Being a teen girl living in today’s world is just not the same thing as it was even a decade ago. They face new challenges, new experiences. They face things that most adults could never even dream of.
Years ago, I read Mirror Mirror… Am I Beautiful? by Shelley Hitz and immediately thought that it was the book I wished I would have had when I was a teen. It was like the perfect handbook for Christian girls living in the real world. It didn’t just cover the pretty Christian topics, but the real-life, nitty-gritty issues that you are faced with in high school: Insecurities. Guys. Fashion. Evolution. Faith. Sex. It was all there.
And it was about a decade too late for me.
As my own daughters approach their teen years, I didn’t want it to be too late for them. So, I partnered with Shelley to update and expand the book so it is relevant for today’s teens. I so strongly believe in the message this book holds that I am willing to literally give it away.
But I know sometimes the best books are books that you can hold in your hand.
When you buy our book, either the paperback or Kindle edition, now through Saturday, you’ll get a free coloring book and have a chance to enter to win five more true beauty books.
It’s been a busy start to 2016. Despite my best efforts not to get in over my head or make commitments that will stress me out, I’ve done it anyway. Life has a tendency to run out of control. Thus, I have been learning a lot about surrendering to God and following His lead. I probably have a billion blog worthy topics stored up, but today, I have to tell you about something that is very prevalent in my life. In fact, it has the potential to be life changing, and regardless of whether or not it alters my life physically, the fear is wreaking havoc on my spiritual life.
My husband is having neck surgery in just over a week.
That might not sound major to you. It is a fairly common surgery. The doctor told him they do about 5 of these surgeries every week. But it’s pretty major to me.
I have to help my husband write a will. That’s major.
Let me back up for you for a moment.
Without giving you a crazy long medical background, my husbands shoulder has been hurting since last spring. Just before Thanksgiving, we found out that it is being caused by a bulging disc in his neck. After seeing a new doctor last week, we were told what my husband had already accepted: he needs surgery. There is absolutely no tissue around his spine.
I’m going to get candid with you for a moment here: This scares the living daylights out of me.
I know I have nothing to fear. I know God is in control. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that no matter what happens, God’s got this. His timing is perfect, His ways are best, and He loves me.
But I am still struggling with this irrational fear.
And it is irrational to me, because I know better. Yet it’s there.
Yesterday at church I cried my eyes out as we sang Never Once, because it’s exactly what I needed. I know God is faithful, and even though I am scared, I know I am not alone. I can’t yet say that I have peace about this, but I walked out of the church feeling a whole lot lighter than when I walked in.
Then, when I called my mom to tell her what was going on, she volunteered to come stay with my kids while my husband was in the hospital. That was such a huge burden lifted off of me as I was still trying to sort out those details. It was just a reminder that I am not alone. I knew we could count on my mother-in-law and our church family, but there’s just something about having my mom here that makes it all easier for me, you know?
God is so good.
While I am still struggling, God is winning the battle in my heart. I feel it swinging His way, and I know I will be okay.
Have you ever struggled with fear as a Christian? I’d love to hear about your testimony in the comments!
In 2015 my theme for the year was “Called by Christ” – I spent the year reflecting on what God has called me to do, and it changed my life. The more I dug in, the more I realized I wasn’t leading the life He has called me to live.
One of the first things I did was resign from my position at TrainingAuthors.com. It cut me to the core but it opened me up to discover more about who God has called me to be and it allowed me the time to listen as God spoke to my heart. I won’t say that I always obeyed what I was hearing. Changing your entire life is hard. But I had to learn to let go.
That was my call for 2015, to let go. To wait. To get my feet on solid ground, before I took a leap of faith.
Moving into 2016, my theme for the year is twofold. I want to own the reality of my life. Really build a strong foundation of who I am in Christ, who He created me to be, where He has placed me, and what He has called me to do. And then I want to embrace it. I want to take who God made me and use every ounce of me to bring Him glory.
I want to live with a firm foundation that springs me into action.
At the end of 2014 I was burned out and confused. I didn’t know what I wanted or really even who I was apart from my work. While I had surpassed all of my goals, my family was suffering. I needed change. I am so happy now as we approach the end of 2015 that I know my calling. I know who I am, but I want to know more. I have a hunger to develop my relationship with Jesus like never before.
