Girls, I Don’t Think You’re A Problem: You’re A Beautiful Solution

God is within her. Ps 46:5

As women we feel the pressing noose of comparison until we allow God to set us free. Sometimes we are the ones who tighten the noose and make it so tight we feel our breath leave us and our voice trails off into silence.

For about ten years I have removed the noose. As in, placed my hands on the jagged rope and loosened it until I could safely slip it off and trash it.

The only way we can correct a lie is with truth. I did word-searches in the Bible and studies on certain things, or wrong thoughts, that were tripping me up. I cried. I prayed. I wrote feverishly into my journal about things that ticked me off, things that inspired me, and prayers on paper. My freedom cry happened on bended knee and paper dreams. But, the journey was never meant for only me.

When we start a freedom journey to wholeness we give others permission to do the same thing. We miss out on really awesome things if we say things like, “I’m too much of a mess to make a difference.”

Your mess has a very powerful message; so don’t be afraid to use your best words and sometimes your worst words until you figure out how to tell your brave, messed up story.

I talked for hours with friends and heard phrases like, “Me too” and “What can we do to help women be free from this?”

We spilled out our thoughts across the table, shared a meal, and found our message. The freedom journey is sweeter when we take others with along for the wild, beautiful ride. Our connective thread that brings us girls together in those sacred moments of wrestling is this:

God is within us and will work through us.

“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” (Ps 46:5 NIV)

And, we are stronger together than we ever were standing scared and alone.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecc 4:9-12 NIV)

In many ways this is where big girls learn to hold hands again like they did when they were little.

If there is one thing I know about myself it’s this, I get girls. I just do. I have sisters, one of them my flesh and blood and is kind of like my other half. We are day and night different and yet somehow our mannerisms are so much alike. I adore her, am amazed by her, and I still love to dig in her closet all these years later. Together we are better and sometimes double the trouble. And even in our late thirties, we still say things like, “Don’t tell Mom.”

We were always compared. I hated it then. I still hate it now because day and night are equally glorious in my mind. You can’t have one without the other. When day runs out of sunlight and trees cast long shadows, we know the bright moon will show us its face and bring a beauty in our darkness. And isn’t it magical, these different kinds of light?

As a mother of two “day and night” daughters, I find myself holding my breath as people compare them. Like one is better than the other and I can’t see it because my love is unconditional for both of them. I only see two very different, world changers that light my world on fire and bring me such joy and sometimes madness. Because where there are little girls you will find a little bit of drama or a lot depending on the moment.

But sorry, I just don’t believe that girls are a problem and only capable of drama. I think that in time and as they grow they will be beautiful solutions and nurturers to those around them. Right now is the hard, figuring it out part. That’s called parenting and it’s the hardest, best thing I’ll ever do.

I kiss those girls when they start to cry.

I sternly correct them when it’s needed and I see something that needs to be addressed. I lovingly guide them and fiercely protect them because I know what a true gift I have in my day and night girls…and I wouldn’t change who they are for anything or who they are becoming. Even when it’s stinking hard and I want to pull my hair out.

I will always be the mom asking them to dance to a different beat if they want to. And when they write a messy song with misspelled words, I’ll ask them to sing it for me because I see how deep a nine-year-old drama queen can be. And I figure she’ll be taking me on trips one day if we are still on a ministry salary…

I see how diligent an eleven-year-old firstborn can be, how she craves the constant and needs a play-by-play of what our day might look like. I take her hand and say, “Make room for the spontaneous, you don’t have to always know what is coming next.” But, I’ll never ask her to not plan and make lists, because it’s apart of her and I love that.

I see the spark and passion in my tiny one and I rebuff the idea of “breaking her spirit” or asking her to be more “in-the-box” and easier to contain because I believe with all my heart that loving parenting, discipline with great fear and trembling, and bringing her up in knowledge of God will be exactly what she needs most.

By all means, baby girl, don’t you dare try to be like everyone else. How dull this world would be if we only had a one-size-fits-all mentality.

Shine the way and teach us how to be brave and small at the same time.

When you walk up to a complete stranger with compassion in your heart and ask them if you can pray with them…I ask God to show all the big girls how to be small again and give way to the miraculous inside of us. Hearts like that inherit the Kingdom, so don’t you dare forget that little girls say simple, powerful prayers and make a wounded stranger know they are loved and seen by God and by the smallest, unpredictable lady in training.

