Wednesday, April 27, 2016

When Life Appears Peachy (but it really isn't)

It was a cold Sunday morning, last December.

My week had been rough. Actually, kind of beyond rough. My world felt about as upside down and inside out as possible, and basically no one knew. It was a pretty low point and I was really struggling.

But it was Sunday morning. And it wasn't going to help anyone to wear my life on my face, so I pulled myself together as I knew I needed to, and headed to church. I spent the hour prior to church as normal, helping my pastor's wife get her babies all ready and to church, and I finally slid into a seat in my class's room just as announcements were starting.

Our Bible fellowship class always start out with prayer requests and announcements. Someone asked if there were any prayer requests. All was silent...no one said anything. I was such a mess with my own internal struggle that I was halfways tuned out and not paying a whole lot of attention to what was going on around me anyways.

Our leader got up to give the lesson. He looked at us and smiled as he said, "Well, its great to know that everyone's life is so peachy that there are no prayer requests!"

There were a few looks exchanged, and half-hearted laughs, and I could literally feel the vibe around that table, and I knew I wasn't the only one, that was thinking "My life? Peachy? Not a chance! If only you KNEW."

His statement stunned me. At that moment reality hit me between the eyes. Hard. I was out of my fog and in the zone immediately. I could think of a whole lot of descriptions for my current circumstances in life but peachy was not even close. I realized, "People have NO CLUE."

And then I got to thinking. If I had all this stuff in my life, and nobody knew, and I was faking everyone so well in concealing pain that I had...then for all I knew everyone else in my class was at the same place.

That hit me hard too. Really? It rocked my world to think about this. Who knew the pain of the girl sitting next to me? Who knew the monumental decision facing the guy across the table? Who knew the stories of their struggle of current living and just doing life? Surviving?
Probably no one...just like no one knew about me.

I thought about this a lot that morning during our class, and I continued to think about it in the coming weeks. It struck me so greatly that I started a blog post about it (this) and I'm finishing + posting it now, five months later.

This experience made me think about several things.
First of all, it made me realize yet again that just because someone looks perfect and like they have it all together, doesn't mean they are and do.
Secondly, it showed me how important it is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. If I sense Jesus wanting me to talk to someone, or send a note or text of encouragement, or just take a minute to stop and pray for someone, I need to do that RIGHT AWAY, even if I have no idea what they are going through. Because chances are very good Jesus put them on my heart for a reason, and they are going through something of which I may have no idea.

It was funny; I had already been thinking for a while about this concept of being more sensitive to the Spirit's leading. I had seen several situations in my life where just a simple text to let someone know I was praying for them, had been just at the time when they needed encouragement, even though I didn't know that beforehand.

But this experience in my class in December got me thinking about it even more. "How many people are going through life, putting a smile on their face + stuffing the pain, and nobody takes time to ask them how they are REALLY doing, because they assume that because they look perfect and like they have it all together, that everything in their life is peachy?"

I was so convicted at this! It is so easy for me to go through life and forget that there are also other people out there who may be going through things of which I have no idea. Some personalities are more open + honest about their struggles, but there are many people (like me) who often just stuff everything inside and wear a smile, trying to make it through without other people knowing what is really going on. There are pros and cons to each side, obviously---there is a time when honesty + openness are very good, and other times when one has to just learn to deal with things and move on. The whole world doesn't always need to know of our struggles. At the same time, it isn't a good idea to always keep everything bottled up and put forth this facade of perfection.

I honestly didn't used to write posts like this. For much of my life I have felt like I could be more effective by "having it all together" and being as "godly" as possible. I struggled with bondage from feeling like I had to be a good example; like I had to look good, regardless of what I was actually experiencing or feeling.

Don't get me wrong, I am still striving for godliness. But more than having a beautiful, picture-perfect life, more than having it all together, more than any of that...I just want to be used in my brokenness. This life is not about perfection. It's not about giving an impression of a perfect life. It's about being REAL. Real with Jesus, and real with people.

I feel like as Jesus is showing me freedom in some of these areas, that there is a need for me to be more open + honest. I struggle with life at times just like anybody else. I have so many flaws it's really quite humbling! I feel sometimes as though I am a kindergardener in the school of life, instead of being a twenty-something year old who you would think should have a lot more of life figured out by now. But even in this very humbling and broken state, my heart is to be honest and share as I'm learning. Not when I have arrived, or reached a state of "perfection" in the areas I write about. But I need to write when I am "in the midst", because that is when the true testing happens, and where the heart is the most vulnerable. That is when we can push each other on to new heights in the Lord...when the fire is hot and our hearts are being tested.

