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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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58

Tuesday 9th September 2014

#TellHisStory: An Unzipped Heart, Imposter Syndrome, and How I’m Preaching Gospel to Myself

So, here we are — another weekly installment of #TellHisStory.

But let me be up front. I didn’t bring a story. I brought only my vulnerability.

Listen, I want to tell you how scared I get. Except that’s not really true: I don’t want to tell you how scared I get. But I’m going to anyway.

I don’t want to share my fear with you, because it feels like you’re seeing more of me than I want to show you. It feels like I’m unzipping my heart. And it feels like I’ve done a poor job of listening to my own good advice about being brave in the fact of fear.

But here’s the flat-out truth. I do get scared. Of failing. Of falling. Of seeming incompetent. Of losing credibility — or of never having had it in the first place.

“Fear Isn’t the Boss of Me”

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You know, I tap away at these computer keys and tell you how much I believe in you, dear reader, YOU! I have devoted miles of words — multiplied by the thousands — to encourage you to step into your crazy-brave. I would bend over backward to tell you how your one life matters. To tell you you’re PreApproved. To tell you that fear isn’t the boss of you.

I have cried fat tears while writing those words to you — both on my blog and in my book. Because I’m unwaveringly passionate about that message. The cry of my heart is this — for all of us to know the truth about ourselves, rather than running around seeing ourselves as incompetent, unloveable, and utterly unqualified. Because we are so quick to believe otherwise. I know how women shrink back, because of their fear of failing. I long for women to know their worth.

Do you know how easy it is to tell someone else that they’re amazing, then turn around and look in the proverbial mirror and see mostly the flaws?

Insecurities rise up like a tidal wave, and there’s years worth of fear behind that one wave you’re seeing right here.

Those waves multiply on days like these. I know I’ll be spending some time on a stage this weekend, in front of a group of amazing women. I have reams of notes, and a message that I believe came from God, whose Spirit lives in me. But speaking is far outside of my comfort zone. Think in terms of: whole different time zone, dimension, solar system.

Fear grips me something fierce, at times. I’m afraid that I’ll let someone down. I fear that, when I’ve been invited to speak, or to be a part of a group of fantastic communicators, that I only “got in” because no one was guarding the back door. And that before long, I’ll be unmasked for the incompetent person I am. That feeling of pre-assumed incompetency is one of the most pernicious Love Idols that I’ve had to stare down in my life.

And it’s an almost-daily stare-down. (If you’ve already read my book, you’ll be familiar with the concept: “The Cure is the Process.”)

Writing, As a Way to Remember

I saw a Tweet in my Twitter feed earlier today, from Sole Hope, and it was such solid advice, that I thought, “Wow, I have seriously GOT to apply those words to my life today.”

This was the Tweet:

“Bravery isn’t about being fearless. It’s about being less controlled by your fear.”

Yeah, I thought to myself, those are some pretty good words. 

I let that Tweet sink in before I realized what I was seeing. Sole Hope was quoting ME, from a post a write weeks ago!

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 1.46.20 PM

 

This is a great illustration of what I’m talking about. I can write words, and feel them so deep that they make a holy burn on my insides. But my own insecurities cool the flame.

So the encouraging words I write aren’t just for you, but for my own shaking self.

Listen, I struggle with all the things you struggle with:

Feelings of “not enough.” Fear of failing. Concern over tomorrow. I stress out about my health, my children, the instability of our world, the future, and my perceived lack of qualification. So any time you see me writing about any of those quandaries, I’ve probably got a foot stuck in the middle of one of those messes. And I’m looking for Jesus to “unstuck” me. The words I write are braided, like a rope to help me out of the pit I’m stuck in.

The Benefit of Repeating Old Truths

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So, on days like these, I have to remind my own self that I am preapproved. You know why? Because it’s terribly easy to believe otherwise. Yeah, we are Jesus People. And we know that our worth isn’t defined by the people in the bleachers or the scoreboard on the wall.

But it’s so tempting to believe what we don’t really believe to believe that our value lies somewhere outside of our Savior. Even among Christians — despite what we know in the depths of ourselves — there is great expectation for being noticed, significant, competent, valuable. 