By all means, predictable firstborn, plan and schedule away…if that is what makes you feel comfortable in your changing skin. I’ll always have planners and paper for you, I think you will change the world and organize it later. I love the wheels that constantly turn and how you want to do so much, but have no idea where to start. But, don’t you dare for one-second doubt you can’t handle the change that is coming because I’ve watched you in amazement for eleven, short years and I know you can do all things through Christ, baby girl. And you’ll need to learn how to hustle…because sixth grade is brutal and you’ll be late to everything if you have to show up perfect.

You might always be picked last for the sportsy games at recess, I’m sorry about that. You get that from me.

You might pee in your pants sitting on second base like I did in the first grade and figure out that cheering for others is what you do best. So cheer. Be the girl that celebrates what you cannot do and clap till your hands hurt and the dusty pee stain dries. You’ll laugh about it later, I pinkie promise.

And when the jealousy comes, and trust me it will, cheer louder until you can’t hear it telling you that you’re supposed to be better at something you hate doing anyways.

You will have a lifetime to figure out what you love and what you want. Try it all if you want, even if it scares you a little. Or makes you pee in your pants. It happens.

There will be days you wished you were like your little sister.

Or like your big sister.

Or like an airbrushed star on the cover of a magazine. Lord, I hope not.

Oh, what you will miss out on in life trying to be something that you are not…when who you are becoming is your greatest gift to God, to me, and to the world.

Maybe you’ll be an overachiever. Maybe you won’t care what others think at all. Maybe you’ll make messy art and wreck every surface and tabletop in our house.

Make art anyways.

Make a mess.

Be a mess.

Clean up your mess.

And I’m going to be there to help you make art and figure out how to lead and how to follow…and that some boys are punks. Don’t even get me started.

And sweet Jesus, I’m going to need some help with the preteen, and in between, and the fifty shades of awkward that just invaded our tiny cottage.

I flashback to the moments of watching you walk up to the unknown little girls at parks and poolside and hearing you say this…

“Hi. Do you want to be friends?”

An introduction and an invitation, then blank stares from wanting to belong turn to smiles as you would take each others hand and rush off to play with sweet sunshine and summertime on your faces.

Sweet, grownup girls,

Don’t let your blank stares from wanting to belong and quick default of comparison be the noose around beautiful necks. Reject the idea that different from you is wrong, or that your gloriously differentness is a mistake or doesn’t fit.

Let’s skip and trip and be beautifully awkward together because hand-in- hand we are always better.

Much love,

Jennifer

 

 

 

 

 

Taboo

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I’m not a really big fan of games, but from time to time my family twists my arm and makes me play with them. If I do have to play a game I have my favorites; Scrabble, Boggle, and Taboo top the list. Notice a theme? I love words and word games.

Taboo is one of our family favorites. A quick refresher in case you haven’t played in a while: each team is trying to get their teammates to guess the “secret word” the only problem is there’s a list of words that are “taboo”. If you say one of the taboo words someone on the other team will buzz you. Buzzing people just happens to be my son’s favorite part of the game. I hate getting buzzed. Just when I seem to be on a role and getting lots of points for my team I’ll let one little word slip, hear that awful buzz in my ear, and be completely derailed.

It happened to me just last week, but I wasn’t playing Taboo, I was filling out insurance paperwork so one of my kids could get some dental work done. I’ve yet to meet a mom who enjoys filling out the endless piles of paperwork for their kids, but it’s unavoidable. I was about finished with the first page when I heard the buzzing… Are you: single, married, divorced, widowed. Ugh. Seriously? Why does it matter? And why do I hear that stupid buzzer every time I have to check the “divorced” box?

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My parent’s divorced when I was a teenager. I was mad for a long time. Mad because they gave up. Mad because they didn’t try harder. Mad because they chose to walk away instead of fix it. I carried that anger into my own marriage. I was convinced that if you tried hard enough and loved Jesus enough that every marriage could last the length of time.

I was the most judgmental person you’ve ever met when it came to divorce. When I heard about someone going through divorce, especially if they were a Christian, my first response was to roll my eyes and inwardly scorn them for not trying harder. Pretty ugly, huh? But I’m being honest. I had zero mercy in my life when it came to this issue.

