These two ladies are so filled with laughter, love, and life. I am blessed to call them my friends. Last Fall, Lynn; Elizabeth; and I talked about loving this season and wanting to do a photoshoot. So we finally got around to it–a year later. Here are some of my favorite shots from the day. Love these gorgeous girls!
Ghost towns are called Ghost towns for a reason. Air seems more chilled and the nature around it, still–eerily so. Apparently, some people find that environment appealing (there were people camping there when we visited), but I just don’t. Of course, mannequins and dolls also creep me out and there were plenty of those lovely white figures staring out of dilapidated drug store windows. Although, I have to say, for a ghost town St. Elmo, Colorado is actually pretty well kept.
I traveled there with my aunt in 2012, as a part of a road trip through Colorado. We had just stopped in Buena Vista for some BBQ and I believe they mentioned this little town to us.
Despite the eerie feel and the cold mountain air–St. Elmo offers a beautiful view.
We definitely had a good time walking around, I’m pretty sure I tried to jump out and scare my aunt a few times. Which is exceptionally fun because she’s an Opera singer and tends to sing a high C instead of screaming.
My aunt took most of the pictures because I was really distracted by this:
There were about a hundred more of those little guys, and they had no qualms about jumping on you if they thought you had food.
My hands are shaking. I’m going to be sick. I won’t be able to hold the microphone. My face feels like it’s on fire. I’m going to drop the microphone. There are two steps leading to the stage…that makes two chances for me to trip over my own feet and bust it. I am tingling all over; I’m definitely going to pass out. Oh no. She’s finished now it’s my turn . . . do I really have anything worth saying?
And that is how I came face-to-face with public enemy number one—public speaking.
I was about to put my heart out there in a room so full of women that I contemplated running out the door. I began to doubt that I had anything to say at all, no matter how many times God showed me that I needed speak and they needed to hear. Fear always finds a way to push me back down—away from my dreams, away from my calling, and far away from the God who loves me.
Sometimes, fear makes me do crazy things, like trying to face it by speaking to a bunch of people. Sometimes, I drop my notes and they scatter all over the floor behind the podium. Sometimes, I awkwardly laugh to cover the pounding of my own heart. Sometimes, I completely skip over entire bullet points when I’m nervous (Sorry, Job).
And sometimes, the wire disconnects from the microphone—twice.
Really? Again? Why did the wireless mic have to die? I love this awkward balancing act of trying to face this room full of women, and trying to face my fears by telling them about my battle with depression. Of course, the wire falls of the mic.
And then I heard the women chuckling and I realized—yes, God really allowed it.
I think He wanted them to see how human I am, and that I was absolutely not talking down to them. I was speaking from a deeply wounded heart, still learning how God loves her even if she feels like she can’t love herself some days (and has no idea why she feels that way).
And I also believe He wanted me to see that fear is overrated—Jesus defeated that on the cross, too.
As I told my new friends that Wednesday night, God did not give us a spirit of fear; but of power, love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7, paraphrased from the ESV). I just have to reach up and grab hold of His courage. It’s not that I won’t have any fears; I just don’t have to face them alone.
And fear is worth facing, because God has so much more for us.
You know that intensely frustrating moment when you finally reach the bottom of the box–the last bit of cereal–and all that you find spilling into your bowl are crumbs? The pieces make a gentle clink-clink sound as they slide to the center of their ceramic holding cell. You take a deep breath, maybe sigh, and wonder what you’re going to do about breakfast.
Friction causes those little wheat shapes to crumble under pressure created by all the other pieces in the box. I almost feel sorry for them, but then I think maybe I’m empathizing with them because (in a very figurative sense) I am those breakfast bites, falling apart at the bottom of the box.
Maybe I’m feeling some of that same pressure, trying to resist the urge to crumble as life itself grates against the life I’m trying to live.
As I live more life, I realize just how much growing I still have left. No (horror of all horrors), even in your 20’s you will not have all the answers. Somehow, when I was little I thought life would become easier with each passing year. But I found no truth in that. And so I wish for the days when my brother and I ran around in the back yard without a care, spent our weekends hiking and having bonfires at our family mountain cabin, or had cap gun wars with imaginary outlaws as we plodded along on the back of our trusty steed, Angel.
