• freedom stories

    Free to be Loved- Lyndsie’s Story

    Comparison. Insecurity. Perfectionism. 

    But then, Christ.

    When Lyndsie became a mama, God helped Lyndsie to see just how much she was loved. Her story of coming to understand God’s unconditional love is one that I hope encourages you and meets you where you are today, especially if you struggle with insecurity or trying to measure up to an impossible standard. 

    This is Lyndsie’s Freedom Story. 

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    “You’ll never measure up to her,” I whispered to the tear-streaked face in the mirror. “You’ll never be good enough.”

    I don’t know how many times this scene has repeated itself in my lifetime. The “her” was different nearly every time. She may have been a friend who had reached a new level of success that I could only hope for. She may have been a random stranger on social media who was living my dream. She may have been an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in a while that I ran into at a restaurant and realized just how beautiful she was. How could she be so skinny after four kids? I was struggling with baby weight from two!

    Whoever she was, knew I would never measure up. And the thought crushed me every time.

    A matter of self-esteem

    I grew up in a home with one parent who was loving and caring. The other left me at a young age, and only visited and spent time with me periodically. I didn’t realize until many years later just how much that affected me.

    Growing up, I had braces, glasses and frizzy hair. While I had friends, I wasn’t popular, and was often forgotten. I had good grades, but I didn’t consider myself smart. I didn’t like to be the center of attention, but I longed to be noticed and included. I was painfully shy, and people probably thought I was stuck-up. My worst fear was to be laughed at, or made to look stupid, so most of the time, I kept my thoughts and opinions to myself.

    Trying to measure up

    I consider myself so blessed to have been raised in a Christian home, and a wonderful church. I first realized my need for salvation when I was thirteen, and asked Jesus to save me. I knew that salvation was a free gift, and I could never earn it. What I didn’t understand was unconditional love.

    So many things in my life made me believe I had to work to try to measure up. I needed to work be beautiful or accepted or smart enough. No one told me I needed to measure up, or even that I had something to measure up to. All I had were my own ideals of what I thought I should be.

    Trying to measure up to the perfect women is one thing. (Although, really, what is a perfect woman?) But trying to measure up to a perfect Christian is another thing altogether. But I tried. Oh, how I tried.

    The thing to realize about striving for perfection, is that you can never get there. But you keep trying and trying. I thought if I could just do better, or be better, God would love me more. But if I couldn’t do better, He would be hurt and disappointed in me.

    And so I did what I thought I needed to do. Read my Bible. Check. Pray. Check. Go to church. Check. Say the words. Do the things. But if a day passed when I didn’t read my Bible or pray, I felt guilty. When my lost family members didn’t get saved, or even accept my invitations to come to church, I felt like a failure.

    Inside I believed that God was disappointed in me. He expected more of me than I was giving. I couldn’t measure up to what He wanted.

    A change of heart

    All my life I heard that God loves us like a father loves his children. I could never understand that, of course, until I had a child of my own. As I started interacting with my son, so many things suddenly became clear to me.

    I love my boys unconditionally. Nothing could make me love them more or less. When they do something good, I am so proud of them, but I don’t love them more. When they are mean or disobedient, I don’t love them any less.

    I want to spend time with my boys. I love when they come to me and want to snuggle on my lap. I love to hear their little voices tell me how much they love me. If they push away from me, or don’t want to be with me, I’m not angry. But my heart is hurt.

    One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my kids is how bad behavior separates us. There are times when I have something special planned for them, but when they misbehave or have bad attitudes, I can’t enjoy the special things I had planned. But I don’t love them any less.

    It’s the same in my relationship with God. He loves me unconditionally, whether I do all the right things or not. When I disobey, or don’t do the things I know He wants, He is hurt, and our relationship cannot be what He wants. His desire is to spend time with me, but I can push Him away. He won’t force His way back in. But, as with my boys, when I’m ready to run to Him, He’s still there, loving me, and waiting for me. Life is so much sweeter when I make the choice to follow His will and spend time with Him.

    A changed life

    As I slowly began to better understand God’s love, I began to see the whole world differently. For so long I had been working to earn something that was already mine. My time with God had simply become one more thing to check off the list. I did all the things that a good Christian is supposed to do, but I didn’t do them from a heart of willingness.

    When I realized that God loves me no matter what I do, I didn’t stop doing those right things I’d been doing. But they were different. My daily Bible study and prayer became a time I enjoyed. A time I spent with Someone Who loved me and would never stop. If I missed a day of my personal quiet time, instead of feeling guilty, I felt sad, because I was missing an important part of my life. And I knew that God felt the same way. He wasn’t sitting in Heaven being angry at me for not checking “pray and study” off my list. Instead, He missed spending that time with me.

    John 8:32 says, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” When I realized the truth of God’s unconditional love, I was free. I no longer felt the need to measure up to an impossible ideal of the perfect Christian. But I also found the self-esteem that I’d been missing for most of my life. I finally realized that God doesn’t compare me to someone else and expect me to be better. He only expects me to do the best with what He’s given me.

    I found a new confidence in the woman God created me to be. I have tried things I never thought I’d do before. I have learned that I can do hard things, and I can succeed. When I find myself thinking that I can’t measure up, I take a minute to consider where that thought is coming from. Because it doesn’t come from God.

