Words of Awareness

There are those in life you hope you never hurt. Those who have walked with you through sacred space and have defined friendship for you. Some of my very favorite people in the world I have known since high school. These women,17 years of friendship, and thousands of memories have created some of my most treasured relationships.

As teenagers, we couldn’t get enough of each other. Our parents would take turns hosting slumber parties, and feeding 6 growing young ladies. We were in each other’s classes, we sat by each other before school, during lunch, and took over the couches at each other’s houses after school. Sundaychurch together; Wednesday nightyouth group, church camp, mission trips, family vacations, we were in life together.  In short, we were inseparable.  

The hours upon hours we spent together knit us together as a group, and my friendships with these particular women helped shape me into the woman I am today.

Intertwined with the sweet, I can also identify the bitter memories. Flashbacks that remind me of when I did not act with kindness, or patience. When I tore at those who are my sisters in Christ. Proverbs 18:21(ESV) says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”  My unruly tongue lashed out hurtful words. Language that caused heartache and tears. I am grateful that in these instances I was met with grace and forgiveness, and our solidarity endured. It’s scary that such a small muscle in our body, paired with the thoughts in our brain, can so quickly break down another human causing sometimes irreparable damage.  

Becoming aware of the power of my tongue presents a daily challenge.  Do I build others up, or do I tear them down?  Am I choosing to speak life-giving words into those around me, or am I squandering away my speech on gossip and folly?  I am prayerfully examining my heart, and asking God to give me words of wisdom, truth, and healing.

I will always be grateful for the beauty of the words that have been spoken to me by my girlfriends. We have laughed together, prayed for one another, spoke truth into one another’s lives when we needed it, and offered the grace found in the truth that not one of us is perfect. We knew exactly how to build one another up, and spur one another on in our relationship with Jesus. United we lived out 1 Thessalonians 5:11,“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up”(ESV).  Even today, we have a string of text messages filled with Bitmoji, funny quotes, prayer requests, and promising words.

I have been given a group of women who are life-givers and truth wielders. I realize this is rare, and I am grateful. I also recognize that stewarding these friendships holds weight and brevity. I hold a holy responsibility as a friend: I am asked to care for these women and their hearts with tenderness and attention to words that perhaps go unspoken.  I allow myself to be vulnerable, and in turn ask that they do so as well.  We don’t hide from each other when things are hard. We seek each other out and offer one another grace and wisdom.  
I am challenged and called to action when I think about my group of girlfriends. Can we cheer each other on, and celebrate the successes of the other as if they were our own? Can we hold our tongue when it is powered by our flesh instead of our spirit? Can we rest in our Savior trusting that He will give us the strength to be who He has called us to be? Will we have the courage to be aware of how our actions and words might impact the lives of others? I hope so, and I hope you will join me in the attempt.

Readers, Will you join Sarah in the quest for speaking life instead of death?

9b24d-sarah2bsquareSarah believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog, and you can find her stories for Anchored Voices under the tag Sarah.


Becoming Aware of Terror

I heard the sniffling before I saw her. She descended the last step of the stairs and revealed her flushed, tear-streaked face. “What is wrong?” I implored. She replied, to my surprise, “I am so scared of the people who bombed the towers.” My heart ached, and my compassion for her late night fear was ignited. She was being haunted not by the typical childhood fear of the dark, but instead – a legitimate fear of darkness itself. This was the first year she had been mature enough to understand the depths of the tragedy of 9/11, and it was keeping her up at night. We had talked to her about it before, but this year she was more aware. They taught her History in her fourth grade class, and terror settled into her soul.

I held her close and did my best to speak louder than the voices of horror. I reminded her that there is good, that some hearts are made of flesh instead of stone, and that evil will eventually be overcome. I said in short, “Yes this is true, but we can stand against it. We need not be afraid. Fear is just another one of evil’s temptations to keep us from true life. We must be courageous. Don’t forget: God is in control, and you are His.”

There comes a time in the lives of children where parents can no longer shield them from the reality that there is trouble in this world, and it is our job to equip them to know how to stand against it. I have four children ranging from 10-4, and this tenderhearted one, is eight. The shock of processing the events of a broken world was too much this night, and I knew it wouldn’t be the last.

I snuggled her slender frame and sloppy face to my side, lifted her chin, and gently asked her, “What does your name mean?” Having been told many times she replied, “I have the light.”

There is a reason we chose her name to have that meaning. We knew that in life she would need to be reminded. The world is scary sometimes, and things are often out of our control, but we get to decide if we will shine light or bring darkness. We wanted our daughter to know, she would have the light.

