4 reasons I’m writing as a “Titus 2” woman

If I were to write a book, it would be called something like, “A Hot Mess + A Dumpster Fire: Inside My Thirties & My Faith”. It would basically be about how very hard life during this decade AS A CHRISTIAN.

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It no longer shocks me how many people think that becoming a believer in Christ means that your life becomes easier. Don’t agree? Think about how many people distance themselves in their relationship with God when something really painful or unexplainable happens to them or someone they love.

From about 31 years old to 41 years old, most of my days were difficult; filled with so many moments of pain and hard to comprehend tragedies. I often questioned God’s power, plan and sometimes I even questioned His love for me.

Before I was a widow, we’d had troubles in our marriage.

And then he died and I was grieving and struggling with those marriage troubles. I was ashamed and embarrassed in my grieving. I attempted to numb the pain by drinking and traveling. I was vulnerable in every arena that I found myself in – with women who were close friends, church members + leaders, employers and co-workers, peers and even some family members.

And because of what God has brought me through, I just know that I have to share my story.

Here are four reasons I’m attempting to write my story as a Titus 2 woman:

1 • I longed to talk to a faithful woman to who could listen, hear and relate

I felt desperate to talk to a woman who had experienced even a sliver of what had happened to me and who would be real about how hard and messy it could be; how emotionally unglued I would be for so much of that decade as I attempted to get my feet back under me.

I was often longing to have a woman hear my story and not feel sorry for me, try to fix me or make it about them. I often shared my story with women who were not to be trusted with my story because I was so desperate to make a connection to another woman who could understand that kind of pain.

While going through it, my healing was often stunted by well-intentioned (or what I need to believe were well-intentioned) folks who detonated more grief by their unknowing. They would want to help but would compound my hurt into harm with what they spoke what they would do if they were in my situation or when they would liken it to their own thing which seemed planets away from what I was feeling. (Don’t tell me about your grandparent who lived to be 89 years old dying when I’m blubbering about burying my 33yo husband. Not right now, thank you very much.)

2 • I longed to talk to a faithful woman who would help me make tough decisions without attempting to control me, taking advantage of me or shaming me

It was not just these kinds of things that made that time difficult. I made tons of horrible decisions that were often smothered in rebellion, desperation, and fear. For example, saying yes to a second marriage that neither one of us should have been in.

I have needed to ask for forgiveness for the things I’ve done to others in my own hurt, escalating an already difficult situation. Many of my poor, impulsive, pain-driven decisions turned a very tragic loss turned into a whole decade of hot messes and dumpster fires. Maybe I will write that book. Perhaps, it’s time to tell that story.

All of it.

3 • I long to help other women know that they do not have to walk through hard things alone

Because every time I sit across from a woman who thinks I can help her better navigate her life’s challenges, grow in her faith in spite of her circumstance or just hear her as she speaks her hard realities aloud, I can relate to her pain. I can hear her hurt and instantly, I feel connected to her.

And in that, I long to help her know that she can survive “it” (whatever it is). And that if she really wants me to, I can help her do the work she needs to in order to experience the victory and then thrive.

4| I long to believe that my story is not just for/about me.

I don’t want my experience to go to waste. I don’t want to believe that all that I went through was just to make me a better person. I also don’t want women to feel like they have to figure everything out on their own or navigate new spaces and seasons as if they are needing to do it independently, laced with comparison and competition.

It makes me think of the scriptures in the Bible that talk about these kinds of relationships between women.

“But you are to proclaim things consistent with sound teaching. Older men are to be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and submission to their husbands, so that God’s work will not be slandered.” | Titus 2:1-5

Y’all, I have not perfectly achieved this. And that is not really my goal. But in the past 6 months, as I sit and talk and connect with women in their deepest areas of hurt and shame, it’s clear to me that almost every conversation I have with women can be connected to these verses; especially the part about my showing up as an “older woman” encouraging younger women in their hard seasons and spaces.

I’m not proclaiming that I have anything all figured out. That would be laughable. But, I have learned a lot about the “reverent behavior” by doing a lot of not so reverent things. Wondering if you’re a Titus 2 woman? I appreciate this insight: 10 Signs You’re a Titus 2 Woman.

I thank God for His grace (one of my “one little words” for the year) which helps me to see myself more honestly and to share my story here without shame or apology. And to love women as a Titus 2 woman as a few godly, powerful, amazing gems have done for me.

That’s my heart. To share boldly and without fear for the encouragement of other women, especially as women and for women in the church. And because I believe in the power of God’s forgiveness, love, and mercy for His imperfect creations – us. Us who are messy, inconsistent, rebellious, disrespectful, hard-headed, prideful, overzealous, judgmental, critical, undisciplined, divisive and hurtful people. And that’s often before we have tragic things attempt to wreck our souls.

