When You Champion for Women

Screen Shot 2018-08-14 at 9.18.51 AM

I’ve sat in women conferences where the speaker says, “we need to be there for each other, honor each other…we are sisters, and we need to act like it!” Crowd cheers, cut to me thinking, “huh? I don’t have time for everyone to be my sister.” I grew up being told my sisters were my best friends, so for me a sister = friend.

It’s hard being friends with someone who is self-focused, hurting, and immature. It’s hard being friends with someone who gossips, solely talks about their issues, and is over-bearing.

giphy 2.gif


How do I love a woman who is toxic and manipulative?
How do I honor women who have betrayed me?
How can I be “sisters” with a woman who rejected me?

 The Bible doesn’t give examples of women who had several female friends or community. You see women having a female friend, but the Word doesn’t say, “and then Ruth had a slumber party for every woman, and you should too have a party for females, thou says the Lord.” The Bible does however provide solid guidance for tools we can sharpen so people can be better friends – to everyone. Whether you believe in the Bible or not, I don’t think any Biblical characteristics of what a friend looks like would be argued as undesirable or unhealthy.

7-reasons-every-woman-should-have-a-circle-of-friends-1.jpgWomen who champion for other women is powerful. Comparison, jealously, and judging are great temptations and subconsciously happen when the heart and mind aren’t clean. Having overcome so many of those tendencies over the years, especially this year, I’ve grown to have a sensitive antenna for these areas. I’m passionate towards helping women overcome destructive, deteriorating thought patterns that can lead to beliefs.

So, how do we respect and honor EVERY woman, INCLUDING the toxic ones?
How do we as women love EVERY woman as a “Sister in Christ?”
What does, “I love them from afar” even mean?

I believe respect and honor looks like not speaking poorly about each other. Period.

Your tongue can be your most deathly weapon or strongest armor. Words will sew threads in the fabric creating a coat of protection, or tear strands apart. Words of truth delivered with gentleness and respect creates room for gain. Words motivated by selfishness or anger creates a divide before a foundation is formed.

I have my inner circle women, the ones who I can be whole-heartedly candid with. There is a time and a place to have the freedom to share your heart – and for me, that freedom is there with my core women.

get-rid-of-hiccups-by-covering-your-mouth 2.jpg

If I’m in a conflict with someone and speaking to a close friend, 80% of the time I choose to not disclose the name of the person I’m in conflict with. This is honoring and respectful to the person I’m in conflict with. If I share the name of the person, it’s because whoever I’m speaking to knows and advocates for the heart of the person, and can give me perspective I may be blind to.

Let’s be real. If I shared the name of a woman I’m frustrated with to a friend who doesn’t know their heart, what am I inviting? I’m inviting my friend to form an opinion of someone based on my biased, current situation. I’m ultimately inviting division. If my friend finds herself at a party with the woman I vented to her about, my friend is more likely to look for the negative things I mentioned, rather than for the gold – which I believe everyone has. Loving from afar can look like not saying their name behind their back for the sake of preserving their name, not tarnishing it.

cleansing-storm.jpgI’ve gone through traumatic pain with female friends. Betrayed, rejected, lied to. I’ve had friends know the deepest parts of my heart and exploit my information for their benefit. I’ve had friends say they’re busy with their parents or working late, but then foolishly post themselves at another dinner with mutual friends. I’ve had friends steal money, ghost me, and tell me I’m not a priority because I haven’t been friends with them as long as their other friends.

In these wounding situations I decided not to share the names of those who hurt me with women who didn’t know them, and trust God to heal me, and heal them. Because, in reality, anyone who betrays, rejects or lies needs deep inner healing. Most of the time bad friends are bad friends because they aren’t in a place to offer good friendship and are in their own personal storm.

I needed healing too. I allowed actions from another person to have power in how I viewed myself. I gave women power in my self-worth, confidence, and ability to trust other women because they treated me poorly. Was my pain justified? Yes. Am I still triggered from time to yes? Yas. Is there another side of the story with a different perspective I may be unaware of? Totally, there always is. Their actions though weren’t because of what I did or didn’t do, it was a matter of their heart. My heart’s response from their actions in how I went on a tail-spin is a matter of my heart, and I had to painfully face that. Victim cards can only be played for so long before another hand is dealt.

The temptation to share names of people who rejected us is huge. I remember sharing with a close friend about my pain from a woman, and for months my friend only knew of this woman as, “that girl.” Months later my friend mentioned she was going to an intimate gathering, and I knew that girl would be there.

I entered into panic mode:

“She’s going to come back being best friends with her
“I need to tell her that girl’s name so she knows”
“God, why do you tease me. Why would these women be in the same room. Wow. Can you protect me from pain for ONE moment!?”

Thankfully I didn’t vocalize these thoughts, and slept on it before making any sort of action, which was ultimately silence.

I chose silence.

I didn’t tell my friend that girl, the girl who I had been deeply wounded from would be at this event. I wanted God to move how He wanted to, and if He wanted those two women to form a friendship, I would have to trust that His perspective is bigger than mine.

My friend came back from the event sharing the names of those she connected with, and that girl’s name was not mentioned. giphy (1).gif
Of course my flesh was screaming, “YAAAAAS thank you Je-SUUUUS,” but then I was thankful and relieved for choosing silence, because my silence was honoring, and my conscience was clear. I didn’t get in the way of anyone’s agenda. If I had disclosed a name and warned my friend, it would tarnish the name of this woman. For me, this is what “loving from afar” looked like. I didn’t have to see or speak to that girl, but I chose not to speak poorly, which is honoring.
shutterstock_503776834-e1510263409631.jpg
How do we genuinely love the “difficult” women in our hearts?
Ask God to give you eyes to see them how He sees them.

Think of the woman who’s your that girl for you, or a woman who annoys you because in your eyes she is “fake” and someone you would be happy never to see on Instagram ever again.

I challenge you to ask God to give you eyes to see her how He sees her. Moreover, ask God how you can pray for her heart.

See how He meets you. More often than not, He’ll churn your heart in a way you never thought possible. When He gives you eyes for someone as He sees them, slowly but surely the person will occupy your mind less. He’ll calm any heart turbulence with peace surpassing your understanding. He’ll deposit wisdom and discernment.

Choose friends who bring out the best in you, who you see the gold in, and who see the gold in you. Not everyone will be your friend. In fact, it’s foolish to consider everyone a friend.

Verses I like to call “spiritual spankings” in this area are:

Proverbs 22:24-25:
“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.”

Proverbs 12: 26:
“The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

1 Corinthians 15:33:
“Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”

Proverbs 18:24:
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Choosing to stay away from women who are hot-tempered, easily angered, poor influencers or unreliable is wise. For women who you don’t want to prioritize spending time with, whether it be for a healthy or practical reason, honor and love her by not gossiping. If you don’t feel love for her in your heart, ask God to see her how He does.

Championing for the heart of a woman who we were hurt from or annoyed by looks like not gossiping and seeking to see her how God sees her.

 

When You Seek Beauty

Screen Shot 2018-08-14 at 9.26.16 AM

This post is daunting for me. Just as everyone has a different perception of what love looks like, I believe everyone has a different perception of beauty. Touching on beauty is intimidating as it’s a universal, subjective topic.

1 Peter 3:3-4 (MSG) says, “….What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.”

Growing up in the church I’ve heard many “women talks” where this verse was used as the genesis of beauty. Going home from these talks I’d look at my notes and feel as if women are shamed or in need of correcting for focusing on outward beauty in any capacity.

britt

I love beauty products. I love makeup. I love hair products. I lose all sense of time in Sephora and get giddy when people ask for skin care, beauty tips or advice. I’m “that” girl who has watched countless YouTube videos on various beauty channels, has Googled for hours in search of the best ways to curl hair, shape eyebrows and the best way to achieve the “smoky eye.”

ll.jpgMost people don’t know the passion I have for self-care because, unless prompted, I am not going to bring it up and take the risk of coming off as judgmental or superficial. Never would I want someone to leave feeling judged. Whether someone uses Suave (which is made of 50% WAX) or Pureology (100% sulfate free bottle of gold) shampoo, I don’t in the slightest view them differently. This should be a, “duh, and why would you” response, but in reality many have been judged for their self-maintenance and appearance. Personally, I don’t give two cents if you don’t moisturize or invest in a primer – you do you, Boo Boo. But, if you want to invest and it’s an interest to you, I think it’s fun.

