Loving without agenda


We all want to love and be loved….we were created to cherish healthy relationships. The ones that make us feel safe, secure, and worthy.

But what about those who cannot love because their past keeps them trapped? Entangled in bitterness. They have witnessed too much disappointment. Betrayal. Too much loss.  Many hold their hearts at a distance because love is too good to be true. For them love is vulnerable and can be used as a dagger pulled out of someone’s arsenal at any moment.

To my dear friends who feel this way, accepting and giving love just is not possible. If you have ever watched someone try to love you but can’t, you know what complete helplessness feels like. You can hear their hearts screaming, “When are you going to leave too? When are you going to take advantage of me? Why would you love ME?” and they push you away, sabotage the relationship, and heap anger on you for all the other people who have hurt them and are not around to take the lashes. In these relationships, we are called to love deeply…..just as we love those who reciprocate. If we don’t, who will break down the walls? Who will chip away at the hardened heart?

We want to sit and wait to be APPRECIATED. We want our love to be accepted, nurtured, and returned. But what about those who cannot? The children in foster care who have been taught by life that being loved is not possible EVER. The children who were raped and are now prostitutes because they were taught that sex is all they have to offer and continue to be beat by their pimps and johns. The children who were given crack for their tenth birthdays by their drug dealer parents and have learned that if your parents won’t protect you, who will? The moms raising special needs children who have been shunned by the playgroup because “that kid” throws too many tantrums and “that mom” is too needy and now she drinks too much and turns off her phone. The shallow, materialistic prima donna  who degrades the manicurist and the grocery store clerk out of her own brokenness because she knows her husband is cheating on her but she won’t walk away because it would be an end to her extravagant lifestyle. The teacher who went from encouraging and uplifting to mean and stern in one year because she is taking care of her dying husband and resents her job because she has to stay to keep her insurance. The child sitting at his mom’s bedside while she takes her final breaths and is screaming inside  that God sucks and this is too hard. The CEO who was told by his dad his whole life that he was worthless and now takes advantage of people to make lots of money and earn the respect of his father and who is repeating the cycle with his own children.

What about them? Do you run the other way? Do you refuse to look them in the eye? Do you gossip about them with your acceptable friends?

The kind of love that Jesus talks about is sacrificial, often painful, and always inconvenient.

And how do we continue to give and not grow weary of rejection? How do we not take it “personally” when we feel attacked? We cry out to God and He hears us. We stop making it about us and realize that the other person’s heart is more important than our own need to be accepted. We love like Jesus loved and expect nothing in return. And we decide that we will do it all again tomorrow. And the next day. Jesus will so fill our emotional tanks that the constant withdrawals by others won’t deplete the resources. Our cups will overflow because of what HE has done. And when people tell us we do too much and that we need to rest and take care of ourselves, we will smile inside because we know where our strength comes from and who the Giver of Grace is. We will know that if we are connected to the Source of our strength, we are unstoppable.

And once we have loved like that, we will never be the same. The gift is not in the giving but in how it changes us.

“Weeping can stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning. ”  Psalm 30:5


Weary from the Battle

Writing has been too difficult lately. How much do I tell? I am a transparent person but lately I have wanted to hide….hide from myself, hard truths, life, and everyone else. Why? Disappointment, shame, depression, fear. Some days the weight has felt unbearable like shackles around my ankles and others it has lifted like the early morning fog. Some days I have gone between the two extremes all day long depending on the circumstances. To say that it has been confusing and exhausting would not begin to define this state of struggle. Even as I write this, I want to quit. Walk away from the computer and yell, “F*** you!” But I need to push through for me and for you. For me to work on healing and for you to know you are not alone.

We have raised our children the best we know how. Mistakes along the way. Never believing that a formula would produce godly children- I think we have been pretty realistic and held our children loosely knowing God’s plan is ultimate…..but deep down we thought our children would be leaders in their faith and stand for righteousness no matter the cost. It has not happened.  Nothing prepared us for the struggles of watching our teenagers waver and fall. Curfews, apps to know where they are, becoming semi-professional investigators, and regular confrontations has left me tired. Tired from the worry. The unknown. And tired from the self-condemnation that I don’t trust God enough to know that each of my children must walk out this journey and find his own faith.

