Dear Ginger: Uncomfortable in my Own Skin

dear ginger

Hey Ginger!

I am struggling about my self-confidence. I know that I am supposed to love myself for who I am and everything. But I am truly stuck. Some girls at school are calling me names, and it is just bringing down my confidence in myself. I don’t cut myself or anything, but I have tried cutting, but I just won’t let myself do it. I was just wondering what would be the best way to raise my confidence in myself. I have talked to my parents, but I am just too scared to tell them that I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin. Have a great day.

-S

S- Thank you so much for your note and for sharing what’s going on in your heart. I’m so sorry this has been such a season of pain and sadness in your life. I want you to know that I’m praying for you especially today.

First of all, I want you to remember that you don’t have to be afraid to share with your parents about how you are feeling. I think they would care deeply about your hurts, just like they care about your successes in school. This is a tough battle for a lot of teens, and especially a ton of teen girls, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal. Bullying is a really big deal and I can understand why it leaves you feeling negatively about yourself.  I want you to really think about telling your mom or dad. I know there have been times when I’ve been scared to share things, but it’s usually because I want to protect someone else, or because I’m afraid that they will be disappointed. Trust me, your parents will love you no matter what.

Secondly, I’m sorry that you feel so STUCK.

I know that I was stuck in a pattern for a long time in my life. I felt like I was a car in the mud and no matter how hard I pushed on the gas, the wheels would just turn and dig me down further.

You see, I’ve always struggled with loving the way that I look – especially when I felt that I didn’t fit in with other girls my age. It seemed like everyone else could eat whatever they wanted and still look the same. I felt like there was nothing I could do to stop worrying about my boday and start actually be comfortable in my own skin.

I didn’t try cutting, but I did make myself throw up. Sometimes we think we can do something drastic to feel differently or make a change, but the truth is I needed something stronger than myself to create change. I needed something stronger than self-esteem, self-confidence, and quick fixes. Hurting myself was only… hurting myself. I was digging my wheels deeper into the mud.

Even now, as a 30 year-old, the lie that says: You aren’t good enough because of the way you look – creeps in and wants to threaten all the confidence I have in the Lord.

So what do I do when that lie knocks on the door of my heart?

1. I claim truth. I read and remember the words that God has said about me.

2. I remind myself the value God has placed on my life.

3. I drop the lie that if I can just raise my self-esteem everything will get better.

4. I keep myself encouraged and grounded by reading the words of others who have struggled just like I do.

5. I cling to WHOSE I am, rather than who I am or how I’m failing.

6. And finally, I remember the hard road that I’ve walked and how I don’t want to go back there again. I’ve got too much to look ahead TOWARD. I want to keep fighting.

I needed something outside of ME to pull me out. In my own story, God has used His Word and Truth, books, accountability, and especially counseling to give wisdom and insight into my “stuck” situation. But more than anything, God has replaced my self-doubts with confidence in Him through a deeper relationship with HIM.

I believe that God does not desire for us to stay in that muddy place. He wants to pull us out of the pit. That’s why I want to recommend some resources for you today.

1.    Lies Young Women Believe (blog and book) by DeMoss and Gresh

2.   The Search for Significance by Robert McGee

3.   Graceful by Emily P. Freeman

4.   Perfectly Unique by Annie F. Downs

5.    2nd Corinthians chapter 10 (especially verses 4-5)

God wants our hearts, and is fighting for them. I truly believe this. And I’m happy to say that He is helping me get free, even in the smallest of ways. That’s my same prayer for you.

No matter what I might infer about my looks or weight… or even what others might say – the TRUTH is what I must cling to, even if I don’t feel that it is true…

“You are a beloved creation of the God of the heavens, that created you just like you are. When you look in the mirror and you don’t like what you see, you need to remember that the God who remade this sunset right here, He formed you in your mother’s womb, every part of who you are. And there’s nothing to be ashamed of, there’s nothing to look at and say,

“It’s not beautiful.”

You can’t look at some airbrushed picture of someone who doesn’t even look like that in real life and compare yourself to that. That’s not the reality of life. But what you are, is perfectly made by God of the heavens and He meant it on purpose.” 

― Lacey Mosley

I’ve found the secret of freedom to be different from what the world says. I haven’t learned 6 steps to higher self-esteem. Instead I am learning to reprogram my mind and know my Heavenly Father MORE. How He sees me is the only thing that matters.

Praying for your heart today, S. Please write again soon.

-Ginger

Dear Ginger: Hurt Feelings

Dear Ginger,
School hasn’t been going very well. I have a teacher who treats me differently from all the other kids in my class. My mom, dad and others have talked to her. I just wish Jesus would come in her heart and show her the right way to treat me. What should I do to help me be stronger around her when my teacher hurts my feelings? –A

Dear A,

I am so, so sorry about the situation with your teacher. My heart hurts for you. It sounds like you and your parents have done everything in your power to fix the situation… and yet, it’s still broken.