Life as a Christian is beautiful but it is not easy.
Sometimes, I feel that my personal score card holds more misses than successes. But that’s just it, I’m holding onto the score card, and continually give myself a big fat zero. God doesn’t. Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and the day I put my faith in that; my zeros were erased, my card wiped clean, and ripped to shreds by His grace. You see, God isn’t the one making me feel crushed like cereal at the bottom of the box, I am. I put pressure on myself to be perfect, to tip-toe around trying to avoid mistakes. But that just isn’t possible.
I don’t believe God is just sitting around waiting for me to mess up, He’s waiting for me to embrace the freedom that comes with grace–the freedom that comes with being loved by Him. He wants me to have a life that is full of hope and joy (John 10:10). And walking around like I’m scared of living, really isn’t living at all–it’s the hopeless friction being crushed. But that isn’t from God. I have learned that somewhere along the way in my 20-some years.
God only does one type of crushing in my life; He crushes the power sin once held over me.
“We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
During my sophomore year in college, I started to become more self-conscious of my appearance. One day, I was standing at the Clinique counter of Dillard’s department store with my roommate. She was getting some gel eyeliner; I was simply following along taking a break from the books, procrastinating as usual. As the sales representative rang up her purchase, she turned to me and said, “Would you like to do anything about those dark circles under your eyes?”
Horrified, I stammered a no-thank-you, and we quickly left the store. After that delightful encounter I remember going straight to the bathroom mirror and scrutinizing my face, trying to see the imperfections previously mentioned to me.
Under eye concealer became my best friend that year.
As I’ve entered my young adult years, I’ve become increasingly self-aware about the fact that I no longer have the body I did at 16. Clothes that once fit perfectly are tighter. My hair, which I have never colored before, is starting to sprout gray hairs here and there. My stomach, which used to be flatter, is slightly rounder.
Staring at myself in the mirror, my imperfections scream at me. I became engrossed with magazine articles, YouTube videos, and Pinterest pins all talking about beauty and health. I thought maybe one of these would offer the solution to my many problems.
“This DIY will make your hair softer and healthier.”
“These top 5 drug store steals are necessary to your 9-5 look.”
“How your skin care routine should change once you hit your 30’s.”
Advertisements surely make their money off gullible people like me, or if we’re being honest here, people with poor self-esteem like me. I started to re-evaluate everything in my life from my exercise routine to my food intake. Should I start a juice cleanse? How much kale should I eat before I see physical results? How many squats do I need to do before my legs are more toned?
If you have ever seen the movie Mean Girls, you will remember the scene where the “Plastics” are in Regina’s room, standing in front of her mirror, recounting all their physical flaws. I’m ashamed to say that became my new normal as I got ready for work or to go out with my friends.
When I saw myself in the mirror, I couldn’t think of one single thing that I was happy with. And if I wasn’t acceptable on the outside, how could I possibly be acceptable on the inside? Who would want to hang out with someone who was so flawed? This was the momentum Satan needed to further push the button of my insecurities. He saw how I looked at myself, and how deeply the lies had been rooted.
He whispered, “You aren’t enough and if people see how flawed you are, they definitely won’t stick around.”
If I went back in time and asked my 16-year-old self, what age you should be comfortable in your own skin, I know she would say, “Definitely when you get into your 20’s.”
Well, that’s my age now, and I have to say that I fight this battle daily.
It is not healthy, spiritually or mentally, to be so fixated on my physical beauty. Proverbs 31:30 tells me that “beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” So, I have learned to ask Jesus to show me who I am to Him, and what I have to offer. I’ve learned that you need to ask Him to help you find your “gentle and quiet spirit which is of great worth in his sight,” (1 Peter 3:3-4.).
A woman who knows that her worth comes from the One who created it will shine the brightest of all.