I am a self-blamer every time. Did we make a mistake with their schooling? Their friend choices? Were we too sheltering? Not enough? Did we bombard them with faith so now they resent it? As my mind reels from this self-talk insanity, I just want to go to sleep. And when I put my head on the pillow sleep hardly ever comes. I toss and turn, get up, lay down….the ritual of my nights. And when I sleep I often have those anxiety dreams where I am watching someone’s child and go out to lunch forgetting that he is asleep in the crib. I wake up believing the voice in my head that says I am not a good enough mom to be trusted with someone’s child. Not the brightest way to start the day, I guess,  but it happens.

Every day I get the privilege to take medication to my friend who is dying. She was an addict for 35 years and cannot keep the morphine or anxiety medications in her house so I take them every day to her. Because of her lifestyle, she did not raise any of her children. Living on the streets, doing drugs and prostituting did not make her a suitable mom. Oh- except the one that she had after her father impregnated her when she was 12 years old who was automatically adopted by a relative.  She has never even seen that child. She was sold  for sex to support her parents’  drug habit starting at five years old while they gave her cocaine and heroin to numb her pain. When her parents were having sex with her, she developed multiple personality disorder because the emotional trauma was so intense she had to leave her own body. Today she told me she is just too tired to keep fighting and she knows death is imminent. We cried together and then I went home to unload my groceries. Somehow the sadness does not leave me when I walk out the door. I grieve what was stolen from her by selfish, sick people but I know she has faith in Christ and she knows that she will see Jesus face to face soon. I do take rest in knowing this but I also cry heavy tears for the life she did not have.

Relationships. They are so hard. Family ones, friend ones, ministry ones….none are easy……and not because I am perfect and no one else is. Because I am imperfect and struggle with being a good friend. Lately I have not had much to invest. My hollowness has given me the sense that I don’t have much to give away. Everywhere I look I see parents who are not struggling like I am…people not burdened by the depravity of the world and carrying that weight…..peers who seem to be able to maintain friendships for decades…women who have the best dads while I have none…..and I wonder what is wrong with me. Why is life so hard for me? Am I jealous? No, just confused. Trying to figure out why I can’t turn off my emotions and my heart ache for the world’s suffering. Sometimes I just want to be able to go to the gym for a few hours with my personal trainer, eat at Crispers, go shopping, get a weekly pedicure while someone else cleans my house and picks up my kids…..because it seems to be working for A LOT of people. I wish that shoe fit me.

Churches and nonprofits are full of imperfect people and some of them are desperately broken. I don’t know why this catches me off guard sometimes because I know it is true….but it creeps up on me and it feels like a punch right to the face. Pastors (not mine) who are not fully disclosing of the truth and sit in their private quarters untouched by human brokenness…..ministry leaders who fall, remain unrepentant and take others down with them. Meanwhile, others are left to clean up the big, sloppy mess. Blows my mind.

Loving addicts and strippers is always life changing because I learn so much about myself from people who have overcome so much. But it can also be disappointing, lonely, and heartbreaking.  Having an 18 year old come into our home, we adopt her like a daughter, and months later she returns to the drugs, stripping and abusive relationships that she was escaping when she came to us in the first place.  Other women who have worked so hard to get sober find themselves relapsing and losing their children to the child welfare system forever. The addiction is greater than any other love and I have to see it, accept it, and continue to pray for a breakthrough that can only come from a life of surrender.

Somehow in this huge, sticky, messy life there is hope. Why? Because God is still good and I am still loved by Him. Even when I am untrusting, arrogant, self-dependent, and live like He never existed at all.  Some days there is only a speck of hope in me because I cannot look past my failures, disappointments and the hard road in front of me. In those moments I am trying to turn to prayer and devotion to my Creator instead of giving into the voices in my head screaming, “You are not enough.” I don’t do that most of the time but I have hope that I will get better and that I will once again find that peace that passes understanding that I once knew.

I am praying that Light will break through my hurting heart and my grieving spirit. I know the beauty of God’s light and I talk about it all the time. It just seems lately that the world is darker and my light is dimmer. I am praying for a breakthrough.

Beauty in the Brokenness


I have learned more in the past month than I have my whole life. I thought I understood and embodied words like “overcomer,” “brave,” “courageous,” and “survivor.” I am pretty sure I had no idea what they meant until I sat across from women who told me their stories. Stories of unimaginable abuse, rejection, abandonment and being taken extreme advantage of when they were little girls.  Finally tonight I let the tears flow that have been accumulating for weeks.

