The Difference Between Mom Guilt & Shame: When We Fail To Love Our Children Well

I am an unraveling perfectionist. This means when I fall short, my human reaction is to wear a very heavy cloak of guilt and shame—I give myself very little grace; naturally, self-contempt has a loud voice within my soul.

What is guilt? Well, we feel guilty when we feel sorry for something we have done. Guilt is the ability to separate action from identity. Think guilty charges and the banging of a gavel. It is a clean, one time banging, the charges are read, and restitution is made at the reading of the verdict.

However, shame is deeper than guilt and ripples like a vibrating gong; there is no clean gavel banging when it comes to shame. Shame is believing that there is not only something wrong with what you have done—the ripple effects of shame infiltrate identity and guilty actions become tangled up in the way we see ourselves as people. Tangled up in shame, our guilty actions begin to define what kind of people we are—what kind of mothers we are.

Mom Fails, Mom Guilt, What Kind of Mother Are You?

One of my sweet children struggles in school. Truthfully, all of my children struggle with school in their own ways, but one of my children has a tougher time than the rest. He is a brilliant child, I have mature conversations with him on a daily basis. He is kind, he is helpful, he loves to chat with adults, he looks you right in the eyes when he speaks, and he loves to learn.

But almost each fall, when I attended his parent/teacher conferences, I would leave the school in tears. Sight words were a struggle, peer relationships were a struggle, spelling made me want to claw my eyes out, skill sheets took hours—my child constantly cried about school and about friends—I believe he was even depressed and struggled with shame attaching to his own identity.

His struggles in school became the way he saw himself. His actions rippled through him like a vibrating gong. He would say things like…

Why am I the worst? Everyone hates me because I am bad.

His bad actions easily turned into a tangled up identity. Guilt says: what I did was bad. Shame says, I am bad.

This breaks my heart, but caused me to take a long hard look in the mirror when it came to how I was dealing with my own mom fails and mom guilt. My personal actions easily become the vibrating gong of what-kind-of-mother-are-you self-contempt and tangle up my mom identity.

As mothers, if we let our shortcomings impact our mom identities, why wouldn’t our children do the same? Children are imitators. They do as you do, not as you say.

So Then, How Should We Live? 

There is hope in the story for that child who struggles a little more than my others in school. This year, my husband and I finally walked through the process of figuring out the missing pieces to the puzzle for our child. This was hard. So hard. But after several years, and trying everything else, we tested our son for ADHD and visual processing disorder.

And guess what? That sweet child of mine struggled with following multiple directions in school—every year, year after year—because his brain was unable to follow multiple directions in school. He is off the charts ADHD. And that same child doesn’t finish his work when copying from the board and struggles with sight words, reversals, and spelling because he has an identified visual processing disorder.

He has been taking a very small dose of methylphenidate at 7:15 every morning for two months. On the first school day he was on his medication he wrote me a note that said:

“Mom, I started my day at 8:10 and I finished my morning work by 8:30. Usually, my morning work sits on my desk unfinished all the way until lunch.” 

That note made me cry. My tears were mixed with happiness and sadness. Happiness for him, and sadness for him because he has struggled for so long.

His confidence is up. His grades are better. His handwriting is better. He seems to be doing better with peer interactions and homework no longer makes me want to claw my eyes out.

There are two personal threads I have needed to unravel from my what-kind-of-mother-are-you self-contempt. This feels like a double-edged mom fail.

One: it is easy for me to get tangled up in the lie that whispers “I am the one who caused this problem for my child.” Maybe, I didn’t breastfeed him long enough, maybe we watched too much television, maybe I didn’t read to him enough, or play with him enough because by the time he was four, he was an older brother to three other siblings. Maybe, I didn’t pray hard enough that his struggles would go away.

Two: The lies that whisper I wasn’t prompt enough in solving this problem. “If I could have just walked through this process when he was in kindergarten, then we would be in a better place academically, socially, and emotionally by now.” I am a trained educator, I should have recognized these signs sooner. I know my child, and I knew something was not right.

There is hope for mom guilt turning into mom shame too. The problem is my sin, the cure is the gospel. We all need the hope of the daily vitamin of the gospel, where we intentionally see ourselves as God sees us as mothers.

