Purpose

Wrestling With Your Identity

By Joy O’Neal

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I know the normal thing in this season is to write about the beauty of Christmas and the birth of our Savior but for a moment I would like to press pause. I want to discuss a topic that has been a recurring wrestle in my motherhood journey. I’m talking about identity. Throughout the many waves and seasons of motherhood, I continually find myself asking questions around true identity. When did it become such a big deal? Why does my flesh hunger for it? Why do I continue to search for it?

All these questions came flooding in while sitting on the porch with my dad on a warm South Carolina night. Casually, my dad asked, “What’s on your heart; what’s God been saying to you?” Without hesitation, the words poured out. “Dad, I am so confused by this obsession both for myself and those around me over identity.” You see moms, it felt as though everywhere I turned I was surrounded with the concerns of what others thought, who they said I was and how I appeared to be. Also, during this season of my life, it seemed like I needed to prove worthiness. Everywhere I looked, identity appeared to be lost. The question of HOW are you was replaced with WHO are you.

There is no other place where my personal identity has felt attacked more than in motherhood. As mothers, we want so deeply to get it right and since we’ve never held the title of mom until we hold our first child, it sparks a season of seeking. We research, question and, in true times of desperation, we Google. In the midst of this search, I believe there can be a dangerous shift that takes place. This shift somehow creeps in through thoughts of doubt and before we know it we are doing it as Sally does and how Jamie does and … well, the unique identity that was given to us and ONLY us is lost. Hence the start of a journey to lost identity.

Reeling over these thoughts I began to blame it on social media and the way our society lives a life on display, then my dad stopped me. What he said next gave me a revelation I’ll never forget around identity. He said, “Joy, this is no new thing! Go to Genesis. What is the first thing God said after the lies of doubt—when the first identity theft took place?”

I found it in Genesis 3:11; the first time identity was stolen. Genesis 3:11 “Who told you that…” Again my dad explained scripture in a way that comes straight from the Holy Spirit. I saw it, felt it and understood. The enemy inserted doubt to the God-given identity of Adam and Eve which caused a desire to cover themselves. They began to glean from the wrong source.

My soul made the connection in an instant and through the lens of grace, I began to see the search for significance for exactly what it was. The moms around me and myself were simply covering ourselves with “the perfect way” because somewhere along the line we started to listen to the wrong source.

After this conversation with my dad, I went on a journey. I asked God the deeper questions of my heart. How do I avoid the trap of lost identity? How do I silence the voices of doubt? How do I quiet pride and the desire to be seen and heard? And the biggest question, if my identity is in You then how do I see myself as You do?

The answers to these questions brought confusion at first because it was two names that rose to the surface of my quest. Mary and Rahab. I had to laugh! I wasn’t sure how the Virgin Mary and the prostitute Rahab were going to come together but I was willing to dive into scripture and find out. I found two very different women living very different lives with very different identities but somehow uttering the exact same sentence.

The first proclamation is in Joshua when the two spies speak with Rahab about the plans of attack on her city. Joshua 2:21,

‘Let it be as you say.’

The second is in Luke after the angel appears to Mary and tells her she will be the mother of Jesus. Luke 1:38,

I am willing to be used of the Lord. Let it happen to me as you have said.

If the Virgin Mary and the prostitute Rahab could arrive at the same mindset then possibly there is something here for us too.

Musing over the previous conversation with my dad on the topic of identity and this new parallel it was beginning to come together. God had already declared Adam and Eve’s true identity. They had no knowledge of nakedness until they listened to the words of doubt. Their desire to cover came directly from listening and believing the voice of confusion. Their source was wrong. Oppositely, Mary and Rahab were able to boldly declare, “Let it be as you say” simply because they listened and believed the right source.

As moms, I’m positive our identity will continue to be challenged. Reminding ourselves to remain confident in what scripture says about us is the strongest weapon in fighting against the identity crisis that seems to meet us at each new season. Just as God did in the garden, can I challenge you to ask yourself the question, “who told me that?” When you feel the urge to cover with accomplishments, credentials, degrees and labels, pause and remember who God says you are. And just like Mary and Rahab, when truth speaks be women that are ready to boldly declare, Let it be as you say!

