Choosing What I’m Going to Listen To

Almost every moment of the day, I am quite aware of the fact that I’ve got a passenger on board. I feel the extra pounds I’m carrying around, I can’t fit through small spaces anymore, and those wild kicks inside are a frequent reminder that my body is shared property right now!

Us girlsBut the other morning, I woke up, and just for the first moment or two, I forgot that I’m pregnant. Baby was completely still, and there was nothing to remind me of my big belly. Of course, realization quickly kicked in, but I lay there for a bit, thinking of what it felt like to be “the old me”.

And something amazing came to my mind – once this baby is out, and my body goes back to the usual way of things, I will never, ever be “the old me.”  I have another child, and our family will be forever different.

I will be different. I suddenly realized one of the interesting changes this pregnancy has brought – it has destroyed a label over my life. For years, I was told that I couldn’t have another baby. My body was not strong enough, and I was not healthy enough. There was such an intense longing inside of me for another baby, and I thought I would carry that unfulfilled longing with me for the rest of my life.

That morning, it hit me – the longing is fulfilled, and I am free. My body is strong enough, I am healthy enough. I am not that person anymore, and suddenly, I felt as though I could do anything, be anything – that anything is possible.

God has poured out this blessing on my life, and I have been reminded once again that His words are the only ones that really matter. All those therapists who said this pregnancy wasn’t possible? They don’t get the final say.

I used to take in those words people told me – I let others label my life, and tell me how it would be. But that’s changing.

A few months ago, my dear friend was told her little girl may never walk. She emailed me to ask for prayer, and as I brought the situation to God, I asked Him, “What do you want to say in all of this?”

And the words that came immediately to mind were, “What God has to say about that little girl’s life is far more important than what any doctor has to say.” I saw such a clear picture of God holding that sweet girl in His hands. He had the situation covered.

You know what? Just a short time later, she’s now walking.

I’m not saying we don’t need doctors.

I love doctors. I’m very thankful for them.

What I am saying is that God is still doing the impossible today, and if there are words I’m going to play over and over in my mind, I want them to be His words. I want to hang on to His promises. I want to throw off the old labels, and become the person He made me to be.

What He has to say about me is far more important than anything else that will ever be said.

You Are Not a Failure

I have this thing with labels.

I really don’t like them. But I’m still learning how to stop using them. I have a mentor who reminds me every time I use a label for myself – things like “perfectionist”, “weak”, or “impatient”. Through my talks with her, my eyes have been opened to the power of words.

There is a huge difference between stating, “I’m an impatient person,” or simply expressing, “I struggle with being impatient.”

At first I didn’t really get that, but over time, I have noticed what happens to me when I claim a label over my whole life (IMPATIENT!), as opposed to simply sharing a struggle I am trying to overcome.

That might sound completely crazy to you – just being picky with words. But you should try it. Is there a label you give yourself regularly? Is there any way to change your wording so that you’re sharing a struggle, rather than branding yourself with a behaviour pattern you wish could be overcome?

Ben is used to me pointing out labels, but a few months ago, Anika got her first taste of what happens when she gives herself a negative label in my presence…

Anika had received a special sheet of paper in Sunday School – the kind with lines to cut along, and if done right, will turn into a paper chain necklace of sorts.

I turned all nostalgic when she brought it home, because I remembered doing the same activity when I was a kid in school. Instantly, I had images in my mind of my girls delighting in the magic of a piece of paper turning into a necklace, and anticipated it being a fun activity for all of us to enjoy.


Things started off nicely, until Anika accidentally destroyed her paper. She made a mistake and cut too far, ruining her necklace. She was very disappointed and discouraged, but I tried to comfort her, and quickly drew another one on a fresh piece of paper.

The same thing happened.

And that’s when she threw her little scissors down on the table, burst into tears, and dramatically wailed, “I’m a FAILURE!!”

At this point, a number of things happened inside of me. First of all, I had the desire to laugh at how ridiculous it was to label herself a failure because of making a mistake in cutting a piece of paper. My word. Could we be any more dramatic?

But at the same time, I was frustrated with her response. Get over it! It’s a piece of paper!

My very strongest feeling of all, however, was the desire to banish the word “failure” from her life, now and forevermore.

FAILURE? It was one of those parenting moments which made me feel as though I needed to tread very carefully, because this was Big Stuff.

This had the potential to change the direction of her future. (Now I was the one getting a bit dramatic…)

I knelt down beside her, and I said, “Anika, I never, ever want you to call yourself a failure.” I went on for a long time, saying many inspiring things, I’m sure, most of which had to do with the fact that I believed in her, and she needed to believe in herself, too. I let her know that I didn’t really care about the paper at all – it made no difference to me if she could make a paper necklace.

