Why Being Weak Is Better

I would tell you that I believe we are ALL broken and in need of Jesus, that we don’t outgrow our need for grace. We have emotions and struggles and it’s ok to bring all of this to Jesus. In theory, I believe this to be completely true.

Until I’m a broken mess. Then I want Jesus to just fix it already so I can move on and do more things for him. I’d much rather feel competent and together, thank you very much, and my preference would be to lead from my strength rather than my weakness.

When I’m in a place of brokenness, it feels overwhelming and fear tells me it will always feel this way. I start to believe that I have nothing to offer, because apparently, I can’t even hold myself together.

In Shauna Niequist’s fantastic new book Present Over Perfect, she talks about how odd it is that she’s a writer since she hates introspection and silence, but writing is healing her and taking her to those places she needs to go.

For me, I believe that writing heals me of my need to look like I have it all together.

The writing that feels the most true of me comes out of my deepest struggles and places of self-doubt. I don’t tend to take the position of an “expert” when I write, giving three bullet points and nice, memorable sayings that make us all feel better about life.

Nope, I tend to write from a place of weakness and struggle, sharing the parts of me that I would rather hide. I still don’t share EVERYTHING, of course, but I don’t ONLY share the good stuff or try to make it seem like everything’s just fine. I can’t pretend like I’m strong or together when the truth is, I often feel very fragile and weak.

It is in this weakness that God meets me and shows me who He is. It’s where I gain perspective, where He reminds me that it’s not up to me to perform or impress or figure this life out.

And so my hope is that through the words I share, I can extend a hand, inviting you to join me in finding God’s strength in the depths of our weakness. If you’re looking for a super-optimistic, cheery, motivational encourager who will say, “You can do it! You’re the best! If you believe in yourself and work hard, you can do anything!”…well, I’m not your girl.

But if you need to see that you’re not alone in the struggle, that it’s ok to not be ok, that REAL life comes only when we face who we truly are, in all our brokenness and beauty…

Welcome. This is your space, these are your people. We are not here to wallow, but we ARE here to be real and to lay down our armor, take off the masks, shatter the glittering image that we’ve worked so desperately hard to hide behind.

For so long, I tried to bring to others my strength and my talent, my polished self that was ready to inspire. All the while, scared to death that someone would see the real me and discover that maybe I wasn’t as great as they thought.

Now God is inviting me to give up the act, to show up as the real me. He’s reminding me that I don’t have to impress or please or live up to anyone’s standard, that the truth of who I am is enough…not because of ME, but because of HIM.

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There is so much freedom to be found in letting go, in stepping into the light and being seen as we are. Take the risk to come out of hiding, to step out as your true self…you’ll find you aren’t alone.

(Original Image: Tim Parkinson via Creative Commons)

When You Have Big Feelings

The other week, I posted a picture of one of my girls having “big feelings”. You don’t ever have to wonder how she’s feeling, because she will let you know. She will yell and scream and cry, but she will also laugh with delight and smile and run around in glee. My other daughter is not quite as dramatic, but she also has a pretty fierce “yell” when she isn’t happy.

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Oh, how I can relate.

I’ve always been a deep feeler. I have big feelings too, I’ve just learned how to hide them a little better. For a long time, I didn’t want to accept this about myself. I didn’t think it was ok to feel sad or angry or anything considered to be a negative emotion. So if I felt those things, I would stuff it down, ignore it, distract myself from it, hoping it would just go away.

Lately I’ve been reminded that this is part of how God made me. I feel things deeply, and this is not a bad thing. Emotions are a gift. And while they are not intended to be what controls us, they do serve an important purpose.

It’s when we ignore our emotions and pretend they aren’t there that they begin to control us. They only grow stronger beneath the surface, and they’ll emerge when we least expect it. Our emotions are trying to tell us something important, if we will only listen.

Being a deep feeler means that I have days where feelings of sadness become almost overwhelming. I’m talking about those times when I’m not sad about anything in particular. Nothing bad or out of the ordinary happened, it’s just a sadness that settles in below the surface.

My natural reaction on those days is to distract myself…scroll through social media, watch TV, consume a lot of sugar. Anything to avoid facing my feelings.

Sometimes on those sad days, I go to the opposite extreme. Instead of avoiding the sadness, I try to figure it out and fix it. I journal on for endless pages, I search my soul trying to figure out what exactly is wrong and how I can make it better.

But I’m finding that there’s another way. On those days where sadness feels overwhelming, when it’s not really due to circumstance but just how I’m feeling, I’m reminding myself of this:

My feelings don’t determine my reality.