This isn’t a new phenomenon.

Turn back the clock to a dinner table where Jesus of Nazareth broke bread with His closest friends. The clock is ticking toward Jesus’ betrayal and death, but a dispute arises among the disciples “as to which of them was considered to be the greatest.”

It’s simply a part of being human: We want to be known. We want to be great. We want to know that we have as much value as the guy sitting next to us. We compare. And scroll and refresh. And wonder … What worth do I have among the sea of other faces?

That doesn’t make us bad. It makes us human.

So much of what we desire here on Earth is really our hearts crying out for immortality. When our earthly hearts beg to be seen, loved, significant and known, this is what’s really happening: our very own souls are stretching arms toward our forever-inheritance.

Toward God.

And God is reaching back to us, whispering this into our hearts: You already are…. You are known. You are loved. You are approved. You don’t have to be so scared.

(See what I’m doing up there? I’m reminding myself. I’m repeating old truths. And yes, there are tears again. And this time, I don’t care if you see them a little.)

Imposter Syndrome

My friend, Lore Ferguson, shared an article from The Atlantic on Facebook earlier today about why writers are procrastinators, and how we can be paralyzed by the prospect of writing something that isn’t good. 

The author of the article said this: “This fear of being unmasked as the incompetent you ‘really’ are is so common that it actually has a clinical name: impostor syndrome. A shocking number of successful people (particularly women), believe that they haven’t really earned their spots, and are at risk of being unmasked as frauds at any moment. Many people deliberately seek out easy tests where they can shine, rather than tackling harder material that isn’t as comfortable.”

The author quotes Pastor Steven Furtick, who once said: “The reason we struggle with ‘insecurity’ is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

I have struggled with “imposter syndrome,” fearing that I am sorely unqualified. But today? I called out my imposter self. That’s why you’ve seen a little bit more of my “behind-the-scenes.” Maybe that’s worth something. I don’t know. I hope it is. Maybe this lets you know this is as safe of a place as you had hoped. We are among friends. We have thrown away the highlight reel.

Stepping Out on My Wave

Many years ago, Casting Crowns wrote a song called “The Voice of Truth.” The song includes lyrics that harken to that moment when Peter steps out of the boat, onto waves.

It goes like this:

“Oh what I would do to have
the kind of faith it takes
to climb out of this boat I’m in
onto the crashing waves.
To step out of my comfort zone
into the realm of the unknown
where Jesus is
and He’s holding out His hand.”

I’m stepping out of the boat. This is my wave right here: This blog post, … and every crazy-brave yes to speak, to write, to serve. No, I am not fearless, but I am going to be less controlled by my fear. I said that once. I guess I needed to say it again.

And if I forget? Well, maybe you or Sole Hope or Lore Ferguson or someone will remind me.

I’ve got one foot out of the boat, just now, and I think I feel you beside me, foot poised to leap.

It doesn’t feel safe. But staying in the boat seems far more dangerous. Because Jesus isn’t sitting in this boat. I see Him out there, already standing on the wave, one hand out.

He’s waiting.

Go.

 

Love, 
Jennifer

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So, what’s your Story?

A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God.

You’re invited to tell that story right here, in community with us.

Share your narratives, your poems, your Instagrams tagged with #TellHisStory, … your beautiful hearts. You are the chroniclers, the people who help others make sense of the world with your words and your art.

Story is how we know that, no matter what happens, we can get back up again.

Visit someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Then, Tweet about your posts, and the posts you visit, with the #TellHisStory hashtag. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.

A final note: This is a safe place to tell your stories. You don’t have to be a professional writer to join us. Story is built into every single one of us. Your story matters, because it’s part of God’s story down through history, not because you punctuated everything correctly. Deal?

#TellHisStory

For more details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here. Share the love of story by visiting someone else in the community!


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  • Kelly Greer

    You go girl! He’s got this! Praying for you as you prepare your provisions for the road ahead.

    • Thank you, Kelly. I appreciate those prayers.

