The Dark Side of Perfectionism: How to Hold Onto Jesus While Making Major Life Change

A young woman recently asked me, "How far is too far?" when it comes to maintaining purity in a Christian dating relationship.

This is an important question... because the wrong answer can make someone feel like a failure, and even totally leave the Christian faith, and the right answer can point them into a deeper relationship with a loving and merciful God.

I just finished reading the book "The Scarlet Virgins" which is really getting a lot of attention right now as an answer to books like "I Kissed Dating Goodbye." It helped me to understand why it’s so important to point people to an authentic relationship with Jesus, rather than rattling off a list of do’s and dont’s.

See the full video interview with the author, Rebecca Lemke, right here: Purity Culture and Turning Horror into Hope



Whatever it is you set your mind to... when we decide to put God first, it’s easy to get stuck in perfectionism which is such a death trap...

Feeling like we failed.... makes us fail to get back up when we stumble!

We are so mean to ourselves sometimes - tricking ourselves into thinking God’s love and acceptance is contingent on what we do (or don’t) watch, what we read (or don’t read), how we dress, and especially what we do (or don't do). We find ourself clinging to a few scriptures as behavioral law and not considering the context of what Jesus has done!

It’s so easy to stray away from the heart of Jesus when we start taking score on ourselves and our goals...

So when that young woman asked me “How far is too far?” I began by asking her what she believed and wanted... 


  • Do you believe God wants you to wait to have sex until marriage? Does he? She said yes on both counts. 
  • I asked her about the goals with the relationship, and she said she wanted to honor God by making this one different!



  • Then and only then did I give her personal advice based on my own experiences, and I made sure that she realized it was my personal advice and *not God* telling her what to do. 
  • I told her the most kind and loving thing she could do for her boyfriend was to let him know through words and actions this relationship is different, special, and God is really in it… helping him and joining him in guarding that conviction. Because in order to be in a successful relationship, you need to define success, set clear boundaries, and guard it like the relationship depends on it- because it does.
  • Lastly, I let her know the Holy Spirit will help guide her into the pure and God-honoring relationship she seeks, but there is no perfect formula.

  • And most importantly, I let her know that when she fails she needn’t have feelings of shame, or even engage in self-harm. And as Rebecca shares in her book, legalism really can lead to far worse behaviors showing up down the road.

All this echoes Rebecca’s advice on the topic, which she shares in the book:“My best advice is: stay in Scripture. instead of asking ‘How far is too far?’ Pray, listen to your conscience, and ask yourself throughout the relationship, ‘Is this action truly loving to this person, or am I trying to gratify desires of the flesh?’ Once you have an answer, act accordingly. If you fall short, seek out private confession and receive forgiveness."

Rebecca shows how people have twisted the gospel, leaving out sections of scripture and losing context. She takes aim at the prosperity gospel, and I’m so grateful more Christians are speaking out against that, because we all know that bad things happen to good people!

If you come from a Christian background that says God won’t tolerate certain music, shows, styles of dressing, celebrations etc etc, you will love the section in the book called “Unlearning Legalism” and the following chapters which teach you how to view sexuality in a healthy way again, identify areas where culture may have misled you, and read scripture in full, understanding God’s heart.

Want to dig in to this book yourself? It will help you deal with not just sexual issues, but challenges regarding all forms of striving and reaching for a goal. Purchasing the book through my link will financially support this blog and my video ministry, at no cost to you. Thank you so much for your support!

You can find the book here: The Scarlet Virgins

Never stop learning, growing and reaching.

The Proverbs 31 Experiement




Much has been said about the "Proverbs 31 woman" and many have aspired to be more like her. But how? Where do you even start?

Well, I'm starting an experiment to see what happens when we apply these truths to our lives, beginning with our morning routine. I will be your coach, and place you in an accountability group of likeminded Christian women who will be delighted to get to know you.

Often we focus on changing other people (a losing game!) when we ourselves are struggling with the very basics: such as having a solid morning routine, making time with the Lord, exercising, and staying grounded.

The Proverbs 31 woman is actually a saying BY a woman, to her son, a king. The standard is high, but I love a good challenge... don't you? We will take it a step further by examining this scripture, and using multiple resources to create a plan that WORKS.

