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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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3 Ways to Build Faithful Friendships

3 Ways to Build
Faithful Friendships

05/17/21

Let’s be honest — girl culture isn’t always great. Even in the church, it can be really hard to find spaces filled with women that are inviting and open.

Female friendships are hard, y’all. What should be a safe and welcoming space is too often competitive, toxic, and critical. Spiritual sisterhood is a rare thing, and the intentionality we so love to talk about in romantic relationships is even harder to find in a friendship.

Not only is mutual effort important, but if we’re all really honest, things like gossip, rumours, and playing games with each other didn’t all get left behind in high school. It would’ve been nice, but old habits die hard, and somehow they sting even more so when they can’t be excused by age.

It’s easy to point fingers, but the truth is that the world has been pushing us into this fight our whole lives. We can’t change that overnight, and we can’t undo any mistakes we might’ve made, but we can decide to change the spaces we’re in.

1. Be the woman you needed as a girl

This is one of the most powerful quotes I’ve ever heard, and very applicable to this topic. It’s something to keep in mind in terms of mentorship, and raising up the next generation, but also an important principle for the generation we’re in. Be the woman you needed yesterday, last week, or a year ago.

Invite a friend to grab coffee. If you know someone’s going through a rough time, check in on them. Call your friends. Ask a stranger to sit with you on Sunday, stand up for others, and be bold in the pursuit of loving well.

2. Embrace humility

There is a lost value to grace and humility in the eyes of our world, and it’s something we need to restore. No friendship is perfect (that’s okay!). Even intentional, Christ-centered, grounded relationships will have their rough patches and harsh words. But own your stuff. If you’ve hurt a friend, apologize. If someone has hurt you, talk it out. Fear and pride can keep us from having these crucial conversations with people around us, but authentic friendships need honesty.

Conflict doesn’t equal death in a friendship. Growing together is a powerful thing, but you have to be willing to come to the table.

3. Know when to stop talking

Friendships are an important space to process, heal, and seek wisdom. In fact, those are some of the greatest benefits of close friendships. But they can also be hotbeds for gossip and criticism. Note: there is a massive difference between discussing a situation with someone you’re close to and actively tearing someone apart behind their back. I’m a verbal processor, and my friends are a huge gift to me in that way. When it becomes an issue is when it crosses the line of becoming purely critical or mean-spirited. Ask yourself this: Would I still say these things if the person I’m talking about was in the room?

We were never supposed to do life on our own. Community is more than just being in a room of people, and this last year has been a perfect example. As followers of Jesus, the competitive culture is directly oppositional to how we are called to live. Where the world tells you to come out on top, He says “I am enough for you”. Where the world encourages you to get the last word, He says “forgive others as I have forgiven you”.

Do the hard thing. Get real with each other. Choose grace over judgment, be intentional, and love in all you do.

To read more from Anika, visit her website.

The Lies of the Enemy

The Lies of the Enemy

05/13/21

The house was empty. My husband had taken our daughter for a walk, and I had a moment to myself and enjoyed a nice hot shower, uninterrupted: a motherhood miracle. I was a couple months postpartum, squishy and stretched in all the places I wasn’t used to being. My mind was like an overly soaked sponge, but instead of with water, it was with exhaustion filling up every crack and hole. My heart was tight with worry and second guessing, and yet sore from trying to expand to hold all this new love I had for my daughter without bursting.

I stepped into the shower and the pounding water quieted everything else. In the quiet I started to hear a voice. As I washed my hair, the whisper turned into a pounding I couldn’t ignore: “You aren’t good enough,” “You are more of a burden than a help,” “They would be better off without you,” “You are a failure,” “Why can’t you figure this out?” I trembled as I tried to fight the voices in my head. These were all the fears that quaked in my heart. I was afraid that other people would see that I was in fact a failure and that I was a burden. I felt the weight of it all the time. The shattered remnants of all the balls I had dropped surrounded me, and I couldn’t step in any direction without feeling the cut of failure.

