• freedom stories

    Rescued From the Life I Wanted – Paola’s Story

    Friends, I’m so excited for you to meet Paola. She is sharing her story with us today through an interview we had this week. I love how technology can put us in touch with sisters/community from all over the world. If her words speak to you, be sure to let her know in the comments below or hop on over to her site (linked in her bio below).

    Here is Paola’s Freedom Story

    Hi Paola! I’m so grateful you’re willing to share your story with us. Before we get into it, will you tell us some of the fun stuff? Tell us about where you’re from, what you love to do, and anything else that will give us a little slice into your life!

    Several addresses and many accents along the way summarize my life. I was born in Spanish, live in French, and think in English! Born in Venezuela I was raised and educated between cultures. My formative years were spent between Europe and the US. I became a believer in college through the ministry of Inter-Varsity, and later joined a local church that became my home church for ten years. Years later I would return to Venezuela, now an adult. This makes me a TCK – short for Third Culture Kid.

    Practically a foreigner, it would prove a hard experience, and by God’s grace, a great blessing. It was there that I met and married my husband. As the political situation there worsened, we began to pray for and research legal avenues to leave. The Lord made a way and after a rigorous application process, we were approved and immigrated to Canada in 2012. We became Canadian citizens in 2015.

    It’s all harder than it sounds, less glamorous than it looks, and infinitely more blessed than I could have ever expected. When we moved to Montreal, learning to run in its majestic winter became a goal. Now, for fun, I run outside year-round in Canada!

    What a journey! And friends… Paola runs in the snow, like -20C (which is about -13F). So she’s a warrior in my mind! Paola, Galatians 5:1 is a key verse for our FREEDOM STORIES. It says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Therefore, do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” What was the old yoke you were living under? What was that slavery like for you?

    Ever since I can remember, I wanted to succeed. Both my upbringing and my education showed the ideals of the world, so I had very high expectations of myself from a young age. By the time I was in my 20’s I was hungry for achievement, that I may feel validated and important. Without realizing it, I gladly served at the altar of success. My worth was completely married to the fruits of my labour.

    What were some of the old narratives you absorbed?

    My old narratives dictated that to be someone, I needed to attain certain goals. The size of my bank account, my job title and client portfolio; it all said something about me that confirmed to me and others I was a person of value. I was hungry for achievement because I was hungry for identity.

    The core issue with narratives is to ask – is this true? According to who? There is nothing wrong with wanting a good job and salary. The issue becomes the definitions we attach to things. For me, these things became markers of approval. A full life was a life of influence and plenty. I was working with the wrong definitions.

    What was the turning point? Was there a rock bottom or a point that you realized that you couldn’t live like that any longer?

    The turning point came in the form of a severe burnout and depression. At the age of 43, I woke up one day hating my life so much I was looking for ways to quit it. Nothing will sober you up more than to realize you have the life you wanted, and its emptiness swallows you whole. None of the achievements I’d worked so hard for were giving me any of the validation and comfort I wanted. (If you want to read more about that, I’ve written about it here).

    So what happened next? What actions did you take? Did you connect with community or find new Truths that helped you find freedom?

    The moment of truth came when I finally made the decision to quit my job. It seems like such a simple and even small thing. People quit their jobs every day. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Who would I be then? After being the shadow of a person for months, tired, sleepless, and depressed, with a big gulp I timidly typed up and handed my resignation. It was the hardest and most freeing thing.

    After I quit it, I realized I wasn’t just quitting that job. I was quitting an entire way of looking at myself and others. I was quitting a pursuit of 15+ years to make a name for myself, that had turned out to be a house of cards.

    My husband coined the aftermath of my quitting rehab and detox. Indeed, over the months that followed, I relearned to be a person again. Stripped of all the things that gave me identity and security, I had to learn to walk again. Scripture became my shelter. I read and pray like never before. I had lost my way home and got to see God’s truth afresh. It was such a gift, that literally saved me from myself.

    To find myself face to face with the gospel again was the greatest respite from the relentless pursuit of so many years. Jesus’s work on the cross makes me whole. The Bible clearly states that it is by grace alone that we are saved. Our identity is safely in the hands that were pierced for my sake, that I may have communion with the Father. Losing sight of that had meant losing my lifeline. Lies spread into every crevice of my thought-life. Reconnecting to the Vine, revived my heart and made room for the Truth while exposing the lies.