I have learned a ton during the year, and I want to take it deeper. I want it to move from head knowledge to really owning and embracing the life God has in store for me.
I am still crazy passionate about helping others, which is why I will be blogging regularly throughout the year and sharing what God is teaching me. Eventually, I hope to publish a book on this topic, but I really need to walk through it first and totally immerse myself in it.
I would love to hear what you are focusing on in the coming year. Do you have a theme, or a word for the year? A scripture? Do you make resolutions? Share your answers in the comments below!
I will add that in 2015, my theme verse for the year was 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.” (It went really well with my theme, “Called by Christ”.) For 2016, I am going with Psalm 118:17 which has already implanted itself in my heart, “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.”
I’ve been working hard behind the scenes for months on my new ministry for Christian women, CandidlyChristian.com. My goal was to create a safe place where women could be honest about their faith, failures, and forgiveness. Let’s face it, life isn’t always neat and tidy, being a Christian doesn’t change that.
Those of you who know my testimony, know that God has used the honesty of other Christian women to grow my faith more than anything else. Knowing that other Christian women don’t have it all together is a huge blessing. Knowing it’s okay to be less than perfect, what a relief!
I will never forget the first time a Christian woman admitted to me that she didn’t have it all together. She wasn’t just any Christian woman, she was our pastor’s daughter-in-law, super fit, a stay-at-home, super mom who was part of the worship team and an international missionary. I’m telling you, she was everything a good Christian should be, and she knew her Bible inside and out.
And then she confessed that she struggled with depression. That she questioned her faith because of an overwhelming feeling of worthlessness. This was super woman, and she struggled with some of the same things I did.
Another time the woman who hosted our Bible study confessed that her house wasn’t always as clean as we saw it each week. In fact, she said if we showed up unannounced at any other time during the week, that it would be a wreck.
Again, a huge burden was lifted. Not because I rejoiced in their struggles, but because it made me realize that struggling was okay.
Who knew it was okay to be less than perfect?
Her candid confession was a balm to my soul.
Many other candid confessions have followed. Some of them speak to me, others make me hurt for the women who are going through them all alone.
When I’ve shared my own candid confessions with other christian women, I usually get one of two responses.
Encouraging Support or Utter Condemnation
Sometimes well-meaning christian women come across the wrong way. Most of them don’t mean to, but it happens from time to time. And it happens often enough to make us scared to be honest.
If you are a Christian woman, I would love to have you join me at CandidlyChristian.com: A safe place to be open and honest about faith, failure, and forgiveness.
You may or may not have heard of Beth Moore’s Siesta Scripture Memory Team, but I’m taking part in it this year and loving it. The basis behind it is that you memorize two verses a month (on the first and fifteenth). Psalm 118:17 is my second verse for this month, and while I know I’ve read the entire Bible, I don’t remember really seeing this verse before yesterday, but it has hit me hard.
“I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.”
~ Psalm 118:17
(ESV – emphasis mine)
This verse stirs me in a way I can barely express through words. Before Jesus, we were dead in our transgressions, separated from God, but because of Him, we shall live. He has given us a new life (Romans 6:4), and the old has passed away (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Because of Christ, we can live not only in eternity, but we can live a full life here on earth bringing glory to our Savior. We can share about His mighty works. And not only that, but He can live through us and in us through the person of the Holy Spirit.
John 10:10 says, “A thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But I (Jesus) came to give you life–life that is full and good.”
Jesus came to give us life. Not just air to breathe, but one where we actively live a life according to what He has called us to. Colossians 3:1 says, “You were raised from death with Christ. So live for what is in heaven, where Christ is sitting at the righthand of God.”
Jesus didn’t just give us life, He gave us something to live for.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
~ 2 Corinthians 5:17
Today I wanted to share one of the devotions I write for teen girls with you. This one was actually written a couple of years ago, and I was amazed at how much I have grown in Christ since writing it, however, it’s still spot on.
You can sign up to get this devotion and others like it delivered to your inbox daily or weekly for free here.
Living by Faith
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
~ Galatians 2:20
Wow! Did you read that verse?
Those are the words Paul wrote to the Galatians, can you echo his words with your own?