What do we do when we are being treated poorly or unfairly? Let’s see what the Bible has to say.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4, NLT

“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.” 1 Peter 3:9, NLT

Over and over the Bible calls us to love others even when the situation isn’t fair.

“Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.” Luke 6:28-29, NLT

Praying for people who hurt our feelings is one of the deepest forms of love, because it means that you have to really want something good happen to them. The prayer Jesus has in mind here is always for their good. He is not talking about us praying that those people would be run over by a truck. He’s not talking about praying for lightening to take them out. We are to pray that their hearts and ours be softened, be changed, be reconciled. He wants us to head to the root of the problem, not just the symptoms.

For example, if I stay up late and don’t get enough sleep I end up getting a headache around one in the afternoon and I can be irritable for the rest of the day. But if all I do is take painkillers or drink caffeine, I’m only dealing with the symptoms. What I really need to do is get off Facebook and go to bed earlier, because that will eliminate my tiredness. That’s what prayer does to whatever problem we are having with someone. The best thing we can do is pray for the people who have hurt us. Praying for your them will actually keep you from being destroyed by bitterness and anger.

Jesus is calling us not just to do good things for those rough relationships, like greeting them and opening the door for them; He is also calling us to WANT their best, and to express those wants in prayers when the enemy is nowhere around. We are to love them, bless them, and pray for them.

I don’t know why your teacher is being hurtful. But I do know that God loves you both so much. Perhaps God has put you in the situation just to show her love. Have you tried praying for her? Maybe pray each morning before you go to school that God would give you the strength to love her, and that God would open her eyes and heart. I know it seems like a tall order, but I know the freedom that prayer can bring from personal experience.

I’ll be praying for your situation, A… that God would give you courage, peace, and comfort each day.

Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12, NIV

Question: What advice would you give to A?

Following,
Ginger

I Second that Emotion…

Dear Ginger,

I had a young girl ask me the other day, “What do I do with my emotions?” I told her that it would not be wise to let them be the driving force of our decisions, but rather, they can be the caboose that follows our engine of truth and action. But then, I thought, there they are, still holding up the back of the train – for what purpose? I love what Elisabeth Elliot says about emotions being given by God and for God – simply as more fodder that we may offer back up unto Him in complete surrender. Tim Keller shed some light on the situation in a series on “Praying Your Tears” as an honest confession and cry for help. However, I struggle with what that means on a practical day-to-day basis. For instance,

The boy and I broke up last month.

When people ask me, “How are you doing with that whole boy thing?” here is what goes through my head:

-I am sad because I miss him.
-I often feel lonely because I am no longer living life right alongside someone as closely as we were, and don’t ‘feel’ as known.
-I am resolved and peaceful, though, that the Lord is his God, not me, and accordingly, I choose to rest in His sovereignty.
-Because of the current stage in life and transitions that it has involved, “how I am” is a very conditional, fluid concept.
– But I am FINE. Positionally, I am redeemed! delivered! held, comforted, loved, known, and never alone. So that truth clearly changes the way I view all of my feelings. . .

Then I am left here – a place where I know the truth, but still suffer the feelings of loss. Do I acknowledge the feelings, preach the truth, and act accordingly – meaning I view my day as if the truth were the only reality I knew and trust that the feelings will eventually change?

Basically, I am wondering how we, as Christ followers, properly steward our emotions. How do we simultaneously and appropriately validate their placement, but treat them as simple feelings rather than huge road signs that determine our future directions? -K

Wow. Wow. Wow.  This question and explanation give such a window into your heart… and what a beautiful heart you have!  K, thank you so much for letting us all take a moment to explore what it looks like for us to properly steward our emotions.  You’ve obviously taken the time to study this on your own.  What a great list of resources you already have at your disposal.

First things first.  Change brings grief.  I’ve always enjoyed leaving home and adventuring, I’ve just never understood why I tend to have a breakdown the day before I travel.  I recognize now that I anticipate a change and grieve even in advance.  Is this an area of distrust?

I agree with your quote by Elliot – that feelings are given by God and are for God.  Feelings can influence, but you’re right, we walk into dangerous territory when we let our feelings lead.

Disney would have us “follow your heart” and “let your heart be your guide,”  while Scripture reminds us in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”   Our flesh and the Spirit are opposed.  Galatians 5:16-24 goes so far as to explain why they both can’t lead at the same time.

 So I tell you: Live by following the Spirit. Then you will not do what your sinful selves want.17 Our sinful selves want what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit wants what is against our sinful selves. The two are against each other, so you cannot do just what you please. But if the Spirit is leading you, you are not under the law.

