Relationships

Searching For Deep and Real Relationships

Today’s Instagram culture doesn’t leave much room for the authentic. 

Woman lying on bed covering her faceHave an imperfection? No problem. There’s a filter for that! And who needs real friends when you can have 1,000 followers on Twitter? With the right lighting and proper angles, everyone can look like anyone but their real selves.

The world looks at the exterior, leaving people frantic about covering blemishes. No one is perfect. But society can pressure us to fake it.

Some of us just barely getting by. But does anyone notice? It seems maybe not. 

I came across this – more than once, in times when I needed someone to care, to see my wounds, to help heal them. Or at least, acknowledge they exist.

I remember a time that I was panicking, burying my face into my pillow. The father of my children had just walk out on me. After a terrible weekend of wrestling with what to tell my kids I had to return to work that Monday. 

The entire drive to work my body seemed numb. It was a miracle I managed to stumble through the doors of my job. Then my heart started racing all over again. “What will people say? What are they going to think?” I was practically hyperventilating. 

There she was… The receptionist. What now?! I was nearly hysterical drumming up an excuse for my appearance when she uttered, “Fine, fine, thanks. You?”

Exactly. What. Just. Happened?

Not only was she oblivious to my bloodshot raccoon eyes, but she didn’t even take the time to notice me. She didn’t so much as ask how I was doing. Then maybe she’d know something was off and offer me her ear, a shoulder to cry on, a prayer or at least a tissue. 

Had our conversations gotten so superficial that she was answering a question I never asked? This woman, my coworker, someone I’d consoled in the past…just totally blew me off.

At first, I’ll admit I was shocked. Then I was relieved. If we kept our conversations light enough, I’d never have to go deeper, touching on my feelings and explaining the battle I was facing. Or worse, my part in it all that helped create such a mess. 

I chuckled at the irony of it all. But soon I got upset. Then sad. The experience was so perplexing…

Unfortunately, my children had a similar experience the summer their grandmother died. It was so sad watching them suppress their feelings. And worse, seeing them attempt to open up just to be shut down before they could even begin. 

Later on we saw friends– real friends–that Friends laughingdidn’t say a word about the death. They just opened their arms into which my kids went running. My children clung onto them, without words, letting out all their stored tears.

That summer I made it my mission to listen intently. To give people my full attention. I couldn’t change those who had hurt me but I could change me. I wanted to show others I cared. If I had time, I’d ask them follow up questions and I’d actually hear their answers. I’d also watch for body cues and notice voice inflections.

Their stories were astounding. From the receptionist who was walking two miles to night school after work, to the single mother who’d just moved in with her dad after his cancer diagnosis, to my daughter’s classmate recently placed into her third foster home… So sad. Each person I spoke to carried a burden too heavy for surface-level chitchat. I wasn’t able to lighten their load but I let them know I cared.

Scripture says tells us to “cast all our anxieties on God, because he cares for us” (1 Peter 5:6-7). And God does more than care.  He sees, hears, comforts, helps, strengthens, loves us, and fights for us.

I understand now and seek to do better everyday. That fall I learned struggles hide behind each person’s smile. I learned to focus more intently on my friends, family and colleagues. I extended a little more grace and lent a shoulder to those I felt needed it.

Since then, I do my best not to dismiss God when He talks to me either. I highly encourage you to do the same. To go deeper, to find that something real and fully experience His presence. To open ourselves to Him. To be vulnerable and allow His grace to permeate our lives. It’s something I work on still today.

Have you have ever felt overlooked or dismissed? How can you grow deeper in your relationship with God and others? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Before you go, have you checked out our next Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health, yet? You can find it HERE.

Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plangrow in your relationships as you learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and set the healthy boundaries that will allow your relationships to thrive.

And make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram.

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Grace, Loving Others, Relationships, Uncategorized

The Perfect Christian

A few years ago, I thought my faith was strong, until I encountered a friend who acted like an enemy. I didn’t know how to deal with her desire for competition and rivalry. Instead of putting my faith into practice and responding with kindness, bitterness took hold. As I went to God for help, He taught me that withholding mercy in relational strife doesn’t lead to peace. Instead, as hard as it is, we’re called to love others even when they act hurtfully.  