I hope something said here can challenge someone else in the area of being open to the Holy Spirit and reaching out to people in your life, even if it looks like those people's lives are perfect and "peachy". For all you know, there are layers of hurt and pain hidden beneath the smile, and that person you spend time with today may be in desperate need of someone to say a kind word or a prayer and just give them a little extra Jesus.

Just because they are putting on a smile and "looking the part" doesn't mean their life is peachy perfect.

 Listen to the Spirit. Reach out. You just might make a difference bigger than you know.
-Chels

50 comments:

  1. This is good! It's also a good reminder that sometimes we need to break down our own plastic mask and let others know we're struggling, humbling ourselves enough to ask for prayer. The Lord created us as a body of believers, and doesn't want us to always carry our burdens alone. :)

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  2. Amen to this! It is so easy to either get caught up in our own world of struggles and not notice the needs of others, or go to the other extreme of feeling like we have to be the perfect Christian and not being open and transparent with those around us. Thanks for this encourgement, Chels! :) <3

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  3. I love you Chels! Jesus is doing such beautiful things in your heart! So many Large hugs! :) I miss you! ♥Rhoda

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  4. This is just so good, Chels..so true. Thanks for sharing your heart and such a good reminder. Love you and your real honesty..

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  5. Aaahhhh, yes! I am with you on this. It is so easy to just act like I've got everything together when really, I don't. I'm s.l.o.w.l.y. learning to be ok with the process of brokenness. And, the more I do it, the more I realize how much I need God during the hard times. Blessings to you! -Ruth
    p.s. I'm not sure if I've ever commented on here or not, but I've been following your blog for a long while, and enjoy it. Thanks for posting what's on your heart!

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  6. Amen, Chels! This is an amazing post. And SOOO true. Yes, what we need is to be real, not masking our lives for perfection's sake. If Jesus didn't hide His struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane from us, then I think we shouldn't hide our weakness moments from those that need to hear of them. Because being real and admittedly flawed and struggling is SO MUCH MORE POWERFUL than masking hurts with a pasted-on smile.
    Ali Turner

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  7. Amen, sister. So thankful God uses broken people!

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  8. WOW. You hit the nail right on the head. Thank you! I've been going through some significant struggles; God used this to really speak to me. Thank you for sharing, Chelsy.

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  9. Chels, this is one of your best posts ever. You hit the nail on the head - it is so important both for the stuffer to voluntarily open up, and for the talker to draw out in others the feelings/struggles that otherwise might go unshared. There is healing in letting oneself be vulnerable, and in sharing burdens between believers. And often enough, life just isn't very peachy :)

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  10. This is so good! Thank you for sharing the beautiful work Jesus is doing in your heart. Love you, Dorcas

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  11. Thank you so much for sharing this. It's exactly what I needed to hear right now. I love love LOVE what you said. Destinee

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  12. You put into words what the Lord has been quietly and slowly showing me in the last few months. As a perfectionist, this is hard for me to swallow and I'm glad to know I'm not the only one struggling with this! Thanks!!!

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  13. Genevieve (Jenny)April 29, 2016 at 6:01 PM

    Chels... PLEASE post a hair tutorial on how you do your hair.... We all would love to see that....

    BTW will you be coming to MI anytime soon? I would love to meet you!!

    One more question: how do you know E.B.? Is she your cousin?

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    1. I'll try to do that soon! =)
      No, we aren't coming to Michigan again until next year most likely.
      And no, EB isn't our cousin-just a dear dear friend! I believe I first met her through the Bright Lights ministry, but over the past several years our families have gotten to know each other through the Bible Bee, bible studies, family activities, mutual friends, etc etc etc. =)

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  14. Thank-you Chels for being honest and real with your readers. Blessings!

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  15. So good! Thanks for sharing :)

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  16. wow, can't tell you how much this has helped me! thank you!

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  17. Thank you so very much, Chels! This is TRUTH! Thanks for the encouragement and for being so real!

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  18. This is SO good, friend. Thank you for sharing your heart! Love you!!