Anna Kaye Gilbreath and I bonded over our love for words. We met through Disciple Now at our home church in Tennessee, and have been friends ever since. She kindly agreed to give us a fresh perspective by writing today’s blog. So, I’ll let you read a little more about her: Anna Kaye is a Tennessee native currently living in Florida. She loves to read, write, and explore. She hopes her writing will be an encouragement to all who read it. You can connect with her on Twitter and Instagram: @akgilbre.
- Being dejected, having prolonged sadness, gloom, withdrawal, feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy. Not always logical.
- Clinical—severe, disrupts daily routines, causes constant sense of hopelessness, and can be generational.
- Seasonal—also called the winter blues, can be caused by lack of sunlight and vitamin D.
- Manic (aka Bipolar Disorder)—severe changes in affect, moods swing from extreme elation to deep depression.
- Dysthymic disorder—chronic, but not severe. Also called low-level.
- Can be reactive/situational.
(This information was mainly gathered from The Quick Reference Guide to Biblical Counseling by Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Ron Hawkins, but I some of the information I gathered as a Psychology student at Liberty.)
When I started going to counseling, which I was afraid to admit due to my being a Christian and, worse, a pastor’s daughter, my counselor said something that really stuck with me. And that’s where we’ll start tonight.
She said, “Stephanie, I’d like to see you get angry.”
I looked at her like she was crazy. I thought, Wait… the Bible says something about anger … something like … don’t be. She must have read the confusion in my expression because she chuckled a little and said, “I’m not telling you to get angry at people or even situations; I want you to get mad at satan and the lies he’s put in front of you.”
So let’s talk about depression. We’ll start with some lies surrounding the topic, particularly in Christian circles.
- A Christian cannot be depressed, and she definitely can’t have clinical or chronic depression
- If a Christian is depressed, it’s because of some un-confessed sin in her life.
- Jesus should be all the healing you need; you don’t need to see a counselor.
- Depression is unbeatable.
- If you struggle/struggled with depression, God can’t use you to show His love.
Now, let’s disprove those lies with scripture.
- A Christian can be depressed. Here are some Bible people who experienced depression.
- David–Ps. 13:1-4; 42:3-5a, 7; 55:4-5
- Elijah–1 Kings 19, focus on v 4. This happened after Elijah called down fire, asking God to show His power. Then he had all the prophets of Baal killed. Jezebel, the King’s wife, didn’t like that very much and Elijah feared for His life. So he ran to the wilderness. Jeremiah
- Lamentations (a lament is a passionate expression of grief or sorrow). The name itself is pretty self-explanatory.
- Job–Job 1-3, focus on Ch. 3:1-7, 11-12–Job lost pretty much everything, and cursed the day he was born. However, He did find hope in the Lord.
- Sometimes, depression is due to un-confessed sin, but not always.
- 38 (the whole chapter, but focus on verses 4-8,10), Ps. 51:2-5,8,10-12,17. Here, David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. We’re not told whether he realized his sin before Nathan (the prophet) approached him, but when Nathan confronted Him, David said something to the effect of, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13).
- Yes, Jesus is the root of all healing. But He had disciples. God uses ordinary people to carry out His mission. He uses missionaries, lawyers, teachers, and doctors to reach people and bring healing. Why could He not use a counselor to help bring healing to a wounded soul? Check out 2 Cor. 12:7-10 (His grace strengthens you), Ephesians 4:11-16 (not everyone has the same calling, God uses us each as He sees fit).
- Depression does not mean defeat.
- Luke 1:78-79, 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
- God may allow you to go through some pretty tough stuff, but He won’t let you be crushed.
- Luke 1:78-79, 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
- God can use whomever He wants to use. Paraphrasing what a friend of mine said, “I love that God uses the most broken parts of me to be the brightest spots of my testimony.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:10
There are a few things I want to leave with you:
Every battle leaves scars, and your battle with depression is no different. But those scars are beautiful because they represent the places that were once open wounds. Those wounds are no longer bleeding; they’re healing. So, I want you to know that there’s a difference between depression and being defeated. Living defeated means you let depression run your life. So fight it. The power of your God and His heart fight with you. He gave you a spirit of power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). There is always, always hope.
