You can only carry yourself so far, Warrior.

I went to a women’s conference this weekend. It was the Belong Tour, and to be honest I only bought a ticket because I was SO. EXCITED. TO SEE JEN HATMAKER! There were other amazing women there as well, and Glennon from Momastery even made a guest appearance! The whole weekend was funny and touching; I laughed, I cried… you know the drill.

But, can I be really honest here? I didn’t come away feeling the way I expected. On the surface, I should’ve come away feeling inspired, challenged, pepped up. Instead, I was left wanting. Maybe even let down

I stewed over my feelings. Was I just being overly critical?

The weekend was full of incredible women telling me inspiring things. Honestly, it felt like a big warm bath of positivity. We can do hard things! You belong! You have what it takes! God won’t ever give you more than you can handle! All the love you’re looking for is right there inside of you! But you guys. As wonderful as it feels, if I sit too long in a warm bath of positivity, I will gradually be lulled to sleep.

And drown.

What I realized is quite simple: I really don’t need another pep talk. I don’t need someone to keep telling me how awesome I am. I know it’s weird – what woman doesn’t want to keep hearing she is strong, she is brave, she is capable, she is a world changer? But that’s where my “let-down” feeling came in: I believe it is a great disservice to promise courage, strength, and belonging without a clear and formal introduction to the One who can deliver on those promises. I AM NOT MY OWN DELIVERER.

I heard Glennon Doyle Melton from Momastery & Jen Hatmaker speak this weekend at the Belong Tour! So much encouragement! So much empowerment! Inspiration and quotes galore. But there was also something else important. And I didn't even see it coming. Ladies, we don’t just need more pep rallies and positive self-talk. We need our foundation strengthened. We need to know how to study the Bible – God’s Word – so we may recognize in other’s words what is true – and what is not. We need to know WHO MAKES US STRONG. We need to know that actually, God quite often DOES give me more than I can handle, but that He is there to offer His strength to walk me through it.

Christian women, I am speaking to you (myself included) here. I think some of us have become so enamored with these beautiful, good-willed, funny, inspirational women – who even talk about God!!! – that we have gradually, imperceptibly, begun to seek – and even find, although temporarily – life in their words.

You are loved. Yes, you are. God loves you – so much that He sacrificed His Son Jesus for you to have access to that love. THAT is the key. God loves you – and the access point for you to RECEIVE and EXPERIENCE the FULLNESS of that love is Jesus.

You can do hard things. Yes, you can. But where does your strength come from? I can do a lot in my own strength. You bet I can.  But by the strength of Jesus Christ in me, I can bear all things. If you have not experienced what it means to find your strength in Jesus, if you have gone from pep talk to pep talk, devouring book after book, blog post after blog post, inhaling every breath of earthly encouragement you can find, I invite you: Taste and see that the Lord is good! HE is the hero in this story!

You can only carry yourself so far, warrior. And hear me loud and clear: there is no shame in that. We can ALL only carry ourselves so far. THAT IS THE POINT. The victory isn’t in carrying yourself through the battle; the victory is in knowing the Victor: He who has already won the battle on your behalf.

You are strong, capable, and smart. Through a relationship with Jesus, you have access to the very Holy Spirit of God who breathed the Word of God onto the page. Are you studying His Word as devotedly as hers?

If your biggest dream is to be part of Glennon’s momastery or Jen’s tribe, go for it! But, if deep down what you long for is strength that can endure all things, peace that passes all understanding, a courageous heart that does not fear, and a source of active compassion that WILL NOT RUN DRY: then Jesus is who you’re looking for.

Throwback Thursday: Mom Fail

Last week I volunteered in my son’s class for the first time this year. I had signed up to lead the class for the afternoon during a teacher planning day, and I was really excited to get in there. That is a lie. I was terrified. You guys, Owen is in third grade. Third graders are so scary. I mean, Kindergarteners? They look at you like you’re a magical fairy and they are just so happy to be at school and you basically just play with them. But third graders? I kept envisioning a total uprising and the teacher returning to find me duct taped to a chair. I actually asked my son to pray for me the night before because I was so nervous.

Annnnyway, the day ended up going so well that I don’t even have any funny stories to tell. Somehow that third grade class is full of little angels, God bless them every one.

