By Susan Ely
God's Brave Women - Susan's Story
When I met Becky Beresford at a writing conference and found out she had a series called Brave Women, I jumped at the opportunity to do a guest post. Write about bravery? No brainer. My only problem would be deciding which brave story to tell.
I had plenty to choose from:
· The years of pleading with God to protect and deliver my son from drug addiction
· Walking my daughter through a teenage pregnancy
· Moving across the country multiple times for ministry positions
· Losing our home to foreclosure in 2010
· Finding my husband slumped over in the bathroom from a massive pulmonary embolism (he lived—miraculous!)
Y’all, I’ve had to be Brave with a capital “B.”
When I was younger, I never thought I’d have to be brave. Bravery was for other people, the unfortunate ones who had “bad” things happen to them. Surely, that wouldn’t be me; I was special. (Pardon me, while I stop for a second to laugh at the absurdity of that statement.)
And then bad things began to happen. To me. Whaaaat?!
I was unprepared and unfortunately had some bad theology that taught me that if bad things happened to me, I must be bad. And apparently, I wasn’t as special as I thought I was.
"I was unprepared and unfortunately had some bad theology that taught me that if bad things happened to me, I must be bad. And apparently, I wasn’t as special as I thought I was."
It took years to dismantle that way of thinking. Years of anxiety and depression. Lots of crying out to God, lots of tears soaking the carpet, lots of journaling. And lots of opportunities to learn how to be brave.
But oh, how gracious is our Father. It was during those difficult years that he led me to the life-changing words in Zephaniah 3:17: “… He takes great delight in you…”
Who, me? He delights in me?
But I’ve been BAD.
Like I said, I had some bad theology, but he graciously began to unravel it until finally I could sing the words to a song that he gave me, “I am a child of the Most High God. I am not forsaken; I am not forgotten. I am forgiven and free.”
But truly believing those words about my identity, about who I am (and about who he is) was a long process. One day he flat out asked me this question:
“Who do you say I am?”
We had received the final foreclosure notice and I had myself convinced I was going to end up a homeless bag lady. I was scared. It felt like God was nowhere to be found.
His question that day literally stopped me in my tracks. I knew immediately what he was really asking me… do you believe I’m good? That my heart for you is good?
He loved me enough to call out my unbelief, to put me on the spot and in that moment, I knew I was at a turning point.
My answer was to declare: You are the great I AM. You are who you say you are.
You. Are. Good.
I knew it all along, but it was time to declare it.
Not only is he who he says he is, he means what he says. When I faced my biggest fear (homelessness) I lost my fear because I learned that when he says he will never leave you,
he will never leave you or forsake you.
Trying to be brave will break you if you don’t believe God is good.
"Trying to be brave will break you if you don’t believe God is good."
Not only did the Father challenge my unbelief, he helped my unbelief and one of the ways he did that was to teach me to become more grateful.
My initial gratitude lists during that season of loss were pretty basic: a roof over my head (whew!), a friend thinking of me during her Costco run and loading up her trunk with groceries for us. I found that the more I practiced gratitude, the more I had to be grateful for. I counted the gifts and the gifts began to add up. The scales of fear that blinded my eyes to beauty and to hope began to fall off.
The more grateful I felt, the braver I felt. And then I had a dream.
"I found that the more I practiced gratitude, the more I had to be grateful for. I counted the gifts and the gifts began to add up. The scales of fear that blinded my eyes to beauty and to hope began to fall off. The more grateful I felt, the braver I felt."
I dreamed I was at a big conference and as I made my way through the crowd, my mind was bombarded with accusations and I began to sense I was being followed. When I turned around there was this man dressed all in black, snarling and hissing at me. What I did next shocked me; I reached out and grabbed him by the collar, lifted and slammed him against the wall and shouted:
I AM NOT AFRAID!
Craaazy, I know, but to this day, I don’t struggle with fear like I used to. But let me be clear:
I didn’t suddenly overcome fear. I gradually was overcome by the goodness of God. The knowledge of who he is… good, faithful, steadfast, trustworthy—that’s what overcame the fear. It took a major belief reset to finally understand the truth about being brave… It’s not about me. It’s about him.
Brave Woman Manifesto
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!
And by the way...
You are Brave!
No matter what you are facing, God has made you in His image, which means you are full of His strength and power. I would love to connect with you more and give you a FREE gift - the BRAVE WOMAN MANIFESTO: Five Things to Tell Yourself When Life Gets Hard. Click HERE to sign up for my monthly newsletter and you’ll receive the FREE Manifesto, as well as recent blog posts, updated resources and personal details delivered only to my lovely email tribe.
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The grandchild of Italian immigrants and NC tobacco sharecroppers, Susan describes herself as being half polenta and red wine and half grits and sweet tea; cooking and sharing stories around the kitchen table is her idea of relaxation. A former chef and freelance writer, Susan blogs on her website www.susanely.com where her goal is to help women reset their hearts, bodies and minds in order to flourish in Christ.
Susan speaks at women’s retreats and conferences throughout the southeast and is the founder of the women’s weekend event, Reset with Susan. She and her husband, Roger, have 3 children and seven grandchildren, ranging in age from 2 to 21. They have been involved in leading worship and planting churches in CA, FL, GA and NC.