But I told her that we were going to keep trying until she could do it, because she needed to prove to herself that she was not a failure. Years from now, I wanted her to be able to look back and remember how she tried her best. I did not want her to remember herself as a failure.

It took a few more tries, and a few more tears, but in the end, she did it.

It was a paper necklace.

But it was so much more than that. The look on her face when she finally, triumphantly, held up her paper chain was worth the effort. Her face was shining with pride – she knew she had tried hard, and she had done it.

I’ve never heard her call herself a failure again. If I ever do, you can imagine how quickly I’ll swoop in with my speech about labels.

I don’t ever want her to think she has to accomplish something in order to please me. But I’m trying to teach her the difference between saying, “I’m a failure!” and “This is a little tricky for me to do, but I’d like to keep working at it.”

And I want her to be aware of the little sister coming after her, imitating everything she does. We’ve talked about how she can show Kaylia what it means to keep trying, and not give up until you’re satisfied with the effort you put in.

Our little paper craft time turned out differently than I had imagined. But it was still pretty magical in the end.

After we conquered the paper necklace, we moved on to paper people chains – just like I used to make when I was a kid.

And there was something wonderful about it – we both had that feeling you get when you’ve done well. She felt it because she victoriously finished the paper necklace. I felt it because I looked at her face, and I could see that she did not feel like a failure.

We had gone over some important, life stuff. I’m sure it will happen many times again, but for that morning, I loved seeing the joy and pride in her eyes.

I know this kind of thing can be hard to share, but is there anyone out there who’s had a similar experience? Any labels you’ve gained some victory over? Inspire us all by telling us your story!

And if this is a hard topic for you, maybe you’d like to check out some of other posts in which I further explore labels in my own life: When Labels Tell You Lies, What Markus Goertzen Taught Me About My Personality, and The Power of Words.

The Power of Words

Yesterday I spent some time talking with the Pursuit students about labels.

I’ve written about this before on my blog – it’s something that I think about often.

We use so many words in a day. We’re bombarded by so many words in a day. We speak, we think, we listen, we read – books, magazines, emails, texts, endless amounts of stuff on the internet. (Ha, as I write these words, both of my girls are talking, and we’ve got music playing. Words are coming at me from all directions!)

I feel that with all the communication going on around us, it is very easy to become desensitized to the power of words. But as I prepared for my class yesterday, I was struck once again by how important words are in the Bible.

If you flip your Bible open to the very beginning, it says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” If you keep reading down to verse three, this is what we find:

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”

How amazing is it that the God who loves us, and hears every single word we say, and cares deeply about every aspect of our lives, has the power to simply speak, and create something from nothing.

Now I know there are many people who do not believe that Genesis is a literal account of Creation. To me, it doesn’t make much difference in this case – I believe that God has the power to do this, and His words carry so much power that Genesis chapter one goes on to say “And God said…” nine times.

I would say that’s fairly significant.

And God said, and God said, and God said…

I also find it really interesting that every time He spoke something into being, He called it good, and then He named it. If words carry significance in the Bible, then names even more so.

If you’ve ever named a child, you know what we’re talking about here. There are so many things to think about – this is for life, and it becomes such an important part of someone’s identity. And every time you stick your head out the door to call your child in for lunch, you are speaking that name over them, again and again and again.

To some people, a name might not mean anything beyond just being a name. I believe that my girls’ names are a chance for me to bless them and speak over them something important that was chosen just for them.

“Anika Elisabeth Joy” means beautiful  and woman of God (and the “Joy” is kinda self-explanatory!) “Kaylia Isabelle Hope” means purity and the fulfillment of God’s promise.

That’s a big deal to me. (That’s why if I had a son, I would not name him “Caleb”, because it means dog. For some people, that might be a great meaning, but I really, really don’t like dogs.)

Anyway. Names are a big deal. So God named everything after proclaiming it “good”. He named a lot of things in the beginning.

Until chapter 2. And then He stops naming things. The Bible says,

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. (Genesis 2: 19-20, emphasis mine)

After all of the speaking and naming God had done, He stepped back, and handed off the responsibility to Adam. And whatever Adam called each animal, that was its name.

God has given that responsibility to each of us as well, every single day. He gives us the gift of communication, which does so much good, but it can also do much harm.

We name things all the time, often without realizing it. More importantly, we name other people, and we name ourselves.

Have you ever said things like,

“I’m a perfectionist.”

“I’m not a patient person.”

Or thought things about frustrating people? “He’s such a jerk.” Or the one we’re personally hearing all the time right now: “Don’t worry about it – she’s just going through the Terrible Twos.”

Really? This entire year of Kaylia’s life will be labelled as terrible? I don’t think so. I think it’s pretty enchanting. I absolutely love seeing her toddling around, discovering the world and learning how to use words to communicate. And yes, there are some tantrums, and she screams and tries to figure out how to communicate that she’s angry beyond reason about having to wear runners outside instead of slippers.

