Who are you? To be honest, the issue of identity has plagued me for years. When asked the ever-common question like “tell me about yourself,” I’ve always wanted to curl up in a ball. I’ve never felt like the person I imagined I would become actually came true. Over the years, when the struggle of infertility seemed to define me, I’ve had a hard time fighting despair over what I felt my life was supposed to look like and the loss of my own expectations. To be honest, I only based my identity on fragile circumstances I thought I could control, and when I realized I had no control it was sort of hard to put one foot in front of the other.
For us, infertility meant building our family in a different way, through adoption. Adoption is born of loss. At the same time, adoption is a thing of exquisite beauty. Strangers become family, not through blood, but through intention. So much so, that studies have shown increased oxytocin levels in caretakers who were involved parents. The long and short of it is that even though you didn’t biologically birth a child, your blood chemistry can change based on care and commitment. But if we were living in a perfect world, adoption would not be necessary.
When my husband and I started the adoption process, loss was one of the biggest training points in our adoption education. Everyone in the “adoption triad” (the birth family, adoptive family, and adoptee) generally come to adoption with a sense of loss. Adoptive parents may have suffered from infertility or miscarriages, birth mothers face the fact that they won’t be able to raise the child they carried, and adoptees will have to come to grips throughout their life with their identity that their families look different than everyone else’s. Older children who are adopted, even into loving homes, have vivid memories of their first parents and the trauma they endured. They often have a difficult time wrestling with their new reality or identity even if it is a good one. Oddly enough, they sometimes long for their first families even if they are in a more stable, loving, and permanent situation now.
Sometimes, as believers we can also struggle with identity. We want to embrace God’s promise that we are children of God, but we are confronted daily with our past sin, pain, loss, and disappointment. We long for stability, yet we put our identity in things that are temporary.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God.”
Our daughter is almost three years old and lately we watch a lot of animated movies (Thank you Disney plus!) If you’re not a fan of animation or Disney, bear with me for a moment, I promise I have a point. One of our daughter’s favorite movie series is Toy Story. In Toy Story 4, we’re introduced to Forky, a beloved friend and toy Bonnie, his kid owner, creates from items destined for the trash. Forky has a crisis of identity for most of the movie because he still believes he is trash and keeps running back to the trash can. The main character, Woody, keeps telling him, painstakingly, that Bonnie loves and values him. It takes much convincing for Forky to believe he does not belong in the trash bin. How many of you can relate? Knowing intellectually that we are loved by God but continually choosing the worthless things of this world because we don’t believe down deep that God’s love satisfies. God’s word tells us that we are holy and that we have great value, but yet often we do not feel holy. We do not feel like children of God. We do not feel worthy. We do not feel enough. Our past struggles sometimes scream at us that we are damaged, and even though it’s a lie, it feels more controllable to rely on the lie instead of trust in the whispers of God telling us the opposite. This leaves us disconnected from the one thing we truly need.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
“And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.”
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Simply put, sisters, God tells us who we are. We bear His image. The God who created every marvelous thing in nature, created us. Just as Bonnie fashioned Forky out of items that were destined for the trash and created her most valuable toy, God created us with design, intention and gives us our value. Christ became sin and gave his very life for us so that we could be saved from destruction. If we identify with our circumstances, we’ll find fear, brokenness and insufficiency. But just like Forky, we must constantly remind ourselves of who we are in Christ until His voice is louder than the voice of the enemy who tells us we are damaged. We must draw close to him as our Dad, even when we feel disconnected to that reality.
God is saying to us, “You are mine, and I take joy in you. You are my heart.” That kind of miraculous love is transformative, isn’t it? When we believe that, miracles are possible. God is not limited by bloodlines or brokenness. The same God who grafted wild branches into a natural tree is more than capable to transform sinful or broken orphans into children of God.
“After all, if you were cut out and grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree.”
Sometimes answers to the past are not readily found, but God is always near even when we don’t understand. Living in our new identity is a choice to believe in the unseen. We must cross the divide from what we know to be true and step out in faith as if our heart believes that it is true. We intentionally choose to walk in the truth of who God says we are, even when our circumstances don’t live up to what the world views as success. And when we do, we step back and watch the miracle maker write a story more fantastic than we could’ve ever written.