The wrong things the sinful self does are clear: being sexually unfaithful, not being pure, taking part in sexual sins,20 worshiping gods, doing witchcraft, hating, making trouble, being jealous, being angry, being selfish, making people angry with each other, causing divisions among people, feeling envy, being drunk, having wild and wasteful parties, and doing other things like these. I warn you now as I warned you before: Those who do these things will not inherit God’s kingdom. But the Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. There is no law that says these things are wrong. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their own sinful selves. They have given up their old selfish feelings and the evil things they wanted to do.

And yet, emotions are a very real part of humanity.  During his time on the earth, Jesus displayed anger, joy and even sorrow.  He felt and experienced emotions deeply when it came to relationships.  C.S. Lewis discusses the cost of living as relational beings.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

So, how do we walk in the Spirit when it comes to our emotions?  How do we keep from becoming hardened by hurt and change?

1.  We recognize that apart from Christ we can do nothing.  (Romans 7:18, John 15:5)  Any ability to continue to give ourselves over to the possibility of being hurt is going to come from the Lord.  He has the power for us to live and move confidently even amidst our changing tides of emotion.

2.  We continue to communicate with God.  Psalm 51:10 in the NCV says: “Create in me a pure heart, God, and make my spirit right again.”  The Psalmist asks that God would give him a pure heart and a right spirit.  He actively pursues health and righteousness even on an emotional level.  The closing of Psalm 139 has become one of my daily prayers: Search me, know me, test me, lead me.  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  If we are to find victory even in our feelings, it begins with an open line of communication with the Father.

3.  We rely on God.  We trust in Him.  (Proverbs 3:5)  Certainly we want to discipline ourselves in this area.  I’ll be the first to admit that I often don’t want to change my feelings when I’m having a rough go.  I want to be sorry for myself.  I want to feel hurt and angered.  I want to feel the loss.  I know that He has what I need, but the temptation (at least for me) is to turn to gossip, self-pity, and temporary fixes with food, shopping, and even escape through movies and tv.  The moment I choose to rely on anything else other than God I am denying Him the opportunity to work in a mighty way in my life.  It’s a forceful act of reason sometimes, but in hindsight I know He is the only one who can heal.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, 
   because the LORD has anointed me 
   to preach good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, 
   to proclaim freedom for the captives 
   and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor 
   and the day of vengeance of our God, 
to comfort all who mourn…  Isaiah 61:1-2

4.  We must learn to react out of truth.  K, I think you answered much of your own question when you said:  Do I acknowledge the feelings, preach the truth, and act accordingly?  Yes.  I think that’s a huge part of what our response should be.  As C.S. Lewis says in his novel The Silver Chair“Crying is all right in its own way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.”   I really and truly believe that sooner or later we have to decide what to do.  In our case, I believe that’s clinging to and reacting to truth rather than just emotion.  We plan ahead.  We have to be proactive and acknowledge that there will be bad days.  There will be crumple to the bathroom floor nights.  And there will be pull up your knees and sob at your steering wheel moments.  Those challenges are coming.  But what we choose to do “sooner or later” has everything to do with where we have placed our hope and if we are grounded in Truth.

“The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6, The Message)

I know God gave me emotions and the ability to feel deeply, but He also gave me a head on my shoulders and oodles of truth in His Word.  As much as I don’t want to admit it or live it- my reaction is my choice.  The feelings will always be there, but hopefully I’m allowing them to be interpreted by a Master translator and guide.

You will keep in perfect peace 
   him whose mind is steadfast, 
   because he trusts in you. 
 Trust in the LORD forever, 
   for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.  Isaiah 26:3-4

Please chime in on this one!  This feels like just the tip of the iceberg.  Share you thoughts for K below.  K- I hope it’s a start to answering this deep and meaningful question.

Following,
Ginger

*A Retro Post from October 4, 2011.

Dear Ginger: Skinny Preztel Thin

Dear Ginger,

Last year in school we studied Greek mythology and as I looked at the goddess Aphrodite I saw that she was a large woman but she was also known as one of the prettiest women in the whole world. But now all I see in magazines and stores are skinny pretzel thin girls and I can’t shop in any clothing store without making myself cry. I’m tired of it and I tell myself I want to be like those women but I know I won’t ever be that thin. How can I let God tell I’m beautiful without feeling like he’s lying to me? Please help me find a way to stop me from getting so sad.

-H

My heart breaks for you, sweet one. I am so sorry that you are hurting so much and that you find yourself so very sad. I wish that I could give you a big hug right now.

I know what you mean. It’s so hard to try to tell myself that the way that I look is beautiful when models and actresses make me feel the EXACT opposite.

I’ve struggled with this my whole life. How often do I stand in front of my mirror and think, “I know I’m supposed to like what I see, but God, do you know what it takes to be pretty in this world”?

