The Truth About Your Sweet Feminine Self

There was a lot of commotion out there this past weekend regarding our role as women in our society and in this world. If we are not careful, we can get ourselves caught up in trying to find our self-worth from someplace outside of God’s Word.

To be crystal clear: our value, our self-worth and our acceptance will never come from a law, a march or a shifting-sand political platform. They come to us from one place and one place alone – Jesus Christ.

Remember this: God-given identity is true for all women. Every single soul has value and is an image bearer of the one who created her — whether she knows Him or not.

In Genesis 1 and 2, God created the heaven, the earth and everything it in it. Each time something was created, He said it was ‘good’ – until He created man. After man’s creation, God decided something wasn’t good.

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” — Genesis 2:18

You have seen this verse before and in some translations the word ‘helpmeet’ is in place of the word ‘helper’. 

Helpmeet? Helper?

They sound kind of weak, don’t they? Both words feel like God created us to stand a few steps back with eyes lowered to the floor. No abundant life for us – we simply are here to ‘help’.

But it isn’t so.

In the original language, ‘helpmeet’ is translated back to the Hebrew word ‘ezer’ and this word has a very, very different meaning.

The word ‘ezer’ means, strength, power, and rescue. One commentator translates it as a strong power and lifesaver!

So, let’s take a look at Genesis 2:18 again and place the real meaning in the text.

The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a strong power and rescuer for him.’

Our sweet Lord created us not as an afterthought, but as the crowning glory of His perfect creation!

This world was not complete (and neither was man) until our feminine strength, fueled by God’s power, arrived on the scene! He has given us large hearts to love and carry life – by our very nature, we are life givers, lifesavers and rescuers.

And anything that goes against how God created us, goes against Him.

Now girls, ever since Eve tangled with sin, our God-given qualities have been distorted.

Oh my, how they have been twisted and turned and defiled! It’s no wonder so many of us have searched for our identity and value in unsafe places.

But the truth is, no matter how messed up our value may be in our own eyes or in the eyes of others, it has never ever changed in the eyes and heart of the One who made us.

We are life-bearers.

We rescuers and lifesavers.

We possess God’s strong power expressed through our big feminine hearts.

We are smart and possess keen intuition & wisdom via the Holy Spirit.

We are valuable.

We are servant leaders.

We have God-given dignity.

And so does every little girl on this earth and those yet to be born. All are image bearers of God Almighty.

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The Bible is full of women who used the attributes God created them with to influence their world for His glory.

One such woman was Esther.

Her name means ‘star’ and it is so appropriate! She used her strong power to be a bright light in a very dark time. Her courage, strength and keen wisdom led her to become the lifesaver of her beloved people.

There is also Rahab, Mary, Elizabeth, the Samaritan woman and on and on. These women — and many, many more (some named and some unnamed), have left us a legacy as God’s crowning glory.

Creation wasn’t complete without our feminine strong power!

As designed, we can illuminate His voice of life, calm, wisdom, kindness, love, empathy, loyalty and of understanding in this lost and hurting world.

We don’t need anyone out there to affirm our dignity or value. We don’t have to go looking ‘elsewhere’ for it either. It’s ours. We only have to look at God’s perfect creation and listen to the lives of our sisters in the pages of scripture.

Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. — Hebrews 13:7b

Blessings to you, my girlfriends!

laura

Long Walk Part Of The Gift

An African boy listened carefully as his missionary teacher explained why Christians give presents to each other on Christmas day. “The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our love for each other,” she said.

When Christmas day came, the boy brought to the teacher a seashell of lustrous beauty. “Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?” the teacher asked as she held  the gift up to the light.The young boy told her that there was only one spot where such extraordinary shells could be found. When he named the place, a certain bay several miles away, the teacher was left speechless.

 “Why…why, it’s gorgeous…wonderful, but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get a gift for me.”

His eyes brightening, the boy answered, “Long walk part of gift. **

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I love this story.

It perfectly illustrates that going the extra mile is the most precious gift of all.

I don’t know about you, but my heart has been extra tender this Advent. When that happens, at any time of the year, it usually means God is urging me to grow in a particular area of my life.

