Sharing the Joy of Others

One of the biggest lessons I learned this last year is to share in the joy of others. In November, I took to my blog to write those reflections for my readers. It weighed on my heart. I stayed up until the early morning hours to finish it, eager to share my discoveries.

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In the last month, we have discussed the value of others, the variety of our life stories, and the importance of coming alongside other people on this long, hard, worthwhile journey. Thinking of others doesn’t come easily, we are selfish people — every single one of us. Considering others takes work, especially as we trudge through deep valleys of our own. However, I want to encourage you to not only look at other people, but to see themA task that requires purpose and thought.

Most of us have social media accounts. Whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest, we have accounts! While participating in these online communities, we often rebel against the perfection that our friends post. We wonder why we don’t have such beautiful lives. We judge our whole person-hood by likes on a photo. But last November, as I started to realize the uniqueness of my story, I also began to see the lives of my friends in a different way.

Our lives are something to be shared, not shown off. I pulled today’s reflections from my November blog post, “It’s Not about My Messy Life.” 

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 What if —

Instead of going against the tidal wave of edited photos and pretty life moments, I purposefully decided to enjoy the lives my friends are living.

What if —

I shared in their joy, took their happiness as my own, commented kindly and sincerely on the beauty, the laughter, the smiles, and the honest highlights of their lives.

What if —

It wasn’t about fixating on the mess, but deeply enjoying the mountaintops. And shouting a CONGRATS to those on the top when I am in the midst of a valley.

What if —

I delighted — relished — absorbed — cherished — held close the wonder and magic in the lives of my friends.

What if —

It’s not about me at all. Not even the stripped divulging of my mess. Not even the promoting of my world. But the sharing, the sharing of each other. Life to life. Bare of comparison, clothed in the joy of each other.

What if —

I threw back their joy double the size they had initially.

Honestly —

I should care less that its edited. That it looks perfect, pristine, and magical. I should care less if the Newsfeed is full of highlights that look nothing like my current life.

By now, I should be mature enough to inwardly, purposefully accept that life is messy and that my friends don’t have perfect lives. I should be mature enough not to compare my life to the edits. I should be well past the proving of my authentic existence.

I should value —

Knowing who to share parts of my mess with (hint: it’s not the whole world).

Knowing when to share the highlights.

Knowing when to share hardship and when to share wonder.

I should remember to hold the private moments — both good & bad — in the corners meant for my heart.

I should remember to live and cherish my own memories, nurture my personal relationships, and deepen the bonds in my life all without an audience.

And maybe —

I am given a daily chance to cherish the lives of others through the edited pictures, strings of happy moments, and special milestones posted on social media. And maybe that’s all OK. It might even be really good, because perhaps this is something I was meant to do: delight in the joy of others. 

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Can I just tell you how sharing in the joy of my friends and family has enriched my life? I am content in my story while sharing in other stories. Social media provides a way for me to be a small part of so many lives. That should not make me jealous, envious, or discontent. Rather, it should fuel joy, gratitude, and sincere relationships!

Living within your own story means hard work, but it is so worth it. As you live within your own story, don’t forget to look out and share in the lives of your friends and family. Don’t forget to see their joy and celebrate alongside them. When sharing, and not showing off, becomes the goal, the social media community becomes a joy, not a burden.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

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Thankful God Loves Me Enough to Trust Me

Today, as I received my voting ballot, the man said “you are so joyful.” I thanked him. The lady next to him complimented my outfit. She said “your colors go together so well. You look so nice.” I thanked her. After voting, I handed my ballot to the same lady. I said goodbye to both of them and as I walked away, they were both smiling and he said, “not too many are so …” I didn’t catch the rest but I choose to believe it was another positive compliment.

Now, sitting here working, my lovely friend sends me a text saying “I know you will like this.” (see picture) I not only like it. I LOVE it! Thank you God for shining through me!starletwarepicfornov2014article

Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

I sent “God’s got us ladies even when I’m flailing all about. :~)” to a couple sisters this morning. I absolutely love God and thank him ever so much for KNOWING, LOVING, CARING, PAYING ATTENTION TO ME and allowing me to be a participant in his plans to help encourage ‘my neighbors.’ He is giving me the desire of my heart. I have prayed “Lord, please let me be sweet.” I never thought it possible because I have such a deep voice, but God!

Since he wasn’t afraid to use ordinary, tossed aside, outcast people in the Bible, I won’t be afraid to let him use me in this current day where ever He chooses. Are you willing to allow him to live and shine through you?

“Some days are better than expected and other days are worse than expected, but God is consistent and loving through them all.”
Starlet

 

THANKFUL: Identity Crisis Solved

Years ago, I would have stolen someone else’s identity if I could have. Why?

