Hey mama, don’t take it personal: A Guest Post from Suzie Eller

Every once in a while you meet someone and you instantly “click”. That happened for me recently when I met Suzie Eller. She’s a former Broken Girl whose life reflects the beauty that is available to us all when we allow God to mend our hearts and walk us through forgiveness. 

Growing up in a dysfunctional home doesn’t set us up to be naturally good parents (if such a thing exists) but Suzie’s life proves that even broken girls can be great mamas!

Welcome our dear friend Suzie…

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When your memories as a child were painful, you can become super sensitive to the words from your own children. After all, you want better for your children.

So when you try hard and they still throw a tantrum, or say “I hate you,” or embarrass you in the grocery store, you might want to take it personal.

Hey, don’t you know how much I love you!

Why are you embarrassing me?

Don’t you see what I do for you?

But this is the scoop:

Your child is a work in progress.

She has no idea of your past pain and that’s a gift. You’ve given her innocence and a childhood.

He isn’t big enough or wise enough to make your hopes for a good family come true. It’s not his job, and his shoulders aren’t big enough to carry that burden.

So, what do you do?

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Mama, we take personalization out of the equation.

It’s not about you.

Your child is a little warm body with a brain that is still developing (and will be until their early twenties), and you and I have the most amazing responsibility and gift of teaching and loving and shaping them.

So, when they throw a fit in WalMart, forget the people around you. Don’t worry about what they are saying, and focus on your child.  Stay calm. Be the adult.

Because this is a defining moment.

Your child has what you did not. . .  a calm, reasonable, loving parent who is willing to tough it out through the bad moments.

A mama who knows that parenting is wonderful and hard.

A mama who sees this as a teachable moment so that her child can grow into the amazing adult he or she will one day be.

A mama who teaches rather than loses it.

When we don’t take it personal, we shape our children’s memories, instead of our old memories shaping our child.

Suzie

I hope this will be a helpful resource: The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past      to Give Your Kids a Great Future.

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Suzie is an International Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and author, former radio co-host, and Bible Gateway blogger.

She’s a woman who believes that our past shapes us, but does not limit us! (Read Suzie’s story)

She is an author of articles, columns, and seven books including her most recent books:

The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness and The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places.

Most important, she’s a mom, wife, and “Gaga” to five beautiful babies.

Suzie lives in NW Arkansas and when she’s not writing or speaking, she’s with her family, or hiking, or filling the kitchen with smells of her love language of cooking.

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Vulnerable Hearts

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Last week Dave Frey from Sidewalk Prophets was in studio with us talking about his new single “Keep Making Me” and the story behind the song. He quoted C.S. Lewis “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” Those words stayed with me for days.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of guarding our hearts, of keeping them locked up and secreted away. But love can’t grow there. I remember sitting in the studio listening to Dave and asking God to make me vulnerable, to make me willing to be vulnerable so that I would be capable of giving and receiving love. Just a few short days later I got the opportunity to put in practice C.S. Lewis’ words. I was at lunch with a group of ladies that I meet with on a fairly regular basis. They are my safe group, girls I trust with my heart, girls that don’t sit around and talk about surface things, but are willing to dive into the deep places of the heart with you. Our conversations are those without filters, and I love them for that.

It had been a rough week for me, and I sat quietly during lunch, listening to the other ladies share about the exciting things God was doing in each of their lives and their ministries. They talked about big dreams they have for the future and how God is opening doors for those dreams to become reality. I felt like I didn’t have any exciting news to add to the conversation because my heart was hurting and I was afraid if I opened my mouth what would spill out would take the conversation from a direction of excitement and rejoicing to one of tears and concern.

I had all but decided to just put on a smile and keep my mouth shut when I was reminded of C.S. Lewis’ words “to love is to be vulnerable”. I knew if I didn’t say anything I’d be passing up a gift. A gift from the hand of God, who had placed in my life three women who knew me and loved me, women who wouldn’t judge me or tell my secrets, but would simply listen and encourage and pray. To have friends who love without trampling your heart is a gift, to not be vulnerable with those friends is to snub your nose at that gift.

