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(in)courage is a virtual living room where we build community, celebrate diversity, and become women of courage.

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  1. Dear Miss Renee,

    I was encouraged by your reaching out to your friend… I am 20 years old and I know what it is like to be in her position and just how much it can mean to have someone care (although, it can be awkward and uncomfortable). If I could go back ten years and tell myself one thing I would tell myself, “That it really WILL be okay…” I would encourage my ten year old self to cling to the LORD and His promises. I would hug her a few months later when her mom would go home to Jesus… and I would reassure her that GOD loves her more than anything and that there are happy days ahead. I would tell her that no matter how hard she tried, or how far she searched, that void she was trying to fill simply cannot be filled with another human being, but her Heavenly Father alone. I would tell her that He has a plan for her life far greater than she could ever imagine… if she would just. be. patient. (Romans 8: 28) I would tell her that the only approval she needs is from GOD Himself; and that people who truly love her won’t try to hurt her or just walk away… I would tell her these and so many other things as I continue to learn. I thank the LORD every day for my walk and relationship with Him and where He has me right now. I pray that you (and who ever happens by my novel here today) have a blessed day, finding comfort in our LORD and Savior in every aspect of it.

    This side of Heaven,
    Summer Rae

      • Bev what you just said to Summer Rae is exactly what went through my head. You have such a sweet relationship with Jesus and that’s a beautiful thing. Thank you author for this lovely article. How we encourage each other by sharing our hearts…..

    • I like was you said and wrote if I would known then what I know about the Lord, I wouldn’t have been as in pain as I was through my whole life being talked about, judged and basically the black sheep of the family is what I felt like. Now at the age of 51, happily married for the first time at age 47, my parents divorced when I was 12, it destroyed me as a child, my mother turned to alcohol, which made her mean miserable, abusive and so on. She passed away last year, I made my peace with her before then, she died Aug. 19, 2016. I lost all contact with my father and 25 years later we found him
      My sister, brother and I. I talk to him on the phone regularly but I haven’t seen him since I was 19 years old, when he came to my mothers small apartment to tell us he was moving out of state. My father told me later, years later he retired from General Motors, that was the only way he could get away from drinking, 2 bars across the street and everyone he knew drank and partied regularly. My sister passed away of a drug over dose 5 years ago Oct. 5 of this year. Her husband (may as well say my brother) of 28 years, died of a massive heart attack, a year later my mother passed away. I remember in the movie A Walk To Remember she said “I do not have a reason to be angry at God” and I never had a reason. I went to church and Bible school regularly when my parents were married, and I loved it and my life. It all just fell apart one day, and I just turned away from God for years, still loved him, still knew he loved me, but I was nothing more than a shell for years dealing with cruelty, pain, abuse, death, heartache, etc. And I did not know how to cope. Now I can say I live every day trusting the Lords plan for my life! I really am full of Joy most of the time. Living for the Lord is a feeling that’s indescribably unexplainable. I don’t feel like I did for years anymore. Ugly, weak, and unworthy. God loves me no matter what, I wish I would of know this and understood it years ago but now I know I was broken in every way. God healed me and glued me back together with his love and forgiveness! Life is good! Life is great! My husband and I bought our first home in Feb. Moved in on Feb. 18th of this year. What a blessing from God! We never thought we would own a home let alone, have ot paid off in 12 years. I wish I would have had someone to talk to as a friend like in this article. Thank you loved what you wrote, its 8:35 a.m. and it was nice to open my email up to her article and yours! Have a wonderful day and please visit me at beehumblewithme.com I’m Vicky and to the writer here! Keep writing absolutely fantastic! The world needs more of this! I’m noticing more and more people love hearing about God. They do on my website! Great day to my friends and sisters! God Bless!

      • Vicky I like this! similar story of my life. your just a bit more mature than I but Gods not finished.
        God does love us no matter what thanks for sharing
        jane

    • Summer Rae, thank you for finding the courage to share that part of your story with us all. It sounds like the Lord paved a beautiful path for you to walk and I know it will only grow more beautiful from here! Thank you for your prayer; it is my prayer that you continue to find comfort and joy in Abba (father) and that you continue to follow His guidance towards whatever grand and glorious purpose that He has for you.