A letter to those who battle or have struggled with depression:
Every battle leaves scars; your battle with depression is no different. Don’t let your fear, your doubt, or even your church tell you that depression cannot happen to believers. Don’t let them tell you that your relationship with Jesus isn’t strong because you struggle with feeling dejected, sad, or inadequate.
There’s a difference between being depressed and being defeated.
Living defeated means you let depression run your life. Yes, fighting depression means you have some scars. Sometimes, scars still hurt; sometimes they show; sometimes they make you feel weak. But scars are beautiful because they are no longer open wounds. They were treated by grace, the love of your Savior, and maybe at the hands of a professional counselor. But please know that you are not “less than” because of your battle. There is hope for you, dear soul.
There is always hope.
“You’re just going to have to trust me! I’ll catch you.” How many movies have used lines similar to this? A scene in a film I watched recently showed a little girl on the roof of a burning building. At only two stories, the building was low enough that she wouldn’t have far to jump into the arms of her father. But he still had to coax her off of that roof. He had to remind her that she could trust him, that he loved her, and he wouldn’t let her fall. Within seconds of his reassurance that he would catch her, the little girl jumped from the roof, and into his arms. She was safe, and just moments later, the building was completely engulfed in flames. There was no way to know for sure that her dad wouldn’t fall, or that he wouldn’t miss her somehow. She had to trust him without being able to see the outcome. What if she had waited? What if she hadn’t trusted her father when he said he would catch her? What if she hadn’t jumped?
Sometimes you and I are so much like that little girl. You’re afraid to move from a place that’s no longer safe, because you’re not sure what will happen once you jump. You’re pretty sure you’ll be okay, but there are no guarantees. So you hesitate or never even jump, only to get caught in the flames; and then, oh how you wish you’d had enough faith to jump into the arms of your Father. Why is it so hard for you and I to trust that God knows what’s best for us? Why is it so hard to trust Him, period?
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
See also: 2 Cor. 5:7, Ps. 33:4
There are two different Hebrew words for faith used in the Old Testament. The first is aman, which describes something that is absolutely reliable, stable, or trustworthy. Yare’ is the Hebrew word for fear. Not the “I’m scared” kind of fear, but reverential awe of God. In the New Testament, writers used the Greek word pistis, which denotes trust and an unwavering belief that something is true.[i] All of these definitions really hone in on the word “trust”. Faith is impeccable, absolute, trust that God exists and that He will do what He says.
Faith shows our complete confidence in God, that even though we can’t physically see Him, He is there. Faith shows our trust in God to do what He promised, to do what’s best for you even when you don’t understand, because you can’t see the whole picture or the end result. Faith is saying, “God’s got this” no matter how scared, or worried you want to be. You can trust that He will come through.
Journal question: What does it mean to have an unwavering belief or unconditional trust? Do you feel that way about God, do you trust Him?
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. Mark 11:22
See also: Is. 61:8, John 14:1-4, Acts 27:25, Romans 4:16, 1 Cor. 1:9, 1 Thess. 5:24, 2 Tim. 2:13
Jesus trusted God all the way to the cross, and commanded His disciples to trust God as well. You can trust God to be who He says He is and carry out all of the promises He made. God doesn’t speak to you and I the same way He spoke to the prophets, but He still speaks to you through His word, and guides you by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it can be really difficult to have complete trust in God because you can’t see Him physically. But remember the things you can see—remember how His faithfulness to you in the past, look at the Old Testament prophecies and New Testament fulfillments, watch the changes He makes in the hearts of those around you.
God didn’t lend you a map of your entire life, but that does not mean you can’t trust Him to guide you through it. He wants your trust; He’s not going to break it. He will come through for you, no matter what. Even when it seems like you’ve waited forever, even when you’re hurting and can’t see a purpose for your pain, even when it doesn’t seem that your family or friends will trust Him with their lives—God is still worthy of your trust. He will get you through whatever happens.