Then one Tuesday afternoon I came home from work to find my husband waiting with bags packed. He was done, and there was nothing in that moment that I could say or do to stop him from walking out that door. The day my marriage broke so did my Pharisaical condemnation towards divorce. I had created a standard for myself and imposed that standard on everyone around me; divorce is always avoidable and therefor never an option.  Now here I was facing the one thing I had determined I would never face. What do you do with that? How do you cope when you’ve moved from the position of casting judgment to being the very thing you’ve condemned?

labels

I had become taboo. I was labeled with the one label I swore I would never wear; the one label that I was convinced would bring me the most shame.

There are certain things that we tip-toe around in the church; divorce, abuse, addiction, mental illness, depression, doubt. I understand why we do it, they’re hard things attached to real emotions affecting real people. We don’t know how to broach such difficult subjects so we often stay silent or, even worse, spout off without thinking. I’m not pointing fingers, I’m the guilty one. I’m the one who sat in the seat of the scoffer. And as a result of my own judgment, three years later I still hear a little buzzer when I have to check the divorced box.

There are certain sins, certain struggles that we have deemed “taboo”. The problem is, making something taboo is pretty much the opposite of what Jesus did.

Luke allows us to see what Jesus does with those who have been labeled with something taboo in his gospel. He tells the story of two people, one a religious leader, the other a sinner. One who seats in the seat of the scorner, one who sits in the seat of the condemned. The Pharisee does exactly what I expect him to; he welcomes Jesus into his home and then proceeds to silently judge the sinful women talking to Jesus. He did just what I would have done, elevated himself to a position of “better than” and judged her and deemed her “unworthy”.

The woman, on the other hand, does exactly opposite of what I expect her to. Instead of hiding from Jesus, instead of avoiding the gathering altogether, she marches right into the thick of it. Does she feel shame? Probably. Does she feel like she doesn’t belong there? Most likely. Does she feel like her whole life is taboo? I’m sure she does. But, she doesn’t let that stop her.

“There was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.” Luke 8

The Pharisees had a reputation, she had to know they would judge her if she walked into that room. Apparently Jesus had a reputation too. I don’t know what she had heard about Jesus, but it was enough for her to press through the fear of being whispered about to get to Him. Jesus wasn’t afraid of her label. He didn’t buzz her and see her to the door when she bowed at His feet in humble adoration. He didn’t ignore her sin; neither did He condemn her with it. He simply loved her.

He loved the broken, sinful, repentant, humble woman.

There are two places we can stand when we feel condemned. We can stand outside, fearful and ashamed, weighed down with the buzzing we hear, or we can stand at the feet of Jesus.

The woman who came and washed the feet of her savior was washed by His love. She entered condemned, and left forgiven, cleansed and at peace.

The boxes don’t go away. We will still have to put check marks next to things we never dreamed in a million years would apply to us. But the buzzing can be silenced. No. Not silenced, replaced. Instead of the buzz of condemnation, if you listen hard enough you can hear another sound, a quiet, loving whisper, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

~Keri

 

Photo by (cup)cake_eater. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Melissa Emmons Photography. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Allison McDonald. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

A Disgrace To All Housewives

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I got a text yesterday about a family that needed a meal and I volunteered to do it. By volunteering, I mean, I offered to buy them a meal. Why? Because I’m not a good cook. I’ve mastered about five really good meals and I can rotate and fake it. I can buy pre-made things and figure out another way to make chicken, add a few sides and call it good. A decade ago I would have stressed, planned, and flipped through cookbooks. I would have wasted an entire day of doing something I didn’t enjoy and that I wasn’t good at. The Lord knows I’m not proud of this, but I probably would have cried about it too.

I wonder why we feel like we have to be well-rounded and good at everything? Why can’t we just be good at what God has entrusted to us and pursue the joy of living artfully?

I can’t tell you how much time I wasted trying to be well-rounded, desperately spinning my wheels to be good at everything. I’m not sure where we have picked up that idea, but maybe we aren’t supposed to be good at everything. In the parable of the talents the master was handing out talents, a bag of gold, to each according to his ability. And it breaks my heart to read about the man who was too afraid of that one thing he was given and so he buried it.

To the other he gave five, to the other he gave two, and to he timid man he gave one. The one with two doubled what he was given. The one with five doubled what he was given. And the man with one started to dig deep, racked with fear of not knowing what to do and what value that one talent meant, he hid it and refused to figure out what to do with it. (Matt 25:14-30 NIV)

In my early twenties I couldn’t relax because I was too busy comparing myself to others. I was looking at what God had given others to work with and I measured myself according to what He handed someone else, instead of looking inside at the bag of gold God had given me. I was the girl holding something of value in my hands and heart, but I didn’t have the slightest clue what to do with and so I hid it. I buried it. I compared it. I wasted it.

