Identity

Discriminating Mommies

Let's make motherhood a beautiful thing. Can we learn to support and encourage fellow mamas? rachelaz.com

dis·crim·i·na·tion          noun: discrimination;
1. the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things.
2. recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.”discrimination between right and wrong.”

Prepping for motherhood can be absolutely terrifying. To co-sleep, or not to co-sleep. Wide-mouthed bottles, or traditional… oh wait, should I plan to use a bottle at all?

As a first-time momma, I felt absolutely overwhelmed through pregnancy. I was terrified. Petrified. I was bombarded with all kinds of statistics, opinions, articles, and research on the daily. Nursing, immunizing, birthing, professional care… all the options and arguments circled my thoughts and closed in on my emotions. It was an overwhelming, constant feeling of, “I should be doing more.” And if I’m perfectly honest, I still fight it today.

So, let me just start out by saying that I’m not arguing for or on behalf of a particular parenting topic. But instead, my heart is to hopefully broaden our perspectives and face the real issues.

We live in a society that lives and breathes to replace one idol with another. If it isn’t fame, it’s fortune, or success, or goal achievement, or superficiality, or a certain relationship, or self-improvement, or a particular job position. We’ve become convinced that we are sovereign over our own lives. And while we are indeed responsible for our actions, we’ve lost the freedom that comes with entrusting our Creator with our lives and worshiping Him alone.

We’re bombarded with and constantly reminded of what we don’t have, what we do have, or why we aren’t good enough. We obsess with what we believe in, or the choices we make; to the point that they themselves become a part of our identity.

With one year of motherhood under my belt, I can confidently say that the same struggles come with motherhood.

When we have a good mommy day; we’re great. And when we miss the mark or it’s challenging; we’re miserable. Just like everything else, motherhood can quickly become an idol. And our preferences, routines and parenting styles can easily become a part of our identity.

We allow them to define us and take it personally when people don’t agree with our styles or share similar perspectives. We get bent out of shape over feeding techniques, oils, health standards, professional advice, and physician care.

We allow the real enemy to come between us. And before we know it, it’s high school all over again, full of mean-girl cliques, “she said’s”, peer pressure, and “did you see what she did’s.” It’s silliness. It’s absolutely ridiculous. And yet, I fight it, and have found myself guilty of it many times.

How did we get here? Where did it start?

The older I get, the more I recognize my desperate need for Christ. Comparison, gossip, and judgement are not new tricks. The enemy’s just really good at disguising them. And now more than ever (even more than in high school.) I need Christ.

I need Christ to lead my husband and me as we seek out wisdom. I need Christ when it comes to bridling my tongue against gossip. I need Christ when it comes to guarding my heart against judgement. I need Christ when it comes to loving my family well. I need Christ to silence the voices of insecurity, pride, and selfishness. I need Christ when it comes to encouraging my sisters and fellow mommies.

I need Christ more than motherhood. More than my husband. More than my daughter. More than anything. I need Christ. He alone is worthy of my worship. He alone must be my source.

While I was pregnant, I fought so many feelings of insecurity and judgement when it came to our original plan. We chose a hospital, high risk doctor, and epidural, for Finnley Haven’s birth. I was told all about articles, horror-stories, and statistics which had underlying undertones of fear. Well-meaning people whom I love and adore lovingly tried to me that we weren’t choosing what was best for our daughter. I fought feelings of being judged, bullied, and almost discriminated against.

We didn’t get to our much prayed about “birth plan” due to severe pre-eclampsia at 29 weeks. But I am so very thankful for our doctor whom the Lord led us to. She stayed up all night while I was in critical condition, on her night off. She performed an emergency c-section the following day (on her other day off) and saved our lives– by no exaggeration. We’re also so very grateful for the hospital and incredible nurses who literally kept our little preemie girl alive for her first two months of life. God used our little “plan.” 

I say all this to say, that I understand this is the plan the Lord led us to. It was His sovereign hand on our lives. He led us, and He kept us. So, I mustn’t judge anyone if they’re being led in a different way than myself. Because who am I to know what the Lord has planned for their lives? 