As I drove away from school that day, I couldn’t help remembering another time I helped at school. It went a bit differently. I mean, it ended with me straight lying to the teacher, if that tells you anything. Let’s relive it together, shall we?

Originally published November 6, 2014.

Need a self-esteem boost? Allow me to help. I have lots of mom fails. But this time? I lied to my kid’s teacher. And you won’t believe why. (I still can’t.)

Looking for some mom humor? How about a self-esteem boost? Always here to help you feel better about your parenting skillz with a dose of funny and a dollop of fail. This time? YOU GUYS. I lied to my kid's teacher. And you won't believe why. (I still can't.)Every other week or so, I go to Owen’s school to volunteer. Covering lunch duty is one way I help, and my first time ended in certainly one of my most shameful mom fails ever.

But let me start at the beginning.

Mrs. H. arrives at the lunchroom with the class of first graders, and I don’t take even a moment to ask for instructions. I quickly shoo her away to go enjoy her lunch in well-deserved peace.

And guess what I find out?

I AM AWESOME AT LUNCH DUTY. That’s what.

The entire 25 minutes is basically one part “shh,” one part “face forward please,” and approximately seventy-three parts “yes I will open your ketchup/mayo/gogurt/yogurt/pudding.”

The truly impressive part (besides how Heinz seals up ketchup packets like Fort Knox) is how well this school has trained the kids and their “lunchtime voices.” Every few minutes, quiet instrumental music plays. And when the music plays, the talking STOPS.

It’s magic, I tell you.

But when the music is NOT playing, the kids talk in crazy screeching excitable quiet voices. At one point, I’m wrestling a pudding cup when the rumble of a million little voices becomes a theatrical  chorus, hushed but rising in unison: “Baaaaa sowenyaaaa…!”

Um, cue Twilight Zone. I look up from the damn pudding, in utter confusion. What is happening!?

Oh wait. I notice a familiar instrumental score amid the Impromptu Cafeteria Vocal Choir. It’s the Lion King song.

Of course it is.

I regain my composure just as Owen’s teacher returns to pick up the class. Since I’ve been utterly winging it skillfully improvising for the past 25 minutes, I decide to quickly clarify a couple class policies.

It goes like this (me, with big, reassuring smile): “Hi! The kids did great. Quick question – what’s the bathroom policy during lunch?”

Mrs. H’s face says, “The policy is no.” Her words say (with a knowing grin), “How many asked to go?”

Me: “Um. 6.” (quickly waving it off, no big deal) “But only one at a time, of course.”

BUT THAT IS A LIE. THERE WERE 8.

Maybe 9.

And I have NO IDEA if they went together or one at a time and honestly I don’t even know if they all came back because KETCHUP PACKETS, PEOPLE.

(They did.)

(BUT I LIED.)

(Hi, Mrs. H!)

So, not only am I decidedly NOT awesome at lunch duty, I am also not super awesome at. um. TELLING THE TRUTH.

A Letter to Myself About Glennon’s Divorce

 

Glennon Doyle Melton announced earlier this month that she is leaving her husband.

I admire her vulnerability in sharing about her marriage and her decision to leave. I thought about making this “A Letter to Glennon About Her Divorce.” But I’m not. Because this post isn’t about her.

It’s about me.Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery has been a source of much marriage advice, humor, and more. When she announced her decision to leave her husband, it rocked me. It felt like something came loose in my heart - and what bubbled to the surface could not be ignored.

You see, Glennon closed her announcement with a very wise request: “Sometimes, when people make decisions about marriage, it evokes strong feelings in others. If my news does that to you today, please look inside and get curious about whether those feelings have more to do with you and your life than they do about me and mine.”

You could say her announcement “evoked strong feelings in me.” (I mean, if a full blown panic attack counts as “strong feelings.”) I realize I do not know every detail of Glennon’s journey, and I also know I shouldn’t project my life and marriage experience onto hers.

But likewise, I must be careful to not project her experience (and subsequent conclusions) onto mine.

My marriage isn’t an easy one. I see couples who appear to LOVE BEING MARRIED. I just don’t feel like that. Perfect example: one year, on her 10th wedding anniversary, a friend posted a picture online from their wedding and wrote, “If I had known then what I know now, I would’ve run down that aisle!”

