What It Means To Be Strong

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #StrengthHasNoGender #CollectiveBias

I grew up in Wyoming, in a family with brothers and a sister, who didn’t feel the need to pigeonhole any of us into stereotypes.

Now as an adult, I’m so thankful for that. It meant that I grew up being equally comfortable playing in the dirt, chasing lizards and snakes, wearing pretty dresses, and aspiring to be a princess. As a teen, I learned how to do makeup, and how to change a tire.

My favorite job ever, outside of the one I’m doing right this second, was a summer hire position at a Trona Mine & Plant in Wyoming. My Dad worked there for eons, and if you worked hard and received great grades you could apply for one of the coveted high paying college summer positions. I was accepted and placed to work in one of the plants. I was the only female in the entire building, but I absolutely loved it. I loved the work and I loved my hilarious co-workers, who were all my Dad’s age or older. This dirt playing girl was thrilled to put on a hard hat, go around into dirty and dangers areas to collect samples, and then after a 12-hour shift to go shower, put on some perfume, and rush off on a date with my sweetheart (now hubby.)

Because, beautifully and thankfully, I always grew up knowing that Strength Has No Gender™.  I pursued the play and work that delighted me, not the paths that I felt forced into. As a result, I was blessed to experience the challenges and rewards of a full time, Trona Plant, male-dominated job.Now I’m also blessed to experience the totally different, yet equally challenging and rewarding career as a part-time work-from-home writer and marketer.

Strength is not just physical. It reaches across boundaries. It’s the emotionally challenging push that gets you through that grueling final in college. It’s the bravery that allows you to tackle a career field that you love but is uncharted territory for you and those around you. It’s getting up with a colicky baby for the 10th time that night. It’s reaching that career goal you’ve been working towards for years. It’s being there for those that you love. It’s reaching out your hands, time, resources, and genuine concern to those in need.

The fact that Strength Has No Gender™  is a beautiful truth. It encourages us to delight in the success stories of others, and be inspired by them.

Which is exactly how I felt when I saw this Strength Has No Gender™ video that was put together by Brawny®. I adore this campaign and their mindset behind it. The Strength Has No Gender™ campaign highlights the inspirational stories of everyday women in cities across America who have been breaking down barriers in traditionally male-dominated industries and changing the world as a result!

We all love Eric Solie, the original Brawny® man, but at the same time, it’s awesome that they’re letting him “step aside” and share the platform with these inspiring women! To do this they’re featuring this fun, exclusive to Walmart, limited-time Strength Has No Gender™ pack. This package is the Brawny® Pick-a-Size 8 Giant Plus, which is perfect since it’s the size we use and love in our family already! Because Brawny® can help tackle giant, strong messes at home, they were inspired to take that same focus and encourage and inspire all their customers to extend it into every area of their lives.

Speaking of family, one of the areas that I need to be strong in the most, right now, is parenting! I’m discovering as we tiptoe into the tween years that while parenting in the early years is physically exhausting, parenting in these years is emotionally exhausting! It takes real strength to allow your children to discover and become who they are meant to be.

I wanted to bless my kids with the same freedom I was given as a child. Last fall Amber had the option to pick an after school program. The writer in me was immediately interested in the storytelling and writing programs. Wanting her to choose for herself, though, I gave her the sheet to look over and to tell me which sounded fun. To my surprise, she chose Chess Puzzle. Not simply just teaching the kids how to play the game, Chess Puzzle makes them learn strategy, memorize terms, and the competition they have is a paper and pencil test that includes a series of chess boards with pieces in particular positions. It is great for developing strengths in the STEM fields!

The first day after practice the door opened and out swarmed our entire city’s 3rd and 4th grade hoard of boys, and a gentle trickle of girls. Amber climbed into the car smiling, and declared she had “lots of fun”. Before the Christmas break they took a test to cut the team down to less than half, and happily Amber made the cut! This time the swarm of kids at pickup was smaller, and now only Amber and two girls remained in the sea of boys.

