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Mary & Martha – A Story that Keeps on Giving

Mary & Martha – A Story that Keeps on Giving

01/04/22

You’ve probably heard the story of Mary and Martha before. Possibly many, many times. You’ve heard the warnings about keeping your priorities straight, not missing the moments that are in front of you. We are told to be Mary and not Martha. We are told not to work so hard, even for the Kingdom, that you lose sight of the real treasure of Jesus.

If you have taken part in The Well Practice then you know this story well. I remember reading it and feeling like I was reading an entirely new story. I had a major “ahhhh” moment and new lessons started to click for me.

At the time, I had a little one at home and was feeling torn between spending time with her playing and getting all the stuff done around the house that had fallen to the wayside since she was born. I had read all the articles and encouragement about soaking in these precious moments because they fly by, but never did they mention the guilt of leaving things undone. Leaving the mess, leaving the dishes, not folding the laundry. I would choose to spend the time being present with my daughter but was often distracted and guilt-ridden about my choice.

When I read the story now, months later, weeks away from having my second baby, I feel like God is trying to remind me of the same lesson. Do you ever feel like He is having to teach you the same thing over and over, because apparently, you didn’t really get it the first or fifth time?

You see, my to-do list to prepare for my second baby is about as long as a lineup at Disneyland. I feel torn between checking things off this list and really soaking in these last moments with my firstborn. I know these days are numbered. These moments of it being just her and me. But what I often forget is that these are the last days with me for HER too, she just doesn’t know it. She doesn’t know how much her world is going to change and I feel like it’s my responsibility to respect that and give her as much of this precious time as I can.

I would much rather make memories these final weeks as a family of 3, sitting on the floor with her, going for adventures, just sitting and watching her explore the world, and really seeing her. Watching her concentration as she tries something new, to watch her fingers pinch together and grasp objects that used to be far too small for her, and her brain race as she tries to solve problems on her own.

BUT

I have to set up the car seat, pack my hospital bag, take out the newborn clothes, get diapers, prep my postpartum kit, fill my freezer, have instructions and a plan ready for my daughter’s care.

AND

AND

AND

When I read the story of Mary and Martha a couple of things stand out to me that may be new to you as well.

Martha is doing everything she should be doing. The other men (and women) around her would have seen her work, not as a distraction, but as her upholding her duty. If she was me, she would be meal prepping, washing, folding, and organizing the baby clothes, cleaning the house, decorating the nursery, writing up a birth plan, and documenting it all with perfectly snapped photos on her Instagram account. Martha was taking care of business, doing what needed to be done according to the expectations and customs of the time.

Martha was probably not the only one who thought Mary needed correcting. The other people in the room probably thought it odd and perhaps even inappropriate that a woman was sitting, listening to what Jesus was saying instead of helping with the duties. Her place was next to Martha, and Martha would not have been the only one to notice that empty space. Society uses a very different measuring stick than God, and it can be really difficult to quiet those voices and expectations in your head. For most of us, we have been raised with these voices and measuring sticks as normal, and it is hard to go against the grain and to make a choice you know is wise but can look foolish to everyone else. In my mind, I imagine Mary got some snarky looks and heard others whispering behind her, but she kept her eyes and ears focused on Jesus.

My favourite part of this story is when Jesus says “Martha, Martha.” He doesn’t just say her name once and carry on. He says her name twice. I picture Jesus saying her name tenderly as he shakes his head ever so slightly in a knowing way. He knows us so intimately, he knows Martha’s heart is well-intentioned to serve, to take care of the guests in her home, to do her duty. He knows she is tired from doing it all on her own. He knows that like a child she just couldn’t quite see what her choices could mean. He says her name twice so she really hears Him, to catch her ear. In her busyness, in her frantic haze, He says her name twice to break through and get her to pause to hear what He has to say because what He is about to say will change everything if she would just take a moment to listen. She comes to Jesus for a quick fix, to get Mary to help and I picture her almost starting to rush away, trusting He will send Mary in after her, but the “Martha, Martha” stops her in her tracks.

I love how God’s word always remains true, whether it feels like coming home to familiar passages or stepping into new territory. I love how you can read the same story over and over again and each time the Spirit meets you there with something new. God’s word never grows tired, it never grows stale and stagnant, because God’s word is alive.

So as I sit here typing, I feel that nudge and hear that whisper, “Alicia, Alicia.” I know I need to take my own advice and turn toward that familiar voice instead of all the “shoulds” that surround me.

May we be women that are free from the pressure and guilt Martha felt, and instead find peace in the presence of that voice and allow things to be undone or messy if that voice is calling us to engage with His bigger better plan. May that voice become more and more familiar and discernable in our noisy lives. May our eyes and ears stay focused on Him as the other voices around us try to distract and discourage us.

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2 Ways to Defeat Fear

2 Ways to Defeat Fear

12/20/21

What is your greatest fear?

When I was a kid, my answer was always heights. I have a long-standing fear of amusement park rides and would never in a million years even consider going bungee jumping.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve made little steps towards conquering these fears and can now proudly declare that I have survived a ride on a full-sized rollercoaster. I am in absolutely no rush to do it again, but I’m proud of myself nonetheless!

