My girls are back in school today. Hallelujah, my house is quiet. I can think. There will not be a preschooler meltdown for several hours. I lost track of the meltdowns over the holiday break. EPIC. Every tantrum began with a quivering lower lip and the sad eyes looking up that warned of imminent waterworks. But I’ve seen that look so often lately that I’m immune to the cuteness, and so is her Dad, mostly. (Big sister is over it entirely.)

On Saturday, the waterworks began faster than expected… because we made her leave the bookstore.

As I carried her out of the store, this temper tantrum made me smile. Because if you’re going to cry about something, I’m ok with tears about books and staying in the beautiful bookstore. By definition, I’m a bookworm. I love to read. Most of my childhood memories include a book. I love taking my girls to the library. I love to walk the aisle of bookstores (without kids). Since our town has a small local bookstore with a children’s area that reminds me of the Shop Around the Corner, we occasionally wander in and explore.

One reason we’d ventured into the store was to see if they plan to carry a book that will be released next week. Late last fall I received an Advanced Reader Copy of No More Faking Fine; Ending the Pretending by Esther Fleece. Before I’d even read page one, I loved the book, because the title and subtitle spoke directly to one of my lessons in 2016.

More and more I’m realizing I crave authentic community. Moving frequently means meeting new people frequently, and for someone who has a hard time with small talk, that’s challenging (and exhausting.) But I’ve learned that relationships are built on the small talk that gives way to real stories about real life. We build community as we invest in building relationships. We get to know our new neighbors by doing life together and sharing the small stuff and the big stuff. Over time, we begin to realize we can share the ups and the downs, and surprisingly, sharing the tough stuff builds more community.

Except those times when I’m surrounded by what could be community and I feel alone.

Over the last year, in those lonely moments I’ve paused to ask myself, “What do I believe? Am I living it? Or am I believing what I live?”  I’ve discovered that it is in the gap between what I believe and what I’m living that I can change my life.

I believe in community, so I need to live community.  But I don’t always feel community.

In fact, as I look at the most difficult seasons of my life, all but one are marked by a deep feeling of loneliness. Those were the times I most craved community: when I had a newborn who couldn’t eat and who wouldn’t sleep; when I had a toddler who couldn’t stand or walk and I drove 100 miles twice a week for physical therapy. I felt utterly alone and wondered why the friends who were around for the festive things like baby showers didn’t understand.

They didn’t understand because I didn’t tell them I was hurting.

If there’s one reason to pick up your own copy of No More Faking Fine, it’s to realize that it’s okay to admit life is difficult. Esther calls this lamenting – it’s honestly owning the hurt and the emotions that arise as a consequence of that hurt. She shares her own story about growing up with the “Suck it up” mentality and learning to stuff her emotions. Despite fantastic professional success, she was living with deep hurt and had somewhere along the way begun to believe that Christians are supposed to take the hard stuff to God, believe that He makes it better, so get over it, and move on.   But the problem with that mentality is that sometimes, we’re just faking it. We’re faking fine, pretending to be ok – because the Bible says we will be, right? – but we’re not okay, and by not admitting it to ourselves or to others, we’ve missed the boat. We don’t feel the healing that God promises us because we haven’t honestly lamented our hurts and allowed for the healing.

If you’ve spent any time stuffing your emotions or just trying to move forward and get past a hurt of any kind, Esther dedicates an entire section of her book to learning to lament honestly. It’s permission to own your pain, not wallow in it, but to own it and talk to God about it. Take the time to care for yourself by learning to lament honestly so that you can heal, and you can move on.

If you’ve ever read my writing, or heard me speak, you know that I’m pretty straightforward about throwing temper tantrums with God. As I walked through my own tragedy in my 20’s, I lamented loudly to God. In that season of grief, I found myself surrounded by friends who cried with me, hugged me, and reminded me what I believed when I didn’t remember on my own. That community of friends spoiled me for life. (Thank you, friends.)

So when life threw me curveballs in my 30s, the loneliness of those seasons not only surprised me, it nearly crippled me.

Reading Esther’s book put words to a concept that God’s been working into me over the last year:

The authentic community I crave depends on me showing up authentically. (It might even be directly proportionate, but I’m not ready to say that, yet.)

I didn’t hide my grief in my 20s, and my friends showed up in spades. In my 30s, I didn’t share what was difficult in my life (or how I felt about it), and my friends didn’t know to show up.

Esther writes, “For so long, I’d thought I should hide my grief because I didn’t want to cause anyone to question God’s goodness. I kept my laments inside so I wouldn’t burden anyone else’s faith.”

I think there’s a million reasons why we don’t share our hurts and lament in community, but that quote right there is my Achilles heel. I poured out my heart in prayer but I didn’t want to complain to my friends, I didn’t’ want to cause anyone to question God’s goodness to me. God has given me so much, I have such a testimony of His love and blessing, a happy ending despite tragedy – I couldn’t justify sharing my grief about the challenges of motherhood.

Friends, we do ourselves a disservice because we decide our lament, our hurt, our grief, our challenge at the moment, isn’t worth sharing. I did. When I choose what is and isn’t worth sharing with my friends, I limit how authentically I show up. My friends don’t know me if they don’t know my hurts. And my friends won’t know the God I know if I’m not willing to live authentically.

“Lamenting is actually a testimony of God’s great love for us. It demonstrates that we have a God who listens to us, a God who hears us, and a God who concerns Himself with every area of our lives, both big and small.” — Esther Fleece, No More Faking Fine

Hear me, this isn’t a license to complain, it’s permission to admit when things are not okay. It’s permission to believe that authentic community is born when we show up authentically.  It’s permission to trust your people to be your people, to cry with you, hug you, and remind you what you believe when you’re not sure you remember.  The friends who share your burdens will share in your joy.  My testimony to God’s faithfulness is even stronger among those who’ve heard my laments and seen God answer my prayers.

As we begin a new year, many of us set resolutions and goals.  We review the past year and decide what we want to be different in the new year.  Consider asking yourself, “What do I believe? Am I living it? Or am I believing what I live?”  It’s in the gap between what I believe and what I’m living that I can most change my life.  What do you believe in 2017?  What will you live?

{Read more about No More Faking Fine and pre-order your copy with free gifts at}