For The Girl Who Desires To Be Seen

Girl

When I look back at all the years that I chased the desires of the world and at all the years that I’ve walked hand in hand with Jesus, I can say with certainty that I am not the same girl I was years ago. I’ve matured and grown in ways I never imagined. I’ve experience things, both good and bad, that have made me who I am today. I have seen restoration in the most broken areas of my life. I’ve experience the love of God in ways that are absolutely indescribable and undeniable.

Despite all that has changed, I am still a work in progress. I am far from perfect. I am far from having it all together. My heart is still messy and wild. My thoughts and insecurities can get the best of me some days. Sometimes lies speak louder than God’s truth. Sometimes the “treasures” of the world seem so much more alluring than the sacrifice and taming of the flesh that comes with following Christ. I can speak freely about these imperfections in my life because I never want these issues to be cloaked in darkness or attempt to make roots in my heart and give birth to sin. Sin when it is full grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:15).

As I try to navigate through life along with every other woman on Earth, I’ve come to realize that every woman on Earth, whether they follow Jesus or not, possesses this innate desire to belong; to be validated. This longing to just be seen. We are all crying out to be seen, some louder and more desperate than others, yet the longing is still the same. All over social media, women are flooding timelines with filtered selfies to garner the most likes. Facebook status, tweets, Instagram photos are crafted in such a way that the edited version of their lives look much more fascinating than it really is. Women are buying into the lies that perfection is the standard of beauty. Some are chasing every trend in order to pretty up their outer appearance while their hearts are empty. Some drape their revealing clothing over their insecure hearts, hoping that they are not too damaged or too far gone to be desired. Some are trading convictions for comfort, sacrificing their hearts and bodies on the altar of the bedroom, hoping to be seen and loved.

I’ve been her. I’ve been the girl who sought her worth in the opinions of others, especially men. I’ve been that girl who settled for what I thought I was worth instead of what I now know I am worth, all for the sake of being seen. The journey of being seen and validated by the world and those in it is a lonely and unfulfilling one. You will never measure up. You will never be fulfilled. Instead of placing your worth in the hands of those who have no right to judge, why not try placing your worth in hands of the One who sees you, every inch of you, and loves you just as you are?

For the girl who desires to be seen:

You are worth more than a broken heart.

You are worth more than putting your body on display for all the world to see.

You are worth more than being stripped of your dignity for applause.

You are worth more than the edited version of your life.

You are worth more than being dependent on occasional compliments to make you feel valuable.

You are worth more than giving in to what feels good rather than what you know is right.

You are worth more because God, your creator, says you are worth more. Jesus died so He could redeem everything that has been broken in our lives. His sacrifice on the cross meant that you were worth dying for. He calls you fearfully and wonderfully made. He loves you whether you sin or stay on the straight and narrow. He will never harm you or leave you when things get tough. He fights for you. He cries for you. He smiles at the thought of you. He is in it for the long haul because He knows you are worth it. You do not have to work for His affections or His approval. He sees you. Even when you are waist deep in sin and shame, He sees you. And He loves.

You are worth being respected and honored.

You are worth being pursued.

You are worth being protected.

You are worth having a life filled with laughter, joy and purpose.

You are worth being made whole in Christ.

You are worth being loved. Pure and simple.

You really are worth it and you are seen by the One whose opinion is the only one that truly matters.

 

 

“I Don’t Know How You Do It”

Aiden Reading Kindle

One of the few lessons in parenting I have learned in my almost 17 years of being a mom is that parenting is NOT for the weak.

Seriously.

All the books and classes in the world can never really prepare you for the real life, day-to-day emotional roller coaster of raising kids. Even with this many years under my belt, I pretty much consider it a win if I keep them alive for 24 hours and not let them eat cereal and chicken fingers every day.

Kids are hard. They are demanding. They are emotional, sometimes stubborn. They are covert operatives who I’m sure are in our lives so that we learn 1000 different ways not take things so seriously and to laugh a little. They are a wonderful inconvenience that parents get the pleasure of molding and shaping with no real guarantee that they will leave the house and follow all the pearls of wisdom you gave them.