Some days I believe the truth about what God says about me, and other days – like you – I’m prone to listen to the lies that Satan wants to feed me! So how can we fight those lies?

1. Keep pursuing Truth. Are you reading the Bible, in a Bible Study/Small group, or able to spend time with someone who will continue to remind you of God’s Truth? I think my whole story changed when I started reading the Bible on my own. It’s important that you have a translation that you can understand – one that’s easy for you to read. I recommend The Message, The New LIving Translation, or the God’s Word Translation for teens especially. I feel like these versions utilize the kind of language you use on an every-day basis.

2. Memorize God’s Truth! God’s Word should be in our hearts and minds, on our tongues, and posted all over our world… try sticking post-it notes with verses in places that you can see them on a daily basis!  I will give you some of my personal favorites for combating lies: Psalm 19:14Psalm 22:23-24Isaiah 55:8-9Deuteronomy 30:19-201 Thessalonians 2:4Psalm 139: 23-242 Corinthians 12:9, and of course, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.

Here’s what Kenneth S. Weust says about memorizing God’s word:

“[The believer] is to so yield himwelf to the Word that there is a certain at-homeness of the Word in his being. The Word should be able to feel at home in his heart. . . The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God what we know as He talks to us and guides our lives. He can efficiently talk to us to the extent to which we know the Word. That is the language He uses.”

That hit home with me. If I want to walk in the Spirit every day rather than being overwhelmed by the images of skinny models in the world, I need to speak the language of the Spirit. Memorizing God’s Word is going to be so important when we tackle any struggle- but especially the kind that take up residence in our hearts and minds.

3. Don’t fight this alone! Share with a trusted youth leader, friend, consider seeking out a counselor who can help you work through these issues. I’m 30 and I’m going to a counselor about this very topic for the first time in my life. I’ve been able to be honest and I can see real change happening in my life… but I had to be willing to share! I’ve never had an interest to join the armed forces.  Combat sounds terrifying to me. But do you know what sounds even worse?  Fighting alone.  I like my chances WAY better if I have someone (make that lots of someones) by my side.

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”  Ephesians 6:13-18, The Message

I wish I could tell you that I’m cured of my desire to be thin, pretty and perfect… but I’m often still struggling in this area, sometimes on a daily basis. But I’m fighting. I have to choose only to fill my heart and mind with good things, especially God’s Word. The world says that my worth comes from my outward appearance, God tells me my worth is found in my heart. “People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT)

Too often I let comparison or a desire to look a certain way steal the victorious life given to me in Jesus. I don’t want numbers on a scale to have control over my countenance and emotions. So each day is a battle. Each day I choose whether I’m going to seek the attention and approval of others, or if I’m going to seek my Father. I have to remember that our God is totally trustworthy.

Praying for you H. I’m going to keep writing posts this week with your letter in mind. Please write again soon…

Following and stumbling,
Ginger

Spent AND Rested

Take a moment to think about the periods of your life when you experienced the LEAST amount of sleep.

I immediately think back to my summers as a counselor for jr. high school students at Pine Cove Christian Camps. 6 days a week, 24 hours a day for 12 weeks I gave everything that I had. My skin endured the sun and my hair the pool’s chlorine. This partial introvert had less than 15 minutes a day to call her own. Everything was timed down to the minute: eating, sleeping, even free time. Physical activity was almost constant. I entered into my 24 hours off with nothing left to give… even my voice was gone by the end of each week at camp. I was physically and emotionally spent – but spiritually  my cup was running over.

 

Don’t be jealous of my outfit…

How is it possible to expend every ounce of energy and yet remain rested and filled?

1. Freely admit weakness to the Lord. I recognized within the first week that the task was impossible. I was forced to turn the workload over to the Lord and trust Him to give me words, energy, and love for the girls in my cabin. Sometimes rest starts when we look upward and say through tears, “But I can’t do this. I’m too tired and there’s too much to do.” Our Savior smiles and says again, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28, JBP)

2. Cling to the Word. Carve out that time. Those fifteen minutes each morning before I woke up my girls are some of the sweetest times of connection I’ve ever had with the Lord. Because I was dependent upon Him for every physical need throughout the day, I was desperate to feast upon His Word each morning. God’s Word really was the lamp for my feet and the light for my path.

3. Ask for Help. I would not have made it through any of my summers without the encouragement, support, and prayers of the staff around me. I quickly learned to be vulnerable and share my requests, to let the tears fall, and to allow myself to express needs. If you find yourself panicking because of your to-do list, I would encourage you to examine your life and see if you can ask for help; whether that be through presence or prayer.