Underestimated amounts of people don’t put effort into their appearance for the approval of others, but to personally feel attractive. When I feel refreshed, put together and attractive, I’m able to take the focus off myself and focus on others. I believe others would benefit from doing what they need to do to feel refreshed and “put together” so they subsequently place their focus on others.

I digress. Back to 1 Peter 3.
This verse is saying outward beauty doesn’t equal beauty in the eyes of God. Since Jesus followers should strive to think, live, act, yada yada yada as Jesus, we should acknowledge inner beauty is the indicator for one’s beauty.

Got it.

A pretty heart is a pretty person, an ugly heart isn’t a pretty person.

Right right riiiiight.

So, what do we do when we meet someone whose source of self-worth seems to be measured by his or her appearance?

Look at their heart. When you know someone is using beauty products and clothing to hide their insecurities, don’t feed into that. Sure, tell someone they look bomb when they look bomb, but when you discern one’s appearance to be their source of self-worth, drop a compliment having nothing to do with their looks.

“You’re so considerate of others.”
“I admire how you handle conflict.”
“You’re stronger than you think.”
“I love your laugh.”

*screeeeech*

Hold up.

pp.gif

And, alas, this part of the blog is daunting for me.

Who am I to fully know the heart of someone and decide for myself if they need a compliment on their appearance or not?

Ultimately, I don’t. The Bible says God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7), and His command is for us to love others as ourselves (Mark 12:31). I may have discernment and can use discretion when choosing my words, but I should not assume the heart of someone in this area and it isn’t my place to project my observations on others. God looks at the heart and it is my job to believe the best in someone, because ultimately, I don’t know.

So, to tweak my original stance, I believe if you sincerely have a compliment for someone, appearance or otherwise, say it! What do you really have to lose?

When a girl is confident and secure…like, she-goes-to-In-N-Out-with-the-guys-in-a-hoodie-and-no-make-up kind of secure, it’s easier (for me) to tell her she’s beautiful because I sense she isn’t fishing for validation in her looks.

Earlier this year I went to a game night at a friend’s house. I had just come from a deep cleaning facial – my face was red and my hair was oily from the head massage portion. There were seven guys and one other girl. This girl was in a dress, high-heels, red lipstick and had perfectly set curled hair. I looked around the room trying to access which guy she may be crushing on because, honestly, who looks like that to go play Taboo? It didn’t help her case when she said she hadn’t come from anywhere and the game night was her only plan that day.

Girl.

I don’t know about you, but for years it was easier for me to flatter the girl in a hoodie at In-N-Out than the girl at game night in heels because I didn’t want to feed (in my opinion) an insecure ego.

However, I’ve learned two things. One, girls who come to game night ready to walk the red carpet aren’t necessarily insecure; and if they are, it’s all the more encouraging from them to hear they look great. Secondly, I’m a goon for judging or assuming. I don’t know the kind of day she had, or her story. Maybe her mom called earlier and called her out on her recent weight gain…maybe she was bored and simply wanted to feel pretty…maybe she DID like a guy in the room and wanted to put herself out there. Who knows. All I know is Miss Red Faced with Oily Hair *cough me cough* should seek to find ways to compliment anyone, regardless of red lipstick OR a hoodie.

fdd.jpg

I was in line at Starbucks last month when a lady in front of me whispered to her friend, “look at those fat rolls on the girl over there…have enough croissants lately?”

They chuckled, I judged.

I judged SO hard I confidently said to the woman, “that is very rude.”
She turned to face me, did a little smirk number, and turned back around. I pressed my lips and a Bible verse came to mind. Luke 6:45 ends with, “…For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Luke, you know wassup, I thought. This lady’s heart is black and cold all over. She sure could use some sprinkles of niceness. 

In that moment I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Mary.”

I mean honestly, how rude can people be?!

“Mary.”

Whenever He says my name twice I know I need to stop being dramatic and listen. Too many times I’ve been dramatic and have missed opportunities.

Yas LAWD.

I hear, “sprinkles are a compliment to something already sweet. Since she isn’t sweet, show her an ingredient of sweetness.” 

I really wish I went to another Starbucks. 

“Mary.”

OKAY OKAAAY.

I was not cheerful. My excuse is I hadn’t had my coffee yet.

Since I was the “that was very rude” person to this woman, I knew it would be nearly impossible to have her leave thinking I showed her an “ingredient of sweetness.” I found one genuine thing I liked about her, her nail color. As she was waiting for her drink I said, “I like your nail color.” She did another smirk number, and I internally did a scoff number.

A few seconds later I was at the coffee bar putting honey in my drink when she came to my side and said, “the color is by OPI and it’s called Let Me Bayou A Drink.” Without a beat, I opened my mouth and said, “Wish I could’ve bought yours!”

cc.jpg

Mary…what.did.you.just.say?!

She was startled, but then genuinely smiled, and left.

I hadn’t judged her beauty or her appearance, I judged her words, which were words judging someone else’s appearance. I didn’t feel convicted by doing so because the Bible says that our words reveal our hearts. Even still, God asked me to be a bigger person and love her in a way I would want to be loved. He then showed how comical He is because of all the names for a nail color to be named, this polish was named “Let Me Bayou a Drink.”

Even though a stranger showed shallowness, God prompted me to show her kindness. My heart was to defend the woman who was unknowingly being picked on, but God loves the victim just as much as he loves the perpetrator. He asks us to extend kindness to all.

car.jpg

I work in the entertainment industry, which in my opinion is the most shallow industry you could be in. God could have created me to look like everyone else, but He didn’t. I’m 6’0″ with a size 6 waist, size 12 pants. My naturally thick thighs save lives by being able to press 400 lbs while the average 5′ nothing LA girl has nightmares over losing her thigh gap.
smile.jpgBy the grace of God I grew into my confidence before moving to Hollywood, and I appreciate my height and curves. If I hadn’t, my daily reminders of how different I am from most girls around me would have the power to crush my self-confidence. I have insecurities, as do we all, but I don’t live in the land of “What if” anymore and wonder why God didn’t make me naturally thin like my sisters, or give me an “average” height so I can blend in more. He was intentional, and He loves how He created me.

My definition and measurement of beauty didn’t come from having a body accepted by society, a boy affirming me, or me wearing the newest and latest clothes. I went through LONG seasons of living in comparison with little to no self-confidence. At age 15 God swooped in and engraved truth from the Psalms on my heart, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

I was transformed. He deposited confidence within my heart and gave me a glimpse of how He sees me. I am beautiful because He says I am beautiful. Receiving a piece of His perspective enabled me to see others as fearfully and wonderfully made, too.

Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. If you find yourself judging someone based on their appearance (as we all are guilty of) or words, I encourage you to ask the Creator how He sees them. This humble approach is stretching, but He created each one of us. Let’s seek beauty in the other person, and seek to draw it out of each other.

sw.gif

When You Play Doctor

Screen Shot 2018-08-14 at 9.28.43 AM

I see people in LA pacing in an overcrowded ER hoping their name is called to be treated and receive a diagnosis, many in dire need of procedures. As sad and painful as it is to see people hurting in a hospital short-staffed, I’m encouraged by seeing them in the right place.

They took action.
They went to the ER.
They acknowledged their pain and know help is tangible.

I see myself as an intern who graduated medical school, recovering from the flu myself, being asked to treat people who have injuries I’ve only studied, haven’t treated.err.gif People hurting are coming to me, wanting my insight. While I have the Truth to speak, experiences to draw from, prayer to offer, I myself am like them: one who’s susceptible to pain. I am no better than they are, but I have knowledge they haven’t asked to receive. Ergo, they come to me.