I have to be intentional to not let mom fails and mom guilt get tangled up in the way I see myself as a mother. Both of those tangled up lies are self-focused and fail to see the bigger picture of how God sees me, and how God sees my child. Both of those threads fail to see ourselves in light of God’s greater redemption story. Both of these threads look inward, and fail to see outward, onward, and upward.

So then, how should we live? We live by the one time banging of a gavel and not the vibrating sound of a gong. The sound of the gavel is clean and sharp, it may make us flinch, but it doesn’t ripple and infiltrate our identities or the kind of mothers we are.

We do fall short as mothers, (if you haven’t yet—you will) but if God doesn’t hold our shortcomings against us, why would we hold them against ourselves? Living by the one time banging of a gavel, our shortcomings unravel away through repenting (turning away from the action) and believing that God is working even when we don’t have it all figured out.

Don’t live by the gong. We are not are shortcomings. God doesn’t see us that way. If we trust in Jesus and his work on the cross, God sees us as perfect in his sight. We are stumbling on this side of heaven, but we are seen as perfectly loved sons and daughters.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus we are given life and set free (Romans 8:1)

If we love our children so much we could burst in their stumbling, imagine how much more God loves us as we mother our children? We are free to stumble and seen as loved in Christ. The gavel sounded when we first trusted Christ, now we are free to waltz in the gospel and be unraveled from the shame that tangles us.

When we look outward, onward, and upward and live by the gavel and not the gong, we are really free! Mom fails, mom guilt, and mom shame cannot bind us if we are truly trusting in the daily vitamin of the gospel.

Our children will imitate us. Show them how to live by the gavel and not be tangled up by the gong.

 

From Unraveled to Slowly Unraveled: The Stories Behind Writing this Book

I wrote the first draft of Unraveled about five years ago. And I sent it to almost ten people. It was terrible. My friends gave me honest feedback some said Unraveled was cringe-worthy.  I knew Unraveled needed some more fine tuning. The first draft of this project was simply a step towards the making of this book, and the beginning of an idea.

Never give up. Just keep fine-tuning.

There is a verse in the book of Ephesians, Chapter 4:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

One year as I led a study alongside a mentor of mine, I was blown away by John Stott’s teaching on these few verses. It occurred to me that in my life, putting off the old self and putting on the new self is a daily dance and a constant process. We never really arrive in the Christian life. I discovered, once I overcome one layer of sin and selfishness, there seems to always be another layer underneath.

As we grow and mature, we are unraveling old layers of the old self.

Humble Beginnings 

In the spring of 2017, I took a three day trip to the beach—without my husband and my four children—to hone in on the structure of Unraveled.

I spent time reading, praying, and thinking about where Unraveled could start as a book—and where I wanted it to go.

I read two books on that trip. Paul Tripp’s What Did You Expect: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

I read and listened to teaching and storytelling. But I also wrote. And I wrote, and I wrote . . . on an iPad with a keyboard attachment, on the beach in the sun: trying to see the screen through the glare and flipping back and forth between the Microsoft Word App and the ESV Study Bible App.

I wanted to really birth this book on the beach by the ocean. I wanted to write in a place where I felt small in comparison to a big world and a big God who controls the setting of the sun and the rising of the seas. I wanted to write from a place of humility and I wanted to trust that this project would go out into a big world and be held by a big God.

I spoke via email with Karen Hodge on that trip and I enjoyed spending time with my grandparents while I read, wrote, prayed, and slept.

At the beach, the idea to write Unraveled in sections came to me. The book is divided into six sections: Strength, Identity, Perfectionism, Marriage, Parenting, and Grief.

And at the beach, I started to think more deeply about the entire book of Ephesians and how the entire book  went alongside the sections of the book I was dreaming about.

From March 2017-May 2017 I studied Ephesians. I read James Montgomery Boice, John Stott, listened to Tim Keller, and struggled through Peter T. OBrien.

In May of 2017 I was invited to speak at New Vienna Church and I decided to try out my Unraveled stuff with everything I was learning from studying the book of Ephesians.

If I want to be honest about humble beginnings and starting from a place of smallness, here is my rough around the edges talk. The talk starts around 15 minutes and ends around 55 minutes.

In the summer of 2017 I had a real first draft for Unraveled. I sent nine copies out to different people, one copy to my husband, and one copy to a pastor friend.

