Hey mama, don’t take it personal: A Guest Post from Suzie Eller

Every once in a while you meet someone and you instantly “click”. That happened for me recently when I met Suzie Eller. She’s a former Broken Girl whose life reflects the beauty that is available to us all when we allow God to mend our hearts and walk us through forgiveness. 

Growing up in a dysfunctional home doesn’t set us up to be naturally good parents (if such a thing exists) but Suzie’s life proves that even broken girls can be great mamas!

Welcome our dear friend Suzie…

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When your memories as a child were painful, you can become super sensitive to the words from your own children. After all, you want better for your children.

So when you try hard and they still throw a tantrum, or say “I hate you,” or embarrass you in the grocery store, you might want to take it personal.

Hey, don’t you know how much I love you!

Why are you embarrassing me?

Don’t you see what I do for you?

But this is the scoop:

Your child is a work in progress.

She has no idea of your past pain and that’s a gift. You’ve given her innocence and a childhood.

He isn’t big enough or wise enough to make your hopes for a good family come true. It’s not his job, and his shoulders aren’t big enough to carry that burden.

So, what do you do?

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Mama, we take personalization out of the equation.

It’s not about you.

Your child is a little warm body with a brain that is still developing (and will be until their early twenties), and you and I have the most amazing responsibility and gift of teaching and loving and shaping them.

So, when they throw a fit in WalMart, forget the people around you. Don’t worry about what they are saying, and focus on your child.  Stay calm. Be the adult.

Because this is a defining moment.

Your child has what you did not. . .  a calm, reasonable, loving parent who is willing to tough it out through the bad moments.

A mama who knows that parenting is wonderful and hard.

A mama who sees this as a teachable moment so that her child can grow into the amazing adult he or she will one day be.

A mama who teaches rather than loses it.

When we don’t take it personal, we shape our children’s memories, instead of our old memories shaping our child.

Suzie

I hope this will be a helpful resource: The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past      to Give Your Kids a Great Future.

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Suzie is an International Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and author, former radio co-host, and Bible Gateway blogger.

She’s a woman who believes that our past shapes us, but does not limit us! (Read Suzie’s story)

She is an author of articles, columns, and seven books including her most recent books:

The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness and The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places.

Most important, she’s a mom, wife, and “Gaga” to five beautiful babies.

Suzie lives in NW Arkansas and when she’s not writing or speaking, she’s with her family, or hiking, or filling the kitchen with smells of her love language of cooking.

Brave, Unearthed Hearts

Female Statue istockDo you ever feel like you have wasted countless moments in the pursuit of the American, white picket fence dream? I find it suffocating, this keeping up business. Sometimes more is just more and vast rooms decorated with the finest can’t satisfy an empty heart trying to find another thing to make the unhappiness disappear. Sure, I would love some more space in my tiny cottage but I refuse to trade things for time when all I really want is for my time to count.

Didn’t Peter say, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you…in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6)

Money is spent and pockets are sometimes empty, but a bold prayer is never wasted on hearts willing to give up and walk.

If I had more money I would place it in your hand and cup your hand in mine…and wonder if it’s enough. Perhaps in that moment I could just love on you and pray like a beggar in the streets with an empty cup knowing that is the kind of desperate prayer that will shake the heavens and truly change things for the better.

I wonder if we’ve stopped walking in a place where our shadows could actually heal people, a place where we say that we will pray for others and then we don’t because our hearts have been hollowed out by a grownup, mass production of getting things done quicker.

Could we both give of our time and our money and beg for God to do the miraculous in and through us?

I have to believe that we can and that we must.

No one should waste these last days, this unfolding of time where the news rocks us to our core and reminds us that maybe, just maybe, the end is closer that we think.

Maybe God wants to unsettle our comfortable Christianity where we trade things and “more” for being someone we are proud of. A legacy of loving each other more than we love ourselves while we walk this dusty minefield of life. I just want to be so good at being the least of these that I don’t even know how to walk to the front of the line. I want to be the girl who is fine with being last because I don’t want to miss one single thing that God has in store for me waiting in the back of the serving line. Hollowed out hearts with their hands out their eyes ask a question, “Do you see me?”

