Wednesday, January 16, 2013

when you think you're trading up


Seventh and eighth grade were not kind to me.  Or rather, many of the people in my school were not kind to me.

Reliving some of those painful moments of my middle school days often causes me to cringe.  I think of the labels I wore on top of my Coca-Cola rugby shirt, which of course, was paired with my waist-high, ankle-rolled jeans.  (Come on, some of you know what I'm talking about.  How many of you wore Swatch watches??)

My labels read:


Right before my ninth grade year began, I went on a mission trip with YWAM (Youth With a Mission) to Boulder, Colorado.  Sometime during that trip was the first time I heard God speak to me and I had other people around me that confirmed that it was indeed God that was talking.  I started to realize that perhaps I was not destined to end up unlikeable and boring, that maybe it was possible to have more than one or two friends, and if God wasn't ignoring me, perhaps other people might start paying attention, too.

When I started high school, I started fresh.  There were new people to meet, new boys to impress, and old ways to leave behind.  I ripped off my old labels and plastered one some new ones.  Surely if I behaved like I owned them, I would actually be them.  So on the flannel shirts and overalls went words like:

Always Happy

And these were great labels that seemed to serve me well up until, oh...motherhood?  Certainly, I never was all of those things all the time through high school and college and the beginning of my professional career as a teacher.  But most of the time, I strove to make everyone around me happy.  Who doesn't love a giving, compassionate, always-smiling friend?

When my children arrived on this earth, the labels started losing their stickiness and I realized that it was incredibly hard to keep up appearances.

Children + people-pleasing = exhausting, actually.

How could I wear the label "Achiever" after my child is labeled "aggressive" in the church nursery?
How could I be "Admirable" when my husband chose to look at porn instead of me?
How could I be "Giving", "Friendly", and much less "Compassionate" when I'd gotten less than four hours of sleep for who knows how many months?

Anyone who has even babysat for two children under the age of two probably understands how quickly "Always Happy" fled the scene.

I found myself desperate for my labels, for applause, for recognition.  I kept begging God for someone to tell me I was doing a good job when all along He just wanted to tell me who I actually was.  In a world that loves labels, it was too scary to appear naked before anyone, much less God.  So I ditched some of the labels that I realized I could no longer handle in my life (um, extrovert) and set out to find some new ones -- labels that would be useful in defining myself in this new stage of life...
Will you come back next week for the rest of the story?  Meanwhile, can we have a conversation?

What is the most prominent label that you feature across your shirt?  Is it useful?  Is it not?  Is it losing its stickiness?  If so, why do you think that is?

Linking with Tracy and Emily.


  1. Good insights, Jen. I think we wear different labels at different stages and seasons of life. One I remember from my early 30s was "has it all together" which, of course, I did NOT. Now that I'm older and a little wiser, I still slap on various labels from time to time (impatient, frustrated, trusting, hopeful, etc) but the only one I really care about is,
    "following Him"

    1. On Sunday, I gave a talk in which I had all of these labels written on my shirt. The last one that I put on was simply "His." I love that that label never loses it's stickiness!

  2. Thank you Jen. This post is refreshing for me and I like your openess.

  3. Thanks for sharing, I can relate to what you are saying. I have had many labels, including "happy, sweet, and patient." I have also had the negative ones that I have tried to hide. These days, I've been trying to take the labels off as soon as they attach so that the only one I see is "Jesus."

  4. This is a message we all need to hear. Holding my breath for part two.


  5. Hi Jen, wow, we do so much harm to ourselves don't we?! I will be back next week for the rest of the story. Thanks for linking up my friend. I love and appreciate your support
    God bless

  6. i'm afraid that most people see "stinkin' worn out." which too often translates into "unavailable to help." most often by my kiddos. sigh.
    but i am confident God continues to refine through the fire and that one day my lovely gold label will read "full of grace." now doesn't that sound all warm & welcoming?
    and i'll accessorize with a Swatch watch, thank you :-)

    1. God is always refining...and even though sometimes it hurts, it is progress. Love the swatch comment! :)

  7. Your talk was amazing! And yes, I had the Coca-Cola shirt and rolled jeans. You forgot the 2 colored socks, though. ;) Swatches were cool! The Swatch guards, though....not so cool. LOL! I was thinking about that label "HIS" today. Just pondering.... I've always had labels for myself, but the worst are the labels I WISH I had. That's the part I really have to work on and remember that HE didn't give me those labels, so I shouldn't expect to have or be those things. I need to be content with just that one label: HIS

  8. Can totally relate . . I crave encouragement and for someone to tell me I'm doing good. We don't always get that in motherhood or even in our careers. Sigh.

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  10. Perfectionist would be my label that kind of encompasses it all. I want to look like I have everything together - but my little girl is making that difficult to do. I know that I'm not put together on the inside, but my facade is crumbling too. But, somehow, people still see me and love me in the same way that they did (probably more that I'm surrendering a little).

  11. Oh my goodness, I so remember opening my white, turtleneck Coca-Cola sweatshirt for Christmas! It was THE BEST! Lol. Also, the swatches. I totally forgot about those! What a great flashback! And a great reminder that we are not who the world labels us to be...but who God says we are! Amen, & Amen!

  12. I've also had a myriad of labels throughout life. From the girl who was quiet and shy, to the one who acted out, to the teenager who was an over-achiever. I'm not sure what label I have now. I try to live life as forgiven and free. My intention is to give grace to others because of the grace I have been given. I'm not sure that always works out in life, though.

  13. What a good reflective practice to review our lives and name the labels. Once we name them we can see they don't fit and it is easy to tear them off and put "His" or "beloved" or "Daughter of the King" on. Great post as usual, Jen!

  14. Oh, I don't really want to think about the labels I have. There are still too many I am learning to overcome, with Truth. But I will say this -- it is my desire to know the "real" me. Sometimes I get lost in the crow. I want to know who I really am. And may, who I really am, bring God glory.

  15. Oh, wow, Jen, I just love this: "I kept begging God for someone to tell me I was doing a good job when all along He just wanted to tell me who I actually was." I so, so understand this, and am so blessed here. Thank you.

  16. I love that you did a YWAM outreach at that age. My husband and I were on staff with YWAM for several years in California and Colorado. Your story about hearing God is an echo I hear from those who spend time with YWAM. It's why I want my daughter to do a DTS before she goes off to college. I want her labels to be His words over her.

  17. You inspire with your candor, your faith , your passion and your authenticity. I love getting to know you and your heart a little better everyweek. You friend, are a real gem. Try that label on. The Lord thinks so. And so do I .

  18. yes, so grateful, you lost your labels and found instead how much He loves you, Jen...I have been peeling off labels for years, some given, and some labeled by myself...learning to look only For His love...what great insights...Thank you :)

  19. i totally agree with elizabeth's comments above. you are a real gem. yes. the perfect label. i too, am learning this. that God's opinion matters more than man's. that i need to believe my children when they tell me i am pretty and i am loved. xo


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