The hospital represents church in this picture, but places like the ER (urgent care, clinics) come in all forms, just like church. People are positioned and equipped to help others in their home, workplace, coffee shops…just as doctors are found in areas other than ER’s.

fullsizerenderI’m a greeter for a church here in LA and after making eye contact and smiling at 900+ souls for nearly an hour, I often find myself pensive afterwards. I see the girl arrive realizing everyone looks like they’re in the green room for a Vogue photo shoot, instantly checking her appearance. I see the man dressed to the nines carrying emotional weight, thinking if he got a sincere compliment, his week would be made. I shake hands with businessmen who don’t look me in the eye because they’re busy searching for “who they know.”  The bubbly, outgoing actors go “on” and try to be the life of the party, but all I see are open wounds needing to be flushed, and time for healing and rest. But, life in LA doesn’t offer time for rest – you hustle. If you stop, good luck paying rent, let alone feel like you’re making an imprint.

In the midst of saying, “Hi welcome,” and “Happy Wednesday!” I occasionally pause, put my hands to my chest, exhale with a whisper, “Jesus I can’t carry the weight of these people.” There have been a few weeks where I excuse myself to go sit in the bathroom and breathe.
ry
My days are spent around people in survival mode. I hop from show to show, network to network. On a previous show, producers went around the room and shared what prescription pills they’re all on for anxiety and depression. My turn was up to share, and they were shocked I don’t have prescriptions, don’t smoke, and am not on “the pill.” When asked what my vice was, I said coffee. When asked how I “clean” my system (sex being the anticipated answer), I said journaling and church. The majority of co-workers I’ve worked with have no sense of purpose except to chase the next credit or bigger project.  Without Jesus in the hearts of influencers, the hearts of influencers are running towards an influence with price tags, blindly searching for The Influencer who paid the price.

I’ve logged hundreds, dare I say thousands of hours sitting in coffee shops with new friends, listening to how dry their life is, encouraging them to believe the droplets of hope in their life are actually puddles of promises. After countless coffee dates and redeemed punch cards for free lattes, I’ve learned two lessons.

Lesson 1: 
Ears before experience.
Before you share your experiences, listen.
Most hurting people, nay, most PEOPLE, want to be heard. During my dark seasons, the triggers for me were phrases along the lines of, “I know exactly how you feel,” and, “it will be okay.”
Internally I was thinking, “Okay but like, you don’t know exactly how I feel because I’m wired differently, this situation is different, and this isn’t about you.” Externally, I forced a smile and checked the time. When you prematurely respond with how your experience mirrors the person who’s talking, you may be adding salt to the wound. I’m not saying keep your experiences to yourself. Sharing is powerful, significant, life-giving. I’m encouraging you to listen wholeheartedly, put yourself in the shoes of the speaker, and secure the position of someone who’ll have their ear once your time to speak comes. You’ll (hopefully) secure this spot if you first show them they have your ear.

ear.gif
Lesson 2:
When you’re off the clock, someone else is on.
Going back to my hospital analogy, people are hurting and will latch on to anyone who seems remotely capable of helping their injuries. For years I’ve been the “nurse” or “doctor” people snag for medicine, bandages, etc. Girls I barely know reach out via text/calls for help, guys text me for advice, moms email asking me to pray for their daughter who’s “rebelling”… all in the midst of “adulting” in LA and navigating life that is LA (this city is a lot to handle fyi). It’s an honor because I’m trusted and respected, but, if you know me whatsoever, I’m a feeler and instinctively serve when needs arise. A few problems.

I ain’t anyone’s doctor. I ain’t yo momma, I ain’t yo savior, I ain’t yo pharmacist.

Over the past few years my emotional energy tank has hit empty. During a drive on the 101 last November, I prayed for God to give me energy for those pulling on me. He clearly spoke to my heart saying, “remove yourself from helping those who drain you. I have others I want to appoint to come alongside them, and your stubbornness is hindering My plan. There are people you feel graced to love, and surprised you aren’t drained because they are difficult. You feel grace because I’ve brought them to you. Pour into THEM. I’ve lifted the grace from those you are feeling drained with. Walk away.”

Ouch. After receiving such a heavenly spanking, I walked away. A few were understandably confused from my sudden unavailability, leaving me fighting feelings of guilt and abandoning. However, looking at where those people are TODAY blows my mind. God truly did have amazing, heart of gold people in mind to come along those who were personally challenging.

Disclosure: this is not a lesson I learned once. I’m continuously learning and being stretched to release burdens I naturally, sometimes unknowingly take on. Choosing not to take the girl out to lunch when I know she’s broke is a difficult decision, but, God may have a woman who wants to buy the girl groceries for the week. I just don’t know, but I need to let God be God and listen when He says “release to Me.”

Emotional-Release-Workshops-Main-Header-01-copy.jpg
God is the Chief of Staff at the hospital. Anyone who follows Him is on His staff. I understand He is the Healer, answer, everything beyond everything aside from being Chief yada yada yada…but go with my picture please.
We each have a unique role and specialty. Just as there are neurosurgeons, pediatricians and cardiologists, we each have a role in His place. Where I’m positioned to serve may be different than your position. My role isn’t to compare myself to you, but cheer you on, because we have the same goal: to love and direct people to recovery in the healthiest way possible.

Cobus.

IMG_0856.PNG
Within five minutes of meeting Cobus, I discerned he was a man of peace, warmth, and sincerity. I walked in a living room for small group for the first time, only knowing one person. I went around the room shaking hands and Cobus gave me the biggest, warmest smile, pronounced his name twice, and insisted on giving up a seat for me. He was attentive to each female that evening, making sure they had a comfortable seat. He sat on a piano bench. In LA I’m used to many oblivious, self-centered men. Cobus shatters the stero type for LA men..except for how he eats. #newhealthnut
Slowly but surely, we grew to be extremely good friends, and when I’ve been publically asked to share what I think of him, I cry. It has happened a handful of times now.
IMG_0855.PNG

Before I continue and reveal how close he’s to my heart, let the record show he’s 100% a brother to me. I’m stopping any “does she have feelings for him” thoughts RIGHT NOW. He’s going to chuckle at this. He’s a brother to me, and I mean that in every sense of the word. He corrects me, I correct him. He encourages me harder than most, I strive to encourage him as best I can. He calls me out on my quirks, I call him out on his. I have full security in my friendship with him. I feel his adoration, protection, care, concern, loyalty and love for me on the daily.

He has never been fazed by any of my moods. He’s seen me slap happy, dramatic, stern, sick, over the moon joyful, and, unfortunately, has intimately seen my heart go through the ringer in a few close friendships. Through seeing all sides, he has been a steady rock of a friend. We’ve been though a lot with each other, and I know, no matter what I go through or how I am emotionally, he’s there for me.

img_0860
Fun moment: him sending a voice memo speaking in afrikaans

God knew I would benefit, learn, grow and love others better because of Cobus. Without Cobus, I know my life in LA would look differently. He’s been a voice of truth and one of my loudest cheerleaders. Cobus is a man of truth who doesn’t waiver in his convictions. He’s steadfast in his beliefs and his consistency is a reason he’s the glue for so many friendships.

A reason we are close friends is our capacity for depth. Vulnerability comes somewhat effortlessly to us, so does deep conversation. We’ve never done the whole “small talk” thing…ever. We dive right in to the meat of every conversation, no appitizers.

12410573_10154032043632867_2403825038527785635_n.jpgWhen he’s in a predicament, his response is, without fail, “I just want to learn how to love them.” He’s wired to see things black and white, and it’s sometimes a challenge for him to see details in the fabric. In friendships, when a situation is more than black and white, I’ve seen him bewildered and out of his comfort zone, but so aggressively eager to know how to handle the situation in love where his response will make the other feel loved. Having that response is a byproduct of selflessness and humility. I’ve seen the other side where his black and white self has ruled a situation – with me, if his actions stung, he’s always taken the energy to explain, apologize for sting, and end with saying, “I love you Mary and I just want to help care for you as best I can as a good friend.”

