#fangirlyourfriends: Michelle + Shawna

Hey hey hey! It’s Friday and that means it’s time for another post in the #fangirlyourfriends series. If you haven’t done it yet, you need to STAT. Also, if you’re loving these posts, I am including some info at the end of this post with a few opportunities you have to fangirl your own friends!

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One of my For The Love sisters recently posted a blog encouraging us to fangirl our friends. What an incredible concept. Instead of just fangirling celebs, why not fangirl our best girls?!

Corie said it best:

I promise you your friends are doing amazing things. Whether it looks like it from the world’s perspective or not, they are. They are wiping baby bottoms and cleaning toilets. They’re writing books, serving at restaurants, and making coffee. They’re walking in their own little lanes that God as called them to and they need fans. Fans that know the intricate details of their lives. Fans that will pray them through the trenches. Fans that know when they need encouragement and when they just need a place to turn off their brain, have a margarita, and watch their favorite T.V. show. They need YOU. They need you to be their fangirl.

So today’s post is inspired by that.

I had a hard time choosing just one friend to fangirl today. I have so many that are doing amazing things quietly and publicly.

But today’s post is all about my girl, Shawna.

She is my opposite in almost anything, and everything.

She’s exactly six foot tall, and I’m exactly five foot tall. We’re a hoot together.

We were at a women’s bingo event one night at church, and I walked in wearing pearls, lipstick, and heels, and Shawna had on a hoodie, sneakers, and a hat.

That’s us in a nutshell.

She often tells people the only thing we have in common is that we both love Jesus. She’s probably right.

I love so many things about Shawna, but the most overwhelming thing, is that she loves Jesus seriously, passionately, and with everything she has. She didn’t grow up in church, in a Christian home, or school. Her background was gritty and hard at times, but she has used her past as ammunition to just push even farther into Jesus. She has been running hard after Jesus for about four years. It has been so amazing to watch her grown and learn. She often will come over randomly, and we will just sit on the front porch, or in my backyard for hours, and just share verses, what God is teaching us, and just discuss theology. I don’t have another friend like her in that respect, and I’m so thankful for her.
Shawna is the best cheerleader I know. She calls, texts, sends snail mail, and just shows up to cheer people on. If she is in your corner, you’re a lucky soul. When she encourages, she doesn’t just say nice, fluffy words, she speaks truth and life. She does a great job at calling out the good in others. The morning before my half marathon, I was feeling pretty nervous. She walked over, and we had tea on my front porch. She just poured into me, reminded me of the good, and then prayed for me. One thing about Shawna that is unique, is that she is consistent in encouraging. It is never a one time deal for her. She lives her life intentionally and because of that, she is always cheering others on.

One of my favorite things about Shawna is that she doesn’t find fault in others. If I call to gripe and complain about someone, she listens, stops me, and reminds me I don’t know the whole story, or just tells me to just stop complaining. She doesn’t bad mouth others, and I never hear gossip coming from her lips. As much as I wish that was true for me, it isn’t. So I appreciate the good example she sets to remind me to watch my words.

Shawna has been kicking it with making healthy life style changes over the last year or so. She has been part of a local gym program, and has taught herself discipline and hard work. She has lost over 80 pounds since starting out. She is a great accountability partner in trying to be healthy, because she’s doing it right along side me. She knows the struggles of not wanting to get out of bed to work out, and wanting Taco Bell more than fish and asparagus. But she keeps pushing, and in that, she encourages me to keep pushing.

Shawna is so confident in who she is. It’s honestly delightful to be around. I personally don’t struggle with too many self esteem demons, but I still appreciate her outlook. I have never heard her call herself or anyone else fat or ugly. She knows that she is great. I’ve seen her rock multiple hair colors, random outfits, and often no make up. It’s just who she is, and she’s good with that. In a culture full of so many opinions on beauty, and so many girls insecure with who they are, or what they look like, Shawna is a breath of fresh air.

Shawna loves stories of what God is doing. She is almost always my first phone call when God shows up, and does something incredible. Because I know that she will celebrate with me, and I know she knows how much I had been begging for God to move and show up. She is also the first phone call when everything falls apart. She does a great job at reminding me of His goodness and faithfulness when I’m feeling dark and twisty. She listens to all the needs I have, and encourages me that it’s just more opportunity to watch God show up. Her child like faith spurs me on.