Does that ever happen to you? He turns up the heat, stirs the emotions and pushes us to grow. It’s possible to ignore, especially during this busy time of year, but I have learned to lean in and listen when God is speaking – most of the time, anyway. 🙂

Our son Grant moved to Chicago in December a few years back – just in time for a polar vortex, sub-freezing temperatures and a ton of snow. He wasn’t really prepared for such weather, and his commute to work was a three-block walk from his new apartment. Needless to say, our Christmas gifts for him that year included all manner of outerwear.

I was so concerned about him that it almost became an obsession to find the just the right things that would keep him warm in such extreme cold.

I was a mom on a mission!

I scoured the LL Bean Catalog, Cabela’s and other stores to find sub-zero clothing for the brutal Chicago weather. That stuff is expensive!

I shopped sales, used coupons and was able to get him taken care of without breaking the bank. It took some extra time and effort, but what a relief to know my boy had good quality gear to keep him warm.

Grant, moving to Chicago in 2013. Boo hoo.
Grant, moving to Chicago in 2013. Boo hoo.

And so, as the Lord has been working on me this Advent, He brought the memory of Grant’s first winter in Chicago to mind.

And then, almost immediately, came the challenge: Every year I donate items such as hats, gloves, scarves and blankets to the homeless. Have I ever taken so much time and care to find the same quality gifts for them?

Have I been as concerned about one who actually lives on the street as I was for a very well-cared for son who walks three blocks from one warm place to another?

Have I scoured the catalogs, used coupons and shopped sales in order to find the best gifts that I can afford? 

Has it ever become an obsession and a mission to find things that will really keep a person warm?

Do I give away the same quality of gifts as I give to my own family? 

If I am being honest, my answer would be sometimes – but not nearly enough. And this Advent, He is impressing on me to do more. Not necessarily to spend more, but to make more of an effort and to treat those who are in need as well as I treat my own family. In other words – to make the long walk part of the gift.

And here’s the thing – the recipient may never know about the long walk, but it doesn’t matter and it’s not the point. As the missionary teacher told the little boy, “The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our love for each other.”

So, if we are joyful over the birth of Jesus and truly love people, the long walk will become the most precious gift of all.

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Matthew 25:40

Merry Christmas! 

laura

 

 

 

** The story is attributed to Norman Vincent Peale

Bitter And Sweet

Happy Thanksgiving Girlfriends!

Even though today is a busy day for many of us, I wanted to jump on and wish you all the happiest of Thanksgivings!

I am so thankful for each one of you. As I have spoken at events and retreats over the past few months, I’ve been deeply reminded of how much we need each other. We have a lot going on – and so much of it is painful and hard.

One of my favorite memories as a little girl was to visit my grandparent’s farm in the Fall. My grandmother, my mom and I would walk into the woods on Sunday afternoon and go searching for a beautiful vine that hung from the trees called, Bittersweet.

An invasive plant, Bittersweet climbs and winds its way around the branches of trees. After the first frost, it’s little yellow berries burst open and inside, a smaller orange berry pops out.

In November, when the leaves fall off of the trees, the vine is exposed. It hangs like a garland from the bare branches. Its vibrant orange and yellow berries remind me of Thanksgiving ornaments dangling down to welcome the holidays.

Both my mom and grandmother used Bittersweet to decorate their homes at Thanksgiving, and for as long as I have had my own home, I have too.

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I’ve been thinking — what a perfect name for a vine that appears just before the holidays.

The word ‘bittersweet’ means, ‘to have two conflicting emotions all at the same time’.

Anybody? This is exactly the place where I find myself today, and I imagine it is the same for many of you too. As I have prayed with, listened to and learned from many of you this Fall, I know all too well the kinds of situations you are dealing with.

A loved one whose chair will be empty at the table

Missing your kids because of shared custody with an ex-husband

The angst of interacting with a family member who struggles with addiction

Estranged relationships with parents or siblings

A marriage that is distant and disconnected

Loneliness

Financial stress

And so on. It seems the holidays just amplify it all – and if we are not careful, the bitter will overtake the sweet.

Yes, you have a lot going on and I do too. But here’s the thing — there may be some bitter in our circumstances, but the sweet comes from our relationship with Jesus, and that is what we need to amplify.