Months ago I had, to say the least, an emotional day. I woke up (on vacation) to a hurtful text from a friend I deeply care for, and I knew the only person who could bring the perspective I needed was Cobus. Problem was, he was in South Afirca. I debated reaching out to him because the last thing I wanted to do was bug him. However, his voice saying “always here for chats” rang in my head and, for the first time in our friendship, I messaged him saying, “I need to talk to you Cobus.” Despite being across the world, he made himself available immediatly. He left whatever activity he was doing, called, and listened wholeheartedly. I remember pacing back and forth on the phone crying, trying to communicate what was happening, and after my break-down he says, “Mary. You’re above all of this. Having this affect you this much shows how unhealthy it is for you. Walk away. You have your answer.”And that is one of 8273 times Cobus brings what I like to say, “the hammer.”

Now, for me to be outside on the phone crying to him in South Africa speaks volumes on how low I was emotionally. I felt as if I had not a drop of emotional energy left in my body, period. I was weak and felt defeated. Cobus though knew the strong Mary, he knew I had it in me to take life by the reins and tackle this situation with integrity. He so gently empathized with me and said, “you’re above this Mary, this is so beneath you. Child play. Go rest and take care of your heart.”

He challenges people to be their best. It honestly can drive me crazy because I think, “you need to calm down and let me be human,” but he pushes me to rise above and be the bigger person.

12654665_10154060969407867_4634713944506124908_n

Random things I deeply appreciate about Cobus:

  • He’s one of the most humble men I know.
  • He isn’t a chameleon. He’s always himself.He doesn’t like the moment in church where you have to turn to those around you and shake hands. I always crack UP sitting next to him in church when this moment comes.
  • Speaking of church, he doesn’t like excessive clapping. I don’t either. Like, let me hold my Bible and coffee gosh darn it. We visited a church once and the pastor asked everyone to “give a hand” 23 times. My stomach hurt from holding in so much laughter next to Cobus.
  • He’ll give anyone the opportunity to be his friend, he doesn’t exclude. He’s also very discerning and while he has many friends, he has few key, core people. I appreciate how he is exclusive without being exclusive whatsoever…you get this if you know him.IMG_0859.PNGMost text conversations end with him saying, “thankful for you and your heart Mary!”
  • I also simply love how he always asks for me to text him when I get home safe…and many times I forget. When I forget I, like clockwork, get a text 15-20 minutes after getting home of, “Mary? You home?”
  • He doesn’t take himself too seriously when it comes to games/sports/activities. I take any and all games seriously, and I love/dislike playing with him. He loves provoking the competitive me, and I get flustered with his nonchalant behavior.
  • He looks past action in people and focuses on the heart, the core reason for their action. It’s a reason his perspective is always refreshing.
  • He strongly embraces and welcomes discomfort. Through experiences he’s gone through, he knows firsthand how discomfort will reap strength, growth, maturity. Because of him, I am more open to chasing discomfort.

He turns 30 this weekend. I’m immeasurably blessed by his friendship, and he’s been clutch this past year and a half. His encouragement, advice, laughs, conversations, adventures and “hammer” moments are so dear to my heart. He’s one of the best guys I know, and I can NOT wait to meet the future lady he’ll dote on, adore, treat like a Queen and cherish oh so tenderly.

Cobus, keep being you. You’re valued, loved, irreplaceable. I wish you all the success in the entire world and a half. Your 30’s are going to be bomb diggity.

12645044_10154060968687867_511854605111512021_n

When You are I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T but Never Asked for That

Screen Shot 2018-08-14 at 9.35.57 AM

When I was 17 I would’ve told you I’d be married by 20.

When I was 20, I said 23.

Now, deep into 25, I say by the time I die.

Life hasn’t gone as imagined.

Thank God.

I dedicated high school to extra curricular activities. Essentially, I “paid my dues” in high school by living up the single life pursuing Jesus. Aside from high school, I worked 25hr weeks and led a small group. I thought, naturally, God would immediately bring my man to me the second I had my high school diploma. I thought it’d be ADORABLE if my first college class had assigned seats and the man I would marry would be coincidentally assigned next to me.

18 year old Mary was s’cute.

72785_10151517488137867_235619012_n.jpgI made the move from Chicago to Kansas after graduation. I enrolled in 15 credit hours and became an employee to two businesses. For the following year, days included working, going to class, studying, and spending time with a few close friends I made.

I didn’t get Sunday mornings off, nor did I have a circle of Christian friends. My circle of friends included those on probation, recovering addicts, all doubting their faith. My love for Jesus never faded, my prayer life actually increased because I relentlessly interceded for my new friends. My values weren’t compromised, but I wasn’t getting fed on any level nor was I receiving – I gave everything I had.395103_10151270965717867_2115763851_n.jpgAfter two years of this cycle — full-time student, full-time employee and friend to various personalities, I cracked. Depression crept up, drowning me in a flood of darkness. Since I was so many people’s “person,” and felt I was held on a high pedestal, I didn’t have the strength to admit I was depressed.

To be clear, I was not depressed because I didn’t have Christian friends. I was depressed because I did everything on my own strength and my prayer life was for others, not myself. I gave more than I had the capacity to give without feeding my soul. I was starved.

I’m the girl who drove herself home after tearing her ACL, the girl who went to work with a concussion – getting me to admit I’m in pain takes, well, more than a torn ACL or concussed head. I’m much better now, but admitting my soul wasn’t well all those years ago took rock-bottom depression.During those darks days I eventually took my bone-dry soul to a church in Olathe, Kansas. Once worship started, the presence of God cascaded down my entire body. I received. The cast bandaged to my heart was cut off, and my soul breathed, remembering how to operate.

giphy
Slowly but surely I got Sunday morning shifts covered so I could attend church. I lost roughly $75 per shift, but the health of my soul was more valuable than financial stress. Shortly after prioritizing church, stressful events arose. My car broke down four times in one month, my apartment had a gas leak, I got the flu.
10689466_10152895482397867_3076796849656412729_n.jpgI grew to have a wide capacity for stressful situations. At 19 I independently dealt with broken showers, flat tires, gas leaks, and what seemed like a constantly broken down car. I didn’t have a dad, brother or boyfriend to save me. Most everyone in Kansas lived near their parents or had a significant over to help 24/7, and not having friends who could relate was hard. Fighting comparison was real. My position forced me to become self-sufficient. I learned how to use power tools, got on my mechanic’s Christmas card list, became an avid Craigslist seller, and practiced the joy of putting pride aside to ask for help.

In the midst of this, I was looking for a Kansas corn-fed man. There were a few prospects, but during “Mary time” one night I believe the Lord said, “the man I have for you isn’t in Kansas. But Mary, I can’t wait for you to walk out your love story.”

 

I might as well have been taken to Disney Land and, in the parking lot be told, “never mind, we’ll go in years to come. The rides will be improved and the wait will be worth it.” I’m human OKAY…those words were hard to swallow. I’d meet a new guy and justify it by saying, “God said he wasn’t in Kansas…maybe that was for THEN, but because of free will this guy came here NOW.” I’d meet another guy and say, “Uh God, do you not KNOW THIS GUY!?” While I noticed attractive guys and still had a crush here and there, nothing happened with anyone during my Kansas City years.

I established deep roots in KC and loved the following year. I loved my school, my job, the Shekinah house and the incredible people in my life.

I thought God calling me into Kansas was to fulfill my love for Journalism and Midwest living. I thought I’d meet and marry a Midwest man during college and become Mrs. Comfort Living.

NOT.
EVEN.
CLOSE.

giphy (1)

I didn’t go into journalism, I didn’t meet a man, I didn’t even go to the school I thought I would.

I was called to Kansas for relationships. I was called to be used. I’m not here on this earth solely to become a wife. One day, hopefully, but God used me to love, to simply be a friend to many. Through giving, I received.
Amazing, amazing friendships birthed. So many of them changed my life, and are in my life for life.

IMG_9728IMG_9761.JPG

IMG_9729
Faces of KC I forever cherish!

My mindset at 18 would be expected of any 18 year old gal, and I’m thankful I’ve been single all these years to pour into people and grow personally, having a lot of time for me and Jesus, and me and whoever I want to ask out for coffee.