What I’ve realized is that as we get older we replace those somewhat superficial fears with an array of new fears and worries. When I was 23 I lost my first baby at 30 weeks pregnant and was completely blindsided by the realization that there is so much in life that we simply can’t control.

There were a few women who told me they could never go through another pregnancy after suffering a loss like the one I had. After all, how do you fight the fearful belief that everything will go wrong when that’s the only experience you’ve had?

That same question could be asked of any of us, in any number of situations.

How do we start to date someone new when our last relationship ended so badly?
How do we apply for our dream job when our last interview ended in disaster?
How do we confide in a close friend after being betrayed?

The only way to face our fears, especially legitimate fear after pain, is to realize we are not alone and that the Gospel has all the answers we are looking for.

  1. Get in the Word

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. // 1 John 4:17

It’s important that we understand where fear, all fear, comes from. This verse gives us some insight into that. When John writes that “Fear has to do with punishment”, I think he means that we know the cost of living in a broken world full of sin. We know that the “punishment” for our world of sin is pain, broken relationships, and loss of all kinds. We know that we aren’t entitled to a perfect life, and that struggle and pain is an unavoidable reality of life.

However, just because we feel helpless and often cannot change our circumstances that does not mean we are doomed to live in fear. John points us toward a solution, the ultimate arch-nemesis to our fears: perfect love.

Go back and read John’s full letter leading up to verse 17. It is a beautiful depiction of the perfect love we have available to us.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. // 1 John 4:7-8

He goes on to say:

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. // 1 John 4:9-10

God loves us. That is an indisputable fact. And the perfect love He freely gives casts out all fear. The Gospel is God’s Word and through His Word, we can find all the reassurance we need to live a life free of fear. The trick is, how do we apply his love to our lives? How do we live fearlessly knowing we are deeply loved?

2. Live Knowing You Are Loved

To apply God’s love we need to understand it. One of my all-time favourite passages on the love of God is in Romans 8:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. // Romans 8:35, 37-39

The promise here is not that God will prevent hard things from happening to us. Instead, God’s love carries us through every hardship we will endure. His love doesn’t shelter us from pain and struggle. It transforms and strengthens us. We become conquers through His love. His love makes us more like our death-defeating Jesus, in whose love we are eternally secure.

Ladies, we need to remind ourselves of this! Weekly. Daily. Hourly.

God’s love is as powerful as it is present. The more we understand and are convinced of His love for us, the less we will have to fear.

Through love, God wages war on our fears.

During later pregnancies when I would find myself going down the mental rabbit-hole of worst-case scenarios, God’s love was there reminding me that even the baby I lost was still in His hands. When I feel the weight of responsibility of caring for my kids, God’s love reminds me that He is even more invested in the future of my kids than I am. When I’m restless in the face of uncertainty, God’s love assures me that He won’t abandon me to my confusion.

The more we understand, believe, and live by the knowledge that God loves us, the more we can rest in the peace of his protection no matter what life throws at us.

Nothing can separate us from His love.

His love casts out every fear.

Pick up your bible and immerse yourself in the Word.
Live each moment knowing you are loved beyond measure.
Watch your fears be washed away by the immeasurable love of God.

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Who Do You Worship?

Who Do You Worship?

12/07/21

Who do you worship?

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? As a follower of Jesus, my automatic answer is “the Lord,” of course. But while I like to think that’s the case, there have been more times than I care to admit that my actions speak a different story.

The word “worship” has, in the western church at least, somehow become synonymous with music and singing. Which is an act of worship, but it’s certainly not the entire act. Worship is reverence. To worship something or someone is to recognize its value, authority, and to give it praise. To bow down and demonstrate your loyalty, affection, and obedience.

Worship is such a beautiful thing when we direct it towards God. There are many different types of worship. Worshipping can be surrendering your will and giving up control to God. Tithing is an act of worship. Posting on social media, singing on Sunday, or spending time in the word are all acts of worship. There’s no exact formula to worship. It is a heart posture and a way of interacting with the God who created you.

We were created to worship. Intentionally or not, we are almost always in a state of worship. Our minds, hearts, and focus is fixed on something, and a lot of the time, it’s not what we want it to be.

Work can become an idol just as quickly as a relationship can or even the idea of one. Sometimes it’s not something tangible in our lives, but the desire to have it that is so overpowering and overwhelming. This can quickly get out of control and become an unhealthy pattern of dedication and reverence to things that don’t deserve it.

It’s not that success or love or any other goal you may have is a bad thing. But they need to stay in their lane. Regardless of what it is, any worldly goal that becomes the pinnacle of your happiness, value, or identity is going to lead you away from God.

I’ll be honest with you – I grew up in the church, and I heard this message preached over and over and over again.

Be careful what you worship.

What do you idolize in your life?

Are you putting your relationships ahead of your relationship with God?

It wasn’t something I saw as a significant struggle in my own life until a few years ago. My career was finally taking off, I started seeing myself differently. I found my worth in work, being a writer, and achieving my dreams. It sounds ridiculous now, but it meant so, so very much to me.

And then I realized what was happening.