This girl is real, genuine, and transparent. Because of that, I want to be the same. She is one of the few people I let into my house when it is a disaster. She’s seen me without makeup, in pjs, with bedhead on more than one occasion. And she doesn’t care. I remember one day she was leaving the gym, and was headed to family dinner, but her hair needed help. So she called and came over. My house was a mess, I was embarrassed, and she just loved me through it. I let her use some baby powder in her hair, and she looked over, and could tell I had been crying. She asked me what was wrong, and we got on our knees, in my messy apartment, and she just prayed over me. As she walked out to her car to leave, she hollered, “Thanks for the powder!”, to which I yelled back, “Thanks for the prayer!” I am so thankful that she loves me in spite of my messy flaws, and that I have someone I can be real with. It’s hard to always pretend that life is fun, perfect, and cozy all the time. There is such beauty and safety in having a friend that loves no matter what.
How can you fangirl your friends this week? Who do you know that is living intentionally and running their race well? Send a card, buy a cup of coffee, or show up with flowers, but let your friends know that you are in their corner, cheering them on.
Love, M
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Ok, so here are my “show notes” (I’m obsessed with podcasts, can you tell?!)
1.I LOVE Michele’s question — how can you fangirl your own friends this week? If you would like to fangirl them on my blog, please send me an email at kristaonpurpose [at] gmail [dot] com. We can chat about specifics there!
2. Michelle and Shawna, seriously you guys are way too adorable for me to handle. I love that God has brought you together! You can read more about Michelle’s daily adventures (she’s got quite a crazy-beautiful life!) at her blog Adventure in the Unknown.

3. My friend Corie, who got this whole thing started, makes these crazy cute #fangirlyourfriend mugs. They’re only $10 AND all the proceeds go directly to support the Legacy Collective. You can preorder them now (they should ship in the next week or two). Here’s me at my staff meeting the other day with my coffee. Coffee tastes better in these mugs!

4. My friend Danielle is also so creative and makes these cute cute leather cuffs. I had her make me a #fangirlyourfriends bracelet that should get here next week and I’m so excited to wear it! Check out her super cute Etsy shop. These cuffs are gorgeous, they go to support missions work in Africa, and they make excellent gifts!

you were right about Jesus or you weren’t

Sarah Bessey’s new book Out of Sorts releases today. As a member of her launch team, I am participating in this synchroblog with the prompt “I used to believe _____ but now I believe _____.” I LOVED Sarah’s book and would highly recommend you order a copy of it. (Let’s be honest. The greatest books are always yellow!)

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I grew up and became a Christian when I was 12, because I was scared of hell at a fire-and-brimstone play at a Baptist church. But before that, I would have most likely identified as Christian simply because I wasn’t anything else. My family wasn’t Jewish or Muslim or anything really so I always saw myself as Christian by default.

Once I accepted Christ, I attended youth group. We met on Friday evenings in a room reserved just for the teenagers. It had a raised stage, old metal chairs, and stank of sweat and hairspray and dirty feet. In this room we worshiped together to simple songs and our youth pastor, Bobby, shared a short message every week. During the summers, we went to beaches and walked around the mall. I had friends and I liked going, mostly because I didn’t have friends at school. Friday nights were the nights where I was accepted without question. Sometimes I came to church on Sunday mornings, where we sang from hymnals and wore dresses and flats instead of jeans and running shoes.

In ninth grade, the youth pastor left, so I decided to go to a new church with a few girls I’d made friends with in high school. If I had understand what denominations were, I could not have picked a church more different than the one I just left — I moved from a quiet Baptist church to a Pentecostal church replete with prayer flags and tambourines, were people spoke in tongues freely during service and altar calls happened at the end of every sermon. I made friends here, too, but this time they were my friends in school as well.

We sat together at lunch, most days talking for a few minutes about Jesus and also about boys and dating and we whispered things about sex and smoking pot when we thought no one was listening. We learned about Him at church on Sundays and youth group on Tuesdays and during Wednesday evening service and on Thursdays we took care of the kids in the nursery during choir practice and told them about Jesus, too. But I don’t think most of really knew Jesus. We were Christians by choice then, but what we believed about Him was less by choice and more by force.

I knew a lot about Jesus when I was a teenager. I knew He was holy and I understood that my sins separated me from His holiness. So I worked hard to prove how holy I was. And when I messed up and made stupid mistakes, when I felt shame because of what others had done to me, when still worse things (that I couldn’t talk about for a long time) happened, I knew I was defiled and worthless because Jesus demanded you give up all of the crap that kept you from Him, and I just didn’t know how to give it up to Him. He required you to walk away from the comfort of licking your wounds in the corner and I couldn’t let go of the shame and I couldn’t tell people what I’d done and sometimes I wasn’t even sorry about it all, about clinging to the pain and the tears because it was safe and I knew it and even though it hurt, it didn’t scare me.