As awesome as my kids are, as much as they keep me on laughing with their fart jokes, impromptu dance routines and their crazy Doctor Who obsession, they wear me out. I usually have a running list of all the things I need to do, all the things I didn’t get done, and all the things I secretly wish I could do like go to the bathroom just once without someone calling my name. Even at 16 and 8, they still think that talking to me on the other side of the door is okay.

There is always a load of laundry that needs to be done, a kitchen that needs to cleaned, doctor appointments to go to, parent teacher conferences to attend, band recitals, homework, last minute science projects to do to help with and the countless grocery shopping trips that sometimes can be seen a mini vacation if I go alone. I’m perpetually tired. I sometimes joke that I haven’t really slept in about 17 years cause I honestly feels like I haven’t.  In this day and age where being “busy” “tired” and “overwhelmed” is trendy, I offer up the chance for someone to experience my version of tired.

The single parent version.

Now, before other mothers come for me and tell me just how tired they are from the day-to-day parenting grind, don’t. I get it, we are all tired. Some are just one temper tantrum away from sobbing into a box of donuts in a closet. It’s not a competition, but there are some realities a single mom face that are far different from that of married moms. When your kid is throwing a tantrum and you are sitting in your closet with glazed comfort in each hand, the single mom reality is the fact that no one is coming to soothe your kid while you take a few minutes to collect yourself. No one is coming to give you that pep talk to remind you that you really are doing a good job at the whole mom thing when your kid tells you they hate you.

Cause they will tell you they hate you.

I have long ago learned that there really is no such thing as balance in my life. Priorities yes, but this balance where everything gets equal attention, certainly not. I have everything resting on my shoulders and there are many things I don’t do well or I don’t get right. There are times when I seriously drop the ball and times when I am knocking them out of the park. I plan as much as I can and give myself grace when things do go in the rhythm I would hope. I make it a habit not to complain because I don’t want RSVPs to a single mom pity party to start pouring in. I choose to put on my brave face each tired day that God grants me. Years later, I still smile and joke through the never-ending “I don’t know how you do it” comments.

I do it because I don’t have a choice. I roll with the good and the bad. Just this week alone, I spent two nights in the ER for one kid with asthma and one kid with an eye injury. I’m sure by now I look like a zombie because I have not slept through the night all week, but that’s life. Things happen and I deal with them as they come. I don’t have the option of waking up one day and say “Yeah, I don’t want to do this anymore” and then leave them on the door step of the closest relative. I’m sure there are laws against that. I chose to give my two rascals a fighting chance at life when I had easier options to choose from. My situation is not ideal, but it’s not impossible either. It’s tough some days, but not unbearable.

No single mom hustling day in and day out wants pity from anymore. Trust me. We also don’t want condescending looks of judgement. We do what we do because at the end of the day, we love our kids. You would do the same if the roles were reversed. You will hustle for your kids. You will make things happen. You will forfeit sleep, get up at the crack of down, hustle kids out the door (praying a meltdown doesn’t happen on the way out), drop them off the daycare or school, work all day (praying you don’t get a call that a kid needs to be picked up), pick them up, make dinner (when you remembered to take the chicken out the freezer), get homework done, baths, and nightly bedtime negotiations too, with no extra set of hands to help and no sympathetic spouse to vent to at the end of the day. You will wake up the next morning and do it all over again. You will.

Despite it all, it’s not the end of the world to parent alone, because ultimately, I’m not alone. I’ve learned more about leaning into Jesus from parenting than any experience I’ve gone through. I’ve learned more about grace, mercy, sacrifice, identity in Christ and unconditional love thanks to the ups and downs of parenting alone. Nowadays, when I hear “I don’t know how you do it” my response is always the same: I do it through the grace of God. I cannot boast about how great of a parent I am because I fail my kids daily in some way. I lose my junk with them. I don’t always pray over them every night. Sometimes cereal is on the menu for dinner. But what I can boost about is the fact that God’s hand of grace and provision has been evident in my journey as a parent. I can’t take and wont take all the credit for it. I simply rejoice in the fact that God has given me a chance to shepard the hearts of these two gifts He has trusted me with.