WRITTEN BY: LORI GREGORY
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The words “I WAS” were scratched into the wall. The person who did this probably had to have used their fingernail. There was nothing else allowed in this room. I was sitting in the waiting area of the mental health portion of the hospital. You know, the place where you have to go when you become suicidal. I was there with my oldest daughter - admitting her into the unit for teens. How did I get here? How did we let things get this bad before we intervened in a strong way? She said she wanted to die. She didn’t think she had any worth. Later, she would cry that she just wanted to be normal. She didn’t realize that almost everyone felt that way - but what is “normal” exactly? What she also doesn’t see is her worth and her beauty. She doesn’t see that she is what God made her and she has been fighting against it. I fight my own mental health demons on a daily basis. Sometimes I feel victorious and sometimes I am left in a heap on the floor hoping that tomorrow won’t be this bad. ALL of us need a reminder.
You are beautifully and wonderfully made. Do you see that dot there? At the end of the sentence? It is a period. It signifies the end of a thought. You are beautifully and wonderfully made - PERIOD. Not IF or WHEN or BECAUSE. Period.
Psalm 139: 13-14 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Our identity can’t be caught up in someone or something else. It isn’t healthy for a reason. We were MADE by God and for God. His words are wonderful. When did we forget that “I know that full well” part? Was it because of the cruel things that someone else who was hurting said to us? Is it the comparison game we get caught up in? Is it rejection from the opposite sex? Whatever it is, it is NOT from God because he made you - knit you together. Have you ever knit or crocheted something? I haven’t but my mother does. There is an element of perfectionism that has to go into it. If not, the entire piece is ruined. I don’t think that word was used by mistake here. Knitting happens on purpose. It happens precisely. It happens over time. It happens through the hands of the knitter- in this case, God Himself.
When you can put those things into the proper perspective you follow the story that is laid out in the Bible and you see that you have so much value that Jesus died for you so you could be with him eternally. That is pretty serious. First, you were made perfect as you are by God and then God’s very own son died for you. How much more do we need to know? He thinks YOU are worth it, worthy of it, and in need of it.
Back to the waiting room. The white walls. The hard rubber chairs. The skinny window. The sounds of angry and disturbed people echoing off the walls in the hall or the other room. The smell of hospital cleaner. The worry in my heart. The desperation in my daughter. The words “I WAS” on the wall. I want to finish those words - that sentence. I was unworthy, but Jesus made me worth more than gold. I was angry, but grace has covered me and now I am able to forgive. I was lost, but Jesus left the 99 and came and found me hiding in the dark and picked me up and brought me home.
I hope that you can see that your “I WAS” statement doesn’t have to be a sad ending of a desperate cry for someone to know you are here. God sees you. He loves you. He made you. Rise up and hold your head high knowing that you were made perfectly you for this world and we need you.
WRITTEN BY: ANGIE REESE
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So this is the third week in our conversation about identity here at Pretty & Wise. I've been thinking a lot about this word...identity. So I began to do a few online searches on the subject.
Searching for Identity
I did a search on Facebook with the hashtag #identity and was amazed at the number of posts. Many of those posts were personal. Quite a few posts I saw were from people who had done a DNA test and found that they were from a different cultural group than they had been raised in and were intent on embracing the culture of their newly found 'identity'. There were posts from life coaches telling you how to be the best 'you', you can be. Many posts were political, social, and cultural. And yes, some were about finding your identity in Christ...or with Christ. Frankly, there were too many #identity posts to read through them all.
I did a search on Amazon and discovered there are 70,000 books listed with the word identity in the title. 70,000 books!
I googled the word identity and it came up with 812,000,000 results.
We seem to be obsessed with this word. Obsessed with finding our own identity, whether as an individual or as a collective people group. There seems to be an innate desire within, a longing, to want to understand who we are...or whose we are.