In Matthew 5:48, Jesus said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That command seemed impossible and daunting in my situation until I truly understood what it meant.

Teleios is the original Greek word in this passage for perfect, which when translated, means complete, full grown, having reached the end. In essence, He’s calling us to be completely mature in faith, fully grown up in love. Notice this word has nothing to do with making mistakes. It’s about reaching completion. 

In Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus showed us what this looks like: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45 ESV). 

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Our faith is complete, in part, when we love our enemies and pray for people who’ve wronged us. When we do so, Jesus says we demonstrate that we’re children of God. This is the type of love our Father modeled when, despite our sin and rebellion, He sent Jesus to die for our sins.

Praise God that our Father’s love for us is complete and perfect, despite all our blunders and moral failings. Knowing that makes me want to be more like Him. This means, when our neighbor is rude, we don’t retaliate. If someone betrays us, we forgive. When others come against us, we pray for them. And with each act of mercy and grace our faith is more Teleios, more complete, more perfect, just like our Heavenly Father.

How has God perfected your faith lately? Who challenges your patience or takes rather than gives? Pray for them and give grace knowing your loving actions will build your faith.

Join the conversation in the comments below and connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!

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Relationships

When Women Encourage Rather Than Criticize or Compete

quote on loving others well

Blessing and Bonding

By Victoria Mejias

Ever feel like you don’t belong? I have. I still do.

I have one older brother. I never had a sister. And for a long time, I was the only girl on my mom’s side of the family. So growing up, I tended to be closer to my aunts. I longed for that camaraderie among women. I wasn’t getting it at school.

In fact just about every girl I thought was my friend growing up, turned out to be catty and gossiped about me. I couldn’t understand it. Most of the gossip and rumors they spread weren’t true.

It didn’t take long for me to keep to myself. I focused on my studies–hard. I graduated high school as fast as I could, at the age of 16, just to get out of that place. My mom and I had recently moved here from the east coast and boy was it a culture shock!

Back east, it’s such a melting pot that no one notices race or ethnicity. That wasn’t the case when I moved to Nebraska. Right away I learned I didn’t belong. Our family is from Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory in the Caribbean. I was born in New York, NY. But that didn’t seem to matter.

I’d immediately get asked if I was in the country legally; if I was Mexican or Guatemalan; if I had a visa; if I had any good enchilada recipes…Till then, I had never even tasted an enchilada.

I stuck out – and not in a good way.

I enrolled in college at the age of 16 and persevered there, too. But I didn’t want to. I wanted to belong to something so badly. I’ve always had this nagging feeling that I was made for more. It’s what led me to Christ. But prior to that I searched for places of acceptance and none of them worked out well for me. I explored joining a sorority to have that sisterhood I longed for.

Long story short – that didn’t end well either.

After college, I married and had children. Boy did I want female bonds then. Pregnancy scared me! It didn’t help that both of my pregnancies were back to back, at risk, and I ended up on bedrest for one.

I called my mother, grandmother, aunts and any woman I could think of who had had children to hear about their experiences. I had questions, lots of them! I’m a planner at heart and needed to know what to expect.

I’m so grateful for the handful of women in my life I could trust and lean on during those times.

This reminds me of a story from Luke Chapter 1 where a newly pregnant Mary, Jesus’ mother, went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. I cannot imagine what Mary was thinking.

Nevertheless, she visits her cousin who is also expecting. I love Elizabeth’s reaction. Though also pregnant, she wasn’t jealous because Mary carried God’s Son. She didn’t drill her with questions or pry into how Mary conceived and second-guess who the father was. No. She blessed her.

Scripture says,“ In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women,and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” (Luke 1:42-43, NIV).

And Elizabeth was blessed by Mary’s visit.

“‘As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’” (Luke 1:44-45, NIV).

What would the world look like if women banded together, leaned on one another, and blessed each quote pulled from post on gray backgroundother no matter the circumstance? What if we rid the world, or at least our circle of gossip? What if during life’s trials, we reminded each other that we are blessed and loved by the Lord Most High?