“If there is a God, I need you to show Him to me.”

And sometimes we walk on by and try to avoid eye contact because it’s less messy and we don’t have to exercise uncomfortable, walking on water faith.

To say God has been dealing with my heart about this would be an understatement. He is in the business of rearranging my space and stopping me in my tracks…and I feel awakened and like my heart is being excavated. And it hurts.

She asked me if I was busy and if I had the time.

I looked around like, “Who, me?”

Our eyes met and I noticed her desperation, her car filled front-to-back with plastic bags and everything she owned in one, broken down car. It’s summertime so sweat happens, but she was covered in sweat and had swollen ankles.

“Yes, I have time. How can I help?”

She needed gas to get her to the next place; I knew I could help her and that I was supposed to make the time. So I did. I told her I would follow her to the gas station and pump her gas for her. Somehow she knew that I would follow her and make good on my word. I called my baby sister and asked her to pray. We’ve been doing crazy things like this for a long time. We come from a long line of givers; our Grandpa would have given you the shirt off his back. Sometimes I feel like he’s still with me when I lavishly give what I can.

It was still daylight when I pumped her gas and we talked for a little while as she shared her story. And I wanted to fix it and her, I wanted to take out all her plastic bags and figure out a better place to put them. I wanted to find her a place where her feet could rest and the swelling could subside while the sweat dried and her heart was truly tended to.

She looked at me as I finished pumping her gas and said, “You’re really brave.”

I nodded almost choking on my words, “I am brave.”

And crazy.

We smiled a slow, sad smile. She said something about Christian love and I don’t even remember what I said as we parted ways, but I cried all the way home with the cool air blowing in my face and my trunk full of groceries and a few things I didn’t need.

Why on earth would she look at me, all five-foot-four of me in my cute outfit pumping her gas, and see a brave girl inside of me?

I can’t for the life of me remember the words we shared, all I can remember is how her words wrecked me and how her brown eyes pierced through mine as she called me by my new name. Brave.

I want to be that kind of brave everyday, because time is short and I don’t know what tomorrow holds. So maybe if we take ahold of one brave moment at a time and be the girl that has the time to care…maybe we could change the world and live a life that matters.

No more safe picket fences.

No more wasting of time.

No more avoiding eye contact because the pain seems like more than we can handle. 

No more, I’m sorry…I just don’t have the time.

Just you and me with our wrecked, brave hearts grasping for unearthed miracles waiting as God excavates our hearts to make room a life that is set apart to be His hands and feet.

Be brave with me, will you? I can’t do this without you.

Much love,

Jennifer

 

 

My Unfolding, When Love Runs Towards You

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Almost seventeen years ago I told him to run and that loving me would be a little too messy for a pastor’s kid like him. He couldn’t help what his heart felt, love ran towards me instead of away. Sometimes messy, complicated love is what a structured renegade really wants.

He told me he would wait because he knew I was what he wanted. He stirred his hot tea and I felt sorry for my new best friend who made me feel safe. We were so different that everyone tried to keep us apart. My friends, his friends, my inner circle, his folks and even my mom had their doubts.

But love doesn’t run away from you, it runs towards you. We sure tried to listen to everyone, but we ran towards each other anyway.

Like the father ran towards the prodigal son, like a safe preacher’s son with a lovesick heart, he ran so hard towards me that love had to teach me how to run towards him.

God’s love stays the course even when the ride is bumpy and blinding and brutal. Even when loving messy, insecure hearts is baffling. Love still stays because it’s crazy-stubborn like that.

I still run sometimes, especially when I’m hurting or sick. I tried to run this weekend at a big conference reverting back to my ‘broken girl syndrome’ because I assume I’m only loved when I’m nice. Sweet. Annoyingly forgiving. Gah, that’s exhausting. I had nothing to give, but I gave anyways and God blew my mind, gave me new hearts to love, and open doors.