I am and have been all of these things through some horrible, tragic things and want to share with other women to be of help and encouragement as they navigate these hard spaces and places. In the words of Erin Davis, Bible devotional writer, “These aren’t things we inherently know. According to God’s Word, these virtues must be taught. And who should be our teachers? Other women! Women who’ve walked the path of faith ahead of us and can turn and say, ‘Follow me as I follow Jesus.'”

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sharing your story without shame

This past weekend, I shared my story with a small group of women.

It wasn’t the first time I’d shared parts of my story, but it was the first time I’d shared so many of the parts that have kept me shamed and stuck.

It’s evident that it was the right time and the right audience because I did not sweat it as I stood up to introduce myself, nor did I consider the outcome or place expectations upon their responses. I shared openly and without hiding.

It was dark stuff. The stuff that trolls and haters feed off of. The stuff that loved ones hear and then shut off a part of their heart because your story tries to address + awaken things in them, but they are not ready for it, and it affects the relationship. Things that make us feel like we’re completely crazy, damaged, and undervalued. The kind of things that we think sharing might actually kill us in some way. Like I said, dark…

Anywho, I introduced myself and started talking. Never once did I second guess whether it would be safe or appropriate or necessary. I did not spend time wondering what should be edited to be made better or censored to be more tolerable. I shared what happened to me after my first husband died, how people treated me, how I behaved, thoughts I’d had and that the thread keeping me alive and moving forward was/is my faith. I shared about being a single mom – many times, not the best one – and my “adventures” through dating and online dating to my third marriage.

I “went there” y’all, because the weekend was about empowering women.  And because I knew that there was no freedom like telling and owning one’s story – especially the messy, less pretty parts we bust our hind parts to gussy up for the public.

My particular connection to these women was to them being war or veteran-related widows. It had been a while since I’d been in front of a group of women as a sharer, facilitator, and leader – but I’d done some growing and believed I was ready and empowered enough to share.

Empowerment Gathering

March 2019 | Gary Sinise Foundation, Empowerment Gathering I

It was phenomenal.

Phenomenal not because it was easy, but because I shared without second-guessing myself or doubting that it was the right thing to do. It was liberating. And it was empowering. For me and these women whom I chose to trust these parts of my story.

There was a release because I’d done this courageous thing and did not apologize for any of what I shared or how I delivered it. And it wasn’t because someone told me what to share or how to share it. I had prayed about my role during this weekend and knew that the most earnest, valuable thing I had to offer these women was my story. To speak it from the depths of my soul.

More of it than I’d ever shared with almost no trust built up amongst ourselves; I shared on our very first night and after only a few hours of being in the same space together.

But I didn’t get there overnight. I wouldn’t have been able to share like I did – unapologetically and without shame – even four or five years ago and I have been telling parts of my story for over a decade; oftentimes to the wrong people because of what they wanted to do with it and even the right people but in the wrong season (either theirs or my own).

Part of knowing that I could share courageously was because I’d been doing the work.

For years, I’ve been hustling and running and hiding and circling back without much of a map. And then I realized I had been doing a few helpful things consistently. Here are three of them:

ONE: IDENTIFYING + ADDRESSING MY FEELINGS

For years, I’ve been filling journals with all the words inside myself.

After deciding that it meant more to me to have a healthy release than concern myself with what someone might feel when reading what I wrote (that wasn’t their business), I wrote more freely. It has been incredibly effective for helping me understand what I’m feeling and process what may be happening in my mind. Most days, I read my Bible and apply what I’ve read to what I’m feeling and thinking, and then journal about it.

The contents are unedited and thoughts flow more easily when I journal daily.

TWO: GETTING HELP

I’ve been to several many therapists, participated in a peer-grief support group and shared slices of my story with many along the way. My momma also knows (almost) all of my stories. I’ve paid for some help, insurance has covered some of it and sometimes crying to my family and a few trusted friends was exactly what I needed to be able to remain curious about what could come from knowing and boldly sharing my story without shame.

This was the step that I needed to push through most often. In an effort to get help, it turned into wanting to please people; something that I’m still needing to lean on God’s promises about who He says I am to combat. It was also too much pressure to put onto people who cared for me and had the best intentions. Learning to boldly share without shame frees people up from feeling sympathy and pity (ick, ick, ick) effectively shutting down any desire for me to share more.

Finding the right people/person is key, but there has to be some “just you” work too.

THREE: LEARNING ABOUT SHAME + VULNERABILITY

Towards the end of my second marriage, we were asked to read, “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown. I read the entire book, but our sessions stopped because I was the only person doing the reading and the work attached. It was the beginning of understanding my own imperfections and how shame penetrates so much of our stories, which impacts how small we live.

Brown’s research and findings of shame and vulnerability were so eye-opening for me, often speaking to parts of my soul that I’ve often ignored or quieted because I was so overwhelmed. I’d stopped being willing to look honestly at the truths (the wonderful and horrific) in my story which made it near impossible to share it with others.