    Being part of a gospel-centered church was also pivotal. To hear God’s Word preached Sunday after Sunday makes a dent. When I was lost in the idolatry of success those words became medicine when I finally understood my workaholism and idolatry.

    I love your story because I see myself (and many others) in it. You made such a bold change that required such a step of faith, and I’m so grateful to hear about the changes that brought for you. Tell me about your life of freedom. What does it look like for you now?

    Today I see my life is small and my God is big. I was so hungry for spectacular, so avid for results, I had reduced God to a small caregiver I’d summon when things got too hard to face or I didn’t have the outcome I was hoping for. Today, my life is small and simple. I don’t have a big salary for an important position at a big-name company. My days are invested being a wife, a learner, and a mentor, writing, reading, and studying. I try to live each of those roles out of the title that makes every breath possible – disciple. I am a follower of Christ.

    Do you still wrestle with those old struggles? What do you do on those days to fight for your freedom?

    Of course! The flesh is in perpetual opposition to God. There are days when I fear my life is too small to count. My calendar, once filled with meetings with big-name clients, now has writing days, and coffee dates with women I mentor. Sometimes I feel like my contribution to our household economy reflects my worth. I’m especially grateful for my husband, who is the first to bring me to the Truth.

    Today when I feel down and realize the root is a thought that is faulty in light of Scripture, I try to preach Truth to my heart instead. The feelings may linger, but I pray, confess my heart out to God, maybe share with a trusted friend or two and ask for their prayers. Don’t want to entertain what is not Truth-based. The gospel is too precious, was too costly, and is too powerful, for me to waste my time investing in things that are not aligned with it.

    Yes! Are there any key scriptures, quotes, or books that have been helpful for you on your journey into freedom?

    My story of freedom is a story of RESCUE. He rescued me from endlessly trying to build my own little kingdom of self-sufficiency. Clarity on who He is brings clarity on whose I am. God has Lordship over all things and we are utterly dependent on Him. This brings Him glory. It’s a heavenly perspective that helps me to put things in their rightful place – Jesus on the throne, my life in His hands, my heart trusting His. He’s strong, I don’t have to be. He is trustworthy.

    “Know therefore today and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above, and on the earth beneath; there is no other.” (Deuteronomy 4:39 ESV)
    “Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth. Unite my heart to fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11 ESV)
    “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7 NIV)
    “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6 ESV)

    Those are such powerful Truths! And I love what you said about our own little kingdoms. I’ve built a few of my own over the years, and you touched on something I think a lot of people can relate to in your story. I’m so grateful you’ve found freedom. Okay, one last question, because I’m a big believer that gratitude lists help us remain present and fight our battles, tell me 3 things you’re grateful for right now. 🙂

    1. God’s Word – It’s made ALL the difference. God’s words have carried me through the painful process of ridding my heart of all previous go-to behaviours and definitions and held me tenderly in the safety and provision of His promises. I testify of His goodness and faithfulness with all my heart!
    2. God’s people – My husband and close friends who prayed me through the dark time. For new ones that bless my life and teach me the good fruits of love, gentleness, and patience.
    3. New beginnings – He is making all things new. Writing is a hard and humbling activity for me. I’m grateful for the ministry of words that I feel called to learn to steward. It keeps me utterly dependent on God.

    – – –

    Paola Barrera is a writer who desires to let the Word be the lamp unto our feet it says it is, letting it edit our narratives and words with those that matter most – God’s. She writes regularly at Words Outloud and lives with her husband Gustavo in Montreal, Canada. You can follow her on Twitter @Paola_BarreraR and Instagram @paola_m_barrera.

    – – –

    Special thanks to Richard Lee (with Unsplash) for the image of the birds in flight to accompany this post!

  • freedom,  intentional living,  meditation

    Open

    || O P E N ||

    A suddenly free day created an expanse of time for thought around this word.

    …Open…

    To lay beneath a tree and look through the clearings, between the branches, to take in the expanse of pure blue sky.

    Space for Sabbath rest, a run by the river, cooking the stew that reminds me of my best friend.

    To hold hands open, gentle, soft for whatever is placed in them.

