by Debbie Altman

When we think of “Women at War,” the topic of this month’s blog focus; we think of all the different relationships that we have with women-mothers, daughters, friends, co-workers…and the potential for “war!”  But there is another woman with whom we do battle, and that is ourselves.

Over the years, I have grown passionate about the subject of comparison amongst women, because I see the destructive power it can have in my own life, and in the lives of almost all women.   Let’s see…what do we compare?  Let me count the ways…

We compare our hair, our clothes, our weight, our husbands, our children, our spirituality, our houses, our personalities, our jobs, our parenting, our vacations, our fitness, our skin, our shoes!…the list is endless, and it is exhausting!  So, we walk into any situation, even environments that are supposed to build us up, like church or small groups…and because we are incessantly comparing ourselves, we can walk away feeling “less than” and diminished in our own eyes!  How truly tragic!  Yet I do it to myself all the time.  How about you?  And lets amp this up just a little with “Facebook Envy”  (More opportunity to compare…)  You know…”My husband just surprised me for our anniversary with twelve dozen roses and little chocolates and candles all around our bed, a trip to Malibu, AND my children just made Student of the Year, and, and, and….“  Wow!  While I’m picking up my husband’s dirty clothes from all around the bed, and my son just got suspended from pre-school for biting!  We don’t even need the media’s constant bombardment telling us what the perfect woman is, we manage to do enough damage to ourselves just comparing ourselves to all the women in our own little worlds! 

Over the years, I have learned (and am still learning!) a few things:

1: I have to renew my mind with who Jesus says that I am by reading His Word…and believe it!

God’s Word tells us that we are uniquely and wonderfully made!  He tells us how loved we are! 

Psalm 16:9  “No wonder my heart is glad and I rejoice.  In You I rest secure!”

And one of my favorite verses, “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields her all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.” Deuteronomy 33:12

2: I have to recognize the gifts that He has given me.

1 Corinthians 12 tells us how He has created us all differently and that we are each important for exactly who we are.  We are not supposed to all be the same!  Phillipians 4:8 tells us to dwell on the good things. Dwell on who you ARE and not what you ARE NOT!  Go ahead, actually count the ways in which you are an amazing person and what you offer to the world!

Do you realize that while you are looking at someone else and wishing that you were more like her in this way or that, she is looking at you and seeing your gifts and thinking the same thing!  It’s really true!

3: I have to recognize and fight the negative thoughts of comparison that the enemy Satan wants to defeat me with.

2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ.  James 4:7 says to “resist the enemy and he will flee!”  This has been a life survival skill that I have had to practice!

When we work from a mentality of God-given security, we are fully capable of thinking another woman is beautiful without concluding that we are ugly!  We can admire another woman’s achievements without feeling like we are a failure.  Where on earth did we come up with the idea that we have to subtract value from ourselves in order to give credit to someone else?

Life is short, and my heart’s cry is that we would not waste any more time comparing ourselves until we’ve stripped ourselves of all the God-given beauty and dignity that we have been given!  We are all at different stages of our life, and we each have different struggles and different attributes.  But we are all on the same path, wanting to look more like Jesus.  We are here to bless one another with who we are, and help each other along.  Each of us in our own beautiful way, portrays a different facet of God’s amazingness!  It is not a competition.  Stop the war with yourself and celebrate who you are!  I am so privileged to know so many incredible women.  You inspire me in a million different ways, and I have learned in Christ, that I am not so bad myself!  God bless you all.  

You are beautiful! What scriptures have helped you through times of comparison? Share your thoughts and comments below! 

Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago.  She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son.  She is also known as “Nona” to her precious granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading, the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games.

by Renee Scott 

Seventeen years ago when my husband asked me to marry him, I can’t say that my mother-in-law was extremely happy and joyful.  Let’s be honest, I was taking “away” the son she poured her life into.  He was her only child.  Adopted at the tender age of seven months old, he consumed her life.  After his parents divorced early in his life, she worked three jobs to maintain the lifestyle he was accustomed to.  She couldn’t always attend his games or travel to school events but he was her pride and joy.

I didn’t understand it then because only my filtered wisdom mattered. When we married, I felt she didn’t like me much.  I had no insight to understand differently. My parents were ecstatic, so why wasn’t she?

My thoughts and opinions strained my relationship with her for years.  I was cordial and gracious but I know in my heart it could have been a much deeper relationship if I had just opened myself up more.  Now that I’m the mother of a four year old son, it creates an awareness I never had before.  There are times when loving my son takes my breath away.  With every kiss and every hug, he draws me into his heart.  Loving him is intoxicating and beyond words.  My son has my heart.  I realize that if my mother-in-law shared similar emotions about Alton, no wonder it was hard for her to release him.

I’ve now moved into another season in my relationship with her.  I no longer feel tension and stress when we are together.  Being able to see the situation through her eyes brings compassion and understanding.  A few years ago she was diagnosed with dementia.  There are days when her memory is great and then there are days when it takes time for her just to remember our names.  I’m so happy that I made peace within about our relationship, especially before her diagnosis.  I wouldn’t be able to care for her in the way that I do if my past feelings were still there.  I try and treat each moment with her as if it were my last.  As her disease progresses, I know that only God knows when he will transition her with him.  Until then, I will continue to love her in such a special way.  If it weren’t for her and Alton’s dad, there would be no him.  No us.  Thank God for a change of heart. 

