I made a promise to my daughter the day she was born.
As I gazed into my baby girl’s eyes for the very first time, I silently assured her:
I’m going to meet your every need.
In that sacred moment, it felt right to make such a vow. She was so tiny, and I was overwhelmed by a protective instinct so strong, I felt like a combination of Wonder Woman and the Incredible Hulk.
But if I could go back twenty-seven years and whisper a few words to my new mom self, here’s what I’d say:
No you won’t.
You won’t even come close.
We went home from the hospital the day after Annemarie was born, and oh, how I tried to honor my promise: I’m going to meet your every need.
When she was bored, I tried to be Fun Mom.
When she was sad, I tried to be Nurturing Mom.
When she broke things, I tried to be Fix-It-Fast Mom.
When she couldn’t find things, I tried to be Organized Mom.
If she needed it, I tried hard to be it.
I did a wonderful job of meeting her every need.
But then she turned two days old, and everything went haywire.
The second day after we got home from the hospital, Annemarie was fussy. I fed her. I burped her. I changed her.
I tried singing to her, but that only seemed to make her cry harder.
Finally, exhausted, I handed her over to my mother, expecting (and secretly hoping) that there would be no change.
But the transformation was both instantaneous and dramatic.
Not only did Annemarie stop crying, but as her Nana began to sing, she started to smile.
“It’s just gas,” I said, stunned and a little hurt that my child had calmed right down with someone other than me.
Now, I would love to tell you that this was the moment I recognized that my promise I’m going to meet your every need was unrealistic, foolish, and impossible to fulfill.
Unfortunately, I took it as a challenge.
And I determined to try all the harder to be the one to meet my daughter’s every need.
For the next quarter-of-a-century, I muddled through motherhood, constantly overwhelmed by self-inflicted feelings of colossal failure.
Flash forward 25 years to Annemarie’s Bachelor of Fine Arts Solo Exhibition. She’s drawn large portraits of the twenty key people in her life, each one titled with a single word that defines their connection to her.
I quickly scan the gallery walls for my portrait so I can see what label she gave me. But before I can find mine, I see Aunt Karen’s:
It takes all my willpower not to run to the restroom and burst into tears.
I didn’t get Nurturer.
Which means I didn’t meet my daughter’s need for nurturing.
I tried, by golly, I tried.
But I didn’t even come close.
I’m just not made out of nurturing stuff.
I’m made out of …
I find my portrait and read my label.
… evidently, I’m made out of Writer stuff.
Whatever that even means.
Clearly, Aunt Karen succeeded where I failed.
But what if that’s okay?
The unexpected thought crashes my pity party.
What if she didn’t need me to meet her every need?
I look at my daughter, laughing with guests who are here for her grand opening. She’s all grown up into someone I am so proud to know, let alone share genes with.
What if she just needed me to be me?
I look at the titles of the other portraits:
Mentor … Philosopher … Listener … Challenger …
And suddenly, I am overwhelmed with gratitude toward Aunt Karen and and all the other people who have poured into to my daughter’s life, meeting needs that I never could.
The truth begins to settle into my heart:
She really didn’t need me to meet her every need.
Accepting the Truth
So if you’re a mom who feels like she’s constantly falling short? letting her kids down? never even coming close to meeting all their needs?
Lean in close, and let me whisper this truth to you:
Cheri Gregory is a teacher, speaker, author, and Certified Personality Trainer. Her passion is helping women break free from destructive expectations. She writes and speaks from the conviction that “how to” works best in partnership with “heart, too.” Cheri is the co-author, with Kathi Lipp, of The Cure for the “Perfect” Life and Overwhelmed.
Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, her opposite personality, for twenty-eight years and is “Mom” to Annemarie (25) and Jonathon (23), also opposite personalities.
Cheri blogs about perfectionism, people-pleasing, highly sensitive people, and hope at www.cherigregory.com.
You are precious and honored in my sight, and… I love you. (Isaiah 43:4, NIV)
All it takes is an instant for me to forget my royal identity and start labeling myself with lies. Like the time I froze up over a spatula while hosting a baby shower. I’d opened the doors of our tiny rental house, keenly aware of the four-foot scrape on the linoleum floor, and other dings and dents left by previous tenants. The pressure of playing hostess to a bunch of southern belles who knew how to act at a baby shower (way better than I did) was stifling. That’s when it happened. Someone asked for my cake server. Knowing I didn’t have one in the wedding-gift stash, I rummaged around in the junk drawer for an alternative. When I finally produced a semi-melted, black plastic spatula, I saw what looked like disdain as the other ladies scrutinized it.