Whose You Are
Can we really know who we are if we do not know whose we are?
The hubs and I used to tell our kids(teens at the time) three things every time they left the house without us.
"I love you, don't be stupid, and remember whose you are."
They needed to be reminded every time they left the house that we loved them, we expected them to make good decisions, and to remember that they were ambassadors for not only the Idle name, but for Jesus Christ. They knew that it meant they were expected to be mindful of their upbringing as they made decisions about who they were with and what they were doing. They were to be mindful of what it meant to be an Idle. And most of all they were to be mindful of their choices in light of their relationship with Christ.
When we remember whose we are, we discover who we are.
We find the truth of who we are in God's word and through His son Jesus Christ. When we put our trust in Him it changes everything.
"But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God." ~ John 1:12 NLT
As children of God, we find our true identity in His son Jesus Christ. This makes us joint-heirs with Christ...to share in His suffering in order that we also might be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17). For God so loved the world...you and I...that He sent His one and only son to die for the sins of the world...for your sin and my sin. There is no greater love than that of the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. He loves us! We find security in knowing Whose we are. The longing gives way to belonging.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis tells us,
“Your real, new self (which is Christ's and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him."
Lewis reminds us we have to let go of ourself, in order to find our real self. You can't save your life if you have not first lost it. If it hasn't died, it can't be raised from the dead.
"For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." ~Colossians 3:3
Letting go of self can be hard. While the Bible tells us that we are new creatures in Christ, we still have that struggle with the flesh. We have to let go of some of the old notions of "that's just me", or "I was just made that way." We have gotten so comfortable with our old selves, 'warts and all', that we start to believe the lies of the enemy, that we can't change, that we'll never be different or get better.
Don't believe the lies. (Don't be stupid). Let go!
As we let go and turn to the Word of God, we participate in the process of sanctification. We begin to look more and more Christ-like and less like our 'old' self. It's like when you pour clean water into a jar of muddy water...the more clean water you pour in the clearer and cleaner the muddy water becomes until finally there is no more dirty water. We can now clearly see the reflection of our true self in the clear water of the Word of God.
We have to allow room for the Holy Spirit to root out the old as He pours into our lives until we look more and more like the woman God created us to be.
Yes...you were fearfully and wonderfully made and there are things about you that are unique to you, those things God created within you. So let His light shine and as it shines, your lovely self will be revealed to the world. And sister, when His light reveals who you are, give Him the glory!
"But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in." ~ C.S. Lewis
Oh and don't forget...
God loves you!
Don't be stupid.
AND Remember Whose you are!
WRITTEN BY: GAY IDLE
For more from Gay, head to her website: www.gayidle.com
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Identity… that word is used throughout our lives to tell who we are. It describes us and others. There are lots of “labels” nowadays used to identify us. Labels that were once ok are now offensive and hurtful, while other labels that were once hurtful and offensive are celebrated and accepted. Our perspectives changes and shifts those labels as time goes on. Our understanding grows and shrinks. All of that is dependent on our society, the world around us.
But the truth is we were created with a whole and complete identity. Nothing broken. Nothing missing.
I was thinking about this game I played more than once, both in ministry and in corporate life. I don't remember the name, I simply remember the tag phrase we used, “Find The Gold Not The Mold”. Every person taped a piece of paper to their back and walked around the room. The others in the room would write something about that person on the paper. No one knew who wrote what, and it could be anything from “I like the color of your hair” to some God-given profound word of knowledge or encouragement to said person. Inevitably, most if not all had some hidden part of their God-given identity uncovered.
So many times we look at people through that dirty window (shout out to Sherry P’s article) coming to conclusions we have no idea about and judging them, and how many times do we look at ourselves through that same window. Maybe we are stuck in our mistakes, past or present. Maybe we believe that Jesus was so good He was able to save us, but there is no way He could actually use us because we were washed clean, but we're still a little dingy. Or maybe we are doing some good work for God and we are so grateful for what He is doing for us and through us, but we have hit our ceiling, thinking it can’t get any better than this, God has done all He can… (side note God has no ceiling… “nothing is impossible for God”.)