Now enrolling for the Morning Miracles Challenge

Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character

10 [b]A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

FERVENT Online Summit


Watch the replay here: http://bit.ly/FERVENT-Summit-Replay

Get the FERVENT Summit Workbook to follow along:  http://bit.ly/Get-FERVENT-Workbook 


Get ready for one hour of furious-note-taking goodness! At this free online event, you'll learn the exact insights from Priscilla's book that will:

- Make your prayer life come alive, with bold, strategic, meaningful prayers
- Draw you closer to God and sharpen your focus
- Cause major growth in your spiritual walk
- Equip you to win in spiritual battle (even if you've currently found yourself in the fight of your life!!)

Ongoing group discussion within the Facebook group will give you the opportunity to meet likeminded women and create accountability as we apply these teachings to our lives.


Fabulous Flores - Lake Piten Itza

Guatemala is an intense country of contrasts, and living here has been challenging and beautiful at the same time. We recently took a trip to the island of Flores on Lake Peten Itza, about 10 hours north of Guatemala City. It's become our favorite stop on the way to the Mayan ruins of Tikal. I'm excited to share this itinerary with any of you who are considering a trip to Tikal and who might choose Flores as a leeway point.



Excuses to Go:


- It's the access town to Tikal, an hour and a half away and a fraction of the price of staying in the park
- The second largest lake in Guatemala, (Lake Atitlan is the largest)
- 27 Mayan sites dot the lake, so you can get in a little extra sightseeing
- Stretch that dollar: $1 USD = approx $7 in Guatemalan Quetzales


Where to Stay:


Hotel La Unión
Pictured above, view from room #12. Owned and operated by a local Guatemalan family for over 15 years, La Unión is a simple, clean, budget-friendly option. Seeing that my husband is a slightly "particular" sleeper, we'll say, we loved the super high powered ceiling fan and lake breezes from our balcony room.

In the end, La Union was about $35 USD and well worth it! Excellent budget hotel right on the water. For a great view and good sized balcony at a great rate, we recommend room 12. Get $25 off your stay when you sign up for Airbnb through this link.

Hotel LaCandon


This hotel offers Mayan decor with an ancient Mayan twist, beautiful lake views and a full terrace restaurant. Get $25 off your stay on Airbnb through this link

We were greeted by the hotel owner, Oliver (pictured left) a super kind and fun guy who made us feel comfortable and welcome right away. For the best deal, we chose a basic room with no AC. We also ate dinner at LaCandon, and we are glad we did- why search when you have excellent fare and a view available right away? I ordered kebobs and Rob had pasta carbonara, and with drinks we came out less than Q11. ($14 USD)


Where to Eat

There are cafés galore, and a good selection of restaurants. You shouldn't have a problem finding a great meal in the Q30-Q50 range, and some really delicious cuisine around the Q100 mark.


Breakfast:
Try Cool Beans for a good breakfast and coffee at a reasonable price. Fun atmosphere. Thankfully they provided the bug spray! These mosquitos bite early and bite often.

Lunch:
San Telmo is a great place for a super healthy lunch. When you see it lit up at night, you'll want to go there for dinner too. Plus there is a thrift shop attached - fun!

Dinner:
Captain Tortuga's cooks up a great pizza, but if you're ready to take a chance on the street food, it's only steps away by the water. Great people watching.

Drinks:
Purchase a bottle of wine at the local store, or enjoy a drink and some live music in the bar at Hotel Isla de Flores.


Getting Around


The town of Flores is very small, and you can walk all the way around it in about 20 minutes. Getting there is fairly easy but not for the faint of heart. We chose to take a shuttle from Antigua where we live to Guatemala city, and then the 10 hour bus ride to Santa Elena. This was part of a package deal, at Q300 (about $40 USD per person.) Approaching from Guatemala City, we arrived in the town of Santa Elena and from there, we hopped in a taxi for Q20 (about $3 USD) to cross the causeway to island of Flores.

So, did I convince you yet? Get packing! Flores is waiting for you!

Le Tote for Plus Sizes - the 3 best alternatives!

Le Tote sadly only carries up to size 16 but there are some GREAT alternatives for plus size women that I've been looking into that I want to share with you!