I thought, “Holy crap, what a horrible thing to say.”

Then I realized she meant she would’ve run down the aisle TOWARD HIM.

In that moment, my mind instinctively pictured the bride running down the aisle and OUT OF THE CHURCH.

See what I’m saying here?

You guys, my husband is a GOOD MAN. But, if I had known 13+ years ago how hard this would be, how much ongoing work it would require – I wouldn’t have done it. I understand I may be the only one who feels like this. But I suspect I’m not.

Has it been ALL hard work and ZERO enjoyment? Of course not. (Although that’s what the voice in my head will try to tell me.) But do I always feel like, “I LOVE BEING MARRIED!”?  I’m sorry, but no. I LOVE reading books. I LOVE taking naps. I LOVE eating brownies.

I don’t always LOVE being married. I AM married. And the two don’t always go together. I don’t always feel like I fit here. And being married certainly doesn’t always foster my own peace. Glennon describes a still, small voice that guides her. Well, mine regularly says, “It’s not supposed to be this hard.” It whispers promises of freedom and escape. It beckons to me in the name of self-trust and self-peace and self-love.

If you read her announcement, then perhaps you understand how Glennon’s words resonated so deeply with me. Why her words evoked strong feelings in me. She said so many things I feel on a regular basis.

I was completely undone.

That still, small voice continued ringing in my ear long after I finished reading Glennon’s post. All evening, my head and my heart drummed, “God loves you more than He loves marriage. You have Jesus. Nothing can separate you from God’s love. Even divorce.

And you guys, I had a full blown panic attack. Because I very sincerely believe each of those statements are TRUE. Those statements do not contradict Scripture.

But I also very sincerely believe that the enemy was using that truth AGAINST ME.

Because do you know what ELSE can never separate me from God’s love?

My marriage.

When my marriage feels like such hard work, riddled with misunderstandings, unmet expectations, and hurt feelings (“It’s not supposed to be this hard!”), I can often feel overlooked by God. I tried to follow Him and His ways, and I still ended up in a marriage that seems to require more than I have to offer. SO NOW WHAT.

And then I feel alone. Like I’m completely on my own in this thing. Distanced from my husband in any meaningful way, and separated from the God who was supposed to keep it from being this hard.

But who in the world said it’s not supposed to be this hard? And just because I feel isolated from God doesn’t mean I am. And YES my marriage requires more than I have to offer. Because I wasn’t meant to come into this thing in my own strength. And neither was my husband.

“God loves us far more than any institution God made for us [marriage].”

This is a true statement.

And so dangerous out of the greater context of God’s love for me.

Because YES He loves me more than my marriage. But He can so greatly live His love out, to, and in me by walking me THROUGH my marriage.

And when I don’t feel like I fit here? You guys, God is reminding me that He made marriage big enough to HANDLE THAT. You don’t get smaller. Your marriage gets bigger. Marriage stretches. It grows. And you stretch. And you grow. And YES IT’S PAINFUL. But some of life’s most glorious gifts are borne through pain and stretching.

So, indeed, NOW WHAT.

My first “now what” is to refuse to trust the “still, small voice” outside of the context of what else is true. Fear is not the boss of me. And that little voice in my head? ALSO NOT THE BOSS OF ME. It may not be popular, but GOD is the boss of me. (And in Him, also TRUTH and LOVE.) So, I will seek to recognize God’s voice through prayer and His Word. Because He is trustworthy. And because He loves me even more than I am capable of loving myself.

Now what #2: Back to marriage counseling for Matt and me. Because it’s worth it. WE are worth it.

Now what #3: Let’s address that issue of “if I had known 13 years ago… I wouldn’t have gotten married.” Here’s the thing. Thirteen years ago I had NO IDEA what marriage would actually require of me. And I THANK GOD I DIDN’T. Because I would’ve missed the GIFT of the tears turned to laughter, the stretching and breaking and growing and healing. The miracle of making it through – over and over again. NOW WHAT I KNOW: marriage requires more than I can give because marriage is BIGGER THAN ME. It’s bigger than us. It’s bigger than always loving being in it. It’s bigger than sometimes wishing you weren’t.