Kansas City led me to Hollywood. The past 2.5 years in Los Angeles have been absolutely incredible. No journalism, but amazing favor in an industry nearly impossible to get into. No man yet, but incredible friendships. Singleness is a blessing, and while a deep desire is to become a wifey, I know the timing is His. It took over five years post high school for me to grow content and secure in this.

IMG_1542.jpeg

If any fellow single ladies (or men!) are reading and approaching their late 20’s thinking they’d be married years ago, I feel you. You’d rather cook for two than swing by Chipotle. You’d rather have a shoe-in companion to explore the city, but instead make plans with friends…but sometimes settle for Netflix. You want to hold someone’s hand while driving, but find yourself car dancing solo.

One day you may miss Chipotle, free weekends and solo drives on the freeway. You may miss having an entire morning not answering to anyone and being able to drink coffee and read. Your desires now, though, aren’t lost on Jesus. He knows, and He is marinating whoever and whatever is to come.

Let Him use you to bless others, let Him use others to bless you. Relationships are everything.

You’re I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T and honey, you wear it well.

Caitlin.

IMG_3440

Celebrating my fellow internal-processing sista, Caitlin!

Folks, this women is GOLD. Infecting everyone with her joy, Caitlin is a walking source of wisdom, discernment, cheerfulness, and warmth. Being her friend is an honor, I’m privileged to know her heart deeply and pray every woman is blessed with a “Caitlin” in their life. They can’t though, just one ‘ol Caitlin in the world. I’m eternally thankful God brought her in my life when He did.

13076915_10154306760182867_4729020089105072847_nFirst impression of Caitlin was a stereotypical Californian. She had a killer outfit, set make-up, beachy hair and seemed laid back. We met in home group and it wasn’t until a few weeks later at a diner when we sat next to each other we had a lengthy conversation. She immediately became a kindred spirit. A few weeks after the night at the diner a bunch of us ladies had a sleepover. During the slumber party I knew: this woman was in my life FO LIFE. We giggled a lot, had deep conversation, and bonded over our need for comfort and self-care priorities. Ever since, her friendship has impacted my life immensely.

Cait wins. She’s the woman you want when something sad, happy, frustrating or terrifying happens. I want her around always –  I’ve never grown tired of her. As one of the selected few under my “Favorites,” she’s always a phone call away. I’ve taken advantage of this at 2am, during my lunch break, or even in the car on the way to meet her because I wanted to get ahead on “Mary-Caitlin” chit-chat time.

10339685_10153949499842867_6018341903475692705_nDon’t mistake her lightheartedness for apathy. Something I love the most about Caitlin is the intentional care and concern she has for those she loves. She values doing life with others and when we go a few weeks or less without seeing each other, she is consistent with checking in, letting me know I’m missed and loved.

She can literally laugh with anyone. There are a few of our friends who bond with Caitlin on a whole other level because of their humor – I can’t keep up. I sit there, waiting for them to calm down….can’t tell you what they laugh about because I can’t keep up with their jokes. One of her gifting’s is keeping up with wide varieties of humor and spicing anyone’s up.
Joy fills the room when Caitlin does – her spirit carries a strong sense of self, joy, cheerfulness and warmth. I feel at ease when Caitlin is around, free to be myself. Words of affirmation are important to her, and she gives them out so effortlessly. I don’t know a time where she has seen me and hasn’t said, “I love you!” or “I’ve missed you!”

IMG_7905

In less than a year Caitlin can read me exceptionally well. The other week we were walking on a sidewalk and I had just heard a secret from someone, but couldn’t say anything. I thought I was chill, simply minding my own business. Suddenly, Caitlin comes up to me and says, “Mary Lentz. WHAT. WHAAAAT IS it!?!?” Stunned, I said, “nothing giiiirl, nothing.” The next 10 minutes consisted of her reading my face and driving me bonkers because I didn’t want her knowing I knew something and clearly couldn’t control my face.

I love our similarities and differences. We both love reading and our alone time. We both love adventure, but also value relaxation. We both love dancing, and we love hip-hop tunes. There are certain things I take more seriously than her, and things she takes more seriously than me. Having her as a sounding board has been nothing short of influential. I trust her perspective.

12508845_10154032043497867_2120097624211519219_n

A few memories I hold dear to my heart:

1) Convincing her to wake up for the sunrise.
Back in December we were at a beach house for an overnight celebration. If sleep is compromised, Caitlin won’t have FOMO. Since I couldn’t get her to commit before bed, I crept in her room at 5:50am saying, “time to waaaake up for sunrise.” She tosses over and firmly says, “No. No it isn’t Mary. I’m not going. I’m sleeping.” I left bummed, but had mad respect for how direct she was.

2) Another sleeping story. A group of us were taking a road trip to San Francisco and her, Jess and I had a sleepover the night before. Needing her full 8 hours of beauty sleep, Caitlin crawled into bed around 9pm, leaving me and Jess to fend for ourselves. I smile remembering the early hours saying, “woman are you asleep yet, can you like, hang out.” Even if she wasn’t sleeping she’d say, “I feel like I’m getting rest because I’m in a bed ya know?”

3) Santa Barbara. A group of us ladies spent the weekend there and one night I received an emotional text at 4am. I was sharing a bed with Cait and I’ll never forget her waking up to me crying and holding me. She tapped into friend mode FAST. I felt so loved and am so thankful she was there to comfort me, but also speak Truth when I was weak.
IMG_97874) Beach walk. We met up in Santa Monica one afternoon and walked along the beach for a while. I remember the walk because she opened up about many topics more in-depth and I had a vision of her as a momma and all I’ll say about that is this: she’s gonna be a killer momma, one many women will want to emulate. Can’t wait to meet her future nuggets.
5) Simply ALL our chats. You know you’re good friends when you can drive in silence without feeling the silence. For me I feel that always around Caitlin – we can be at a party, driving or sitting at a restaurant and I never feel pressure to fill space with conversation.
She’s one of the most solid women I know. Her strengths include consistency, being flexible, intentionality, compassion, wisdom, teaching, finding joy in little things, words of affirmation…so.many.things. She fights for growth, is true to herself and welcomes discomfort knowing growth comes from perseverance.
My life wouldn’t be the same without her sisterhood.
Love you Cait, you’re a diamond in the rough. You add value to everyone around you, a gift to the world. Adore you so much.
12644708_10154060968847867_1093727027939542979_n

When You Share with Many, Listen to All, Confide in Few

Screen Shot 2018-08-14 at 9.39.13 AM

Wearing my heart on my sleeve has been my most comfortable clothing accessory since age always. Doing so invited everyone to know “Mary.” As the years passed my vulnerability, animated expressions and straight-shooting mouth seasoned. Deep sensitivity counter-acted those traits. My heart was open to all to see and hear, but when people were revealed as untrustworthy to my sacred, sensitive soul, the repercussions were detrimental.

I got hurt, I was betrayed, walls came up.
Then,

I forgave.

Moved on.
When you share details of your heart it feels natural, at least for me, to think the listener leaves understanding how you feel. I mean, you shared the depths of your heart so, they should just “get it,” right?

In 10th grade I shared with a friend I hadn’t ever had a serious boyfriend. I thought we had this beautiful conversation where hearts were shared and understood. It was a choice I hadn’t entered into a relationship, and I left feeling my vulnerability was both safe and heard. Just days after the conversation, we were in a circle of friends and the topic was relationships. Each friend went around sharing awful heart-break stories (awesome topic). The flow of the conversation was smooth and comfortable, until my friend, who I had opened up to days prior boldly says, “OH. SKIP Mary. Sheeeee’s never been heart-broken.”

I imploded. If I was Taylor Swift, that would’ve been my “Bad Blood” inspirational moment.

Something special to me turned into material for pity, leaving me feel misunderstood. Rather than having a “screw you” attitude and shut out the world moment, unexpected wisdom appeared.

I realized this: if someone gives pity for a personal decision I made that is valuable to me, why should I allow their opinion to resonate?
starwardI didn’t give those chumps a second thought. I moved forward. I gave the next friend the benefit of the doubt. Fortunately, she is one of my best friends today, and I am thankful to have chosen forgiveness over bitterness. I chose to not shut the world out because one person stung me.

