Category Archives: Identity

Moms & Dads, Is This is Us?

Have you see this week’s episode of NBC’s ‘This is Us?’ If not, consider this your partial *spoiler alert!*

I think everyone in America loves this show because it depicts what real life is like dealing with the messiness of relationships and muck of this broken world. We identify with the characters, and see in them some of the same heart issues we struggle to deal honestly with. For some I imagine the flashbacks to the shaping events on the characters’ lives have struck a chord. But hopefully they have also challenged us to see the shaping influence we are on our own kids.

This does not mean we must be the perfect parent to keep from  negatively affecting our kids.  No, we can positively shape them as much (if not more) by how we deal with our sin and struggles, than in doing all the right things. So, don’t buy into the lie or the pressure that we must be perfect; God can and does use even our failures to shape them for his good.

But with that said, our words and actions do have a huge impact on our kids. From this Season 2, Episode 2 we see this through Kate’s relationship with her mom, Rebecca.

Even as an adult, Kate believes she fails to measure up to her mom’s standards. She sees her mom as everything she is not, so anytime Rebecca is around her insecurities are heightened. From her weight, to the way her house looks, how her boyfriend is perceived, and her singing and performing on stage, Kate feels she is not enough for her mom. And, therefore, not enough.

Through the flashback scenes and present day dialogue we see why. Rebecca sings beautifully, She also has a much smaller physical frame than her daughter. But the reason these are so problematic stem from her damaging words. Rebecca’s compliments of Kate come along with some form of correction or a how-to suggestion for getting better. She means it as encouragement, but these backhanded compliments fuel Kate’s feelings of inadequacy and become the source of shame she can’t get out from under.

Because of the shame, even when her boyfriend compliments or encourages her, it is never louder than the voice in her head that deems her worthless. Her whole identity hinging on her mom’s critique.

As I watched the show, it broke my heart for Kate. But it also broke my heart to know at times I have come across just like Rebecca (the mom, not my daughter Rebecca!) and have unintentionally led my daughter Rebecca (and probably others too) to feel less-than.

The mother/daughter relationship is especially tricky, and the father/son one can be too. We project onto our kids who we want them to be and push them to be better. But that measuring stick of our performance and successes can be a glaring reminder to them of where they fail to meet up to our expectations, accomplishments or appearances.  I think this occurs often when our kids do the same sports or activities we did. However, our different personality types and natural abilities also affect the way our kids see themselves compared to us.

So, Moms & Dads, do you see how this is us?

We heap shame on our kids even with well-meaning intentions. But the good thing in it being revealed is we can do something about it. That’s why seeing your sin is actually a good thing! Because only when you are aware of your sin can you confess and repent of it.

Therefore, instead of burying your failure underneath shame, or denying messing up, let’s deal honestly with our kids about the hurtful things we’ve said and will say, or the looks we’ve given. Let’s even ask them to point those things out to us; the things we aren’t even aware of. Can we do that?

By God’s grace, may we approach them with humility, be willing to listen to their perspective and make needed changes. May we start by asking for their forgiveness, and ask God (and them) to help us see when we still create insecurities in them. This is something I’m learning from my daughter. It hurts to see where my words or performance has led to insecurities in her. But I am thankful to be learning, and know it is growing ‘us’ closer.

Dealing honestly, even when it’s hard, is what will change the course of the shaping influence our sin and failures will have on our children. So let’s take a cue from ‘This is Us’ for the growth and good of our relationships by examining our hearts and living redemptively with one another.

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Worth in the Wrinkles & Grace for the Grey

One night a couple weeks ago my husband and I were eating dinner. It was just the two of us that night. I don’t know what we were talking about but I do remember when he looked up and out of the blue asked, “Do you think you will grow old gracefully or fight it as long as you can?”

Had I not just seen for myself that very day the grey hairs framing my face I wouldn’t have known what he was referring to.  But as it was I instinctively knew he saw exactly what I had – all those wiry greys! It was as if he read my mind because since seeing how obvious they had become I had been thinking maybe it was time to add a little color.

Fast-forward a few days to when I was looking over the headshots a friend took for me.  My husband’s question floated back into the forefront of mind. This time it wasn’t so much the greys bothering me, but the wrinkles around my eyes. It would be so easy for my friend to smooth those out a bit in the pictures. (And to be honest, in one she did). But apart from a miracle cream I don’t know about it, those lines in real life aren’t ever going to totally disappear.

My insecurities over these visible signs of aging got me thinking about how alike we women are to our daughters. Here we worry about how they see themselves and the pressure to be perfect, but we are no different. Whether we admit it or not, we too look to our appearance as an identity.

By this I mean we base our worth on how we look. Our weight, the wrinkles, the grey, the sag or flab, it can consume us. Only made worse when we look around and compare how we stack up to others. So at any given moment – at a party, the gym or scrolling through Instagram – we have those same thoughts as our daughters. I’m not enough. I need to be better. Everyone else is perfect. And just like our daughters, we also exert alot of energy trying to make ourselves enough, better, perfect.

Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with taking care of ourselves and wanting to feel and feel good. The problem is when our appearance becomes the measuring stick for determing our worth, and the worth of others too. What we turn to for our identity.  What we think if we attain or maintain will make us happy and give us life. And in its ruling over us, we will in direct and indirect ways communicate to our girls and others that appearance is where their value comes from too.

But if my true identity is found in Christ, then the extra pounds, the wrinkles, the grey hairs, my grey tooth (yes, it’s true I have one!) or whatever else it is that bothers you about yourself is not what defines us!

I’m writing this for myself, because what I saw in the mirror and reflecting back at me in the photos knocked me off this gospel truth. I didn’t want others to see the wrinkles or think I looked old because of them. But it takes a constant reorienting to remember who we are. One minute I know the truth and feel secure, and the next minute I’m looking to false sources to make me okay.

Because this is true of me, what better entry point to help our daughters see we are in the same boat. We understand her self-obsession because we too become self-consumed.  So what we both need is to see our false identities as the sin it is, and point each other back to who Christ is for us.

In Christ, I am perfect and perfectly loved. An his opinion, truly, is the only one that matters. If only I could always fix my eyes on this truth, maybe I could grow old gracefully (with colored hair or not)! By his grace. 

“Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed (Psalm 34:5).”

For more on this topic for teen girls, check out my book Face Time! Also be sure to subscribe for posts in your inbox, and follow me on Instagram!

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A Plan of Attack for Back to School Busy

As soon as I clicked on my inbox, I instantly regretted it. It was early July and we were on vacation, but already in my inbox, along with emails from my favorite retailers and the blogs I follow, were half a dozen school related messages. A high school football booster club meeting that Wednesday night, a Sign Up Genius to volunteer for the middle school carnival the first week of school, a solicitation to fill a vacant PTO position, a schedule pick up day reminder and billing statements from both my daughter’s university and her sorority. My heart started racing and though half of summer was left, it felt like it was coming to a screeching halt.

If you have school-age kids (and maybe even if you don’t) you likely also feel like back-to-school time can rival the Christmas holidays on the busyness scale.  But then again, in today’s culture does the busyness ever subside?

Busyness was not meant to define and control us, so before we get too far buried underneath all the activities and meetings to come, let’s put on our gospel lenses to evaluate and shape how we prioritize our time.

How Busyness Becomes An Identity

I often hear moms complain about how busy they are; sometimes I’m one of them. But as I started to respond to a text with this sentiment, I stopped myself. Not because it isn’t true, but to evaluate whether my busyness has become an identity. If I’m honest, how much I do and accomplish in a day makes me feel better about myself. I am also tempted to view others according to what they do—as if being less busy or less super-woman-like signifies being less than.

As ugly as it is to see this about myself, I think many of us functionally live as if our identity is tied to what we do. Isn’t this why we often take on more responsibilities, volunteer roles, and projects even when we are already running ragged trying to get dinner on the table and our kids to their activities? If this is you, ask Jesus to help you see yourself not based on what you do, but who he is for you.  Jesus did everything necessary to set you free from having to prove your worth through your own performance and perfectionism. So whether you have a lot on your plate, or a little, rest in his finished work for you.

How Busyness Reflects Your Treasures

Just as our busyness can become a false identity, we can see our false treasures in our busyness. So consider what you make time for. It is said a look at one’s pocketbook and calendar will reveal what’s most important. God’s word puts it this way, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

By the looks of our calendars, what may appear to reign supreme is our kids’ activities, jobs, hobbies, and me-time. In their proper place these things are not bad. But elevated to a place in our lives that prohibit us from routinely being at church, spending time in God’s word, and investing in the lives of others is a clear sign something other than Christ is our greatest treasure. Of course, it’s easy to justify not having control over our schedule, but generally speaking we do what we want to do. If this is you, ask God to show you how to redeem your time by reordering your priorities to match what his word says is most valuable.

How To Evaluate Busyness

As a pastor’s wife, author, and mom of three teenagers, I understand how stressful life feels when being pulled in so many directions. Easily, what I value most can fall to the wayside with my family only getting what’s left of me. So I’ve found it takes knowing myself and being intentional when it comes to calendar commitments.

So while I genuinely enjoy wearing multiple hats, in this stage of life it is not best for my family or my mental health to say “yes” to too many things— even if they are good things. Therefore, before quickly agreeing to something because it sounds fun or like something I would like to be involved with I must consider the costs. Would it require me to be spread too thin? To neglect family time? Miss church? We must remember saying “yes” to something consequently means saying “no” to other things.

Likewise saying “yes” in order to please others is never the right reason to add more to our plates. I am guilty. At times I have not said no when I should have because what mattered most to me was someone else’s opinion, whether it was not wanting to disappoint or wanting to be associated with a particular person. Either way and whatever the case is for you, by God’s grace, may we recognize the ruling idols for what they are and see our identity secure in him so we can live with better balance even in the busy seasons of life.

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