I learned Unraveled was going somewhere. I learned about the Oxford comma, and I learned I have no idea what the difference is between a comma, a semi colon, an em dash, or parenthesis. I only applied to colleges that did not require an admissions essay—writing has never been my thing.

But teaching, encouraging, and storytelling are my things. So are humble beginnings. So I kept going and learned what I could as I went.

Most of my friends sent Unraveled back to me by August of 2017, and I went through all their notes by the end of that summer.

But then I sat on my draft for six months. I was so afraid to send Unraveled to a publisher and I had no idea where to start. Fear felt big for a time. So I waited.

Sending a Book Proposal

In February 2018 I felt the twentieth anniversary of my mother’s death approaching quickly. I really wanted to publish something before 2018 was over—this was a personal goal I had set for myself.

In February, I sent a draft (at this point read by approximately twenty people) to Karen Hodge and Christina Fox. Karen is a dear friend and mentor of mine, and the Coordinator of Women’s Ministries in our denomination and a published author. Christina Fox is the editor of our denomination’s blog as well as a published author. Both of these women were so encouraging. I was directed to the book proposal page for CDM and a book: Get Published: 11 Must Know Publishing Secrets by Mary DeMuth.

Again, I read and I learned. I fine tuned. I didn’t give up. I wrote proposals. I sent proposals. I never heard back. But one day I heard back.

I was subbing for a teacher who is now my second son’s second grade teacher. I was sitting at her desk during lunch, registering for our denomination’s national meeting, General Assembly, and texting with my friend Eileen about the details for the trip. All of a sudden I received an email that CDM received my book proposal and I would hear back in six to eight weeks.

Shock is an understatement here. When I talked to my husband about this I said, “CDM will never publish my book.”

Then, I prayed and I waited a little bit more. And I continued to revise.

This year  I decided to go on a trip to the beach with my family for the twentieth anniversary of my mother’s passing. April 7th, 1998 is the day she passed away and each year April 7th is a dark day for me. To break the cycle of sadness, I wanted to go to the beach, a place my mom loved, and I place I have sweet memories of mom mom from years past.

On my way to the beach, on April 7 2018, the twentieth anniversary of my mother’s passing—l was in the car at a restroom break somewhere in Georgia—I got an email from CDM saying that they would love to partner with me and publish the story, Unraveled.

The detail of this email coming on such an important day is a detail I will never forget to highlight. God cares for us in the small things and in a small way April 7th has been redeemed for me. On April 7, 1998 my mother passed away and on April 7, 2018 I received an email communicating that Unraveled would be published.

And the title change . . . 

From Unraveled to Slowly Unraveled. I have written this on my blog before and I will write it again: I still order chicken nuggets, fries, and a coke with no ice at McDonald’s because I am the kind of person who does the same thing all of the time. Change is not light and easy for me. So a title change was rough. I had so many layers to unravel when it came to the expectations I had for a one word title.

But, if you search Unraveled in Books on Amazon, turns out you will find a lot of books with title covers picturing men wrapped up in ropes. This is not the image we were hoping to capture with Unraveled.

I think our team suggested up to twenty alternative titles. But Slowly Unraveled: Changed From the Inside Out came as my sweet and smart editor was reading my final chapter.

And it is a true, noble, worthy, and fitting title. It is humble. And it is good. Because any kind of true change happens slowly. Any kind of process worth going through takes time, it takes a whole lot of not giving up, and it takes a village of people to help you fine tune. This book has been a Slowly Unraveling process and I am so proud this is the title of the book.

In the process, about thirty more people have read Slowly Unraveled. So now this community project is up to about fifty people. Some (Marlys and I) have read it more than hundred times . . . we are both Slowly and thoroughly Unraveled, but so pleased to share this book with you.

Find it in the PCA Bookstore on January 10th.

I’d love to come to your town for a book signing event! Message me soon.

Thank you for being alongside me on this long, Slowly Unraveled journey. Each of you have encouraged me to never give up and keep fine-tuning. I am thankful for you!

 

Hiccups

I hate getting the hiccups. As a woman who loves routine and predictability—hiccups are an annoyance and a disruption to my plans.

But even though hiccups seem like an annoyance, hiccups are necessary to correct something that is not right within the diaphragm and hiccups are temporary.

