As a recovering people pleaser myself, I certainly can relate to Kelly’s story. And when we’ve spent most of our lives shape-shifting and trying to fit in, sometimes it takes a drastic situation or event from outside of ourselves to get our attention. In Kelly’s case, God met her in a big way, far away from home. He made her aware of where she had been placing her value and identity, and to this day continues to guide her into freedom. I love Kelly’s story and the mission she’s found for her life. I pray that it encourages you to embrace who God made you to be too, sweet friend.
This is Kelly’s Freedom Story.
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Even as a little girl, all I ever wanted was to please people. If we were playing the game of “good church answers,” we’d say I needed Jesus. You’re right. I had church, but I didn’t have Jesus.
High school was a mess, but not many people would have really known because I did a pretty good job of managing how things looked. Thankfully, I met my now-husband and he took on the role of being the steady part of my life. All through my twenties, I fought to figure out who I was. I wanted to be the good Christian wife, but I hadn’t found anyone quite like me to imitate so I did my best to fit in, or at least not stand out.
Finally, at 30 years old, I started to understand who I was meant to be. Separated from all the distractions of my life, Jesus met me in a Guatemalan ghetto.
Being in Guatemala without the pressure to perform and responsibilities of home, I was free to experience God at work for the first time. I’ll never forget my first hike into the Maria Teresa ghetto. Walking down the steep steps, we stopped every so often to visit a family in their small, cobbled together home. Each time, God spoke through the families, assuring me of his presence and pulling me in even tighter. When we reached the bottom, the community who struggled to provide for themselves welcomed us like family with food and games. “Our home is your home. You are always welcome here.” Day 2 of the trip and I was changing.
Looking back I see my struggle. Without knowing God or understanding how he created me, I was never going to fit anywhere. The restlessness I felt was never going to get better because I wasn’t looking for the right things. All my life, I’ve been striving to be the best, to please people, and to be who they wanted me to be. It wasn’t always a bad thing. I have so much to be thankful for because people believed in my abilities and pushed me, but I also carry guilt and shame for the ways I disappointed myself trying to please others.
I know there are other women like me. We’re the ones on the fringe at church or just outside. Sometimes we try to be part of the group, to fully engage, but no matter how hard we try, it just doesn’t feel right. You probably won’t notice though because we’re really good at hiding who we really are.
We’re playing a part, always dreading the reality that one day we might stand out. This is how I’ve felt for the majority of my life. The older I’ve gotten and the closer I am to God, the more uncomfortable I’ve become living what feels like a lie.
Life experience tells me to protect myself, to put up walls, keep everyone out, and avoid getting hurt. Self-preservation has been my go-to in the past, but the isolation is suffocating. I need people in my life who allow me to be real and still love me. When I’m wrestling with the tension of questions and faith, wondering if I have the right answers or if the questions even matter, I need people who aren’t afraid and won’t abandon me. Working to become who God is asking me to be isn’t a solitary assignment.
What I know for sure is God didn’t make a mistake when he rolled the dice with me. (If we’re being proper, there’d be no dice game for God, but I already told you I don’t fit in.) He isn’t disappointed with who I’ve become, even with who I’ve been in the past. Believe it or not, he isn’t keeping score at all.
I wish this story could be tied up with a beautiful bow and note saying I’ve found freedom and joy in believing who God says I am. But even now, at 38 years old I struggle to be confident in who I am and what God is calling me to do. I doubt myself constantly, my mind like a playback reel of all the ways I need to be better—be calmer, don’t curse, be more patient with the kids, and forgive old wounds—just to name a few. Letting go of my own shame and disappointment is almost impossible.
I fight to believe God could ever be proud of me just the way I am. My greatest fear is that one day someone will walk up, or let’s get real—comment online, that I am a terrible writer, a heretic, and completely unworthy of working in ministry to teach and share the gospel. I live my life waiting for the shoe to drop and someone to call me out as the imposter I fear I am.
Two very different narratives compete in my life at all times—God tells me he is strong and has an amazing plan for me, while the devil is making me relive all the minute (and sometimes not minute) ways I have failed.