4. Protect the Sabbath. The temptation with a day off can be to fill it with the items that keep getting pushed off of our to-do lists. We find an open Saturday or Sunday and quickly begin to fill them with lots of good things while God has the BEST thing for us: REST. On my trip to Israel this spring I began to view Sabbath in a whole new light. It wasn’t a rule to follow, but a GIFT from God. He wants us to rest from work because we need it! “God presents the Sabbath rest as a shelter we can enter.” ― Charles R. Swindoll. I don’t know what Sabbath will look like for you, but for my 24 hours off from camp I needed time alone. In order to be refreshed for the whole week I spent a portion of it reading, a portion filling up on the fruits and veggies that my body was craving, a portion of one-on-one time with a friend or family member, and a portion worshipping with the body of believers. I knew not to schedule much, but to train myself that just “be-ing” was necessary to keep my spirit at rest.

5. Walk by faith. Faith brings rest. When I trust God’s hand in my life it frees me from worry. The answer to my fears is faith in the One who calls. That faith allows me to live unrestrained from worries: the plane is held up, the car is protected, the tasks will be completed… or not. Rest comes when we finally settle in and trust that God is in control. For “faith is a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.” (Oswald Chambers)

For as long, then, as that promise of resting in him pulls us on to God’s goal for us, we need to be careful that we’re not disqualified. We received the same promises as those people in the wilderness, but the promises didn’t do them a bit of good because they didn’t receive the promises with faith. If we believe, though, we’ll experience that state of resting. But not if we don’t have faith. Remember that God said, 

   Exasperated, I vowed, 
      “They’ll never get where they’re going, 
      never be able to sit down and rest.”

… And so this is still a live promise. It wasn’t canceled at the time of Joshua; otherwise, God wouldn’t keep renewing the appointment for “today.” The promise of “arrival” and “rest” is still there for God’s people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we’ll surely rest with God. So let’s keep at it and eventually arrive at the place of rest, not drop out through some sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:1-3, 8-11, The Message)

“At least one indication of unbelief is the tendency to measure life’s challenges against our own adequacy instead of God’s promises. To enter our Sabbath rest, we must put an end to self-reliance – trusting in our own abilities to overcome difficulties, rise above challenges, escape tragedies, or achieve personal greatness.”― Charles R. Swindoll

Obviously these points aren’t meant to be a complete and final list, merely an encouragement for each of us to find rest even in the midst of service to our King. What would you add to the list?

Following,
Ginger

When Rest is Active…

As we drove through the desert on our journey home from Mexico, I couldn’t help but remark how green everything looked, even in July! Temps here are usually around 110, so finding anything but brown was a pleasant surprise.

Showers and dust storms followed us all the way home. My backyard that usually consists of rocks and sparse plants is now starting to have green growth popping up everywhere. Even the smallest amount of water brings about life in this desert.

But do you know what isn’t flourishing? My potted plants. I’m trying desperately to keep basil, oregano, and rosemary alive during the hot summer months, but I seem to be failing. I move the pots in and out of the sun, fearing that too much or too little might undo a whole year of progress. I debate  the times of day and amount to water… and all of this trying, studying, trimming, and working… seems to be killing the poor plants.

My weeds are flourishing and my herbs are choking.

Sounds like a metaphor for rest to me.

“A” sent in a great question about finding ways to rest even in the busyness of life. But rather than talking some more about what rest looks like, I want to talk about how we often work to rest, rather than just resting. We focus our energy to rest better: sleep later, say “no” to activities, find time to do something we love, read our Bibles more, attend another Bible Study… and end up feeling exhausted rather than rested. Like my herbs, all the worry and care isn’t providing the environment for growth. (This is the story of my try-hard life!)

I’ve realized in the past month that I’ve always thought rest was really associated with sleep and forgetting a to-do list. And while rest can definitely involve both of those things, I’ve come to believe that it can be so much deeper and richer. Kevin East wrote a blog post earlier this month that still has me thinking. The post was about the treasure of hand-written notes. I totally agree, there’s nothing this “written words of affirmation” gal loves more than a long note. But the part of the post that spoke directly to my heart was actually a quoted portion of a letter that someone had written to Kevin. Here’s what I mean…

In the late 90′s a good friend saw in me a never-stop-working mentality.  There was always something that could be improved, or a new idea that could be hatched.  I was working myself to the bone and was on pace to fizzle out soon.  It was in that season that I received this letter in the mail.  It read:

Remember, rest is not in sleeping late.  It is not in being alone.  Rest is active, and full of faith.  It is sitting before the Lord and drawing all your desires from him.”

He went on to quote Psalms 62:1 “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.”

The letter set me free.  It reminded me that I wasn’t working to please God, but working out of His pleasure in me.  That freedom allowed me to stop and enjoy the journey He had me on.  I took that letter and read it to my staff each year for the next ten years.

I’ve said those words aloud to my soul several times over the past week. Rest is active, and full of faith. But just because something is active doesn’t mean that it has to be an exhausting activity.