  • Constance Ann Morrison

    I just finished reading this post for the third time–I wanted your thoughts to sink in.
    I know that fear. It had me by the throat as I recently watched my new-born grandson being prepped for the ambulance ride to a NICU. Guilt followed the fear and led to dark whispers of self-accusation: How can you write about faith when you’re so afraid? How can you lead a prayer group when you can’t think of a word to pray?

    Thanks for your words on real bravery and the invitation to step out of the boat with you.

    • Oh friend. How is your grandson?

      Even when we feel faith-less, God is still faith-full. Keep writing, from that place of brokenness.

      • Constance Ann Morrison

        His problems resolved, and he was sent home after a couple days. Thanks for your concern and encouragement, Jennifer.

  • Jen

    I’ll be speaking later this month, and for the first time to a group of women outside of my own church.Needless to say, I’m procrastinating writing. 🙂 So this, this is exactly what I needed to read this evening, and maybe again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…. Thank you for showing us your behind-the-scenes.
    Jen 🙂

    • Thank YOU, Jen. Praying for you as you speak!

  • Your message at Jumping Tandem was the message that undid me. Your genuineness, your honesty, your real love for Jesus, and for others, shines. Someone once told me, “God’s anointing can only be on the real you”. You are anointed. Just keep being who you are.

    • Yeah. You’ve seen how scared I can get. Your words are such an encouragement, a reminder to me that God can work even when my voice is shaking. Thank you, dear friend.

  • Was just thinking yesterday about the need to “preach the gospel to myself.” And for me, the most important part of the gospel is this: when I am afraid, I will trust in HIM. I may not always be able to work up a convincing belief in my own worthiness, but I can always gaze at HIS glory, HIS majesty, HIS unfathomable love, and rest in the knowledge that while I may not be enough (and I’m not! who is??), HE always is.

    • Grateful for your words here in the comment, Lorena. Means so much.

  • What a beautiful message, Jennifer! I’ve heard it said, “you shouldn’t preach a message that you don’t think you need yourself.” I think this is why your posts speak so powerfully to me, they come with that honesty that breaks through to my heart. So thank you for your openness to being used by God, scary as it may be at times!

    • Those are good words, Ronja. Thank you for sharing. Needed to hear that.

  • You have no idea how much I need this, Jennifer. This is week 2 in an 11 week study I’m leading for the women in my church and local commuity. I’ve given quite a few talks over the years (including the Sunday morning message at our former church) and I love it. I’ve been a retreat/conference speaker and have been leading a Bible study in my home for several years, but except for the Bible study in my home, chronic illness has kept me out of the speaker circuit for a while….and this is different. The women who have led this study for years before me are fashionable city-girls, beautiful, young (at least compared to me), and almost everything I am not. I have been so afraid of disappointing my church with my unfashionable rural-girl ways and mannerisms and less-than-polished speaking skills. I even entertained buying new clothes. But I didn’t – i just keep falling on my face before God and preaching the gospel to myself because this isn’t about me. However, after last week I wanted to vanish. All I could see were the flaws – the way things didn’t unfold as we’d planned, how I struggled with the mic (Wednesday night the hand-held mic had a short in it and I struggled with holding the mic and my notes. I used a wireless mic Thursday morning, but then I accidentally ripped it out of my ear at one point and flung it away from me!), forgot to introduce someone, and so on. I did laugh at myself – but inside I was dying. By Friday morning I wanted to disappear. This is week 2 and I’m bravely pressing on, but oh how I need these words from you this morning, dear friend. Thank you. xoxox

    • Oh, friend. I am nodding my head. I know, I KNOW! Same thing happened to me about a year ago, when I had to speak in front of more women than I ever had before. I was terrified, and the women who spoke before me had NO NOTES. And I get up there with my old-fashioned binder, and the wireless mic wouldn’t work! But it all worked out, in the end, and the Spirit showed up. Because that’s what He does. But I tell ya … I was shakin’ in my boots! Praying for you as you press on, Patricia! Love you.