To compare gifts is to bury gifts and make them unusable. To covet gifts is to throw away what God has entrusted to you in reckless pursuit of traits and gifts you were not meant to have. It is such a waste of time, this chase to be something we are not.

Don’t make it your goal to be well-rounded, ask God to take the gifts He has placed inside of you and smooth the edges to take on a different, glorious shape. A shape that fits you and your gifts. I wasted so much time trying to be well-rounded, trying so hard to master things that I was never meant to be good at. I’m a firm believer in trying things for the first time, I have loved exploring my gifts and my calling. I have watched it take on shapes and change with each season. But, I have also set aside things that I am passionate about to tackle things that I hate because I thought I had to be good at everything. I thought I had to say yes to everything. I was exhausted, spent, and discontented.

I don’t want to be good at everything, I want to spend and multiply what God has given me to work with and invest in the hearts of others. That is where I see the gifts of God double, grow, and bloom. I want to use up every ounce of what God has given me and not worry about the things He hasn’t.

If He gives to each according to his or her own ability, why on earth would we look at it and say it’s not enough to work with? God can teach us the ability to multiply what we have, not based on what someone else has. We can do amazing things by thanking God for what He has given us to work with because it’s stinking amazing. I can change my corner of the world with the things He has placed inside of me. I don’t have to hide or be afraid, and I’m sure not going to bury my gifts by minimizing them.

I believe that we should take risks and try new things, I think we should step outside of our comfort zone and grow. But, I don’t think for one second that this means we have to morph into something that we are not. We have one glorious life to live and some pretty spectacular things waiting for us when we stop wasting our time with things that are completely outside of the landscape of who we are.

There is nothing wrong with you, but maybe you are trying to fit a certain mold? Maybe you are hiding and digging in the dirty ground scared to use up and spend the beauty of who you are. Cultivate a heart that learns to listen to His voice and stop comparing and crippling yourself. Figure out who you are and be really good at that.

Much love from a disgrace to all housewives,

Jennifer

Photo by Seattle Municipal Archices Seattle Municipal
Quote by: Jennifer Watson

Hair Pulling & Tired Hands

Photo credit: Debbie Thurmond

Photo credit: Debbie Thurmond

I read something on social media last week that had me fired up. It actually hurt one of my dear friends and shook her up. How she handled the criticism, which is unfortunately part of life, made me so unbelievably proud of her because she is on the frontlines of Women’s ministry, well known, and longs to see women set free to just be who God intended them to be. I get it, social media is a beast, you can either use it as a tool or it will use you. Either way, we have a choice to make on how we use our platform and how we honor Christ with our voice. We are all divinely fashioned by a God who created us to function uniquely in the body of Christ. And when you publicly bash someone or call them out…you are talking bad about God’s baby.

I have this community of blogger sisters and friends in leadership that I absolutely love and feel a connection with them because we are all in this together. I don’t feel anything remotely competitive with them because that’s not at all what this is about. It’s not about us; it’s about being the light and being good at that. We are much stronger and effective when we are united and isn’t that the point?

These sisters of mine are bleeding on paper and spilling their guts because deep inside of them is a fire shut up in their bones and a calling that scares the crap out of them. And it should. What God has asked us to do is walk uncharted territories and use our jacked up, broken stories to show others that God can use anyone to change this world one broken heart at a time. We are all painfully aware of our flaws and would rather not be on a pedestal. So, I rally around them, promote their books and what they are doing in life because I’m a fan. But most importantly, I am their over-protective sister. I fiercely want them to succeed and I will cry with them when the enemy hurls ugly darts at them. But what breaks my heart more than anything is when I see my sisters pulling each other’s hair and being ugly. We are better than this and the last time I checked, this is not Junior High. If ever there was a time to lock shields and hold hands in this bloody battle, it’s now. I watch the news and see a world that needs us to focus on what really matters instead of infighting and pointing fingers.

For those of you comparing each others gifts and feeling like you don’t measure up, please know that this a tactic of the enemy who loves to cause discord and disunity in the body. It’s his biggest trick and distraction because he knows if he can’t get you to swing on wrecking balls butt-naked and partying like it’s 1999…he can cripple you with comparison and criticism that is just as much of a time waster as a trip to the world of rebellion. What would happen if we stopped trying to fit a certain mold and went on a mission to do our part instead?