I finally got up the courage to speak and the minute I opened my mouth the tears fell from my eyes as fast as the words fell from my lips. None of my friends were mad at me for changing the direction of the conversation, none of them were upset that I was having a bad week and needed to process. I was hugged and loved and prayed for. That day I received healing and strength to carry on because I risked being vulnerable.

The truth is… vulnerability scares me. It didn’t used to, but being vulnerable has taught me when you give someone access to your heart odds are pretty good that they will break it; at least that’s how my history has gone. And after one too many times of experiencing a broken heart it’s all too easy to lock your heart up and throw away the key. But I’m realizing that there’s something more dangerous than a broken heart… a heart that’s unbreakable. A heart that’s hard and cold and closed off. A heart that’s afraid of love is a lot more damaged than a heart that is hurt by love.

We have to be willing to risk. Part of our healing, part of our finding wholeness on the other side of brokenness is taking a chance to risk again. We have to learn how to let go of the pain that love has brought us so that we can receive the love that God has for us. So how do we do that?

This week I was watching one of my favorite shows, Call the Midwife (it is serious British drama, and I love it!) when these words grabbed my heart:

“Next time there’s a storm leave open both doors. Don’t let your misfortunes find a home.

History needn’t be a trap, we can escape its web and shake off its weight of pain.

We can change our minds and open up our hearts.

We can let forgiveness speak and allow it to be heard, let friendship flourish,

and let love in so it might feed and sustain us all our days.”

 

There it is… the secret! Don’t let your misfortunes find a home. Don’t let the pain of the past take up residency and live in your heart. Let it pass through. Open the back door and let it free. Don’t hold the hurt hostage. Because if we do we don’t leave room for forgiveness and friendship and love to enter in and find a home.

The sad truth is, not everyone can be trusted with your heart, and not everyone should be given full access to your heart. God gives us wisdom and discernment for that reason. But He also places us in good community and surrounds us with brothers and sisters in Christ who want to love us and be the hands and feet of Christ extended to us. To reject them because of the hurt inflicted on us by someone else is to reject God’s healing for us.

We need to ask God to give us eyes to see the people He’s placed in our lives that are safe, and when He shows us who they are we need to ask Him for the guts to open our mouths and speak the vulnerable words, to uncover the hiddenness of our heart, to reveal the hurting places.  To let love in so it might feed us and sustain us all our days.

With love~

Keri

Image by Chelsea Rustad, used with permission.

Suddenly

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Spring is finally starting to spring up around here. I love the winter, and snow is my favorite, but even I am ready for warmer days and signs of new life.

Growing up in the nursery business gave me a profound love for the smell of freshly turned dirt and peat moss, and after a crazy few weeks of working more hours than I can count I decided I was in need of therapy of the dirty kind, so I headed to my flower beds with a trowel, shears and a garbage sack.

Step one in insuring pretty flowers throughout the spring and summer is a good spring clean-up in your flower beds. I’m normally not one that likes prep work. I do my best to skip as many steps as possible so I can get right to the fun part of the project (Thus the spots of paint on all the trim in my house. Seriously, who has time to tape and cut in?). But cleaning my flower beds this year was different. I found myself slowing down as I pulled weeds and cut back dead winter branches.

As I sat and looked around me I noticed that my flower beds looked a lot like I felt. Pretty ugly. Dry. Barren. A scraggly mess. I was so ready to be done with the dreary winter look… in my heart and my front yard. So I pulled weeds, pruned vines, chopped off the old dead ornamental grass. Leaving my Jack Frost babies for last…

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Ugly isn’t it? Prickly too. A million invisible thorns live on those branches. I know, I should get some gardening gloves, but then you can’t feel the dirt, and that’s just not acceptable. I’d rather face the prickly plants.