Making Space For Singles

Make Space

I’m a single woman in my thirties.

*queue the violins, sad looks, and make way for the family of cats that are about to move in*

That seems to be the response I sometimes get when it comes to the topic of singleness. Most days, being a person short of a couple doesn’t really bother me. Aside from the occasional “being single kinda sucks today” text messages or phone calls my friends get to be on the receiving end of, I think my life is pretty good. I get to serve along side some of the most amazing group of young adults leading our generation closer to Jesus. I’m gearing up for a missions trip to Nicaragua in July and a couple of other trips in the works for later this year.  I have a pretty great tribe of friends who help keep me on the narrow path to Heaven, usually with some kicking and screaming. My wild and crazy kids keep me on the go and well, you know…Netflix.

All and all, I enjoy being single. Do I wish to be married one day? Of course and I have the hidden Pinterest boards to prove it. But until then, I am free to actually live and enjoy life until my other half comes along. There is so much noise about singles and marriage in the world and I do a pretty good job of tuning out all the depressing stats and divisive opinions. However, one of the real downsides of being single is standing outside looking into the windows of the church or even the lives of formerly single friends longing for a place to belong. It’s no secret that the church places a lot of value on being married and rightly so according to the Bible. With the upgrade in status once two become one, access to the coveted marriage club and it’s perks can leave singles feeling a little slighted. The church celebrates weddings with far greater fanfare than say a single girl graduating from college or a single guy starting his own business. Yes, we understand that marriage is a far different season in life than being single and graduating from law school. We get it. But make space for us singles at the church conference tables or even at the family dinner tables. Don’t discount singles because they haven’t made their way down the aisle. You would be surprised at just how valuable we are right where we are.

Married: Make space in your life for your single friends. We definitely don’t want to take away precious time from your spouse or all the..ahem..benefits that marriage allows, but carve out an afternoon coffee date or dinner with your single friends. We really do want to know how life is going with you and hope you want to know what’s going on with us, now that you are married. Believe it or not, we don’t mind being invited over to dinner with you and your spouse and we wont feel like a third wheel. What better way to get some insight on marriage than from a real live married couple, right? Once your family starts to hear the pitter patter of little feet, we really don’t mind having dinner at your place complete with crying babies and toddlers. We actually love the idea of family, even if it’s not our own. We don’t always mind rocking a baby while you make dinner and tell us about what’s going on in your life. We really do want to walk along side you in the season of life you are in as well as you walking with us in the season of life we are in.

Church: Make space for single people in ministry, but not just in the margins. In far too many churches, marriage tends to be the standard by which godliness and maturity is measured. It gives the illusion that singles haven’t quite “arrived” therefore are often overlooked, especially in leadership positions. Essentially, if you are unmarried by a certain age, you probably have some hidden sin you haven’t confessed and God is still trying to do a work in you before gifting you with a spouse. At least that’s what I’ve been told. Also, let’s acknowledge the fact that most messages on singleness or dating are being preached by pastors who haven’t been single in a very long time. That does not mean they can’t speak volumes of wisdom on the subject matter, but dating in this very digital, very disconnected and rather spiritually lukewarm day and age is hard. I’ve heard plenty of messages on how to date/court God’s way and how to have a dynamic marriage, but let’s open up the pulpit to let singles talk about how to live and thrive during the single years. Many of us are doing it and doing it well and so many need to know that it really is possible.

Singles: Make space in your life for your honest feelings about being single and your desire for marriage. Don’t go from one extreme that idolizes marriage or to the other extreme that makes you deny the fact that you actually want to get married. I’ve been guilty of trying so hard not to idolize marriage that my contentment in being single became my idol. Why continuously pray from something that may not come to pass, right? Wrong. God is not scared by our continuous petitions for marriage. He is well aware that the desire is there but would much rather we desire Him more than we desire a spouse. Make space for people who will speak truth when the lies and discontentment start to take root and not just people who will be a plus one to your pity party.