 

Buuuuuut hearts are one of, if not the most sacred part of someone. I grew to have the belief we should show love to everyone, but we shouldn’t entrust our hearts to everyone. It took me high school and most of college to learn this lesson. Heck, even today I’m dealing with people being chumps with information.
Having discernment with who you open up to is wise. I believe choosing a select group of friends who you can be vulnerable with is wise, not selfish. Moreover, choosing people who tell you what you need to hear, not what you want is crucial. Hard to find, but vital for growth. If you’re lucky enough to have found trustworthy, harsh-in-love friends, treasure, don’t toss.

After many trial and error moments, I came up with this:

Share with many, listen to all, confide in few.

Share with many:
Be open-hearted. Humbly share experiences and stories with everyone because encouragement and inspiration can be planted as a result. I don’t see the harm in being open-hearted and being friendly with those you come in contact with.

Listen to all:
If I’ve learned anything about communication these past several years, it is that few truly know how to listen. Put yourself in their shoes and consciously listen to what the talker is saying. Rather than think about what you can add to the conversation, think about what you can give. What can you say to encourage, challenge, or affirm them in? Far too many listeners are quick to interrupt and provide commentary revolving around themselves.

Confide in few:
I’ve made the mistake of confiding in untrustworthy people and having my information exploited for their benefit. An easy tool to use before deciding if you should confide in a person is this: see if they talk poorly or gossip about others. If they do, have confidence knowing they’ll talk poorly or gossip about you, too. You’ll think you’re the exception, but in reality, you probably aren’t.

Three years years ago I told a handful of close friends I was having a hard time navigating a friendship. The situation resolved fairly quickly and I didn’t look back. Since I shared with so many people, I received many texts with questions about my friend situation and oh man, it was too much. No one was satisfied with, “all good sis!” They wanted to know what actually happened, detail by detail. Answering the same questions was exhausting and I finally decided, after years of being in the over-confiding cycle, no one is entitled to know all details of my life, and I need to be careful. Those sweet friends who followed up with me are precious and so loving, but I chose too many people to confide in.

giphy (1).gif

This applies to other categories: trying to have kids, waiting for a promotion, working on a bad habit, etc. The more people you share with, the more updating and explaining you’re obligated to give. If you want to do that, fine! Great! Woo-hoo for you Talking Tom! As one who has overcome over-confiding (most days), all I can say is I have found more wisdom in confiding with few, not all.

When too many voices are involved, I personally tend to not fully rely on God’s truth. I fall in the pattern of embracing words of my best friends or my own thoughts. Going to people without sitting still before the Lord has only done one thing for me: create anxiety and an uneasy soul. This happened to me recently. I was running on 100 miles per minute and my emotions couldn’t keep up. I’d think I got over a wave, and right when I was coming to shore, a wave took me under again. My emotional tank was creeping down to empty, and I waved the white flag. I took action on cleansing my soul, putting my heart at rest. I also chose a select few to walk me through that time. I chose people who were walking alongside me in Los Angeles and who wouldn’t tell me what I wanted, but what I needed.

Countless stories and examples could be written, but I think we all get the point: when you overshare or confide you’re inviting the possibility of having information exposed. Choose your people carefully, show someone you are who they should be so lucky to confide in, and listen wholeheartedly, placing yourself in the shoes of others.

Share with many, listen to all, confide in few. 

When You Chase Without Contentment

 

                 

dreamsWe’re in an age where tapping into ambition and taking action to work towards a dream is applauded. You’ll see me putting my two hands together for that, absolutely. You’ll see me cheering on someone to get what they’ve worked for, because, obviously. We’re also in an age where souls don’t seem to have toned muscles of contentment. We chase what we want NEXT without enjoying what we have NOW. Society has churned our minds to believe that until we reach OUR goal, what WE want, we haven’t fully succeeded.

dd

I was promoted last year and officially don’t have the word “assistant” in my title (yay!). Those with my title on other shows are typically 3-5 years older. There are people my age still desperately trying to get in a mail room and peers who’re packing their bags because they can’t afford to live in “Entertainment City” with a dime and zero interviews. Here I am with a desk, badge and parking spot trying to fulfill a position most have years of experience on me with.

So, yes, I’m ahead of the game and one fortunate person. But why is it that my mind automatically thinks, “so how long until I don’t have ‘Coordinator’ in my title, but ‘Supervisor,’ or ‘Producer,’ because those are the titles where I truly know I’ve MADE it?”

Or, why is it that even while I have a killer position, some people pause and ask where my job is taking me? I don’t mind that question — asking what path I’m on is fine. Wanting to know where someone’s ambition is taking them is normal. Ambition is, in my opinion, a strength. Not acknowledging their accomplishment NOW and focusing on the NEXT, however, could take away from the beauty of the present.

If you ask me where I see myself in 10 years, I have many answers. Not all my passion eggs are in one basket.

Some days I want to be a wife and mom.

Or be the next Harper Lee.

Possibly Shona Rimes’ next prodigy?

Les Moonves’ future replacement?

I don’t know where life is going to take me, but I do know where it has me now, and all I can do is strive to give my 100% and trust that by doing that, by giving all I can and being a good steward, my next step will be built before me.

WDon’t take my nonchalant, “give 100%” as something simple. 100% is requiring all mental, physical and emotional energy needed for what’s being asked of you. As a friend, giving 100% could look like making an air port at 5am, listening to them cry on the phone when we’d rather sleep, or going to their favorite restaurant despite our personal craving for the opposite. As an employee, giving 100% looks like deciding to be cheerful when crabby, going the extra mile on a project, and several other things. 100% is out of our comfort zone. Regret has a harder time finding itself in our hearts when we give 100%.

Work wise, it’s easy, natural and expected to deeply care about what our boss thinks of our performance. We’re under our boss’s authority so, naturally we preform for his/her approval. I’d like to appeal this mentality as being our primacy goal. Rather than strive for the approval of our boss, I believe our priority should be striving to care what God thinks of our performance. If we in all actuality executed this, peace and rewards will follow suit.
I hear it now…. “Mary that is the cheesiest thing ever OMIGOSH.”

CHILL.

Here me out.

Actually, no… I’ll let these verses defend me:

Colossians 3:23-24:
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

Romans 12:11-12:
Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

Proverbs 28:19-20:
A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies ends up in poverty. The trustworthy person will get a rich reward, but a person who wants quick riches will get into trouble.

Working hard, never being lazy, willingly working with anything we do “as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people,” in addition to being enthusiastic….broadly encapsulates a great employee. I’d want to hire anyone who lived this out.

When I’m tired, crabby and irritable, the last thing I want is someone saying, “your reward is in heaven, Mary.”

Okay thank you, but BYE. I want ice cream…a hug…or a Monday off work….I don’t want the words, “be patient and keep on praying.” You got your good friend, Christian cliché encouragement comment for the day points, but bring me someone who will say, “screw all that, let’s go dance and forget about it all.”

Being honest y’all…some days I just want to dance and not think about my rewards in heaven.

giphy.gif

THAT is why I’m the perfect target for those scriptures. They’re FOR people like me who, after work, are susceptible to falling into the land of, “me me me” and not the land of, “for You, God, for YOU.” Fortunately, those verses have been engraved on my heart for several years and consequently, when I’m in the lowest of lows, they come to mind. It’s the best/worst. Worst because I am then convicted and feel awful, but that’s why it’s the best. Those verses are fuel to my motivation tank. My mind is haunted by them after a long day — reminding me of His promises to those who work for Him, to please Him. On days I’m chewed out… it’s okay, I did the best I knew how. But on days I rock it out and my boss is happy with me, yet my heart was motivated by his approval rather than God’s – my heart is off, I don’t feel satisfied. We won’t ever feel satisfied by fueling our heart with man’s approval.

Ever.

We just won’t.