Merry Christmas mamas!


Confessions of a Stay at Home Mom

By Brittany Rust

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No one ever told me being a stay at home mom could be filled with lonely isolation, make you feel further than ever from a dear dream, or be insanely harder than actually going to work. Three months into this temporary stay at home gig and my view of this kind of mom life has completely shifted. For example, there once was a time I loathed grocery shopping but now I can't wait for our Monday trip to King Soopers. Or the highlight of my week is a trip to Target (with a Starbucks in hand!). Am I right?!

Here's the honest truth: being a stay at home mom is the hardest job in the world. I worked the first year of Roman's life and although it was hard in that our family never had a day off together and I’d miss my boy, being home is actually much harder than being a working mom. True story. If I'm being honest, work gave me space to use my gifts and have adult conversations about intellectual things. I would come home and have all this energy to give my son. 

Nowadays, I'm only ever with Roman and as much as I love my little man (more than the world, in fact!), I feel emotions I honestly struggle to articulate because guilt overwhelms me. If I love Roman, I shouldn't struggle with these ideas, should I? Wrong! You likely know what I'm talking about, mama, don't you? Ugly feelings, aching cries, and longing for the outside world are all real battles you never experienced until you became a stay at home mom.

Truth is, you likely had a job, great adult conversation with friends, lots of hustle and bustle, and contributed financially to your family. But then everything you knew changed when you chose to be home with your kiddo(s). The healthy stretch and challenge of work, gone. Those intellectual conversations, far and few between. The busyness of life on the outside now replaced with diaper changes, laundry, spit up, car pools, and loneliness. And financial provision is now replaced with financial strain.

Feelings of loneliness have settled in. Maybe lack of purpose to contribute to this world or pursue a dream has you questioning your worth. You've lost your identity and sense of self. You're tired and exhausted in every way possible. You cry because it's hard and nobody sees just how hard it is for you. You're around your kid(s) 24/7 and without breaks or outlets, you get frustrated with them and snap negatively towards their little self, which then brings an immense amount of guilt. You wonder if you're cut out to be a good mom. You're sure you'll fail your kids.

Nobody talks about these thoughts and feelings stay at home moms experience. Nobody told me and these past three months have been one rude awakening! But when I feel these things I then feel guilty. I think, "If I truly loved Roman, I wouldn't think such thoughts. I'm a horrible mom--Roman deserves better." 

Those are the thoughts the enemy leaves me with on a regular basis.

But if there is one thing I've learned since becoming a mom it's that a mom is never alone in her thoughts and feelings. Many of us have similar emotions but we're afraid to talk about it. Moms want to appear as if they have it all together and so sacrifice vulnerability and connectivity with others for the image of super mom. But fact: none of us have it all together. And none of us are perfect. So instead of the act, drop it for community. For a full embrace of who you are in the image of Christ and the season you are in.

Here's what I've learned so far:

  1. Find a mom community. Find like-minded moms and do life together regularly. Stat! It's good for you and your kiddo(s). Your kids get to socialize with other kids and that's wonderful. It gets you out of the house, which is really nice. But more than anything, it gives you people to talk to. To share struggles with. It gives you a tribe of women who will encourage you, strengthen you, and show up for you when things are tough. Please, do this immediately! Or you'll go crazy, true story. 
  2. Embrace vulnerability. Nothing will make you feel more alone than choosing to do life on your own. You shouldn't keep what you're going through bottled up--it's not healthy. Please don't do it, mama! I know, from personal experience how harmful it can be. Open up to your husband and allow the raw honesty to strengthen your marriage in new ways. Be vulnerable with your mom friends and you'd be amazed you're not the only one. In fact, they may have insight into how to navigate the journey and can be there to cheer you on to victory over the trial. 
  3. Find your worth in Him, instead of in the world. The enemy will no doubt use your struggles as a stay at home mom to get into your head. To whisper lies about your value and worth. To make you question if you're a good mom. It may be hard but you must find a way to overcome his attacks with what God says about you in His word. Find your way to seeing yourself through His eyes. Get into the word, find Scripture (promises) regarding areas you are struggling in, and use those verses as a defense against the enemy.