Jesus met me in Guatemala eight years ago and keeps showing up. Sometimes he shows up through someone’s encouragement, occasionally the Holy Spirit pushes me in a way I can’t resist, and still other times there’s unbelievable ideas I can’t shake. I wouldn’t be a writer on my own. When I started my first blog, I didn’t even tell people out of fear they’d read my posts. Going to seminary was certainly never part of my plan. But seeking, learning, writing, and serving have all led me to the place he wants me.
I am the misfit in your church, the one who doesn’t really fit.
Without a doubt, God is asking me to be honest with you about who I really am, what I believe, what I question, and how he’s using me. Friends, we need to embrace the ones on the outside because he’s working in them too. My questions are not a measure of the faith I lack. Instead, it’s the way God works in me, allowing me to question my understanding to seek deeper truth and a sincere understanding of how he wants me to be.
Without him, I wouldn’t be sharing this story with you. Nor would I be working for an orphanage or writing a book for all of us who feel slightly on the edge.
I am choosing to believe in my freedom and the purpose he has for me. Even on the days when it’s a fight not to fall into the depths of self-loathing or when someone’s words cut straight to my deepest insecurities. If my book never gets published, or if it does and is quickly forgotten, I’ll keep sharing because if for no one else, this is God’s purpose in my life. He is asking me to go forward and be honest with others who feel like misfits.
This is for the one who was afraid to be herself until she heard my story. It’s also for my girls, who I desperately want to show how to face their fears. This is my story of walking with God, wrestling with my faith, and embracing who he created me to be.
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Kelly Beckley Shank found her passion serving in Guatemala. A writer, frequent flyer to Guatemala, and wannabe world traveler, Kelly encourages women to embrace their identity in Christ, especially those on the outside. When not traveling, she enjoys farm life with her husband, 3 children, and their myriad of animals.
P.S. Want to read more stories of hope and freedom? Read the Freedom Stories of more than thirty different women here. Only a few more left before the summer!
Entering into motherhood is a huge change and adjustment in of itself. If any other major life transitions or challenges are added into the mix, it can be really overwhelming to see clearly and find your way forward. Morgan vulnerably and beautifully shares her story of a challenging time in her life, and how God led her through to healing. I love following her stories about her little boy and family, but I especially love what she shares about how God’s working in her heart. Thank you for sharing with us, Morgan!
This is Morgan’s Freedom Story.
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Our most sought after, long-awaited dream was about to come true.
We were finally expecting our first baby: a little boy who was to arrive in the Spring of our fourth year of marriage. We had prayed and waited for this miracle for as long as we could remember.
As I juggled the responsibilities of being a full time special-education teacher and wife, I spent each day with great anticipation over the miracle that was growing inside of my belly.
Despite the fact that I had been perfectly healthy my entire life, I began to develop chronic ear infections. I merely attributed them to the strange ways that pregnancy can affect a woman’s body. After countless ENT appointments, tube insertions, and a few months of significant hearing loss, I determined to persevere until our baby arrived.
Surely, I thought, everything will be back to normal after he’s born.
Six weeks after our healthy, precious boy came into our lives, I was deeply entrenched in the joys and responsibilities of being a first-time mom. The nursing difficulties, the routines, the night-time feeding sessions with heavy eyelids and a tired body; I relished it all. And yet I felt more exhausted than I had in my entire life. At this point, my ear infections had not lessened and I had multiple ENT’s stumped.
It was as if I was smiling as I walked over quicksand. I rarely let my guard down, because I knew that every new mom had something they were dealing with. Why should my difficulties be any more significant? Little did I know that God was doing a mighty work inside of me, both spiritually and physically.
At my best friend’s house, there was a small set of stairs that led from the foyer down to her front door. I distinctly remember the realization that came over me as I slowly moved down the stairs, clutching the railing in order to lessen the pain radiating through my knees and ankles.
Nothing about that was normal, as much as I’d tried to convince myself otherwise.
I was determined not to let my joints, fatigue, or pain in my sinuses keep me from enjoying being a mother. My husband took tremendous care of me, but I was stubborn. I pried myself out of bed for every feeding, collapsing back under the covers as I tried to get enough rest to make it through the next day.