There are risks to all kinds of births and parenting styles. Fear shouldn’t ever be the deciding factor. There is no perfect, fail-proof way to have a baby. Which is why we must put our trust in Christ alone as we seek out wisdom. If you seek the Lord He will lead you. Entrust the outcome to Christ. Trust His best for your family– through the boatloads of articles, opinions, statistics, and options. He has a plan, and He’s not up there freaking out. He is with us.

I love the wealth of information that’s out there, but at a certain point I think the best thing we can do to love our mama friends well is to pray for them, hold our tongues and wait for them to ask us for advice, and be okay if they don’t.

I want to trust that God knows my friends. He will lead my friends in the best path for their children. Just like there’s a reason He made Johnny and I Finnley’s parents; there’s a reason why He chose my friends to parent their littles.

Can we as mamas encourage and empower each other instead of sizing each other up and trying to convince each other of our own personal convictions when it comes to birthing/immunizing/parenting? Can we be a safe place, and extend grace to others when they struggle? Can we lean on Christ while fighting against pride and gossip amongst us? Can we point others to Christ, instead of some article?

Our mission as moms should be to make Christ our foundation, as we seek Him for wisdom and entrust our children to Him. He is good. He is for us. He is with us. 

There’s no easy or perfect way to parent, so let’s do everything in our power to support and encourage our fellow mamacitas. Let’s build each other up in Christ and stop discriminating mommies. Let’s love each other deeply, and make sharing the bond of motherhood a beautiful thing.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight.” [Proverbs 3:5-6]

xoxo,

   Rachel

Polished Perfect

“Whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones…”  -Matthew 23:27

As silly as it sounds, every time I paint my nails I’m reminded of the horrific events that took place in the spring of 2012.  One of my best friends left her apartment, checked into a hotel and consumed an entire bottle of 500mg Extra-Strength Excedrin, another of Tylenol and a 2-liter energy drink.  When we found her, she was hardly responsive and her skin had green undertones.  As tears were falling from her face faster than her sleeves could catch them, my other friend, Cara, called an ambulance.

I couldn’t even function.  I just sat there in silence at the foot of the bed, blankly starring at my gorgeous friend’s near lifeless body.  As I picked up her hand, I noticed her fingernail polish was chipped.  Not knowing what else to do, I grabbed a bottle of polish and tried my best to paint her nails.  Looking back on this, we all laugh at how stupid I was to paint her nails in such a time of absolute crisis.  I still kick myself for doing something that was so entirely irrelevant to the situation.

You will be relieved to know and I am thrilled to report that after three days in the ICU, my friend survived and was released without any stomach or liver damage.  God is sovereign.  She is an incredible woman and has a jaw-dropping testimony nothing short of an amazing miracle.

As I was thinking back on all this the other day, I realized that I’ve been painting my nails in the midst of crisis for as long as I can remember.  My coping mechanisms have always been to hold everything together.  Be perfect.  Or at least act and appear to be put together.  Maybe, if I looked whole on the outside, something would transform on the inside to match.  The more I struggled internally, the more I tightened the mask strings.  But inside, beneath the image was always a little girl—and she was completely falling apart.

Image: An imitation of a person or thing; a representation, likeness, impression or conception of oneself; an illusion.

I learned at a young age that the world doesn’t care about how the girl in the pictures really feels.  I quickly learned to have a positive outlook, stuff my emotions, and fight for a flawless reflection.  But this was never a lasting identity, it was only an image.  The more pain, loneliness, rejection and insecurity I felt; the more I strived to paint an inaccurate picture of a girl who had it all together.

Beneath the facade I had no idea who I was or where my value was found.  I fought my hardest to maintain an image that had absolutely no relationship with reality.  But the outside couldn’t fix what was happening inside.

We live in a world that applauds, endorses, and super glues on the masks.  Our world worships images.  We’ve learned by example to push the limits and see how far we will go to maintain the image we want others to see.  We want people to view us superficially so they won’t look past the masks, or God forbid, stick around long enough to see how we really are.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  -1 Samuel 16:7

Thankfully, God doesn’t buy into “fake”.  He isn’t fooled by facades, intimidated by masks, or takes us at our word when we say that we’re “doing great!”  He sees past the act and speaks to our hearts.  He sees us falling apart and breathes life into us.  Like the woman with the alabaster jar, sitting at Jesus’ feet in the midst of her filth, mess, insecurity and pain.  This kind of vulnerability pulls on His heart strings.  He faithfully seeks us out to break off the things that hold us back, threatening to hold us captive.