  • Jennifer, wonderful post as you shared with such transparency. The truth is this – we all are unqualified. We really are. And the enemy knows it & whispers it in our ear every single chance he gets. But the greater truth is this …. God uses the unqualified. I would go so far as to say, He delights in using the unqualified. As you go to speak, may you hold onto this truth from God’s Word …”Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things.” (Ps. 81:10, NLT). Friend, let fear be gone. When you stand before this group of women, take a moment – open your mouth wide & in faith KNOW He is filling it with exactly the words they all need to hear!

    • Whew. Just the words my heart needed to hear. Thank you, friend.

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  • Thank you, Jennifer, for writing my heart today. And for the encouragement to just keep moving out and onward. One baby step at a time sometimes, but continuing to move, even through self-imposed or other set backs. Being BRAVE and out of control from all those nasty fears. Thanks and blessings…

    • You are so welcome. Thank you for your gracious comment and encouragement today, my friend.

  • Sabra Penley

    Wow. Did you just step into my heart? Jennifer, you have a way of saying exactly what I feel. Thank you for opening up to us and sharing your insecurities. And for reminding us that God is equipping us for this life–whatever work He has planned for us. And we are not able on our own, but with His grace we are more than able. Yes…I need the constant reminder. Thank you! And blessings to you today!

    • It’s good to know that we’re not alone, right? Thanks you for standing with me. Is that you, on the edge of the boat with me, foot poised?

  • Dawn Paoletta

    Guilty as charged! I love how God does use my words to share BUT with me first…and I think maybe He knows it’s the best way to get my attention. He nudges me with something to say…and as I write He shows up and ministers grace and truth. My words at times, are not my words at all- well at least the most edifying choices! And then it’s as if He just pours out and I realize again this writing thing…it’s a gift from Him to me, FOR me, and then also as He deems others. And your reflecting here…these points- so wonderful to know that you share in this. We never shine brighter for Him than when we let Him shine through us , despite all the OTHER voices that want to extinguish His still small voice within each one of us. Oh, that we could live every moment in the power of 2 Corinthians 10:5 24/7. The heart is willing but that flesh…well. that’s gonna take a whole lot of grace. Thanks for YOUR authenticity and heart for Him, Jennifer.

    • Thank you for receiving my words and my heart so tenderly, Dawn.

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  • Yes… yes.. yes… “Many people deliberately seek out easy tests where they can shine, rather than tackling harder material that isn’t as comfortable.” Oh this is me… years ago when I turned 50… God put a prayer in my heart… to live outside my comfort zone… to finish stronger than when I started… but I want the easy …but we can’t grow and be transformed in the shallow easy waters. This fall I have been asked to speak… I knew I was to say yes… but how this has undone me… I am not 100% the gathering will happen… and to be honest… I am trying not to be too relieved if it doesn’t… but this one thing has unearthed so much in me… living free is a life long process… and aren’t you so thankful we have such a patient Father… Teacher and Friend!!! thanks for always being real… we are all in this together… let’s continue to cheer each other on!!!

  • DeanneMoore

    I love the vulnerability in the post. As a believer, I don’t want to give the enemy too much credit but he thinks he winning in many places in the world, so he goes to faithful and shoots his fiery darts of doubt into our minds. We, like Eve, give them consideration, but we overcomers. Keep preaching the gospel to yourself and everyone else, Jennifer. God will take care of the rest. He is faithful.

  • Sarah

    I dare you to get up on that stage this weekend with the full knowledge that you are adored by a Father who knew you could never measure up, so He sent a stand-in. Then let your pre-approved self be free to rock the socks of the people in the room with God’s message. He is for you. And when you stand FOR Him, how can you fail?

    I love your heart, your transparency, and your encouragement for all your sisters. Thanks for making me a little braver today. (Praying for you!)

  • Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk

    Thank you for this, Jennifer, for leading by “unzipping.” In this way you help me to remember my own courage.

  • Karrilee Aggett

    Girl… you know I love you! I am standing right beside you, friend… one foot out of the boat, standing on top of the water – the other shaky and ready to step towards Him! Eyes on Jesus… we can do this, sister! <3

  • I love how you said you are going to “get out of the boat.” Years ago, I read John Ortberg’s book If you want to walk on water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.” I always find myself wishing God would send me a pair of floaties. That would make it easier to take the leap. Thanks for nudging me to try. Hugs

  • Such a great post and one I really can relate to. Amazing how often and easily we forget to apply the words and encouragement we give to others to ourselves too. It’s a daily struggle for me. Funny you should mention Voice of Truth, it’s a song that spoke deeply to me years ago when the Father of all lies had a huge grip on my life. Despite the constant two steps forward, one step back I seem to take, my heart is determined to keep seeking truth.