Because I didn’t love myself and hated who I was.Identity-in-Christ1

Being me was never good enough or even “ok.”

I wanted so desperately to be told who I was. Why?

Because I didn’t know. I didn’t know what that looked like.

I had no concept of anything such as an “identity.”

So, I learned to rely on and took in too often the opinions of others (that were not Godly opinions and full of blessings). I became who I needed to be for those people in order to say I had an identity or because it brought attention to me that I desired so deeply.

  • If I needed to deny things I liked in order to fit in- ok!
  • If I needed to give and give until I had nothing else to give – ok!
  • If I needed to be the used and abused – ok! Sign me up!
  • If I thought it (whatever it was) would make people (especially men) love me – I was all in.

 

So, in order to get an identity – I did what I knew best at the time.

I decided in my own strength, that I would fix the situation.

Have you ever done that? Tried to take care of a situation yourself and failed.

Looking back on my life (Before Christ), I can see patterns and behaviors that screamed “I don’t know who I am and whoever this person is that I am – I hate her!” I overdid and under did things. I overdid to get recognition and under did because I didn’t want to overdo it and then “be too much to handle.” There was no balance.

The pain of rejection still hurt at times. I tried so hard to work for what I called “acceptance” and unconditional love by doing anything necessary.

Unconditional love and acceptance  can only come from God.

With everything, it’s not what you do, but your reason behind it.

I didn’t understand that. My reasons for doing a lot of things had been wrapped up in pride and brokenness of heart. (Anytime you make decisions as a result of a broken heart, it will always leave you more empty than you were before.) One of my favorite teachers often says, You can take that one to the emotional bank.

No group, no job, no organization, no nothing can accept me nor you like Christ. No person can give you your identity, purpose, and unconditional love.  It took me a long time to know that that’s the role of Christ and the authority belongs to Him. He was the one who formed us in the womb!

Thinking of times I wanted “in” to a group or a special relationship – yet wasn’t selected or “chosen” often haunted me.

What’s wrong with me? Why don’t they want me? Why won’t they love me?

My self-esteem was so low. I didn’t like the way I looked or dressed.  I often asked God, “Why did you make me like this if no one was going to like me or love me?” I felt like Romans 9:20-21 that says,

“But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

I wonder if any of you have you ever met people who, at times, come across as though their identity is wrapped up in someone or something, like a job or their status in a group? As though it made them? These people take offense at the simplest thing when they feel ignored and can demand that people respect them. These people often feel mistreated, overlooked, and are often on the defensive (and paranoid if you will, as if someone is out to get them (and most of the time, they are not.)  These people (who are deeply insecure), sometimes, believe they can only get respect by constantly reminding people that they are in charge or in control. It makes them feel important. When I meet people like this, I wonder… “Who gave you your identity? Surely it’s not in this job, this person, this thing, etc.”

These people spend a lot of time waiting for someone or something to give them a purpose that God has already given them…if they seek Him.

The bottom line is that we can’t force people to love us the way we need to be loved. We can’t force people to see the beauty and value in us. If we tried to do that, we would be let down and angry all the time.  (That was my issue)

We can’t even force Christ to love us.

As a result of God’s love for us and our love for Him, we will show compassion and do works on this Earth, but those works alone can’t save us or make Him love us more or less. We can’t sweet talk Him into loving us, but He does, even in our sin. Then, He delivers us from our sin.

Who wouldn’t want a love like that?

Who wouldn’t want someone like that to give us our identity?

I know I would want it. What about you?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8

Set free in Christ,
Katrina

 

Thankful For “Iron Sharpening Iron” Women

I am thankful for the best group of ladies surrounding me with encouragement, wise counsel, who also pray with and for me. They are from different walks of life, churches, jobs and businesses. God, thankfully, knows what he is doing.

asironsharpensironI mention my ladies because they have sharpened me, advised me, watched me grow, fall, cry, laugh, build my business, proofread for me, traveled with me and love me BIG. Do you have a support system in place to love you to health, wealth and growth? If not, I pray God fills your cup to overflowing with those you can be blessed by and be a blessing to as you walk the rest of your days on this earth. My ladies came to mind today as I write because of a situation that arose overnight. I prayed for all involved. I called ‘Z’ (not her real name) to ask if what I was thinking made sense. She said she had been there done that so her experience allowed her to advise me wisely. She said, go ahead and walk out what you’re feeling, but if I had time to meet with her in person, she was willing to do so because I need to care for me before I could ‘not care’ for others’ actions. She recognized (and mentioned) my emotions were high. We set a time to meet. It is wonderful to have someone’s full attention. See you soon ‘Z.’

Sunday, my ladies made me feel welcome at the ladies’ meeting. I had the pleasure of enjoying their questions of where have I been, even though I taught class two Sundays ago. We have lots of fun and their faces are a blessing to me.