  2. I’m cheering for you! For me, that first step of asking the question, taking the risk of being shot down — or shut down — with silence or a rebuke . . . it’s so overwhelming. Thanks for sharing those great questions. I have a tendency to think that everything has to be spontaneously Hallmark-esque, but the important thing is to get the conversational ball rolling.

  3. I really agree with you on how it kind of ties friends together when you be honest with each other and share your story. Yet, what do you do when they don’t want to share their story? Do you keep pursuing them or simply “back off”?

    • I love hearing everyone’s story and try to invite people to share theirs in non-threatening ways. If someone doesn’t want to share, then I don’t push, they need to feel safe and I focus simply on welcoming them as they are. Eventually, as trust is built and the Lord ministers to her, opportunities arise again and the stories flow. So, I guess I pursue in the sense of offering safety and care, but I back off in the expectation for them to share. It is a gentle dance! But stay in the dance:)

  4. Dear Friends,
    If I could go back ten years, I would tell myself that God is faithful and He has been preparing me all along – teaching me things in the little trials of life so as to prepare me for the big trials. I would tell myself that just as He has been faithful in the past He will be there in the future. I would remind myself that whatever comes, God has this….He is in control and He can and will bring beauty from the ashes. I would remind myself that my worth is not based on one person’s perception of me, but on what the One and only true Father believes about me. I suppose I would give myself a pep talk on all God’s goodness because I would be heading right into the hell that is divorce. Often I would say don’t look backwards, but sometimes when we look back at the Ebenezers we’ve raised to God’s faithfulness and goodness along the way, it gives us courage to face the future – whatever it may hold. May we all not be in such a hurry that we don’t have time to ask someone about their story. If their story matters to God….it should matter to me.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

  5. Love the question about going back ten years. I have some things in my past I would change if I could but I know our Father loves me and He knows I realize I made mistakes and He has forgiven me. Sometimes I feel that God is more forgiving than man is.

  6. If I could go back 10 years in my life, I would stop blaming my husband (who is now my ex-husband) for my unhappiness. Because of the abuse I suffered at the hands of my dad growing up, I was looking for acceptance from every man in my life and unfortunately, everyone of them have let me down. I learned, however, after being divorced from my husband, that no man (or woman) can satisfy that longing for acceptance. Only God can do that. Even with knowing this in my head and heart, it has still been difficult for me to trust God because of the lack of trust I’ve grown to have with men in general. I’m working on this, though, and am learning each day that I can trust my Heavenly Father with everything I have.

  7. Renne,
    Thank-you, this was really thoughtful, and what a wonderful suggestion. I won’t go into all the detail, but If I were to go back ten years, I would tell myself, despite it all, do not loose sight, hope or faith. He Will see you through, and it Will be okay.
    I believe that is His Will for us, no matter how hurtful, painful, or overwhelming it is, that we will be okay. And those things they can make us better equipped to help someone who’s gone or going through the same.

    Have a blessed day all,

    Penny

  8. Hi My name is Gina Quintanilla. I would like to share my story with you! I am 52, the mother of 4 children and Nana to 7 grandchildren. When I was 18 and living in Austin, Texas my life changed dramatically. My mom was part of a church group who ministered on 6th street. I was working at McDonalds and going out at night with a co-worker. We would go to a pub and I would get drunk and I smoked a lot. I met my husband there in Austin and then I became pregnant. We were not together after that because of his family. But just before I had the baby we got back together. Our first 5 years together and now with 2 kids, I was not allowed to go outside of my house, not allowed to open the curtains or anything. So I didn’t have any friends. Once my children were all in school, I became a substitute teacher for the school where my kids attended. To make a long story short, my husband accused me of something so awful it almost cost me my life. I tried to commit suicide because of it. It also cost me my relationship with my oldest daughter. I have since reconciled my relationship with my husband and my daughter. I also returned to my life with God. I now work fulltime at the school I once subed for. I have friends at work, but none of them will do anything with me out side fo work. I am very lonely a lot of the time and my husband drinks everyday. I wish I had someone to hang out with outside of work, but it just doesn’t look that way for me.