Our vision has to be bigger than we are and to make this happen we need each other. We need people that are stronger and wiser and we need to listen to them instead of phasing them out of service, the workplace, and church. If you want to know when I stopped being intimidated by women who are more successful and smarter than me…it was when I let some older women verbally spank me from time-to-time and mentor me. I needed what they had to offer and I still do. I’m nothing without them. If I’m completely honest with you, I would much rather hear from a 50-something, or older, who is killing it and more beautiful than she’s ever been because she knows what really matters in life, not someone afraid of aging squeezing into skinny jeans who is terrified that she’s no longer relevant and useful. Everyday is a battle and we are nothing without each other. Maybe it’s time to stop comparing and join forces.

As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up–one on one side, one on the other–so that his hands remained steady till sunset. (Ex 17:11-12 NIV)

Right now we are all tired from fighting and we need someone to help our hands remain steady till sunset. Life is about taking turns, the ebbs and flows of life and timing; it’s about knowing when to lead and when to follow. The worst thing we can do is covet another person’s role and calling. The second is to rip a person to shreds for doing what God has asked them to do and diminish and be jealous of their light. What would have happened if Joshua and Hur didn’t hold up the hands of their weary leader? What if they were too busy tearing Moses down instead of helping him? Those who are great at “holding their leaders hands up” will one day be entrusted with so much more.

What you have to offer is exactly what God wants to unleash revival in a world that desperately needs hope. Stop pulling hair and being ugly, that’s not who you are. You fit and you’re needed and useful. Use your platform and your voice; don’t let it use you.

Loving you fiercely,

Your over-protective sis~ Jennifer

Unwelcome World of Comparison

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I used to live in this unwelcome world of comparison. I blame youthful ignorance and insecurities for the years I wasted trying to measure up to the immeasurable. We are never void of nearly perfect people, Pinterest ideas, and self-imposed unrealistic expectations from others or ourselves. It’s the image of the “ideal woman” who lurks in the closet of our minds who becomes our monster and measuring stick. And it’s the enemy of our souls who preys upon insecurities that seems so small, but often become boulder-size strongholds. We want to paint this as a uniquely feminine trait, but it’s not just women who wrestle with this. It’s everyone who listens to the nagging voice within instead of the voice of the Holy Spirit.

I found a passage of scripture in 2 Corinthians 10:7-12 that I began studying this summer that brought me such clarity and peace about the topic of comparison. Paul found himself being compared by his boldness in writing verses his weakness of speech. Sometimes “churchy” people are the worst at being quick to rip someone to shreds. In this case, Paul felt the sting from the words because after all he’s just a man redeemed from religiosity and baggage that met with Jesus and had his priorities rearranged by blindness, which allowed him to truly see the error of his ways. May we all have our moments of blindness that teach us how to see Jesus and tune our ears to hear His voice.

In verse 8 Paul is hesitant to boast in his apostolic authority, but he was called into question and criticized. And because of this, he had to defend himself.

“For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” (Vs. 10)

These words made this deep thinker reflect, perhaps even hurt him in such a way that made him ask God why on earth He chose to use him in the first place. Even though Paul was criticized, this did not change the fact that he was called to change the world and be a voice for those who are better on paper with a dreadful past that needs redemption and grace. Sometimes it’s easier to be better on paper than we are in upfront moments when eager eyes are ready to pick apart our every move. But, it’s not about our fragile egos and that’s why we must keep going.

According to my study Bible, Paul’s “speaking ability was ridiculed by those who prided themselves on eloquence according to the standards of Greek rhetorical style.” So basically these were pompous, wordy people who were more concerned with rhetoric and “looking the part” rather than meaningful content and words that bring life and set the captives free. We are all chained and captive by comparison and already know what area we are found lacking and that is what makes us needy of a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Not for our glory, but pointing eyes to the one who longs to use the tender places in us that we only deem as weak and unusable.

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Cor 2:1-5 NKJV)

We are all standing in shoes we don’t feel qualified to stand in and yet we still stand because for some crazy reason we just know that we must. We stand scared with passionate prayers to do what we know God is asking us to do in the big and in the small things of life. We try to parent our children and tend to our parents in times of need feeling so small and frail knowing God’s grace is sufficient, and if all else fails, God will not because He cannot.