My heart knew who I could run to when I was sick, my Broken Girl BFF and soul sister, Keri. She took care of me, truth be told, she’s never witnessed me that ill or messed up.

She spoke truth into my heart like true friends do and she knew exactly what to do when my blood sugar level dropped so low I almost passed out. Later, she called me the equivalent of a spiritual lapdog who feels the need to stay by the side of someone who is hurting. She’s right. I run towards the hurting, but run away when I’m hurting and frail.

My heart gravitates towards certain people, our stories unfold and soon I understand why. Inside of our beating hearts is a gravitational pull, our hearts are like magnets. Together we are better and less twisted because in our brokenness we are the very same messy, complicated kind. The kind that lets us know we are not alone.

I still run, but this time I know who I can run to. Most of the time I just run to God like a rag doll and let him do His cutting surgery within. I’m so honest with Him, I always have been because His love pierces through me and sees every wrecked place. His love fixes me, His mercy is stronger than the frailty in me. His love makes me run toward Him and He runs to meet me.

I’m not the same girl my husband married sixteen years ago. I’m more confident and I’m less insecure. But sometimes when I’m weak and the furthest thing from the nice Southern girl who learned to turn the other cheek…I wonder if I’m still worth it. So I run away to my tender place with my first love, my Savior, and I’m reminded why He loves my fragile, complicated heart. And in that flailing moment, I know for certain I’m definitely worth it simply because I’m His girl and always will be.

Man, I wish I could be normal for like fifteen minutes…and then those fifteen minutes are up and I realize that those minutes were the most wasted, boring fifteen minutes of my life.

I can’t wait to share the rest of this Unfolding journey and the book I’ve been writing this year with you. I can’t wait for you to read more of Keri’s work…because it’s amazing and will help you. I’m her lapdog.

We are still Broken Girls, but this time it’s for a different reason, it’s for you and for the unfinished, unfolding story inside of you.

Much love,

Jennifer Renee

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The Scary Beauty of Becoming

Whitley,Flower child

My tribe fist-pumps the air and says, “Go chase those dreams, girl.” They cheer via text and instant messages telling me that they see me and want this for me and for my daughters. They want this for all of us. The women juggling motherhood and life in our tiny village as we wrestle with mom-guilt and trying to have it all together for our families while falling completely apart…because it’s hard.

I’m just trying to do all the things and remember where I put all the things. And let me just say, the ‘things’ are falling through some really big cracks right now like appointments, event planning, social calendars, and church life. Right now I’m so tired that I think a real Sabbath is somewhere absent of people, lists of things I need to be doing, and such. My Sabbath is coming…it’s called a vacation and I can’t wait.

I never miss appointments. But, I do now. I rarely miss church. But, I do now. And you know what? God is not mad, because I go to church all the time because I love Jesus and our ministry and the people. My tribe is not mad. What we do makes them tired as they shake their heads wondering what it’s like to be on call all of the time. My husband/preacher man is not mad, you know why? Because he sees me doing the really hard, diligent work of faith, family, work, and then all the other really important things that I love. My family and my tribe sees that I am still the woman that keeps showing up for life, while checking out when needed, because I am the only one in charge of taking care of my body and heart. I know what it needs, this body and heart of mine, and I have to be smart enough to pull back and say ‘no’ without feeling horrible about it.

God whispers to all of us…

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28 NIV)

He gives us rest, not lists.

And I just keep coming wrecked, tired, and somehow so unbelievably happy because I know I’m doing what He has called me to do. Even if my fuse is shorter and my days seem longer, He loves me just as I am. He is enough even when my two, really hardworking hands aren’t. Even when my mommy-brain is full and on the verge of shorting out, His grace is sufficient and enough for the ‘not enough’ in me.

I have at least ten thank you cards to fill out and sign, and I really want to send those this year before the moment passes and before I completely forget what I am thanking them for. I have all these lists and none of them say: Rest. Slow down, honey child, you don’t have to do all of this yourself.

But, it should.

Our list should say:

Mark as much as you can off.