I finally saw my primary care doctor, who ran a series of tests. In the weeks that I waited for answers, I felt fear and uncertainty rise to the surface. My body felt as though it was falling apart, but the miracle of motherhood kept me going.
As my disease progressed, I began to have trouble with the simplest of daily tasks like walking and getting dressed. My husband and loved ones started to pull more weight with household tasks and in taking care of our baby. When I had to have help getting out of the bathtub or with turning over in bed, I felt a mixture of deep longing and of shame.
There was nothing I could do, no instant remedy. No way of outsmarting, out-working or ‘fixing’ it on my own.
At the surface, all of the unknowns were staring me in the face and making me feel as though the mountain I was facing was insurmountable. I had a deep longing just to be a ‘normal’ mother. But deep inside of me, God made Himself known. His peace held fast within the depths of my heart, even when everything I knew seemed to crumble around me.
In the midst of the pain, I graciously did my best to savor the small moments with my little one. The tiny breathing, the smiles, and the countless hours lying with him close to me.
It wasn’t long before a rheumatologist referral, more tests, chest scans, and lots of blood work finally revealed a diagnosis. Wegener’s disease. A very rare auto-immune vasculitis that causes inflammation of blood vessels and affects the sinuses, lungs and kidneys. By the provision of God alone, I now knew the name for the odd malady that had taken over me, thanks to a smart, compassionate person whose life purpose was to save people from rheumatological diseases.
I could now begin treatment and work toward my new normal.
Through the depths of struggle that made up that time period of my life, the Lord was gentle with me. He led me to exactly the right people, places and positions at exactly the right times.
Things would get worse, for a time, and then they would get better. Much better. Today, I live life pain-free. My new normal is not without its responsibilities, or extra routines to keep me healthy. I have worked to make changes in all areas of life to ensure that I stay on the path to healing.
Though I was held captive by a physical darkness, the spiritual light that had transformed me so long ago had won the day. I learned that life is not without its obstacles. Sometimes there are roadblocks that show up along your path, and other times a whole mountain is blocking your view. We need not despair, because our loving Father will never fail to gently lift us up and carry us all the way around to the other side.
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About Morgan: I am a former teacher, staying at home with our toddler while learning to embrace my love for writing. My family is currently waiting on our next baby through domestic adoption. When I’m not at home chasing around our little one, I am most likely reading, cooking, going on a walk or spending time at the lake.
P.S. Want to read more stories of hope, healing, and freedom? Check out the other 30+ brave women of faith who have shared their Freedom Stories here.
Comparison. Insecurity. Perfectionism.
But then, Christ.
When Lyndsie became a mama, God helped Lyndsie to see just how much she was loved. Her story of coming to understand God’s unconditional love is one that I hope encourages you and meets you where you are today, especially if you struggle with insecurity or trying to measure up to an impossible standard.
This is Lyndsie’s Freedom Story.
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“You’ll never measure up to her,” I whispered to the tear-streaked face in the mirror. “You’ll never be good enough.”
I don’t know how many times this scene has repeated itself in my lifetime. The “her” was different nearly every time. She may have been a friend who had reached a new level of success that I could only hope for. She may have been a random stranger on social media who was living my dream. She may have been an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in a while that I ran into at a restaurant and realized just how beautiful she was. How could she be so skinny after four kids? I was struggling with baby weight from two!
Whoever she was, knew I would never measure up. And the thought crushed me every time.
A matter of self-esteem
I grew up in a home with one parent who was loving and caring. The other left me at a young age, and only visited and spent time with me periodically. I didn’t realize until many years later just how much that affected me.
Growing up, I had braces, glasses and frizzy hair. While I had friends, I wasn’t popular, and was often forgotten. I had good grades, but I didn’t consider myself smart. I didn’t like to be the center of attention, but I longed to be noticed and included. I was painfully shy, and people probably thought I was stuck-up. My worst fear was to be laughed at, or made to look stupid, so most of the time, I kept my thoughts and opinions to myself.
Trying to measure up
I consider myself so blessed to have been raised in a Christian home, and a wonderful church. I first realized my need for salvation when I was thirteen, and asked Jesus to save me. I knew that salvation was a free gift, and I could never earn it. What I didn’t understand was unconditional love.