    • Gina, my sister in Christ Jesus, it is my prayer for you that you continue to seek and pursue God. It is my prayer that He lifts you up out of this long season of trials and that He blesses you with the truest friends that can be found on Earth. I pray, Gina, that He encourages you to seek His strength and grace, His mercy and all-encompassing love. That the Lord frees your husband from the chains of alcohol, and brings him into His arms. I pray that your students are a light to you and offer encouragement to stay the path the Lord has paved for you. I pray that the love of this community and the love of the community you live in reaches you and warms your heart, renews your spirit, and offers hope for a better day.
      God has placed you exactly where you need to be, I’m sure; and though the reason may not be clear, there is a grand and glorious purpose for your life and your current position.

      With love and sincerity,
      Katheryn.

      • Thank you Katheryn! It means alot to me to be able to share some of my story in this in-courage environment. Thank you for your prayers that God would free me from the trials I have been going through and that He frees my husband from alcohol. Thank you for your prayers!

        With much thanks,
        Gina

  9. Hello all;

    If I could go back ten years and tell my eleven-year-old self anything, it would be that pain and suffering does not come at the hand of the Lord. It was not His design that Gran would suffer on death’s door for three weeks, not knowing who her children and grandchildren were, or even who she herself was at times. I would tell eleven-year-old me not to be scared of going in to see her, but that if she still just couldn’t do it, there is no reason to feel guilty or carry that guilt around for years after. I would tell her that she’s not the only one hurting and that the reason her family can’t see her hurt is because they’re so blinded by their own pain–don’t hold it against them.
    I would tell her also that it will be okay; one day you’ll meet really wonderful friends who will become your family and will be there for you every time you feel like giving up and retreating back into that shell of yourself. They’ll help ease the pain and loneliness, and these are the people you’ll spend the rest of your life in friendship with.

    I was in a dark place from a young age for a very long time, but the Lord has used the pain of my past to bring about compassion and joy in my heart and a longing to help others who have faced and are facing similar things. Sometimes the demons from my old self try to attack and destroy, but God has blessed me with His strength and protection (should I only seek it out), as well as a family who prays for and encourages me. Loneliness and depression still strike, but they and He are there to heal the wounds those demons inflict and enable me to fight back with the righteous power of Heaven. I will not fear, cry out of desperation or pain, but will always find joy in the Lord, the God of angel armies, who is always by my side.

    ~Katheryn

    • Katheryn,

      Thanks for being so open today. So glad God sent wonderful friends to help you with your struggles. I pray God continues to bless you!!

      Blessings 🙂

  10. In Courage,

    I was born in Toledo, OH, but moved around a lot. Ended up in Brandon, FL-outside Tampa. Lived there till I was 30. Then we moved to Johnson City, TN-2 hrs. from Knoxville. I love music and can remember joining a hand bell choir at our church. It was fun and I miss it. I grew up in church. My mom was a church secretary. She and dad met at the bank where he worked. She would wait for him to be available and let him do her transaction. He would send her flowers.

    I don’t think I ever really “heard” about God. Not until I was married and attending a Christian church with my hubby. Oh I knew he existed. I didn’t get the relationship aspect. It had to be a combination of maturity, Holy Spirit, and The pastor’s teachings. I got
    re- baptized-this time I was “dunked”. Now I feel like a more mature Christian & one able to pray fervently. Also do a lot of local mission work and am more involved in my small church.

    I would love to go back more than 10 years. I would advise my younger self not to go into medicine-but to stick with clerical/accounting work. Tell myself that there will be trials-some a little severe, but God will see you through them all. He will always guide you. Just trust Him always!

    I find myself just like the woman asking questions. If I’m around people long enough I will begin to ask questions. I want to know really know how you are doing. I want you to “Un-fine” yourself. Take off the mask and really let me into your life!