I worked for DCF in foster care/adoptions for 4 years, worked as a Guardian Ad Litem for years, and adopted a child who lived 9 years in foster care. As a result of these experiences, I had very little compassion for birth mothers and the pain they brought on their children. I have always been very indignant, angry, and relentless in my resentment toward the damage that parents can inflict on helpless children.

As I sat today and listened to stories of moms struggling to get sober and learning to live clean, I have seen the bravest of women. For most of them it is all they know. All they have ever seen in life. Given drugs by their own moms, their bodies sold to support their mothers’ addictions, and raising themselves and their siblings while mom is passed out on the couch. I understand drugs are a choice. I don’t think anyone struggles to believe that…..but before today I never really heard about how many of them got there and when I did it was overwhelming.

I am not sure what to do with that. Right now, I just sit, completely broken. I am sad, feeling guilty that I never felt compassion before today, and asking myself how the church is reaching these women. Where have we been? Most of us have probably been just like me- arrogant, self-righteous, and unwilling to look them in the eye. Why? Because we might actually feel compassion if we actually SEE them. And then we might have to do something. And most of us don’t want to do anything. Let’s be honest…..entering into someone else’s struggle is exhausting and inconvenient. So we don’t SEE them. We just judge them. It is easier.

I bought the new Natalie Grant album that came out yesterday, knowing nothing about it. When I sat down to write I started listening to it and the first song is “Be One.” Here are the lyrics:

We don’t feel ready, we don’t feel steady
Question what we really have to give

Stay where it’s safer, claim faith but waiver
Is this how we’re really meant to live

We pray but never move
We say but never do

It’s time to get our hands dirty
oh oh, oh oh
Be love – there’s a whole lot of hurting
oh oh, oh oh
Calling all hearts, Calling all hands
Calling all feet to take a stand
Why sit around and wait for a miracle to come
When we can be one, When we can be one , When we can be one

A little somethin’ might feel like nothin’
But in His hands it’s all we’ll ever need

To speak life to the broken
Watch the blind eyes open
It’s who He’s calling you and me to be

We can be the change – be the hope
We can be the arms that don’t let go
We can be a light in the dark
We are we are where it starts


We can be the light in the dark
We can be the arms that don’t let go

WOW. I have to ask the question…..do we “speak life to the broken?” Are we the change and the hope that God has called us to be? Are we light in this dark world? Or do we just use our light as a flashlight to illuminate our own path and let the rest of the world figure it out for themselves?

We are a very self-consumed country. It is time to rise up and enter the hurt and the pain with people. This is not my idea- God came up with it. But most of us want to be comfortable, safe, and “happy.” Meanwhile, women are all around us, desperate for truth, love, and just someone to listen.

We feel often like we have nothing to offer. I get that. I was talking to my friend Carol not long ago. I told her I felt like I had nothing to offer because I have lived differently…..no drugs, abuse, etc. And she told me, “God will use you because you are willing to learn.” Isn’t that all it takes? A willingness? Saying YES to God?

Isaiah 61:1 says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”

Is this us? I pray it will be, church.


Morning thoughts about purpose…..

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The house is a WRECK- I have not unpacked from the weekend, the litter box is toxic, and my office is even a nightmare to a hoarder, but I had to sit and write.



When God is prompting I have learned to listen because the filth and clutter can wait and it will be back tomorrow anyway.

Thursday night was the Zoe’s Journey fundraiser banquet, Saturday was our second Light Breaks Through Women’s Encounter in Madison, FL and in a week I leave for Haiti. Am I exhausted? Absolutely. Is my to-do list long? Yep. Am I right where God wants me to be? Without a doubt.

How did I end up helping facilitate two non profits and beginning to volunteer at another? People ask me constantly, “How do you have time?” My answer- how do I NOT have time? To serve women who need to hear grace, mercy and that they are worthy and to serve hundreds of children in Haiti who would not have a school if we were not there……how do I not respond to that call on my life?

“But you have a family! Your husband is a pastor! You need to take time for yourself. You need balance in your life. You can’t do it all.” This is usually how the conversation goes. All of those are completely accurate and I would not disagree. But there is one argument I would make…..

I just decided that when God calls me to hard places I will say YES. I am actually very, very particular in how I use my time. I don’t do big non profits with huge budgets and a lot of wasted money,  bogged down by an endless amount of committees and boards- too much work for me. I don’t get on board with flashy, here-today-gone-tomorrow justice fads or dramatic, religious, overnight poster children for Jesus. That is not me. But I do get behind a vision. A dream. Someone’s pain turned purpose. And for this reason I go to the trenches with people like me, who are not too good to stack chairs, dig a ditch, or pray with the kitchen staff at an event.