The Bible addresses how poisonous gossip can be. And I firmly believe that women are created with a divine and irreplaceable purpose. I have never understood the need-to-know curiosity and temptation to gossip. But I have seen the damage that it causes.

I’m certain that’s why I’ve gained the confidence of some pretty amazing women locally, nationally, and around the world. Eventually I did find a bond with women, one I wouldn’t trade anything for. And I’m raising a daughter that is approaching teenage years. My prayer is that she’d focus on uplifting others, rather than tear anyone down. I pray that for all women. I pray that for me and you.

What are ways you stay in community with women who keep you rooted and growing in Scripture? How can you invest in women seeking to deepen their relationship with Christ?

My hope is that women everywhere would join forces, encourage and remind one another that we are each wholly loved by God.

Let’s talk about this! How easy is it for you to celebrate someone else’s wins? If it’s hard, why do you think that is? How might remembering we serve a sovereign God of abundance help? Share your thoughts, stories, and examples with us in the comments below or on our Facebook Page, because we can all learn from and encourage one another. You can also connect with us on Instagram.

If today’s post encouraged you, make sure to check out our latest Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health. You can find it HERE.

Get to Know Victoria:

Victoria Mejias is a graduate of the University of Nebraska – Omaha and attended the University of Nebraska College of Law prior to making a leap into public service. She has nearly 20 years of experience in the private, public, legal and non-profit sectors. She has previously served as the Missions and Small Groups Pastor at StoneBridge Christian Church and the Development Director for Open Door Mission / Lydia House. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Heartland United for Puerto Rico and her past service includes a variety of other boards.

Victoria Mejias is a graduate of the University of Nebraska – Omaha and attended the University of Nebraska College of Law prior to making a leap into public service. She has nearly 20 years of experience in the private, public, legal and non-profit sectors. She has previously served as the Missions and Small Groups Pastor at StoneBridge Christian Church and the Development Director for Open Door Mission / Lydia House. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Heartland United for Puerto Rico and her past service includes a variety of other boards.

Victoria received her Certification in Urban Ministries from the Dallas Theological Seminary’s Urban Ministry Institute in 2012. She has spoken at a variety of venues on matters of leadership, diversity, spirituality and faith– locally, nationally and internationally as far out as Damoh, India at the World Leaders Evangelical Conference. Recently Victoria was the recipient of two Congressional awards for her service by Puerto Rican Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón and Nebraska’s Congressman Don Bacon during a floor speech at the US House of Representatives. She has two children, loves the Lord, reaching the lost and enjoys travel, arts and culture. Visit Victoria online at www.victoriaelizabeth.com.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Relationships

How to Handle Disagreements in a Godly Manner — Guest Post, Kimi Miller

Picture of two women laughing and quote on conflict.Though most of us would likely wish to avoid this, we all experience conflict. When handled in a Christ-like manner, with equal parts love, truth, and grace, however, what initially feels like a fail can actually become a win. Our most difficult interactions and conversations can lead to growth, healing, and life-change. Click To Tweet

When It Doesn’t Feel Like Winning
By Kimi Miller

My anger was blazing, and I didn’t care who saw or heard. What mattered most was making sure the other person knew they were wrong and I was right. I’d rehearsed my response more than a dozen times–a few times in my head, and then alone out loud in my car just to be safe. No room for emotions; I intended to spew forth my words in a predetermined manuscript without a second thought. If I wanted to “win” the argument, I needed to be prepared.

That’s when I saw someone in the car next to me looking at me like I was crazy.

In that moment, I felt I might be.

As I sat there, trying to regain control, I felt more out of control than ever.

The move I was contemplating was straight out of Satan’s playbook:

Focus on self-defense.  Pick up the offense and tuck it under my arm and run straight at the other person–full force, and let them have it. All my anger, all my frustration, all my disappointment–don’t hold back! I was right, they were wrong, and all that matters is that they know it–that they feel it. Who cares how my words were communicated–in fact, the more I talked and the less I listened all the better. Winning was what matters.

But somehow, as I sat there in the intersection practicing yelling at the invisible offender in my car–with the guy next to me likely contemplating calling the cops-it didn’t feel like winning.