I love Jack Frost. In the spring and summer it makes me so happy to see its pretty leaves and dainty blue flowers. I have two that live right by my front door and I adore them. Even after they quit blooming they stay vibrant green up until it gets really cold. Then they turn into the ugly thing above. All winter I’ve been tempted to rip up that unsightly tumbleweed of a dead plant, but I know better. You see, under that ugliness is a chance for me to have pretty flowers again this spring… if they survive the winter. And I know that ugly dead thing is protecting the potential for new life.

But yesterday… Yesterday it was time!

It came up easily, with just a slight tug the branches let go of the soil and revealed the most beautiful sight beneath: new life!

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And there it is! Where there was once only dead, ugly branches suddenly there is new life. If you would have walked by my flower gardens last week you probably would have never guessed that such a beautiful sight lay hidden under such a lifeless thing. But it did. I was there all along. Sleeping, then waking and growing; waiting for the right moment to peak its little head out and soak up the warm spring sun. Waiting for me to come along and pull up all the dead things.

Can I ask you a question? Do you sometimes feel like there’s nothing happening in your life? Like everything in you is dried up and lifeless? Like everything is perpetual winter with no sign of spring? Do you keep walking by the same thing in your heart wondering if anything but ugliness will ever live there? Have you asked God if He even hears you at all? If He’s doing anything or if He’s just forgotten about you?  I have. Sometimes we just can’t see what’s taking place underneath it all.

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isa. 43:19

 

Do you not perceive it? Sometime the answer is no. No, God I don’t see. I don’t see what You’re doing. I don’t see growth or change or answers. Everything looks the same to me. Then suddenly He pulls back the veil and gives us a glimpse of the glory. Suddenly a light pierces the darkness and we see that He was there all along. Working on us. Growing in us. Planting and preparing us for a new season. For new life.

Master Gardner, Author of seasons, today would You give us eyes to see? Would You pull back the lifelessness of the winter places of our souls and reveal glorious life spring up in us? Remove the tumbleweeds of our hearts. Show us that You’ve been at work all along, even in the ugly things. Let spring burst forth in our hearts and spirits. Help us to grow strong in You.

~Keri

 

Jesus is Better

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I’m learning that it’s a lot easier to believe something with your mind than with your heart.

For example, if you’re a single woman on Valentine’s week it’s really hard to make your heart believe that Jesus is better than any earthly man you could ever meet or fall in love with. At least that’s what my friend, Ramona, and I concluded this past Saturday night over a very long dinner.

Don’t worry, we’re fully convinced that Jesus is actually better… in our minds. We know logically that no one could ever come close to loving us, providing for us, or protecting us like He does. We say (and mean it) that if God never sends a man our way that we’re still blessed beyond belief and so incredibly happy with this life we have. And yet… we lay awake some nights thinking it sure would be nice to have someone to hold me. 

And there is the struggle… To figure out how to make the heart believe what the mind knows beyond doubt.

We wrestled with it for almost 2 hours at dinner then made our way to church. We had joked about going to go look for guys, but neither of us felt up for it; and we both knew our hearts could probably use a good dose of worship in His presence more than they could use a hunting expedition at Cabela’s or Best Buy (that is where single men hang out on Saturday nights right?)

We were a few minutes late to service so we quietly slipped in the back; and as we did the congregation started singing:

In all my sorrows, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
In all my victories, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
Than any comfort, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
More than all riches, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
Our souls declaring, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
Our song eternal, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

And there it was; the wrestle.

Over and over again we sang it… First a declaration: Jesus is better. Followed by a cry for help: make my heart believe.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”   Psalm 73:26

Do I know Jesus is better? Sure. Do I wrestle with this knowledge? You better believe it. My flesh is weak. My heart fails. But God is the one who strengthens my heart. He is the only one who has the power to transform my head knowledge to heart knowledge.

Maybe you don’t know the wrestle of singleness. Maybe your wrestle is health, or job loss, or family dysfunction, or infertility, or the death of someone you love. Whatever the wrestle, whatever the longing, Jesus is better.

Lord, make our hearts believe!

