God often puts words on my heart. A few years ago it was abide which led me to seminary. A little over a year ago it was pursue and I've been praying about it ever since. God pursues us and we are to pursue Him. We also want to feel pursued, not merely in love relationships but also in friendships, community and many other ways.
Ultimately we want people to care about us and make an effort, right?
God has called me to encourage and share the Gospel with women of all ages and although I don't know yet what that will look like exactly I'm going all in to pursue it! May include small groups, events, bible studies or even a podcast!! Join me and let's go on this journey together. We'll talk faith, family, friendship, freedom, fellowship, fun & lots more!
A friend loves at all times. She is there to help when trouble comes.
Friendship, it can be the most wonderful thing while also being the hardest. When you open up your heart to let someone in you also open yourself up to everything that comes with it. It’s not all fun nights out and girls’ trips, it’s supporting one another through marriage, divorce, illness, death, career change, financial peaks & valleys, the roller coaster of raising kids, wrinkles, stretch marks and so much more. It’s being vulnerable with one another, trusting them with your stuff and doing your best to create a safe space where they can do the same. Judgement sometimes comes quicker than acceptance, defensiveness before really hearing the other person and we get angry & dismiss rather than give grace. In some seasons of life, especially in motherhood, we often just want to put our head down, stay in our lane and put friendships on pause until you have more time and can make it a priority again…good luck with that! You’ll wind up with no friends and that is the absolute worst thing you could do. Believe me, at times I’ve felt like I was there.
You may be the type who has a lot of friends that are mainly social or you may be the type who would prefer to have a few really close friends that know you deeply. I am sort of a combination of both but what my hearts needs most is real, genuine connection. I’ll be honest, I HATE small talk and I think I am probably pretty bad at it. I want to know what people are going through and know what’s in their heart and at a cocktail party people usually don’t want to veer too far from discussing the latest decorating, workout or skincare craze. There is nothing wrong with that but I typically have zero to contribute in any of those areas. 😉
Let’s get back to talking about girls’ trips…I just got home from one of the best! I got to go back to Ole Miss with my three best friends who I have gone through pretty much ALL of the above with over the last 24 years. It’s been 20 years since we graduated and I’ll be honest we haven’t always been super consistent about getting together. Of course, there was wedding season and then baby shower season. I wish I could say we did an annual trip of some kind every year, we haven’t. But over the last 8+ years we have become more intentional about it and have made more of an effort to get together.
Due to my work and school schedule I couldn’t leave for the weekend until Thursday afternoon which meant I had to drive by myself. I was a little bummed, but then realized I would have 5 hours ALONE in my car!! Started out listening to a book but then switched over to music, needed to get pumped up with some 90s classics. Then I switched over to my running mix and the Ed Sheeran song “Castle on the Hill” came on. I like Ed Sheeran but don’t typically listen to the lyrics too closely. When you’re alone for 5 hours you do a lot of thinking and since I was headed back to my college town my thoughts included a lot of reminiscing. As I exited I-65 and headed onto I-22 for the last stretch of the trip the chorus of the song blared loudly “I’m on my way, driving at 90 down those country lanes…And I miss the way you make me feel, and it’s real…But these people raised me and I can’t wait to go home.” I burst into tears, I’d love to blame it on the enormous sun on the horizon but nope…every emotion I’ve ever felt about these girls came pouring out and my heart was overflowing. I probably listened to the song on repeat for the next hour. I have no clue what the song is actually talking about but at that moment it was talking about me and my 3 besties. Hey girls, I'm on my way!
You show up to college at 18 and leave at 22ish. Out on your own, making your own choices and living with a group of your peers, not your parents, for the first time. Your friends really become your family and, in those years, you raise each other into adults. It’s not pretty most of the time but you know you’re not alone because those college friends are right there with you every step of the way. Because of that, they REALLY know you, not the version of you you’ve created as an adult. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve all changed in the best ways since that time but we are less likely to share all our stuff with people as adults. So, the fact that I am still best friends with my college girls MEANS EVERYTHING TO ME! It’s like the safest and most comfortable blanket you just want to wrap up in and never get up.