Do you live by faith in the Son of God… do I?
Normally I would say absolutely, but the first part of the verse implies a much deeper meaning. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” That’s a powerful statement. Paul literally gave up all of his personal dreams (and belongings) to live for Christ, and Christ alone. I can fully admit that I haven’t done that.
You see, I get up each morning and decide what I want to do, what I want to wear, what I want to eat, and what I think is important to get done that day. Yes, I try to make sure that I spend time reading my Bible and pray that I accomplish what God wants me to do during the day… but I’m still living for me.
I know that Jesus gave up His life for me, yet I still live for myself.
I don’t spend my day focusing on He has done, but on me and my own little world.
Can you relate to that?
I don’t think that to live for Christ we all have to sell everything we own, and travel the world preaching Christ to the nations. Sure, some people are called by God to do that, but others Jesus commanded to stay where they were and share His love with those around them (Mark 5:18-20).
I think it’s harder to do that.
To stay in the same life we have always been living, but to change what we are living for. It’s harder to break habits when we are in the same situation – but that is exactly what God has called many of us to do.
So what about you? Are you continuing to live for yourself, or are you living by faith in Christ and allowing Him to live through you?
Write Galatians 2:20 on a note card and spend the next week memorizing it. Read it aloud first thing each morning, and then to yourself several times throughout the day – and pay attention to whether or not you are actually living it.
Father God, I have been living for myself. I want to live for You, I really do, but my flesh gets in the way. I want the words that Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20 to be my own, but I need Your help with that. Help me to live my life by faith in Your Son, so much so that I no longer live, but that He lives in me. It is in His name that I pray, amen.
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
~ Luke 18:14
Welcome to week three of our study of the prayers from the New Testament! Today, we are looking at the prayers from the Pharisee and the tax collector found in Luke 18 (vs 9-14)
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Oh how easy it is to slip into the prayer of the Pharisee. We might not pray the words, but we sure think them.
We may look down on others because they don’t have what we have or do what they do. Maybe they don’t come to church as often as we do, or they don’t have clothes that are as nice as ours. Or maybe it’s something more… maybe they are robbers or evildoers.
I know I often thank God for my blessings while comparing them to someone elses downfall. Do you ever do that? Do you ever say, “God, thank you that my husband isn’t like so and so” or “Thank you that my kids don’t do that”?
Instead of stopping to pray for the person going through whatever it is, whether a struggle with sin, heartache, or a deep seated need for Salvation, we turn it inward and thank God that we don’t share that need. How selfish am I?
Worse yet, just as the Pharisee boasted about his religious acts, I am tempted to do the same. Not outwardly of course, but in my mind. I’m tempted to feel good about myself because I took the time to read my Bible and pray in the morning–knowing full well that while reading my Bible and praying are good things, only the blood of Christ is my Salvation. I only have a Bible to read because God has blessed me. I can only pray because Christ ripped the veil and allowed us entrance to the holy place.
How tempting it is to be a closet Pharisee…to pray how I know I should pray, but continue living in a state of subtle pride.
In fact, that’s the exact reason Jesus told this parable. He told it to, “some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else”. We know that Jesus can see our hearts. And I have to wonder if the people He told this parable to were outwardly self-righteous, or just subtly self-righteous. The result is the same state of the heart.
Subtle Pride is Still Pride Just the Same
The tax collector, on the other hand, stood at a distance and wouldn’t even approach God. He begged for forgiveness–and Jesus said he received it.
Because of what Christ did, I know that I don’t have to fearfully approach God. We can sit at His feet as His beloved children.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
~1 John 4:18
But there is more than one type of fear. While I know we don’t need to be frightened of God, we should still stand in awe of Him. We should approach Him with a godly-fear–a fear that reminds us He alone has the power to save us or send us to hell. Yes, we are His children and He loves us, but He is still God.
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.For our God is a consuming fire.”
~ Hebrews 12:28-29 (NKJV)
It is so important to come before God with humility, but it is equally important to live that way. To remember that God is God, and that He loves everyone He created.
We should “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above [ourselves],not looking to [our] own interests but…to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4) Not prayer. Not thanksgiving. Nothing.