This morning I am experiencing a real life hiccup. An annoyance and a disruption in my recovery. I have been feeling so great and everything has seemed to be going well, but on Saturday when I went to get ready for the two kid birthday parties we were hosting in our home, I noticed a problem with one of my incisions.

My doctor texted me right away and saw me first thing this morning. In less than an hour I will be in a pre op surgery room again. A hiccup. Necessary to repair what is not right, and temporary.

Thanks for thinking of us today. I feel annoyed by this hiccup, but I am hoping to find joy in this unpredictable chaos. This is another reminder that I do not control the world nor do I hold it up. God holds up the world, and he is good. Even in the hiccups.

 

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Unraveling The Generous Heart

‘Tis the season to celebrate and ’tis the season to give. We live in a culture that cares about generous living, and for that I am grateful—this week we will observe #givingtuesday and many of my friends have created traditions of service and donating when thinking for their December family activities.

But why do we give? What motivates the generous heart? AND—Does the generous heart simply involve our wallets and bank accounts? Is there more than giving monetarily when it comes to generous living?

My heart has been stirring over the above questions. It is simple to say: we give because it is nice, giving is better than recieving, or we give because it is the right thing to do.

Those answers are much too simple for me—and empty, there has to be more to the generous heart. Doing the right thing year after year seems to to become mundane and quite tiresome.

As I have been studying generous living with my small group I have had to think about unraveling these simpler answers to generous living and find a deeper motivation for what spurs one on to live generously and be a joyful and abundant giver.

A Generous Heart Gives because of Grace

Before I had ever read the Bible, I was a very philanthropic person. However, my own heart was motivated to be philanthropic because I wanted to perform well or “do” the right thing—and I wanted others to see me doing the right thing. I was the chair of a few philanthropic committees and my heart’s belief was that I could impress others and God by being generous with my time and money. I believed I could earn my way to heaven through my generosity and earn the approval of others through moralism.

What I have learned in the last decade or so is that there is no amount of generosity that can earn God’s favor. God’s favor is given to us by grace and through faith so that no (wo)man can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). God freely gives us favor in his Son Jesus, and the Bible teaches the truth—so that no man can boast—because our human hearts are so prone to perform and boast. The also Bible teaches us that “our righteous deeds done in our own efforts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:4).

In performance-based generosity, the act of giving is primary. Which is not at all bad. Giving is very good—but very good things can become ultimate things and ultimate things are like filthy rags— not all giving is done for the glory of God’s Kingdom.

A performance-based generous heart is like a filthy rag—a grace-based generous heart is the opposite. A grace-based generous heart has God as primary. Grace-based generosity gives because the grace-based giver knows how much they have been given. Grace-based generosity is motivated because God first loved so the grace-based giver loves in return by living generously.

The grace-based giver also knows this life and the things of this world are temporary and possessions acquired on earth will not last for ever—only God’s Kingdom will last forever.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it (1 Timothy 6:6-7).

 

A Generous Heart Recognizes Everything Comes From God

Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:3-4).

For the godless run after all the things of this world, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:32-33).

 

This is the hardest part. Everything we have comes from God. Our money, our food, our houses, our backgrounds, our gifts, our temperaments, our looks, our spouses, our children . . . even our time.

For me, recognizing my finances come from God so therefore I should be generous with my money is only one layer in learning how to live with a generous heart—the rest feels like an unraveling of everything I thought I knew—I have to retrain myself to see that I am not the author of my story, God is the author of my story and He has given me all that I have.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:12-13). 

 

It is when I start thinking about my story, my time, my gifts, my looks, my finances, and my temperament that I begin to feel a little gnarly. 

This is a struggle with contentment and unfortunately tangled up in performance-based living. At times I am not content with the way I am or how I measure up to everyone else. This makes it difficult to be generous with myself and generous with others as an extension of this gnarly, tangled-up place.

If I fail to be content with my time, my gifts,  and my circumstances, I fail to love others well.

The generous heart is not only connected to finances, the generous heart is connected to being generous with time, and the way you serve others,  as well as being content with the gifts, looks, family, and temperament God has given to you. This is where we see the gnarly rub between giving and discontentment. We give as a culture, but as a culture we are radically discontent.

We struggle to be satisfied with our wardrobes, our television sizes, the camera on our smart phone, and our waistlines.

We worry if we give two hours to listen to a friend that is struggling, we may miss that downtime we had hoped to have to scroll through social media.