Writing wasn’t the problem. It wasn’t what I was doing for work, or even the fact that I was successful. The first thing I would do every morning is open my laptop before I’d even had a chance to breathe. I was working 12-15 hour days because I wanted to, falling asleep with my iPad next to me and the cursor still blinking.

Needless to say, my relationship with God was not at the forefront of my mind or schedule. I soon began feeling the effects of my lifestyle. When I figured out that these bad habits were taking me down a negative road, I quickly began to pivot. I recreated routines in my life, this time starting with Jesus and adding in the rest of life instead of the other way around.

It took a long time to reset, start over, and put things back together – and it’s not perfect now, but it’s coming. Since then, I’ve tried to be intentional about regularly checking in with myself to see what my priorities really are and how my life reflects them.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a mindblowing revelation.

See, every talk, book, or article I’ve ever consumed on the topic of idols and worship has encouraged the reader to look for idols in their own life. Social media, people, various achievements, etc. – what things are you worshipping instead of God?

But what I realized was that I wasn’t idolizing those things. I wasn’t worshipping social media, my relationship, or my career. I wasn’t putting those goals ahead of God —

I was putting myself ahead of God.

Every one of those focuses were about making me feel and look good, helping me stand out, making me happy. I didn’t want to succeed at writing because writing was elevated above all else, I wanted it because I wanted to be elevated.

Recognizing this in myself has been a game changer. Identifying the ways in which this has affected my choices and actions, relationships, and habits has allowed me to see that this issue runs much deeper than I thought it did.

Over and over, scripture reinforces the idea of dying to yourself. Bearing your own cross, renouncing what you have, becoming less so that He may become greater.

And I was doing the opposite.

Oof – it’s been a very conviction-filled couple of weeks.

But grace.

God is good. God is forgiving. God is kind. Even more, He’s a redeemer. Something I’ve found to be true in both my spiritual life and personal development is that it is almost impossible to break habits, change patterns, and find freedom from sin without acknowledging it. The recognition is step one, and it’s a pretty big deal.

In some capacity or another, I think we all make the same mistake. We choose us. We choose our strength, our way, and our preference, forgetting that God’s way is always the best way.

It’s a hard lesson to learn. The rhythm of choosing grace and choosing God needs to be a daily one, and without consciously working on it, can get lost in a culture that pushes us to focus on our own wants above all else.

Don’t get me wrong – self care is important, and being in touch with what you need will actually equip you better for Kingdom work. But God has to be first. He doesn’t screw you over, play games, or lead you down a path of destruction. You can trust and feel safe living with God.

In this next season of new beginnings, I invite you to join me in re-evaluating the habits, patterns, and priorities in your life. Examine the areas that might need a refocus, and be honest with yourself about what you dedicate your time and energy to.

God is good, all the time – and keeping Him at the center of your life will never, ever lead you down a bad path. May we as women reclaim our lives. Going into this new year, may we live for the Lord, pursue holiness, righteousness, and grace in all things.

To read more from Anika, visit her website.

Who You Are vs. Whose You Are

Who You Are vs. Whose You Are

11/22/21

I think about myself a little too much. I think about who I want to be, who I was before I had kids, who I don’t want to become (at any cost), and who I am now that I have gone through a global pandemic. I think about the pieces I want to hold onto, I cringe at the parts that I have let go of, I fight for the parts of me I used to love, but need to give up, I grieve for the freedoms that have been lost. But above all, I rejoice in the growth and blessings of the present. I think about what type of mom I want to be, what type of toys to buy my daughters, how to set up her room, her playroom, our home? I think about how I want to use my gifts for the Kingdom, what my place is in the Kingdom as a mom who barely has her life together enough to put the laundry away. The root of all these thoughts is “who am I?” What do I need to do or not do to fill out this silhouette of me?

The world will try to fill that hole with a mosaic of labels and accomplishments until we look like a child’s cut and paste art project. We label ourselves as “vegetarian,” “spiritual,” “activist,” “gay,” “entrepreneur,” “attached parent,” “single,” “bibliophile.” Just read some dating profiles or Instagram profiles and you’ll see the plethora of creative titles we give ourselves.

Now, it is not a bad thing to understand yourself. To know what you like and what you don’t. There is nothing wrong with being proud of who you are and what you believe in, but I think we give these labels too much power.

There is a sweet satisfaction that comes with finding something that just clicks with you. Whether it be bike riding, writing code, baking, or organizing a closet, it feels like a puzzle piece being placed perfectly in your soul. It’s exciting to unearth and understand how God created you, down to the little details, the things that make you cringe, and the things that make you fly. These “click” moments are amazing pointers to the artist of the universe. How amazing that we all “click” with different things, or how our collection of “clicks” come together to create a unique whole person. I may love writing but I suck at music, but someone else may marry those two loves and write an amazing song. I’m more inclined to write an article or blog, clearly. Both are needed and both are beautiful. There is meaning and purpose in each. Each skill has a place and a purpose within the Kingdom.

You may buy into the story that this life, your life, is about you, and about who you are, who you are becoming, and who you want to be, but it’s not. Your life is not about you picking the right collection of labels, or being the right mix of strong-willed and understanding. Your life isn’t about you at all. We place too much importance on the labels we give ourselves. Often in the quest to find ourselves, we forget to whom we belong and whose story we are a part of.