The things you can’t get done; make those tiny people that look like you do some of them. It won’t kill them. You did chores and it didn’t kill you. Write their names next to some of the things they should be doing themselves. Like now.

I know you are a big girl and all, but let yourself cry when you hear your Momma’s voice. It helps. You’ll feel better by simply feeling small again, and like a train-wreck who still needs her Momma because she gets you. She’s been watching you freak out about things that matter to you for a really long time. So, it’s okay. She’ll tell you she’s praying, then pause to say, “I’ll take your kids while you are away? Will that help?”

And you’ll say, “Yes…just yes, that is what we all need. Please take these little people away and spoil them. That will make me feel better.”

The truth is ladies, you who dream big dreams; our vision is always bigger than us because it’s not just about you. It’s about all the tiny ones hanging on your leg and asking you for juice. It’s about that man who loves you so much and is just a tiny bit afraid of you right now. It’s about those cheering and texting and loving you in the ways they know how. A hug. A meal. A backrub. A kiss and a prayer and a slap on the tired, Momma booty saying, ‘Go get ’em!’

This passion inside of us has always been there, that calling that happened before we said ‘I do’.

My call happened before motherhood and crying in the floor because I was pretty sure that nursing a hungry 9 lb. 14 oz. newborn baby was going to happen every hour-and-a-half for the rest of eternity, but it didn’t. I blinked and she was a year old eating stale Cheerios off the floor. And now she’s nine and you would never know she was ever that hungry. All. The. Time.

I blinked and my firstborn is eleven and in a training bra, but we don’t really know what she’s training for. And we are super freaked out because once they get, you know, boobs it is really, really awkward. And they start crying again. All. The. Time.

And all of a sudden you’re the Mom she wants to tell all the awkward things and cry to because you know her inside and out. You’ll be the one telling her how to do all the things and hug her when she doesn’t even know why she’s crying.

In that moment, all the chasing of dreams happens in a purple bedroom with dirty, preteen clothes on the floor and artwork and journals scattered about just like it was when you were eleven, awkward, and becoming something that you were so afraid of…a little lady who dreams scary, big dreams.

I really don’t want a list today, but I still have to make one. I really don’t even mind that I need rest and a long nap. I just want a day with these tiny ladies and messages from my posse reminding me that I can do life called and set apart and sometimes torn apart.

I can do all things through Christ, but sometimes I can’t remember all the things and that’s okay too. I have waited on the timing of God and the timing of life and motherhood. Waiting has been hard. Going for it is harder. Sometimes I’m killing it and on bad days, it’s killing me. But, to stop the pursuing of really big dreams would just be crazy. I’ve already lived in the land were people perish and dreams are silly to some and just a chasing and grasping for wind. I’ve been the girl with a blank stare and dormant heart, but when dreams wake up on purpose, for such a time as this, don’t you dare let anything stop you…especially not yourself. 

If your dream doesn’t scare you, be unafraid to ask God to breathe again into the depths of your heart. Let him teach you how to wait and how to be diligent…and how to go get em’ when it’s time. Don’t be afraid of the vision that is bigger than you, because it’s not just about you…it’s about all of the ones who get to ride along with you on the crazy ride.

I’ll be here cheering for you every step of the way!

Love you like crazy,

Jennifer Renee

Photo cred: The darling, Kylie Swank

 

Undivided Heart: The Summer I Embraced The Sloppy Perfectionist

BeachPic-Give Me An Undivided heart

I have spent the year writing about how to deal with baggage while in leadership. My Southern Belle Momma taught me so many valuable lessons in life like… “A lady never airs her dirty laundry in public.” Sorry Mom, I think I just used my gigantic Mom-Spanx as a welcome mat. 

We all have it, this mother-load of baggage from our past, but I’ve learned that we only carry around the things we can’t stand to part with. Our identity is not our baggage, it’s our freedom journey that started with a battle cry and ended with empty hands in surrender and traveling lighter. I wish I could say it’s been all butterflies and rainbows, but it’s been really painful and freeing at the same time. I’ve done all the work to be unhindered.