The Devil’s MO

The weight of these words crushed me. For a moment I believed that this voice was right, that it was only saying what I had known all along. The pain of letting my family down, my husband, and my precious daughter was unbearable.

The devil plays dirty. He kicks us when we are already down. This is why it is so important for us to be ready. Before we can respond to the devil’s tactics, we need to be able to identify his voice to prevent him from gaining any ground within our minds and hearts.

We can expect the devil to play dirty, but the Bible reveals more consistencies in how the devil chooses to operate. Below are three examples, although these examples are not all encompassing of the devil’s repertoire:

1. Vulnerable Attacks (Matthew 4:1-11):

When Jesus was in the wilderness, after 40 days of fasting, the devil appears and tempts Jesus. There are many important details to take from this story, but one of the key highlights is that Jesus was at his most vulnerable.

And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ // Matthew 4:2-3

When Jesus’ stomach ached with the pangs of hunger, the devil came to remind him of how easy it would be to satisfy that hunger. Another notable point is that Jesus was completely alone. There was no one there to witness if he turned the stones into bread. “Why would it matter?” the devil seemed to imply. Even though nothing is hidden from God, when we are alone it can often feel like we are hidden and that the repercussions of our actions are lessened in secret.

2. Trusted Friends (Matthew 16:21-23):

In this story, Jesus is predicting his death and resurrection. Peter, a trusted and close friend of Jesus, takes him aside and voices his concerns, which is followed by the famous line from Jesus: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:23). I can’t imagine how Peter would have felt at that moment. Isn’t that just one of the worst things your Lord could say to you?

The devil can and will use the various voices that we open ourselves up to to plant lies and destruction. He will even use the voices of those closest to us, those we trust the most, those who we go to for advice and wisdom, and those that have the best intentions when they share with you. Because we are broken people, our views, opinions and advice can often lack the full perspective of God’s plan. It is so easy to get distracted with our worldly view. Wisdom can be found in seeking the advice and wisdom of others (Proverbs 12:15), but it is important to lean primarily on God’s Word and wisdom and be discerning of the voices that you take to heart.

3.Cunning Ways (Genesis 3:1-7):

We are all familiar with the story of Eve being deceived in the garden. The serpent is described as “crafty,” “cunning,” and “clever”. He asks Eve, “Did God actually say…”. Eve is put on the spot questioning whether she really understood God’s command. The serpent contorts God’s words. He twists them so that they appear negative as if God is holding goodness back from Eve. Instead of asking, “Did God actually say you couldn’t eat from that one specific tree?” he asks, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” The serpent knows the true repercussions of Eve eating from that tree, but carefully chooses his words to make it desirable: “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” First he denies the truth of God’s words and replaces it with his own modified version, but fails to mention the high cost of having their eyes opened.

The serpent has Eve questioning the goodness of God, and with that question looming over her he then gets her to question God himself. “Is that the kind of God you want lording over you? Wouldn’t you rather be your own master, knowing good from evil like God?” And isn’t that the same story the devil sells us everyday? Wouldn’t you be a better master for yourself, don’t you know better? Is God really that good? Can he really be trusted? Even though Eve walked with God in the cool of the day, she still in this moment questions these foundational truths.

Equipped to Defend

How can we choose differently than Eve and Peter? How can we respond like Jesus in the face of temptation? We need to be able to first identify that voice and then know how to respond to it. When the devil tempts Jesus, he quotes scripture to justify himself (Psalm 91:11-12), but Jesus responds in kind quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ The devil can twist scripture and pull it out of context in order to fit what he wants to say. Sometimes we are guilty of the same thing, but it feels right because it is encouraging and from the Bible. It’s difficult to know the difference if we don’t actually read our bibles and take the truth in them to heart.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” // Hebrews 4:12

When we read our bibles, we are not just checking off a box on our “good” Christian checklist. Reading our bibles is no meager thing. We are engaging with God’s living and breathing word. We are preparing our hearts and minds, and we are equipping ourselves with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). We are engaging with a spiritual war for our souls and this world.