I used to think you were right about Jesus or you weren’t, and since I knew the right things about Jesus, about His holiness and how His loved work, I had to walk away from all of the garbage the church dumped on me when I told them some of the things I was going through because they made it clear that in light of what Jesus had done, I definitely wasn’t good enough. I only ever told them about the abortion at 15 because it was all I needed to tell them to treat me like a pariah. They taught me about Jesus and they made Jesus unsafe for me because they made me see Him with blinders on.

So I left. I walked away and said never again. I lived in a world where I didn’t feel right or good about things, because deep down I missed Jesus. I missed what I once had with him. As my friend Sarah Bessey writes in her new book Out of Sorts,

When I made the decision to stop going to church and to stop calling myself a Christian, it didn’t feel good. But there had been a long litany of abuses, burn-out, and exhaustion. The trail of hurt people wounded souls, and even dead bodies was too great. It weighed on my soul, and I felt tremendous grief. I couldn’t align myself with that anymore.

I just could not do it anymore. And I didn’t have to. I wasn’t living in a home that mandated that I earn Jesus’ love by my Sunday morning and Tuesday evening attendance. No one cared about my righteousness if I wasn’t at church. Finally I found a place that didn’t break me as much as the church had.

But things change. It took nine years but somehow, my heart softened and God gave me a new friend, six years ago this month in fact. When every other friend I had who knew Jesus was in a place of hardship on their own — marriage stuff and new babies and grad school — God said, “Here is someone who doesn’t know what you carry. She loves me. Ask her about me.”

So I did. We’d already been friends for a year by the time I gathered up my courage to ask her about her Jesus, who seemed to be so different than the Jesus I met so many years before. I asked her a lot of questions. I talked to her a lot. Sometimes I cried. I stood by her side, with sweaty palms, the first time I walked back into a church for a regular Sunday morning service. I sang quietly and didn’t raise my hands or arms. I glanced around, looking everyone in the building with me. There were no prayer flags or speaking in tongues or tambourines. How could the Jesus here be the same Jesus when I left the There?

I didn’t know how it was possible. Even though I was in my late 20s, it seemed impossible to reconcile these Christians with those. So I kept coming back. I had to see if they were the same. And in some ways, yes, they were the same. That’s what scared me a little bit, because the words they said and the stories they told about the Bible reminded me so much of the other church, and I still felt so wounded and raw from it. But then I got to know people, one person at a time, and I saw that there were differences, too. These differences let me ask the hard questions, let me have the space to grow and change. I prayed and begged God to change me in the ways He needed to change me because I saw that I wanted Him again but I couldn’t let go of the things the world had taught me during my nine years of wandering, but I also couldn’t let go over the things about Jesus that the Baptist church at taught me. I was afraid to let it go, because how could we all be Christians if we didn’t believe the same things? Sarah says it perfectly:

I’ve had to build up a bonfire in my backyard and throw a few cherished beliefs and opinions right into the flame. There is always something so satisfying about watching an ugly lie burn away to ash.

Those lies that tried to keep me from who Jesus is burned, little by little, until they were a pile of crispy pieces that I could walk away from.

I used to think you were right about Jesus or you weren’t, but now I think that we all know Jesus in different ways, and in different seasons our relationship with Him looks different, and my relationship with Him looks different from yours, and we aren’t wrong. We just know Him differently and there’s nothing wrong with that.

And things are still changing. I am still changing and growing, and to tell you the truth sometimes it scares the hell out of me. What I believed five years ago, when I first came back to church, is not what I believe now. The more I learn about and know Jesus personally, the more what I believe looks so different. The more I pray and spend time reading the Bible, the greater my questions are, and it frightens me that for every answer I get, I have five more. But something in me reminds me that I need to live the questions now, not fear them. Then I take a deep breath and remember this:

If our theology doesn’t shift and change over our lifetimes, then I have to wonder if we’re paying attention. The Spirit is often breathing in the very changes or shifts that used to terrify us. Grace waits for us in the liminal space. We can be afraid to question. We are afraid that if we let ourselves question theology or doctrines — the theology we developed or were given in our first naiveté — that we will be at risk.

I am paying attention. I am leaning into the questions, into the hard things and letting them shape me under God’s guidance. I am listening more. I am embracing the stillness and the unknown because this is the space where the shifts begin to make sense to me. This, too, is my greatest wish for you. As Sarah says, and I’ve learned by trial,

I hope we change. I hope we grow. I hope we push against the darkness and let the light in and breathe into the Kingdom come. I hope we become a refuge for the weary and the pilgrim, for the child and aged, for the ones who have been strong too long. And I hope that we live like we are loved. I hope we all become a bit more inclined to listen, to pray, to wait.