In a world that divides us into singles, singles with kids, marrieds, marrieds with kids, divorced and widowed, let get back to the basics. Acts 2:42-47 says:

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

I can only imagine that in the Acts 2 communities, everyone did life together. Singles and marrieds together. And it was good. And hearts were glad and filled with praise. And they supported anyone who was in need, regardless of marital status. And God was pleased because He added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Raise My Ebenezer

ebenezerIt’s been quite a while since I sat down at my laptop, wrote without hesitation and then hit publish. I really don’t have much of an excuse why because I have had plenty to write about. With all that has been going on in our nation and world since my last blog post, I have had so many thoughts, opinions, and emotions but just couldn’t make the words come together coherently.

So I took a break. Longer than expected but long enough to miss this small space I carved out for myself among all the noise on the Internet. Now is a good a time to get back into the grove of making noise with everyone else. I mean my voice matters too, even when I don’t think it does.

If there is anything I can share right now is the fact that God is good. Even when I am not. Even when I am stubborn, rebellious, knee-deep in sin, God is still good. Even when few things make sense in life, He is still just and faithful. He is constantly making the impossible happen in my life as well as allowing me to make mistakes so that I know that without Him, I pretty much suck.

Lately, I’ve fallen into the habit of looking to the left and right, comparing my life with the highlight reels of those around me. I’ve started to buy into the lie that perhaps I’m not doing something right which is why God hasn’t ushered me into the season of abundance that I desire. I started to lose sight of what all He has done and focus more on what areas He hasn’t fulfilled…according to my own time line. I’ve become this ungrateful child, not appreciating what I have but instead, holding my hands out wanting more.

But just like any good father, God gently corrects me, like He did today by reminding me to “raise my Ebenezer.”

10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer (stone of help), saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” 1 Samuel 7:10-12

As Samuel lead the Israelites against the Philistines, there undoubtedly were moments when they did not think that they would be victorious. However, it was His will that they would be and so He sent the Philistines into a panic allowing the Israelities to over take them in victory. Samuel laid a stone that he named Ebenezer in remembrance of God’s helping handing in their victory.

There have been far too many times where I have focused on what I didn’t have and failed to be grateful for all that He has given me. I’ve been guilty of not seeing His “No” or “Not right now” as His gracious protection and instead took it as a slight because I didn’t perform well enough. I can take a lesson from Samuel and continuously raise my very own Ebenezer stones in remembrance of all the victories and blessings that God has given me. Those will far out number the times He failed me.

The Face That Changed Everything

Today is my first post in the 31 day series of Moments That Changed Everything.

One morning in November of 2009, I was getting dressed for work, just like any other morning. I was standing in front of my closet trying to decide what to wear, while Good Morning America was play on the television. I wasn’t really paying much attention to the news segments but words like “missing” “little girl” “Fayetteville, NC” and “sex slave” floated in the air. My ears perked up a bit because it’s always sad to hear about little children being kidnapped but this one was a bit more heart stirring because it was in Fayetteville, NC, near the military base my sister lived at. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a picture of the little girl that was missing.

Then I stopped breathing.

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Shaniya Davis

I was staring into the face of 5-year-old Shaniya Davis. But for a few seconds, I thought I was staring at my niece Kameron.

Kameron

Kameron

In those moments before I came back to reality and realized that the girl in the photo on the screen was not my beautiful niece, I literally could not breathe. I had heard enough of the report to know that little Shaniya had been reported missing on November 10, 2009. After 2 days of questioning, her mother admitting selling her daughter to a man for $200.

“He was only supposed to have sex with her” was her mother’s defense.

I wanted to vomit.

All I could think about was the fact that this little girl bore a striking resemblance to my niece who lived near her. I kept trying to imagine what kind of man would buy a 5-year-old child for sex. What kind of mother would intentionally sell her baby for $200 for sex?

Shaniya Davis was my first introduction in the world of sex trafficking.

For the next two days, I followed Shaniya’s story as local police combed the city looking for the man in surveillance footage with the little girl.