Sometimes going forward in life means that we have to go back and deal with things that we have tried to ignore. To revisit a memory doesn’t mean that you dwell in that broken place where life left you breathless. You simply acknowledge it happened and you ask God to help you deal with whatever emotions surface in your heart.

If you need to forgive, do it. Don’t let the root of bitterness rot your beautiful bones.

If you need grace and forgiveness, ask for it. If the person you wronged can’t extend grace and forgiveness to you, just know you did your bravest act of humility, then move on and pray for them.

If you need a break, take one. Send out an SOS text and ask for help. Humble yourself and take off that Superwoman cape. We were never meant to do difficult things alone.

I whisper these words over you, a quote from a woman in ministry spoken over me when I was recovering from surgery seven years ago this summer, “Sometimes you learn more from Clark Kent than you do from Superman.”

In my wrecked weakness, her words set me free. She didn’t need me to be the perfect mentor and friend; she just needed to see me. No cape required, no need to mask the painfully awkward recovery I was in. I was scared, trying to heal and love others…and I was a hot-mess sometimes.

I remember crying to my husband weeks after the surgery, “I feel like I’m screaming, but no one can hear me.”

I needed to recover in a peaceful place where I could truly find rest in body and spirit without pushing myself to do things that would set me back physically. It’s the same way for our hearts. We need moments where we are “off duty” without feeling bad about letting someone step in to help.

Maybe you are not recovering from surgery, but chances are you are trying to recover from something.

So, what do you need for soul-recovery?

It could be as simple as a nap or coffee with a friend. It might involve you scheduling an appointment for counseling and walking in ready to unleash the hurts you’ve carried longer than you care to admit.

Maybe you need to start a prayer and soul-recovery journal and make a coffee date with Jesus before your children wake up.  If you aren’t exercising, start with adding twenty minutes of walking and commit to taking care of your temple. It’s the only one you have, be nice to it.

That summer in recovery I learned to embrace the sloppy perfectionist inside of me. I really can’t do all things well and I don’t even care to anymore. I just want to do what God has asked of me and lean on Him to make something of it. I’m nothing if He doesn’t show up every time I speak, write, or reach out to the needs around me.

The week before my surgery. Things are less scary on the beach.

The week before my surgery. Things are less scary on the beach.

This well-balanced thing sounds like a good idea, but what if you were meant to do five really noble things and you are too distracted by trying for ten? Take your five really noble things and watch God multiple the beauty and the impact of those things. He alone gives that kind of increase. Focus on the five things that are in your sphere of influence, start inside of your home and work your way out from there.

If we can’t be satisfied with our five noble things, or two or three based on the season of life we are in, how on earth will we ever be fulfilled in our meaningless chasing of the ten?

Let’s not do these difficult things alone, call for backup.

Much love,

Jennifer Renee

Maybe your heart and focus is all over the map, I’m finding clarity from these scriptures by making them my prayer.

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86:11 NIV)

I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. (Jer 32:39 NIV)

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. (Psalm 84:5 NIV)

Linking up with sweet Holley at Coffee For Your Heart. Join us for words that encourage & lift you up!

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Why I Love Tina Turner, When Mothers Learn To Stand

Fab Tina: https-::www.flickr.com:photos:herry:

 

You can’t possibly understand how much I love Tina Turner. Seriously. You just can’t, but maybe you will after you read this. She’s the soundtrack to pieces of me and after writing a really difficult chapter in my book, sobbing like someone had just ripped out pieces of my heart and mangled it, I turned on Tina and I danced. And I was happy again. 

Momma liked to listen to Tina Turner so it was only natural for me to fall in love with her too. I didn’t always understand the lyrics although I could sing every line by heart; looking back I understand that Mrs. Turner helped Momma learn to be strong and fierce. Loving Jesus helped her more, but I still want to give Tina a little credit. For three solid minutes two battered women connected and Tina sang for her letting her know it was okay. Perhaps we can’t have “Proud Mary” moments without learning that it’s not okay for someone to knock the wind out of us, and sometimes the life out of us.

