“Following Jesus is not for the faint of heart. The day-to-day battles that intersect the life of a daughter of God make binge-watching Netflix very appealing.” (1)
I love that quote. I love it so much.
This is the first line of the foreword to my newly released book, Victorious Secret: Everyday Battles And How To Win Them. And I love this because A) it is so spot on true and B) because it was written by my dear friend and Sister Warrior, Lisa Brenninkmeyer. Lisa and I have been standing shoulder to shoulder on the frontline for some time now, reminding each other that we are in this battle together, handing each other our spiritual weapons when we are too weary to reach for them on our own.
Lisa was the first person I contacted after I was approached to write a book. My publisher was asking me for ideas, and of course, my mind drew a blank. I immediately felt unqualified. I didn't think I was worthy of the task at hand. My mind flooded with negative thoughts and discouragement. Who was I to write about anything?
“Go buy Vogue, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and Oprah magazine. Read the questions women are asking, then you go ahead and answer them better.” This advice Lisa gave me was, hands down, the best advice ever. Why? Well, for starters, she gave me permission to go out and buy magazines. As a former Hollywood talent agent assistant and fashion model booker, I used to buy and read magazines like they were my job. Also, having been years since I had actually purchased a woman's fashion magazine, it was a most eye opening experience, and by “eye opening,” I actually mean horrifying. After flipping through pages that discouraged marriage, encouraged abortion, and promoted a do whatever makes you happy attitude no matter the cost, I knew immediately that a battle bigger than I had even imagined was raging. And I took Lisa's advice. I made note of the real struggles, the real questions, the real issues women are battling today, and I set out to answer them better.
So, what do I think these issues are?
For starters, I think we are all exhausted; from striving and hustling and trying to prove our worth.
I think most of us have no idea who we are, that we define ourselves by our job, or how many kids we have, or a number on the bathroom scale, or the size of our house, or how beautiful our Instagram feed is, or what college our child has been accepted to.
I think we believe we are as important as our calendar is filled, that we will never measure up to the woman sitting just to our left, and that clearly, when God handed out talents and gifts, he skipped us, because really...what are we even good at?
I think most days we walk around with our heads barely above the water; drowning in fear and anxiety, terrified that our children will hang out with the wrong crowd, or go down the wrong path and never come back, lonely in our “quit and stay” marriages, beaten down by a life that feels unimportant and insignificant.
And at the end of a long day, I think our weary heads hit the pillow and we fall asleep wondering...what is the point of any of this? Does what I do even matter?
And then, we wake up the next day, pour ourselves some coffee, and start it all over again.
What is the everyday battle? This. This is the everyday battle.
These thoughts that clutter our hearts and distract our minds...they can be relentless. And the worst part of it all? Many of us are walking around completely unaware that we are even in a battle. Totally numbed out. Oblivious to the constant noise that drowns out truth and only lets in the lie. This is so dangerous! The secret to winning the battle is first and foremost, knowing we are in a battle and understanding how important it is that we fight and resist the obstacles, roadblocks and flaming arrows thrown our way. And then, once we know...we can properly suit up, reclaim our territory, shield and protect our minds and hearts, stand firm, and hold our ground.
My publisher, at first, was not convinced of this topic. She felt like most women do know they are in a battle. But as a woman who went through most of her life unaware, and unarmed, and nearly threw away everything good in her life because of it, I did not back down until I received the “okay.” You know, it was only seven years ago that I was coming out of an intense season of suffering. My husband and I were broke, financially and emotionally...we had just moved across the country, with four kids under the age of ten, a cat and a hamster. I had no friends, and our marriage was on life support because of the stress, and the urge to just get up and RUN AWAY was so strong you could grab hold of it. And there was this moment...I remember it as clear as day...where I was literally on my bathroom floor, crying. I was ready to surrender...I had no fight left in me. And I am not going to say I had a vision of Jesus, or that an angel came down to lift me up, or that I heard a loud booming voice, and since that powerful and extraordinary encounter, I have been a faithful follower of Christ ever since. I wish it were that good of a story! But what actually happened? I saw myself. As if I were standing above me looking down, I could see myself. And then...I stood up.
I walked into that bathroom ready to lose the battle. But by the grace of God, I walked out, a Warrior determined to emerge victorious.
You see, I did not write Victorious Secret from the sidelines, sipping a margarita. I wrote it while in the thick of it, and let me tell you, there were days when I thought this book would never happen because the spiritual warfare was just too much. There is not a single chapter of this book, not one battle, that I have not experienced firsthand for myself. From the battle of self esteem, to the battle of marriage, to the battle of self reliance. Ladies, I have been there. I know how violent the war can get and how easily it can blindside you and knock you face down. But guess what? I also know that it is possible to get back up.
Simultaneously while writing Victorious Secret, I was working my way through the Fearless and Free study. In chapter 6, Lisa writes, “The enemy will always tempt you to forget God's faithfulness. It's your job to remember.” And this is true, isn't it? It certainly is for me. When I forget I am a Warrior in battle, when I allow the present trials to overwhelm me and the confusion to shred my faith, I fail to recall His past faithfulness. And isn't this precisely what the enemy wants? For us to forget about God, His goodness, His unfailing love, and to only zoom in on what appears hopeless? Remember ladies, the everyday battle we are in is “not with flesh and blood but with principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” (Eph 6”12) This battle is no joke.