Shaniya Davis 2

I prayed and pleaded with God for her safe return. I read every news report I could find about her. I learned that sex trafficking was not this foreign issue that I had only vaguely seen portrayed in movies. It was happening in the US, right in my city, not just in Fayetteville, NC. I learned that Atlanta, GA was considered one of the top cities in the nation for child sex trafficking. Men were actually paying money to have sex with children in the city I lived in. How had I lived here for almost a decade and not even know it?

Shaniya’s body was found on November 16, 2009. I will never forget sitting in my cubicle crying at the news. I didn’t know this little girl but my heart ached like I had carried her in my own womb. Her death changed something in me. Maybe it was because she reminded me of my niece and the thought of something like that happening to Kameron was too hard to fathom. Maybe it was because she was an innocent little girl whose last few days on Earth were riddled with pain and abuse. Maybe it was God opening my eyes to a global injustice that far too many people turned a deaf ear and blind eye too, including myself.

I am thankful that I caught that glance of Shaniya Davis that morning and that God arrested my heart for her. He knew every little detail of her life and loved her far more than I could ever fathom so I can only imagine how His heart ached for her as well. Out of her death, God birthed in me a desire to advocate for women and children caught in sex trafficking. For everyone woman that I get to pray with and help get off the street, it makes the sting of Shaniya’s death a little less painful. My life has been forever changed in the wake of this tragedy and I call it an honor to fight for other little girls, teenagers and women whose lives are on the brink of being snatched away for a few dollars.

 

31 Days Of Moments That Changed Everything

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I’ve been wrestling back and forth for a few weeks now about whether or not I would attempt The Nester’s 31 day writing challenge. Doing blog challenges are kind of tough since you have to been diligent and intentional and in all honesty, I am not the best when it comes to being a disciplined blogger. I have plenty excuses why I shouldn’t try this and I am sure I’ve talked myself out of it plenty of time. Oddly enough, I came up with the idea of writing about various instances in my life that pretty much shaped who I am today. Single moments or occurrences in time that stacked upon themselves brought me to where I am. I found myself scribbling out a couple dozen items a few weeks ago while listening to Christine Caine preach at Passion City Church. She is one of my favorite speakers yet my mind was drawn back to my journal page filling up with ideas.

During Haley Morgan’s keynote message at The Influence Conference last week, she asked “What is the story that God is working in your life? What are those 10-15 moments in your life that changed you.” That question poked at my heart because it was like confirmation that it was time to start take those scribbled ideas from my journal and blog about them. Who knows. It may even turn into a book at some point.

So here I am. On the bridge of bearing some more personal and intimate details of my life. Some that are previous obvious. Others not so much. I am sure this challenge is less about me being consistent with my blogging and more about realizing that my story matters. The details of who I am and how I got here matter.

Here’s to 31 days of writing.

Currently {Vol 3} Influence Conference Recap

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Each week, A Mama Collective, does a link up where bloggers share what they are currently up to. It’s a great way to connect with other bloggers and build community.

 

Thinking About:  The amazing weekend of The Influence Conference. It’s  been a few days since the conference ended and I am still at loss for words to describe all that took place. So much was jam-packed into those days but every minute was purposeful. People keep asking me how I enjoyed the conference and all I can really say is I went in expecting to learn about blogging and maybe publishing but I left loving Jesus more than before. This wasn’t just a blogging conference. It was a soul refreshing, heart filling community of women who are crazy about using their influence and creativity to glorify God. A few of my favorite takeaways from some of the speakers:

Haley Morgan: “Every single day, I have influence because I am in Christ and Christ is in me.”

Jamie Ivey: “You don’t feel forgiven so you wonder if you ARE forgiven. Don’t put trust in feelings. Put trust in the Word of God.”

Jen Lula: “Start small. Dream big.”

Lara Casey: “Choose purpose over perfect.” “Do whatever you can everyday to connect with God.”

Jessi Connolly: “I’m a girl who wants to build a kingdom of my own, but God said no. ” “Many times we are FOR God, but not WITH God.”

Sammy Rhodes: “Approval is a lover that always breaks your heart.” “Jesus didn’t die for the masked you, He died for the real you.” “Constantly remind yourself that you are worth more than your number of followers.”

