Anchored Voices is a collaborative blog founded by Chara Donahue where Christians can use their words and creativity to point each other to the God who cares. It was conceived to foster a hope-filled community where we can remind one another that when the waves of life hit—in Jesus, the soul is safe. You can read more from them at AnchoredVoices.com.
When I was pregnant with my first daughter I sat down with a mentor of mine asking for discipleship. I was newly married, newly pregnant, and not able to pinpoint what I wanted to be mentored about. Upon our first meeting, she started by asking me a simple question, “What kind of woman do you want to be?” She went on to describe the different parts of a person: Body- our physical self; Soul- made up of mind, will, and emotions; and Spirit- our spiritual self where Christ dwells.
That get together inspired and encouraged me greatly, pointing out things I had never understood before. I pondered her question, but I do not think I came up with a clear answer at that point in my life.
What kind of woman do you want to be?
Reflecting upon that question now, seven years later, it is blatantly clear to me. I want to be an intentional woman. I do not want to feel as though I am a victim to my own life, rather that I am choosing to walk in God’s will for my life.
I have realized that this does not just happen, it takes intentionality. I want to put thought and care into all areas of my life. I feel a bit like I am coming out of a season of sleep deprivation and survival-mode in parenting, and into more structure. With structure and schedules, I am able to put much more thought into the things I do. I believe 2019 will be a big growing year for me in this way, and I look forward to all it brings. Here are 5 of the ways I hope to grow in intentionality over the next year.
I want to grow in my faith intentionally. I want to truly be a person who will pray wholeheartedly when somebody asks for prayer. It is embarrassing to admit, but in the past, I have told people I would pray for them and then go on with my day and forget. I do not want to be that person anymore, I want to grow to intentionally find time and space to pray for anyone and everyone who needs prayer, beyond my own personal prayers for my life and family.
I truly desire to become a more intentional wife for my husband. Whether that means packing lunches more often, praying for him more, or giving more time and consideration into gifts, I want my husband to know he is valued so deeply that I go above and beyond to bless him and bring peace into our relationship.
I do not want to be in survival-mode with my children. I want them to experience rich and abundant life in Christ here on earth. I want them to see that Christ means everything to me, and is the motivation behind any good thing I do for them. I do not want to be swept to and fro in my parenting, by my emotions or my desire for personal comfort. I want to practice authentic and intentional motherhood by praying, planning, and structuring the precious years I have with my littles underfoot.
4. Daughter / Sister
I have discovered deeply how much heart and soul my parents have put into raising me as their daughter. Having my own children has opened my eyes tremendously to the immense sacrifice and love my parents have always had for me and my siblings. There is no room for me to take my upbringing for granted, and I pray that the Lord helps me be grateful every single day for my wonderful family. If I could be half the parent to my daughters that my parents have been to me, I would feel accomplished in my calling. I also want to love my siblings better, specifically, I want to have meaningful conversations with them and not just superficial small talk. I want to be better at thinking ahead at their birthdays, anniversaries, etc. and show them that they are loved, not an afterthought or obligation.
Finally, I want to be more intentional with my friendships. I have seen friendship modeled incredibly well with my own church family and best friends, and I want to take on those Christlike qualities. I never want my friends to feel taken for granted or unappreciated, so I will work hard and pray that God uses me to become a better friend.
I am finding the woman I want to be.
What kind of woman do you want to be?
Britney Bradley loves being a wife to her loving husband, Brian. She is a mother to 4 little girls, Ruby, Cora, Lily, and Opal, as well as auntie to 8, and friend to many. She has always dreamed about marriage and motherhood, and is now navigating God’s will each and every day in these realms. She enjoys writing when she gets a chance, and of course, coffee.
It was spoken over me like a puncture in my lungs, letting all the air out and causing me to gasp for breath. “I regret marrying you. This was the worst mistake of my life.” We’d been married for three weeks by the first time I heard those words spoken to me and it was far from the last. I was 19 when I first heard that spoken over me: Our marriage was a mistake. I was a mistake.
I was only a teenager, one who still was figuring out what my identity was and more importantly, who was the foundation of my identity and where my identity was rooted. Yet there I stood, amidst trying to sort it all out and suddenly I was being shaken. Vigorously.