In John 1, John the Baptist demonstrates the heart posture we should have when it comes to identifying ourselves. Religious representatives ask John who he is. An identity question, the question we are all trying to answer.

“So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” // John 1:22

He stands firm in his identity, quoting scripture:

He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” // John 1:23

The representatives ask John if he is the Christ, Elijah, or the prophet. With each question, John answers “No”.

He knew who he was and more importantly, he knew who he wasn’t.

When asked “what do you say about yourself”, he didn’t add any extra flourishes because he knew he didn’t need to. He didn’t need to know all the details or the big picture. He humbly was the “voice in the wilderness;” and that was enough. He knew what he was being asked to do at that moment and he did it.

I have to ask myself, is this true for me? Am I satisfied knowing I am where God wants me to be? Or am I constantly looking ahead, or wondering how this fits into things? Does this present moment that God is asking me to be in feel mundane? Do I wish I was called to something more exciting and significant?

Do I know who I am not? Or like the evil stepsisters, am I trying to make someone else’s shoe fit? I have my own lovely shoes, perfectly crafted for my here and now, but do I trust that when the time comes, God will provide the right shoes for the occasion?

The labels John rejected were good labels, not clearly bad, not insults, not critiques. They were good things, but maybe good things, good hats that we try to wear that just weren’t made to fit are just as harmful as the critiques we accept. My negative self-talk can be just as toxic as my positive self-bolstering talk when that talk is not centered on who I am in Christ.

When we mislabel God’s grace and blessings as self-made earnings we raise ourselves above Him. We take credit for something that is not our doing but His. We misunderstand who He is and whose we are. This story, your story, isn’t about you but it is all about who you belong to. And it is to Him that all credit and praise are due.

Without God’s grace, we try to find meaning and healing in our labels and accomplishments, filling out our silhouettes with shiny glittery things. Things we want to display to the world, things that prove our worth, and our place at the table. But when we face our own depravity we realize on our own we don’t have anything to fill in that silhouette. All we have to show are the things we would rather hide.

May we become women who trade labels for promises, justification for grace, and rags for Christs’s riches. May we take the time to dig deep and discover (maybe for the first time) who we really belong to. May we crack the spine of the actual story we are a part of. May we become women who knock on that door, and are amazed to find Him there waiting for us, with our spots at the table already set.

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5 Tips to Identifying Green Flags

5 Tips to Identifying Green Flags

11/09/21

In the world of dating, there is a lot of talk about red flags. Not that we always listen, but it’s definitely a conversation – and an important one. When you start seeing someone, it’s crucial to take note of things that concern you, even if they’re not necessarily deal breakers. But sometimes we’re so focused on looking for red flags that we miss the green ones.

We’re all different but there are certain traits that we all want in a partner. We often need to take a step back and seriously consider if our partners’ green flags outweigh the red ones.

Ultimately, your relationships are your choices. But the person that you pick to be your person matters and these “green flags” are good indicators of their true character. Here are 5 green flags to look out for.

  1. Are they kind?

Kindness is underrated. The word gets thrown around so much that we forget how essential it is. Figuring out if the person you are dating is kind is easier than you may think. Pay attention to the way they treat you and other people around them. Cliche rom-coms romanticize the idea of a partner who treats you like a jewel but everyone else like trash. That is not romantic. It is a big warning sign!

How do they treat servers? How do they speak to and about those they’ve had conflict with?

The reality is, if your relationship lasts, you’re not always going to be in the puppy love stage. There will be tension and conflict. You will disagree and that is totally okay! What matters is that you find someone you feel safe with even in those disagreements. That you choose a partner who is kind even when they are angry, who doesn’t seek to hurt others or take pleasure in causing or witnessing pain.

2. Are they consistent?

Are they the same with you as they are with their friends and family? Do their interests, personality, or morals change according to who they’re with? It’s easy to unconsciously censor ourselves depending on who we’re around, but it’s another thing entirely if this person is pretending to be someone else entirely.

Do they consistently treat you well? Do you feel supported and cared for?

Relationships are a two way street. You need someone who is going to be your partner in every sense of the word.

3. Do they prioritize spiritual growth?

Does this person value their relationship with God over everything else? Are they willing to work with you to make Christ the centre of your relationship and your lives? We’re each on a personal journey with the Lord, and every season looks different. But at the end of the day, finding someone who takes ownership, prioritizes growth, and presses into God when things are hard is an incredibly valuable thing.

4. Are they humble?

One of the most precious gifts to find in someone is humility. A good relationship requires work, sacrifice, and a lot of hard conversations. When you approach them with humility, you can hear and understand your partner, receive and extend grace, and work towards a solution more effectively.

How does your partner respond when you bring up things that bother you? Are they open minded, willing to acknowledge their own shortfalls, and eager to meet your needs? This is SUCH a beautiful quality. Humility from both sides will protect your relationship from unnecessary conflict and create a solid foundation for growth.

5. Are you a team?

When you commit to someone for life you’re also committing to going through every aspect of life together. The good times, the bad times, and the messes. Your partner needs to be your teammate. You’re never going to agree on everything, or see eye to eye on everything, and that’s okay! In fact, it’s good! What’s important is that through all the disagreements, big and small, you’re a team. Are you in it together?