Ellen Parker: “Fear drives us to a place where our circumstances define who God is.” “Love drives us to a place where our circumstances are defined by God.”

What I’m Loving: Internet Friends. Whoever said internet friends aren’t real friends are in the wrong social media circle. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting some the most amazing women at the conference that I had gotten to know over social media. These ladies are legit. They love Jesus and love like Jesus. We laughed, shed some tears, shared some heart stuff, encouraged each other and just had a great weekend together. My returned flight got cancelled twice which meant I was stuck in Indianapolis until Monday evening. Immediately, these ladies were rallying around me to see what they could do to help. Thanks to Maggie for hosting me for the weekend and driving me to the airport. imageimage

Check out some of their blogs and shops:

Kristen: When At Home

Jenna: A Mama Collective

Holly: Cartwheels Down the Hall

Kristel: Glowing Light

Aligna: The Stamped Studio

Emily: Hey Emily Thomas

Megan: Deployed Heart

Lauren: Down to Earthy

What I’m Listening To: You Make Me Brave by Bethel Music and Amanda Cook

Being brave seems to be the theme around Christian circles this year but honesty, it fits my life in more ways than one. Attending the conference, opening myself up to meeting new people, embracing this writing thing and using my words to speak God’s truth takes so much bravery on my part. It doesn’t come easy and everyday, I have to be intentional about not letting fear steal what God has for me and others around me.

Thankful For:  Colossians 2:6-7 MSG. The theme for the Influence Conference centered around this verse and the notion that #ItsTimeToBuild. Every woman at the conference was equipped with the Gospel of Jesus and we were challenged to use our influence, our talents, our businesses, our words, our position as mothers and wives to build God’s kingdom. We have heard The Good News, quieted the lies of fear and comparison and now the time has come to live it out. Jessi Connolly reminded us that God hates our kingdoms but loves when we build His. My heart is filled to the brim with gratitude for this experience and the opportunity to take what I have learned to build up the kingdom of God with my words.

 

 

Currently {Vol. 2}

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Each week, The Mama Collective, does a link up where bloggers share what they are currently up to. It’s a great way to connect with other bloggers and build community.

Listening To: Johnnyswim

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I must be honest. I rarely buy music. I love music but in its current state, I doesn’t exactly run out looking for new albums to purchase on Tuesdays. I am lucky if I buy an album or two a year and that’s a stretch. A few months ago, a friend told me about this up and coming musical husband and wife duo she heard perform at the Catalyst East conference last October and had been anticipating their first full length album ever since. I listened to the title track from Johnnyswim’s album Diamonds and was immediately a fan. It’s safe to say their album Diamonds and EP Heartbeat are in constant rotation. It’s been a long time since I have heard some really good music. You can check out their NPR Tiny Desk Concert which showcases their AMAZING vocal skills, passion for music and fun they have performing together.

Reading: Bird by Bird:Some Instructions on Writing and Life

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I bought this book several weeks ago at the recommendation of my friend/community group leader/awesome blogger Kristen from When At Home.  I got a few pages in with every intention of finishing it but somehow life happened and it went untouched on my bookshelf until now. I’ve heard such great things about the author Anne Lamott and true to form, she delivers some timeless wisdom on writing and just life in general. Highly recommend this for any writer who is trying to get out of their own head and write.

Thinking About: Ferguson, Missouri and Mike Brown

It’s been several weeks since the death of 18 year old Mike Brown. The rioting and protests have turned to strategic measures to heal the hurting city of Ferguson. However, I have yet to figure out how to put my thoughts and feelings into words. No arrests have been made, a young man is gone and city has been torn into pieces.  The sad reality is the fact that what happened to Mike Brown is the same fate that my three black brothers and two black sons could experience on any given day simply because of their skin.  I am thankful for the healthy dialogue on race and discrimination that has taken place between blacks and whites on social media but it’s beyond heartbreaking see the blatant racial division and hatred flooding every corner of the media.  My heart is still so raw about all of this but I will share my thought, fears and hopes soon.