Sometimes I question my decisions to be so open with my children about the facts of life; that it’s not always easy, in life there will be suffering, and that evil is a real and present danger. But I won’t lie to my children so they can find false comfort. While I do try to protect the beauty of childhood innocence, I also want them to know truth, have hope, and find the secret to being content in all circumstances. I cannot hide my children from the world, but I can teach them to live in it courageously.

I acknowledged that this fear for her (and many others) is real, but that does not mean we cower. I tried to help her understand the luxuries of freedom and protection she has just because she lives in America. We also continuously try to teach our children to have a global perspective. While I hold my weeping child who is making up improbable dramas in her head, there are other children falling asleep to the sounds of waging warfare. I tell her of the things I have seen, and of the times Mommy and Daddy have traveled the world to offer help and the hope of Christ. Someday, I hope to take her with me so she can see how vast humanity truly is, and join me in the ultimate good we were both made for.

How can we share our light? How can we bring awareness to the next generation? Will we teach them to hide or teach them to rise? May we be bold, willing to face our own fears, and may we point at Jesus even when our eyes are washed with waves of tears. For the leaders of tomorrow are watching, asking if they can do the same.

Readers, Whether you have children or not, you can impact the next generation. How can you influence others to be in the light?

e9d88-chara2bbio2bpic2bsquare2b600pxChara is a freelance writer, certified biblical counselor, and speaker. She holds a MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God’s truths. She loves to write about faith, culture,  and the deep truths that drive our fascinations with it. Chara is the founder and editor of  Anchored Voices and can be found on multiple social media platforms @CharaDonahue.

The Cry of Awareness

As I drove down the interstate a crying woman sped past me in the left lane, and a man talking animatedly on his blue-tooth zoomed by in the right. Wheeled bubbles of steel and glass rolled by the drama that clearly showed something was broken. Real people, with real lives, whizzing down the highway heading to destinations unknown. It is sobering to think how so many lives intersect but are still separated. That woman, with the tears, was weighed down by deep feelings. That man was attempting to talk his way out of his early morning problem. They both pushed forward alone into the crisp autumn morning on the highway right of the carpool lane.

There are too many burdens to carry on our own, but that doesn’t keep us from trying. We cover over the detail of real life with Instagram filters, and  “I’m fine,” or “we’re busy,” are the expected reply to the affable, “How are you?” Real answers are scary both to share and listen to. I fear we erect our own walls of steel and glass to keep inquirers from reaching our hearts.

How are you, really?

We don’t talk about domestic violence—too much shame.

We don’t talk about miscarriage and infant losstoo sad.

We don’t talk about racial divisions (unless we’re with people who agree with our own opinion)too polarizing.

We don’t talk about the percentage of foster children who age out of the system and become homelesstoo complex.

We don’t talk about human trafficking, today’s slaverytoo dark.

We don’t talk about mental health or people we love who struggletoo messy.

We put the pretty, shiny moments on the internet to be celebrated, but remain isolated in the parts of the heart that needs the most healing. At best people band together in whatever they are dealing with and lament at how everyone else just doesn’t understand. We just don’t want to be alone.

The good news is that we weren’t meant to be. Both the joy and the pain are not meant to be experienced alone. Romans 12:15 says, we are to “ Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Despite the many masks and images we cultivate online, it appears not everyone wants to stay isolated. We raise awareness through walks, runs, ribbons and t-shirts.  Every cause send out the invitation: This is my life. I don’t want to be lonely anymore. Can you help? Will you listen?  

The cry of connected but lonely people: Rejoice with me!  Mourn with me!  Be with me!

We must be aware of the deep places, and not afraid to share our own hurts in order to be the family God meant us to be for one another. You don’t have to live out a set of circumstances to be impacted by them.  But you do have to be willing to listen as well as willing to share.

Perhaps the cry for awareness is simply a cry for love.

A love that is aware of the real substance in each other’s lives despite the disorder. A love inspired by the  life of Jesus, who entered into some awfully messy situations and empowers us to do the same. He is still the one who is aware of it all. All the pain, all the disease, all the horror that haunt the shadows of people passing us. He crossed lines to love people where there was racism, incurable illness, and social injustice. Bereaved parents, social outcasts, and hurting people flocked to Jesus then, and He reaches out to us now.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30)

Readers, Do you have a burden that you need Jesus to carry, but aren’t sure how to start a relationship with him? Find our more about this Jesus here.

b0de0-holly2bsquareHolly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.