The final test cut both grades, 4th, and 3rd, down to two tiny teams of just four kids each. These would represent our entire school district in a competition with other cities and their top Chess Puzzle Students. Amber diligently practiced to prepare for the day. The test came, and the next day we waited anxiously for the results. That morning I got the call that she had made the team–the only girl to do so!

She was all smiles and bouncing excitement!

The competition was the past Saturday, and I’m so excited to share that her 3rd grade team placed 2nd overall, with all the different teams from her school putting them into 1st place for the regional meet!

Throughout this all she’s never stopped to think much about the fact that she was one of the only girls, or had any extra challenges or hurdles to overcome because of it. Like me, in my childhood, right now she’s able to happily accept the fact that Strength Has No Gender™ because it’s just a truth.

A beautiful, wonderful truth.

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5 Hope-Filled Prayers for Your Marriage

by Jennifer O. White

During the difficult days of marriage, there is a very real temptation to focus on what is wrong, why it is wrong, and whose fault it is. This earthly focus can result in a hopeless state of mind. Hopelessness and discouragement makes us even more vulnerable to the enemy’s schemes to divide us.

Throughout the Bible, God offers us hope. He shows us over and over again that nothing is impossible when He is involved. He promises that we will experience peace when we keep our eyes on Him (Isaiah 26:3). Jesus literally spoke the words “Peace! Be still!” to a storm, saving the disciples’ lives while increasing their faith in His life-changing power (Mark 4:39).

Our task is to believe, to ask, and to resist doubting (Mark 11:23).

Praying according to God’s Word has been very effective in my own marriage restoration. Knowing I am asking something in line with God’s will for us gives me confidence and the courage to expect God to move on our behalf.

The following five Bible passages and prayers will help us to humbly refocus on God who is able to do infinitely more to heal sacred marriages than we can imagine.

  1. Remember Me

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Genesis 8:1

God, I trust that You see me and know what I am going through. You saved Noah, his family, and the animals from the flood. You sent a wind over the earth and caused the waters to recede. I am waiting on Your winds of change, Lord.

Change me, Lord. Here is my heart. Cleanse me of impure motives. Reduce me to love. Let Your pure love be the driving force behind my words, my touch, and my tone of voice.

Change my perception. Help me to see myself and my spouse through Your eyes.

Reveal to us where we are making the situation worse by resisting Your leadership and disobeying Your commands.

Help me to wait prayerfully and expectantly for You to move in us and our circumstances.

  1. Encourage Me

Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” “Selah” But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. “Selah” I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. Psalm 3:2–6

Forgive me Lord for being discouraged by those who do not believe in Your power. The temptations to give up outnumber the billboards in the city.

But You, O Lord, are my encourager. Shield my heart and mind from discouragement.

Remind me of Your great acts of love for Your people.

You fed five thousand with one boy’s lunch. You transformed Saul from a Christian killer into Paul, a Kingdom builder. You are able to do so much more for our marriage than I have asked of You.

I rest my hopes on Your faithfulness. I will not fear based on what I can see with my eyes. I will trust in You, the unseen God, to shield me and my husband from reacting to the enemy’s schemes to divide us.

  1. Reward My Faith

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches the birds of the air can perch in its shade.” Mark 4:30–32

God, You have promised that if I offer You a minuscule amount of faith, You will create something so much bigger out of it.

Today, I offer You my faith in Your ability to bring Jesus into this world from a virgin girl. I believe that You breathed life into Adam and made Eve from his rib. You transformed Zacchaeus from a crook into someone who wanted to give back four times what he had stolen.

I believe that You, O Lord, can turn our bitterness into kindness. You can transform our self-focused stubbornness into a “your needs come first” mindset.

You are able to restore us completely and allow our marriage to point others to Your perfect love for imperfect people.

Let my faith become sight, Lord.

  1. Heal Our Marriage

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. Luke 18:35–43

Lord, I want our marriage to be healed.

Let the healing begin with me. Have mercy on me, Lord, a spouse who has failed so often to demonstrate Your love.

I want to love my spouse the way You love me. Help me.