1 Corinthians 13 shares the true meaning of love.

We would love to hear about an in-law relationship that’s been restored in your life.  Grab a cup of coffee and leave a comment below! 

Renee ScottRenee Scott is co-founder of the popular blog, http://doubleportioninspiration.blogspot.com, where she shares encouragement and inspiration to men and women all over the world.  She’s been a member of Grace Family Church for four years. She loves to run and recently completed her first half marathon. She is a wife of over 14 years and mother of two children.

by Leah Martorana

Women.  We are an intricate mix of emotions, feelings and past experiences.  When you put two of us together magical things can happen.  Deep bonds can form in a moment’s time.  This is what we are meant for.

Wounds.  All women have them.  Some have healed and some are in need of healing.  The wounds not healed? They ache and ooze with the ugliness of bitterness, hurt, jealousy, and shame. 

We have all had an encounter with another woman where we felt attacked and threatened.  Our initial response is to fight back and defend ourselves.  The urge is primal and hard to overcome.  But have you ever stopped to consider the wound?

When I was in high school there was this girl.  I didn’t really know her but I had decided I didn’t like her and she had decided she didn’t like me.  I can’t really say how we made our decisions.  In my head, she was out to steal my boyfriend. She was always hanging out with the boys on the soccer team and she didn’t have any female frieds. In her head I was probably jealous without reason.  All that I am sure of is that we had formed strong opinions of each other based on assumptions and judgments.

Fast forward to College and I found out God has a funny way of making us women deal with our issues.  I ended up in a class sitting right next to this girl I so desperately tried to avoid.  We were paired up for a group project and forced to spend a lot of time together that semester. I learned she shied away from female friends because so many women had hurt her in the past.  I also learned I was jealous because of broken trust in relationships. 

Over the course of that semester and the few years that followed, this girl became one of my dearest friends.  She played an instrumental role in my Christian walk and I often wonder what would have happened if we both held on to our pride and refused to see past the exterior.  We would have missed out on an amazing friendship had we not considered the wound.

What opportunities have you had to build an unlikely friendship?

Maybe it came in the form of a co-worker who always seemed to sabotage your work.  Her wound is jealousy displayed through cutting you down with condescending comments.  How did you respond? Did you consider her wound?

Or perhaps it was a fellow believer that felt “called” to call you out in a public setting.   She questioned your good intentions and your moral character because she was burned many years ago.  How did you respond? Did you consider her wound? 

How about that look that some women have perfected?  You know, the one with the rolling eyes and daggers that seem to cut to your core.  So intense you can feel the hatred across the room?  It’s their defense for the insecurity they battle and can’t seem to shake.  How did you respond?  Did you consider her wound?

See, no one can make us question our worth like another woman. That is just what the enemy hopes for. To create divides, to tear us apart, to make us feel insecure, unworthy, and misunderstood.  He wants to do everything in his power to prevent the beautiful life-transforming bond that forms when two women connect heart to heart and wound to wound. 

So next time you feel attacked and the urge to fight back rises in you, take a moment to step back.  Pause.  Filter your words through truth.  Be bold but speak out in love.  Take a moment to consider the source.  Consider the wound. 

Have you ever felt like the enemy was trying to create a divide between you and another woman? If so, how did you face the situation? Share your thoughts and comments below! 

 

Leah Martorana has been married to her husband, Mark, for 4 years and is enjoying her new role as mommy to 1 year old, Maxwell.  She is the co-leader of Beautiful Moms at Grace Family Church. Leah enjoys anything creative, from cooking to crafting. 

by Jenelle Garden 

Almost every little girl loves a fairytale, and the story of my youth has all the conventional characters you’d expect to find in one. There’s a Hero, a few villains, and, eventually, a handsome prince. There’s also a stepmother, but she may be the least “conventional” character, because, truly, there’s not a wicked bone in her body.

I met my step mom, Lisa, when I was three years old, shortly after my parents separated.  My Dad introduced Lisa to me as his “friend,” and right away, I was determined to make her mine too. I promptly took Lisa by the hand and walked her to my bedroom to show her my most prized possession, a Fischer Price record player. Lisa acted like my toy was the most marvelous thing she’d ever seen, and since she gave it its due praise, I decided that I liked her immediately. Fortunately, she liked me too.


My dad and Lisa eventually got married and had two children of their own. Looking back, I can still remember their wedding day. Lisa looked like a Barbie doll in her wedding gown and my dad looked happier than ever. Best of all, I got to be the flower girl. As I was approaching the altar, I’m sure I was thinking more about my pretty pink dress than Jesus, but looking back, it’s my first memory of being in a church and I know I was in the presence of God, because I felt so much love.