When we do scroll through social media, we see our friends and their perfect fall family photos—and envy and comparison creep into our hearts.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they” (Matthew 6:25-26)?
The generous heart is a heart that is content in all circumstances. In plenty or in want—in more facets than finances—the generous heart gives time because it knows it is on God’s time, the generous heart shares gifts that may be a little rough around the edges—because God is the giver of rusty and rough-edged gifts, the generous heart rejoices when others rejoice—it does not envy, it loves well—because the generous heart is content with the measure God has given.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 4-8,13).
Love doesn’t end because it is eternal and will pass on into heaven.

 

 

The Generous Heart Trusts in God’s Provision

Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

“As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”

She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah (1 Kings 17:7-16).

This woman had to give all that she had in order to see that God would provide more. She had to trust in His provision and that trust required action.

If we believe God is the giver of all things, we will trust that God will provide for us, but this kind of faith requires action. We have to step outside of our comfort zone and see that God will provide for us. This includes taking risks with our finances, our time, or stepping out in faith to use the rusty and rough edged speaking, teaching, or leadership gifts God has given us. This kind of generous living trusts that God will provide by shining through the broken places.

And I know there are many more layers to the generous heart. It is a slow unraveling process of learning little by little to live by grace and the unseen, instead of rotely doing things the way we have always done them.

The generous heart overflows with the love we have been given by grace and through faith alone, it is more than clicking a donate button, it is a call to live generously in many facets of life so that Christ’s power can be perfectly displayed.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

 

A Beautiful Surrender

My plan for this fall was to enjoy my new volunteer role as a Regional Advisor to Women’s Ministries in Mid America by attending conferences, connecting with women in my region, and connecting women to other women to begin to build a network of women’s ministry leaders in our region; specifically building a network of co-leadership between older and younger women.

Slowly Unraveled: Changed from the Inside Out, my first bookis also in formatting while I type this post. This fall was also supposed to be a busy season of touching up my book and getting it ready for formatting and publication.

What has actually happened this fall was not at all what I had planned. This fall, God has brought me to a season of surrender—I can’t even open the door to let the dog out or move the apple juice from the refrigerator to the counter. I have only typed one hundred and fifty words at this point of this blog post and I am already beginning to experience fatigue and soreness.

I am in a season of surrender where God has brought me to a place where I need others to hold me up and support me. I have attended zero conferences and I have only been able to connect with women via email, Facebook, and over the phone.

A season of surrender is a hard pill for me to swallow. Many of the threads of my story are tangled up in self-preservation, boot-strap pulling,  and doing things all on my own. The words, “I need help” are three words I rarely string together.

But in this season of my recovery from a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy and my husband’s recovery from a foot surgery to repair a almost complete tear in his lisfranc ligament, I am learning to see a beautiful surrender.

A Beautiful Surrender Witnessed

I witnessed a beautiful surrender one afternoon while waiting for the bus to come up the road. In the center of our front yard stands a large October Glory maple tree. At the end of every October its leaves begin to turn bright orange from top to bottom. Most of the bright orange leaves have fallen, been swept up by a rake, and now sit in a landscaping bag on the side of our home. But a few bright orange leaves are still abiding on the large maple tree’s branches. Not abiding by much, but waiting for the time to come for their beautiful surrender.

As I waited for the bus I watched the beautiful surrender of one of those tiny orange leaves. The wind came and that little leaf could not hold on any longer. The wind then carried the leaf off the branch and then gently swirled the leaf to the ground. The leaf did what it was made to do and the tree will continue to survive even after the surrendering of this leaf. The October Glory will be dormant for a time, but soon it will bear new blossoms and leaves in the spring.

A Beautiful Surrender of the Physical Body

It was a beautiful surrender to walk in the bilateral prophylactic journey I have been on. Sometimes in this life we come to a place where we need to let pieces of ourselves go and lie dormant for time so we can bear new and healthier fruit in our lives.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)

This tiny death of losing pieces of myself, will bear much healthier fruit and a long life with my husband and my children. It has been a beautiful surrender to see my journey in this way. A small death of one part tiny part of me will bring new life for the whole.

After my preventative double mastectomy I now have a less than one percent chance of developing breast cancer, and I will never need to have another mammogram.