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  • Alyssa Santos

    imposter syndrome. I might just be the poster child. This is so meaningful on so many levels. If you don’t mind, I would like to share this with my journaling life group.

  • Oh gosh, golly, gee. I get this.

  • Sarah S

    I’ll be holding you up in prayer today. Dear Lord, be with Jennifer as she walks across these waves closer to you. You know just what she needs before she even needs it. I know you have her held in your hands. If her faith should fail and feet fall your strong arms will draw her up close to you and wash away her fears. I know this to be true and thank you for it, Lord Jesus. Amen.

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  • Thank you so much for encouraging us with this today, Jennifer! I am having to tell fear that it is not the boss of me on a daily basis right now. I love this! And, yes, isn’t it interesting that when we write to encourage others, we are often preaching to ourselves, as well? Thank you for the link-up. Blessings.

  • I love this, Jennifer. You make me feel less alone. “Do you know how easy it is to tell someone else that they’re amazing, then turn around and look in the proverbial mirror and see mostly the flaws?” Yes! Not so long ago, my husband told me I am so quick to encourage others, but I don’t practice it on myself. I definitely have the imposter syndrome. Sometimes when I’m trying to write to offer hope, I feel like such a hypocrite, because I don’t always take it to heart myself. Praying God will hold your hand and give you courage and peace with your speaking engagement.

  • Katie Andraski

    Have you seen Elizabeth Gilbert’s post on what it was like to stand with Oprah, on Oprah’s big tour? You might find it encouraging as you go speak.

    Thank you for your vulnerability here. I too struggle with fear which can often show up as hyper critical self talk. This shows up especially in my work as a teacher. It’s so familiar it’s hard to recognize it for what it is. I was just telling someone else that a big insight for me came from Kathleen Norris’s Acedia and Me when she said that the church fathers originally called the seven deadly sins, the seven deadly bad thoughts. How we talk critically to ourselves–bad thoughts. Sometimes all I can do is say the Jesus prayer or ask the Lord to bless me because right that minute I feel like the enemy.

    Well the peace of the Lord be with you.

    https://www.facebook.com/GilbertLiz/photos/a.356148997800555.79726.227291194019670/692502857498499/?type=1&theater

  • Oh, wow – I’m not even sure where to begin…

    First of all, Ms. Jennifer, you need to know that there was no back door involved in you landing a spot as part of that group of fabulous communicators. You walked right in the front door with a very open invitation because you ROCK this! Finding your blog was one of the best things that has happened to me in the last year. I’ve been struggling. A lot. With fears of not being “good enough”, with a complacent spirit, an overwhelmed soul of balancing four children, our self-owned business, another job, ministries… And while we’re listing everything – let’s go ahead and toss all of those insecurities on top as well. Your words are captivating to me and I couldn’t be more grateful for your willing spirit to allow God to speak through you in such a powerful way. Never doubt this. I am indebted to you.

    Second, do you ever think to yourself that you really wish you could’ve written a sentence that someone else already wrote because it’s EXACTLY what you wanted to say but you didn’t know how to say it at the time? –> “I can write words, and feel them so deep that they make a holy burn on my insides. But my own insecurities cool the flame.” <– Yes. That right there. I'm writing that on a sticky and putting it on my mirror as a reminder that I'm #preapproved and there is no need to feel "cooled."

    Third, as someone who listens to all of Elevation's sermons – I think that quote from Steven Furtick is one of my favorites. And I, for one, love seeing your "behind-the-scenes." I'm certain I'm not the only one.

    And lastly, I am left with this quote that you wrote above: "And God is reaching back to us, whispering this into our hearts: You already are… You are known. You are loved. You are approved. You don't have to be so scared."