The problem with that is that we end up trying to put the God who created the universe in a box controlled by our past. Essentially telling Him what He can and can’t do and with whom He can and cannot do it with.
We have a saying in our church, “Without God we can’t, and without us He won’t.”
I remember hearing a dear friend preach one time about “Moving From Sinner To Saint” and it really challenged the way that I viewed myself. I began searching to see if what he had said could be truth. The Bible says,
And since we are His true children, we qualify to share all His treasures, for indeed, we are heirs of God Himself. And since we are joined to Christ, we also inherit all that He is and all that He has. (Rom. 8:17a).
I’m just gonna be real for a second… after reading that I’m like ok yeah I am a sister of Christ. Maybe the black-sheep of the family, but I’m in. But the truth is that is not it at all! That is not who I was created to be nor how Abba sees me, or you.
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun…(2 Cor. 5:7).
God doesn’t see our “mold.” I’m not saying that He doesn’t know what we have done, of course He does. He is God. But God does not label us by what we have done in the past. We are a new creation that He loves remember.
My dear, children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. (1 John 3:18-20 TPT emphasis added)
God’s love is a powerful thing. In Romans it tells us that nothing in all creation is stronger than God's love. So it would make sense that the way to overcome the lies about who we are is to experience God’s love and then share it with others. After all, aren’t those the greatest commandments, to love God and love others?
In order to truly love God we need to love and cherish His creation. All of His creation. You are His “very good” creation.
Sometimes we need a little help finding our gold. We are too busy focusing on our broken pieces that we miss stepping back and seeing the beautiful creation that God has created.
I hope you will take a minute today to do a couple of things...
One, ask God. Ask God to show you yourself through His eyes. And when He does, because He will, receive it. Write it down and reference it regularly, speak it over yourself until you start to believe it.
And two, start to speak gold into peoples lives. It doesn’t have to be profound. It could simply be that “Your hair is on point” or “I love your smile” or anything else the Holy Spirit reveals to you. Find and pull out that “gold” in others and you will start to find that it is easier to accept the gold that has been in you all along.
And when we do that we will be able to more fully accept those little words, “Without God we can’t, and without us He won’t.”
So let’s start walking in the full identity that God has given to each of us and watch His kingdom come to earth.
I love you ladies! See you on the community.
WRITTEN BY: ALEXANDRIA BROWN
For more from Alexandria, visit her website at www.alexandriabrown.org.
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Ever felt that if someone could just spend some time in your shoes, they would not be so quick to judge you? Have you ever jumped to a conclusion about another woman without knowing the facts of her story?
A young couple moved into a new neighborhood. The first morning while they were eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside.
'That laundry is not clean', she said. 'Apparently she doesn't know how to wash correctly or maybe she needs better laundry soap'.
Her husband looked on but remained silent. Every time their neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments.
A month later, the woman was surprised to see nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband: 'Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?'
Her husband said, 'I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.'
This story tells us that what we see when watching others, depends on the cleanliness of our own window!
Every woman has a story; a story that involves challenges and victories, pain and joy, fear, and peace. But what if we were able to spend some time in her shoes? Would what see, think, or feel about her change?
We do not know all that has taken place in the life of the divorced mom who must leave her kids with a sitter so she can work 2 jobs to put food on the table. We might look at her as someone who is more interested in her career than her family. But perhaps she was involved in an abusive relationship or was deserted by her husband, left alone to take care of her children without help.
Or what about the young mom who is on government assistance and going to college? Are we tempted to make a snap judgment about her and assume that she is using the system or taking advantage?
Ladies, we need to remember that how we see others is not always who they are. It’s possible that we are looking through a window colored by that person’s past actions or associations.
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
This verse tells us that we become a new person when we accept Jesus. If we believe that is true for us, then we must believe that is true for others.
Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, please reveal to me any woman I might be judging without knowing the facts of her life. Please guide me to reach out to her and get to know her story. Amen.
Written By: Sherry Poundstone
For more from Sherry, check out her website: www.sherrypoundstone.com.
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