We can be thankful at Thanksgiving and have true joy at Christmas because we know He’s got it. He is in control and working everything – not just some things — but every single thing out for our good.

We may not know exactly how our circumstances will turn out, but we can trust in the ONE who does.

My prayer for you is that you will feel the love of your Father tomorrow and as you navigate your way through the busy weeks leading up to Christmas.

Get some rest

Take a walk outside and get some fresh air

Carve out time out to sit at His feet with your Bible open and listen

Let His truth pour over you and bring you thankfulness and joy. Wait for it – it will come.

And above all else – fight for it. Don’t let anyone steal it from you. Wield the sword of the spirit and the shield of faith any time you feel the bitter coming on. The enemy is no match for a sister with her shield and sword!

I love you all. Thank you for supporting me, interacting here on the blog and for sharing your stories when we meet. You are precious and dear to me.

I thank my God on every remembrance of you – Philippians 1:3

Happy, happy Thanksgiving,

laura

 

Gathering Stones

This morning, Pat and I are heading down to the beach for a few days. We’ve been keeping a watchful eye on Hurricane Matthew, but it looks like he is going to stay away from the Delaware coast. Whew!

We will encounter a dramatic-looking ocean for a day or two, though. There is nothing like whipped-up, white-capped waves! Since I will be just looking and not swimming, I’m actually looking forward to it.

When we took our trip to Bethany Beach last year, I wasn’t really looking forward to anything. In the months that led up to our little get-away, both my mother and my best friend Marylou had died within a short time of each other. Their deaths were sudden and shattering. The spring and summer of 2015 were a blur and, by the time October came, all I wanted to do was just sit on a balcony and look at the waves.

It ended up being a nice trip but, looking back, I remember how grief pressed on me. I felt it physically — as if my heart was literally broken in two.

What a difference a year makes.

Last October I was deeply sad, suffering from the trauma of losing two of the most important people in my life. I wasn’t looking forward at all. The thought of life going on without them hurt. It wasn’t time.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us:

To everything there is a season. A time for every purpose under heaven.

Last year was a time to mourn. It was a time to look back and a time to look inward.

It was a time to gather. I gathered together my precious memories and as much hope as I could hang on to – but I needed help.

A few weeks before our trip to the ocean, I made the decision to go for counseling. It wasn’t the first time I’ve sat in a counselor’s chair and I am sure it won’t be the last. The losses were hard to bear and my mother’s absence stirred up other brokenness that I knew needed attending to once and for all. It was time.

We often think it’s weak to tend to our mental well-being – but in my experience it is one of the bravest things we can do. We cannot do it all ourselves. Our loving God provides gifted and skilled counselors to help us.

They are our beloved guides who safely take us to places of revelation within our life story. They are empathetic and encouraging truth tellers – the light shines in and then we place it all before the Father for healing.

As I learned in college – psychology reveals, but Jesus heals.

Upon my first visit to her office, a carved wooden bowl of beautiful hand painted stones was sitting on a table. A sign indicated that anyone could pick up a stone, hold it and take it with them.


The first one I picked up had the words ‘Be Brave’ painted on it. I brought it home and placed it on my desk. It would remind me to have courage to move through the grief and pain that were laid bare in her office each week.

Over the months that followed, I gathered more stones with different words on them. I placed them around my home office along with scriptures and prayers.

It was a time of looking back, looking inside and, quite honestly, grieving over more losses than only my mom and Marylou. It was a time of discovery and of painful truth.

Each week we met and together worked our way down the healing path. She led the way and I followed. It took longer than I expected, but one day something happened – I began to lift my head.

My eyes had been in a downward gaze for so long. Pain pushes us into that posture. But, as the light took over more and more of the darkness, I began to look up and out. My gaze moved outward and away from myself.

I felt so much better. The heaviness that had been pressing down lifted too. The season was changing and I was on the mend.

What a difference a year makes!

Not too long after, I realized I didn’t need the stones anymore. The time to gather had passed and so… I began to give them away.

I gave the ‘Peace’ stone to Marylou’s husband.


As my youngest son was leaving for an internship far from home, I slipped the ‘Be Brave’ stone in his hand.


And then to others. One by one, I gave them all away.
There is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.