The weeds in my rocky backyard are growing because they were positioned to simply receive the rain. They didn’t move around hoping to get the best sun angle or perfect water amount, they just grew.

We are going to keep running with this theme all week, but I wanted to kick it off with the realization that rest comes primarily through trust that God will provide for all of our needs. In the midst of my to-dos and tasks, I must trust that He will give me the strength, stamina, and courage to face this day. I don’t just work harder to rest, I shift my mindset and surrender by trusting His power and perfect provision.

“Come to Me . . . and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). It is only after we have begun to experience what salvation really means that we surrender our will to Jesus for rest. Whatever is causing us a sense of uncertainty is actually a call to our will— “Come to Me.” And it is a voluntary coming.

-Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, September 13

Resting through trusting,
Ginger

Dear Ginger: How do you rest, practically speaking?

Dear Ginger,

I just read your “One Thing” post, and I realized that I have been struggling with this all summer. I have been taking two online summer courses to get ahead in my math and science. I was doing great until they pushed my due date back two weeks AFTER the middle of summer had gone by. Now I feel like Martha. I have to work and work and work until everything is done. I just don’t know how I can relax and let God help me when obviously he isn’t going to log onto my account and do my homework for me. Help please?

Thanks! – A

Dear A,

Thank you so much for such an important question! Not only do I identify with your struggle, I’m also trying to work out the solution in my own life as we speak. Last week we talked about the importance of rest, but you’re right, I didn’t offer up much in the way of any practical solutions.

I keep thinking life is going to calm down and then I will be able to rest, but I don’t think it works that way. I have to seek out rest even in the midst of the craziness of schedules. Sometimes that’s going to look like saying “no,” but sometimes it’s going to require us to find peace and rest IN the busyness.

I hope you’ll drop in each day as we discuss practicing Sabbath, taking pauses, and resting from worry.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:29, The Message)

Following and learning,
Ginger

Dear Ginger: The fear of being left behind.


Dear Ginger,
As all of many of my close friends from school have been getting into serious relationships and some even getting engaged, I have found myself having a really hard time with the way that my friendships are now changing as a result. I have this constant fear in the back of my head of being left behind. I wanted to ask you if have any advice or encouragement from your season of singleness before getting engaged and then married. Did you have these struggles and if so, how did you handle them?
-M

Dear M,

Thank you so much for sharing your question today. I can totally identify with your struggles.  I know well the fears, the hopes, and the frustrations that you’ve expressed. I spent my teen years and most of my 20’s wondering if I was EVER going to have a relationship. Through those decades there were many weddings to attend, friends to cheer on, bridesmaid dresses to buy… and yet, there I was… still minus the “plus one” portion of my invitations.

Most days I was okay filling my time with ministry, friendships, books, and goals. But catch me near a holiday, wedding, or after a chick flick… and you would have found me weeping on my bed at night, terrified that I would be the only one still on my own while all of my friends built new lives. I look back at those younger versions of myself – 15,18, 20, 23, 26, 27 – and see girl who was trying so hard to be Miss Independent and all the while desperately desiring to be claimed as someone’s “dependent.”

So before I go into my thoughts and suggestions let me just say that I know none of this is going to be a perfect answer. I’m praying right now that it won’t feel like a pat response from a married woman. Half of the books on singleness on Christian bookshelves make me want to roll my eyes and pick up Harry Potter as a diversion instead. “Dance like a wildflower princess!”  Lovely sentiment, but during my seasons of singleness, I just wanted someone to shoot straight and acknowledge that even though I trust the Lord, that sometimes waiting feels awful and painful. And sometimes it feels okay and not bad at all.

I went through a really warped time in my relationship with the Lord where I truly thought that unless I could be happy being a lonely, that I was being disobedient. But there’s a problem with that line of thinking: Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” (Genesis 2:18, NLT)

I felt like I was being more holy by being completely alone. That’s not good. In fact, GOD says it’s NOT GOOD for us to be alone. Yes, He has given us the gift of marriage, but He has also given us the gift of platonic relationships. Life is going to contain some lonely parts, but I don’t think we should punish ourselves with it. Some seasons will hold more friendships and relationships. Others will require that we depend upon the Lord and remain thankful for a small circle of friends.

I also had a time in my life where I honestly believed that as long as I wanted “a someone” or to be married, that God was going to hold out on me until I learned to be content in the current situation. And while God does sometimes desire to teach us patience, there was another problem with my line of thinking.

And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:9-13, NLT)

I would tell my 20-something year old self that It’s okay to hope for and want marriage. It’s ok to want a relationship. It’s ok to ASK for a relationship. You don’t have to be ashamed of your requests or fearful of His response. Trust His timing and His desire to see you live an exciting and heroic story full of love.

