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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Fly Baby, Fly

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I love the movie “What About Bob” for many reasons. I love the uptight therapist and the client that drives him crazy. I love the sound of laughter that happens when you watch such craziness and can see yourself in all of the characters.

Growing up I was painfully shy and afraid of my own shadow. As most young children do, I started to outgrow some of the “awkward” phases like not looking people in the eyes while speaking to them and hiding behind my mother and hanging on her legs. I’m thankful I had a mother that helped me and taught me simple things like chewing with my mouth closed and how to make someone feel important by looking at them while they spoke to you. I look back on key moments; ones I often didn’t understand, and realize that she gave me important gifts that have helped me become all that God intended me to be.

I’ve always lived in such a way that it scares my mom a little. The shy awkward girl grew up into someone who learned to live life unafraid. Amazing things happen to a heart and life submitted to God. I’ve always been a dreamer, the girl with my head in the clouds. I’ve become a dream chaser, following hard after God, and stepping out in uncharted places. This past week I went to a ranch in Oklahoma completely alone. I can guarantee you this, almost fifteen years ago when I walked down the aisle; I never thought I would be taking trips alone. Ever. I was too afraid of what could happen. And now I am more afraid of the beautiful life I could miss by staying inside a safe little box.

I had five days without children, which is like a mini holiday for the tired mommy. Five days with my girls at camp trying new things and learning about God, five days of knowing they would be safe even though I wasn’t glued to their side. I knew I could stay home and miss them, or I could chart new territories of my own. Truth be told, I wanted a romantic getaway with my man. But, instead he sent me off with a blessing as he stayed home to be with family and work. I felt released to go, to fly, and to get alone with a stack of books, note cards, my Bible, and my favorite pens; a writer’s dream. Gorgeous places that inspire you to write and think, but most importantly to hear from God. That was what I needed to leave home for. Sometimes we just live such noisy lives. We talk so much, coming up for air, and finding we have nothing left to say. Words lose their power and meaning when our actions erase the things we “meant to say.”

I will always look back at this moment as the week that changed the way I write and live forever. I remember shaking my head and whispering to God, “If I can do this…I can do anything.”

As I unloaded my things at the ranch with spotty cell phone reception, my mom called and asked me what I was doing.

“I’m here and I’m safe and it’s gorgeous.”

And I heard her sweet voice say, “Well, don’t you feel so grown up?”

And I do feel grown up, but it goes much deeper than that. I feel more comfortable now in my grown up skin and it just keeps getting better. Forget Hollywood and what they say about women as they age, get lesser roles, and feel the need to look like plastic. I’ll gladly take these stretch marks that prove my body has given life to my children.

I’ll take the laugh lines that remind me of all the moments when I throw my head back and laugh, a cackle that is distinctly mine. I’ll take it all, even the knowledge that I need to empty my bladder before jumping on the trampoline with my girls. And when those girls laugh at me, I’ll hold my side, out of breath, and say something like, “You were large babies.” And explain it later. I’ll take the wrinkle cream and frown when I need to buy the special face wash for adult acne and mumble how it’s just wrong, you should have to buy one or the other, but not both. I’ll take the changes in life that come knowing I have a choice, hoping my actions speak so much louder than the words I love so much.

I’m thankful for three days and two nights on a ranch that felt like home and much like my parents house with lots of wide-open spaces, and room to breathe…and spotty cell phone reception and no wifi. It wasn’t how I envisioned my week off; it was so much better.

Last week, I booked two trips stepping out in faith. I excitedly texted my mothering mentor and got this back…

Fly baby, fly.

And I am. I hope you will do the same…I hope you will fly or sail. Whatever, just move forward and stop looking back.

You can do all things through Christ, not just some things…you can live a life that makes people shake their heads in amazement inspiring them to live more fully. It’s so important to stop talking about all the things you want to do and actually do them. Live and dream and pray and love and forgive, and repeat these steps as needed to live in the fullness of all Christ has for you!

Fly baby.

Much love,

Jennifer

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Showing Fear the Door

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I’m such an quiet observer, you can call it “people watching.” But it goes much deeper than watching as I take pictures in my mind of moments and words spoken. I love words and the meaning behind them. Some words I despise like “fear” a four letter words that cripples leaving lasting effects when we walk in fear wrestling with the knowledge that we need to relax and simply trust God.

Some people are watching how we walk and how we live, without us even knowing it. Our children, both young and grown-up, watch us and later on realize their “walk” looks just like ours. They learned it from us.

“I want to be just like you.”

And it strikes us to the core because we want to bottle that up, that moment when love runs so unconditional and pure. We want to bottle up that moment of pride swallowing hard because we know we fall short sometimes and always will. That little person wants to be like us?

Some worthy traits we pass down to our children as we celebrate and cheer because our hard work has paid off. Other traits are cringe-worthy as we whisper, “I take it back, please unlearn that.”

The grace of God can cover it all as we tread cautiously the tightrope of faith verses fear.

I had so much faith laying on that table as they prepped me for an emergency Caesarean section. I was so tired and waiting to hear her cry. The cord was wrapped around her neck three times and when she breathed and let out a cry after the doctors worked on her, never have I heard such a beautiful sound. But weeks later as I looked through a hospital bill listing the charges, one right after another, I saw a dollar sign next to the words: Newborn Resuscitation. Those two words knocked the breath out of me. I sat in an empty house starring at her tiny face feeling a love so deep it hurt as fear walked in. I could have lost her.

I made a lot of promises to that tiny face, ones she never heard but God did.