A time to mourn

A time to seek answers

A time to accept

A time to heal

And then … He takes our chin in His hand and gently lifts our head. Our perspective changes and we notice that it’s time to give the hope away to someone else.

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. — Psalm 3:3

Many Blessings,

 

 

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Unexpected Blessings

 [My friend and ministry partner of 18 years, Donna Bowles, is guest-blogging today. I know you will love the sweet story she is sharing – be blessed!]

Sandy was not just any bus driver. Her joy and her smile are something I looked forward to every afternoon as I put my student on her bus. Even though we hadn’t had any long conversations, the Jesus in me definitely saw the Jesus in her each time we spoke.

On a particular winter day a few years ago all of that changed for both of us. It was a few days after one of those snows when everyone is told school is on, but then shortly after all the drivers are at the depot, it changes to a snow day.

I asked Sandy that afternoon if she’d driven to the depot on that particular day, and where she had driven from to get there. She told me she had driven from the same town where I live. I told her I lived there as well and she asked me where.  As I was describing exactly which house was mine (she was out of her seat by then), she exclaimed,

“That was my grandparent’s house!”

Come to find out, it was her uncle who sold us the house 17 years ago. We were both so excited to make the connection! She then told me of times spent in my home with her family, and of the constant smell of the homemade bread, and big dinners in my kitchen.

After our time of sharing and pure amazement at what God had done, I asked Sandy if she’d like to bring her mom and her sisters over to see the house.

We set a date, and that morning, as soon as Sandy’s mother Hazel walked in, she began to cry. She went from room to room, crying, more in some rooms than others, as she recalled times spent with her parents in my house.

It was the last place she had seen her parents on this earth.

After we went through the house, we sat down and had some homemade rolls (the house smelled wonderful) and lemonade, and talked awhile.

We finished our visit with pictures of all of us together on the front porch. We all knew the Lord had brought us together.

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This week I had an unexpected visit from Sandy. She came to tell me that her mom Hazel had died a few days earlier. She was 94 and died in the same house in which she was born.

Sandy sat on my sofa where she’d sat with her mom before, and told me about Hazel’s life, and what a wonderful mother she was to her children. She had also raised two of her grandchildren after her daughter died.

My heart was full as I listened to her.

“Her children rise up and call her blessed,” Prov. 31:28, was what came to my mind as she spoke. Sandy said that was the very verse she used in the obituary to describe her mom. As I listened, I couldn’t help but think she was telling me all of this in a place that was so special to her mom.

I went to Hazel’s celebration of life at her church. I learned of her long legacy of faith that she passed on not only to her family, but to everyone she met. It was clear that it was she who taught my friend Sandy and the rest of her family about Jesus by the way she lived her life all those years. We sang Victory in Jesus and I’ll Fly Away in celebration of a life well done.

This is truly not my story, it’s God’s. He is the only one who could have orchestrated Sandy’s and my conversation that winter day.

He knew where I lived, and was waiting for just the right time to let us know that was why He had brought us together. I am so grateful for His plan and purpose.

 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11-12

Blessings,

Donna

Donna Bowles has been leading women to stand on God’s Word, really understand it and apply it to their lives, for over 30 years. Her deepest desire is for women to apply God’s Word to their everyday circumstances and be victorious over the struggles and trials that come their way.

She is the co-founder of Sisters in Faith Ministries which includes the Manorwood Café, a Bible study for women in her community; Sisters in Faith, a bi-annual day retreat; and Step Up Coaching for Women in Ministry.

Donna has been a widow for 11 years. She is a mother of two grown children, grandmother to two very active boys, and a lifelong Maryland resident. She works full time in Elementary Special Education and really enjoys having the summers off!

"The first time I heard Laura communicate, my exact response was 'Wow'! Laura's teaching style is passionate, relatable, and hope-filled. She radiates warmth, kindness and a genuine interest in those around her -- on and off the platform. Her amazing story of transformation, coupled with her solid biblical teaching, will leave you also saying "wow!" If you're looking for a dynamic communicator, Laura has my highest recommendation!"

- Cindy Bultema, International Speaker and author of Red Hot Faith: Lessons from a Lukewarm Church and Live Full, Walk Free: Set Apart in a Sin Soaked World