When You Champion for Women

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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When You Play Doctor

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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.
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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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

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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.

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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.