A Letter to my Sisters {Five Minute Friday}

rp_five-minute-friday.jpg Dearest, most wonderful Sisters,

Professors had warned me that life outside of my small Christian college would be lonely. They told me that I would never again have that sort of genuine community. In many ways, though this past summer was joyous, it was also one of the loneliest times of my life. I was newly graduated and married, in a new town, and without a job or  a car. Even though family and friends were still close by, I felt heartbreakingly disconnected.

And then, I met Hannah. I don't even remember the circumstances of our introduction, but despite being half a world away from each other at the time, she made me feel right at home. And she invited me to a party one Friday night that would change not only my writing, but the heart that those words flowed from.

For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. -- Luke 6:45 (NKJV)

In the beginning, I must admit I was shamefully wary -- worried that whatever community I found here would be shallow at best, and that life and faith would be portrayed in a woefully unrealistic manner. I thought I would find snide perfectionism,  even competition, and I assumed that no one would want anything to do with life and God as I knew them.

I had beautiful community  in college, but the last semester was laced with hurt at the hands of someone I was hesitant to let in in the beginning. The wound was deeper than she knew and I struggled to let go of the pain and forgive.

But what I found here was everything humble and broken and life at its very best. What I found here was Jesus, again, between the lines of tweets and blogs and comments. I found genuine community to come alongside me in my joy and in my frustration. I found sisters encouraging each other in the wee hours, holding fast to the promises of God. And now there's hardly a Friday night when I don't weep over 140 characters of pure, unadulterated grace.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. -- Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV)

It filled me past the brim. Oh, that we can take part in the restoration of souls. In the past six months, I have made friends that will be kept for a lifetime.

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. -- Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT)

You all are a gift. Living proof that the Lord knows what we need and His timing is perfect. Each of your lives are brimming with evidence of His goodness.

You, mothers, who saturate every character with love for your children. You, wives, who strive to serve your husbands in all that you do. You, who struggle deeply with insecurity and every word is infused with your need for Jesus. You are so important, so magnificent in all of your everyday grit and hope. I admire each of you so deeply for faithfully coming to the altar every Thursday and Friday night. You have made me better.

Jacqui, your testimony of loss and redemption has been such an incredible example to me. Your friendship has made my life so much richer. And Sarah, its hard to paint a more realistic picture of life than you have. I so deeply appreciate your willingness to be broken before the Lord and before others. Dana, your calling to open your home to the broken -- the orphan -- you are doing the Lord's work. And you write it all out with such an incredible, tangible passion. Lisa-Jo, all of this is really because of you -- your faithfulness has brought all of us together. Fridays on the internet are like holy ground.  None of this goes unnoticed. So if you haven't heard the words thank you in awhile, please don't ever forget that your willingness to put your life into such beautiful words has changed mine. 

I could literally go on forever -- there are over two hundred of you. Even as I punch these keys, salty liquid joy spills across my cheeks. I so wish there was space and time to mention each and every one of you by name.

Lisa-Jo wrote this week about how much our words matter. And its so, so true. Another professor of mine frequently spoke of the power of our communication. Our words hold the ability to image the Father.

Because in the beginning, God spoke, and all that is went through the process of becoming. And He's still in the business of collecting the dust and creating something beautiful. He's still the God of miracles -- each of you is evidence of that. He declared that everything He made was good, and He is singing goodness over you, even now. He's so in love with you.

Thank you. Thank you for taking me in, and for being so faithful to encourage me in this journey. Not a day goes by that my prayers are not for you, that Yahweh would come alive in you, that you would sense His presence in your lives and the lives of your families.

Surely, no eye has seen and no ear has heard -- but every Friday night, I see glimpses and hear whispers.

Psst! Obviously this took a little more than five minutes to put together, but it was so worth it. You are so worth it. Back in August, I didn't know the first thing about "linking up." If you're a blogger in search of constructive community, stop by Lisa-Jo's place. You'll find that Five Minute Fridays are about so much more than weekly writing prompts. Linking up this week with 200+ of the most fabulous, brave women on the planet. 

for me and my sister and women everywhere.