And sometimes, my patience is struggling to rise to the occasion, but I absolutely refuse to use the term “Terrible Twos.” Her twos are wonderful and sometimes hard, but why would I choose to label them in a negative way, over and over and over again?

Think it doesn’t make a difference? You should try it out – there is a big difference in saying, “I’m such an impatient person!!” or saying, “I’m struggling with having enough patience right now.”

It becomes one situation, instead of a label that you stamp on your whole life, and keep using repeatedly.

Because guess what? The Holy Spirit is in each and every believer, and that means that we all have the Fruit of the Spirit. There are some pretty great things included in that Fruit. Like patience.

If I’m going to name myself, I would like it to go like this: “I am loving. I am joyful. I am peaceful….” Through the power of the Spirit, those words are absolutely true. Try saying them out loud sometime. It does very good things. And pray like crazy that God would make it so, in each and every moment.

If we’re going to name something, make it good. God declared over and over again that what He made was good.

Let’s agree with Him!

When Labels Tell You Lies

I met my first boyfriend the summer I turned 18. It was all very romantic, because his eyes were very blue, and that seemed important at the time.

We were working at summer camp together, which is an intense environment, and can cause people to do intense things, like dating someone they’ve only known for two weeks.

Anyway. It was not a healthy relationship, and he hurt me in many ways. I probably hurt him, too. And then it was all over, and I experienced heartbreak for the first time.

I tried again with someone else a couple of years later, and things didn’t go much better. My emotional baggage was piling up so high that by the time I met Ben, it was kinda hard to see clearly, with all that baggage in the way.

But if there was ever someone with limitless patience, kindness and sincerity, it would be Ben, and so we worked things out very nicely.

I don’t really think much about all that stuff from the past anymore. But I’ve been reading a book. It’s a book that explains a lot of the connections between the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects to the body.

It’s a book about how old hurts and heartbreaks, bitterness, unforgiveness, and broken trust can affect us in huge ways if we do not experience healing and restoration.

Now, I have not normally been into all that kind of stuff. I have a wonderful, happy life, and I would never have thought that there was much to restore in my past.

But there’s this: I remember a girl in high school telling me that I had the stupidest laugh she’d ever heard.

I laughed a lot quieter after that.

I remember a friend telling me that instead of singing, I should stick to playing piano.

I sang a lot quieter after that.

I remember the ex-boyfriend telling me I was pretty, and good for looking at, but not much else. He said I wasn’t smart enough, and so he felt we had nothing in common.

So I wrapped my insecurity tightly around me like a robe, and accepted all of those labels.

And even now, after all these years, they still come back. You can bet that I’ll think about them when I laugh or sing, or try to add up everyone’s score during a game, or try to have intellectual discussions with people.

Those labels in my head are saying: “I have a stupid laugh, I can’t sing, and I’m dumb.”

Putting that all out there makes it sound like I’m pretty pathetic. Who actually thinks stuff like that??

More people than you think, I’m guessing.

The weird part is that I don’t really completely believe all that stuff.

But I still remember it. Those words buzz around my head like an annoying fly that I keep brushing away.

And in real life, I would finally get so tired of the buzzing that I would go find the fly swatter, and kill the dumb fly already.

I’m at that point. It is time to get rid of those labels, and those memories.

How do you do that?

Well, this is still a work in progress, but here’s what I’ve figured out so far:

1) Forgive.

Forgiveness can take the sting away. Someone once told me that you make the choice to forgive, and then you say it out loud: “I choose to forgive ____________.” Every time the thought comes back to you, you say it again. And again, and again. And then you pray like crazy.

2) Look at the bigger picture.

I’ve been thinking about this one a lot lately. All it takes is a little bit of perspective, and some imagination. For the first time, I thought back to that ex-boyfriend, and I tried to imagine what would make a person say something so cruel. And you know what? As an adult, it is so much easier to see a whole different side to that relationship. I can see now how he had so many insecurities just like me, and neither one of us could carry the weight of the other’s burdens. We hurt each other out of our own hurt. He had no idea what he was really doing to me, or how I would allow it to impact me for years after. People often say things they don’t really mean.

3) Replace those labels with words of truth.

God gave me this old laugh of mine, and it makes Him smile when He hears me using it.

God gave me this voice, and it fills His heart with joy when He hears me singing at the top of my lungs.

God gave me this mind, and these abilities, and He rejoices when I use my God-given strengths to bless other people. And who says that adding up a row of numbers is a true measure of intelligence anyway, for crying out loud?!

So, with forgiveness in my heart, and a view of the bigger picture, it is time to step lightly and freely into the beautiful future.