When you and your partner are on the same side, when you’re working together to find a solution, you’re ready for anything! When you prioritize communication and each other over being right or your own sense of pride the hard seasons are a lot easier.

Dating can be brutal, and there are a lot of people out there who aren’t right for you. But while you’re looking for red flags, noticing the “yikes” traits, and scanning someone for potential, don’t forget to look for, take note of, and celebrate all of the good that they have to offer. Green flags are equally as important to note.

As you get to know someone, ask the Holy Spirit to help you see who they really are. Don’t be afraid to seek counsel from people you trust, and look for opportunities to ask good questions, try new things together, and explore the potential that’s there.

To read more from Anika, visit her website.

As a Friend Sharpens a Friend

As a Friend Sharpens a Friend

10/19/21

Do you ever consider God as a friend?

I haven’t. Until now.

When I think about God I think about a good father. I think about wisdom, majesty, a throne, a king, a lion, an artist, and a mountain top.

When I think of Jesus I think of a savior, a son, a shepherd, a sacrifice, a storyteller.

But somehow, the word friend feels inappropriate, like calling the Queen your mate, or your grandma one of your peeps. It feels too familiar, awkward, and a little disrespectful.

But I can hear the wood splintering as God stretches the boards of the box I have put him in. The way we think about God impacts how we react to pivotal moments in our lives. It determines the type of relationship we have with God. We may limit ourselves and limit how we interact with God because of how we think of him.

Are there parts of your life or parts of yourself that you keep hidden away from God? Either because you don’t want to get in trouble, or because you don’t think He would understand? Do you only pray about the big stuff?

Would you let God take you on a drive with a blindfold on? Do you ever feel like there is stuff in your life that feels too silly to bring to God, even though they mean a lot to you?

But we tell our friends everything. Our friends know what our parents don’t. A friend is someone you have fun with, laugh with, take selfies with, cry with, and make mistakes with. A friend bails you out and knows when to not ask too many questions. A friend has your back, a friend pushes you when you need it, and brings you hot soup and lozenges when you’re sick. A friend gets you. They relate to you in a way your parents and partner sometimes can’t. A friend checks in when they haven’t heard from you, and sends you confidence-boosting texts before your interview.

There is an intimate knowledge and trust in friendship that is often absent in other types of relationships. Why do we choose to keep God at arm’s length? Why don’t we afford God that same trust?

I think of God as “father”. A good, good father, but still a father. A father-child relationship is intimate, yes, but there is a distance that comes from respect and authority. Even as adults, it’s difficult to see our parents as friends, even though they can’t send us to our rooms anymore, they are still our parents.

If you are like me, maybe you have a hard time reconciling God as God the Father and God as friend. How can he be both? How can we think of God as a friend, without dethroning Him?

I think C.S. Lewis paints a tangible picture for us in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Aslan, the Christ representative, is depicted as a lion. Susan asks the following question about him before she has met him:

“Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Later on in the story, Susan and Lucy ride on Aslan’s back while frolicking and laughing in a meadow. Shortly after, Aslan is in the midst of battle, defeating the White Witch.

Can you picture yourself laughing with God? Have you frolicked in any meadows with Him recently? I haven’t. But I want to. This is why Jesus died, to reconcile us to God so that we can experience the intimacy Adam and Eve had in the garden.

I think viewing God as a friend can help us understand his character and his heart. A verse that really helped me wrap my brain around this is Proverbs 27:17:

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (NLT)

This may be a familiar verse to you. The root idea in this verse is that as fellow humans we have the power to “sharpen” one another. We also have the responsibility to do so, but as a friend, which means, out of love and concern.

Iron is sharpened so that it is effective in its tasks. A dull blade is useless and even dangerous. As followers of Christ, we are called to help encourage one another to become fully devoted followers of Jesus. We’re told to turn away from the desires of our flesh and focus on building a Godly character.

I’m sure we can all get behind the idea of positively influencing one another with our words and actions. And to help each other grow into the people we were designed to be. We can agree that growth comes from the greatest and smallest challenges we face in daily life.
But when challenges come our way in life, where do we place God? Do we feel like God is being unfair? Do we blame him for our pain and struggle? Do we feel like He is punishing us? Or do we just feel like He isn’t there at all?

Remembering in these moments that God is also like a friend can help put these “sharpening” experiences into context. Just like a friend, the Holy Spirit may point out an unhealthy habit, but also comes alongside you and empower you to defeat that temptation. When you feel overwhelmed with life, God is there to listen, advise, and comfort you. When you are dancing in the kitchen, do you not think he is smiling down at you and maybe even joining you in your joy?

We’ve all been through a really challenging year, and sometimes it feels like there is no end in sight. If we could see God as a friend, maybe we could better see the ways that this year has sharpened us into the people that he is calling us to be.

Trust God. Let him take you on a wild drive blindfolded, knowing you will end up exactly where you are meant to be. Knowing that no matter what, the destination is good and perfect. God may be a wild lion, but he is also the greatest friend who is waiting to frolic in a field with you.