I will need to lay dormant for a time, but soon will bear new healthier fruit just like the October Glory in my front yard.

A Beautiful Surrender of the Heart

This journey has also been a beautiful surrender of my heart. As a woman who would like to do things her own way because this is how she has had to do them for as long as she can remember, it has been quite a beautiful surrender to rely on others. I have been humbled and I have been blessed. My mother has been gone for twenty years, most of our family lives far away, and my father who lives geographically close, has chosen to not be active in my life.

We had sweet help from my out of town grandmother and my out of town sister the week of my surgery. But the other six weeks of my husband’s and my long recovery I’ve had to ask for a lot of help from those outside of my family. This has pulled on the threads of my mother’s passing from breast cancer and facing the reality that although I want my father to be in my life—he is not here. These are layers in this story—and this has been a part of this beautiful surrender.

I have had to ask people who are not family to drive my children to ballet, baseball, and soccer, sweet neighbors have raked up my leaves, church members have planted mums and mowed our grass, friends have driven us to doctor’s appointments, friends have picked up Click List orders, and friends have made a Target runs to pick up ballet tights when the last pair had too many holes for Lydia to wear to class.

It is a beautiful surrender to come to terms with the truth that my family does not function in the way that I wish it could and let go of expectations I had for my biological family members. I’ve had to realize that God is surrounding me with a new family—people unrelated to me who care for me and hold me up when I can’t hold up myself. This I am grateful for—I don’t believe I could achieve this level of gratitude  without the beautiful surrender of what has passed to embrace the beauty of the new family God has surrounded me with during this hard time. It has been beautiful for my children and myself to see the people who have shown up and tangibly loved us for the last six weeks.

While this beautiful surrender is more painful and harder than the physical surrender, this is beautiful surrender is freeing and good. The continuous pain of having expectations for people who don’t care to support you is a continuous pain I am grateful to surrender. While I have done my share of counseling and my share to reach out to my father and reconcile a relationship with him, I am not responsible for how he responds to me. This hurts as a child with one living parent, but I have to let this go.

This beautiful surrender of the heart is painful like the physical surrender of my body—but it is a small emotional death that will bring emotional wholeness in the long term.

In the beautiful surrender of my myopic view family, I can see the bigger picture and the larger family God is providing for me through His people.

A Beautiful Surrender of the Spirit

This life is an entire journey of letting go. I am only in my thirties and I’ve had to let go of so much so many times. But in the letting go of who we are or what we think others should be there is so much healing and so much life. When we myopically focus on all we know or all we have ever known, we are limited.

When we beautifully surrender our myopic focus is when we can see the bigger things God has in store for us. His faithfulness, His love, His people, and His church—all in trusting in His Son and His sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus is the ultimate picture of a beautiful surrender. His death gives the opportunity for many to live.

I did not grow up as a reformed evangelical. I started reading the Bible at age twenty-one. Many wonder how I have ended up a pastor’s wife, let alone a church-going woman.

I don’t have many answers to that question. I am just about as unworthy as anyone and I have done more than my fair share of rebelling against God and how He calls men and women to live.

But I do know it was a beautiful surrender when I let go of my myopic view of who I thought God was and I began to read His Word. For so long I only trusted in my self-constructed worldview of individualism and self-sufficiency.

It is a beautiful surrender to let that go. And a beautiful surrender to trust in Jesus. It is a slow process that is the same as the beautiful physical surrender of my body and the beautiful surrender of my heart. At times, trusting in Jesus has left me feeling bare-boned and as vulnerable as a dormant bare tree.

I am in a constant season of surrender where nothing seems to go as I have planned—but far better. Because I trust in a God who holds me up and provides for me in ways that are outside of my myopic view. I have gone from rarely stringing the words “I need help” together to “I Need Thee Every Hour” and this is not because of any magic formula or anything spectacular I have done. This is simply because I trust in the beautiful surrender of Jesus and His death on the cross.

If you have been following this bilateral prophylactic mastectomy story of mine, my ultimate hope is that you will consider letting go and embracing what can be new for you— beautiful surrenders, and an Ultimate Hope.

It is a great time of year to consider Jesus. His life, His death, and His eternal hope for you. It is a beautiful surrender to trust in Him. It is letting go of who you thought you were and embracing who He is making you to be.

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I pray he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:12-17 paraphrased).