Last week we had the pleasure of hearing Dee Dee Woodman, M. Ed, LPC speak to us regarding some common areas in which we keep ourselves enslaved, trapped, and bound. She came with a message intended to help us access freedom in our lives, even in the day to day.
Dee Dee said that in her experience she has determined four main areas in which people prevent themselves from accessing real freedom. They are as follows: expectations, sense of self, in being overwhelmed, and by judging others.
Some brief take aways that she provided are as follows and please forgive me, I took some personal liberties this week while unpacking the practical application- Banks got me called out again but I trust that God is behind what I’m writing despite what I may’ve missed.
Freedom can be grasped if we will take a long look at our expectations. What were your expectations of motherhood? Of marriage? Of your home? Of your identity?
What we communicate to ourselves in the expectations we place- has the power to defeat us before we can even get started. Expectations keep us stuck in some level of bondage and unfortunately because we've developed the habit of placing them in the first place- it takes intentional time and practice to break the habit. Give yourself grace as you practice going into situations without expectations of how it will or should look. I think we will be pleasantly surprised by how differently things can go and how much better we can feel when our emotions aren't hanging on our desired outcome of a situation.
Sense of self:
I may have missed something here so I’m going to take some liberty and fill in my blanks. I think this can be seen in how we tend to be our own worst enemy. Too often we are hardest on ourselves so when our “sense of self” is a beat down version of who we really are, again we're defeated before we've even started. We’ll never embody the ideal version we might carry of ourselves in our head because we're human and fallible. (And as a side note- you’re making your friendships really hard and inauthentic if you’re trying to live up to an identity you’ve created in your head rather than the one you’re currently walking in.) This applies also if your sense of self is inflated. If you've got an inaccurately swollen sense of self, in being under the impression you’re BETTER than your actual, broken self, this too is just as self-defeating as constant negative self-talk. An inaccurate sense of self is an obstacle in the way of attaining freedom.
I wrote in my notes “Messages from the enemy are rooted in a version of our truth. They’re catered to the lies we already believe.” I’m not sure what Dee Dee mentioned this in relation to but ultimately, this is true for ALL aspects of our lives. This is how the enemy operates but as I’m sitting in this coffee shop right now it hit me that this is especially accurate in regard to our sense of self and the lies we begin to believe about it. For instance, do you have a mom that yelled a lot growing up? Or maybe your Mom was super critical of the physical appearance of others? Do you find yourself doing the same things? Can you hear your inner-voice saying “you are fat” “you yell too much” or worse, do you find yourself hypercritical of others who exhibit these behaviors as you tell yourself you’re “so much better than she is?” The enemy is at the root of both lines of thinking and it’s all ties back to an inaccurate, swollen, or defeated sense of self. Beware of the way the enemy personalizes the messages that cripple us. Using things from our childhoods or past scars to influence our sense of self. Make sure you take your sense of self to the Lord and allow Him to shed light on how you can develop it in a healthy way- by remembering that His voice tells you you are worthy, you are loved, you are forgiven, you were created on purpose, and WITH purpose. Allow Truth to influence your sense of self, nothing else.
I love that Dee Dee dropped a couple expletives while still being able to talk openly about the war being waged day in and day out for our spirit, our attention, and our devotion. She talked about spiritual warfare openly because ladies, as a counselor, this is what she actively combats on a daily basis. Essentially she is an expert on speaking truth over long-spoken and deep-rooted lies from satan. So for those of you who feel like the idea of spiritual warfare is a little too ‘woo-woo’ for you, I pray that having heard it from such an approachable, down-to-earth, real and empowering woman who says the “d” word from time to time, that it helped you to accept that the “baggage” we carry around can 100% of the time be traced back to the enemy and his attempts to thwart the focus of your heart and the way you perceive yourself and situation.
The third area that keeps us trapped as mothers is in being overwhelmed. I was so grateful that Dee Dee didn’t try to give a step-based solution to being overwhelmed because bottom line, we going to be overwhelmed. Instead she said “Motherhood can be overwhelming BUT- this is because it’s the most important job in the world.” Not downplaying the role of father at all, because the roles of Mom and Dad go hand in hand (literally) in shaping children but the greater message here is GRACE. We will mess up, we will get overwhelmed and say the things we promised we'd never say when we became Moms. We'll hide, cry, and try to shame ourselves for leftover pizza three meals in a row and not living up to the imaginary mom we've cooked up in our head but its here in these moments that we need more than anything to manufacture and praise the small victories. To sit on the bathroom floor and say "God I feel this raw hole of shame in my chest right now, anger with myself because I keep letting everyone down but Lord... you brought me these children and this morning, you woke them up healthy. If nothing else, help me to replay these two things and remember that you sent your son because you knew I couldn't do this alone. Let this be my victory today."
Dee Dee said something along the lines of - YES, the world is dark but instead of living in fear of the world we’re raising our children in, why don’t you raise your children to be the ones who bring light into the darkness? This doesn’t mean yelling less, cooking more vitamin-rich food, or having a more conclusive and consistent approach to discipline. You can strive all you want but you’ll find yourself downtrodden and defeated at the end of each day because truth is, you CANNOT mother within your own strength. So instead- when you yell, you repent and not just to Jesus, but to your littles. You say “I am so sorry, I want to tell you that I’m tired and that Mommy’s body hurts a little more this time of the month but my sweet child, that doesn’t help does it? Because I’m sure I’ll yell again for different reasons and I'll have to apologize all over again because I am not perfect and I mess up all the time. But this why we need Jesus- because HE is who I put my hope in to help me the next time I get sad, mad, or my body hurts.”