Everything I thought I had established of who I was, stood feebly by while being threatened. I was a daughter, a sister, a friend to a melting pot of genres in school, a “good person”, a rule follower, a Christian, an A-student, a fun-loving girl who was playful and adventurous, and had just shortly before, proudly added “wife” to that list. I had a whole lot of security within that list and was feeling pretty comfortable with what I deemed as my identity.
That comfort was quickly being challenged as the one who was the closest to me, the one who was meant to be my protector and fight for me started adding more words than I ever had thought to include in that list: controlling, the crazy one, not as pretty as the girls online, a terrible wife… a mistake.
It wasn’t more than a quick breath after I learned of his unfaithfulness in our marriage, that I started adding more of my own words to the list: fat, ugly, not good enough, undeserving, worthless, a used piece of trash tossed to the side. Just like that, my identity (or what I believed my identity to be) had morphed into something unrecognizable.
As our marriage crumbled and I was left to try to pick up the leftover pieces of my life, I started sorting through that list. Was I really fat and ugly? Was I really the one who was crazy? Was it actually my fault that he was unfaithful to me? And God, God, am I really worthless?! Will anyone else ever want me?! I had heard “worthless” and believed it for so long that I really had begun to accept and project it over my life.
It had so far seeped into my own list of my identity that as I sat in my parents’ back yard that late summer afternoon as our marriage broke, I began to weep as I talked to my mom about where my life was at. As I told her I didn’t want to get divorced because I had always committed to being a faithful wife but simultaneously felt so worthless and that my marriage was so far beyond repair and that there was nothing I could do to help it. I still so distinctly remember the words coming out of my mouth between sobs, dropped heavy as lead from the weight of my despair, “Mom, I feel so helpless, so isolated and so worthless that I don’t know what to do to get out of this mess and don’t know how to make my life better. . . I’ve thought a lot about just taking my own life to end it all.”
Within a couple days of that conversation, I was moved into my parents’ house and my ex-husband and I started the divorce process. In so many late nights sitting alone in the room of my childhood home, crying to God, to my Redeemer, I prayed and asked Him to redeem my identity. “God, what is left of me? Who do you say I am?”
One night, so late that it had now become the wee hours of the morning, I cried out, pleading, “God! Show me I have worth!” I so desperately needed God to repair the broken identity that had for so long been spoken over me and that I had started to believe about myself. I reached over to grab the Bible nearest to me, which was The Message (paraphrased version). I flipped it open and looked down. My eyes stopped on Luke 1:28. Right there, right in the dark of the long painful night-turned-morning, my eyes caught this verse. Like the wind being put right back into my lungs and my puncture wound being healed in a moment, my breath filled with life again as I read,
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.”
As I read and took those words of life in, I could feel myself begin to heal and transform right there, as I cried to God to come in and redeem – to remind me of His truth about my identity.
I’m beautiful. Beautiful inside and out. God is with me. I am a child of God. I am full of worth – I’ve been bought with a price. I am secure. I am loved. I am redeemed.
Thank you, Lord, for who you say that I am. Thank you for the secure identity found in you.
KAYLA ANDERSON IS MARRIED (FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE) TO THE ONE WHO SHE KNOWS WITHOUT A DOUBT THAT GOD CREATED HER TO BE COMPANIONS WITH. TOGETHER THEY HAVE FOUR YOUNG CHILDREN, EZEKIEL, ASHER, ELLERY, AND ALDER, AND RUN A HAND-CRAFTED SOAP SHOP. SHE IS A STAY-AT-HOME, HOMESCHOOLING MOM AND IS IN A SEASON OF LEARNING HOW TO GRACEFULLY BE THE CENTRAL POINT AND GLUE OF THEIR FAMILY. THANK THE LORD THAT SHE HAS HIM TO LOOK TO FOR WISDOM, GUIDANCE, AND STRENGTH! SHE LOVES READING IN THE QUIET, EARLY MORNING HOURS, DECORATING THEIR SWEET LITTLE HOME, WRITING HAS BEEN PART OF HER SOUL SINCE SHE LEARNED HOW TO WRITE LETTERS, AND HER LOVE OF COFFEE RUNS DEEPER THAN HER COFFEE POT. YOU CAN FIND MORE FROM KAYLA ON HER BLOG OR INSTAGRAM.