As much as I wanted the other person to experience every hurt they’d caused me, that choice no longer felt right. Each time I ran through my premeditated narrative, a warm, sick feeling arose in my gut. A physical reaction I’ve come to recognize as the Holy Spirit prompting me to stop and seek His wise counsel before I sin.

When I want to win by proving I’m right, I know something is out of alignment. Click To Tweet Because the truth is, I’m not right, and neither are you. When we seek our vengeance over God’s peace, no matter how convincing our argument might appear, if Christ isn’t in it, we lose.

This is why we must learn to retrain our thoughts. The world urges us to look out for self first. Contrarily,women holding hands and walking with paraphrased text of 1 Cor. 16:13-14 God’s Word challenges us to, “Do everything in love,” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14, NIV).

But how do you do that in the heat of an argument? How is it possible, as James writes, “to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry?” (James 1:5, NIV).

To invite love into our ugliest moments, we must make space for God. Click To Tweet

Step away from the conflict. Sometimes putting physical space between you and the offender is necessary to finding clarity and direction. Remember, it’s okay to be angry, but in our anger we must not sin. Sometimes distance prevents us from saying or doing things we cannot take back. Choose to step away from the argument by stepping into communion with God.

Once alone with Him, share your hurts and offenses with God. Express your thoughts to Him through prayer and/or journaling. Get it all out with God, putting everything on the table – casting your anxiety on Him because He cares for you, (1 Peter 5:7).

Next, trust God’s way over yours.

Set aside what you think is best and ask God for His best. What is He revealing to you about the condition of the hearts involved? Is there something the other person might be wrestling with that is influencing their behavior? What is it He wants to teach you through this struggle? Is there something missing in your own self-value or worth that’s driving a need to be right? To be heard? Why is “winning” so important?  And why does this hurt so much?

When you’ve surrendered your hardest hurts to God and experience His peace–when you no longer feel that warm sick feeling in your gut–ask the Lord to show you what to do next. Click To Tweet Do you need to forgive? Do you need to apologize? Are there still words to be spoken, or points to be understood? Take as much time as you need to work through these matters of the heart but resolve to move forward. Take your queue from His playbook: Respond in love.

I’m relieved to say I never had the opportunity to voice all the ugly things I’d wanted to throw at my offender. It wasn’t because I didn’t see them again, but because I’d talked it over with God and I no longer felt the need to say anything. I forgave them and release everything else to Jesus. God helped me choose peace over tension, joy over grief, and love over validation.

Following God felt like winning.

Let’s talk about this! What steps can you take today to seek God’s perspective and wisdom for a conflict you’ve experienced or are experiencing?

Inviting God into our arguments takes practice. What are some things you can do to help develop this discipline?

If today’s post encouraged you, make sure to grab a copy of Drawing Near: 90-Day Devotional:

Cover image for Bible study devotionalEach day, God beckons us to Himself, calling us to rest in His love and grace. As we do, He heals our hurts, overpowers our fears with love, and restores us to the women He created us to be. This 90-day devotional, written by women who are learning themselves to live anchored in God’s grace, will help you deepen your faith and grow your relationship with Christ.

Buy it HERE.

We also encourage you to grab a free copy of our Bible study, based on the life of Sara. You can find it HERE. You can watch the first week’s video HERE.

Get to know Kimi!

Kimi Miller lives in Papillion, Nebraska, with her husband and two teenage sons. She stays busy taking care of their home, their two high-strung cattle dogs, and working part-time as a secretary at the local police department. She is a United States Air Force veteran and former pastor of women’s ministry. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication and a Master’s degree in Christian Ministry with a concentration in theology. One of her many God-sized dreams is to organize a free city-wide women’s ministry event that spreads the love and hope only found in Jesus. Her laughter is contagious, as is her passion for the Word of God. You can read more about Kimi at her blog www.kimimiller.com.

