Part 1: Brave enough to discover ME!

Written by Erin Waldron  | 

I want to introduce you to my friend Erin, we've been getting to know each other over the last year or so and I really like the journey that she is on and how she is living it out.  She is authentic and real, and always wanting to learn and grow through every season.  She is a brilliant photographer and has done a bit of that for us at BraveGirl, she is also a nutritionist and health enthusiast who loves Jesus.  At our BraveGirl conference this year I asked her to run a workshop and we got such great feedback about it that I asked her to turn it into a blog post for me.  I know that you will enjoy being challenged and inspired in this two-part blog series with Erin.
- Steph xx

The Healing at the Pool – John 5: 1-9
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

Do you want to be made well?
Doesn’t that seem like an odd question. I mean he had been paralysed for 38 years. He was waiting to get into the pool. And yet Jesus asked him this question.
I had a situation a little over a year ago where I didn’t want to be made well. 3 years ago I married a wonderful man, who has three teenage daughters, and I found myself in the position of being the stepmonster. To say I struggled with it is an understatement. Our home-life had become rather tense and unpleasant. I wanted the others in the situation to be fixed. It wasn’t my problem, it was theirs… Stay tuned to hear how this worked out!
Do YOU want to be made well? 
Like Linus and his blanket, if you’re determined to hold on to what you have, you may well be closing the door to the possibilities God has in store for you.  So, what is standing in your way? What sort of things do you need to change about your life in order to be whole? Are there things you need to let go of?
Often we get stuck where we are, in the identity and labels we give ourselves - depressed, anxious, fat, unfit, weak, loser, failure, unloveable, unforgiveable… Or maybe in holding on to anger, nursing injustice or hurt from years back, stuck in the victim mindset and unable to move forward.  Perhaps it is holding on to grief, looking back to something or someone you once held dear. Or maybe holding on to a destructive habit, wanting to be healthy and whole, but not willing to stop smoking or drinking or eating your troubles away.

To be made well, to be who God designed us to be, we have to be willing to let go of what we’re holding on to, so we have open hands and hearts for what He has for us.
I believe a big part of the problem is found in our sense of identity.
Where do you get your identity?
Is it in appearance, or from God.
Is it in what you do, or what He says about you?
Is it in who the world sees, or who God sees?
What would you do differently if you acted like you loved yourself, and if you treated your body like you loved it?
I have found that women have this warped idea that looking after ourselves is selfish. That spending time and money on ourselves is a waste and we should feel guilty for it, especially as Christians. I firmly believe that this is false. This is a lie. God created us. We are his perfect creation and we are dearly loved by him.
When I was growing up we were taught this saying:
Joy - Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.
While I agree that we need to put Jesus first, I believe the rest of this is wrong! In the bible it says to love others as ourselves. We need to love ourselves. You cannot pour out anything from an empty cup. It’s important to put some time and resources into filling your cup, putting priority on YOU and loving and discovering yourself.
Some ideas of things could include going for walks (especially in nature), exercising, getting your hair or nails done, getting a massage or facial, taking a relaxing bath, reading a book, buying yourself flowers, listening to music, praying and bible reading.  These ideas may be very different from what you are used to but remember - sometimes we need to let go the familiar, and be willing to try something new. New things can feel odd at the beginning like reaching for an apple instead of chocolate, being willing to be vulnerable and say sorry or forgive instead of staying angry, embarrassed or offended, to put on our sneakers & get out the door instead of defaulting to Netflix, to feel the feelings rather than trying to bury or hide them. Your new thing may be facing up to the fact that we cant do it alone and getting help from a professional, a counsellor, nutritionist or personal trainer. Maybe its getting people to pray and support, or a combination of all of the above.