    Blessings 🙂

  11. If I could go back ten years, I would understand why God brought me back to my hometown, why God led me to my church and a loving rector and church family, why God brought me to my knees and allowed me to survive a surgery that few do survive. His plan is so clear now. But ten years ago, I had no idea what was ahead. The night my daughter almost died in my arms as she fought to breathe and whispered in a gurgled breath, “I don’t think I’m going to make it mom, please raise my son”. She was in her 9th month of pregnancy and had suffered a heart attack and her lungs were filled with fluid. God was with us that night and she survived, and her beautiful blue-eyed baby boy was born. But he suffered oxygen deprivation and had so many battles ahead. His muscles never developed properly, so he could never sit up. He eventually had to be fed by a feeding tube. God allowed him to stay with us for 22 wonderful months. In the early morning hours of Christmas Eve in 2010, God called him home. We will always love him and know, without a shadow of doubt, that he is with our Savior, our Redeemer. The next few years were the toughest of our lives. But, God had a plan and it was bigger and greater than any of us could have even imagined. My daughter has remarried a wonderful man and she is now the step-mother to 3 beautiful daughters who have lost their mother to cancer. A few days ago was Mother’s Day. That has been a very tough day for my daughter and it has become a tough day for the girls. But, I watched as they all leaned on one another, allowed tears to flow, but prayed together and encouraged one another. And I saw her story unfold with awe. And I look forward to the next chapter and the next. BTW, I LOVE being the step (skip the “step”), the grandmother to these wonderful girls. She is the mom God created her to be and it is beautiful, beyond words, to see where God has brought her today. Ten years ago, I had no idea of the journey God would take us on. Prayer. Faith. Grace. Words with so much more meaning and power for us today. We give HIM thanks and praise.

    • Your circumstances take me back to similar ones I experienced just last year. My sister and I had decided to move in together to help each other out with finances. Two days before we were to move, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We moved in together anyway, but she was unable to work. I struggled with trying to support us both, but two months later, God took her home to be with him. Then, a few months later, my daughter was diagnosed with MDS (a severe blood disorder) and was given 1-2 years to live without a bone marrow transplant. She isn’t able to have a transplant because she suffers from AIH (autoimmune hepatitis) that has left her liver too weak to undergo such an invasive surgery. She’s currently living with me because her husband wouldn’t step up and take care of her when she was diagnosed with the MDS. I know that God has a plan in all of this, but I have to be honest and say that it’s really hard to accept sometimes. I’m leaning on Him, however – He’s the only hope I have.

  12. These stories are amazing. God really brings through many trials. I am sorry for the losses, but He has made a way. I pray for the lady needing a bone marrow transplant, claim Isaiah 53. I would tell my 10 or even 20 yr, younger self , to be confident in the Lord. He is our hope and anchor, not to let anyone despise your youth. I had lots of Bible knowledge, but people considered me a baby Christian. He is not a respecter of persons

    • Thank you, Rebecca. Isaiah 53 was given to me by another person, so God is definitely speaking that to me.

  13. Hi Renee! What an awesome story to encourage us all!! My story is all about learning to tell my story. I’m a wtiter. We’re all made up of so many stories. Mine has had some really dark patches that prevented me from from reaching out and trusting others for a very long time. Now God has me in this place of surrendering to His call to share my story over and over. And that happens to be a significant part of my story as a writer. It’s all connected, I’m finding. I like that you said there’s risk in NOT sharing. That’s why I’m practicing obediance in this way now. You never know what treasures lie on the other side of sharing. Great post!

  14. I love that you start by asking if we’re comfortable telling our own story. I’ve spent my life believing that I needed to be comfortable listening to the stories of others *first*, as a prerequisite to getting to share my own story.

    It’s encouraging to think maybe I’ve had it a little backwards!

  15. The good Lord does work in many, mysterious ways…..it’s as if this post, this website and all of the rest was written and routed just for me. I’m not a self centered person in the negative sense….but with the past couple of years and the hell that has came along with it I do wished that maybe then I would have known what being self centered truly mean. If God can love me for all my misgivings and ridiculous mistakes and bad choices then why in heck shouldn’t I start loving myself more. One really good place to start is caring about myself enough to put my well being first and (center) and practicing good self care. I have many words I plan on sharing with the author of this post in more detail but right now my head is swelled and swimming with renewed sense and faith and HOPE that everything is going to be okay and finding these amazing people here on this site will be a real (ruby red) gem of a support group. Thanks so much ….. this is great work you do here.

  16. This was a wonderful post. The “Where do I start” questions could make good writing prompts, as well, for those of us who may want to write our stories someday.