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Relationships

The Ultimate Key to Conflict Resolution

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The Ultimate Conflict Resolution

Guest post by Amanda Temoshek

I’m not an expert at resolving conflict, but I often find myself in the middle of it. One night, I couldn’t sleep. My daughter was struggling with a friend, and I found my sweet girl sitting on the stairs, crying before bed. It wasn’t my fight, but I was still angry and hurt. After tucking her in, I stayed up, ruminating on what she’d told me. Should I talk to the other girl’s mom? Had I told my daughter to handle the situation correctly? I wanted to fix everything, but I couldn’t. Hours later, I finally prayed. Peace filled the space once occupied by worry, and I fell asleep. 

So what’s the key to handling bad situations well?

Seven years ago, my marriage was on the brink of failure. And this wouldn’t be my first failed marriage. My relationships – marital and otherwise – seemed so often to hit a wall of strife that I had a tough time getting through. I’ve walked away from good relationships because I didn’t know how to deal with small disputes and I’ve stayed in unhealthy situations because I was scared to confront the problem. 

The problems in my marriage were more than I could handle, but I didn’t know where to turn. I grew up in a Christian home, went to church, and participated in Bible studies. I believed in God and Jesus. I prayed before meals and when times were tough. I sporadically read the Bible. But still, I struggled. The fruit of the Spirit seemed out of reach. It was impossible to have joy when my second marriage was on the rocks. How could I have peace when I had two young children, an extremely high-pressure job, and a marriage that seemed beyond repair?

It wasn’t until I attended an Al-Anon meeting and heard “The Twelve Steps” that I finally got it. Following God was the only way to restore my sanity and relationships. I needed to turn my will and life over to him. I didn’t just need Jesus for Heaven. I needed Him every single day. If I was going to deal with my husband in a way that was loving, patient, and respectful, I needed Jesus. There was no way I could do it on my own, and no amount of self-help books would help me in the middle of a heated discussion. Only Jesus could preserve our marriage.

I didn’t just need Jesus for Heaven. I needed Him every single day.

The Bible became my best resource.

I committed to reading the Bible each day for a year. That daily time with Jesus was changing me. Even though I was walking through the most challenging experience I’d ever faced, I was growing. God was slowly transforming me. In a disagreement with my husband, I stayed calm. I had more patience when my kids were driving me crazy. I felt peace. Jesus was my source of conflict-resolution as He renewed my heart. 

I learned that the opposite of conflict is peace. And Jesus is the Prince of Peace. I can and should turn to Jesus in the middle of battles, but real maturity comes as I invest daily in a relationship with Him. He’s transforming my heart as I read truth and reflect on His love and wisdom. 

Christians 2,000 years ago faced the same choice we do of whether to lead our own lives or submit to the will of God.

The apostle Paul, an early church leader, advised believers to surrender every aspect of our lives to God saying, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:16 ESV)

As I studied, I learned about how people in the Bible dealt with conflict. Paul, who had poured himself into ministering to the early church, was often rejected and mistreated, but still, he taught the church with compassion, truth, and grace. I learned about Abigail in the book of 1 Samuel, whose husband was mean and selfish, but she chose her words wisely and stayed calm under pressure. In the Gospels, I read about how Jesus submitted to His Father, was honest and bold when confronted, and forgave and loved those who persecuted Him. Conflict is inevitable, but with God’s wisdom we can endure well.

This situation my daughter is facing is out of my control, just like many of the issues I faced in early marriage, but I know God is in control. I’ve seen Him heal damaged relationships, change hearts from angry to compassionate, and work hard situations for His glory and our good. If we ask, He will give us wisdom on how to communicate with someone who has hurt us. As we spend time with Him, we’ll become more like the Prince of Peace during the battles of life.

How’s God asking you to trust Him with your relationships? Pray this week and rest knowing He’s fighting your hardest battles. Join the conversation on Facebook or find more encouragement through our 30 day Emotional Health FREE devotional on YouVersion Bible App. And make sure to grab our FREE Bible study as well. You can find it HERE.

Get to Know Amanda

Amanda's headshotAmanda Temoshek is a mom, wife, and consultant. She grew up in a Christian home, but it wasn’t until 2012 during a crisis in her personal life, that she discovered the life-transforming power of committing to daily time with Jesus. She encourages others to never settle for anything less than investing every day in their walk with Jesus and growing in their relationship with Him. She blogs about what God is teaching her at BecomingMary.com as she learns to sit at the feet of Jesus.