    To remove clutter, extra, the unhealthy and the unneeded. To make space for the healthy and good.

    To hear other people’s stories without judgment.

    To create room for those who are different than me to feel heard and loved.

    Allowing my own feelings to rise up without self-criticism. Letting go, as with a breath, those that are not healthy or helpful. Holding on to what is true and will create growth.

    Offering grace.

    To let love in again after deep pain and sorrow.

    Noticing the September around me.

    ||

    What does the word OPEN mean to you today?

  • freedom,  identity,  insecurity,  rest

    You Are Enough (and the 5 things that happen when you don’t believe that…)

    “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” -Galatians 1:10 (ESV)

    The Lies:

    Picture this.

    There’s an old wooden ladder, leaned up against a tall tree. Climbing this ladder proves to be challenging– shaky, unsteady. As you look around at the other trees, you see that some others are taller, some others are wider, some have brighter fruit or bigger leaves. So you keep climbing to get as high as you can. The wind is blowing, and your ladder and the branches around you seem like they could give way at any moment. And if you’re looking around and thinking about where you are compared to everyone else, there will always be another anxious climb, even if not this tree or this ladder.

    But, what if there’s another way? Instead of climbing the ladder, can you just sit under the tree? Can you rest for a little while? With the solid ground beneath you, you run your fingers over the steady roots. You lean back, cradled in the shade of the leaves and branches above you. A bird is perched on a branch above and sings you a sweet song. You are grounded. Rooted. You are sheltered.

    Have ever struggled with any of these statements?

    • I’m too emotional.
    • I’m not outgoing enough.
    • I’m too loud; my personality is too big.
    • I’m not organized or productive enough for that job/company.
    • I’m too quiet to make an impact.
    • I’m not important enough for others to listen to.
    • I’m too broken for this church.
    • I’m not spiritual enough for that friend group.
    • I’m too quiet, shy, boring.
    • I’m not pretty enough.
    • I’m too inexperienced to succeed at this dream.

    But here’s the bigger question–who says so? Somewhere along the way, did you hear that some aspect of who you are doesn’t meet the standard of other people’s expectations? Did you absorb the message that you need to tone down your light or your level of excitement to make others comfortable? Sure, for one friend group or person, you may be “too much,” but for another relationship, those very same characteristics might seem like “not enough.” For one job or company, you may be “not creative enough,” but for another role, you might be “too outside of the box.” It’s funny… all of these too much/not enough statements are actually very subjective if you think about it.

    If we are living our lives in fear that our personalities, skill sets, and what we have to offer won’t meet the sliding scale of comfort or expectations for the culture around us, we end up living in a way that is inauthentic to who God created us to be.

    As a recovering people-pleaser, I have had to remind myself often of what God says about where I find my identity. Do I find it in the opinions of those around me? Or in HIS value in me?

    “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” – Proverbs 29:25

    “Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?” – Isaiah 2:22

    “For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” -John 12:43

    “Let no one deceive you with empty words…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” -Ephesians 5:6-10

    Here is what I’ve seen happen when we don’t believe that we are enough, just as we are:

    1. We gain false security: We become secure in things that can change at any moment. When we think we have reached the status of “secure” in the opinions of others, those views can change within moments, days, seasons. We can become puffed up with pride when we value those feelings and accolades of man higher than the view of God.
    2. We scramble: When we are constantly trying to get in the good graces of others, we end up doing things for the wrong motivation of trying to be SEEN as helpful, likeable, needed. Rather than stewarding the good gifts, skills, and characteristics God has given us, we scramble to try to earn the favor and praise of others.
    3. We strive: Similar to scrambling, striving happens when we start climbing a ladder fast and hard to meet the standards or expectations towards worldly “success.” This is what happens when we try to prove to ourselves or others that we ARE in fact enough. Can you learn to rest secure instead? Not in what you have done or haven’t yet done, but in what God has done for you. He has already rescued you, redeemed you, set you free. You do not have to live a life of striving.
    4. We become stunted: The too much/not enough lies can make us compare our beginnings, our skills, or our stories to those around us. And then in that comparison, we can become completely paralyzed. Our growth stops when we try to be like someone else, or when we are frozen in fear that we will never be good enough to try going after those dreams He’s placed in our hearts. Instead, we are called to walk forward in the confidence and calling that God has for us, and in who He made us to be.
    5. We suppress: When we fear rejection for the truest and most authentic parts of ourselves, we hold back and dim everything about us that in fact makes us unique. Because maybe, when we have let our true selves show in the past, someone verbalized our deepest fear….that who we are (our very essence) was too much/not enough for THEM. But for God? The One who made you? The one who knows the very numbers on your head? You are exactly who He made you to be, sweet friend.