So, what are we called to do? “ We are called to “Put on the Armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and having done everything to hold your ground.” (Eph 6:13) And if you can do that with a Sister Warrior by your side, cheering you on, then you, my friend, are in good shape. Go ahead and add that to your list of “His past faithfulness.”
I pray that this summer, Victorious Secret will be on your nightstand, and that you read it with your Fearless and Free study guide. The stakes are high, and the enemy is strong, but the good news is: so are we. We are deeply loved by the Lord, and He gives us everything we need to face our everyday battles - if we're willing to receive what He has to offer. I also pray that we may never forget His faithfulness, no matter how hard the battle gets, or how strong the urge to run.
You are not alone in the battle. The victory is His. We have already won.
Your Sister Warrior,
(1) Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Victorious Secret (Our Sunday Visitor, 2018), 13.
As I walked to my favorite coffee shop in downtown St. Augustine to write this post, I nestled into a fitting mental posture by reciting the word, “warrior,” over and over again. As I did, all sorts of quintessential, warrior-esque images popped into my mind's eye. I thought of Merida from Brave and Katniss from The Hunger Games and I imagined myself in my fiercest, “I'm a strong independent woman” karate pose. You know what I'm talking about? Like the kind of warrior self-image in which you're donning head-to-toe black leather with a Cat Woman-like mask and an unstoppable look on your face which declares to the world that you are ready to take on anything and everything? If you've never imagined yourself like this, give it a try. I promise, you will instantly feel like the courageous warrior that you are.
Let me begin by saying, I love this image of women as warriors. I grew up hearing, “You are a princess because you are a daughter of the King.” This is fine and sweet and fluffy and wonderful, but it just doesn't satisfy. I want to be more than a princess. I want to be a warrior.
Search “warrior” in the dictionary and you will discover this definition: “a person engaged or experienced in warfare; a person engaged in some struggle or conflict.” (1)
So a warrior doesn't just get to run around in leather pants with a bow and arrow in hand? No. A warrior is in battle. That's right, presently, in battle. This is what makes her a warrior. This is what sets her apart. She is a fighter.
And this is why, while we may be at the end of Fearless and Free in this final stage titled, “The Warrior,” we are nowhere near done. The true warrior is in a perpetual embrace with “The Wakening” and “The Wrestling.” She may be fierce, but as such, she must be prepared to be continuously engaged in some struggle or conflict.
I love this because the empowerment that comes with a warrior status is not diminished by struggle and conflict, it is defined by struggle and conflict. You cannot be a warrior without living in a present battle. This means, being a warrior does not mean you are perfect. Being a warrior means you are ready and willing to fight through brokenness.
This truth found in Fearless and Free is so important because it is real. We cannot reach the end of this study, pop a bottle of champagne and celebrate our newfound warrior status. Instead, as we end this study, we must throw on our armor (or leather pants), embrace our beloved identity and bravely step into the battle set before us. The mess won't disappear just because we now know it exists and how to deal with it. The enemy won't stop trying to take us down. We won't stop feeling broken. But now, we know how to rise strong. Now, we know how to fight back. Now, we are mature and equipped women of God.
Here's the difference: now that we are warriors, what the enemy intended to use for our destruction, the Lord will be able to use for our healing. (2) Now that we are aware of the enemy's tactics and know how to respond, “God will reshape the very thing the enemy intends to use to take [us] down into something that brings [us] growth and blessing.” (3) But, this transformation and healing won't come without some pain.
True warriors are injured in battle all of the time. True warriors recognize their weaknesses. They are humble and recognize that brokenness is okay. Warriors face triggers daily and the wrestling is ferocious.
But ladies, be encouraged in this truth that you are more than a princess. You are a warrior. Jesus died on the cross to save you and He is fighting with you and for you and before you.
Rest in the promise that despite the inevitability of future trials, the Lord will use every ounce of pain for your greater good. He has the ability to transform brokenness into blessing. He can make you whole.
So, believe that you are a warrior. Believe that you are strong. And, prepare yourself for battle. Never lose sight of the wakening and the wrestling because they comprise your identity as a beloved warrior. I pray that as you go forth, you would cling to truths and toss aside lies. Remember that, “after Good Friday, we have Easter,” and more than anything, wait in confident expectation for God's promises. He will fulfill them when you least expect Him to. I implore you - just keep fighting. (4)
In love and peace,
PS: Join me on Instagram Live this Thursday, June 21st at 10 AM EST! A willingness to dive into what it means to be a warrior is required. Leather pants and coffee are optional but highly encouraged. See you there! Oh and don't forget to send in any thoughts, questions, or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(2) Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Fearless and Free (Walking with Purpose, 2018), 110.
(3) Fearless and Free, 137.
(4) Fearless and Free, 137.
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