I want to be a vessel of Your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in _____’s life. Use me.

I want to love in such a way that ____ is inspired to praise You. Glorify Yourself in me, Lord.

  1. Make Me Brave

Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.” Joshua 10:25

Lord, I want to be filled with Your courage and strength. I want to live by every word that comes from Your mouth and speak boldly about what You can and will do.

The threats against my marriage are wimpy compared to Your great power.

Joshua put his godless enemies to death. He listened to Your voice and obeyed You.

You gave him authority to accomplish Your will. He commanded the sun to stand still, and You made it happen for the glory of Your name and the protection of Your people. 

Teach me, Lord, to exercise the authority You have given me. Train me to hear Your voice and respond without hesitation.

Make me brave. Use me to war against the enemies of our marriage in prayer using the Sword of Your Spirit.

I believe You are able, Lord. Please help my unbelief.

With faith in Jesus’ blood and righteousness, I pray.

Amen

wedding dresses AU

Jennifer O. White is an author, speaker and artist passionately encouraging women to depend on God through prayer and His Word. She is the author of Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God’s Armor After the Wedding Dress. Don’t let the name of the book fool you. Every wife who wants God to do more in her marriage will find it a great devotion and prayer guide.

Jennifer also offers Marriage Armor for the #PrayingBride and Prayer Greeting Cards.  Today she is offering us the opportunity to purchase her cards (which are showcased in the beautiful pictures above), which are prints of her original art with a prayer and Scripture, at 25% off with the coupon: #prayingbride. Start shopping now at jenniferowhite.com/shop.

One Little Word 2017: Serve

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You know that a year slipped and spiraled away from you when you sift through your posts to find your “One Little Word” for the previous year, only to realize you never wrote that post you were sure you did.

This will be my 5th year doing One Little Word. It’s been absolutely amazing to see how perfectly the words God has given me each year have been in describing how my life would stretch, grow, and change through those years. Since it’s something I pray about the words are not often ones I would choose, or that I want, but rather ones that God impresses upon my heart as I ponder the direction life will go with the coming year.

For 2016 my One Little Word was Trust

Like all my previous years, it proved to be poignant and so fitting over and over throughout the year, which was full of exciting, joyful, crazy, and suspenseful changes for our family.

A busy, bustling last semester of college for Bob and crazy regular life for us brought our lives in East Texas and living with Bob’s parents to a close as we said goodbye to commitments, friendships, and service. In typical God fashion we found out at the exactly right time and last moment what job Bob was supposed to take, through 2 job offers so perfectly timed and orchestrated so that it could have only been His hand showing us the way.

Next came the flurry of house hunting and the loan application process that lead us into a part of Texas we’d lived close to for four years, but never visited or heard of before that point. Just when I was sure we’d found *THE* home for us, I’d end up in a puddle of tears as the inspection came back horrific or we got the call that it had been bid out from under us by a buyer who paid cash for the entire amount.

I learned that Trust is so much harder than it seems, but that God is truly patient and forgiving. Each time I’d stamp my feet and cry my tears and sigh my sighs He lovingly re-directed me, my eyes, my thoughts, and my dreams to the path they were supposed to be on. It’s one thing to tell God, “I trust You. I only want for You to put us wherever You want us.” It’s quite another when He starts to guide and direct and you back peddle, “Are you sure about that one??? That’s not what I had in mind when I told you that.”

Though my year of Trust had it’s stumbles and trips, God’s hand lovingly upheld me through it all. He was faithful and answered prayer and already I can begin to see how He perfectly set everything into motion to get us exactly where we needed to be when we needed to be there. Like so often in my life, it’s the last thing I thought He had for us, but I’m wonderfully joyful and blessed right where He’s called us to be, as He knew I would be.

From Trust in 2016 to 2017

As I have for the past several years, as the year drew to a close, through all the holiday joy and crazy, my mind started to form and pray about my One Little Word for the upcoming year. Like my year with “Wait” this year’s word kept crowding into my mind, tugging at the corners, forcing itself to my attention.

Serve.