Go out and hug your lady friends and or family who inspire you.

Till we meet again, God be with you!
Starlet Ware

 

THANKFUL: I Am Now a Slave to Righteousness

Romans 6:16, 22

16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?…22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

A few years ago, I had a drchainedhandseam. I dreamt I was a slave.

In the dream (set in the 1700—1800’s), the master was looking for me. I could sense that he was about to rape me. So, I ran down stairs! I had planned to escape once I got downstairs, but the “master” was right behind me. As I stood at the bottom of the stairs, I could see the front door, which was a screen door. Through the screen door, I saw nothing but pretty water, greenery, and sunshine.

But the door was locked. I couldn’t get free!

Then I turned around and saw the slave master standing behind me and I anticipated he was going to rape me so I screamed “Don’t!”

And I woke up. It terrified me.

Even recalling it now sends chills up my spine.

Looking back, that dream symbolized a lot of things going on with me at the time. Perhaps even now, many of you reading this may be able to relate. Why? You recognize 2 things:

  • At some point or another, all of us were slaves to a master of some kind; maybe several.
  • Whatever we submitted to, often became the domineering source in our life which made us…slave.

 

Something and perhaps someone, at some point was your master. You obeyed. You did what you were told. You responded a certain way. You behaved a certain way. You did things when you didn’t  want to (but yet something made you feel like you had to), yet you didn’t  know how to say no. You didn’t  know that  you could. Maybe you thought it was something you had to live with for the rest of your life.

For me  – my masters were my own foolishness, disobedience, giving in to deception and being enslaved by my passions and pleasures (Titus 3:3-7).

I didn’t say no. I thought I couldn’t  live without my masters.

As Titus goes on to describe, I lived in malice and envy – hating people. (Don’t know if I was hated though ☺)  However, when the kindness and love of my God and Savior appeared, he saved me. It wasn’t  because of righteous things I had done, but because of his mercy.

    • My foolishness resulted in purposely putting myself in dangerous situations where I didn’t know if I would be safe and secure.
    • My disobedience resulted in me purposely ignoring God to pursue my own agenda.
    • Me believing the lies of the enemy about my value resulted in me pursuing all sorts of relationships and activities while also compromising my worth.

I didn’t  reap any Godly benefits while a slave to my sin. Nothing I was doing was leading to holiness and eternal life. NOTHING.

My ungodly passions and pleasures kept me in bondage for years, yet I didn’t  want to let them go because I liked the way they made me feel. Those passions and pleasures made me temporarily forget that I had deeper issues (that I didn’t want to confront), yet I found myself after those passions and pleasures passed – still very empty and broken.

Years ago, when I had that dream about being a slave –  I had just rededicated my life to Christ and was baptized. I felt so free. My thought process was being adjusted and I could sense that I was spiritually maturing in a way that I had never known. I wanted people to begin to experience the feeling that I had just found—that joy.

But right after that dream, I shared it with a trustworthy person at the time. She had news for me.

She said that dream was the enemy’s way of telling me he wanted me and that I would never be free from the issues I had. I was to be his slave. He wanted me and planned to keep me by any means necessary.

That pretty greenery I was seeing through the screen door represented my life once I was no longer under his control. She then told me to war and to tell the devil that I had a new master – and his name was Jesus.

I did just that and haven’t looked back since. Why would I?  I found a love and He was too good!

He loved me for who I was…He was the one who made me and forgave me.

Beloved, as you reflect this week and even on this month, remember to be thankful for the Lord setting you free from whatever has you enslaved.

John 8:36 says it best:  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Forever in HIS freedom,
Katrina

Thankful

starletwarequote4I am thankful for my mother who loves me so much. When I walk into Sorenson Golden Living, her eyes light up. She does this little dance that I join in. I hug and kiss her. Yesterday, I sat at the dinner table with her and let her talk while I ate up all the saltine crackers left there by other residents. She told me to go ahead and eat them because they would be tossed if left. I did.

We moved our conversation from the dining area to her room. She asked “is Brandon still living with that lady’s son?” I said no, he is with 3 other guys. She said “Brandon needs to come back home or if he is going to be away from home, he should live by himself.” I love this woman’s mind. She is so right. Needless to say, I called my Brandon and told him what his grandmother said. So thankful she is still here to contribute to my life and his. He agrees with her thoughts of living on his own.

To all those who no longer have your mom or dad here to love on, please know this wasn’t written to make to you sad. I wanted to share how we can be thankful for the things our parents instilled in us, taught us or would have taught us if they were in a better place.

God is the ultimate father and he knows our every need. Let him love you like no one else can.

Till we meet again, God bless.
Starlet