Thankful For: Jesus the Redeemer

I wrote a post that gave a small glance into my life as a former teenage mother.  I don’t really think much about my teenage years since they are so far behind me. Yet since that post, I have been reflecting on that stage of life, the hurt, the labels I allowed others to give me that I accepted as truth for so many years and the scars that I realize I still try to hide. Despite all that, I am thankful that Jesus is the Redeemer who gave me a new identity when I said yes to Him. He striped away my labels and shame and gave me His righteousness. To this day, He is still rebuilding my ancient ruins so that I can wear my crown of joy proudly.

 

Dear Teenage Mom: I Support You

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Me at 17 with my son Gavin

A Facebook friend posted a status about her heartbreak over the number of her high school classmates that are teenage mothers and rightly so. She wondered if all the congratulations from other teenagers was even an appropriate gesture. The status generated some healthy conversation from both sides of the fence. As I sat read through the comments with no real desire to weigh in one way or the other, I started to think about how I felt when I found I was going to be mom at the ripe old age of 16, many moons ago. I was lucky in a way since there was no social media then. The thoughts and opinions of others were not so easily accessible, yet still implied because teenage pregnancy at anytime is still heartbreaking. I started to think about how different my life would have been had I not had the support of friends and family who wouldn’t let me fail. Where would my son and I be if I didn’t have family who sacrificed so that I could finish both high school (on time, with honors) and college? What would my life look like if I hadn’t made a decision to use the judgement and criticisms of others as motivation to keep going? If I could share some thoughts with a teenager staring at motherhood well before her intended time, it would probably go something like this:

Dear Teenage Mom:

I know it must have come as a shock when you found out you were expecting a baby. No teenager really thinks about becoming a mom while they are still in high school, trying to figure out life. Yet, for one reason or another, here you are. I am sure a thousand thoughts and questions ran through your head when you found out.

What will I tell my parents? What will I tell my boyfriend? Will he stick around? What about college, my future? What will people think? Should I keep my baby?

Those are some pretty tough questions with not so easy answers. Honestly, these will be the first of many large decisions you will have to make as a mom. The journey from being a pregnant teenager to a teenage mother will be rough. There is no getting around that. There will be people who will look down on you. There will be people who will judge you. There will be people who will make assumptions about you, never knowing your circumstances. There will be people who will make you think you are simply a statistic, a burden on society, a failure to your parents. There will be people who will write you and your little baby off before either of you even have a chance to thrive. There will be parents who will no longer want you to be friends with their daughters because they see you as a bad influence. There will be times when you will be excluded simply because you are a teenage mother.

But I support you.

Though the position you are in is not ideal, I celebrate the fact that you chose life over abortion. So many teenage girls choose abortion out of fear, pressure from their boyfriends, or because of parents who don’t want the stigma of having a teenage daughter with a baby out of wedlock. Yes, those girls made the same choice to have sex as you, but they took the route that would never expose the evidence of their choice. Though I wish you had chosen purity over pre-martial sex, I celebrate the fact that out of this, you will learn the beauty in God’s grace, mercy, redemption and forgiveness.

I support you as you put on the brave face and announce to friends and family that you will be bringing a life into the world earlier than intended. I support you as you walk down the halls of your school under the gaze of disappointment and judgment from teachers, administrators and classmates. I support you as your friends and family push through the negative reactions of planning a baby shower because many will think it’s celebrating teenage pregnancies. In honesty, it’s an event to show how much you and your baby are loved and supported during this tough time. I support you as you stay up late to finish homework in between feedings because you are one step closer to a better life for you and your baby. I support you as you choose working an extra shift at your part time job instead of going out with friends because you understand the pride in being able to provide whatever you can for your baby. I support you as you share hundreds of pictures of your baby on social media because you choose to find the joy in parenting instead of being paralyzed with shame. I support you as you navigate through the rough patches of co-parenting because you want both families to be apart of the life of your baby. I support you as you walk across the stage during graduation while your baby sits on grandma’s lap in the audience because you reached a milestone so many others didn’t think you would. I support you as you adjust, but not throw away, your dreams for your future.