~Keri

 

Reflection

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It’s hard to believe that 2013 is drawing to a close. Before moving on to a new year I enjoy taking an a few hours to reflect on the last year and prayerful look forward to what’s next. Here’s a list of the questions I use for reflection. Enjoy! ~Keri

 

A Year in Review

  1. What was the best thing that happened in the last year?
  2. What is the most challenging thing that happened?
  3. What was an unexpected joy?
  4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
  5. Pick 3 words to describe the last year.
  6. What were the best books you read?
  7. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
  8. What was your biggest personal challenge?
  9. In what ways did you grow emotionally?
  10. In what ways did you grow spiritually?
  11. In what ways did you grow physically?
  12. In what way did you grow in your relationships with others?
  13. What was the most enjoyable part of your work professionally?
  14. What was the most enjoyable part of your work at home?
  15. What was the most challenging part of your work professionally?
  16. What was the most challenging part of your work at home?
  17. What was your single biggest time waster this past year?
  18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
  19. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?
  20. Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year.

Looking Forward

  1. What healthy character traits would you like to see developed in your life this year?
  2. What is your plan for maintaining accountability for progressing in personal growth?
  3. What are some of your learning goals this year?
  4. What books would you like to read this year?
  5. What is one area of growth at your job that you would like to develop this year?
  6. What is one area of progress you’d like to see this year for improving your physical health?
  7. What are some tangible daily choices you can add to your life that will improve your health?
  8. What are some goals you have to strengthen your marriage?
  9. In what ways can you grow in intimacy with your spouse this year?
  10. What will deliberate, regular family time look like this year?
  11. Do you have specific planned vacation time in mind for this year?
  12. What are some ways you’d like to see each of your children grow this year physically, emotionally, spiritually, and educationally?
  13. What is one specific area of progress you’d like to see this year in your financial health?
  14. How much debt do you have? In what ways can you eliminate a sizeable portion of it this year?
  15. How is your savings? In what ways can you save more money this year?
  16. Are you giving regularly? In what ways can you give this year?
  17. In what specific ways would you like to grow in relating to your friends this year?
  18. What are some ways you can be of service to your community?
  19. Who are some specific people in your life that can use some encouragement? What will you do to encourage them this year?
  20. Who are some people in your life that you admire? How can you positively use their influence in your life?
  21. Are there any damaging relationships in your life? What will you do this year to make it better?
  22. In what ways can you develop your prayer life this year?
  23. How do you feel about your consistency in reading the Bible? What steps will you take to see this area grow?
  24. What area of weakness do you feel like God wants to strengthen this year?
  25. What will be your spiritual theme for this year?

Risky

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I ordered a London Fog, she ordered an iced mocha. We sat across from each other sipping our respective drinks wondering if it was safe to just unload or if we needed to do the whole “small talk” thing first. Thankfully, neither of us are all that good at small talk so we just jumped in.

She started, “you know that blog you sent me? Yeah. I feel that way too. Why are we like that?”

She was referring to a blog I had sent her earlier that morning. The blog itself was about singleness, but there was one paragraph that jumped out at me that I just had to share with her:

Typically when I have a bad week, I hate to burden anyone around me so I keep it to myself. Part of how I walk in pride is that I compare my situation to others around me, and to the onlooker if my trials are seemingly small and trivial, I tend to play down my emotions and feelings. (the rest of the blog can be found here)

Why are we like that? Why do we feel like we’re a burden when we unload on the people who love us the most?

After an hour or so of conversation my sweet friend and I decided that the main reason we downplay our feelings is because we’re afraid. Afraid that you’ll reject us if we tell you all the ugly. Afraid that you’ll grow tired of us. Afraid that our bad day will infringe upon your good day and you’ll be calling us “Debbie Downer” in your mind.

The truth is; we’re afraid because we have faced that kind of rejection. You too? A child learns not to touch a hot stove by being burned. And women learn not to trust people with their emotions the same way. Sadly, the world is full of people who will reject us, or grow tired of us, or just flat out stab us in the back.