From the moment we got to Oxford this past weekend, the conversation never stopped. We talked about our husbands, kids, work, life and a whole bunch of other stuff you don’t want to know…Even when it’s been a year or more since we’ve been together, it’s like not a single day has passed since we met in 1995 and bid farewell to our home away from home in 1999. It was real, authentic and vulnerable…just the way I like it!
Over the last 6 years I have made some of the most incredibly life giving, Christ-centered friendships that I have been able to add to my short list of friends who REALLY know me. They have guided, supported and prayed me through one of the biggest and most unexpected life changes I’ve experienced since meeting James and having Ella & Hannah. In my mid/late-thirties I did not know it would be possible to build those types of relationships and I am extremely grateful.
Whether it’s my friendships that developed at 18 or at 38, they have helped to make me into the woman I am today. Each one of them was a gift from God and I have no doubt they’ve been placed in my life at exactly the right time and completely on purpose. But sometimes, we aren’t open, willing or able to let ourselves be vulnerable enough to let people in to REALLY know us.
Brene Brown talks a lot about True Belonging, she says we need to “Be vulnerable. Get uncomfortable. Be present with people without sacrificing who you are.” True belonging, that’s what everyone wants right? Sometimes it can be hard to find and it takes work. Mutual vulnerability is key and a desire to let people in, neither are easy and take a whole lot of faith. We spend so much time looking out for ourselves that we forget to truly invest in others. Be intentional, put it on your calendar, whether it’s a girls’ trip, coffee or dinner. Or better yet, put yourself out there to make a new friend. As I’ve experienced, it’s worth every minute of the hard work!!
Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
We’ve all felt like too much or not enough at different times in our lives, right? The Bible tells us to not hide our light under a bushel but to let our light shine before others (Matthew 5:15-16).
Rather than shy away from or down play the gifts God has given me, I’ve spent the last couple years getting comfortable with them, honing them in small groups and asking God how I should use them. And now I’m ready to grab hold of them and run my race.
God has gifted me with the ability to communicate. Whether it be through speaking, teaching, writing or simply being able to make things clear and getting right to the point. I would consider myself a good listener and an encourager. I’m not a fan of small talk, I’m much more comfortable going deep. My goal really is to love God and love people the best way I can!!
God has done some amazing work in my life and the lives of the 3 amazing people who I live with over the last 6 years and I want to shout it from the rooftops! Or around the table, in basements teaching middle school girls, one on one over coffee, on stages, on paper or online.
It's not easy saying these things, let alone posting about them on the internet. It feels very self-focused so for a while I have been hesitant to be so outward. In the back of my mind I often think to myself, well Ellen, if this is really a calling from God He will put opportunities in your path. I believe that He does have the power to make that happen! But I also know that I need to do my part and put one foot in front of the other because I am convinced this IS from God. Here's the thing, if you want to go speak to groups you better go tell someone about it! If you want to find spaces to write and contribute you better go tell someone about it! If you want to encourage your friends, other moms, women in your community well you better pick up the phone and text them! (I was going to say call but let's be honest, who does that anymore ;-) I refuse to hide my light under a bushel because I'm afraid of what people will think!
Whatever God has planned and however He wants to use me I am ready!! I am going to let my light shine and know that I can do all things with Christ!!
Thanks for sticking with me while I type a little pep talk to myself :-)
Almost 3 years ago, in early February 2016, I heard God talking to me in a big way and stirring in me something that was a little, well A LOT, scary! I went alone to a local women’s conference and while standing with my hands up in worship (not like me at all) I felt Jesus wrap His arms tightly around me & in that moment I knew things were about to change.
I went home that Friday evening and somehow stumbled upon the IF:Gathering live stream which I became glued to that night and then again Saturday after returning home from the women’s conference morning session. Jennie Allen was so passionate and dynamic, I wanted to know more about her. I read that she attended Dallas Theological Seminary and so I clicked...then I sent an email...they called me...I prayed...and fought it...and prayed more...talked to my people...they were not surprised...they believed in me before I believed in myself...I applied...got accepted...and began a seminary journey full of learning, growth, struggle and transformation I never saw coming but completely needed.