12 For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. (2 Cor 10:12 NKJV)

Whenever we compare ourselves, we are operating from an unwise place. We either measure up or we fall short, it becomes a tug-of-war distraction weakening our effectiveness and that’s exactly what the enemy wants. But when we measure ourselves against ourselves, we invite status quo and complacency. We can always look around and think that we are doing better than someone else and settle into monotony.

What God has asked of you may not look like anyone else’s role and yet we weaken its allure by saying, “It’s not enough, surely we could have a more important role.” But every season serves a beautiful purpose in becoming and we can’t have one season without the others. We can’t have our gorgeous fall without our summertime with sunshine on our face dripping with sweat, splashing, and giggles. The leaves turn glorious shades and give way to a brittle winter sending us inside with our faces pressed against frosty glass watching the snowfall. And sure, we all have our favorite seasons. And yet, life is so much sweeter when we just accept each season and welcome whatever it brings saying, “What do you want me to learn from this one, Abba?” And later, with hot tears streaming down our face we say something like, “Help me not to compare this season with one that made me happier and teach me to love myself even when I feel the furthest thing from fruitful and desirable.”

Thinking of you on this Monday morning and praying that comparing yourself is no longer on your To-Do list today. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, so ask God to help you believe that and walk in the shoes that only you can fill.

You are loved,

Jennifer Renee

The Cage and The Songbird

Originally posted on Broken Girl:

I’m not sure why exactly, but growing up I would hear these words with a gentle pat, “Be sweet.” Most of the time it meant that I said something snarky or sarcastic, probably something terribly funny and honest with a bite. Either way, a gentle reminder was needed to “be sweet.” I think you naturally see certain traits in your children, I get that now I as soak in the gifts God has placed inside of my daughters. Mom loved that I was sweet spirited (most of the time). So when I was acting outside of a trait that suited me, I needed a reminder. But, just for a few seconds…maybe minutes, would it just be okay for me to be a little sour? I would think.

Weeks ago I needed a reminder to be sweet. But, I didn’t want to feel that gentle pat when all I felt was soured…

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Because of You

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel with a group of single moms to the Survive and Thrive Conference. My head is still spinning with information and encouragement and heartbreak from the weekend. I feel like I need a week in solitude with my journal to process all that I experienced in those few days. But one thing from the weekend just won’t seem to go away. It’s begging to be processed first, and I think it must.

First can I ask you to watch a video? One of the sessions I went to was titled Filling the Daddy Gap and the facilitator showed this video. I sat in a room with 80 or so single moms wiping tears from their eyes as they saw their own pain and their children’s pain being portrayed in video and song and my heart thought of you.

We all carry pain. We all have been hurt. Damaged. And we can all cry out right alongside Kelly Clarkson and say “Because of you…”

Blame isn’t new. It’s a natural reaction to pain and consequences. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent. We all want to justify our behavior by reminding others why it is we behave the way we do. And most of the time our blame is justified. We truly were wronged. We truly were hurt or abused or abandoned or betrayed. So we blame. And we justify. And we stay trapped in our pain, repeating the cycle of suffering.

We rightly cry out “Because of you…” Mom, dad, childhood bully, ex-husband, rapist, abuser, drunk, coach, teacher, pastor, friend. Because of you I’m afraid. Because of you I can’t trust. Because of you I lost my way. Because of you I’m angry. Because of you I’m bitter. Because of you I’m broken. Because of you.

It’s easy to get caught in the cycle of “because of you”. Easy to let it take over our thoughts and emotions. But it’s a dangerous place to live. It’s a place of perpetual pain. It’s a trap that our enemy loves and God despises. Yes, God hates the sin that hurt us. But He also hates the cycle of blame that we continue to live in.

So how do we move forward? How to we break the cycle of blame? The same way, with the same words.

Because of You!

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,

who for the joy set before him endured the cross,

scorning its shame,

and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Heb. 12:2

When we take our eyes off of our circumstances and look to Jesus and say “Because of You, Jesus!” everything changes. Because of You, I am free. Because of You, I am healed. Because of You I am not afraid. Because of You I have found hope and trust and joy! Because of You.

It’s time to turn. Away from our pain and towards the cross. It’s only when we fix our eyes on Jesus, only when we see His love for us, demonstrated by the suffering He endured so that we could be forgiven, and that we can truly be free.

When we’re tempted to point a finger and dish out blame, instead let’s look to the cross and say, “Because of You…”