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Your Body Came at a Cost

Your Body Came at a Cost

10/05/21

Our Orgin Story

In the beginning, God created the world.
He created a body and breathed His breath into it to create the first person.
Out of that person He created another.
God told them that they were made in His image.
In His holiness, He looked down on them and called them “good”.
They felt no shame, because they were exactly how He intended for them to be.
// Genesis 1&2

Do you ever wonder what it felt like to be Eve, completely at home in her body with no concept of shame? It’s hard for me to imagine a life with no insecurity about my body, even to the smallest degree. I admit, I wouldn’t even imagine having an attitude like that today. But would God be okay with me conceding defeat so easily?

Our Future Bodies

One of the most beautiful themes in the Bible is the redemption of all creation. It’s evident throughout scripture. Jesus performed miracles on the sick, blind, deaf, or lame and in healing them, He demonstrated his power to restore all things to the way they were meant to be! Everywhere He went, He proved that it was His nature to repair the world’s most broken and sinful things to God’s original, intended design.

The truth of redemption gives us hope in what we see in Genesis 2. Because of redemption, we know that perfection is not only behind us, it is also in front of us. The shame-free wholeness that Eve felt in her body is a wholeness that we will feel when we are given the brand new bodies we are promised:

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” // Philippians 3:20-21

“Await,” that’s the tricky part. Clearly we’re not in our “glorious” bodies just yet. So, how do we wait for the bodies we’ve been promised and still love the bodies we’ve been given?

Living in the In-Between

I’ve found it helpful to remember my body’s purpose. All too often I live by the lie that my body’s only purpose is to attract the world around me. Before getting married, I constantly worried about whether I was pretty enough to be noticed. In marriage, I worry about being desirable to my husband. Then my body went through three pregnancies, and since then I’ve been struggling to regain any sense of a healthy body image. When I try to determine the value of my body on the basis of how “attractive” it is, I inevitably end up feeling insecure. Which has brought me to the point of wondering whether I need to swap out the measuring stick I’ve been using.

Let’s take another look at Eve, and what it meant for her to have a body.

An Obvious Purpose

When God first created Eve, I doubt that attracting Adam was high up on the criteria list. There weren’t any other comparable companions competing for Adam’s affection. Adam was hers because God had made them specifically for each other. And yet, she was still given a body, obviously. Perhaps God gave Eve a body as a means for her to experience the world. A way for her to see and engage with creation. She was able to speak and relate to Adam. And – beautifully – she was able to walk with God in the garden.

Eve’s body was not a signifier of her value but the means by which she was seen, known, and able to make an impact on the world around her.

Indisputable Value

God sees our bodies as valuable, not for how they look, but for what they were created to do. The most straightforward evidence of this is that the person of the Holy Spirit dwells in everyone who belongs to Christ:

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.” // 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

This verse is not talking about a future reality that will come true when our bodies are made perfect. If you are a Christian, this is true about your body at this exact moment. God purchased you at a price, which was no less than the life of Jesus Himself. He chose to dwell in you. Your body is the vessel that brings Him honour.

We can’t overstate how significant it is that God cherishes and loves our bodies. If He sees our bodies as suitable for His literal presence to dwell, then it is not only irrational, but inexcusable for us to speak poorly of them.

Daughter of God, be encouraged that you are so much more than the power that you have to catch someone’s eye or attention. The praise of people is cheap and fleeting, but God’s view of your body is proven by the price He paid and His conscious choice to make your body His most holy dwelling place.

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Read This When You Get It Wrong

Read This When
You Get It Wrong

09/20/21

So you got it wrong.

Messed it up. Made a bad call, had a case of poor judgment. You did something wrong.

It’s heavy, isn’t it? The aftermath, sorting through it all, navigating what’s next. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much we talk about grace — we don’t feel it when we’re the ones who screwed up.

I’ve battled long and hard with my own expectations. A perfectionist in denial, reconciling my knowledge of salvation with my own sin has been harder than it should be. I’ve felt like a failure, as a friend, girlfriend, daughter, sister. I didn’t even realize until this last year that I’ve spent a decade obsessing over doing the right thing, not because I wanted to, but because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t.

But the more life I live, the more mistakes I make, and here I find myself, smacked in the face with my innate brokenness, realizing that I’ve lived my whole life in the church without ever really believing in grace for myself.

I have spent a lot of time in prayer, thought, and reflection trying to experience that grace. This is what I’ve learned. As I write this, I know that this is as much for me as it is for you. But I also know that I’m not alone in this. Whether you’ve lived your whole life hearing the gospel, or are just getting to know Jesus, the concept of unconditional love is really hard to grasp.

I will never have the right words to express even a fraction of how powerful salvation is or how good and gracious our God is. If you’re feeling broken, shameful, or simply not enough, this is for you.

You’re going to get it wrong.

First off, let’s make something very clear. You screwed up. You got it wrong. But you are not a failure, or weak, or any more broken than the rest of us. We all get it wrong all of the time.

Yes, you’re responsible for your actions, but you are also incapable of perfection. There’s no point of growth or spiritual maturity where you just stop relying on grace. It doesn’t exist. Even with the best of intentions and purest motives, you’re not going to nail it.