As we know, for some reason fashion is behind the curb for plus sizes, because as we look for larger sizes we see it's so much harder to find great style. Recently my Mom re-entered the workforce after years of working part time and as a stay at home Mom, and all her old work clothes either no longer fit right or they were just really outdated. She needed a new look and style that allowed her to walk with confidence in the world.

plus size alternatives to Le Tote
My beautiful Mom in her Gwynnie Bee dress!
But before we tackled her whole work wardrobe, we just needed these two basic things:
- A great plus sized top for a new headshot
- A great dress for her to wear to my Dad's 40 year high school reunion

But even after searching for hours in the WORLD'S LARGEST Macy's, we left empty-handed and incredibly frustrated. Everything she tried on either had weird cuts or was just not with the trends.

I had personally been using Le Tote (see my LeTote review here) and figured there must be something like it for women like my Mom - and then after some digging I found Gwynnie Bee! It's like Le Tote for larger sizes, and right now they give a free 30 day trial AND $10 off through my special link since I decided to partner with them for my blog cause.

So I convinced my Mom to try it. She got her first 3-item box and loved everything in it. She found the perfect dress for my Dad's reunion (middle), and found cute and expensive-looking clothes for the office.

plus size work clothes

So if you haven't heard of it, Gwynnie Bee is a box subscription for sizes 10-32, and is the perfect alternative to Le Tote. It works the same way as Le Tote, where you're encouraged to wear the items whether or not you decide to keep them. If you decide to keep a clothing item they offer really really good prices.

Gwynnie Bee has a few different categories of clothing, from work wear to weekend casual, and even a dressy line. They offer free shipping, free exchanges, free laundry, AND right now they have a free 30-day trial.

Gwynnie bee dressSince then she has had what I refer to as "the Gwynnie Bee glow" because I noticed a change in her posture, the way she talked, everything all because she finally had clothes she felt good in.

How much does Gwynnie Bee cost?

Gwynnie Bee offers three plans with UNLIMITED EXCHANGES which is really important to understand. They have different pricing based on how many clothing items you want out at one time, and with unlimited exchanges you can do about 4 boxes per month if you stay on top of it. The price ranges from $45/mo to $95 month.

So if you were interested in Le Tote, then I say give Gwynnie Bee a try!

Right now they're running a deal -- Your first month is free! Also, if you try Gwynnie Bee for free through my link, you'll get that free trial AND save $10 off your second month which would help to support this blog and my cause.

Honorable Mentions 

There are some styling companies that are similar and offer plus sizes, like Stitch Fix. The thing with Stitch Fix is that you aren't supposed to wear the clothes unless you really buy them. There is a $20 styling fee and then you can apply that to what they send you. Again, you're not supposed to wear the clothes till you buy them! So that is a huge difference. But it's still a great option if you don't want to deal with the frustration of digging through the sale racks. Want to try? Get StitchFix Here

I've heard of a few others but don't want to link them here until we actually try them. It's amazing how many things look good online but then can be major letdown and I don't want to let that happen to you!

I hope this helps you build your style - feeling good about yourself is such an important first step toward changing the world!

Never stop learning, growing, and reaching!



Ambitious Christian Women Bible Study: FERVENT by Priscilla Shirer

On the National Day of Prayer, we announced online Bible Study for the summer would be FERVENT by Priscilla Shirer.

Each week an amazing group of women from all over the world met via conference line to discuss the study. Our online studies are perfect for women who don't have a group at your home church, or if they're traveling, this is a great chance to get connected!



Over the course of 6 weeks, we discussed the strategies laid out in the book, which are:
  • Strategy 1: Your Passion - getting it back when it's gone
  • Strategy 2: Your Focus - fighting the real enemy
  • Strategy 3: Your Identity - remembering who you are
  • Strategy 4: Your Family - fortifying the lives of those you love
  • Strategy 5: Your Past - ending the reign of guilt, shame, and regret
  • Strategy 6: Your Fears - confronting your worries, claiming your calling
Replay available: See it all in one amazing hour on our FERVENT Summit replay.
As you will see, this book isn't just a study, it's a complete battle plan! If you loved the movie War Room, this bible study will help you apply God-glorifying prayer to your life. I can't wait to help coach you to craft your own personalized prayer strategy to get victory with your identity, family, attitude, and more!

Want to join us on future studies?  Become a Member of our Facebook group.

Please purchase the Book HERE: Fervent by Priscilla Shirer on Amazon to support the group and allow me to keep bringing these great Bible Studies to you! You don't absolutely need the book to join us. You are always welcome to join our weekly calls, and I think you'll get a lot out of the concepts we discuss!