Mama, I know it's not always easy being a stay at home. I know there is a struggle. You are not alone in the wrestle with emotions and thoughts. You are not crazy. And you can do this! 


Pursuing Your Dreams in the Midst of Diapers

By Becky Beresford

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I remember the exact moment we found out we were pregnant.

As six-month-old newlyweds we had things sorted.  The plan was to travel abroad, further our ministry training, and of course, learn how to adult as married people.  But then this plus sign on a five-inch plastic stick delivered unexpected news that changed it all, and we were shocked.

Within a few seconds the wave of feelings began to settle in.  Shock led to joy, which led to hope, which quickly faded into the not-so-awesome emotion called FEAR.  I always struggled when facing transitions, especially huge ones like this, but now I was scared on multiple levels.  Would my baby be healthy and safe?  Could my body handle the upcoming transformation?  And most of all, could I do this?  Was I ready to lay down my current reality as an independent human with plans and purposes of her own?  Because ready or not, the day was here and everything was going to be different.

You see, dear friend, I always wanted to be a momma.  There was never a question as to whether kids would be part of my future.  But as I started to explore the gifts and passions Jesus laid heavily on my heart, I realized I wouldn’t be able to do them to the same extent (or even at all) when I became a mom.  Time and energy would be precious and the ability to pee by myself, let alone get out and do ministry, would be a rare occurrence.  So, I wrestled hard

I wrestled with the fear of losing myself in the midst of dirty diapers and piles of laundry. I wrestled with pausing my plans in order to pursue my biggest dream:  having a family. I wrestled with feeling discontent, wanting more but feeling bad for having that desire. And I wrestled with God, wondering when it would be my turn to pursue the dreams He had given me?  Because my drive to do so was only getting stronger.

We decided that one of us would stay home with the littles until they were in Kindergarten, so every day I saw my husband off to work.  I was happy he was following the path Jesus paved for him, but I was also jealous and I’ll say it… resentful.  I didn’t know what was wrong with me because I wanted a family more than anything else.  My babies were my life, but I couldn’t shake the desire for something else… Something that helped me recognize the young dreamer behind the worn-down mommy.  For years the inner battle continued until one day I finally broke.

I was in a counseling session, letting off extreme amounts of steam.  I shared my thoughts about not being 100% satisfied with mommy-hood and how I felt incredibly guilty for not being fine with my life.  She listened and smiled and responded with complete grace.

“Becky, it’s okay.  It’s okay to want more and want to do things for you.  You are the best mom when you make sure to take care of yourself as well.”

I was stunned. Really, I had no clue what to say!  Usually people told me this was ‘just for a season’ or ‘my time would come’, but never had someone actually validated my feelings by saying it was okay to want it all

I had no problem accepting God’s best for my husband and kids, but I finally began to realize He had a best for ME… right here, right now!  It’s such a fine line for mommas.  We easily lay down our entire lives for the sake of our families, but being a mommy martyr is not the same thing as serving out of the fullness of Love.

 So, Sister, let me save you years of grief and lay it all out there.

You are amazing.  You are doing everything you can to make sure your babies are thriving, and God bless you for it!  But you NEED to make sure you are taking care of you.  You need to make sure you are pouring into the areas of your life that help you feel alive.  It looks different for every person and life hands us various circumstances, but regardless of your situation, you need to know you are worth it.  You are worthy of having the opportunity to pursue your dreams and passions because you matter to God.  Granted, your focusing power may be limited, but you still need to water those sacred parts of your heart (even if it’s just a sprinkle) because your dreams don’t deserve to die.  They are part of who you are, and they are meant to be shared with the world. 