    And I am grateful that He is having you remind us through your own words. Through your own struggles. Through your own tears. Never feel as though you've shed them in vain.

    Blessings to you, friend!

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  • soulstops

    Jennifer,
    Just keep on preaching and we’ll keep on reading and agreeing with you 🙂

  • pastordt

    Okay, now, Jen Lee. You listen to me, okay? God has anointed you, God speaks through you with every word you write and with every word you speak. I know this because I’ve been there, I’ve seen you at work. You have no clue how gifted you are, do you? NONE. I tell you this not to fan your ego, but to assure you that the fear you’re dealing with is not your friend. At all. Nerves are normal – in fact, I would say, they are necessary and helpful every single time we stand up before others and offer words God has given us. If I’m ever NOT nervous, I will know I am in serious trouble. But paralyzing fear? NO. That is the voice of the enemy, period. So I am praying for release from this kind of fear, Jen. For normal nerves – yes, yes. But for this? Lord, have mercy. Have mercy. Bring your peace, remind her of who it is YOU see when you gaze at her with love. Now – you GO, Jennifer. Go.

  • Tania Vaughan

    Thank you so much – all the way through I’m nodding and agreeing. The stage fright, the imposter syndrome, the fear – I know it all. Your honesty is encouraging, as someone I look up to I thank you for sharing behind-the-scenes it encourages me to know you are as real as I am 🙂

  • Yes, 100000000% agree. I function so much better when I’m “preaching” to myself what I need to hear, and most of what I write is me talking to myself. Are you an auditory learner? I’m just curious because while I’m sure this is necessary for everyone, I’m an auditory learner, and I DESPERATELY have to hear everything for it to make any sense, meaning often when I read something powerful, i still have to read it out loud for it to make a real impact in my life. It’s like it’s not real until I say it out loud. That’s not super “spiritual” but I do think God wires us all uniquely and I find that fascinating :).

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  • Nancy Ruegg

    You are SO right, Jennifer: “There is great expectation for being noticed, significant, competent, valuable.” The enemy has us believing that if we don’t have these qualities, we’re worthless. Why do we believe his lies?! Thank you for your honest soul-bearing and the precious reminder: We are pre-approved!

  • saltshakmk@msn.com

    Once again – you have been hanging out in my head! I am frequently in a speakers position working as an enrichment artist in schools, churches and community groups and I NEVER seem to feel like I have earned the spot. I always worry I’ll be seen to be the fool – just pretending. Yet – in my weakness, God has continually shown Himself strong. After ten years of building this biz, I have decided to just roll with it. God must have this and called me to it because when I try to walk through any other door it gets slammed shut. So – though I think I know very little, I know enough of a mustard seed to be going on with. But, never alone. Next week I launch a PubSlush campaign for the biggest thing I’ve ever done – start my own independent publishing company as an offshoot of my performance programming. How I got to that place involved more slammed doors with this being the only one open – held open by two other independent publishers who are mentoring me along the way. Never alone. Always the provision for what I’m called to there. But – you’re right. I see myself in the mirror and think daily – NO WAY. Not me. Can’t be.

    Thanks for affirming my affliction – Imposter Syndrome. LOL

    Will see what comes of this – and praise God along the way for the adventure. YouTube promo video on my sidebar at http://www.thewritersreverie.com

    Meditating on big oaks from little acorns come . . .
    Joy!
    Kathy

  • Constance Ann Morrison

    I just stumbled across this verse, a prayer for your weekend:

    “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” Ephesians 6:19

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  • I want to quote back the whole thing to you and say yes! I’m with you! Amen! Keep preaching it to yourself and back to me. Because I’m with you, friend, and I need it.

    Last week I was at a moms group and went up to a gal I knew a little bit just to tell her how stunning I think she is and how she shines Jesus and is totally adorable and makes me just want to be her friend. She turned and said, “What? Really? Me? I think the exact same thing about YOU!” And what was my knee jerk reaction after telling her how amazing she is and hearing it back? To excuse away and refute all the lovely things she had to say. (Sigh. Urg. Blah. Why do we do that? Why do I?)

    So thank you for this. A million, preapproved times.

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