Almost 6 Months in Guatemala - A Check-In

The best way to describe the moment getting on the airplane to Guatemala is, I felt like a plucked chicken! I wondered - what happened to me? Don't my talents and abilities, my education, my wits, anything matter to you, God? Why on Earth would you want me to go to Guatemala? This makes zero (0) sense! Where is my dog, my house, and my baby? Where is my office building, my team, and my trips to Switzerland? What about ME?

"Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!" Psalm 139:23  

Lately as I see more and more devastation in this country, including a friend and coworker being murdered in cold blood a couple of weeks ago, my mind takes me back to the U.S. -- the immigrants used to tell each other that the streets were paved with gold there, and now I kind of get it. There is a sense of enduring wealth, security, and prosperity on most streets in America, even the unkempt areas.

 Yes, I look back at the worst of what I've seen in America and it was still cleaner and safer than most places here.

Here in Guatemala, one the things that upsets me most is the disorder. Piles of rubble, general filth, and unfinished buildings or buildings that are falling apart everywhere along the streets. I am not really talking about Antigua where I live, which for the most part is stunning for tourist presentation purposes (in shambles, but stunning) - but almost everywhere else.

There is this near constant of utter chaos which my beauty, elegance, and simplicity-loving soul just recoils at. The people here are oppressed by constant fear of being robbed or murdered. The women can't even think about things like college with a religion that keeps them in constant cycles of pregnancy and bare-footedness.


My Life Before Guatemala


I am a lady who loves tea parties, rose gardens, pleasant conversation, pretty dresses, and gondola rides. I am old-school. I admit it. I want to go to galas and be surprised with a necklace of pearls. Yes, I want to "propose a toast" - I want to enjoy a sunset from a sailboat. I want to go back to Scotland and stay the night in a real castle, and I want a night at the Connaught after spending a day seeing Big Ben and other places I want to see in London and finding the address my Great Great Great Grandma Eloise once lived.



I worked hard to ensure I would have the life I desired in the United States, with the prospects I wanted, and the spontaneous trips I wanted. After realizing it wasn't going to fall on my lap, I drank so much coffee and worked myself to the bone. I worked through the nights with a day-light bulb, till my eyes went and I couldn't even look at the screen anymore.

One day my husband told me he felt the Lord was telling him we need to move to volunteer in South or Central America and he was getting an impression about Guatemala.

I hated this idea.

It wasn't glamorous, that's for sure. It didn't fit my plan which was finally coming together.

But I prayed for confirmation, and I got it. And I knew not going would be sin. So gave it all away, we did it.


What Life is Like Here in Guatemala


Now it has been nearly 6 months of living here in Guatemala. I find myself trudging at 7am to a bus that is a decommissioned U.S. school bus which is literally falling apart and speeding down the road on dangerous curves. My lungs which appreciate the clean air are instead breathing in thick volcano ash mixed with burning trash, mixed with vehicle exhaust, mixed with urine from men who commonly pee on the sidewalks.

I am here volunteering with my husband while we build our startup. Twice a week we go to this castle-like house that is a home for disabled orphans in a town called San Antonio Augas Calientes. It is like arriving to a different world where order and sanity exists as best it can.



And I am there just trying to love these orphans and make some kind of difference. There is one child named Alejandra who I thought might be helping, but I've recently pulled back significantly, concerned how I could be distracting her with play from her more effective therapies, and now my visits are less frequent.

On Sundays I serve on the worship team at my bilingual church, Shoreline Guatemala. It is a strong church full of inspiring people who are mostly missionaries. Yes, I have a strong community of ex-pats here. I live in a gated community that only outsiders can afford. I also demand strong internet so I can maintain bonds in the US and continue to build this business.

What's Next


Except for at church, I feel somewhat like an outsider who is shuffling on the outskirts because I'm not a Guatemala-lifer or a true "missionary" like most of the people I have met.

Am I supposed to want to stay here in Guatemala because I feel too guilty to go back, like somehow my contribution living here could help more?

I have been exposed to so much suffering and disorganization, so much tragedy and need for so many months, I'm sure when I get back to America it will all hit me differently and I will finally see how I've changed.