So many things in my life made me believe I had to work to try to measure up. I needed to work be beautiful or accepted or smart enough. No one told me I needed to measure up, or even that I had something to measure up to. All I had were my own ideals of what I thought I should be.
Trying to measure up to the perfect women is one thing. (Although, really, what is a perfect woman?) But trying to measure up to a perfect Christian is another thing altogether. But I tried. Oh, how I tried.
The thing to realize about striving for perfection, is that you can never get there. But you keep trying and trying. I thought if I could just do better, or be better, God would love me more. But if I couldn’t do better, He would be hurt and disappointed in me.
And so I did what I thought I needed to do. Read my Bible. Check. Pray. Check. Go to church. Check. Say the words. Do the things. But if a day passed when I didn’t read my Bible or pray, I felt guilty. When my lost family members didn’t get saved, or even accept my invitations to come to church, I felt like a failure.
Inside I believed that God was disappointed in me. He expected more of me than I was giving. I couldn’t measure up to what He wanted.
A change of heart
All my life I heard that God loves us like a father loves his children. I could never understand that, of course, until I had a child of my own. As I started interacting with my son, so many things suddenly became clear to me.
I love my boys unconditionally. Nothing could make me love them more or less. When they do something good, I am so proud of them, but I don’t love them more. When they are mean or disobedient, I don’t love them any less.
I want to spend time with my boys. I love when they come to me and want to snuggle on my lap. I love to hear their little voices tell me how much they love me. If they push away from me, or don’t want to be with me, I’m not angry. But my heart is hurt.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my kids is how bad behavior separates us. There are times when I have something special planned for them, but when they misbehave or have bad attitudes, I can’t enjoy the special things I had planned. But I don’t love them any less.
It’s the same in my relationship with God. He loves me unconditionally, whether I do all the right things or not. When I disobey, or don’t do the things I know He wants, He is hurt, and our relationship cannot be what He wants. His desire is to spend time with me, but I can push Him away. He won’t force His way back in. But, as with my boys, when I’m ready to run to Him, He’s still there, loving me, and waiting for me. Life is so much sweeter when I make the choice to follow His will and spend time with Him.
A changed life
As I slowly began to better understand God’s love, I began to see the whole world differently. For so long I had been working to earn something that was already mine. My time with God had simply become one more thing to check off the list. I did all the things that a good Christian is supposed to do, but I didn’t do them from a heart of willingness.
When I realized that God loves me no matter what I do, I didn’t stop doing those right things I’d been doing. But they were different. My daily Bible study and prayer became a time I enjoyed. A time I spent with Someone Who loved me and would never stop. If I missed a day of my personal quiet time, instead of feeling guilty, I felt sad, because I was missing an important part of my life. And I knew that God felt the same way. He wasn’t sitting in Heaven being angry at me for not checking “pray and study” off my list. Instead, He missed spending that time with me.
John 8:32 says, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” When I realized the truth of God’s unconditional love, I was free. I no longer felt the need to measure up to an impossible ideal of the perfect Christian. But I also found the self-esteem that I’d been missing for most of my life. I finally realized that God doesn’t compare me to someone else and expect me to be better. He only expects me to do the best with what He’s given me.
I found a new confidence in the woman God created me to be. I have tried things I never thought I’d do before. I have learned that I can do hard things, and I can succeed. When I find myself thinking that I can’t measure up, I take a minute to consider where that thought is coming from. Because it doesn’t come from God.
I mess up every single day. There are times when I feel the separation from my Heavenly Father, brought on by my own bad attitude or behavior. But now I know without a doubt that He is always there loving me. And nothing I ever do or don’t do can change that. That truth has set me free.
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Lyndsie is a wife and stay-at-home mom to two ornery boys. When she has spare time you can usually find her reading a good book, making a quilt or baking something sweet. She lives and writes on ten acres in the Low Country of South Carolina. You can find her thoughts about faith, motherhood and life in an RV at Not Just a SAHM.
P.S. Want to read more Freedom Stories of hope and encouragement? Check out 30 other stories about finding freedom through Christ and authentic community here.