But what do we do when everyone around us seems to be moving into a new season of life? We have to remember that relationships are seasonal. I’m working through that very concept with my counselor each week. I broke down crying out of loneliness and fear that I don’t give my friends enough attention. As we get older the breadth and span of our relationships get wider and wider: high school, college, camp, work, church, neighbors, family… and on and on! I can’t keep all of those balls in the air. As painful as it is, I had to finally realize that friendship works both ways. Some friends I bounce the ball to them and they joyfully send it right back. Others seem to… well, drop the ball. Mourning that change is healthy and necessary. We just have to be careful about hanging our happiness on a friendship or relationship. Of course it’s sad to see any relationship change, but we have to know that some friendships are seasonal. Will you still be able to find joy in the life God has given you even if your friendships change?

I think it’s also okay that you aren’t overwhelmed with joy for your friends right now. I think your heart to love them in spite of that fact shines through in the way you are seeking wisdom and advice during this season. You want to be joyful for your friends, I can hear it in the way you wrote about them. So why not ask? Cry out to God, surrendering your hurt and desires to Him a thousand times a day if you have to. Just remember that through every season, God is with you. He is near and not far off.

As you pray, acknowledge the blessings in your life. Ask God to show you ways you aren’t alone, and give thanks. I hope that you do have friends with whom you can be your real self – even the hurt, disappointed and tear-stained version of yourself. We don’t have to go through the hard seasons alone. Rather than turning inward, let the community around you lift you up during this time. It’s okay to be the one who needs the encouragement!

I tend to find joy when I look outward. I know that my own pain is magnified when I focus all of my attention on me. Continue to serve and love those around you. Let yourself enjoy serving, giving, and receiving love.

Again – my hope and humble prayer is that God will somehow use this rambling post to remind your heart how specifically and tenderly He loves you… in this and every season.

Following,
Ginger

p.s. You might check out an older series that touches on some of these themes: Live a better [love] story.

Dear Ginger: How do I fight temptation?

Dear Ginger,
A lot of stuff has been happening in my life… I’ve done and had the temptation to do certain things. Can you help? – C

Dear C,
Although I don’t know the details of your situation, I do know what it’s like to feel tempted and trapped by something. Yesterday I talked about my own struggle with body image and even an eating disorder. It’s definitely not something that I’m proud of, but I share it in order to point victory back to God. I feel like every time I speak and share my story people ask how I was able to stop something that was such a big temptation for me. Let’s be honest, I enjoyed being tempted by food. I despised being tempted to make myself sick. But both areas of temptation led me to sin, and led me to feel trapped by that sin. I felt like a hamster on one of those wheels. I kept running and running, but I wasn’t getting anywhere.

Until one day I realized that my sin was stealing life from me. I’ve always wanted to live a good story and do something meaningful and exciting with my time on this earth. I also want to honor God with my life. By giving into my area of weakness (food AND a desire to look a certain way) I let sin and it’s consequences write my story. Rather than honoring God, I was dishonoring Him by hurting the body He had “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139)

The second half of John 10:10 gets quoted by many people… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” I love that verse. I love the reminder that Jesus not only brings life to my body- but He also brings me a real, meaningful, and passionate life-story here and in the future that’s to come. Love that.

But check out all of John 10:10… “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

I believe that the Devil is real, not some made up monster from myth and legend. And I also believe that God’s Word is 100% true. So John 10:10 tells me that we have an enemy that wants to steal the very life that Jesus came to bring us. Since he cannot separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39), he will use ANYTHING to keep us from building and growing a relationship with our Heavenly Father: busyness, anger, addiction, temptation, sin, pride, shame… you name it. He has an arsenal of ways to tempt us and he fights dirty and personally.

But before we get depressed, let’s remember that Jesus was also tempted. He spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and praying only to have the Devil show up when he would have been physically at His weakest. But Jesus didn’t give into the temptation. Three times He fights back with the same weapon: The Word of God. I’m serious! Jesus quotes the Bible like He’s using a sword to block of an offensive attack.

That’s why my response to any question about temptation is going to rely heavily on the example of Jesus. In my own story of temptation I was only willing to admit I needed help after I was trapped. For so long I thought I could just wish all my problems away. I had to recognize that I wasn’t going to be able to break down the walls I had built on my own. I wanted to change for good and I knew that would require the grace and power of God alone. I finally called out to God and took hold of the weapons He has given all of us.

Here’s what I mean.

1. Use your weapons.
We fight with weapons that are different from those the world uses. Our weapons have power from God that can destroy the enemy’s strong places. We destroy people’s arguments and every proud thing that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.”  2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NCV)

My own efforts can’t take down a stronghold.  God is the one with the dynamite that you and I need.  Satan’s power comes in his ability to lie – take that away and he loses his power!  The more we know God’s word, the quicker we can recognize Satan’s lies!