My country of The United States of America gives me - a young educated female - a chance to create a thriving business without fear. I can actually go to the grocery store alone, and count on certain systems to support me, my family, and my life. I don't have to live under the constant stress of being surrounded by a system that is crumbling, I can live with confidence that I will be respected and treated fairly, if not I have recourse.

I am determined to go back and make the most of everything I used to take for granted, and pour out on these new heart connections and new dreams of supporting friends and loved ones in Guatemala.

I believe that's where I stand now, and I'm more grateful than ever.


Mis Raices - Learning the Spanish Language in Guatemala



I think because of the nature of our current political situation around immigrants, this story matters now more than ever. It's time to share more about my Grandparents, who are a huge inspiration to me, and I really don't talk enough about them. Their story of struggle and victory would blow you over. They are hands down the best people I know.
FIRST, KNOW THIS: We are all ignorant, whiny, lazy losers compared to them, I assure you.
These amazing humans changed their destiny through a strong faith in God, unstoppable tenacity, and a heart of service. Before coming to Guatemala to volunteer, I had a blessed conversation with my Grandparents, Osvaldo and Carmen Iris Enriquez who emigrated from Puerto Rico and made a good life in America.
My Grandpa gave me a GREAT piece of advice that has stuck with me. He said to improve my handle of the language in a new place, I should read their local newspaper every day.
It's super hard. It means humbling yourself and taking it slow. It means getting to know what matters to the people you live among, from their perspective, in their language.
It's how he taught himself English decades ago, as a young man looking for a better life in New York City. Soon to serve our country facing the horrors of Vietnam with a great bravery and strength that demands our honor and respect. He then sacrificed the rest of his working life to service in the Army, even living in Alaska for several years with his wife and children. BTW I'll spare you the stories of the ridiculous racist disrespect he had to put up with... and still has to put up with... I know HE rarely speaks of it and doesn't complain about it...
So today I may struggle to read the paper (even with AP Spanish and Puerto Rican blood pulsing through my brain, this is HARD) but I know that within me is a legacy of victory over challenges like this, and far greater than this. My favorite paper to read is Prensa Libre, because of the quality journalism.
One day I will know this language of Spanish inside and out. I would love nothing more than to honor my heritage, and make the most of the place in the world they worked so hard, and sacrificed so much, to carve out for me.
Get over yourself America. Open your doors. The people you let in are not rapists and terrorists, those are racist lies. They are people like my Grandparents.

Discerning The Voice of God - Online Bible Study

Do you desire to hear from God and really know it's Him speaking to you? Maybe you're going through a season where He seems totally silent. For times like this, there is a bible study by Priscilla Shirer that came highly recommended to me. The book is Discerning the Voice of God:




After doing this study with a group of amazing women online through our Ambitious Christian Women book club, I developed a set of resources so you won't have to do this alone! This series to accompany the Bible Study has been reviewed and approved by Lifeway Christian Resources.

What You'll Need:

The workbook. Please support this ministry and purchase through this link: Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When God Speaks (Bible Study Book)

Access to the full length sermon videos from Priscilla Shirer, which we can help you get once you join us inside the group.

Video Series:

I created a Discerning the Voice of God video series on YouTube to help you get the most of this study even without a group to meet with in person. Please bookmark this page and enjoy these discussion videos which will walk you through the most impactful exercises and more.

The images below are LINKED to each video so just click on the one you need! Some of these videos are protected as members-only content, so you will need to become a member of the group to access all 6!

Session 1 - Discerning the Voice of God Bible Study

Session 2 - Discerning the Voice of God Bible Study

Priscilla Shirer's 5 M's of Correctly Hearing God

Part 2 of Session 2 - Discerning the Voice of God

Session 3 - Discerning the Voice of God Bible Study

Session 4 - Discerning the Voice of God Bible Study

Session 5 - Discerning the Voice of God Bible Study

Session 6 - Discerning the Voice of God Bible Study
(Session 6 coming soon!)

Extra Freebies and Meeting Times:
Of course, the most meaningful connections come from within the group. Members of our Ambitious Christian Women Facebook group get lots of freebies like printables, worksheets, and daily encouragement. When you join, you can also meet with us on a conference to discuss the content of this study!

Join the Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ambitiouschristianwomen and I will make sure you get all the freebies and meeting times.

Never stop learning, growing, and reaching!

Laura

Content by Laura Gabriele