Wherever you’re at in life –the CEO, barista, musician, plumber, stay at home momma or a student, I encourage you to hang in there and strive to give your 100% for God. If you chase work for you or man’s pleasure/approval, nothing but an empty bucket of discouragement will be at your door. God’s thoughts and plans are above ours for OUR best – your boss, friend, co-worker, significant other, whomever you may be seeking approval from, they don’t know your heart in the capacity God does.

They just don’t.

Purpose resonates where you are NOW and if you’re in the fortunate position I’m in with having a job title most have to wait years to obtain, the show could get canceled and I could be unemployed tomorrow. Nothing is promised in this world and we need to learn how to be content and cheerful with what we’ve been given.
I look back on previous seasons and, knowing what I know now, I wish I could go back and be more present. It’s easy, ESPECIALLY in Hollywood, to compare and worry about what step of the ladder I’m on. Now that I’m up a step since last year, I look back and miss aspects and people from when I was an assistant. I encourage (challenge) you to be soak in wherever you’re at and strive to obtain toned muscles of contentment. Because, no matter what step comes next, you wouldn’t have gotten there without the step you came from.

Give 100%, be kind, choose cheerfulness. Everything will be okay.

 

Start-Living-In-The-Now

 

 

 

 

 

Jessica.

This blog was originally created for one reason: to exhort those I love. If you dig through old posts you’ll discover several entries dedicated to one person. I shifted gears two years ago and focused on writing about topics, not people. Energy was spent elsewhere, yes, but my heart has missed encouraging those I love through writing. 

Welp, here I go again!

JESSICA FREEMAN.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

I met Jessie Boo at my Thursday night homegroup this past August. I had been absent for a month and returned to find new faces. Scanning the room I saw Jess and simply thought, “okay who is this beautiful woman who resembles Sara Bareilles AND Sophia Bush!? She could wear rags and still be a total bombshell.” While those two celebrities are beautiful, Jessica had an electric, striking joy that unknowingly enticed those around her. She puts people at ease instantly with her light-hearted, goofy persona. Never taking herself too seriously, Jess can effortlessly diffuse any tension in a room.

IMG_4694

Whether she’s around a bubbly, boy-attention seeking girl at church or in a crowd of elderly men, Jess is always herself. She walks with the confidence knowing she’s the only Jessica Freeman in the world and wouldn’t rather be anyone else. I’ve been in situations where she’s met strangers, interacted with parents and with close friends. In each setting, she doesn’t compromise who she is or her demeanor. I’m not saying Jess doesn’t identify with natural insecurities that may arise from feeling out of place, etc., but I commend her for not tapping into altering her personality to be more liked or comfortable in a setting.  She’s the kind of person who would literally say, “ha I know I’m being awkward you guys,” or, “to be honest I’m a little uncomfortable right now.” Without a doubt, honesty is tattooed on her soul.

FullSizeRender-5If you take a look at my close friends you’ll see a common thread: great communicators. Poor communicators weave out of my circle because communication is needed in order to have a healthy, ever-growing friendship. I admire Jess’s approach with communication. She’ll swallow uncomfortable conversations because she knows it’s healthy and respectful for both parties. When a friend (or herself) is in the wrong, she addresses the issue in complete truth, no matter how difficult the message is to deliver. Her opinions and advice haven’t always aligned with what my heart wanted to hear, but that’s one of the things that makes her a GOOD friend. In moments I share my heart, she uses wisdom and is quick to say, “I’m not going to say anything, I don’t have an answer.” Her intention is to care for the heart of her friends, which I can’t fully articulate my thankfulness for. Friendships can occasionally look like mirroring feelings: when you’re mad, you want a friend to be mad with you. If you don’t like someone, you want your friend to join the wagon. Jess will validate feelings and say, “I know this is sad and hard,” but if she sees a perspective you don’t see or acknowledge, she’s the first to say, “ok Mare this is hard but look at it this way…” and redirect me to something fresh.

12400452_10208449942034532_7428962660768127039_n

In the short amount of time I’ve known her, she’s a FIGHTER. Describing her as intentional is an understatement and I’ve sat on this section simply perplexed. She’s a friend who constantly checks in, seeks quality time, and is a quick responder to texts/calls. When she chooses to love someone she goes hard and fights through obstacles with complete determination. Sleep is optional for her – if a friend had a bad day she’ll wake up early to fit them in her day, or call late at night to hear their heart. Her heart is relentless. When if comes to loving her people, she stops at nothing.

FullSizeRender-3

Unsolicited advice is the worst. The worst thing is when a friend interrupts with biased commentary. Out of anyone I know, Jess is the best at NOT doing this and would never share her opinion unless asked or encouraged. Once she is comfortable with you she’ll know when/if it’s wise to share voluntarily, but I trust those moments because she speaks from such a beautiful place. Moreover, she prioritizes truth. Coddling friends with what they want to hear will not happen from her. Her voiced thoughts come from a well of wisdom, and I always leave our conversations feeling “friend-hydrated.”

 

 

FullSizeRender-6
Her cute, pressed-lip smile

People have said I’m easy to read. Some have been SO confident in thinking they can read me they’ve repudiated my voiced feelings if it didn’t align with their perception. Not fun.
Jess, however, is different. I feel in many ways God downloaded the “Mary” software in her and she is able to read me in areas friends can’t. We were in a crowd last week and I was smiling, chatting with several people. Once I got to her she stared in my eyes, took a few seconds to search them (not creepy or anything) and said, with her gracious, cute, pressed-lip smile, “you’re saying you’re fine but you’re not. I love you.”

I wasn’t fine.
Nope.

Not.at.all.

 

I looked at her and said, “GOSH how do you just KNOW.” Without hesitating she said, “you have to accept that I know you Mary Lou.”
We’ve had many of these moments, and I’m slowly accepting that she understands my demeanor in ways I’m not used to friends knowing.

I laugh at her non-stop. Even when she’s being serious I laugh. Jess could be driving saying, “literally I can’t even with this traffic,” and I’d burst out laughing. For the longest time I couldn’t pinpoint why I instinctively laughed, and if someone laughed at me the way I laugh at her I would be creeped out. Finally, I locked down the reason: I take great delight in her. She’s endearing, quirky (in the best way possible), pure, funny…simply the easiest person to love and enjoy. Just as I have an image of God downloading the “Mary” software in Jess, I believe He gave me His eyes for her. God delights in us, and I’m getting a little taste of what that means. I enjoy her in all moods, I deeply care for her, and no matter what she’s going through, I like being there for her.

 

FullSizeRender-1
Caitlin, me and Jess

Spiritually, we’re on the same page. We both stand firm in convictions many, MANY friends of mine don’t. I’ll never forget being at a sleepover with several ladies talking to her and another kindred spirit Caitlin. I was sharing a story and said, “I’m not sure where you two stand on spiritual giftings…prophecy, speaking in tongues, etc. bu-” and they interrupted, eyes wide saying, “YES YES YES girl. We are there.” Giddiness came over us because it’s rare to find people who have a similar foundation as you — ESPECIALLY in Los Angeles. No matter what you believe, when you find someone who wholeheartedly believes and walks out their beliefs similar to you, connection is bound to happen.
Thankful, grateful, blessed, honored, privileged. I think of those words when I think of Jess. She’s truly a diamond in the rough, one in a million person. I was not expecting to walk in my small group back in August and leave with a kindred spirit. I feel like all of last year God was smiling being all, “man, I can’t wait for Jess and Mary to meet.” Her friendship has been one of the best gifts.

FullSizeRender

Her heart, joy and gifting’s will change the world. She impacts everyone she interacts with because her genuine, truth-filled voice shoots to the heart and people leave feeling truly cared for by her. Being a friend to someone with such beautiful qualities is an honor. I’m regularly inspired, challenged, encouraged and comforted by her. I wish everyone had a Jessica Freeman in his or her life, but there’s only one.

 

So, safe to say I hit the friend jack-pot #amiright

FullSizeRender-2
Just a few of us who’ve been blessed with her friendship

 

 

 

When You Receive Perspective

Screen Shot 2018-08-14 at 10.37.44 AM.png

Brad Paisley boomed through my ’97 Acura Integra. My phone buzzed with a text at a stop sign.

