Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Moments

By Suanne Camfield

Although today is December 26, one day after Christmas has officially ended, if your family is anything like mine, Christmas is anything but over. In fact, as you read this I’ll be traveling eight hours by car, giddy with anticipation for another family gathering filled with eager children, mounds of presents and cookies galore.

And if your mailbox is anything like mine, it’s still welcoming Christmas cards, stragglers written by people who care just as much but couldn’t quite pull off all the addressing and licking and stamping before the post office officially closed its holiday doors.

I didn’t want 2011 to end without sending my own Christmas greetings to you, our beloved FullFill readers. My hope is that you will welcome this letter like the stragglers in your mailbox, from a friend who wants to wish you a Merry Christmas before THE DAY, but didn’t quite make the cutoff.

Every year I start my Christmas letter the same way – by telling the people I send it to that I wasn’t going to write one. I usually make the decision sometime in November, determined not to add one more thing to an already busy season, then exhort myself to stand firm: YOU.WILL.NOT.WAVER.

But, then –every year—something happens. A moment subtly and unexpectedly comes to life and wraps its tiny hands around my heart. And I find myself, once again, tapping away.

This year, I was clearing some Christmas cards out from last year’s card holder, making room for the new ones that had begun piling up on my kitchen counter when I came across a cute little card with a puppy wearing a Santa hat. Not remembering who sent it, I opened the card and smiled when I saw my grandma’s familiar signature. She passed away in January at 93. It was the last card I’d ever receive from her.

Card in hand, I paused for a moment, thinking how her penmanship reminded me of my mom’s, and then tucked the card back in with the others. It didn’t technically belong there, but throwing it away didn’t seem possible. It was, like so many moments we experience in any given year, one that presented a choice: simply toss it aside in a rush to get to the next thing, or let it linger and fill me and move me in a way that compels me to stop. And listen. And reflect.

That’s when I knew I’d be writing yet another Christmas letter.

In many ways, my year year could be categorized as an accumulation of blurred and rushed moments. It was the first full year my family experienced “mom” back at work (after eight years as a stay-at-home mom) while my husband continued to expand his role at the church where he works, while my two elementary age kids were just busy being kids. The four of us worked hard to incorporate things like rest and boundaries, but we couldn’t seem to dodge the season of life we found ourselves in – we’re just plain busy.

Which is why I love the Christmas moments. The ones that make us pause in the midst of the hard and breathless and chaotic and remember that life is full of moments that are rich and good and overflowing with love and laughter and grace. Moments worth pausing for—card in hand—and sopping up and soaking in. Because of that, we’re reminded to grab as many as we can, choosing to value relationships more than schedules, time more than money, neighbors more than ourselves and a Jesus worth pursuing more than any of the rest.

It’s been a privilege to travel through 2011 with you. Thank you for letting us invade your inboxes every Monday morning. My prayer for each of you as we close this year and look forward to the next is that you’ll intentionally pause—even as you live out your influence—long enough to grab a hold of your own moments and tuck them away for another year to come.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year on behalf of your friends at FullFill!

Suanne Camfield is the Blog Manager for FullFill and a freelance writer. She works at InterVarsity Press and is a founding member of the Redbud Writer’s Guild.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Heroic Authenticity

By Rachel Hansen

I love a good superhero story, a twofold tale. On one side, the main character is an invincible hero, a superhuman with great strength and special power. On the other, a man or woman behind the costume who looks much more like you and I.

Often I am more intrigued by the ordinary, the humble subplot of the humanity within the hero than the extraordinary strength and power that come with the title.

I have tried playing superwoman. Every room in my home holds books that teach me how to be like her. You would think by now I’d be a master chef like Rachael Ray, a home expert like Martha Stewart or perhaps would have uncovered the many secrets to living Real Simple. Instead publications sit on my shelves unfinished—as am I. Conversations with other women center on achieving more while finding balance. In the pursuit of doing it all, I grow weary (and so I also own books on beating fatigue!). Through it all, I continually push forward in search of the right answers.

But I have also experienced enjoyment in being me—no more, no less. I set striving aside and appreciate all I have done and learned thus far. I celebrate where I am in life while humbly recognizing I still have far to go. I embrace the reality that I am not invincible and I turn to God regularly. In the process, I’ve learned to take off the mask and genuinely share myself with others; it is satisfying, inspiring and real.

In a world searching for superpower, authenticity – being genuine, open and available to others – builds influence.

My influence shifted greatly when I chose to lead with authenticity. No fancy fa├žade. I stripped off the polished exterior of my superwoman costume to expose the soft, unrefined parts inside. I offered gritty honesty about my personal life and work. Unfiltered, I shared about the battles I lost, won and what I learned.