     

    “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” -Isaiah 61:3

    The TRUTH:

    Notice that it says in Isaiah 61:3, that they will be called oaks of righteousness for HIS Splendor. By HIS planting.

    I know that we live in a culture of upward mobility. Of making room for ourselves to make our voices heard. Or rubbing elbows to get in with the right crowd. When we are not secure in who HE has made us to be, we worry that we are not enough. We become so fixated on what we can do, and on not making the mark, that the ground beneath us becomes unsteady.

    We do not have to do the work or put our own selves on display. In Him, we are oaks. Firm. Strong. Righteous. Planted- exactly as He made us, and exactly where He wants us to be.

    While the opinions, values, and feelings of this world can change in an instant, and are as fickle as the “breath in our nostrils,” our God is different. Throughout Scripture there are SO many powerful images of God as a steadfast and steady force. Here are just a few that remind me of the strength we can find when we trust in God:

    “And they remembered that God was their rock, and the Most High God their Redeemer,” -Psalm 78:35

    “For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?” -2 Samuel 22:32

    “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” -Romans 8:31

    “Be still and know that I am God.” -Psalm 46:10

    “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” -Psalm 95:1-5

    “‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” -Isaiah 54:10

    Instead of swaying back and forth, trying to be everything to everyone, I pray that in HIM, you can stand firm. I challenge you to rest secure in the fact that the Creator of the universe also created you, with all of your quirks, character traits, passions, and your specific voice. We do not have to scramble or strive for value, because we are already seen as valuable to our rock and redeemer. If we can take our focus off of the changing tides of this world, we can keep our eyes on His steady face and do it all for His glory instead of man’s.

    Lord I pray that you would remind each of us that we are not defined by what we DO, but by who you are, and who we are in you. Help us to rest secure in You, in your steadfast love and righteousness, not in our own striving or scrambling, or in the changing and unsteady things of this world. I pray that we would rest our souls before you, knowing that in you we can be called oaks of righteousness, planted and secure. Because you are more than enough for our questions of whether we are enough, Lord. We pray that today we might find our value in You, and You alone.

     

     

    *This post is part of a series about IDENTITY for the month of August. If you want to read the series, here is the introduction (Who do you think you are?), followed by a post about our new-found purity in Christ, no matter how dirty we feel (I am clean, I am made new), and last week’s post about the lie that you are unworthy of love. Also, special thanks to fancycrave1 of Pixaby and Kevin Young of Unsplash for the beautiful images to accompany this post.

  • faith,  freedom,  healing from wounds,  identity

    I am clean, I am made new

    In this identity series, I will tell you a story of my own struggle with a particular lie/old identity, and then the Scriptures and prayers I’ve used to re-claim a new identity in Christ. Read the intro here

    I thought I was…. (here are the lies I wrestled with):

    Unclean, dirty, impure, shameful, destined to repeat the past, defined by my sin/mistakes

    Over the course of my 30 years of life, I have oscillated between different identities related to my status of clean, unclean, pure, impure. There have been seasons where I wore my purity like a badge of honor, an outward symbol of how pure I could make myself. Looking back I can see it was just that–a badge that could easily fall off, a self-proclaimed purity. My heart wasn’t necessarily as clean as my outward actions.

    And there have been times when the actions of others or my own choices have left me in a pit of shame, chained down by darkness, covered in the grime of sin. Times when others called me “unclean” and I said, yep, that’s the truth. I took the words, actions, and fallen human choices that happened on this earth (either by myself or others) and let them define me as ultimate truth. No matter how much I prayed to feel clean I would not accept that God could really wash me and make me new again.