Your thoughts matter!
What you focus on expands.
Proverbs 4:23
Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

When you're feeling good, when your cup is full, you’re in a good place to fulfil well all the roles you have (friend, sister, wife, mother etc).
"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Abraham Lincoln
According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking is linked to a wide range of health benefits including:

* Longer life span

* Less stress

* Lower rates of depression

* Increased resistance to the common cold

* Better stress management and coping skills

* Lower risk of cardiovascular disease-related death

* Increased physical well-being

* Better psychological health


I haven’t made it to this stage in my life without acquiring a few scars. I have made many mistakes in my past, and I know I will make many more in my future, because I am human. I am on my second marriage. I came out of my first marriage not knowing who I was, not liking who I had become, and feeling like I had spent too many years trying to live up to some idea I had in my head of what a good wife is!  I had lost any scrap of who I really was, and what I was living for. I had lost my identity, and the words I used to describe myself were loser, failure, sinner, unloveable, and incapable.
It took a while to change this.
I had to go through the journey of accepting that while I had made mistakes, that didn’t change how God saw me. I needed to replace the devil's lies with Gods truth.
I had to see that even though I had made mistakes, that doesn’t make ME a mistake.
My marriage may have failed, but that doesn’t make ME a failure.
God loves me no matter what. He tells me, and you, that I am royalty, that I am dearly loved, that I am bought with a price, that I am valuable, and I am his daughter.

Have a read through the first chapter of Ephesians. Really read it. Mull over it.
Some of my takeaways from it:

* I am planned

* I am loved

* I am adopted into Gods family

* I am free, abundantly free

* I am provided for

* I am delighted in

* I am valuable

* I am called

Who are you? What is it you are living for? Do you know you are free?
If you have identified that you are living under the devils lies, go back to the source of truth. Replace the lies that you are living under with Gods truth.

Maybe you’re asking how? How can I do this?  
Next week on the blog Erin will be addressing the HOW so be sure to check back or make sure you are signed up to our mailing list and get it straight to your inbox!

Posted by Erin Waldron


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Soaring out of the darkness - Staci's Story

I’ve made a new friend and I want you to meet her.  Her name is Staci McLean and she has the most brutiful (brutal and beautiful) life story!  I met her in the pages of the book she wrote called ‘Soaring out of the darkness.’ After reading it I instinctively knew I had to meet her and that she was one of ‘our people.’  And I did… And she is!!!
This is a heartbreaking story of a childhood surrounded by brokenness, tension, family health issues, divorce, neglect, alcohol, grief and poverty which lead Staci as a 14 year old to have her first drink of alcohol, and she was hooked.
Staci’s story made me realise that every addict has a story of brokenness that begins far earlier than just their first experience of the substance.
“No one plans to become an addict. It’s not what I aspired to be.
For Staci her brokenness ran deep and had many layers.  Constantly disappointed by those she loved and the situation she was forced to live in, meant that she learned to be self-sufficient and only rely on herself from a young age.
"Winters in Christchurch are very cold.  One winter my shoes had a huge hole in the sole. I did not have enough money to buy new shoes, so I fixed them with cardboard and duct tape.  This lasted fine for a few weeks until it rained.  Then the cardboard would turn to mush and I would have to replace it with a new piece of cut up cardboard box.  It never occurred to be to ask Dad for new shoes.  If I had, he would have found a way, but I did not feel as if I deserved things.  I felt I had to be grateful that Dad had taken me in, because my Mum did not want me. If Dad decided he didn’t want me either,
I had nowhere to go, so I asked for nothing and told no one.

Staci’s teenage experiences of alcohol and her subsequent relationship with boys made so much sense to me after reading about her childhood.  On the outside it might have just looked like a typical rebellious teenager partying too hard, but understanding her story you can see it was a young woman desperately trying to ‘self-medicate’ the pain and brokenness of her childhood and current existence.
Of course her story continues on the downward spiral and Staci writes so poignantly about depression as her constant companion leading to suicidal thoughts and plans and finally to her rock bottom moment.
"One evening in the darkness of the night, I lay alone on the bathroom floor sobbing. I was so consumed with my emotional pain that it felt like my heart was literally breaking apart. In despair and drowning in feelings of hopelessness over my life and lack of control, I had reached a place where the anguish was swallowing me. The heart ache was overwhelming. The thought of continuing to live like this was unbearable.”