Every season God brings women into my path that are hungry for authenticity in a world dominated by superficiality. Getting to know the woman I am behind closed doors, they see there is no better option (for me or them) than choosing to live by faith. In Christ, we are more than conquerors because of God’s love, grace and empowerment.

While many of us aspire to do great things, I have found my greatest influence comes from being myself – an ordinary woman serving an extraordinary God. As women of faith and as leaders, often the best thing we can offer others is authenticity. Sometimes being ourselves is the only thing required because if we only show what is possible through man, we fall short in our influence. But if we share openly about what God has done through our lives, we have supernatural power to change the world. Maybe in the end, it will make us all heroines.

Rachel Hansen has been active in a variety of ministries, currently championing the prayer ministry with her husband at New Life Community Church in Chicago’s Lincoln Park and serving on the Women of the Word Midwest Steering Committee. She is a freelance writer who plans to complete her first book for women of faith in 2012.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Give Grief

By Caryn Rivadeneira

I’ve been talking a lot about grief lately. My grief, that is. And about lamenting, about all the times I’ve cried out to God about the things that have broken my heart, the things I have lost, the things I cannot change. I talk about my grief when I do radio interviews, when I speak to women’s groups, when I’m leading discussions.

But the other day I noticed something troubling: while I can write about my grief, while I can stand in front hundreds or be “on the air” telling thousands about the trials of my life, I have a hard time expressing it to just one person. Or two. Or a few friends around a table.

I noticed this when a friend called. She asked how I was doing. Although I was not doing well at that time, I gave her my standard chirpy, “Great. Thanks. How about you?” And shoved down all my sadness, all my worries, all the things that had in fact been causing me to panic that very day.

I told myself it was because we didn’t have long to talk. There was no time to go into all the things that made me “not great,” all the things I was waiting on God for.

But the truth was, I was embarrassed, ashamed to admit to this friend that my life was still not in order, that I feared slipping back into the funk that made me write a book about my experience in the first place.

It wasn’t until I got off the phone that I realized the opportunity I’d missed. Something I haven’t always seen as an “opportunity.”

You see, I was raised to believe that no one cared about my problems. I was taught to say—just as I did with my friend—“Fine, thank you. How are you?” any time anyone asked how I was.

It was polite. And—my folks told me—no one wants to hear a complainer.

My parents meant well. Truly. But they were wrong. While that may be a polite response in some ways (though I could argue against that) and while every last person who asks how we are probably doesn’t want to hear a litany of complaints, some people do want to hear it.

Namely, our friends. Our families. Our colleagues. Our brothers and sisters in Christ. People who care at all about us.

In fact, sharing our grief isn’t just something that’s good for us, it can be a gift to others. Which is the opportunity I realized I missed with my friend.

In me not telling her I wasn’t doing well, I not only missed out on the opportunity for her to walk alongside me in a difficult time, but for me to tell her that I understood what it meant to hurt. For me to open the door for her to share any struggles on her mind.

It’s hard to be vulnerable. To share embarrassing things when we want so badly to be seen as successes—in so many ways.

And yet, sharing a bit of grief as well as our joys can be one of the best things we can do for one another.

So, this Advent season—as we all are waiting on our Savior—I’ve decided on the gift I’m giving my friends, my family, my any-one-who-cares: I’m giving them grief. My grief. I’m going to speak honestly and openly about the sorrows—and joys—of my life right now. And hope they can see me as a safe person to share theirs as well.

Anyone care to join me?

Caryn Rivadeneira is a founding member of Redbud Writers Guild and author of Grumble Hallelujah: Learning to Love Your Life Even When It Lets You Down. Visit her at http://www.carynrivadeneira.com

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Have You Had Your Fill?

Elisa Morgan, Publisher, FullFill™

Click here to GIVE your fill!

Have you had your fill? I have. Had my “fill” that is. Every week I take a swig of encouragement, replenishment, perspective, faith, hope and help that comes in the form of the Weekly ReFill. Even though sometimes I’m the one writing them, I look forward to the words and the links and the insights that come through my inbox.

I’m not alone. Joyce writes, “I love FullFill™! It helps me in my walk as a woman of God.” Yeah. Me too. And Diana says, “Thank you so much for the Weekly ReFill being emailed to me. They are so ‘now’ and we all can relate.” Makes me smile. And I think Jesus smiles too. J

Have you? Had your fill? If so, can I ask you to consider something this month?

Weekly ReFill is now filling nearly 11,000 women in the US and lots of other countries. Every week. For FREE. We don’t charge. And I don’t take a salary. Our staff pretty much just volunteers.

But there are still some costs that need to be covered. Like our web site, the platform for the digizine library and the ReFill blasts and the webinars. If you’ve had your fill, will you consider giving so that other women get theirs? Our goal for 2012 is to cover the current 11,000 women we reach and add another 9,000 women for a total of 20,000 women in 2012. That will take $20,000 in funds for “Twenty 12”!