“All of us then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces.” –2 Corinthians 3:18

This kind of matchless beauty is so raw and undone it scares those who are still in chains.  This reckless transparency with messy hair, mascara running, bent knees and a heart of flesh cannot be fabricated.  It’s as real as they come.  This absolute humility is so authentic it makes others uncomfortable.  But it’s the imperfect that the Lord chooses to use.  Our weakness allows Him to be our perfect strength.

He sees us. Fighting to be faithful, wrestling through motherhood, trying to parent perfectly, in yesterday’s topknot, with dried spit-up down our shirts. He begs us to leave the dishes and climb over the dirty piles of laundry. He beckons us to come away with Him. To sit at his feet. To rest in Him. To just be His daughter.

When your need for approval is fulfilled by what you do, how you parent, or imperfect people, you will always be left desiring more.  I encourage you; Run to the One whose perfection isn’t painted on with brushes, designed by the fashion elite, studied in Ivy League classes, or worn as couture. He is simply perfect so we won’t have to be.  He is the answer to our imperfection.  The sooner we take off our masks and come face to face with who we’ve become, the sooner He can intervene and make us who we were born to be.  It’s still a daily struggle to be real,  but I’m learning how to walk in freedom of who He has created me to be.

His absolute security beckons me to be renewed.  He loves me just as I am.  Broken, hurting, confused, crumbling; real.  And He desires to make me whole and lacking nothing.

So, which is more important to you—your outward persona or your inward well being?  Don’t paint your nails while dying—it’s senseless.

“He said to me… ‘My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” –2 Corinthians 12:9-10

TAKE IT OFF

TAKE IT OFF
“Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you.  Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you…”

But I said, “Hold it, Master God! Look at me.  I don’t know anything.”

God told me, “I’ll tell you where to go and you’ll go there.  I’ll tell you what to say and you’ll say it. Don’t be afraid…I’ll be right there, looking after you.
Jeremiah 1:5-10 9 (The Msg).

I’ve recently found myself facing MYSELF–who am I?  Really?  Apart from relationships.  Agendas aside and cameras off.  What do I like?  What’s my “calling?”  What’s my communication style?  How do I cope?  What annoys me?  And why on earth am I so indecisive?

I’ll never forget my first identity crisis.  It was so blatantly obvious it blew up in my face and triggered a meltdown that took me months to come out of.   It was my first semester at CFNI, I had just broken up with my boyfriend and was perfectly content on my own.  My best friend, Cara bravely stood by me as I began a three-day saga of finding, choosing and purchasing the perfect new camera.  My previous one had broken and I needed a new one.  I’m picky, like to spend my money well and don’t settle for cheap.  So, it was clear that poor Cara had her work cut out for her.

Sure, you may laugh at this, but to me, it was a big deal.  I don’t like to splurge but I’m big on quality “more bang for your buck” kind of purchases.  Six stores, a gabazillion price comparisons, one-hundred-something online customer reviews, and three store reps later; I narrowed all of my options down to two cameras; A sleek black one, or a slightly chubbier pink one.  Both at the same store: Best Buy had lived up to its name.  But I was torn.  Here I was, trying to make a decision and I just couldn’t seem to decide.  My stubborn indecisiveness refused to take the day off.  Discouraged and frustrated with myself, we finally left—without purchasing so much as a camera case.

Three days later, I went back.  This time, I was determined to leave the building with a slightly lighter wallet and the perfect camera in hand.   I bee-lined it to the camera section but my determination wasn’t enough to cancel out my indecisiveness.  I quickly found myself begging a 40-something year old rep to just make the decision for me.  Not because his taste was anything like mine (I’m quite sure of this) but because I just didn’t want to be responsible for making the “wrong decision”.