    I mess up every single day. There are times when I feel the separation from my Heavenly Father, brought on by my own bad attitude or behavior. But now I know without a doubt that He is always there loving me. And nothing I ever do or don’t do can change that. That truth has set me free.

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    Lyndsie is a wife and stay-at-home mom to two ornery boys. When she has spare time you can usually find her reading a good book, making a quilt or baking something sweet. She lives and writes on ten acres in the Low Country of South Carolina. You can find her thoughts about faith, motherhood and life in an RV at Not Just a SAHM.

     

     

     

     

     

    P.S. Want to read more Freedom Stories of hope and encouragement? Check out 30 other stories about finding freedom through Christ and authentic community here

  • freedom stories

    Shattering the Mirrors- Heather’s Story

    When the voices of comparison and lies from the enemy grow loud, we have to fight for the Truth of who God is and who we are in Him. My fellow writer, Heather, shares beautifully, bravely, and vulnerably about her own struggles with her weight, self-image, and how God met her in her suffering in this piece. I’m so grateful to share her words with you today.

    Here is Heather Kristine’s Freedom Story.

     

    I’ve struggled with poor self-esteem most of my life. Every time I walked into a room I looked around and ranked myself in comparison to everyone else. My ranking was largely based on weight. Am I the fattest woman here?

    After losing 135 pounds in 16 months through restrictive eating I was sure I had arrived. Now I was worthy of other people’s time and attention, right? As soon as I began to eat normal food again the weight started to pile back on. With each pound, I gained I lost a corresponding pound of confidence.

    I started to hide again. I’d cancel plans and refused new invitations believing that my weight gain would be the silent undercurrent to every interaction. Even my own pastor called me out on it. “What happened, Heather? You were doing so well. How did you let the devil get a foothold again?”

    Was I really doing so well? I had been restricting myself to under 1,000 calories a day. I’d lost half of my hair. my nails were falling apart. My skin was dull, dry and itchy. Worst of all, I was too tired to do anything. I always thought that once I lost the weight I would regain radiant health, climb mountains, learn ballroom dancing, find love. The only thing I gained in losing all that weight was an inflated ego. Only if I ranked myself higher than average in a room would I have the confidence to strike up conversations and get to know people.

    I used to be afraid of people. Long after the bullies had graduated and moved on, I was still bullying myself with a non-stop inner monologue of disgust and condemnation. If I could be this mean to myself then other people were scarier. Why would anyone want to be friends with the likes of me? If I couldn’t even do something as simple as eating less and exercise more, what could I possibly have to offer?

    Then God met me in the midst of my suffering.

    I had crept out of the evening session at our women’s retreat. Overcome by self-hatred and condemnation I sought refuge in the quiet of my hotel room. Alone with my two favorite guys, Ben & Jerry. Stuffing the empty pint of “Peanut-Buttah Cookie-Core” into the garbage, I was covering my shame with wads of clean paper towel when God whispered to my heart. “Can you learn to love yourself, even if you gain all the weight back?”

    I don’t know.

    I tried to love myself. I really did, but I couldn’t get free of comparing myself to other women. I lost the ability to pay attention in conversations because all I could think about were all the ways I didn’t measure up. It was like I was being bullied all over again, except that the voices never stopped when the bell rang. They were always with me.

    Several months later I was at another women’s conference. Everyone was standing in worship and I was cowering in my seat, fighting the urge to bolt for the doors. After one of the songs, a speaker led us in a time of confession and prayer. I turned to the two friends on either side of me and begged them to pray for me to stop comparing myself to others.

    As they laid hands on me and prayed I saw myself in a hall of mirrors. Everywhere I looked was a mirror reflecting and magnifying each of my flaws. “Lord, how can I escape from this nightmare?”

    Then a sermon from many years ago began to ring in my ears. The radio preacher was reading from the book of Ezekiel:

    “You were the signet of perfection,
    full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
    You were in Eden, the garden of God;
    every precious stone was your covering,
    sardius, topaz, and diamond,
    beryl, onyx, and jasper,
    sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle;
    and crafted in gold were your settings
    and your engravings.
    On the day that you were created
    they were prepared.
    You were an anointed guardian cherub.

    Ezekiel 28: 12b-14a ESV

    The preacher said that Lucifer was covered in precious stones so that he could reflect the glory of God.

    The enemy of my soul is reflective!

    Suddenly, the hall of mirrors took on an entirely new meaning. As soon as I thought it, I had a large rock in my hand. As each mirror shattered a new rock appeared in my hand. When they were all gone, Jesus was waiting to take my hand and lead me back into the light.

    I’m still tempted to compare myself to others. But then I recognize that my eyes have wandered back to the enemy of my soul so I search for Jesus in the eyes of that other person instead. Somehow, this has brought me the freedom to show up authentically in community. I no longer resist the urge to text or call a friend because I don’t want to burden them. I’m no longer afraid to introduce myself to someone new because I’m sure I have nothing of value to offer them. I’m just looking for Jesus in everyone that I meet and I make friends along the way.

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    Heather Kristine is a writer living just outside of Columbus, Ohio. Making homemade soup is her love language and she is currently training to be a spiritual director. She has one adult daughter who has flown the coop and two white rabbits. You can follow along with Heather’s beautiful words and journey on Instagram

     

     

     

     

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    Special thanks to Averie Claire (via Unsplash) for the photo that accompanies this post.