Wait! Don’t delete this because you think you can’t help!

It’s not that much. Pick your number! $1 per woman for a whole year of Weekly ReFills. And access to the whole FullFill™ digizine library and videos and Get More! Think about it! $50 underwrites 50 women for a whole year! Each woman receives the Weekly ReFill every week, access to the FullFill™ digizine and video library and eblast updates. And by the way, you’ll keep getting your fill for FREE too. Some of you may be in a position to make a greater contribution. $385 will sponsor one week for 20,000 women. $1,500 will sponsor one month for 20,000 women.

Plus - for every $10,000 above this amount, we’ll create a new issue of FullFill™ for our digizine library.

So please - will you join us this December and give your fill? Every gift is tax deductable. Click here to GIVE your fill!

Don’t want to give online? Mail your check to:

Mission: Momentum

PO Box 461546

Aurora, CO 80146

Keep an eye on your December Weekly ReFills as we update you on how God provides for our goal: $20,000 for 20,000 women in 2012!

Thank you. Truly. For being a part of the FullFill™ community and for inviting more women to live out their influence!

Elisa Morgan

weekly refill welcome

President, Mission: Momentum, www.missmo.org

Publisher, FullFill™, www.fullfill.org

Author, Speaker, She Did What She Could, www.shedidwhatshecould.com

“Thank you, FullFill™, for a visually pleasing digizine filled with Jesus and His people. I appreciate you!” - Suzanne

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Woman Haters

By Nicole Unice

It was a chic bistro with gourmet sandwiches, and it was a lunch I looked forward to all week. I had the chance to sit with a trio of smart, influential, successful women in ministry. I was eager to share, to learn, to be encouraged. We talked about changing our churches and changing the world. The conversation turned to friendships, and then, this statement:

“Well, I don’t really like women.”

I’ve heard this said more times than I can count. And worse: I’m guilty of saying it myself. Between the delicious food and stimulating conversation, I found my palate sour.

Who but us women, I marveled to myself, can actually destroy from within.

The statement itself is ludicrous. What other species on this earth claims to not like themselves? Can you imagine a similar lunch experience with four men, where one of them exclaims, “I don’t really like men?”

And so I disturbed the calm and asked, “What do you mean about not liking women?” We agreed that when we say “women” we mean a certain kind of woman, and we let that kind of woman dominate our understanding of the gender.

When I’ve said “I don’t like women,” what I’ve meant is that I don’t like women who choose the superficial over the authentic. I don’t like women who try to control those around them. I don’t like women who are so wracked by comparison and envy that they spend their energy cutting others down to pull themselves up.

But I don’t like men like that either.

Why would I, a woman, choose to distance myself from my own gender? Perhaps it’s because I recognize how I’m sometimes like the women I dislike. Maybe it’s because I’m ashamed of women like this and don’t want to be classified as the same. I also know that I’m resentful of women who’ve led in unhealthy ways before me, leaving a path of destruction that has made it hard for me to find my way. But maybe, more than anything, I’ve slowly allowed this crazy worldview of women to creep into my own; I’ve seen that woman equals weakness and I’d rather not be associated with that thankyouverymuch.

These woman-hating statements are not far from a similar one: “I hate women’s ministry.” I doubt any woman thinks that actually ministering to women is wrong or bad or outdated (Jesus ministered to plenty). It’s that we’ve allowed the conversation about “women’s ministry” to be dominated by scathing critiques of knitting circles, beauty treatments and superficiality.

But as the conversation at lunch continued, the eldest at the table pointed out that good and kind women’s ministries have ministered faithfully for decades. That the women who lead them (crafts aside!) have stalwartly carried churches on their backs while simultaneously serving their husbands, their families, their volunteer roles, their schools. That some of these women have saved souls, saved marriages, saved men.

Yet we allow our concept of “women” and “women’s ministry” to be defined by a warped view. We women often allow that to continue, perhaps even perpetuate it.

The unspoken assumption during lunch between us women in ministry was that when we say “we don’t like women” or we “hate women’s ministry,” we exclude ourselves from the entire category. My heart ached in that moment, when I realized I was very close to turning into the exact kind of woman I want to distance myself from.

I don’t have the answers. But I do know that there’s something fundamentally wrong with being a woman and a “woman hater.” It doesn’t honor one another or God nor does it encourage one another to live out our influence.

Can you relate?

Nicole Unice is a woman on a mission to bring others to confidence and daily faith in God and his Word. She is the author of She's Got Issues, (Tyndale) releasing in May 2012 and work in student and family ministry at Hope Church in Richmond, VA. Find out more about her writing, speaking and musings on life, motherhood, ministry and God at http://www.nicoleunice.com or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.