When Jesus came to this planet He came so that we “may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10).  He wanted to restore and fulfill and offer an abundance of goodness that is for your entire family, including you!  You are a Daughter of the King, and He loves you too much to let you constantly place yourself at the bottom in order to raise everyone else up. 

Your gifts were never supposed to be buried, momma.  They need to be resurrected.

I’m serious.  Your children need to see them.  When you dare to live out your passions, it gives your kids permission to do the same, and they will carry that truth with them into adulthood.  You can be a dreamer and a parent at the same time.  You can nurture their hearts and yours as well.  You can love being a mom and love other things too.  It is okay to be both, and it is good.

Don’t shame yourself into thinking you can’t be a passion-pursuer.  Your gifts are beyond precious.  And if we encourage our babies to go after their dreams, maybe it’s time we take our advice too.

You can do it, friend.  And now you know you should.


Discovering Your Identity Within Motherhood

By Brittany Rust

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I was sitting in the rocking chair with him, gently swaying back and forth in the dimly light nursery. It had been a particularly difficult day with my teething and mental leap experiencing little fella. As I leaned into the exhaustion, soothing him to sleep, I started thinking about my identity.

For a long time I had my identity figured out--or at least, somewhat figured out. Trouble was, it was wrapped up in what I did. Pastor, writer, wife, friend, and so on. I guess I thought when I became a mom that mother would be added to that without a hiccup.

But somewhere since becoming a mama and that night, I lost clarity. Before, it was easier to direct my passion to the few things I was really focused on in life and it all balanced pretty well. But when I became a mom, I was more divided in trying to give my all in so many different areas. With my struggle in balancing plates I also struggled to find my identity.

That day, filled with bottle feedings, dirty diapers, and calming my son, I felt lost in it all. Who was I? As I sat there in my son's nursery, I no longer felt sure about the answer to that question.

Do you ever feel that way? Feel lost in all the things you are doing so you wonder who you really are in the midst of all the things? Yeah, me too. I was, at that time, a working mom and had lots of things going on in my life. But none of them seemed enough to solidify my identity anymore. Now that I'm a stay at home mom/writer, it's never been more important to be sure of who I am than now.

Where we get lost in our identity journey is that we often believe that what we do makes us who we are. Although what we do is so very important, it does not define who we are. This is found solely in what God says in His word.

God says that you are His child, chosen and set apart. His word says that you are valuable and called to be a carrier of the light. 

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
— 1 Peter 2:9
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
— 1 John 3:1a

Open up the Bible and you'll find pages filled with how God sees you. You could google "Bible verses on identity" and get scores of resources that list out what God's Word says about your value and worth and purpose. 

To wrestle with your identity, particularly as a mom, is to chew on what Scripture says about who you are. Remember, it's not in what you do but who you belong to. And you are His! If you can settle into that definition of identity, then you'll find contentment in who you are that transcends labels and roles.

Your identity as a mom looks like this: you are...

  • valuable
  • precious
  • chosen
  • loved
  • a nurterer
  • beautiful
  • full of purpose
  • a witness and carrier of light
  • a disciple
  • His daughter
  • and doing the most important job in the world!

Honestly, the list could go on. What I would encourage you to do is find a verse that particularly speaks to your heart about who you are in Christ and keep it somewhere you will see everyday. Let it be a daily reminder to you that in the midst of all the things you are doing or labels you might carry, you are first and foremost a child of God and what He thinks about you supersedes everything else.

Now, maybe you are looking for things you can put your hands to in addition to being a mom so that you can be using your gifts and passions to help others. Of course that's a wonderful thing! We all have our part to play within the Body and if one part suffers or isn't doing what it's created to do, the whole Body feels it.

If this is you--looking for ways to contribute to the Body--take Galatians 6:4-5 to heart:

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

Sink yourself into being a mom and a wife. Invest into what you're passionate about. Do your creative best with what you have been entrusted with and share who you are (not what you do) with the world!