    This past April, I helped lead worship at a women’s retreat for my church. The theme of the retreat was “Clean.” In preparation for the retreat, I prayed deeply and listened dozens of times to Natalie Grant’s song “Clean” (which would be our theme song for the weekend). That gorgeous weekend at a retreat center in a wooded area of West Virginia, our speaker poured Truth over us about our status as clean in Christ. We sang the words, “there’s nothing too dirty that you can’t make worthy,” and I spent a lot of time journaling and praying. I knew something deep and rich was stirring in me– memories were rising to the surface from childhood and adolescence and even recent months and I was seeing for the first time that what God had already CALLED clean I was still wrapping around myself like a cloak of shame. Although He had already released me from the chains of the past, I was dragging them around and wallowing in my own shame and self-condemnation.

    I went for a run in the woods during the Saturday afternoon free time on the retreat. As I ran on the path down a big hill, I had this incredible feeling of innocence and childhood. With sunlight bursting through the trees and pouring over my head, I imagined a little girl running down a grassy hill into a field of wildflowers with her arms wide open to scoop up color. I laughed and felt like I could fly, I was so light and happy. And suddenly, I realized. Breakthrough. I let go of the chains I’d been set free from long ago– as I ran, I felt heavy weights falling off of my ankles and hands and my heart. I found myself running, wide open and free into pure JOY. Since that weekend, I have felt a sense of freedom I’ve never before experienced in my life– relishing in the fact that GOD has made me clean. There is nothing too dirty or shameful I could do that He would choose not to forgive if I asked in earnest for His forgiveness. Once He has washed me clean, I no longer have to sit and wallow in shame that I am dirty, unclean, or defined by my past. And there is nothing I can do to make myself worthy enough. I need Him to make me holy and pure.

    I am learning more and more this important truth about my identity:

    EVERYTHING I am flows out of the Truth of who He is.

    Photo credit: Annie Spratt

    The Truth:

    As I was on that retreat weekend, I remembered a strange phrase from the psalms… and I couldn’t get it off my mind for days. “Cleanse me with hyssop.” This was David’s cry in Psalm 51 to be cleansed not just physically, but spiritually after he was found out in his affair with Bathsheba. I know that feeling–wanting to feel like your insides are clean and pure and no longer charred by sin and darkness. I read that hyssop is an herb from the Middle East similar to mint, used for cleansing, medicinal and flavoring purposes (it resembles lavender in photos I’ve found). It was used throughout the old testament related to sacrifices, used as a paint brush to place blood over the door frames in Exodus 12, and in David’s heart-wrenching cry of wanting to be purified. The good news is that Christ became our sacrifice so that we COULD be called pure, worthy, and clean– so much better than any outer cleaning we could try to give ourselves. Our hearts are able to be new each day, and through Him we are called a NEW CREATION. I am praying that by remembering who God is, what He is able to do, and the new identities we can have in Him, you will be able to join me in walking in this status of being redeemed and set free from the past. I used Psalm 51, Psalm 103, 2 Corinthians 5, and Galatians 5 to walk through this exercise:

    Because God is… (fill in adjectives that describe the character of God):

    • Steadfast in mercy
    • Abundantly loving (unfailing in His love)
    • Holy
    • Gracious
    • Slow to anger
    • Compassionate
    • Perfect
    • Forgiving

    “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.” -Psalm 51:1

     

    HE has the power to… (verbs listed with God’s actions for us/over us):

    • Deliver me from bloodguiltiness
    • Wash me thoroughly
    • Cleanse me/create in me a clean heart
    • Forgive all of my sins
    • Heal all my diseases
    • Redeem my life from the pit
    • Crown me with steadfast love and mercy
    • Satisfy me with good
    • Renew my life
    • Work righteousness and justice for the oppressed
    • Remove our transgressions (sins) from us, as far as the east is from the west
    • Reconcile us to Himself, through Christ

    “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow….Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” -Psalm 51:7, 10

     

    So, He calls us… (new identities we can claim for ourselves):

    • Clean
    • Whiter than snow
    • Pure
    • Redeemed
    • Reconciled
    • Ambassadors for Christ
    • The righteousness of God
    • A new creation
    • Set free

    “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” -Psalm 103:11-12

    “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” -2 Corinthians 5:17, 21

    To dig in further: read Psalm 25, Isaiah 43, Isaiah 44, Colossians 2:13-14, 1 John 1:9