In just a couple months (God willing) they will give me a diploma, one that if it weren’t so clunky and totally weird would wear around my neck like a badge of honor & courage. It doesn’t make me smarter or better than those around me, just obedient to God in following His plan for me. We are all made on purpose & for a purpose. Are you fully living your purpose?
James and I have been married for almost 16 years and started our family 12 years ago. We were married in a church, our girls were baptized and while I was working full-time they attended a Christian daycare five days a week where they learned the sweetest prayers and songs. During that time, we did not attend church except for our annual Christmas and Easter visits with my family. I remember having conversations that we wanted to raise our girls in a Christian home and give them a foundation of faith. I remember purchasing a women’s devotional bible in January one year, I think I may’ve made a New Year’s resolution to read it. But come February it was collecting dust on my nightstand. I bought all the cute kids bibles and devotional books to bring some religion into our home but by the end of the day we were just too tired and always forgot to do it. We always had an excuse why this Sunday wasn’t the Sunday we’d try out the church down the street where the girls played soccer even though we knew people there and had already figured out where the girls would go while we were in church (you know that is always the biggest hurdle!!) Too tired, intimidated, uncomfortable or just plain lazy…who knows what we were thinking at the time. We never moved past our conversations or good intentions and put them into action.
In 2013, I had the opportunity to quit my job and stay home with the girls and help James with our family business. What a blessing! This was also the same time that both the girls had graduated from our wonderful Christian daycare and were both now in public elementary school. We realized that no one was going to be teaching them those sweet prayers and songs anymore, we needed to get our act together if we were going to put any of those conversations and intentions for our family into action. So we did it, we dressed our family up on a Sunday morning in August and made our way to church. I started to sign them up for all the things, Sunday school, Wednesday night program after kids choir and church dinner, vacation bible school and I bought more books and devotionals.. I’m a dive into the deep end type of person so we were all in! Except here’s the truth, we were sort of drowning…The girls complained about getting up early and getting dressed up on Sunday mornings, I was yelling at everyone (including James) to take the devotions more seriously and all the how to raise a great Christian kid books were making me feel overwhelmed and stressed out! We were all having a hard time sticking with anything and it started to feel like a whole bunch of tasks to complete.
It took me a while to understand why that was all so hard and not really working. The answer: James and I did not have a relationship with Jesus. I had grown up in church but had fallen away and James had never opened a bible or knew anything other than what he’d heard at our bi-annual church visits and occasional wedding. We had previously relied on others to pour into our girls and at home we were trying to do it from an empty bucket. It wasn’t natural or coming from a place we knew anything about. So, we eased up on our checklist and just started making our priority getting to church on Sunday, not because we had to but because we wanted to learn and grow and worship. I really got serious about reading the bible and building a relationship with Jesus that I remember seeking in high school but forgot about once I got to college. James and I decided to commit to a year long bible study on Sunday nights together as a couple. That investment in God, each other and ourselves changed everything for our family. Things went from being a should do to a get to when it came to learning about God and teaching our girls about who He is, how much He loves us and what Jesus did on the cross for us. It opened our eyes to the fact that we had been living so many years relying on our own control and strength and made us realize our need for God. Life the old way would no longer work for us!
Although I still love a great devotional and you better believe our girls are signed up for life groups and all that amazing stuff at church, I try to not look at all of it like a checklist I must complete for them by the time they graduate high school. Rather, James and I make our priority now being solid in our relationship with the Lord, allowing the Holy Spirit to do a great work in us so that we can live out our faith and reliance on Him in front of our girls so they can see Jesus in us. We are far from perfect and believe me our girls know it, but through our example my hope is that they will too want to know God. Ultimately, God has an amazing plan for our kids and the closer we grow to know Him the more we are able to unclench our hands and keep them open to trust in that plan.
We can take a lesson from Paul in what he wrote to Timothy about being a good servant of Jesus Christ. In 1 Timothy 4:12 he writes, “…be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”
When it comes to faith, make sure your buckets are full so that you’re able to pour into your kids. I’ll be praying for you!!