This older man looked me in the eyes and asked a simple, uncomplicated and perfectly ordinary question, “What do you want—why can’t you just pick one?”  This question prompted the most painfully transparent answer that shocked even me.  I replied, “Because I’ve always had a boyfriend to tell me what I should do because I can’t decide for myself.  I just broke up with my boyfriend and now I don’t know what to do.  I feel lost.”  A flood of tears quickly followed.  Here I was, water works on full blast and causing a scene in the middle of Best Buy.  Not because I was heartbroken, but because I realized I hadn’t allowed myself to choose independently from anyone else.

I had gone the previous six years always having a boyfriend.  They came and went, but I always had someone help me form and direct my “opinions”.  My mind immediately began to recall all of the things I thought I “liked”.  The Boston Red Sox- for one.  Did I even like them? No! I could care less!  Steak? I don’t even like steak, as a matter of fact, I hate steak!

Sadness started to diminish as anger began to rise within me. “WHO IN THE WORLD AM I?” was stuck on repeat and screaming in my head.  I felt like I had amnesia as I realized that a lot of my personality and preferences had been shaped by those who I had allowed in my life.  I was so overwhelmed, the only thing I could settle in my mind was that I loved God, missed my family and dog, and liked pink.

As I’m writing this, one of my good girlfriends recently broke up with her boyfriend of six years.  Their relationship was the definition of serious.  They had settled down and made a home for themselves, but after a turn of events it was made clear that they were headed in different directions.  After their split, she expressed her despair about this new-found identity crisis.  “I don’t know who I am, what to do, or how to live.  Even the stupidest things get to me.  Right down to toilet paper.  Extra soft or ultra strong?  I feel like I can’t decide anything on my own independent from him.”

What happened to us?  How did we get here?  How have we allowed others to determine who we were for so long—even after they’re long gone?  Where is God in us? How did He originally design and intend for us to be.  What are our heart’s deepest desires?  Ultimately; who are we and what do we want?

It baffles me how easy it is to pick up a burden that wasn’t ever ours to begin with.  I have a favorite pair of tennis shoes.  Everyone knows they’re my favorite because, despite my four other pairs, I always wear my white and pink Nike’s.  Last week, I was at the gym when my right foot started to fall asleep.  My first reaction was to be annoyed with myself.  You see, my left foot is 1/4 size bigger than my right foot (yes, I know—it’s embarrassing).  I was immediately flustered.  My stupid foot!  Why couldn’t it have just grown enough to at least match the other?  I thought to myself, “over my dead body am I going to solve this little problem by purchasing two different sized tennis shoes.”  Not everything is about comfort.  I would just suck it up and deal with the pain.

I sat down to loosen my shoe and give my foot some breathing room.  Then I realized it.  For the past three years, I’ve been putting on, wearing, walking, and running in these shoes.  While all this time, the right shoe wasn’t fully laced.  After purchasing this preferred pair, I had failed to lace four of the loopholes.  They were tied wrong.  All wrong.  To my dismay, my feet weren’t the issue.  As a matter of fact, the problem wasn’t me at all—it was what I was putting on.  Instead of examining my footwear, I had mistakenly blamed it on myself.

How many times do we wear, take, or own something that isn’t ours to begin with.  We blame ourselves for not being outgoing enough, funny enough, witty enough, extroverted enough, quiet enough, smart enough, pretty enough, articulate enough, educated enough.  While all the while, we aren’t meant to take it on.  Have we been trying to wear something that’s all wrong to begin with?  What, who and where on earth is the real me?  The undone, unmasked, untainted Rachel?

To be honest with you, I’m still discovering me.  Everyday is an adventure.  I have no idea who I am in myself.  I find myself in Jesus Christ.  Apart from Him I am entirely lost.  Aside from His love, I am messed up, severely fragmented and desperately damaged.  But He completes me and reveals who I am in Him.  I’m confident that I’m growing into the person that He has called me to be.  I am by no means perfect, I’m simply striving to be what He had in mind when He created me—And no human being on earth can define that for me.  So, take everything other than Him off.  He completes me.  You can run and tell that.

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish.”  Philippians 1:6 (The Msg)