    Friend, no matter what you struggle with that makes you feel dirty or unclean (whether it is in your past or a present wrestling), my prayer for you today is that you could KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that in Him, you are a new creation. He is abounding in love and is able to cleanse you thoroughly. He calls you pure, redeemed, reconciled, and has set you free. Now, let’s spend some time scooping up those wildflowers of color and life, knowing that we are free indeed. Here is a prayer you can come back to when you are wrestling with shame:

    __________________________________

    Lord, I praise You– that You are steadfast in mercy, unfailing in your love, and that you are Truth. You have the power to carry me out of the darkness and shame and into Your light. Wash me, and let me hear YOU when you call me clean. I humbly ask you to help me to release the lies and chains I’ve carried around that say otherwise. Please help me to see myself the way You see me. I boldly ask for you to free me from the bondage of my past that has still been gripping me– the chains that I’ve heavily dragged around with me for all this time. As I step deeper into the purity of Your heart, I pray that I would not just define myself by outward actions, but that I would be cleansed at the very depths of my heart and mind. If there are wounds from my past that still linger, I pray for your healing touch that I could reach the fullness of the restoration that you have for me. I want to run freely into Your arms with joy, knowing that I am free indeed. I love you Lord.

    Photo credit: Heather Schwartz

  • faith,  healing from wounds,  identity

    Who do you think you are? Finding a new identity in Christ…

    There’s this word that I use a lot. On a pretty regular basis I talk to others about how my life has been transformed as I learned about my identity in Christ.

    Oxford Dictionary defines identity as “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.”

    Do you allow yourself to take on the names that others have called you? Have you claimed labels for yourself that you’ve picked up over the years, perhaps based on things done to you, or things you’ve chosen for yourself? Those names and labels have power—they start to seep into the core of how we see ourselves, almost like indisputable facts.

    • Picture a middle school girl, beloved by her parents but suddenly faced with comparisons or harsh criticism from her peers in the hallways and locker rooms. She no longer looks in the mirror and likes what she sees. She takes the negative comment of “ugly” and repeats it to herself each time she steps up to her reflection. Soon it affects the way she carries herself, the way she interprets her interactions with others, the way she herself in the world.
    • I think of a man who has wrestled for years with substance abuse and addiction. Hurt at a young age by family wounds, he discovers the enticing world of alcohol and drugs at far too young of an innocent age. He finds that those substances bring him momentary numbness, where he can ignore his pain and escape real life for a little while. Through a series of choices and events, he eventually gets into trouble– in far too deep to get out on his own. He now looks at these choices and consequences, and sees himself as broken beyond repair, shameful, a disgrace. This affects the way he carries himself, the way he makes future choices (feeling trapped in this pattern), and the way he sees himself in the world.
    • What about the executive who has built a life of success? While wrapped up in accolades and affirmations, pleased with performance and ability to control outcomes, this perception of self, based on external praise also affects interactions with others, and the way this person perceives his place in the world.
    • Then there’s the woman whose heart has been broken over and over again. Whether through abandonment, rejection, heartache, hopes dashed, she has come to see herself as unlovable, or unworthy of being loved back. Soon that affects the way she herself, her security within relationships, the way she sees the world.

    Photo credit: Suhyeon Choi

    I’ll share with you my own list (this is not comprehensive… there are certainly others) of identities I’ve held onto for myself over the years. There are “good ones:” pure, hard-working, good Christian, popular, actress, singer, writer, mother, ministry leader, friend, smart, creative. Then there are the ones that have had more staying power– the ones I’ve pinned to myself like a scarlet letter: lonely, depressed, anxious, ugly, unclean, unworthy, divorced, broken, shameful, too much, not enough.

    Wanna know where these identities came from? Let me give you a hint… not our God. These came from the world. From fellow humans (also broken and fallen) whose flippant words become etched onto our hearts as deep wounds. From the enemy who wants to see us climb back into the mud and roll around, making us fear that our junk is too dirty for God to truly forgive. From our own sense of pride. These are not the places He wants us to live.