 “Well, good talking to you Mar. Hope all stays well.”

I forcedly smacked the volume knob and welcomed sad, angry tears. Aggressively swerving through the winding roads of my neighborhood I sat in front of my house, head resting on the steering wheel. I had been talking to a boy who, for the sake of privacy, I’ll name Guy. Guy had been talking to me for months and, without any explanation, grew shorter and shorter with me. Anyone with an IQ above 90 knows his last text was communicating, “please don’t continue this conversation. I’m trying to politely shut it down.”

phone.gifClassic 18 year old options for how to handle this are:
1) Send an aggressive text back. Maybe something like, “SCREW YOU.”
2) Mozzy inside and sit in front of the TV all mopey and miserable.
3) Call a girlfriend and hate on the guy for an hour.
This story is now going to take a dramatic turn because I did not choose any of the three options — even though I wholeheartedly wanted to.

Instead, I put both hands on my stomach and prayed, “God, give my future kids the heart you gave me. I feel like no one has a heart like mine and I yearn for my kids to understand compassion and empathy. I don’t want any of my sons to send a text like that, because I want them to understand what that communicates to a girl….and I don’t want my daughters to receive a text like that. And if they do, I want them knowing they dodged a bullet — they didn’t take one.”

what.gif
I hope my “heart like mine” comment doesn’t read as being emotionally full of myself. I was shocked by my response, it felt like an out of body prayer.  I wasn’t expecting my heart to go from feeling rejected to praying for my kids I don’t even have or, honestly, at 18, was thinking about.

Abruptly praying for my future kids came in a moment where all I was concerned about was myself. God intervened and shifted my perspective. That was one of the few times I KNEW and FELT God hearing my prayer. It was an intimate, special moment. I felt Him speak to my heart saying, “Mary I live inside of you, my heart is shown through you….pray for them to know Me and they’ll know you all the more.”
That’s a lot to chew on. The meat of this post begun cooked as medium, but I just cooked it longer so I hope that’s good, err, well with you. #momjoke

K, moving on.

My heart shifting drastically was not God discrediting the sting in my heart. It was Him revealing a bigger picture. My worth, my value, was not quilted between the stitches of this guy. He didn’t know my heart; he didn’t know what I had to offer. Rejection looks like that though — it feels like an expiration sticker being slapped on a package that has yet to be opened. Through that we, the package, feel like we have to prove ourselves and do everything in our power NOT to get the sticker. What’s the point though? If someone doesn’t want to get to know you….THEIR LOSS. Each person holds value and treasures worth of being pursued, but ain’t nobody got time for knowing each person’s heart fully. Heaven scheduled that in, not earth.

adele.gif

Rejection stings. I’m not disputing that. The 30 minutes following Guy’s text could have been detrimental for my heart. Fortunately, I received perspective: Guy didn’t truly know me, there is a man who will one day WANT to know me, and God deeply cares about the children He’ll (hopefully) give me to raise one day.

Before I move forward I want to tie the bow on my, “praying for future kids” moment. Reading about praying for future kids could be weirding some of you out, and that’s understandable. They aren’t even born yet so, what will praying do? As someone who prays more than she talks to any of you, I have strong thoughts and convictions about what prayer can do for the future. In this specific moment, however, God knew I needed perspective and something to cling to. Veering my thoughts to future kids was evidently not of my flesh. If a stranger sat down and shared a similar situation they’ve had with a guy/girl I would not say, “think of your future kids!” No, no I would not. That situation was so specific to my heart and my relationship with Jesus.

I’m an open book to those I trust, but being vulnerable to the web is harder. I’m breaking out of my comfort zone here because I want to encourage you. I encourage you in every day situations, especially hurtful ones such as the one shared above, to ask the Holy Spirit to adjust your mindset to a bigger picture. He knows what perspective, what picture you need.

Onward!

Roughly a week after Guy’s text, perspective got blurry. I allowed feelings to win and caved. My heart (and eyeballs) cried out:
“Why didn’t he want to know me?!”
“What is wrong with me?!”
“How could he not give an explanation?!”
I felt defeated. I vividly remember hiding under my covers crying one night — everything was out of my control. I missed Guy, I still checked my phone several times a day in hopes of him texting me, but all notifications were from my mom. In the stillness of the night, I felt the Holy Spirit speak to my heart saying, “It isn’t that you aren’t ready, it’s that I’m not ready to share you.”

Bam.

God knew, once again, my heart needed to feel comforted. What felt like rejection now felt like provision. In the midst of pain, as long as our eyes are on Him, we can’t escape His best. I am SO thankful my heart heard those words because I had been feeling unlovable and worthless. Sounds a tad dramatic but, seriously, it’s pathetic how little a guy (pun intended) can do for a girl to feel utterly unimportant. Thankfully, my pain was used for growth and strengthened my sensitive, tender 18 year-old soul.

corner

2009-2012 holds lessons learned from a multitude of guy hiccups. During those years I didn’t hear another gold nugget from God regarding my love life. I just had His, “I’m not ready to share you” statement to hold. During my third year of college I believe He said two things. The first was, “the man I have for you is not in Kansas City,” and the second being, “I can’t wait for you to live your love story. Trust My timing.”

Midwest mentality is to find your spouse in college and if you don’t, then, bye. Something is wrong with you. Most, if not all my friends during college, had a significant other. Many of them are engaged, even married now. Some pregnant, some with two kids. Being a Jr. and hearing I would go the next year and a half without a HOPE of meeting the man God had for me was at first extremely difficult. I probably wrote in my journal, “WHAT is the point of living!?!?!?! What am I doing here?! Where the flip IS he then so I can MARCH there?!”

Once I internally processed everything, my soul exhaled and I rested in believing I wasn’t going to meet “the one” for the next year and a half. I was fine — believing that positioned me to fully embrace independence. If you saw me on campus you knew I wasn’t messing around with life. My life revolved around enhancing my education, picking up any and all shifts to prevent debt, and investing all free time deepening friendships.

33
#professionalthirdwheel

Don’t get me wrong, I developed crushes. My college roommate Christiana can especially attest to this. Sometimes I’d twist things around and think, “maybe he isn’t from Kansas but VISITING Kansas….maybe he wasn’t in Kansas THEN… but now, because of like, free will, he’s HERE.” Dwelling in that space never lasted long. My gut knew better.

 

Throughout the years I’ve been told I’m a steady, strong woman.

I am.

I have full confidence in knowing my strength. It took years for me to be confident in my confidence because I never wanted to come off prideful or full of myself. There’s a clear difference and I’m thankful to rest in that now. I trust my strength because in the hardest of moments, I chose to obey time and time again. I’ve gone through turbulence and have ultimately landed. I chose “no” to things my flesh wanted, all because I saw a bigger picture. For me, God gave me the big picture of future kids. Do I want my kids to have a mom who did drugs, slept around, swore like a sailor or didn’t do her best with what she was given- such as school or a job? Personally, I don’t.
Disclaimer: I’m not living FOR my kids. I live to glorify God, strive to be more like Jesus everyday and be a good steward with what I’m given. Who knows, God may not have kids for me — nothing is promised. But y’all, I do think about what legacy I’m leaving, the mark I want to leave on this earth. If I died when I was 20, what life would I have left? If I died today, what would people remember me as?

Wherever you’re at in life, seek wisdom for a bigger picture. There’s purpose in the pain. Your scars, your tears cried in secret are not lost on God. Release all burdens to Him, verbally express where you’re at, and be still. See what He’ll do. He knows what perspective YOUR heart needs. If you receive a gold nugget, hold on to that. It has been seven years since hearing, “…it’s that I’m not ready to share you yet.” I thought God would be ready after one, maybe two years — certainly not more than FIVE. Looking back on what my story has been though, I’m thankful I chose singleness for that year and a half and to clung to my nugget. I’ve had years to grow and mature alongside Jesus and through that, our relationship is pretty solid. One day I’ll (hopefully) be led to grow and mature with someone, but that’s in His timing. Whether it’s another five days, five months or five years, I can trust in His timing. I have the confidence you can too.