I caught a moment of silence, my living room illuminated by warm white Christmas lights in the pre-dawn chill. There is very little quiet in my home full of humans trying to learn to coexist, trust, and love one another. We are new to one another still, having welcomed in two little people via foster care as the fall leaves were turning scarlet and gold.
All the noise is proof that we are working it out. Keyword: working. We dwell together. We disagree and learn forgiveness. We bump into the messy and painful parts of one another’s stories whether we want to or not. When you are close in proximity, you can’t hide the broken places for long.
Dwelling together is what Christmas is all about. We feel it in all our longings for the season, as evidenced by Hallmark movies portraying cozy closeness as well as conflict. Whether we savor every moment of sweet time with loved ones or feel the pain of broken relationships, the Christmas season has a way of pointing out the health of our relationships. Is there reconciliation needed? Uncomfortable distance where there used to be closeness? While families and friends scatter throughout the year, this season celebrating Jesus, the ultimate reconciler, causes us to abide in close proximity again and impinge on one another in ways that we cannot ignore.
But Christmas reminds us of how we sojourn together, not just because of our longings, but because of the one we are celebrating. Jesus. The one who came to dwell with us, and came in our brokenness and pain so that our relationship with God is no longer that of an enemy, but of his child. He was also called Emmanuel which means, God with us.
This year I have been struck by the overarching story of God’s dwelling and the progressive movement throughout human history of reconciliation and nearness. The first hints that God was moving towards humanity with love weren’t baby Jesus, born in humble anonymity. From the moment of the fall, the way for reconciliation was being laid out, foreshadowed, and proclaimed. Here are six ways beyond the beautiful message of Christmas that we see God making a dwelling place with his people.
1. The Garden
The contrast of the perfect Eden seen in Genesis, where walking with God was the norm, and the world we witness daily reminds us how embracing the lie of living life on our own terms sends us into a downward spiral and separates us from God. Away from Eden—away from our Creator—nearness replaced with enmity. But, the story doesn’t end there. Promises of restoration and rescue continue to be found throughout the story of God and mankind.
2. The Tent
In Exodus, God promised to dwell among the people. In Exodus 29:46 God said, They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” The traveling tabernacle was where the Levite priests, whose job it was to intercede on behalf of the people would go to a specific location to meet with God. The dwelling of God in the tabernacle was real but temporary. Access was possible but infrequent and only available to the elite.
3. The Temple
Finally! A permanent place to worship, where God’s presence dwelt. To Ezekial God said, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever….with only a wall between me and them…” Ezekial 43:7-8 But even in this state there was a divide. Only a wall between God and Humanity, but still a wall. There was a system in place for the cleansing of sin so that mankind could be reconciled to God, but it was also temporary.
4. The Savior
What a surprise. God coming to dwell with mankind, in the humblest form possible. A tiny baby, who would grow up to finally make a way for people to be near once more. John 1:14 tells us “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
And in the end, when he defeated sin once and for all, a tangible sign. The curtain that had kept out mankind from the dwelling of God was torn in two. Everything is different now. Our access changed at the cross. Not only was sin paid for, but death defeated, as Jesus rose from death.
5. The Spirit
Amazingly, God did not stop with just coming to live with us and modeling the life we should live but promised to send the Holy Spirit to all who believe. The fancy word for this complicated reality is indwelling. As in, God’s spirit isn’t only external, but in the very core of who we are, He dwells, comforting, guiding, convicting, reminding, teaching. Hold tight to the sweet comfort of Ephesians 2:22 which reminds us, “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
6. A Home for Eternity
The point of Christmas, of the baby born with the animals and hay, is not just the historical fact, but the future reality that his reconciliation brought to us. When all the mess and brokenness is finally remedied, God won’t be distant, he will dwell with us saysRevelation 21:3-5a, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!”
This Christmas as you ponder the baby who came near, take time to dwell with him in the moments of your normal life. Because God is not distant, but close, we can take the reconciliation, love, and forgiveness we have received and translate it into dwelling with the imperfect people in our own lives.
Holly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been a foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years and works part-time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption.
*Images found at Pixabay and Canva