Every Woman a Theologian
— What Dying to Self Feels Like —
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Dear friend,
Winter kills. Every spring in northern Michigan, we emerge in mid to late April full of hope, thinking this year will be different than the ones before - maybe we won’t get snow in April this time. But we always do. And beneath the killing frost the grass is brown and flat; tulips up too early have leaves tinged with black from fighting off the cold. My goats’ ears have tinges of black on the edges, too, remnants of frostbite from earlier in the year. Winter kills… but it is necessary.
The last few years have felt like a slow death. Not a death of dreams or goodness, but a death to my deepest fears. That sounds like a good thing and I am sure it is; but it hasn’t felt good in process.
I was born with a bent toward people: a strength and a weakness. And over the last decade the weakness has been more apparent than the strength. Underneath the wintery landscape of suffering, my people-pleasing self was dying a slow, brown death. As soon as one conflict resolved another arose. As soon as I survived one social media firestorm another came up. Is it me? I wondered. Am I the drama?
Truth is, sometimes I was. But the times I wasn't still shaped me, challenged me, and called me to lay down the thing I clung to: my golden calf, my mediator: people. Yes, Jesus saved me and yes, He was my God; but I needed the approval of people, too. I needed them to like me.  But living this way - beholden to people-worship - has consequences. 
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The consequences of living for the approval of people are daily and dire:
  • Anxiety when someone might be “mad” at you.
  • Fear of saying the wrong thing and losing affirmation.
  • Extreme highs and lows based on others' responses.
  • Turning to apathy and self-pity when you fail someone.
  • Second-guessing every decision, stance, and word, making sure you're pleasing the people you want to impress.
  • Unintentionally putting people in “tiers” of those whose opinions matter and those who's opinions don't, so you know how to act with each.
  • Perfectionism: unrealistic standards for yourself meant to preserve others' view of you.
And the approval of people is an attractive idol. It promises peace, joy, relationship, purpose, exaltation. Like the golden calf was to Israel, the approval of people seems like a mediator between us and God: we can go to people for the wisdom, strength, affirmation, and favor we crave. 
But also like the golden calf, this idol does not return our devotion. It is an endless consumer. The more devotion you give it, the more it demands. You will please one person… but disappoint another. You will ace one social interaction… and fail another. You will keep up appearances… until you don't and can't. What then? The idol demands all of you, but also none of you, because you are never really you. You are the version people need at the time.
We are quick to blame PEOPLE for these behaviors, failing to turn our eyes inward and recognize we are the ones bowing down to the idol. This is what I realized as I faced conflict after conflict (a natural part of both life and ministry). I didn't have the strength to face conflict humbly because my self, my desire for human approval, was in the way. I put my feelings about being liked AHEAD of relational growth. 
Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Dying to self is not about hobbies, music, food, or the joy of living. God delights to see us rejoicing in creation. Dying to self revolves around the parts of us that need sanctification: those insistent idols God asks us to lay down. When we are united with Christ in salvation, we no longer live for other gods. Instead, Christ reigns in us. The life we live in physical bodies is lived by faith in the Savior who bled and died to win us to Himself. For me, the death of self has been years-long, a continual reminder that - when I lose sight of Christ's throne in my heart - I am quick to set up golden calves.
How do you bring down an idol? In my experience, by accepting the circumstances God supplies as a means of sanctification. I become more holy by facing the thing I'm afraid of. I face it WITH God. And as my self is “crucified with Christ”, the idols fall, and I am free. 
The winter of the soul feels like a killing, probably because it is: the slow death of our idols and identities, anything we set up instead of Christ. But on the other side of dying is resurrection: a new life, new power, and the approval of only One person. And on the other side of that slow, brown, frostbitten death, freedom flowers like a crocus in spring. 
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My Five Faves

  • J Crew Sunglasses: You sent some kind compliments on these last week - they're old, I bought them years ago from J. Crew. But here is a similar pair.
  • Pack and Play Cover: Also on Insta, I shared our travel hacks with kids as we traveled to Hocking Hills, OH over the week. This pack and play cover was our bestie for years! Ivan no longer needs to sleep “contained”, but this was perfect for hotels (all in the same room), Airbnbs and camping.
  • Starbucks “Carrot Cake” Latte: Josh and I tried a latte by this name at a coffee shop in Ohio last weekend and YUM! Order a dirty chai latte with one pump toffee nut and one pump cinnamon dolce.
  • Hormone Helps: A few weeks ago I shared some of what my body has dealt with since the miscarriage in January. Both autoimmune diseases I have/had were related to hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone. Following our loss my body has not recalibrated. Here are a few things I'm trying.
    • FloLiving Vitamins: I have used these for several years and while they are pricey, I know I am getting quality vitamins from a trustworthy source. Alisa Vitti's book WomanCode helped me understand my body a decade ago when I first read it, and these vitamins definitely make a difference in my sleep, energy and stability.
    • Wild Yam Cream: I have Autoimmune Progesterone Dermatitis: when my progesterone levels are where they should be, my skin becomes highly sensitive and begins to break out in an eczema-like rash. If I do not take progesterone, I have a host of other painful symptoms that make life difficult. I have been using this for a few weeks now, adjusting the dose to what works for me. The recommended dose was far too high, so I am using about a quarter of that with better results.
    • Earthley Fertili-Boost Blend: This was also recommended for low progesterone (symptoms here) I'm using this with the reduced wild yam.
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What I'm Reading

Silas Marner: I am LOVING this book. I can't believe I've never read it! I find myself eager to know what happens next… but I also told Josh, I'm pretty sure I watched the Wishbone of this story and I think I know the ending ;)
At Home in Mitford: Still working through this, delayed due to Silas Marner, but still enjoying this series. It's perfect if you want a low-conflict, calm, sweet read.
On Audible: Glass Houses: Reading the next Louise Penny in the line up and enjoying it thoroughly. These are so good on audio. These are crime novels, so there is some violence and language, but not much.
How to Be a Father: I grabbed this tiny book written in the 1930s at an antique shop last weekend. I actually cried as I read it. It's a gift for Josh, but it was meaningful to me as well. It's amazing how parenting advice from a hundred years ago can be so true today.
Beautiful Girlhood: I got this at the same antique shop and was THRILLED to find an almost mint 1922 copy! I loved this book as a teen, and though I'll definitely edit it a bit when reading to my girls, many of the principles are beneficial.
Around the Christian World

Eyes on the Prize of Faithful Service: My latest on Christianity Today
King Saul, the witch of Endor, and ghost pits: we are studying this in Bible in a Year.
Last week on Verity Podcast we explored the question “Why do I still struggle with sin?” This week we will talk about law and grace, their tension and misunderstanding about them. You can listen on:
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When you're ready, here are four ways I can help you….

for the awakening,