Since then, I’ve read her books, “Daring Greatly” and more recently, “Rising Strong” (got mine from the library) and have been convicted that the path to connection is directly related to how willing I am to own my story and then share it.

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So when I shared so much of my story without hesitation, reservation or apology and did it with impact, I realized how important it is for me to keep sharing my story – the big tragic chapters as well as the smaller challenges – and inviting and encouraging other women to do the same; without shame.

What about you, soul tender? When’s the last time you shared your powerful, impactful story without apology?

 

 

 

 

 

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when your soul gets off track

I think this is why I read my Bible before opening any app or reading any messages from others…

This morning, I woke up knowing I had a long list of things to do. I’d sent out a pretty significant email last night and wanted to check and see how “it had done”. You know, I basically wanted to check the approval rating.

So, I went to my phone to check and respond to hubby’s morning text (he sends one every day that he commutes to Dallas for work) and then opened my email. There was another response and it wasn’t bad per se, but it wasn’t really complimentary either. Or rather, I didn’t take it that way. My feelings, on the way down into my soul where the truth lies, immediately begin to prickle and the temptation to remain in envy and hurt and negative thinking (hoping something good didn’t actually work out for someone else) hit me like a huge wave.

Now before you roll your eyes and think, “Again? This woman is always writing about stuff that is vulnerable, tempting or hard,” please try to hear me. Not because I want you to feel sorry for me, but so that you can see if there is anything here for you.

This other woman – busy entrepreneur, making an impact in the world – is taking her path and kicking tail. She is different than me, perhaps further along the road than I am and she lives by a different set of principles than I do. But she works hard and is successful and she offered her help to me.

My ego was is bruised. You see, I automatically judged, blamed and criticized her because I’m stuck in old stories,  overwhelmed by old ways of thinking. I’ve bought the junk pile of accusation, taking sides and the definition of “better” from the status quo in our society and even as a regular church attending, daily Bible reading, worshipping Jesus lover child of God. I still have to make the effort to work through these things.

I’ve found that I’m most successful when I address things like this quickly. It basically helps keep the impending train wreck (happening within my soul) to a minimum.

I’m better than I was, but…there was still a bit of damage. Before, I would have responded to her email right away with a “fake it til you make it” message. Not authentic, steeped with resentment, criticism or something ungodly. I didn’t do that, so yay for a small victory.

But I did go to her Facebook page and scoff when reading some of the more recent posts (totally appropriate and hard-earned successes) I saw there.

Then I crashed myself into shame.

In “Soul Keeping: Caring For The Most Important Part of You”, author John Ortberg, talks about the self versus the soul.

“Ironically, the more obsessed we are with our selves, the more we neglect our souls. 

All of our language reflects this. If you’re empty, you need to fulfill yourself. If you’re stressed, learn how to take care of yourself. If you’re on a job interview, you have to believe in yourself. If you’re at the tattoo parlor, you must learn to express yourself. If you someone dares to criticize you, you have to love yourself. If you’re not getting your own way, you have to stand up for yourself. What should you do on a date? You ought to be yourself

What if your life is a train wreck? What do you do then? 

Self is a stand-alone, do-it-yourself unit, while the soul reminds us we are not made for ourselves.”

A train wreck doesn’t usually take over an entire train track, but wherever it occurs, it causes enough damage to be tragic. No matter the wreck, the impact and destruction will need to be cleaned up and the accident evaluated so that it can be addressed and hopefully never occur again.

This is why I shared my less than stellar moment from that morning. It needs to be addressed – not harshly or with self-flagellation – but with God’s grace, His word and in prayer.

There are some stories I’m telling myself. On repeat. And most of them are not good. Like the story that just because someone is seemingly doing more or doing better does not mean that I’m doing less or doing worse. I can easily find many scriptures about “comparing yourself to others“. I read them and understand them on a head level and even perhaps on a heart level, but where I’m hoping to really let them sink in and change me is on a soul level.

“Innately we know that the self is not the soul, even as we do everything we can to preserve it.”

I am on this soul tending journey.  Baring pieces of my soul to encourage others to do the same. Hear my heart. I know that you struggle with something in the depths of who you are. At some point, in some instance, you have asked after your soul in some way.  You’ve attempted to understand you better, why you responded the way you did or didn’t speak honestly about what you truly believed. On your pursuit to better know your soul, you’ve had some wrecks, gotten cleaned up and gleaned some answers, but you may still struggle to overcome the things that sent you off the tracks in the first place.

This is my encouragement to you today.

Sit on that email. Set your phone down and let that text bubble go away. Reschedule that coffee date. Postpone that conversation. And before you plow through that thing eating at you from deep within, take some time.

Get in your Bible, spend some time in prayer until you receive peace, seek wise counsel from someone who will hear you and guide you back onto the track safely with understanding and grace; headed back into the loving arms of Jesus who knows you’re a train wreck in need of His perfect love.

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