And that’s when I froze. My spirit crushed as I accessed my most painful memories of being bullied in junior high school. In an instant, I was that sixth grade girl, fearful, weak, a nobody. I harshly labeled myself:
“You don’t fit in.”
“You can’t do anything right.”
How God Sees Me
Elijah knew his unique identity in the Lord. But he also knew labels. A prophet of God, he had a special message. One filled with heart for God’s people. And yet, King Ahab, with all his royal clout, labeled Elijah in 1 Kings 18:17: “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” Ouch.
I love how Elijah dealt with this, and the general dejection of running for his life:
He took care of business – divine business. Read the story of Elijah praying for fire down from heaven in 1 Kings 18:21-39. It’s awesome.
He got alone and took his heart to God. “I have had enough, LORD.” (1 Kings 19:4)
And what did God do? He provided for his needs.He fed him bread for the journey ahead.
So what can I learn from Elijah, who was human, just like I am? (James 5:17)
When I feel unloved, I take my hurts to God. He holds my hand and collects my tears in a bottle. (Isaiah 42:6, Psalm 56:8)
When I feel like nobody, I remember that I am precious and honored in God’s sight. (Isaiah 43:4)
When I feel like I don’t fit in, I remember He has not rejected me. (Isaiah 41:9, 10)
Friend, take your hurts to God. He’ll give you bread, sustenance, for the journey.
One Small Step
What lies are your inner bullies telling you? Are you listening to and affirming them?
Prayerfully write down who you are in God. Post on your bathroom mirror, your phone background, and above your kitchen sink. Let these beautiful truths sink in as they become louder than the mind clutter bullies.
Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours (Isaiah 61:7, NIV).
Before I could change my mind, I scooped up my bathroom scale and tossed it into the box labeled, “Goodwill.”
I took a picture of the giveaway box containing a perfectly good bathroom scale (one I’d used daily, sometimes multiple times) and sent it to my friend, Melissa. “Goodbye, bossy box!” I captioned it.
Though technically not house clutter, it did represent a whole heap of heart clutter.
After sharing with Melissa my struggles about shame over my weight, I realized I had become a slave to a digital number. My mood each day depended on whether that number went up or down.
“Has it been working for you so far?” Melissa had asked. I had to agree with her; it hadn’t helped me lose weight or have a healthy relationship with food. It only added to the weight of shame I’d been carrying. I plunked the box into the garage and decided to focus on other markers of health success.
Since my decluttering session, my mood has been a lot lighter. I have the freedom to engage in self care (exercising to feel better and sleep better, rather than punishing myself for a number on a box). I base my success on how good and healthy I feel rather than a fluctuating number.
Shame only serves to weigh us down rather than to help us grow and serve the purpose God created us for (Ephesians 2:10). Before we can ever deal with the exterior problem, we have to throw off the heart clutter holding us back.
Often, items cluttering up our home are tangible evidence we’re carrying around too much shame in our hearts. To the naked eye, it looks like a bathroom scale or 50 bottles of lotion you’ll never use or 6 old phones sitting in your top drawer. But down under the useless stuff, there’s shame involved. Your clutter might represent bad financial decisions, abusive relationships, or other poor choices—any number of things we chronically kick ourselves over.
Once we recognize an item triggers shame in our hearts, it’s easier to toss it. We can’t change whatever caused the shame in the past, but we can make positive, nurturing changes that help us live in a joyful present. Without the weight of shame, we are free to go out and do what we were made to do in the world.
One Small Win
Think of one item in your house you keep, not because it serves you well, but out of shame. Imagine the feeling of lifting the weight of shame off of you when you get it out of your house. Take a deep breath, and do it!
Lyneta Smith and her husband Doug live near Nashville, TN. When not entertaining their adult children or caring for a mischievous Boston terrier and opinionated tortoiseshell cat, they’re typing away on their computers or doing teaching/mentoring ministries in their church. You can read more from Lyneta at LynetaSmith.com.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
I’m ready to throw out all of my jeans. Nothing reminds me of the extra weight I’m wearing than a pair of jeans. My skinny jeans really are a paradox. As I tug, yank and wiggle out of them after a long day, I feel trapped in guilt. Suffocating guilt traps them like a denim straight jacket onto my hips. Why haven’t I lost weight yet? How could I have let myself get this heavy? Why do I keep insisting on cramming my body into these jeans? I can’t shed these jeans fast enough. Unfortunately, those extra pounds don’t make fast an option.
