If you’re on the fence about registering for the NW Women’s Conference: HER VOICE in March, please read this:

You know how hindsight is 20/20? How you can look back and the path you’re on seems a lot straighter and more defined than it did when you first embarked on it— back when you didn’t even know it was a step, let alone a trail?

Last fall I attended the women’s retreat of my local church and had the privilege of meeting—and falling in love with—our guest speaker, Angela Howard. We connected that weekend (I’m pretty sure I was her favorite!) and she invited me to be on her prayer team. I happily accepted. So as any faithful prayer partner would do, I went online and checked her speaking schedule.

Holiday SpecialHer Voice cost promo

Low and behold, the Girl was going to be speaking in Ellensburg, not far from my home. But what in the heck was HerVoice? Was this for church leaders only, some special meeting for people with titles and credentials? I really wanted to go and support her but I wasn’t if it was for your average-run-of-the-mill woman. I decided to pick up the phone and call HerVoice. Some darling named Mindy answered and quickly assured, “Oh no! It’s for anyone…we’d love to have you.” So, I registered and took a friend.

The weekend arrived and I was thinking to myself, Girl, what have you gotten yourself into! I can confidently answer that question today: AWESOMENESS PACKAGED IN BRAVE ESTROGEN! That’s what.

Now what I haven’t told you is that a few years earlier I had laid my Isaac upon the altar (a story for another book) and figured I’d just finish out my life on the sidelines cheering like crazy for all the cuties who still had thick hair, collagen in their skin, could pull off a trendy wardrobe and wear strappy shoes with tall heals. (Brats!)

Ladies! Please don’t make me yell this! Everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING, that entire weekend was the voice of God saying, “I’m not done with you, little lady!” Her Voice His Voice. God spoke like any parent does when they mean business—he used my middle name: Sherrie Lynn St. Hilaire, I did not say you could warm the bench!

I wept through everything those two days. Through worship, through the smiles of tenderhearted sisters, through each speaker, through meals, going potty, walking from my cabin to the next session…seriously, I was in a Holy-Spirit rain storm. (This is not a plug I’m getting paid for, honest!)

Have you ever been in a conference setting and every fiber of your being is trying not to squish your squishy self between the rows of metal folding chairs, onto the floor— down where everybody’s bibles, and purses, and water bottles, and coffee cups, and cell phones, and book bags are collected in careful piles? Where you want to throw your sniff, sniffing self face down and let your shoulders shake and cry your eyes swollen shut? Yeah, well that was me.

Sure, it was a tad uncomfortable to be a newcomer who knew a grand total of two people. I was reserved, partly due to shyness, partly due to the horrible lapse in judgment when on the very day of the retreat I went to a new hair dresser and impulsively decided to go Platinum and short, but mostly from the embarrassment of looking like a Menopausaly unstable woman with butter yellow hair.

Ms. No Ordinary Days introduced me to a couple women—and since it’s impolite to name-drop (which I’m already guilty of), I won’t name names. Suffice it to say, (That phrase definitely came out of the Lecturing-Mother Vault) those introductions turned into conversations which turned into encouragement which turned into invitation that got me off the bench and back onto the field.

Her Voice, and this will sound gushy because it just might be, for me, was like a soul message—it moved blood to my calling, to my purpose.

The speakers were incredible, covering such a broad spectrum of topics that blended seamlessly to form a big impact weekend. (I know that sounds like marketing-intern-speak, but it’s true.)

Because of that little step, I’m now in a community of story-affirming, life-giving, truth-seeking, lovers of God who are impacting the world with His Kingdom message. Her Voice awakened my voice and I’m using it to say this: God wants to use your voice, Little Lady!

SHAME is a growing discussion in some circles right now. Shame has been a recurring theme in my life and I know that I’m not alone. At times it has crippled my joy, distorted my perspective and disabled the abundant life God provided me.

People who have suffered traumatic events are susceptible to shame. Let’s face it squarely: there’s a lot of trauma running around out there. But trauma isn’t the only contributor to shame in our lives and culture. We can experience prevailing feelings of shame just by checking our social media, the public litmus test of our perceived adequacy, approval and acceptability. The place where You don’t quite measure up shouts at us multiple times a day for a lighted screen.

I’m not an expert on anything and I’d have to add my own life to that list. Brené Brown, however, has become a household name in the lives of those striving to extricate themselves from the web of shame. She’s the expert! She’s provided the bulk of available research on the topic of shame (including its antecedents, sub contexts and antidotes). I want to say that I think she has championed a truly legitimate assault on the virulent condition of shame. I applaud her work and am grateful for how it has helped me understand myself better and gain courage to be more vulnerable. I refer you to her on the subject of shame!

BUT this isn’t a post about shame, though I’ve used the word at least 22 times. I want to talk about how my internal shame discussions distracted me from paying attention to the role of God’s conviction in my life.

With regard to my okay-ness, for lack of a better word, three ideas became confused for me: shame, guilt and conviction.

Shame has to do with my feelings of unacceptablity.

Guilt has to do with my unacceptable behavior.

Conviction, in addition to behavior, speaks more to the unacceptability of my heart attitudes.

I’ve been filling journals for a long time but I’ve never been one to go back and review them, until recently. I felt prompted to skim over one and what I discovered surprised me enough to want to talk about it.

Initially, the pages of that journal revealed I was overcome with emotional pain. I was embroiled in a psychological struggle and of being at odds with myself and my life. I was confused about who I was and where my purpose lay. I couldn’t feel connection to others and wondered if I would ever belong to anything bigger than my commitment to my own survival.

As I turned the pages of that journal it read like I had plagiarized the Psalms of David. One day, written in neat Jane-Austenesque-cursive, I had eloquently penned my heartfelt praise to God. And I meant every flowery word of it.  On another day my heart was scrawled in graffiti block print; my angst embossed on the pages.  As I read those thoughts, from where I stand today, I clearly see that the noise of Shame’s pain kept me entangled in a self-consuming introspection cycle: shame>pain>reaction>shame>pain>reaction, repeat and spiral.

Shame drove me to introspection rather than to prayer.  Shame nailed me to preoccupation with my feelings and my feelings in turn caused me to overlook sinful behaviors. My ugly reactions and bitter heart almost felt justified in light of the pain that shame inflicted.

Shame said, “Your feelings justify your behavior.” Truth says, “Your feelings will chase you from the presence of God and you’ll miss the course correction that can bring you peace, healing and joy.” Shame energizes attempts at self-reliance and says, “I’ll got to figure this out.”

Shame is real and it’s covert in the way that it operates to subvert the truth of who God says we are, both the good and the bad: You’re my beloved child, complete in Me. As well as, Your heart is full of sin and it separates you from Me.

Psalm 139: 23-24

“Search me, O God and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

It’s in this posture of prayer that we are afforded the opportunity to unhook from the talons of shame and cling to the tendrils of truth.

 

7217701232c1f221a24cc1e9fb8a8bf1My name is Sherrie St. Hilaire, COG, MOA. You may not recognize my credentials. They were obtained through forty-four years of walking with Jesus through dark nights, dry deserts, and deep sorrows; and sometimes through hell itself. What God has taught me He has asked me to share. I love to meet women at their point of need and encourage them through life’s hard places. I openly share my life to the glory of God. I hope you’ll find my words and blog to be a hospitable place to rest your travel-wearied soul. My hope is to lay down grace-words that offer hope, kindle encouragement, provide comfort and ultimately glorify God. I am a wife, mother, grandmother, child of God (CoG) and minister of availability (MoA)—I am humbly and gratefully His!   You can find more blogs from Sherrie, on her blog Grace Grips.


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