Check out the last part of the verse: “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” That’s not a one time event. Notice that the verse says “every thought.” This isn’t going to be easy. Look this isn’t just about staying away from lies. This is all about relying on God to give us the strength and courage to walk through every moment of every day. We use the Word of God to arm ourselves for the journey ahead.

2. Prepare yourself.
Satan doesn’t waste arrows on where we are protected. If Satan knows that I’ve been claiming God’s promises about comparison or how He made me, He’s not going to waste his time there. That’s why it’s so important that I know God’s word like a great Samurai knows how to use his sword! You don’t learn how to fight in the middle of a battle. You prepare ahead of time.

3. Don’t go it alone. Telling friends, a youth worker, a counselor, a teacher, even a parent – is going to make all the difference. The Devil wants us to keep our struggles in the dark. The moment I finally shared about my stronghold with someone  was the start of my road to freedom. I had an accountability partner that walked through my recovery every step of the way. She prayed over me and handed me notecards with verses on them every time I saw her. She reminded me that I was not in the battle alone, but had another soldier on my side… as well as the God of the Universe fighting for me!

4. Fight like you mean it.
I don’t know if you’ve ever played basketball before, but one of the things coaches drill into your head is to get the rebound. You fight for that ball and don’t give up until it’s yours. God has already given us the ultimate victory through Jesus. So pray for Heavenly backup and do everything on your part to fight off temptation like the warrior you are.

Our center of gravity should be God’s Word!  My recommendation would be that you start filling up on GOOD stuff. Replace those feelings to “do those things” with truth from the Bible  It’s not going to be an instant fix.  You will still have days when you feel like the battle is too much for you – but remember the battle is not too much for the One who made you!

Freedom is a gift – it is for freedom that Christ has set us free! (Galatians 5:1)

Praying for your struggles and your journey, C.

Claiming Victory,
Ginger

Dear Ginger: Losing My Friendship?

Dear Ginger,

My best friend has been pushing me away a lot recently. I have asked her if I did anything to make her not want to be friends anymore, but she says nothing has happened. I don’t want to lose her as a friend, but I don’t know what to do. Any advice? -A

A – I am so sorry that your friendship seems to be filled with unknown conflict. That’s such an uncomfortable feeling. I think the hardest part about relationships is that we only get to control half of the behavior in them. I often think how much less conflict I would have in my life if I could just choose how my friends or family members act! But you don’t get to choose how your friend acts or behaves, you only get to choose your response. I think that can be both freeing and very frustrating at the same time.

I know from experience.

One of my best girlfriends and I went from hanging out every day to barely speaking in a matter of just a few months. There wasn’t a fight. One of us wasn’t jealous of the other. We just stopped hanging out and I didn’t really know why. I kept asking if I had done something wrong. My friend always shrugged it off and acted like our friendship wasn’t really that different. It felt like every time I tried to talk about the distance in our friendship, she just pushed me away even further. I felt hurt and confused. I cried to my mom about it a few times. But eventually I just decided that maybe she needed time. So I stopped checking in every day.

What I didn’t know was that she was going through some really tough stuff with her family. She felt uncomfortable sharing about her home life so she just started shutting people out. Because I asked so many questions she felt like she was lying to me all the time, and she didn’t want to do that. Rather than sharing her hurt, she tried to protect her heart by putting up guards.

I’m happy to say that my friend and I eventually rebuilt our relationship. I am so thankful that she’s in my life. But that season of distance is now a part of our journey as friends. We both wish it could have been different, but all we can do is work toward continuing to build the friendship we have now.

I say all this to let you know that I hear what you are saying and I’ve felt that sort of confusion and pain over a friendship. That season of struggles taught me a few things that I wish I would have known so many years ago.

Give her time. My friend needed to know I was for her, that I would support her, and that I would be there for her whenever she was ready. Instead she felt pressured, frustrated, and like she was being forced into a corner. Patience can bring peace to a tense situation. See Proverbs 15:18…

“A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.” Proverbs 15:18, NIV

Be careful about hanging your happiness on a friendship or relationship. Of course it’s sad to see any relationship change, but we have to know that some friendships are seasonal. This situation may or may not be resolved the way you are hoping. Will you still be able to find joy in the life God has given you even if this friendship doesn’t look the way it always has? Placing our ultimate expectations on anyone but God can lead to some major disappointment and heartache.

“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.” Psalm 62:5, KJV

Pray for your friendship. It’s very possible that your friend is going through something that she can’t share. Pray that God would give you the words to say at just the right time. Pray that God would show you if you’ve been in error in some way. Pray that God would restore your friendship. And then ask that He would give you the strength to trust Him no matter what happens.

“And those who know your name put their trust in you,
 for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10, ESV

A- I’m praying for you and your friend. Hang in there.

Following,
Ginger