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” -2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

    Over the past few years as I’ve thought and wrestled with identity, I realized that I was letting the words and actions of the world around me define me instead of the powerful TRUTH of an unchanging, always loving, steadfast God. The One who created me. The One who knows me better than anyone. The One who knows the number of hairs on my head, every thought before it enters my mind, the words I will say before they leave my lips. The One who has already forgiven my sins and washed me clean. I am finally learning to use the words He gives me to build my identity:

    set free

    child of God

    forgiven, clean

    worthy

    victorious

    redeemed

    beloved

    Friends, we can re-claim our identities… in fact we are called to do so! When we release the powerful grip of what the world has said about us and walk boldly into our identities in the Lord, it changes the way we see ourselves, the way we act, the way we live out our purpose. This for me has been a journey of understanding more about who the Lord is and what HE says about me, so that I can replace the waves of lies that wash over me with His unwavering Truths.

    “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” -Romans 12:2 (NIV)

    For the next four Fridays in August, I want to talk about how we can transform the way we see ourselves from the inside–the very core of who we are. I want to encourage you to join me in digging deeper to this identity stuff. While positive affirmations are super helpful, I think the work needs to be deeper than that. Finding the source of wound or where the lie may have originated, finding out more about the character of God, and who He says we are in His never-changing Word and Truth.

    I would love to hear from you before we dig into some of these old identities– what is the loudest lie for you? The name you’ve carried around that you want to release for good? Send me a quick message through the prayer form. I’d love to pray for you, but also (anonymously) address some of the actual lies you struggle with in these upcoming posts. Grateful to be on this journey with you.

    Photo Credit: Kari Shea

    Dear God,

    Thank you for your unfailing love. Help me to understand more of that love, as I draw closer to You and learn more about your nature. I want to know You more, and as a result know more about how You see me as Your beloved child. Allow that to transform in a deep and lasting way my interactions with You, myself, and the world. I pray that You will protect my heart as I learn more about the lies I’ve carried around for far too long, and I ask that You would give me the courage to let go of those names, insecurities, and lies that are not based in Truth. Lord, I want to live an abundant and authentic life, with my full strength and security in You. I pray for Your gentle and patient care as I step more fully into the identity and purpose YOU have for me.

    Amen

  • freedom,  hope

    The Year of Hope

    “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” -Psalm 147:11

    The past couple of years I’ve spent the weeks leading into January 1st asking God for a word to guide my next year. A word that I can press into-whether it becomes the umbrella for my goals, the anchor on the hard days, or something to set my eyes on that’s bigger than momentary trials.

    ️I loved how in 2016, I heard the word FREEDOM so clearly, and He was faithful in helping me find that in so many ways. I paid off a large amount of debt through an incredible side job. I let go of some unhealthy relationships, and found some pretty incredible new relationships that brought a sense of authentic community. I took control of my health, ate a more plant based diet, and even ran a half marathon! There was great freedom and joy in all of this. But God especially gave me freedom as I pressed into counseling and a recovery group for my people-pleasing codependence, and for the first time ever, I found my identity completely in Christ. That year was life-changing for me in stepping into that true sense of freedom.

    ️This past year, I claimed the word REDEMPTION. I learned that these words for my year are not necessarily a road map, they are a stepping into of trust. After divorce and single-motherhood, I think I imagined that “redemption” would mean God saving me from some of the burdens of my situation. I thought 2017 might bring greater financial redemption, a new home, a relationship that could fill the holes left by past wounds, and a greater sense of a traditional family for me and my son. The redemption God had in mind was different than what I imagined. He revealed to me how much work He is still doing to fill up my empty places. His healing touch has covered so many of my relationships and circumstances. I’m learning to step back and trust God to lead me on HIS own path of redemption for me. And that means releasing my control on my best-laid plans, laying them at the altar, and for once, not picking them back up again.

    ️Over the past two weeks, looking to 2018, I asked for a word again. Can I be honest? I almost felt frustrated by the word that continued to show up- HOPE. My hopes have been at times dashed and defeated, and I hate to say that hope hasn’t been coming super naturally for me lately. But maybe that’s why God is whispering it to me, nudging me to a place that feels a bit cliche and uncomfortable. He maybe knows I could use a year focused on hope and the goodness He has for me. This year, I will work on finding my hope for the future in the Lord- not in my striving, my expectations, my goals (whether I achieve them or not), the people around me, my financial situation, my relationship status. God is the source of hope I want to cling to.

    This verse was one I used to focus during my half marathon training, and it’s been coming to mind a lot today again:

    “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” -Isaiah 40: 30-31