I might FEEL sad, and at the time, it can seem like things will never change and it will always feel this way. But I can step back and look at my life and see clearly: that just isn’t true. It’s not reality; it’s just how I’m feeling today.

So what do I do with those feelings?

Lately, I’ve come to see this picture, a metaphor, for how this looks in my life, and I share it in hopes that maybe it will help someone else.

I imagine it’s like being in the middle of a vast body of water. When I’m feeling sad and hopeless, it almost feels like I’m being pulled underwater, like I’m drowning. My response is usually one of two things: I give in to it and sink, or I try to fight.

When I’m sinking, I’m believing the lies that my feelings are telling me. I’m believing that things are hopeless and that it will always feel this way. I’m giving in to the feelings.

When I’m fighting, I do everything I can to stay afloat. I make a plan and a strategy to feel better and to fix my life, and I fight like it’s up to me and my strength to change how I feel.

But I’m realizing there’s another option: I can simply float.

I don’t have to give in and sink. I don’t have to fight or try and fix it. I can stretch out my arms and lay my head back and float. I can rest, knowing that I don’t have to fix this. I can acknowledge that while my feelings are real, they don’t define reality. I can trust that it won’t always be like this. I can float and rest and wait, knowing that the feelings will pass.

Are there times to take action, to ask for help and fight? Yes, absolutely, and I don’t want to diminish the importance of that.

But a day doesn’t have to define a season, and when I find myself having one of those days where I just feel sad, I’m learning to just ride it out. I’m learning it WILL pass.

I’m still acknowledging that the sad feelings are there, and that it’s ok to feel how I’m feeling. But I don’t have to give in to them, and I don’t have to fight them. I can let go and trust that God will be with me in the floating until the feeling passes.

When You Aren’t Being As Real As You Think

Before I preached my last message, I did a run-through for Tyler to get some feedback. He said the content and flow were good overall, but there was one observation he made that gave me pause:

He said that it felt a little too polished, and the stories I shared were a little too safe.

Whenever I write or speak, it’s important to me to be authentic, to share some stories from my life and move beyond just sharing abstract ideas. I want to share what it looks like to actually LIVE the message and not just give a few nice, tidy bullet points.

So when he gave this feedback, I knew I had some adjustments to make. And here’s the thing: I THOUGHT I was being real and vulnerable, but it was very controlled and I was only sharing enough to make it LOOK like I was being real. This wasn’t a conscious effort, not a manipulation or anything. I was not aware that this is what I was doing, but looking back, I see that I was still very much playing it safe, only letting people see the surface of my struggle.

I made some changes to the message, and feel like with the end result, I got to a much more authentic place (whenever you break down crying in the middle of your message, that tends to ruin the whole “neat and polished” vibe).

As I think about what it means to be real and vulnerable, to let people see that I’m human, I’ve been considering what it looks like to further peel back the layers. What parts of the glittering image am I still trying to preserve?

In many ways just in my life in general, I’m still playing it safe and not letting my guard down.

Maybe I need to allow myself to get a little more messy.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to go to the other extreme of just sharing EVERYTHING. There are still parts of my life intended to only be between me and God, things I only share with close, trusted friends.

This isn’t about sharing everything. But it IS about not working so hard to cover up the parts of me that aren’t bright and shiny. This is about not trying so hard to perform in order to make myself look better than I am.

I want to find the happy middle between those two extremes of sharing too much and not sharing at all. I’ve been reminding myself of this:

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I don’t have to perform and I don’t have to hide…I can simply BE.

I don’t have to perform and try to impress people.

I also don’t have to hide who I really am.

I am free to be who I am, to let the beauty and the brokenness exist together.

So I’ve been asking myself these two questions a lot lately, in those moments when I feel like I’m not quite acting like myself:
Am I performing?
Am I hiding?

I’m trying to notice when I go to either of those places, and I’m reminding myself that it’s ok to just BE. I don’t have to try so hard. I also don’t have to hide my true self out of fear or shame.

I don’t have to perform. I don’t have to hide. I can simply BE. And when I live in that truth, I’m not afraid to let people see the unpolished, weak parts of me. I’m free to let that show, because it’s part of me, and I don’t have to hide it or try to act like I have it all together. I can be, simply, ME.

We Are All Broken

A couple weeks ago, I re-posted a picture with a quote from Shelia Walsh:

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“My brokenness is a better bridge for people than my pretend wholeness ever was.”

When I first saw that quote, I thought, YES! This exactly. I completely agree, and I’ve experienced the truth of this both in myself and in others who have taken a risk and allowed me to see their brokenness.