I hadn’t seen that kind of love before between my own parents. Though I’m sure there were happy times in their relationship, all of my early memories of their marriage were of the strife that existed in it.  But neither of them are the villains in my story. They both did their best, loved me tremendously, and had every intention of making their marriage work when it started.  Still, as Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians (1Cor 7:28), “Those who get married will have troubles,” and having not yet given their lives and their relationship over to Christ, they weren’t ready to face those troubles alone or as a couple. 

The two weekends a month that I got to spend with my dad went from “party of two,” to “party of three.” The pastures seemed greener when I got to leave the monotony of everyday life at my mom’s house, and spend two days in paradise with my dad and step mom. I often cried when my Dad and Lisa brought me home to my mom after our weekend visits.  I begged my mom to let me go and live with them, and I know it must have broken her heart. Finally, at the age of 9, my mom succumbed to the pressure and I was in the care of Lisa and my dad for a year. I thought all of my dreams had come true! I was catapulted into the greener pastures of my dad and Lisa’s life, but, I quickly realized that even greener pastures have rules, chores, bedtimes, and homework. The pastures were also missing something I’d never had the chance to miss before; my mom.

I remember standing in the shower, just sobbing and asking God, “Why?” I felt so angry. I was angry at myself for missing the mom I had tried for so long to escape from. Lisa heard me crying and stepped into the shower with me, fully clothed and held me tightly, as I wailed, “I want my mom!”

I didn’t say it to hurt her and I knew she was doing her best to fill my “empty spaces”. But she knew she couldn’t ever take my mom’s place and she didn’t seek to. As our relationship matured, I learned that Lisa’s only motive was to be a loving example to me and a friend when I needed one most.  As a woman of God, she understood the principle of love being patient, kind, enduring, and hopeful.  She was a true example of loving people like Jesus did, because like Him, she loved me when she didn’t have to. 

Today, I am pleased to say that Lisa and I remain very close. My mother and her have a friendly, mutually respectful relationship.  They’ve both been amazing examples to me, as I strive to emulate their best qualities in my relationship with my own daughters.

If you find yourself in the position of loving an imperfect young girl (or even a boy) who isn’t your own biological child, I encourage you to follow my step mom Lisa’s example. Love them like Jesus did, without judgment, condemnation, or conditions. Bring your blessings, experiences, and gifts to the body that is your blended family. For as Jesus tells us, we are one body with many parts, functions, and gifts (1 Cor 12:12). I pray that we all might be such examples of God’s love to others in need. 

Are you a step mother or a woman who has a step mother? If so, how have you worked through the trials that you may have experienced? Share your comments below! 

 

 

Jenelle Garden is a first grade teacher, mother of 2 beautiful girls and married to her high school sweetheart. Jenelle recently joined the Beautiful Ministry as a small group leader and enjoys sharing her love for Jesus with other women and feels most blessed as she draws closer to God through fellowship. 

by Dawn Smiling

I remember sitting on my bed crying my eyes out.  I can still hear my big sister say “Dawn, your plans have not changed, they are just delayed.  You will still get to accomplish everything you want to do, don’t worry”.  I was pregnant and unmarried at the age of nineteen.  Why is everything so out of order in my life?  Can I do anything right?  Next, I had to watch my mother cry.  Although I did not fully understand it then, I now understand the hurt and pain a mother feels when their child takes a turn in life.  It was then that a part of me finally understood that my mother had other plans for my life, and having a child before marriage was not in this equation.  But the time passed, and my mother’s heart softened in her disappointment.

My beautiful bundle of joy arrived.  She smelled so good.  All brand new and looking directly in my eyes.  Oh, if she would have stayed just a beautiful baby.  But she didn’t, she grew.  She grew from listening to everything mommy said, to suddenly having her own opinion.  Who is this?  Did this child come out of my womb?  The teenage years were rough.   She was an alien from another planet.  We did not see eye to eye on anything.  All I could do is pray.  Right at that moment I remembered what I put my mother through and decided this was punishment from God.  Was I getting back everything I put my dear mother through?  Was my youthful rebellion coming back to haunt me?  I Prayed. 

Suddenly, she blossomed.  She changed into someone I recognized, again.  A huge sigh of relief came over me.  But more importantly, she changed into a person she liked.  She came into her own.  As women and young ladies, we go through periods where we are confused about who we are, and what our purpose is.  A huge sigh of relief came over me that she left the alien nation and came back to the land of the living. She found Christ.   

Never underestimate God’s timing.  At the lowest time of my life, when faced with divorce, this beautiful gift, my daughter, brought me so much comfort, and so much love.  She took care of me like a nurse taking care of a patient.  The one that I took care of was now taking care of me.  And as Ruth followed Naomi, and said “your people shall be my people, and your God will be my God”, she followed me to Grace FamilyChurch, and she became a member. Thank God I did not terminate this pregnancy.  I could only see my future, but God sees everything.  God knows our past, He is our present and He has plans for our future. And when I look at her, my beautiful daughter, I can see me.

How have you seen your relationship with your mother change for the good over the years? In what ways do you appreciate your mother or daughter as a gift? Share your comments below! 

 

Dawn Smiling enjoys volunteering at Grace Family Church as a prayer counselor, part of the soul care ministry, and as a table leader for Beautiful Monday Nights.