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  19. Your heart is the best part of you, Chelsy. Because you've prayed for me when I needed it, I can truly say thank you for being you.
    Let us know when you need prayers. Let me know. When ever you've asked me for prayers for you, I've dropped everything and prayed because I know you are sincere in your need. We all need help from time to time. I've been guilty of not speaking up too.
    The Sunday night service after the youth conference changed me, Chels. It did.
    Lastly, these personal posts are your writing. Everyone goes through hard times. Even the prettiest or cooolest or toughest or most godly people we know need God's love and grace. We all do. Thanks for the reminder.

    PS: I was praying for God to work in my life after that service and I believe he used your dad again. The last minute decision because of the rain here at home by your dad to go with your brothers and me to Indiana was a blessing. I learned so much by spending 3 solid days around your dad. I know you know how blessed you are to have your family. I just thought I should say thanks to God for using you all in unique ways to advance His kingdom.

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  20. Thank you, Chelsy, once again for a meaningful post. Very thought provoking, yet encouraging. I love how you put it, this life is not about perfection, but what is real! I once read "Everyone is going through something you know nothing about, be kind" I've reflected on that simple statement many times in life, and it couldn't be more true. God bless your life, and I pray whatever struggles you have, to take it to the Lord and leave it there. Let go of it. We all want to be in control of everything, all the time, however God wants control! And he knows the outcome :). Love in Christ to all the Bontragers! (still waiting for your mom to finish her series of posts from last year)

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  21. Thank you for sharing your heart, Chelsy. This post was a blessing...then a conviction...then a blessing again...and then I was convicted again...and finally I was encouraged. :) I'm always amazed and excited at how Jesus can take our struggles and trials and use them for His glory.

    Keep serving Jesus, Chelsy!

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  22. chels,
    great post!! I have also been want to ask you a quick question: have you heard of Lularoe?? Its a clothing company that has some really great modest thingsfrom skirts &dresses to leggings and skirts!! I think you and alli would love it!! it would really go with your styles!! www.Lularoe.com i beliee it is.you should check it out!
    rebba

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    1. Hi Rebba!
      Yes, I have-awesome resource! I haven't bought anything from there yet but they do have some great options! Thanks for sharing!

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  23. Thank you, Chels. I needed to hear this. So convicting!
    Love ya,
    Olivia

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  24. Hi Chelsea, what was it that got you feeling down? In the spirit of being more 'real' I'd love to hear more. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for the question! At this point this post is as much as I'm going to say regarding details to what I was going through. Maybe someday Jesus will lead me to share more but not at this time.

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  25. Thank you so much, Chelsy! I love your posts!
    Kendra W.
    Did you get the email I sent you? Just wondering, because I have had email problems in the past! =)

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    1. Yes, I did get your email! I haven't forgotten about it. Please bear with me-my life is super busy and since this blog is still a side thing and not part of my job yet, emails + blogging have to happen in my off time which is limited!
      I will respond eventually! =)

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    2. Great! I will look forward to it! =)
      Love, Kendra

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  26. This was so good! In December (what is it about December??? :)), I was going through something, and I thought, why doesn't anyone notice that I'm having a hard time? And then, it hit me that there are probably so many people around me struggling with something and I've never noticed. But, even after that, I've had a tendency to notice when others are struggling, but I've not reached out to them. This post was convicting, and I pray that God gives me the strength to come out of my shell and give people encouragement when they need it. Thank you for sharing this!

    Looking forward to seeing you in just a few days!!! I'm really excited about the it!!!!! :D

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    1. Thanks so much for the encouragement, Anna! Love what you shared.
      Can't wait to see you too! My brothers have told me lots about y'all and I'm excited to finally get to know you + your sisters! =)

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  27. And so it would appear that honesty ministers better than perfection, judging from this comment section. Your life is inspiring, Chelsy! Thanks for letting Him shine through you!
    Andrea

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  28. This post was soooo helpful.I often find myself in the same situation, so it was helpful to have your insite on this. God bless you dear sister.
    ~Faith Metz

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  29. What a great post! You have a lovely blog and your header is stunning. Hugs to you and warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. :)

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  30. just call me Alice...May 25, 2016 at 1:03 PM

    Hey Chels!! Thanks for the post! :) It was so good for me. Just wondering...what kind of font do you use for the text body of you posts? Thanks!