Thankfully, the world is also full of women who will love us fiercely! Women who will walk through fire with you and pick up the phone every time you call no matter what the hour. Women who will guard secrets and share tears and hold hands and lean in close and whisper words that give life to weary souls. To keep these women at arm’s length because of fear is an injustice. To choose safety over vulnerability is a disservice to yourself. To choose isolation over companionship is just plain foolish.

We need each other. Plain and simple. We were created to live in relationship. And relationship means the messy days too. It’s not easy. It’s really hard to interrupt the dinner conversation with a quiet “y’all, I’m having a really rough week and need encouragement”. We convince ourselves that whatever it is that’s troubling us isn’t really a big deal, and that no one really wants to be bothered by it anyway. And instead of opening up our hearts and risking transparency with friends we smile and nod and wait until dinner is over to cry alone in our car.

And I don’t want us to live like that anymore. I don’t want us to consider ourselves a burden just because we’re wrestling with the deeper issues of life. Life is hard, and complicated, and sometimes frustrating. Let’s rejoice in the fact that God allows us to have relationships where we can love and support each other through all we walk through.

For me to act like I’m okay all the time doesn’t do me or anyone else any good. How can I minister to others when I fail to minister to my own heart?

Letting others walk with me and love me and know the real me ministers to my heart. It makes me healthy. It fills me up so that I can be poured out. It gives me perspective and strength and encouragement. Why wouldn’t I be willing to risk for that?

Friends, let’s be safe places. Let’s be vulnerable. Let’s risk being real. Let’s love each other well, even when its hard.

~Keri

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

Letting Go

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When I brought you home from the hospital you each weighed just a smidge over 4 pounds. You came home needy. You needed to be fed every 2 hours round the clock and needed to be weighed every 24 hours. Heart monitors and home health nurses were constant companions.

The first five weeks of your life were the hardest for me. Leaving the hospital every day without you almost ripped my heart out. When you finally came home I spent the next 12 weeks of your life sleeping on the floor of the nursery with my hand on your crib. Countless times a night one of your heart monitors would beep signaling that you’d forgotten to breathe, I’d wake up in a panic and shake the crib to wake you up enough to breathe again. Then every two hours we’d all wake up and eat and cry together.

6,855 days have passed since the first day we shared together as mother and daughter. So much has changed. You’re not needy anymore. And I’m not quite sure how to let you go. For almost 19 years I’ve purposefully prepared you to leave the nest, and now that your time to fly is here I’m not sure that I’m ready to watch you soar.

The truth is, there’s nothing in all the world more that I’ve loved more than I’ve loved being your mom. That Jesus would choose me to have the honor of sharing life with you is the greatest of all gifts. So how do you let go of the thing you’ve loved most?

But letting go is what mothers do. We let you go from our bodies and bring you forth into this world. We let you go from our arms and watch your feeble first steps. We let you go from our homes onto that big scary yellow school bus. We let you go from our driveways with the keys to our minivans. Every day from day 1 until day 6,855 is a day that we learn to let you go just a little bit more. Letting go is what mothers do.

And even though there have been too many moments of letting go to count it doesn’t make this moment any easier. The letting go is always hard, always an exercise of trust. Only two things make this letting go any easier. Jesus and you.

Jesus because He has proven to be a better parent than I could ever be. Because He has been our constant companion through all of the letting goes. Because He has been faithful through every moment. Because His love for you overshadows mine. Because He goes before you and prepares a way for you.

And you. Because you amaze me. Allison, with your joy and humility and deep trust in Jesus. And Alexa with your sweet, gentle, yet fiercely strong spirit. I look at you both and know that even though you may falter, you will soar! You will run your race and hear your “well done” at the end of it all.

I can’t wait to see it all unfold. Though my time of running with you holding your hand has come to its end; I’ll always be here. Watching. Praying. Cheering you on. I’ll always be here to shake the crib and remind you to breathe. I’ll be here when your body (or your soul) is in need of a good meal. I’ll be here when the next step is bigger than the first step of the bus to a kindergartner and you need someone to tell you that “you can do it!”.

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So, baby girls of mine, I release you into this great big amazing world. Go shine for Jesus! Go soar!