The Power of Vulnerability

Today’s guest post is from Cassandra Smith, founder and author of Letters to God.

letterstogodHumility. Openness. Transparency.

These are all beautiful words when we are receiving them but painfully difficult to divulge at times. And yet, I believe a mutual exchange of these very things are what build meaning. What does this mean for us as women, friends, leaders, and mothers? As women, I believe we seek emotional connectivity with the men in our lives at the expense of nurturing additional relationships with appropriate vulnerability. While I believe this is healthy for a marriage, I do not believe this is our only relationship in which vulnerability is needed.

I know that as a single woman, I often am too quickly willing to bare myself emotionally, hoping this will create a bond between me and my hoped for man. As a youth worker, I see many young girls following in this trend to look for meaning in a boy. I have not always led the charge for emotional purity, and I too often have ended up sharing these mistakes to those I lead. Young girls are easily caught up in social media overload of emotion and openness in ways which are not honoring to themselves. Yet, I scarcely blame them. Few have been taught propriety and emotional modesty.

But this post is not to condemn or point a finger at women. Rather, I share these moments because I believe we are all seeking something God intended for us – nakedness. Before sin destroyed perfection, we were naked and unashamed. There was freedom in complete openness, honesty, humility and transparency. In Christ, the curse has been broken, and I believe that he is gently ushering us back into that openness. While my natural tendency is to want to seek that with a man, I believe it is important for us to practice this vulnerability with our sisters first. I believe our girl friendships is the face-to-face place we can share and relate on how we are learning vulnerability before God. This is the most important thing. We must learn how to open up our spirits and souls before God as he leads us as the ultimate Man, Warrior, Father, Healer, Helper, Counselor, Teacher, Provider, and Redeemer.

As we share such things with one another on a peer level, we can also pass this onto the younger generation who is seeking guidance and direction on how to relate with one another. Not only can we pass on maturity and relationship skills, but I believe that we can promote hope and provoke healing in each others’ lives. We start to see that vulnerability and openness heals not only our hearts but the hearts of our daughters, friends, and younger sisters.

Youth face extreme challenge at a desperately young age. How we reach out to them? How we enter into their trials and brokenness? How we offer them hope is only going to come from humility, openness, and vulnerability. No longer are cliché sermons and a long list of to do’s and to don’ts going to be a guidance force amidst the young. The world desperately needs strong women, willing to be open and vulnerable with a young generation, to lead them out of a place of brokenness and heartache.

So this is my challenge to you:

  1. Vulnerably come before the Lord. Let him bring you into openness before him.
  2. Seek humble and open relationships with women to spur one another onto growth and relational maturity
  3. Enter into the lives of youth with openness and vulnerability. With open ears to listen, engage with those who need a big sister, mom, or mentor.

We all lose when we hide. There is too much at stake to stay hidden. “…they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?”’ Genesis 3:8b-9NIV

cassandraConnect with Cassandra on Facebook and Twitter.

How to Say “No” Graciously

Today’s guest post is from Beth Beutler, founder of H.O.P.E. Unlimited

cropped-cropped-Website-Header21All you need to say is simply “Yes,” or “No.” Anything beyond this comes from the evil one. Matthew 5:37 NIV

I was chatting on social media with a friend—let’s call her Angelica—and asked if she wanted to help me with a project. She replied, “No.”

Then she added, “But thank you for asking me.”

I admit I was briefly taken aback. Moments before, Angelica had agreed to help me with a different task, one that was related to the latest idea I had suggested. However, the second idea would be more of an ongoing commitment, and she said, “No.”

I told Angelica that I respected her decision and thought it was great that she felt comfortable saying “no.” She said that “old age” had helped her with this, to which I responded, “not old age…maturity.”

“No” is one of the hardest words to say. Why?

We like to be liked, and a “no” can be disappointing to others.

We want to be positive, and “no” comes across as negative.

We are afraid of missing out on great opportunities.

However, if we don’t say this word enough, we can end up disillusioned, disappointed or exhausted. There are ways to say no graciously and effectively. Angelica did it. Here’s how:

  • She understood her life. Angelica was able to discern pretty quickly whether my request would fit into her current season of life. That tells me she was keeping an informed perspective of her opinions, commitments and relationships.
  • She gave an immediate answer. Angelica didn’t hesitate or string me along. It made the outcome quick and relatively painless. That’s not to say that we should always answer quickly. It’s completely appropriate to tell someone you want to think about it, IF you give them the courtesy of a self-imposed deadline. For example, she could have said, “I’d like to think about this. Can I give you my answer Friday?” and then be sure to give the answer on Friday or before. It wasn’t necessary in this case because of her confidence in her decision, but if she needed a little time, that would have been fine.
  • She thanked me. Angelica understood that it is an honor to be invited to participate in an event or project. The requester is somewhat vulnerable when extending the invitation, risking rejection. By saying “thank you” she acknowledged that she appreciated being considered, which softens any possibility of coming across as rejecting the person doing the inviting.
  • She didn’t give an explanation. Angelica gave a simple “No, thank you.” She did not feel compelled to explain or rationalize her decision. I admire that. I tend to provide more information than necessary and would do well to just provide a simple answer more often.