With that in mind, I wanted to close today’s lesson with a verse from Colossians:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
~ Colossians 3:12
What are some things you tend to look down on others for? How can you pray for them instead?
Are you ever tempted to feel good about your religious acts? Which ones make you feel the best?
If you had to summarize the lesson Jesus was trying to get across in this parable, what would you say?
Take it Deeper
Look up the following Scriptures on humility: James 4:10; Proverbs 11:2; Ephesians 4:2; 1 Peter 3:8; Deuteronomy 8:17-18;1 Timothy 6:17
One of the things God has used to grow my relationship with Him the most over the years is other Christians. My mom used to tell me that I was a people person. I thrive on relationships with others. Connecting with others and getting to know the real them, I love it.
And God has used that in my life in some major ways.
Most notably, is that He has used the honesty of others to help me grow in Him.
The first time a Christian woman admitted to me that she didn’t have it all together, a huge burden was lifted. Granted, she wasn’t just any Christian woman, she was like super mom in my eyes. She was our pastor’s daughter-in-law, super fit, and a stay-at-home-mom who was part of the worship team and an international missionary. I’m telling you, she was everything a good Christian should be, and she knew her Bible inside and out.
And then she confessed that she struggled with depression. That she questioned her faith because of an overwhelming feeling of worthlessness.
Another time the woman who hosted our Bible study confessed that her house wasn’t always as clean as we saw it each week. In fact, she said if we showed up unannounced at any other time during the week, that it would be a wreck. Again, a huge burden was lifted.
Not because I rejoiced in their struggles, but because it made me realize that struggling was okay. That it was okay to be less than perfect.
This morning on Instagram, I posted a picture of my less-than-tidy quiet time assortment.
Under my Bible study bar, we keep the girls roller skates, a couple of plants that haven’t found new homes since we remodeled last spring, the kids backpacks (even a couple of empty ones that they aren’t using right now), and currently, my Bible study bag that I got out this morning and forgot to put away.
Not shown in the picture is my pile of books, pencil caddy, and papers for the day’s planning session. So even my untidy picture was tidier than reality.
It also didn’t show that I took the kids to school in some scrubs, because I don’t usually shower until mid-morning – you know, after my quiet time and workout session (the workout session I don’t always get to that is).
The point is, it’s easy to wear a mask and only let outsiders see what you want them to see.
It’s easy to portrait yourself as having it all together to those who don’t really know you.
But what a shame it is when we do that.
When we put ourselves on pedestals that we don’t belong on in the first place, it can cause others to think less of themselves because they aren’t as good as us.
As Christian women, it’s easy to do that, I don’t think any of us do it on purpose. I truly believe that most of us have a heart for Christ and are trying to show other women how to live for Him, but we need to know that God doesn’t expect perfection.
Yes, Jesus told us to, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). But I think that perfection comes less from our works, and more from our faith.
We will never be perfect this side of heaven, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) but “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
If someone tells you that they never sin, then they are deceiving themselves–and you. For 1 John 1:8 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
How much better would our lives be if we were honest about our struggles?
We all have them.
We all struggle with something.
1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.” How great would it be to have other Christian women come alongside of us and let us know that we are not alone.
Let’s face it, sometimes we need a flesh and blood woman of God to confirm what Scripture has already promised. It’s easy to feel like no one would ever understand what we are going through. It’s easy to convince ourselves that no one else fails the way we do. That no one struggles the way we do.
But they do.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
~ James 5:16
If you were honest, what is one thing you struggle with that you think other Christian women have rose above?
I’ll go first, then you can share your answer in the comments below.
I already mentioned that it was a huge relief when I found out other Christian women struggled with depression and house cleaning. Those two are big for me.
However, I would love to know if other Christian women struggle with balancing their priorities. I know God needs to be first in my life. I know my biggest ministry needs to be to my family. But fleshing that out with the responsibilities and commitments I have, can sometimes pose a struggle for me. I’m getting better, but I still stumble and fall. I make the wrong choices on the best way to spend my time. And when I look at other Christian women, they appear to always make the right choices. Being amazing parents and wives, serving God, cleaning their homes, and working to support their families.
I know I only see the outside, so tell me, does anyone else struggle with balancing priorities and responsibilities?
(Don’t forget to share your own struggles in the comments!)