This is how God operates. Its not “read these three books, outline these chapters and perform for me." It’s "come back to me when you’re sad, ashamed and disappointed in yourself and do the same when you’re feeling self-righteous and judgmental- turn it ALL over to me- and watch as I change your heart.”
There’s no formulaic approach to what Dee Dee was sending us with. No step work we can do to be better, more liberated mothers. It’s being REAL and acknowledging our need for the only thing we CAN rely on to be perfect. Jesus.
The last area she said that often enslaves women is judgment. Seems obvious right? Now, I have to preface that I have an interesting relationship with social media- which I’ll probably get into the specifics of when it's time to begin praying for God to bring up the woman who will replace me in the Publicity role for steering - but Dee dee specifically brought up social media when talking about judgment being an enslaving factor. She opened the floor for women to speak out over the ways that social media fuels judgment of self or others. “Exaggerating Mom-guilt” was mentioned as something social media causes. Looking at someone’s professional pictures was another thing that is rough for some. It seems someone’s social media profile can inadvertently cause us to hold our life and theirs side by side as we gather feelings of superiority or inferiority. Either way, this is bondage because it's not living in the present with the spirit guiding to gratitude, goodness, and truth.
Dee Dee has seen a lot, not only in her professional life but in her personal testimony. Alcoholism, abuse, mental illness- she has seen it all and God bless her, she continues to combat bondage and evil in the life of her clients. She is an authority on helping us access the keys that will release our shackles. Her suggestion for attaining freedom is simple. Show up vulnerable and look honestly.
Truth. Honesty. VULNERABILITY.
I feel like you’re going to grow tired of me saying the same thing over and over this year but God is making it OBVIOUS to us this year that TRUTH is what sets us free, indeed.
Somewhere along the lines of our society, upbringing, and world we’ve given into the notion that we wont be accepted if we’re authentically ourselves; ugliness and all. Sometimes it can even show up in noble ways. We’re tempted to hold back what we’re truly and honestly feeling or needing for fear of it hurting someone. Just last week I found out that I loved a friend better by being brutally honest by saying “I need less face to face time, I’m beginning to feel overwhelmed.” I was so scared that what I was going to say would hurt her that I risked being dishonest and inauthentic- which would’ve ended worse. Nothing I said was hurtful- I was being honest that I will love her better if I honor my boundaries better. Come to find out, we love better in general when we allow honesty to guide our interactions with all.
My very favorite thing that Dee Dee said was: “Truth will set you free but you’ve gotta’ walk in courage to get to truth.”
Honesty and authenticity take courage. The courage required to apologize to our husbands when we cannot reign in our emotions and we’re ANGRY. . . but can’t really remember why and its making us feel insane. Or when we allow ourselves to leave the TV on a little longer in the morning if it means closing our eyes on the couch and saying "God, I know you’re here- change my heart today. I need you." To halt the comparison game and the stupid expectations we inflate and project on our sense of self and identity. To think through where we should be going when we’re overwhelmed and resort to our habitual tendency to judge as a knee-jerk reaction to our discomfort.
Show up. Look honestly. Look at these four areas in your own life and just once this week- step out in courage. Speak truth over yourself. Cheer for a sister who posts a picture of how she's proud to have the body she does after three babies rather than letting your internal voice snark up with “its obvious that weight loss wasn’t for you at all but for a collection of little blue thumbs-up on your facebook.” (horned emoji again.) The more we accept our own authentic, gross brokenness the more we accept and love the brokenness of others that so often isolates us. Can I just use Harry Potter to strengthen my argument real quick?
Luna Lovegood: [about her father] We believe you, by the way. That He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back, and you fought him, and the Ministry and the Prophet are conspiring against you and Dumbledore.
Harry Potter: Thanks. Seems you're about the only ones that do.
Luna Lovegood: I don't think that's true. But I suppose that's how he wants you to feel.
Harry Potter: What do you mean?
Luna Lovegood: Well if I were You-Know-Who, I'd want you to feel cut off from everyone else. Because if it's just you alone you're not as much of a threat.
As women, can we PLEASE acknowledge that Lord didn’t wire us for comparison but for companionship? We are no good alone. We need a pride of lionesses following us, licking our wounds, encircling us as we sleep in shifts to ensure our cubs are protected and provided for. Women who can feel the hairs on the back of their necks rise when one of their sisters is in battle. Women who will rush in to provide reinforcement.
The next time you’re crying on the couch or sitting behind a closed bathroom door- will you invite someone into it? Who can you send a text message to saying “I have been scrolling through facebook and instagram for the past two weeks blindly criticizing and rolling my eyes at women in order to convince myself that I’m doing okay but the truth is, I am falling apart. Will you hold me accountable to stop? Will you check in with me? Will you pray for me right now?” Who can you love well enough this week to say “Hey, I am not doing a good job right now of honestly honoring my boundaries and I feel like I need some time to myself but I don’t want you to think that’s any indication of my love for you. Are you okay with that?”
If you do not have someone- go on a coffee date. Get your husband to take the kids as you sit across from someone and toss social graces aside as you proudly say “I am in need of fellowship and because I’m a mom, I don’t have any time to waste- will you tell me your story? Are you in a position to hear mine?”
Don't for an instant begin to allow your bondage to limit your impact and make you feel small. Acknowledge the things that enslave you. Wear them as a badge of honor to advance the women standing right next to you. Because chances are, she's shackled to the same thing but she's been waiting for your hand to grasp hers so she can lean far enough out of the cell to grab the keys to set you both free.
Show up. Look deeply, speak honestly, live courageously and don't do it alone.