“No” isn’t easy to say, but it often makes your life easier!

Cbethonnect with Beth and H.O.P.E. Unlimited on Facebook and Twitter.

I Don’t Want To Be Happy

Today’s guest post is from Amy Armstrong. Enjoy!

©cupcakesforclara.com
©cupcakesforclara.com

It may seem a bit extreme to some, but we have a breakfast schedule in our house. Monday is oatmeal, Tuesday eggs, Wednesday waffles, Thursday cereal, and Friday is free choice.

I’m really not a Type-A person. I’ve just found that my children can be somewhat indecisive in the morning and one less choice makes a smoother process of getting ready for school. Also, they can’t always be relied upon to make wise food choices.

On a recent Friday, my youngest was looking at her options in order to make her free choice. “Mom, can I have this and one other thing?” I looked over to see her holding a box of Girl Scout cookies, evidence that she is my DNA in her belief that there is no wrong time of day for cookies. I had to be the parent and tell her, “We don’t eat cookies for breakfast, Sweetie. You can have yogurt or cereal.” She submitted, and I promised her she could have the cookies for dessert after dinner.

Cookies make my daughter happy. Cookies or any combination of chocolate and peanut butter make me happy. At least for a little while. The problem comes an hour later when I realize that my stomach still feels empty. My hunger wasn’t really satisfied.

Satisfied. What is it that makes me feel satisfied? The world will tell me a variety of rich foods, new clothes, a full Pinterest board and a house to match. And sometimes I chase after those things. But I’ve realized that those things only make me happy for a little while. To be satisfied, I must be filled by my Creator. He has created a hole in me that only He can fill. God’s desire for us is to be holy, set apart for Him. This is something that occurs through regular devotion to Him and sacrifice of our own desires.

In 1 Peter 2:9 we are reminded, But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

God calls us to something different than the world. He calls us to be more like Him; patient, truth-filled, and unconditionally loving. When I chase after God instead of the things of this world, I experience struggle. But through that struggle I experience a deeper reliance on the One who has a greater knowledge of myself than I do. If God were to give me everything that makes me happy, I’d live in a mansion on a beach with a personal masseuse, housekeeper, and baker. But then I wouldn’t have to rely on God very much, would I?

So as I’m dealing with broken relationships that don’t make me feel happy, I can choose to rest in God’s holiness and let him restore those relationships in His time and His ways. As I experience waiting more years than expected during an adoption process, I can choose to be made holy and experience the time and message God has for me during those years. Letting God choose is the best choice. So I give up trying to be happy. I want to be holy. I want to be satisfied in Christ. I want more of what Christ has to offer and less of what the world has to offer.

I want to be what God has called me to be.

AmyConnect with Amy on Facebook.

Don’t Hide from Your Calling

DoLifeDifferent Today’s guest post is from Jill Hart, founder of Christian Work at Home Ministries (CWAHM) and author of the recent release Do Life Different. Today’s post is an excerpt from Do Life Different. Enjoy!

They asked the Lord, “Has Saul come here yet?” The Lord said, “Yes. He’s hiding behind the baggage.” 1 Samuel 10:22 (NCV)

As we step into this story, Saul has just been chosen as the first king of Israel. Chosen by God Almighty and anointed by the prophet Samuel. Not long after Samuel tells Saul that he will be King, Samuel calls all the tribes of Israel together to make it official. He passes through each family until he comes to Saul’s family. He calls out for Saul, son of Kish. But Saul is nowhere to be found. In fact, they have to ask the Lord about Saul’s whereabouts before they can locate him. Come to find out, he is hiding behind the baggage. He is terrified of this new calling of God on his life.

I can so relate.

We often hide behind our own baggage, don’t we?

We let the self-doubt seep in and we douse ourselves with our own unkind words. I often catch myself in negative self-talk. No one wants to listen to you. You’re no one special.

I hide behind the baggage of my past. Partly because I know some of those things I say to myself have a grain of truth to them. (I really am pretty boring most of the time.) Partly because I let my baggage shape who I am today. And partly because I am afraid of stepping up and doing what God has called me to do.

So, I hide behind the baggage, speaking cruel words to myself. And then I wonder why I don’t feel fulfilled and happy.

It’s time to make a change. It’s time to step out from behind the baggage and into the truth of who God says we are, who we can be with His help.

Do you fill your head with mean-girl thoughts about yourself, too? Are you hiding behind the fear and baggage like Saul?

JillHartConnect with Jill and CWAHM on Facebook and Twitter.