Journal question: What does trusting God look like to you? What are you holding onto? What do you need to let go of and give to Him?
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9-10
See also: Prov. 16:6, Acts 15:9, Rom. 3:25, Heb. 11:6
Did you know that faith is essential to your salvation? Well, think of it this way—you have to trust that God sent His son to pay for your sins. Because you and I were not yet born when Christ died on the cross, we have to trust what God says to us in His word. Though you may experience the benefits of salvation because Jesus died and rose from the grave, you didn’t actually see Him do it. Even beyond that, saving faith means trusting that Jesus’ death does all–saving you from death and giving you eternal life, as well as freeing you from bondage to sin—God said it would do.
Journal question: What does it mean to have saving faith? Write down all the reasons you can trust what God says about Jesus.
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. Romans 10:17
See also: Acts 3:16, Eph. 2:8
Where do you get your faith? God reveals Himself to you through His word, and guides you by His Holy Spirit and through your prayers. God sent His Son to for your sins. He gave us the gifts of His Spirit and freedom from Sin. You know that now, but how did you find out about Jesus and salvation? More than likely you heard the gospel from someone when you asked God to forgive you and save you from your sin. Maybe your parents are Christians and raised you up in a godly home, maybe a youth pastor reached out to you, maybe a friend told you about her relationship with Jesus, or maybe someone gave you a Bible and told you where to look—but somehow God’s message of salvation through Christ was shared with you.
It would be difficult to accept a message you never heard. No one has an excuse for not knowing God exists, but how will people know Jesus and His salvation if they do not hear the message? Once you know the gospel message, don’t keep it to yourself; go tell others so they can understand salvation through faith in Christ, too.
Journal question: How did you hear the gospel? Write it out.
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:17
See also: Luke 22:32, Rom. 1:17, Rom. 10:10, Gal. 2:20
You hear or read the word of God, believe what God says is true, and you ask Him to forgive you of your sins. Now what do you do with your faith? You can’t just sit on it and expect it to grow. Yes, trusting God will help you through the rest of your life, but what else can you do with your faith? Share it. It’s easy to be afraid to share—afraid of rejection, afraid of what people will say about you, afraid to speak up period. But you can’t let fear take over.
When you’re really excited about something, you want to share it, right? For example, if you like volleyball, you talk about it, you know the right way to play the game but you always try to improve your skills, you want to play the game as much as possible, and you want others to get involved and love it, too, right? God wants us to feel the same way about the gift He’s given to us—salvation. He wants us to talk about our faith even when we’re afraid. He wants us to study His word to learn more about our faith and grow it deeper. God wants us to do things for others that demonstrate His love, and show that we believe we can trust Him. When others hear the gospel message and see the changes God has made in your life, maybe they’ll want to know Him too.
Journal question: Can you think of anyone you know personally who doesn’t know Jesus? How can you share your faith with those people? What will you tell them? How will your faith push you to act differently?
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20
See also: Matt. 9:22, Eph. 6:16, 2 Thess. 3:3
Don’t be afraid to use your faith, to trust God to do big things. God can do so much more than you know, or even imagine. Sometimes, our faith is weak and flimsy. You don’t want to ask God for too much. I have a question, is there anything that’s too much for the Creator of the Universe? God is big, let’s stop trying to make Him so small. If you believe that God is the God of the Bible–that He could make a nation from a barren womb, rescue His people from a powerful nation (several times, actually), make a king out of a shepherd boy, send His Son to be born of a virgin, and then to die on the cross for all the sins of all people for all time and then be raised to life—you need to think big.
God didn’t give you a small faith. He wants you to ask for things that allow Him to demonstrate His power. He wants us to ask Him to be big and trust Him to follow through. He wants us to have faith that moves mountains. If you believe God can do anything, it’s not crazy or stupid to ask Him to do the impossible; it’s called having faith.
Journal question: If you could ask God to do anything—what would it be? Ask it. And trust that He will answer even if it’s not the answer you expected.
[i] Trent C. Butler, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Holman Reference: Nashville, 2003), 547-550.