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    1. The title is "Puritan". =) Through blogger!

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  31. Kendra WagenbachMay 27, 2016 at 12:52 PM

    hi Chelsy! I have just recently started my own blog (www.kendrawagenbach.blogspot.com) and I'm wondering how you create the tabs below the title of the blog? (yours are "home", "about", "photography", etc.) Thanks!
    Kendra W.

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    1. Yes! When you are on your blogger dashboard and go to the page where all your posts are listed in the middle, there is a whole list of tabs along the left side of the page. (they are called overview, posts, pages, comments, stats, earnings, etc etc etc) Click on the "pages" tab, and you can add as many pages (tabs) as you want!
      hope that helps! =)

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    2. Oh yes it did!!! Thanks a ton! =)

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  32. I loved this post and I needed to learn from it. Thank you for obeying God and sharing.

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    1. Chels, I was reading this post again in light of the retreat and everything, and I just wanted to tell you again how much truth is in here! Thank you for listening to the Spirit and writing this, and sharing. It means a lot. God is always good!

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  33. Chels, how can things be not peachy with you? I realize you have some bad times but, keep this in mind when things are bad. There is always someone out there that has it worse then you & would love to trade places with you. I think that I have got to know most of your family better & better though the years & have to say that you & everyone of your family is so nice to everyone. I have also met people in my travels that let's just say have no family. So Chels when times get really bad look to God & ask him to point out all the good things you have that others do not. It helps me in my trying times. Keep you chin up for you are a very sweet person & I am very proud I have friends like you.

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  34. Right on, girl! We've definitely learned that the passed decade! Yes. Hey, you never know how God can use even your weaknesses or even painful struggles to make a difference in someone's life. Sometimes just knowing that someone is going through the same thing they are, that they're not alone, sometimes that alone is a powerful instrument! Thank you for being honest. Just admitting that must make you feel so free, and you know what? You'll find you are so not alone in it...not in the least.

    I emailed you a while back, but I know that you have a very busy family, so it's understandable. God bless. Love, Rebecca

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    1. Emailed you back! Great to hear from you, girl! Miss you!

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  35. Hi! I was wondering will you have any concerts in Illinois?

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    1. Yes! We have one the beginning of October. Check out the TOUR tab on our website for info, www.bontragerfamilysingers.com

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  36. Chelsy, I read this yesterday... and, I have been thinking about it ever since.
    As a matter of fact, I woke up thinking about you and praying for you.

    Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. We all struggle at one time or another.

    Some of the most painful things I have endured are some of the most powerful lessons God has used in my life. I can remember crying out to God and asking Him, "Why? Why would you allow this? How could this possibly be part of your plan for me?" But, God has provided so many opportunities for me to share with others and encourage them in a way that I would never have been able to reach them if I had not known that despair firsthand.
    I see that same lesson here, in your story.

    For a long time, I let the hurt and disappointment and the feeling being "alone" in my suffering to make me numb and hard inside... but, with accountability and prayer, God has softened my heart and soul and I have no desire to ever feel that kind of isolation again. I know that it only comes from being willing to say, "hey, I need prayer...I need some help...I'm struggling" and, as you put it, "My life isn't Peachy" no matter how big my smile is!

    Thank YOU for being willing to share your story of how God has used this (and continues to use it) in your life and for HIS glory. Thank you for your encouragement to all of the people who you can minister to and influence--I think of your song, "Someone You Can Reach" - well, that's what you are doing. To someone reading this blog, you may be the only hope they see. So, thank you for your softness and willingness to listen to the Holy Spirit.

    I love you, sweet girl! You are a gemstone of the rarest quality and I am so thankful we get to be tied together as family for always! xoxo
    Looking forward to seeing you soon.

    Love, Pandy

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  37. Dearest Aunt Pandy..
    Thank-you so very much for this sweet comment! Made my day! Thankyou for following the Spirit and praying for me-that is so kind of you!
    I wouldn't trade this story (from this post) for the world. Like you said, it is the hardest experiences in our lives that make for the most beautiful stories in the end, when we allow Jesus to use them. God has so graciously been able to use my story to share with others going through the same, and to feel their pain + be able to speak truth, in a way that I never would've otherwise. For that, and for what Jesus taught me through that, I am so so thankful.
    Counting down the daaaays!! =)
    -Chels

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