Eventually I peel off the jeans and throw them in a heap on my closet floor. They lay there, mocking me. I might have removed the jeans from my body, yet I still don’t feel free of them. There’s another layer squeezing me, my heart.
The guilt. Oh the guilt.
That’s much more difficult to remove. And today it’s almost impossible to shimmy out of.
I quickly grab a pair of leggings and pull them on, their softness and comfort enveloping me. Oh how I long for the same feeling in my heart.
Deep in my heart, I hear a whisper. A reminder. My worth is not found in how my jeans fit, the number on the tag in my jeans, or the number on the scale.
My worth is in Jesus.
For me to wear the peace of that statement, I need to not only shed the too-tight clothes, but the guilt, the shame and the disappointment that comes with them.
Hebrews 4:16 reminds me that because of Jesus, I can approach the throne of God’s grace with confidence. Not with guilt, shame and fear. With confidence. No matter the size of my jeans. The number of the scale. God wants me to come to Him with confidence, but what waits for me there is so much better than confidence! He’s waiting for me, for you, with grace and mercy. And as I find His grace and mercy, I can begin to extend it to myself.
And today, that looks like adding that pair of jeans to the bag of items I’m going to donate later this week. And since I’m already in my closet, I might as well go through some other clothes that don’t fit me. They’re just clutter anyway.
As I let go of clothing that doesn’t fit me, I also let go of the guilt that God never designed to fit my heart.
One Small Win
What’s one item that you can give away or throw away today that will not only release you from physical clutter but from the emotional clutter of guilt? Once you think of it, go do it! Bag it up and put it in your trunk for the next time you’re near a donation spot or throw it away if it’s trash. As you get rid of it, say goodbye to the guilt about it too!
Melissa Mulvaney is a wife, triple-boy blessed mama, writer, certified life coach and lover of her loud and joyful life. She’s known for her cowbells skills, only writes with pink pens, has the loudest laugh in the room, uses 10 exclamation points instead of a period, and cheers her people on literally and figuratively. If cheering people on was a sport, Melissa would win the gold! You can connect with her at MelissaMulvaney.com.
It all started in the garden with Eve…doubt and comparison crept in with the question, “Did God really say….?”
We see it in the Bible with the story of Rachel and Leah too. They didn’t need social media to allow comparison to grow a wedge between them. We need to decide who’s truth we are going to align our lives with, ours or God’s?
Join Kathi and Nicki Koziarz as they talk about comparison and how we have the false perception that to do something great for the kingdom of God, we need to go viral, live big or have thousands of followers. Nicki urges us to see how what God is doing in each of us is so special and unique, that we can’t dare to put a classification on what He’s doing in our lives.
Meet Our Guest
Nicki Koziarz is a wife and mom to three girls plus a handful of barnyard babies. They live just outside of Charlotte, NC. She is an inspirational author, Bible teacher, and speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries. Nicki leads from her own brokenness that somehow God is making meaningful. www.nickikoziarz.com
In this episode Kathi chats with Kristen Kill, author of Finding Selah, The Simple Practice of Peace When you Need it Most. After the birth of her oldest daughter, before post-partum depression was widely diagnosed, Kristen remembers the fog that surrounded her. Rather than cry out to God, she retreated, tiptoeing around God, afraid to speak.
Kristen shares the need for us to create a space of rest, a space of quiet in our lives so we can re-sync with Jesus throughout our day.
Join us for this thoughtful episode and be encouraged!
Kristen has generously offered a Free Download Print by Rachel Jacobson from Portland, OR for our listeners. Click here to download.
Three giveaway copies of the book to 3 random people who comment the answer to this question in the comments section below: “How today are you going to create just a place of selah in your life?”
Meet Our Guest
Kristen Kill is a woman transformed by the delight of God. A contributing editor at The Better Mom, and co-host of At Home, a popular podcast with Sally Clarkson, Kristen is passionate about encouraging women who feel stretched thin with the truth that, even in the tension, God is singing over them with love.
After spending the last seven years in the hustle of New York City, Kristen and her husband, Josh, are learning to go slow as they raise their five kids in the Pacific Northwest. Her days are filled with homeschooling, walking her slightly anxious hound dog, and putting off the cleaning for one more day.