Now, keep in mind, that’s not a defense, justification, or excuse — but it is important for you to know. Growth is necessary, and holding yourself to high standards is part of that process. But if you attempt an impossible feat, particularly if you interpret it as part of your identity or faith, you are setting yourself up not only for failure, but an existential crisis.

The good news.

I know this all sounds a little bleak, but stick with me for a second, because this next part is really important.

Realizing that you’ll never get everything right can either be a weight off of your shoulders or an absolute nightmare. One way or another, here’s why it’s really, really good news.

Your identity, value, and worth have nothing to do with you messing up (or not). Your brokenness is not news to the Lord. In fact, He created you knowing exactly where you’d find yourself. He knew the mistakes you would make, the poor choices, negative actions, sins, all of it.

You will never be good enough for a “perfect standard” — but you’re not supposed to be.

Regardless of anyone else’s expectations, beliefs, or ideas about you, you are enough. The Creator of the Universe not only wanted you to exist, but was willing to die for you. For your heart, your eternity, and your salvation.

We see, feel, and believe the love of God for other people, but so often forget that it covers us too. Our brokenness is not in spite of our salvation, but the very reason why it was necessary in the first place.

In Romans 8, Paul writes this: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Nothing in all creation. No sin. No shame. No screw-ups. No death or life, angels or rulers, things present or to come could separate you from the overwhelming, unstoppable force that is the Love of God.

So, when you get it wrong, and you will, don’t give up. Don’t run, hide, or flee from His presence. Press in. Turn from your sin, and accept grace, love, and forgiveness. It’s there, it’s for you, and so is He.

To read more from Anika, visit her website.

Don’t Let Quarantine Ruin Your Marriage

Don’t Let Quarantine
Ruin Your Marriage

09/13/21

Let me begin by saying this: I love my marriage, but it’s far from perfect.

Over the past six years, my husband and I have learned a lot about conflict; mostly through living it. Conflict is not an optional aspect of marriage. Throw in a year of on-and-off quarantine, and those tensions and irritations become even more impossible to avoid. I wish I could tell you that there has never been a moment that I’ve harboured a bad attitude toward my marriage. Sadly, this is not a perfect world, and there are no perfect people or marriages.

I hope my story will encourage you, and that the help God has given me to see the value of my marriage more clearly will be an encouragement to you whatever state your marriage is in right now.

It all started with a few days of perpetual irritation. I was resentful of the chores I needed to do around the house, I was frustrated by how needy my kids were, and I was agitated by the very notion that my husband was not in my shoes, feeling all the same pressures I was and handling daily things with the amount of urgency that I feel they deserve. Instead of nipping those irritations in the bud, I entertained them. Before long, I had compiled a mental list of every reason why I was dissatisfied, all originating in some action or word that my husband had done or said. Instead of seeing him as a whole – with all the efforts that he makes on a daily basis to love and serve our family – I had started to blame him for my state of mind.

Ladies, it’s frightening how quickly and easily I descended into this place. The worst part of it all is that there were small bits of truth behind every complaint I raised. Unless you somehow managed to marry Adam before the fall, there will always be ways for your husband to be more helpful or more romantic, or more sensitive to your needs. The question is, how do we deal with these shortcomings when they arise?

When we’re angry, it’s easy to allow our problems to be blown out of proportion. We may start to question whether our spouse cares about the way they treat us. Or worse, we might even be tempted to conclude that there is some fundamental incompatibility between us that could put the entire marriage in jeopardy. As Christians, it’s so, so important that we combat these fears and frustrations with God’s perspective on marriage.

God did not design marriage to complete you. Nor did He design marriage to negate your need for other relationships or influences in your life. The life that quarantine has imposed on us has made this reality all too easy to forget: we’ve been cut off from the friends and church families who used to help to nourish the parts of our identities that were distinct from our role as wives. What we’ve been left with is all of the same needs, but only one in-person relationship to meet them. That is an enormous burden that even the most textbook-perfect husband is simply unable to carry.

The purpose of marriage is to point us to Jesus. At the best times, my husband’s love is a reflection of the love of Jesus. At the worst, his failures remind me that only Jesus can love me perfectly. Whichever it may be, the underlying emphasis of marriage needs to be that perfect steadfast love can only be found in God.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t work to identify the areas in our marriages that need growth and improvement. But as you do, be encouraged by the knowledge that even in the difficulties, there is both purpose and an inexhaustible well of perfect love available to sustain you through it from our loving creator, God.

If you’re frustrated and hurting – tell Him! Go for a drive and air your grievances out loud, or take some alone time with a journal or laptop and write out what you’re feeling. Ask God to meet you in the honesty of your heart and He will be there.

Through prayer, God has taken my restlessness and turned it into the peace of being understood. He has taken my complaining and turned it into a conviction of my own faults. He has taken my disappointments and turned them into twice as many reasons for gratitude. When I bring those transformed attitudes into my marriage, I see conflict in an entirely new light. My heart is no longer set on exposing my husband’s weaknesses for the purposes of justifying my own frustrations. Instead – with complete confidence in the love God has shown me – I come prepared to acknowledge my faults, offer forgiveness, and move toward reconciliation. I’m reminded that my marriage is a gift; one that is well worth fighting for.