This past weekend, I experienced the truth of this yet again. But agreeing with a quote like that, “liking” it and sharing it, feels a whole lot easier than actually living it.

I gave the message at our church last weekend. If you were there, you know that I shared some stories from my own life about my moments of failure and weakness as a parent. The most recent story I shared was from TWO DAYS BEFORE THAT, so it was INCREDIBLY fresh in my heart and mind. This wasn’t sharing a struggle from my past, but from my present.

I shared that in the few days leading up to the message, I hadn’t been the kind of mom that I want to be. My fuse was short, my patience ran low, and I basically felt like I was failing as a mom.

And in all of that, I felt alone, like everyone else had it together and I was the only one. I know that isn’t true, but that’s how I felt.

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But if that quote is true, and I believe it is, that means that people relate to my brokenness because we are ALL broken, no matter how much we pretend to be whole or have it together.

For a long time, I thought the only way to influence people for Jesus was to be a good example, to show how good you could be if you were a Christian. I followed a try-harder gospel, one where grace was for the “sinners” and if you had Jesus, you should have it together. There was no room for struggle in that kind of “faith.”

But now, I see that when I try to be the model example, I get in the way of the work of Jesus. When I act like it depends on me to keep it together in order for people to see Jesus, I miss the point of the gospel entirely.

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When we pretend to be whole, like we have it all together, people don’t relate to us. Because that isn’t real life. The way to connect with other people is in our brokenness, in our humanity, because that’s where the message of Jesus can really shine through as the amazing news that it is.

Because when I’m honest about my brokenness, that’s when the story of redemption is told. The story becomes not about me, but about Jesus and what HE can do.

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Shame wants to keep us silent. It tells us to hide our brokenness. It says that we are alone. But when we speak the truth of our struggle, shame loses its power. Because when we bring all of who we are into the light of Jesus, we’ll see that we’re not alone, and that we’re in this together.

But if we keep our brokenness hidden, it will never be healed.

This is not easy. Believe me, I know. It’s a risk, and it requires us to come of our safe place of hiding.

So if you want to stay trapped and bound in brokenness, keep it to yourself. But if you want to experience community and freedom, bring ALL of you into the light. We’re here, in all our beauty and brokenness, waiting to welcome you.

(Image from Propel Women on Istagram.)

Moms, We Need Each Other

One of the things I struggle with as a mom right now is the monotonous, day-to-day work of raising these girls. So much of parenting right now feels like cleaning up messes, saying “no” a lot, keeping them from seriously injuring themselves from a fall or head bump, breaking up fights over toys.

It’s hard to feel like I’m shaping and molding little hearts and minds when my words consist of “Don’t touch that. Leave your sister alone. Stop hitting her in the face. Get down from the coffee table. No. Stop. NO! STOP!”

We try to guide and discipline and prevent them from turning into spoiled brats, but half the time I question if any of this is making any kind of difference in their little lives. I feel like it’s a constant fight, and it’s hard to feel like we’re making progress when it’s the same struggles with them day after day after day.

It’s hard to take the long view, to see the big picture when you’re so stuck in the daily, when ALL of it is little stuff, when it doesn’t feel like it’s adding up to anything.

I do see the goodness in them, of COURSE I do. I see their kindness and their love in the way they give kisses and hugs without any prompting, in the way they laugh and reach out for me and pat me on the back as they hold me.

But sometimes these moments get lost in between tantrums and teething, and they slip away before I have time to stop and be grateful.

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Now that I’m a mom, I understand why so many conferences and books for women center around motherhood. Because it’s one of the hardest things we will ever do, and even though it is not our identity and there is SO much more to us than that, being a mom is what tends to challenge us the most and leads us to the end of ourselves where we feel desperate and stuck, lost and without any knowledge to draw from in and of ourselves.

As moms with young children, we need to know that we’re not alone.

We need moms in our same life stage, the ones right there with us in the struggle of the daily messes and tantrums. Solidarity, sister.

We need moms a little farther down the road, who have the toddler tantrums fresh in their memories and can tell us this too shall pass, but also don’t think “things will be perfect when…____”.

We need moms who have kids in the teenage years, who can tell us that these tiny people are actually HUMAN and will someday interact with us and have conversations. And yes, they will still bring us to the end of ourselves in a completely different way than the baby and toddler years. But we need the reminder that the monotony of the task-driven nature of this season of parenting will morph into something new.