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. // Ephesians 6:10-12

Truth Silences Lies

In my case, looking back on this moment, I can see how in my most vulnerable moments as a young mother, the devil had been planting little lies, slowly walking me up to this precipice with the goal of pushing me over the edge at my weakest. I had also allowed several voices to get inside my head. I had allowed the devil to use other people I trusted, social media, and blogs I loved to plant lies and doubts about the kind of mother I was and should be.

However, I had also been really trying to dive into my bible despite all the distractions. I found online devotionals I could read on my phone while nursing. I joined online bible studies and I dove into The Well Practice. I desperately tried to find ways to be with God in my new normal.

This didn’t happen every day and I was far from perfect, but when it felt like I was drowning in exhaustion, diapers, and isolation, the only thing that kept me afloat was my deeper desperation for Jesus.

I knew that he had been through long nights, too.
I knew he had found himself on his knees asking desperately for help from God.
I knew that God worked everything out for good.

I held onto those truths because they were the only steady, concrete things in my life at that point. God was and is so gracious in meeting me where I am and how I am. Because of those gracious meetings at 3am and interrupted morning devotions, I was able to whisper back to that voice in the shower, “ I am God’s beloved daughter. I am God’s beloved daughter.”

And I repeated that over and over until the voice was silent.

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The Mission of the Moment

The Mission of the Moment

04/13/21

When I was in high school, I spent most of my free time planning the rest of my life. I’d look at apartments, watch YouTube videos, and pick out furniture. I was young, but so eager to jump into the next phase of my life. I had big plans for my next steps, and luckily I was able to make them happen. But even though I went where I wanted to, I wasn’t quite satisfied.

It’s not that I was unhappy, it’s just that once again, I found myself waiting. For graduation day, for moving into my own place, for my next dream to realize itself — and the pattern continued. I’d hit a goal, feel really great for about 24 hours, and then move on to the next one. These weren’t all small targets – some of them were lifelong dreams whose value came crashing down when I quickly realized that the anticipation had been worth more than the moment.

It’s not that the anticipation was wrong, or that there’s anything inherently bad about looking forward to the future. But when your eyes are only looking ahead, and not around, you miss out on…a lot.

We often talk about “seasons” in the church and the temporary nature of the world we live in. It’s an important subject, but it also makes it really easy to get caught up in a pattern of thinking that this time of your life doesn’t matter. That all it is is waiting. Preparing. Longing.

For a relationship, a better job, a diploma, a house, a positive pregnancy test.

All things to look forward to – if they’re in your future. Good things, and getting excited about them is normal (and totally fine)! But as women striving to follow Jesus, we know that He has a plan and purpose for our lives. Nothing he does in you or through you is wasted. His timing is perfect, and His will is good.

If you’re in a tough season, it’s tempting to just wish it away. Put your head down, grit your teeth, and stick it out until you get somewhere better. But firstly, no matter what stage of life you’re in, that mindset will probably never go away unless you choose to drop it. You’ll always be waiting, wanting, and wishing for something more.

And, on a vastly more important note, God uses you wherever you are. Whether you’re falling apart or living your best life, there is a holy purpose in this place. It’s okay to look forward, but keep looking around too. What is the Lord calling you to in this season? What is the mission of the moment?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the plan God has for my life, it’s that I don’t want to miss a second of it. Whatever you’re experiencing, growing in, or serving in right now, soak it up. Press in, show up, and find a way to be grateful for this moment and all that it is.

To read more from Anika, visit her website.