When Tina sang to us, I believed her. Line by line the words spoke that we could just say it, “You better be good to me.” And later when I was sifting through teenage hormones, falling in and out of love, I let go of a boy who wasn’t being very good to me. Even broken girls can know that they are worth so much more than they are getting; Tina said so.

I’ll never forget what it looked like watching her get shoved to the ground. Young brown eyes watching from an upstairs window, pulling curtains back to make sure she was okay. Mad, but okay. I’ll never forget the moment our eyes met and I knew she saw me standing there looking down on a moment where mothers learn to stand. Momma got up, she always did. Sometimes we opt for a risky love and Momma was willing to risk love twice, but just barely. Love would build them back up and show them a better way, one with Jesus at the center, but it took time and years and tears in the night.

Blending families and children and past mistakes leaves a wake of crazy, but I envy their love sometimes, my mom and my second-heart dad. It’s the attached at the hip kind, like you can’t say one name without the other. Two messed up hearts can become whole together and if you ask me if I think we get better as we age I would say, “Heck yes, we do,” because I’ve watched it.

Standing in the hallway all grown up looking at the picture of two brown-eyed girls and one foxy momma, just the three of them together but a complete family unit. I looked over at my heart-dad and said, “This is my favorite picture…”

He smiled and said, “Mine, too.”

“Is that what we looked like when you fell in love with us?” I had never asked that before; but I already knew the answer.

“Yeah, it is.” He gave a slight smile reflective of quiet, good heart.

We didn’t say anything after that, no words needed between us because if we did, we would both be crying. His soft heart entwined with mine, no bloodlines to connect us. But if you were to ask us, we would tell you that we love each other like flesh and blood because we are flesh and blood and mended love.

I’m so glad he fell in love with us. I’m just so glad he wasn’t afraid of how scared and stubborn she was sometimes because she knew what it was like to lose her voice and her way. All she wanted when she was much to young was a happy family and a happy marriage. Marriage, not love, left a mark on her, the kind that even time can’t erase. But Momma found her love to grow old with, but not without a few bumps and bruises and thoughts of running again. But this time, love didn’t run because it didn’t have to. It won. A thread of redeeming grace was waiting for both of them in a tiny church decades ago. A wounded woman who loved God and bathed her decision to love again in prayer sitting next to man who looked a little like love and a little like trouble. He didn’t love Jesus, he just loved her and as she prayed telling God she couldn’t go through heartache again… she looked up and noticed that the man who loved her walked up to the front of the tiny church to love Jesus too.

And that’s what we do, we walk up to the front and try to love Jesus and His redeeming grace that loves the freaking mess we’ve made on our own. He picks up shattered pieces and wipes away the bloody mess from our hands because He’s already redeemed years and years of sins and bad mistakes. Jesus knows we can’t clean up life-mess like that; His wounded hands and side cover and clean all the stains and shards we cannot. We walk up to the front and sometimes our sanctification process is so slow, but it’s the lasting kind that changes our spiritual DNA and reserves a seat for us in heaven and for new life walking in abundance and blessing here on this broken earth.

Momma didn’t have to tell me why she loved those songs because I felt it, singing Landslide in the backseat I wondered what getting older would feel like and if I would be afraid of changing too. But when you are little you can’t really wrap your mind around grownup lyrics, but in retrospect, it all makes perfect sense. We listened to so many things, mostly Christian songs and radio stations, but every now and then I had Proud Mary moments in Momma’s car and I fell in love with words and lyrics and a soul-stirring, three-minute story.

Our stories are much longer than three minutes, but if we we’re willing to listen to the song our heart wants to sing, what would be your song? Your anthem? Your hope? Sing a good song, even if it’s a broken one because when you break free, you teach another soul how to break free too. Our testimony and the power behind it heals the leftover hurt and pain that resides inside of us, extracting the ugly baggage giving us new and better things to hold onto.

Much love to you…and all you Proud Mary’s keep on burning.

Jennifer Renee

Photo by Henry Lawford