We need moms with empty nests, the survivors, the ones who can tell us that WE will survive too. Tell us that we can do this. We need your perspective to keep us from losing our minds over the little things. Remind us to cherish every moment because it’s fleeting and passing and we’ll miss this…but also give us permission to wish this moment would hurry up and be done already, and tell us it’s ok to feel tired and weary sometimes.

Moms, we need each other. Let’s not try to do this alone, because we are NOT alone. I believe there is more to us than comparison and jealousy and insecurity.

Let’s be FOR each other, and let’s remind one other: we can do this.

How to Have a Bad Day

When I’m in a good season in life, it takes me by surprise when I have a bad day. It catches me off guard, because I thought I was in a good place and it seems like all of a sudden, I’m exhausted and drained and discouraged.

Overall, I’ve been feeling incredibly grateful for this season that I’m in. The girls are at such a fun age, and everything seems to be falling into place.

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So when I have a day (or a few) that isn’t so great, I’m tempted to think that maybe I’m not in such a great season after all. I’ve had a few of those days lately, and it seems like how I feel about life kind of goes up and down.

But I’m starting to realize that one bad day doesn’t have to define a season.

It can still be a good season and have its low points.

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This may seem incredibly obvious, but it’s a helpful reminder for me. What tends to happen when I get caught off guard by a bad day is I go to a place of defeat. I decide that maybe it’s not such a great season after all, and I give in to the negative feelings as they begin to pull me down.

When I recognize that this is just one bad day in a good season, it gives me permission and freedom to move past it and believe that tomorrow will be better.

I can have a bad day without questioning if my life is falling off the rails.

I believe the flip side of that is true in a difficult season as well. You can be going through a really painful time in your life, and still have some good days. You might feel like finding joy or feeling happy during a hard season is wrong somehow, like you can’t possibly laugh or have fun when things in your life are so bleak.

But those good days in a hard season are a gift. You can return to your sorrow and grief tomorrow, and just receive the lighthearted moments as a break in the darkness, however brief.

Every day can be a new beginning, and when it doesn’t turn out the way you expected, keep moving forward and try again tomorrow.

Sometimes a day is just a day, and it doesn’t have to define a season. When the bad days come, we can keep moving forward trusting that it will get better and we won’t always feel this way.

Why I Was Afraid of Becoming a Mom

I wasn’t always certain that I wanted to be a mom.

Growing up, I think I assumed I would be a mom someday. When I got married, I also assumed I would one day want kids, but at the time, it was the last thing on my mind.

In many ways, I was afraid of becoming a mom. I saw the potential motherhood had to completely consume me. I thought it would change me into someone completely different than who I knew myself to be, and I didn’t want my identity to be swallowed up in mommyhood.

I thought becoming a mom would mean that I had to become someone else, that I would have to give up my dreams and interests and sacrifice all of my time for the sake of my children.

But my heart slowly shifted over time, and I realized that maybe it was possible to still be ME and be a mom. I realized that there isn’t one way to be a mom, and that the expression of that role looks different for everyone.

Maybe being a mom would not mean taking on a new identity, but would be a deepening of the identity I already had, just a new expression of it.

As I began to open up to this possibility, my desire for children and a family grew, and God refined that desire through our long process of infertility and on into adoption. That process prepared me for motherhood, for letting go of my expectations and preconceived ideas and making room for God’s design for me as a mom.

Now that I AM a mom, I love it more than I ever could have imagined. I don’t ALWAYS feel this way of course, and it took me a while to get there. The older the girls get, the more I feel at home being a mom. (So if you’re a struggling mama to a newborn, wondering, WHAT WERE WE THINKING??? Hang in there. It gets better, I promise!)

Being a mom is so different than any of my expectations. I found that my inclinations were right; I didn’t have to completely give up who I am to become a mom. I’m still the same person, and my role of mom isn’t the definition of who I am as a person.

But it IS a central part of me. I’m so proud to be a mom. Before I had kids, I was afraid that my identity and self would get swallowed up in that role. But now, I LOVE being seen as a mom, because it’s the part of my life that feels like one of the truest expressions of who I am.

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No role in our life can define us or give us value. Our value comes from being found in Jesus, and being his children. We cannot earn our value, and our identity comes from him alone.

When I rest in that truth, my role as a mom flows out of that and frees me up to love my children in a way that serves and sacrifices willingly.

Motherhood is a refining process that has the potential to uncover my truest, best self, and to be an expression of God’s unique design that fits only me. My identity isn’t swallowed up by being a mom…being a mom allows my truest identity to emerge and flourish.

I can be ME and also be a mom.Being a mom is allowing the real me to emerge and grow, and I am so grateful and blessed by the gift of motherhood.