I don’t know what conflict you are currently facing in your marriage, but I do know the one who knows and is ready and willing to meet your needs in the midst of it.

“For God alone my soul waits in silence;
From him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
My fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

“Once God has spoken;
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God,
And that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.”

// Psalm 62:1, 11-12a

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Self-Care vs. Soul Care

Self-Care vs. Soul Care

09/06/21

Are you feeling down?
Have you taken some “me time” today?
Maybe what you need is a little self-care.

The self-care conversation has been floating around for a while now. However, I’ve noticed that everyone has a different definition of self-care, which makes sense since we all have different needs and preferences. I prefer a cup of orange pekoe but I have friends that prefer a glass of merlot. I would take chocolate over pretzels, or alone time over a girl’s night out.

As a mom, there is a lot of talk about the lack of time we have to ourselves, and that precious me-time that we need to guard fiercely. For others, maybe you’ve felt challenged to find a work-home balance, or you feel on the edge of burnout. We can’t be the women we want to be if we don’t first pour into ourselves. You can’t pour from an empty well. However, what I’ve learned is my idea of “empty” changes. I may think, “if she wakes one more time tonight.. I don’t know what I’ll do,” but you know what, she does wake up and so do I. I get up, I feed her and I bounce her up and down, up and down until her eyelids shut.

When I think I have come to the end of myself, I learn that where my strength, love, and patience dwindles, God shines.

When I spend those bounces praying or singing worship music instead of wallowing my soul feels uplifted. I can feel God’s greatness meeting me at my weakest and filling me up. My baby may wake again, but something in me changes, and I can cope with it better.

I don’t just survive another night, I grow and I learn more of God’s character and his deep love for me.

Just like the woman at the well (John 4), when you go to the source of living water you never get thirsty again. It doesn’t mean life isn’t hard, or that there aren’t moments where the beating sun on your head makes you thirsty again, it means that even in those tough moments your soul remains quenched. When we go to other sources, other wells, we won’t find satisfaction and will keep coming back to that girl’s night, that glass of wine, or whatever it is that we have convinced ourselves will help us get through.

If that thing is anything other than God we are fooling ourselves and just treading water.

If you have participated in the Well Practice then some of these thoughts may sound familiar. For those of you who haven’t tried the Well Practice, I highly recommend it.

Now I’m not saying that that glass of wine you enjoy after a long day is a bad thing, or that you shouldn’t enjoy some me-time or a girl’s night out. But rather, I’m asking you, why? What is the motivation behind your chosen self-care? Have you considered practicing an act that has a lasting impact on you? I like to call this Soul-Care.

I’ve found that one of the easiest ways to make sure I’m taking care of my soul is trying to make some healthier swaps to build some new habits and to make me more aware of the state of my soul. Just like learning to swap your favourite guilty pleasure snacks for some healthier options. It doesn’t mean you never have that chocolate or those chips, it simply means you find a better balance. These are some of the swaps I’ve found helpful:

  • Reading a psalm on my phone first or even instead of scrolling through social media before bed.
  • Starting my day with a big cup of tea, breakfast, and reading my bible. In my house, this looks like my daughter eating her breakfast while watching Frozen while I sit at the kitchen table trying to scarf down my food and doing my devos. Yes, I get interrupted multiple times, but this is a rhythm that has worked for us.
  • While making dinner or doing other household stuff I try to add more worship music to my mix. Some days I want to jam out to some classic Taylor Swift (LOL) and others where I know I need some worship music and I can feel it shift things in my soul.
  • Ending your day with an “I’m grateful” list that you use to pray and thank God. I find this particularly helpful on hard days. Sometimes the list is short and other days it is long.
  • Building relationships with women that are also trying to prioritize Jesus in their lives. A great example is signing up for the Well Practice. This was one of the best things I ever did for myself.

Jesus knows us better than ourselves, and we can look to him and his life for encouragement and guidance.

After feeding the five thousand (Matthew 14), Jesus makes an interesting choice. He sends his disciples off, dismisses the crowd, and does what a lot of us feel like doing after a long day:

“And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” // Matthew 14:23

He took some much needed alone time. We may think “Oh, even Jesus needed his me time,” but I think there’s more to it. Jesus didn’t step away to be by himself, enjoy the sunset, and drink a glass of wine. Yes, he was probably tired, probably feeling a bit drained, maybe he even felt peopled out after a long day.

He goes up to that mountain to pray. Jesus knows the only way to truly rejuvenate his soul is to be with the Father.

It isn’t with a wellness retreat or a good ranting session with a bestie. Jesus goes to his Father. He goes for relationship, encouragement, a reminder of his mission. He goes to take a deep drink from the well. He goes because he needs close intimacy with the Father, he goes because he knew that one day you and I would be struggling with the same things and be looking for a better way.

In this season of transition, as the world has started opening up again and we get back into those September routines, my prayer for you is that though you may feel tempted to fill your calendar and your life with all that you have been missing and aching for these long months, that you also make the time to be with your Father. I pray that you would find your quiet mountain top in everyday life and that you would feel that shift in your soul as God meets you there.

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