Despite what the world will tell you and despite how you may feel some days, you are worth celebrating. Please understand that I am not celebrating or glorifying teenage pregnancy at all because it’s not a position I would wish any teenage girl to be in. Yet, because we live in a broken world, it will happen more often than we want it. However, instead of joining in with the masses who will condemn and shame you more than you probably already do yourself, I choose to show you that this one decision does not define who you are. This one decision does not have to dictate whether you succeed or fail in life. Instead of joining in on the never ending discussion of how bad the teenage pregnancy rates are or how disappointing this plight is, I choose to acknowledge the fact that you are not just a topic of discussion but living, breathing young girl who desperately needs to know someone will hold her hand through this. You are worth hugging and wiping away tears when being a parent seems like it is too much to bear. Every mom on earth feels that way at one point or another.  You are worth supporting. You are worth encouraging. You are worth cheering on. You are worth the time and sacrifice of those who love you so that you and your baby can succeed. You are worth loving. You are worth being looked in the eye and being told that you matter, that you are not just a statistic and that your baby is a blessing worth treasuring.

There will be no shortage of teenage mothers who live up to the stereotypes and low expectations of society because of their actions. They will never rise up to the challenge and responsibility of being a parent leaving the burden to fall on others. They will be selfish and put their own needs and desires ahead of what is in the best interest of their child. That does not have to be you. Your baby is depending on you to make the right choices so that both of you have a shot at life. Don’t let anyone tell you won’t succeed, that you wont measure up, that you are less than or that your life is over. You and your baby are loved by the Creator of the Universe. He rejoices over you, He fights for you and He will cheer louder for you than any one else around. Keep your ears open so you can hear Him above all else.

Sincerely,

A Former Teenage Mom Who Kept Her Ears Open

Currently {Vol 1}

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Each week, The Mama Collective, does a link up where bloggers share what they are currently up to. It’s a great way to connect with other bloggers and build community.

Thinking about:  The Influence Conference

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I honestly can’t believe that in a few weeks, I will be in Indianapolis at a conference with some Jesus loving creative women from all over the country. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some of the most interesting, thoughtful, honest and amazing wives, single ladies, moms, bloggers, authors and small business owners around. These women challenge me to make my online life and real life mean something.  Even with all the excitement, my nerves are getting the best of me. Traveling to a city I have never been to before to met people I only know online isn’t exactly something an introvert like myself does. I still sometimes wonder if this single mama will fit in but I will never know if I don’t step out on faith and go. Despite my own trepidation, I know this will be an experience I will never forget. I am fundraising to help with the cost of the conference. I would love for you to consider making a donation and learning about my heart behind wanting to attend the conference here.

Listening to:  The Undoing by Steffany Gretzinger

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If you have never experience the beautifully anointed worship that flows from Steffany Gretzinger, you have been missing out. The Undoing is her first full length album from Bethel Music (one of my favorite worship collectives). I’ve been a fan of hers since I first heard her on the Bethel Music’s album The Loft Sessions. The whole album is amazing but the song Out of Hiding has been speaking to my heart like none other.

Reading: Writing to Find Yourself by Allison Vesterfelt

imageI’ve read several books about writing/blogging and I must say Allison’s latest e-book is a breath of fresh air for my weary blogging spirit. One of my biggest struggles is figuring out my voice and building confidence as a writer. There are so many other bloggers and authors out there and often times, I feel like my little space on the internet gets lost among all the other noise. It’s comforting to know that one of the bloggers I admire has been in my shoes before.

Thankful for: REST

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Last week was a tough week. Work was overwhelming and I am pretty sure I thought about quitting about 17 times in one day. My seven-year old Aiden has had a different health issue almost everyday. Asthma issues, tummy troubles and now we are dealing with a strep infection on his legs (who knew that could even happen). I feel like I have barely slept in a week but my heart and mind are at ease. My body is exhausted but I am thankful that God has quieted my anxious heart and reminded me that He is still a healer and that the Holy Spirit is still a comforter. Thankful for a long weekend with no plans and a couple days off work (while the kids are in school) so I can rest and be refreshed.