Jesus’s Opinion of Women: 5 Gospel Truths

Jesus’s Opinion of Women:
5 Gospel Truths

04/05/21

I love Jesus. The more I read about Him, the more I appreciate that His love was the kind of love that defied all kinds of prejudices, including the prejudice so often held against women. Below are just a few examples of occasions where Jesus, despite other people’s perceptions of women, demonstrated His profound appreciation of them. I hope these accounts encourage your heart like they have mine, and show you more clearly how Jesus views and values all of us.

1. The Woman at the Well

Being The Well, this seems like an appropriate place to start. One of the things I love most about this encounter in John 4 is that Jesus chooses to single out an unmarried, non-Jewish woman caught in a cycle of unhealthy relationships. In doing so, He completely obliterates any assumption that God will only engage with a woman who fits the ideal Christian stereotype. And when I say engage, I don’t just mean that He’ll make polite small talk. The woman of Samaria was the woman that Jesus chose to reveal the secret of New Testament worship to:

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. // John 4:23.

His choice to reveal such a paradigm-shifting reality with this woman definitely suggests that He had a high opinion of her – both intellectually and spiritually. I also love the way that the woman responds to her encounter with Jesus. We’re told that she shared her story so that many of her people came to know Jesus as the Saviour of the world (John 4:39,42).

What does this account tell us about Jesus’ opinion of women? He thinks highly enough of us to entrust us with His truth. He also sees the power behind our story, and entrusts us with pointing others back to Him.

2. The Death of Lazarus

If you’ve never before memorized a verse of scripture, today is your day. John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.” And what is it that brought the Son of God to tears? Let’s see:

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. // John 11:32-33

Jesus not only hears the prayers of his daughters, but he is “deeply moved” by the honest, unreserved sentiments of her heart. Oh yeah, and he raised Lazarus from the dead later that day. Wow.

What does this account tell us about Jesus’ opinion of women? He doesn’t demean our emotions. Instead, He empathizes with us and is moved to action by our prayers.

3. The Anointing of Jesus

There are very few things mentioned in all four of the Gospels, but this story is one of them:

Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. // John 12:3

While other men were watching Mary and saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor” (Matthew 26:8-9), Jesus was seeing something very different: She has done a beautiful thing to me… She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial… wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her. // Mark 14:3-9

What does this account tell us about Jesus’ opinion of women? He recognizes the deep intuition that we have into His worth and cherishes the worship that we offer Him.

4. The Widow’s Offering

Again, a woman’s heart of worship catches Jesus’ attention. This time, it’s a woman who is poor, widowed, and probably viewed as a burden to society. But to Jesus, her service is something to be used as an example to teach anyone – man or woman, rich or poor – how we ought to give.

Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on. // Mark 12:43-44

What does this account tell us about Jesus’ opinion of women? He sees every sacrifice that we make in service to Him and wants others to learn from our example.

5. The Witnesses at the Tomb

I LOVE this. Read this excerpt from Matthew 28:5-10, which takes place after the resurrection of Christ:

But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.’ So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.’

I once read a novel called Jesus on Trial, where I learned that the testimony of women in the time of Jesus was widely disregarded in a court of law, as in most other contexts. Despite that fact, God chose to make two women the first witnesses of the resurrection. Jesus also chose these women to be the first ones who would see Him in His resurrected body, giving them the important job of bringing others to their own encounter with the risen Christ.

I cannot overstate how big of a deal this is. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain,” and in verse 17, “… if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” The truth of the resurrection is what our entire faith is dependent on, and Jesus chose to first entrust this truth, not to his disciples, but to two women.

What does this account tell us about Jesus’ opinion of women? He trusts us to be faithful witnesses of His most crucial truths. He places enormous value on our testimonies.

Conclusion

All throughout the Gospels, there is evidence of Jesus’ willingness to use women like us in His service. He loves us, He recognizes what we have to offer, He is eager to entrust us with truth, He appreciates our prayers and worship, and He is willing to engage with us in our everyday. I hope you know how valuable you are to Him, and that He will use you today to accomplish amazing things.

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