Relationships

When Relationships Fail–Our Role

Sometimes no matter how we try, no matter how grace-filled our conversations and Christ-led our attempts, relationships implode. People remain hurt. Barriers remain erected, and isolation, regret, and pain occur.

quote image-beauty is in the obedienceBut the beauty’s in the obedience, not the result.

Some time ago, something I did deeply hurt a woman I cared for. I didn’t intend to wound her, and honestly, I didn’t fully understand her response or interpretation. In fact, initially I felt quite indignant. She was being over-reactive. I’d done nothing wrong!

And yet, she was hurt, and Jesus said, if I know someone is upset with me, regardless of the why, I’m to initiate conversation. (Matthew 5:23). To do what I can to make things right.
To, “… as far as it depends on [me], live at peace with everyone.”

Biblical peace goes much deeper than simple conflict avoidance. In fact, that type of behavior will take us in the opposite direction—to broken relationships, unresolved issues, and, often, harbored bitterness.

Biblical peace, eiréneuó in the Greek, points to wholeness.

Consider Ken Sande’s words, taken from his book, the Peace two children holding hands and text of Romans 12:18Maker: “Token efforts will not satisfy this command; God wants [us] to strive earnestly, diligently, and continually to maintain harmonious relationships with those around [us].”

This is a big deal. Not only does this help protect unity within the church, but Sande goes on to say, seeking peace can “turn conflict into an opportunity to strengthen relationships … and make [our] lives a testimony to the love and power of Christ.”

Perhaps this is why Jesus placed such emphasis on conflict resolution, so much so that He told us, if we’re about to worship Him and remember an offended brother, we’re to immediately stop and seek reconciliation.

Only after we’ve done that are we freed, emotionally and spiritually, to truly worship God.

But what if the other person is unresponsive?

In that case, we can walk away with clean hearts and hands knowing, “as far as it depended on us,” we attempted to live in peace.

Because it doesn’t always depend on us. We have no control over how another person will respond, but we have full control over how faithfully we obey Christ and how well we reflect Him.

As I reflected on my situation with the offended woman, I thought of how Christ treated me. When I was living in complete rebellion against Him, He pursued me, diligently and patiently. When I sinned again and again, He forgave me. And when my sin created a barrier between us that I couldn’t cross, through His death, He tore it down. And I knew, regardless of how this young woman received or reacted to my efforts, I needed to reach out anyway.

So I did. She responded exactly as I’d feared, but that didn’t mean my efforts had been pointless. Despite my fear of rejection and my desire to avoid the entire situation, I’d chosen to obey, and hopefully, in doing so, had provided a glimpse of Jesus … and reminded myself afresh of the beauty of grace.

Let’s talk about this! How do you typically react when someone hurts or abandons you? Why do you think it’s important God’s children learn to reconcile with one another?

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Highlighted Resource:

20 Days of Relational Health Bible reading plan.

image for reading planOur hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you grow 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.

Find it HERE.

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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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.

freedom, Relationships

The Self-Sufficiency Façade

kristen-quote

“What do I need you for?”

I said those words.

To my husband.

It was the worst thing I’d ever said to him. And it haunts me to this day.

Our marriage was in trouble. Our daughter was a toddler. I was earning six figures working full time, and felt I largely parented alone. My marriage was absent of good communication and growing in resentment. I was a mess emotionally, and probably lacking many hours of sleep. So, I felt compelled to utter those hurtful words; I could juggle it all by myself. I was independent and strong. I didn’t need him.

Of course, that wasn’t true, because being independent also meant I was alone. And self-sufficiency—being able to provide for my needs on my own—is a façade that I’d naively fallen for. I needed my husband like I needed oxygen, and I also needed God.

But I wasn’t humble enough to see that.

I had to accept my desperate need for God’s intervention. Only He could teach me how to love well. He could fill me up so I could demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit to my spouse: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness (Galatians 5:22).

By God’s grace, we’ve been married fifteen years now and that toddler is fourteen. I found my way through my independent and self-sustaining mindset. With a humble attitude, I accepted my need for my husband and strived for our marriage to get better.

But I also sought Jesus, and thankfully, my husband turned to Him too. This journey together hasn’t made our marriage perfect, full of only joy and peace without impatience or irritations, but it got us committed to the same things—God and each other.

I found out then that I will never not need Jesus.I will never not need Jesus. Click To Tweet My help comes from the Lord (Psalm 121:1). And even when times are good, as heirs with Christ and having the Holy Spirit, we find our joy in Him (Romans 14:17). When we seek Jesus, we flourish and can tackle the most difficult obstacles because our God is bigger than our trials. When we seek Jesus, we flourish and can tackle the most difficult obstacles because our God is bigger than our trials. Click To Tweet

Kristen-quote

When we think we can do all on our own, we’re leaving out the biggest Helper of all. Turn to Him and surrender today so you can be free of the stressful drive to be self-sufficient.

Let’s talk about this! Do you need to humbly accept that you can’t go through life without the One who made you? Do you need to humbly accept that you can’t go through life without the One who made you? Click To Tweet

 

Prayer

Becoming More Like Jesus–Praying for Our Enemies

Winter scene with white lettering that says, "God commands us to pray for our enemies, and He can be trusted, even in this. ~Kristi Woods"

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
Matt. 5:44 NIV (Taken from Wholly Loved’s 365 Daily Devotion, releasing soon!)

Think about someone who hurt you. How did you love or pray for them? Or, did you?

As a mother, I love and protect my children. When someone wounds them, my mama bear instinct roars. I want to peel back the fur and watch those razor-sharp claws swipe.

But emotional reactions like that don’t come from Jesus. They usually arise when we’re attempting to play God.

A few years ago, while driving home from a school event with one of my kids, I received an unexpected phone call from a classmate’s mother. She accused my daughter of bullying and made harsh statements about her. Unfortunately, my daughter sat in the passenger seat and well within earshot. My mama bear instinct stood ready to rip and roar, but I sucked in a breath and prayed silently, Help, God!

His truth guided me through that phone call. I recalled Jesus’ words about praying for those who persecute us, which includes mamas protecting their children. God’s guidance to be quick to listen and slow to anger (James 1:19) rushed to mind as well. I fought the urge to lash out, using patience, truth, and prayer to battle instead.

Afterward, I prayed for that mother and both children—myself, too. It wasn’t easy, but it was right. And God used those prayers to soften my heart.

God uses prayer to soften the heart. @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

She and I didn’t realize that both our children were facing difficulties adjusting at school. As new transfers the year before, they were still attempting to find their footing. What seemed a situation of “enemies” ended quite differently.

Winter scene with red berries and the words, "God uses prayer to soften our hearts." - Kristi Woods

Loving those with whom we clash or praying for people who persecute us feels awkward and hard. But God can be trusted, even when praying for our enemies.

God can be trusted, even when praying for our enemies. @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

Do you have an “enemy” or someone persecuting you or someone you care about? How can you love and pray for them today?

How can you love and pray for your enemy today? @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

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