Today, you are seventeen. You’ve finished high school, and you’re preparing to move on to everything you believe will be bigger and better and everything that is yes. You are in the most beautiful season of life, just beginning to get a glimpse of who you are and the great passion that lies within your heart. This morning, I woke up to a text message from you, asking what Peter meant when he said that women should have quiet and gentle spirits. And while I feebly attempted to offer some thoughts on the matter, the truth is, I am still learning, and that is hardly the kind of conversation that can flourish in the world of 140 characters. “but let [beauty] be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of the Lord.” -- 1 Peter 3:4

A gentle and quiet spirit. What does that even mean in today’s world, where choices and opinions and the pressure to conform are heaped on us in heavy and unmerciful doses. Too often, it is difficult to discern. I come empty, and I pray for words.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit is always creating. It doesn't matter if you‘re dancing on pointe across a brilliantly lit stage or dancing with your little brother after he wins his first little league game. It doesn't matter if you have watercolor paintings in some hip art gallery, or finger paintings on the fridge. It doesn't matter if you write best selling novels, or encouraging post it notes for your coworkers. It doesn't matter if you sing opera, or sing the Barney song fifty-six times to get your toddler to go to sleep. Whether you believe that you are creative or not, you are always creating. Because God in heaven who crafted you did so lovingly in His own image, therefore allowing you to take part in this grand adventure of creating life. Every moment of your life is spent creating something. How you live will determine what you create and what is left behind when you are no longer walking on the earth.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit is a woman who knows who she is. Have you ever noticed that the people who scream the loudest tend to be the most uncomfortable with themselves? It takes security to live a quiet and gentle life. It takes not only knowing who you are, but whose you are. Sister, you belong to the Lord. Your worth comes from the image you bear and the work of the cross. When you allow others to determine your worth, your life will become about proving yourself, whether they see the whore or the saint. And that passion and spark inside you? God gave that to you, and wherever you are in your life, He will equip you to minister through that passion. Don’t you dare fall prey to the belief that He cannot use you right where you are. Resolve to know deep in your bones that He is able. Even if you have to write it on your bathroom mirror and repeat it to yourself every day.  This is beauty hidden in the heart.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit knows the importance of godly counsel. I think as women we often battle feelings of self sufficiency and believing not only that you can go it alone, but maybe even that you should go it alone. This is not true. We need other women (and men, too) who are firmly rooted in scripture and who speak truth into our lives on a consistent basis. Seek these people. Ask God to reveal them to you. And not only that, but ask God to mold your heart in such a way that you can serve others this way.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit has the ability to think critically for herself.  The lack of sound mind present in the world and in the church today burdens me. Some in the church have gone so far as to say that we as women should only endorse the thoughts of our husbands or our parents or our pastors and receive what they say as absolute. But you have been given the ability to discern what is good and pleasing to the Lord and how to live your life in a way that is healthy. Take your thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. You have been given the responsibility of creating boundaries for your conduct. Perhaps those boundaries won't be exactly what your parents or youth pastor or friends at work think they should be. This is something that you must work through for yourself. And that is not just okay, its really and truly beautiful.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit is a woman who serves others. The heart of Christ is the heart of a servant. When you bless others, your life becomes rich and full. Be quick to assist those who are in need. Do your work in such a way that the Lord would use you to draw those around you to Himself. You are the light of the world, called to be an ambassador. Service is often messy and awkward and it might mean you’re the first person there and the last one to leave. Usually, messy awkward heart service doesn’t come with accolades. But the true heart of service does not seek to make a name for itself. Rather, it strives solely to make Christ the center of attention.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit lives a life of gratitude. Every moment we have on this earth is a gift. Sometimes it seems extraordinary and beautiful and exciting, and sometimes it feels devastating and like we can’t make it another day. But we have been promised that nothing is impossible for the Lord, and that when we are faithful to the small things and obey His commandments, He will enlarge our hearts. In the presence of the Lord, there is fullness of joy, and we enter His presence through the gates of thanksgiving. This is the will of the Father for those in Christ.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit knows how to live grace. This might be the scariest of all, because grace moves you. Living grace means letting go. A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit is often described as being gracious toward others, but if you’re anything like me, receiving grace can be terrifying. A woman who lives grace understands that the soul requires room to breathe. It is okay to admit that you don’t have every answer. You will make many mistakes along the way, and those are okay to admit, too. The beautiful thing about grace is that it was completed at the cross. You don’t have to try so hard to do everything right, you simply have to be.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit lives abundantly. You have been given this amazing, wild life. Fill it well. Never be afraid to go out on a limb, because the limb experiences are the most gratifying and rich. Don’t shy away from the excitement for fear of how others might see you. This time in your life, especially, is one of the most fun and adventure filled that you will ever have. Embrace the wide eyed wonder and enthusiasm.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit lives out her purpose. I think of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was so young, and engaged to be married. She had dreams and plans and ideas of what her life would be that never included becoming pregnant with the Son of God. The consequences of her pregnancy would be severe. Yet when the angel spoke that the Lord had found favor with her, she said "I am the Lord's servant, may it be as you have said." Scripture says she treasured these things and pondered them in her heart. A quiet and gentle spirit accepts the mystery that He gives, knowing that what might seem like inconvenience or bring about fear could also be the thing that births the saving grace.

Sister, you are strong. You are beautiful. You have wonderful things to offer the world. You are loved more than you can imagine.