Regardless of each of our individual life stories, I think we can all relate on some level to the girl sobbing on the floor and the feelings and emotional pain that Staci so eloquently puts into words. 
But what I love about Staci’s book and about her story is that this rock bottom moment is not the end of the story, actually it’s only halfway through the book!  
"God heard my cry and met me that day on the floor next to the toilet. There was no bright shining light and no angel choir, but instead a small whisper of hope and a tiny glimpse of a different good future for me.  That small, croaked prayer caused a shift in me.  It was the planting of a tiny seed of the one thing I had never had before: hope."
I was captivated and inspired as I continued to read about her journey from addiction and hopelessness into freedom and healing with God. Staci writes so realistically about her experiences of God and church as an alcoholic, I found it so refreshing and actually was challenged and learnt a lot myself as a Christian, church go-er and leader.
"The ‘tick the box’ Christianity appealed to me. I wanted to get right with God and make amends for all my past sins.  I wanted a list that I could work through, tick everything off the list and then I would be ok, forgiven and go to heaven.  I thought if I spent an hour a day in prayer and study, went to every service and invited three people a week to church then God would find me worthy and I would get His approval.  I missed the whole message of grace and underserved forgiveness."
I feel like we all need to be reminded of the whole message of grace and underserved forgiveness sometimes!  
Staci finishes her book so beautifully as she writes about all those things - finding God not just religion, and about her honest journey to freedom through that grace and underserved forgiveness.
“Freedom is a gift from God and cannot be taken from us.  My move into freedom was not a onetime thing; every day I choose to stay in that freedom and not go back."
I recommend that you read this book.  
It is a hard easy read - hard because of the heartbreaking content, but easy because it passes my tired-Mama-concentration test.  Reading stories like Staci's is important because it helps with our humanity and our perspective. We learn, empathise and grow respect for each other when we share our stories.
Staci thank you for writing this book and sharing your story with the world.  
You are brave, resilient and inspiring. 
You are my hero.
With love and courage,
xx Steph xx




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BraveGirl heads to the United Nations!

Written by Steph Redhead  | 
I have some pretty big news I want to share with you all….
I along with my bestie Sally have been selected to be part of a delegation heading to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in March 2019 in New York.  (Cue the squeals of excitement!)
It’s a pretty big deal for us!
The Economic and Social Council at the United Nations is the body responsible for initiatives for the advancement of women.  The Commission on the Status of Women is the functional commission that is dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women.  Sally and I will be going as part of the delegation from Presbyterian Women of Aotearoa New Zealand which has Special Consultative Status with the ECOSOC.
Essentially Sally and I are going because we want to learn about the policies and processes that are working towards development and progress for women internationally. We want to be better informed about what the United Nations are doing for equality and empowerment of women. We are passionate about these issues but we want to know, understand and do more! When we understand better we can move from 'just passionate' into effective response and involvement in solutions - and that is where I want to be and I believe where BraveGirl needs to be too. We are also really looking forward to meeting women from other UN countries whose stories and lives are similar yet completely different to our own.  And you all know how much I LOVE hearing people’s stories!
The exciting news for YOU is that you are coming with us!  
No not literally flying the thousands of miles with us (!) but through the gloriousness of technology, and social media we will be recording, filming and sharing our experiences with you on the BraveGirl platform. Like us I am sure that you want to be challenged, inspired and well informed women! And we want to be able to make the UN accessible to you and give you opportunity to get involved with us in doing something to make a better world for our daughters and future generation BraveGirls!
As with most amazing things there is (always) a catch!  Being part of this delegation means we have to self-fund the trip which just means the excitement of going is also equal to the daunting feelings of figuring out how to get there.  Sally and I both have young families and we work part-time jobs in retail and hospitality so ‘saving up’ isn’t enough of an option for us.  If you feel that supporting us financially in this venture is something you would like to do then please click on the link to the Give-a-little page we have set up.  We would so appreciate any gift to help us in our mission to get BraveGirl to the United Nations!



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Posted by Steph Redhead


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