Promises to love and lead her and later promises to let her go and grow and learn. Each bruise and heartbreak I felt too as she would run to me on wobbly knees and I would do my best to kiss the hurt away.

I have walked in fear-based anxiety and depression before, sometimes seasonally as the weather turns bitter sending us inside for warmth and shelter from harsh winds. It’s something that I’m unafraid to talk about because of the faces I see and minister to. They need to see the face of someone who walked and wrestled and limped their way to glorious victory.

A decade ago when fear walked in…I had to show fear the door. And when it surfaces trying to inch its way back in to cripple a heart that God set free, I point to the door and tell it where it can go.

The God we have invited into our hearts is far bigger than the fear and doubt that tries to creep its way in.

A while back, I watched a wise person wrestle wondering why they hadn’t passed on the trait of fear onto their grown-up, mirror-image offspring and my heart soaked up the moment knowing that each day our children have the choice to walk like us or chart their own path. Yet the goal is for our children to follow hard after God, not our flawed humanity or the world.

So today as my miracle daughter smiled at me as I played with her in the pool and said, “Mom, I’m just like you..I’ve never liked cold water.” I smiled back and said, “Baby girl, some traits that you get from me you are going to love…but later on, some might drive you crazy. But, I hope most of them help shape you into the woman God designed you to be.” And then we twirled in the pool, her ten-year-old frame much larger than the chubby, perfect infant I twirled in the pool years gone by.

Lord, knows I’m not a perfect parent walking the tightrope of faith verses fear. If I could shelter my children from harm and heartbreak I would. But, I can’t. They belong to God given to me on special loan till they build a new nest of their own. I hold them tight then let them go, and repeat these steps daily as I watch them transform into young ladies.

Today it’s time to show fear the door and tell it has no place in our lives, marriages or singleness, parenting, or our calling. Before we can ever tackle hurdles in our personal lives and details that concern us, we first have to deal with the issue of fear.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18 NIV)

I love how this passage of scripture is translated in The Message:

“To Love, to Be Loved”

17-18 God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. (1 John 4:18 The Message)

Let love have “the run of the house.” Show fear the door, dear friends.

Praying for you on this journey,

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.

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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…”

When Mother’s Day Hurts

flickr flower I remember what it’s like wishing I could sleep through Mother’s Day. I remember what it felt like to know that I was a mother deep in my heart and yet I did not have the children to prove it. Bareness and dreams miscarried, a heavy heart with empty arms, I was doing my best to fake a smile.

The safest place within me to carry a baby was my war-zone. Doctor’s visits and testing dates littered my calendar instead of playdates and first haircuts. I remember the ache when I saw flowers in every shade of pink and paper cards with sloppy handwriting in crayon. They were masterpieces in my mind and of more value than a five-dollar card. I longed for sloppy kisses and a baby on my hip.

Dear sister, I remember…so I whisper prayers and know that they will reach heaven for you. You are not forgotten, the love of God will cradle you during your loss.

Gone are the days where I dread this day set aside, yet my heart hurts for those with broken relationships making it hard to pick out cards because the mother/child relationship limps and is fractured. My heart hurts for those with an empty seat around the family table from death that took their precious child away from them much too soon.

My heart hurts for the friend who just lost her mother and this is her first Mother’s Day without her best-friend. Even though I celebrate and rejoice for ten years of being a mother, I cannot forget my sisters who ache deeply and would rather skip this weekend entirely. I’ve been there. God met with me there. My arms were empty but His arms were strong enough to carry me through it.

My strength and faith deepened during that time where my body was so frail. I’m grateful for the heartache I have felt because I love deeper and feel like every day, even the messy ones, is a gift.

“He raise the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap, that He may seat him with the princes- with the princes of His people. He grants the barren woman a home, like the joyful mother of children. Praise The Lord.” (Ps 113: 7-9)

You are not forgotten, I remember what it’s like when Mother’s Day hurts. I’m praying for you to be lifted out of the ashes of grief as God mends your broken heart. May joy be restored to you. You are loved.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Ps 30:5)

Much love, Jennifer

Motherhood and Roadmaps

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I’m thinking about you today, you women who wrestle wondering if what you are doing is making a difference in the lives of the ones you love and serve. You feel like what you are doing is small, but it’s not. Beautiful thing, you are leaving roadmaps on the hearts of your children. It’s not small; it’s glorious. You who feel like everyday looks the same with never-ending piles of clothes and dishes to wash. You’re so very tired at the end of the day and yet still give into one more request for a hug and another kiss as those smart, little ones smile buying more time before they slumber.

You wrestle wondering if you’re beautiful and frown as you notice that unwelcome gray hair, but to the little one who calls you “Mommy” you are more beautiful than a thousand airbrushed twenty-something’s who have graced the covers of a magazine. You are their leading lady and the one they run to when they just need to be held. Your teenager might roll their eyes at you, but they know you are always going to be there for them, loving them despite the hormonal hurricane that has just become their new normal. They don’t need a perfect mother; they just need you. What you have to offer is exactly what they need.

So much time is wasted on unrealistic comparisons and jumping through invisible hoops. That way of life leaves you spent and running on empty. Comparing ourselves to others causes a deficit in our souls wilting what God designed to shine and stand out. There is not one perfect mold for all women, but there is this one woman who took the time to simply “become”. She’s the Proverbs 31 woman and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t in her thirties.

Sweet thing, stop worrying that you’ll never measure up and start owning the fact that you do. God has an unending supply of grace to cover us when we fall short. He is the God that we can run to when we are the ones who need to be held. What you do is not small or insignificant. This world needs what you have to offer.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” (Prov 31:25)

Much love,

Jennifer