as a victim to my circumstances God said, “Get up! Move.” 

I choose to trust God. I became invested in my healing. Emotionally and physically, I had to take action. I changed my diet. I began to go out for walks and even have started to run. I started seeing a doctor who used methods other than medication, and I saw a massage therapist who used essential oils. I started experiencing healing, not in an instant but through a journey. I have been able to stop my infusions and I am currently training for a half marathon. More importantly, my faith has exploded.

Maybe you are feeling hopeless and hiding the pain you are experiencing. Can I encourage you to listen to those whispers from God? Trust him. He is a good God. 

Don’t give up. Do what you can do. Get up and wash off the mud. And trust God, who can answer your prayers in ways that make no sense at all.

Natalie is a wife and mother. She has been an IF Local Leader for IF Gathering since it began four years ago. She helped bring the IF Gathering to the women of Flatirons Community Church! 

Visit the Flatirons Women's Ministry web page for information on the IF Conference hosted by Flatirons Community Church in February.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

When Feeling Down with Bad News Look for the Good

By Jean Blackmer

“I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13

It’s 2017 and it’s a crazy world.

Everywhere I look and anything I read is bad news. Racial tensions, political sparring, wars, starving refugees, natural disasters, broken relationships, a sudden death in the family, mall brawls and so much more. I start to feel discouraged and wonder Where is God in all of this?

If I let myself dwell on these negative events I spiral down and feel disheartened. Then I carry this negativity into my thought life, into my home, and into my closest relationships. I start to focus on differences rather than common ground. I let my fears dominate my hopes. I find myself uttering words of criticism rather than admiration.

I even experience bad dreams revolving around scary things happening. The other night I woke up myself, and my husband, shouting my son’s name after a dream where he was on an airplane to travel for the holidays and the plane was crashing. I jolted awake and my heart was pounding. No way was I going to fall back to sleep. So, I went to my bible app on my phone and looked up one of my go-to verses when I’m overwhelmed with negativity in the world, Psalm 27:13:

“I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

For me, this calms me down and I find a sense of peace in the chaos. I know we will experience an eternity of love and peace but this scripture reminds me that I can be confident that I WILL SEE the GOODNESS of the Lord in our world today.

Then I consciously shift my thoughts and open my eyes to see goodness amidst the bad. If I see a news story about a tragedy I look for those running to help. If I hear about refugees I remember what people are doing, including my own church, to save lives and make this world a better place.

Sometimes I have to dig deeper to find a good story to read, watch a heart-warming documentary, an inspirational TED Talk or a funny YouTube video to get me out of my depressive funk.

I also pay attention to the beauty around me: the tree outside my window with little icicles dangling from a branch; the precious smile on a baby’s face at the store; the delight in a simple walk with a friend.

Then, and this is the best remedy for the blues, I take the next step and DO something good. Prepare a special dinner for my family. Sit and have tea with my 87-year-old neighbor. Make and take sandwiches to the homeless hanging out at the creek in town. Help with a food bank or sign up to sponsor a child monthly in a third world country.

We can do so much good with each precious moment we have 

if we set our minds to do it. 

Realistically, 2017 will have its ups and downs. Hopefully, we’ll handle the ups and downs with looking for and doing good.Then I think we'll find joy in the midst of the turmoil because we will see the goodness of the Lord in the Land of the living.

Don’t stop looking!

What's something good you’ve seen recently? We love to hear from you!

Jean Blackmer is married to Zane and mother to three boys. She’s authored three books, including MomSense: A Common Sense Guide to Confident Mothering, contributed content to more than 20 books, and written articles for a variety of magazines. She loves her family, chocolate, scuba diving and being outside as often as possible. She's managing the blog for the Flatirons Women's Ministry and is looking for writers!