Last night my Dad and I went to see the Tennessee Titans play the Minnesota Vikings. Yes, it was the last game of the preseason, the starters only played the first quarter (if that), and Adrian Peterson didn’t play at all. I know. Rain also poured for most of the first half. But we stayed, because we love football, and my Dad loves the Vikings. And maybe we’re just a little crazy. Maybe.
But before the game and the rain started, we had to find a place to park, and we got there a little late so it wasn’t so easy. We ended up across the bridge from the stadium in East Nashville. We parked outside of an urban ministry, and though it was a long walk in what some would consider a not-so-safe area, I never felt threatened. What I did notice was the number of children just running around in the streets and on the sidewalks. Then I saw a group of about six kids, scrambling around in their own front yard football game.
I thought, how sad that they live so close to the stadium, but they’ll probably never get to go to a game. They sit outside and watch the fans walk by, they play their own version of Titans football, but will they ever do more than just hear the announcer’s voice and the roar of the fans?
I left those thoughts at the entry gates of the stadium, but as we walked back to the car my mind rewound to the earlier walk to LP Field. And my thoughts ran straight into Jesus. I saw that trip to the stadium like life. I know Jesus, I know about the kingdom of heaven, I know that’s where I’m headed, and I know I’ll get to see Jesus face to face. But what about them?
I realized I’m really selfish sometimes. Jesus taught us to love as he loved, to serve the less fortunate, and to tell others about him wherever we go (John 15:12, HCSB; Matthew 25:40, HCSB; Matthew 28:19-20, HCSB; Acts 1:8, HCSB ). But I so often get caught up in my own little life, and forget about the people in the world around me. I try to take Jesus with me, instead of going with Him. It’s like I expect people to come to me and ask for Jesus. Instead, as desperately as they need His love, I should be desperately trying to show them. But I fail, so, so much of the time.
I see people every day on an intense search fore more. I think it’s sad that they don’t know Jesus, because as my friend Jarrett said, “I believe we all have an aching deep within our heart that is given from God for something greater than ourselves.” I know Jesus will ease their ache, but I don’t always stop and show them. I don’t invite them with me to walk in His love.
Last night, I could almost hear Jesus saying, Stephanie, whom are you inviting to walk with me?
Sharing Jesus isn’t only for those who are called missionaries. Sometimes, I need to be the one who stops and says, “He’ll take care of you forever, because He loves you. Let me show you the way to His love. Let me show you Jesus.”
Because I’m going to keep asking myself this question, I want to ask you, too. Whom are you inviting to walk with Jesus?
Sometimes you’re blind to love because of its simplicity, but at times it overwhelms you with its extravagance. You don’t always have the easiest time understanding love. Your inner critic shouts that love is not available to people like you. You can’t always hear love’s voice over the roar of your fears, inadequacies, regrets, and insecurities. Words like broken, failure, dirty, and unworthy smatter across your brainwaves until you no longer feel like you’re allowed to know love. Have any of you ever felt like love was just beyond your grasp? I have.
How does love break through? Well, there’s no clear cut, clean and simple answer out there. Each person on the planet has a different story. Some plot lines may look similar, but I think the difference is in the details. Love is in the details. Love is in the daily.
I don’t know what love looks like to you, but for me…
Love is an unexpected note in the mailbox. Love is dancing in a summer rain. Love is a brownie fresh from the oven. Love is a walk in the park with a good friend. Love is laughter shared over a meal with my family. Love is a pen and a journal on the back porch swing, swaying in the autumn breeze. Love is an encouraging text sent at just the right time. Love is a broomstick sword war with my brother. Love is making silly faces at my niece just to see her smile. Love is in her smile. Love is sipping a cup of coffee on a front porch rocking chair. Love is fishing with my dad. Love is a new book. Love is singing my favorite songs on a road trip with my mom. Love is all in life.
You see, there are certainly occasions where love smacks me in the face or charges boldly into my life. But mostly, love comes quietly, like a sweet whisper to my soul.
And that’s all right with me.