Like with the year Wait, I wanted to push it aside. No, no Serve. I don’t want you. Let’s focus on a fresh, cozy, or happy word! One of those that the other people are throwing around. Even a word like Intentional would be fine. Not Serve, though.

But yes, my word for 2017 is Serve.

And this time I’m OK with admitting to you that I’m not even sure why it is Serve. I know that God has been hacking away at my selfish, prideful, and narcissistic sins for the past several years, and there’s no better way to cut to the quick of what I struggle with most than through loving Service. I know that I need to focus on my marriage, and on my parenting, and in my ministries, and I know there’s no better way to Grow, to Bless, and to Trust–than through a servant’s heart in these areas.

How, what, or who God will be calling me to Serve, or how it will look played out through the year, though, I have no specific callings or ideas.

I’m excited, though. I’m excited to push past my selfishness and embrace this year, this word. I’m excited for the riches and the growth it’s sure to bring.

I’m excited, to Serve.

 

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How I am Learning to Be Genuine and Vulnerable

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One of my recent self-discoveries and adventures has been about learning to be genuine and vulnerable as a person. It has been humorous to me because I didn’t even realize that I was being fake as a person in general. Do you ever have those self-realizations that leave you stunned and puzzled at how you came so far without realizing said epiphany?

Well, when my lovely and honest counselor pointed it out to me, it was like my whole world just crumbled.

ME…Fake?! I scoffed at the very concept.

I am the girl who always boasts about being personally grieved by fakeness; and yet, by a bizarre twist of fate, I was the very thing I claimed to detest.

Humbling moment… let me tell you.

You see, I’m not shallow. I can still hold true to that claim, BUT I am fake.

I hide.

I wear a mask.

Ironically, one of my favorite poems ever since high school, which I suppose was a self-fulfilling prophecy I didn’t want to acknowledge, has been the one entitled “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar.

 The poem goes as follows:

We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,

This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,

In counting all our tears and sighs?

Nay, let them only see us, while

We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries

To thee from tortured souls arise.

We sing, but oh the clay is vile

Beneath our feet, and long the mile;

But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear the mask!

-Paul Laurence Dunbar

 

There is so much depth and truth to that poem. It is one that has indeed stuck with me throughout all these years. So that leaves me now with the following questions:

  • How do I become a genuine person?
  • How do I shed this mask of perfection and pained happiness, and let people see the real me? How do I open myself up to being vulnerable?
  • How do I shed my idealism of needing to be perfect and strong for everyone else, and let myself be ministered to as well?
  • Why am I the girl that LOVES to encourage others, but runs away when people try to encourage and pour into my life?

I’m still seeking the answers.

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Therapy is definitely helping me peel back the layers of my mask and exposing my deepest hurts and insecurities and refining those ashes into beauty. I won’t lie, it is a painful journey, but it is worth it! I am aware. I am VERY aware of my shortcomings, but within those shortcomings, I am learning to see HOPE and opportunities for growth, instead of just a bleak fog of despair at my inadequacies.

I think the hardest lesson I am learning is…

I am ENOUGH.

Who I am, where I am RIGHT NOW…

is enough!

Not my ideal perfect self that I long and strive to be that is but a dream… no…

Rebekah Clark, the human soul born back in 1991, is ENOUGH.

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I have to believe that in my core. I have to embrace it. I have to allow myself to be the REAL me, the present me, THIS me.

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I want to leave you all with this amazing Ted Talk from Brené Brown. She is such a personal hero and inspiration to me. She pretty much embodies vulnerability and becoming genuine, even when it hurts.

I believe a big part of becoming genuine is laying down of pride. Letting the layers slip away and being exposed. Vulnerability isn’t weakness. Vulnerability is STRENGTH. That concept is really hard for me to grasp though as someone who always likes to ease the burdens of others and ignore my own – which is not healthy at all (Enneagram 2w1).

Let me know your thoughts on this Ted Talk. It is definitely worth the watch.

 

 

So, dear reader, what is vulnerability to YOU?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

With great affection and vulnerability,

Rebekah Clark

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