In the past week, God has reminded me that He has gifted me with quirky, messy, oddballs like me who want to say yes……Shelly, Carol, Jerriann. And this weekend he added a few more. I am not alone.

There is kingdom work to be done and in my crazy brain, here is the motivation: life is very, very short, our time is valuable, God will make me enough, and sleep is overrated. Period. I get up everyday and these are the four ideas that immediately come to me.

It is ok to be different. It is ok to be a little (or a lot) manic about what you are passionate about. And it is ok to be exhausted and realize you can get up tomorrow and do it all over again. That is what LOVE DOES.

This is not a plea or call for anyone else’s life. I promise- not a guilt trip, conviction notice, or a statement of “rise up and conquer, people!” I just woke up this morning and needed to share my heart. I am sure my motives are not completely pure because when are they ever? But I am at the point in my life where I want to be known- even the parts of me that seem socially unacceptable and not-so-much-like-Jesus…..because I struggle too. I struggle A LOT with pride, insecurity, and masks of perfection. And I pray that the rest of my life I will commit to sharing my story and encouraging others to do the same so that we can get real with each other and dig that trench together…right where God called us to be.

Self-constructed walls and lives that scream “STOP!”


As as I sit at Disney World (because that is what I do here while my husband naps and my kids entertain themselves on rides and check back for food and drink), I am reading an intriguing book. My favorite quote so far is: “I often think that the effort we put into trying to pretend something  about us is true-that we are less than we are  or more than we are or that one aspect of ourselves is the whole story-is based in a fear of being really known, of being truly seen, as we actually are.” Nadia Bolz-Weber

A few minutes ago, I got up from my reading and was taking pictures of fountains and flowers and encountered these walls…..








They are covering up construction sites that are meant to stay out of sight. That is, unless you are me and climb up to see what is really behind them.


But my intrigue had little to do with Disney’s next project and everything to do with our hearts. What is the condition of our hearts most of the time? Guarded. Barricaded by walls. Tucked behind thick fences of protection.  We are terrified to let people see our flaws, vulnerable places of weakness, and desperately don’t want anyone to think we are…..NEEDY.  When we even say that word, we use a tone of disgust because it is the last word any of us wants to be used to describe us. We can’t fathom others seeing the construction being done in our lives, our hearts, our raw places. So like Disney, we erect the facade, all clean and neat.

The inevitable result of the self-constructed walls is shallow, superficial relationships where we are never known. We either become whoever other people want us to be or we shut down and stop trying…..and we stop truly living and just start to survive.

True community begins with being vulnerable, raw, honest, and REAL. I have come to the place in life where fake and  superficial is exhausting. I pray God takes me to the depths with people- even those I just meet because that is where life happens. Real life. Not the fake reality of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Those are not real, people. And if we believe the lie that other people’s lives look that good all the time we will continue to hide our “junk” and fall deeper and deeper into the well of self-condemnation and insecurity.

I have lived with insecurity all my life. As I sit here today at 45 years old,  I still struggle….but the healing for me has happened when I decided to be honest with  God, my friends, and myself. When I began to realize that being a mess is ok and is actually comforting to other people who are bombarded with images of others “having it all together.” When I stopped playing the game of life and started living it, I was set amazingly free. Free to be me. Free to make mistakes and free to not have all the answers. Now that is to truly live.

I wonder who else is ready to stop playing church, stop with the never-ending images of perfection, and be with other people who want to be seen and known.  I have found that community with a group of women who make me brave everyday. Women who are going to get up this Saturday at a women’s event and hold up a poster board with words that describe their stories and their past that are not pretty and can’t be put in a pretty little box with a bow, all safe and secure. Words like “drug addict, ” “rape,” “multiple divorces,” and “sex at the age of 13.”

I know we all have wounds that grow deep from betrayal, abandonment, and shame. I get that. But it is time that we stop letting those hurts define us and keep us from finding people who want to do life together and be the body of Christ for each other.  It is not pretty or perfect- it is ugly and messy sometimes…..but that is where God wants us. He calls us to the the trenches,  sharing each other’s burdens and loving the unlovely parts of each other.

That, my friends, is REAL LIFE. A life of abundance and a life of freedom.

What I learned from a pair of socks….


His third day of middle school and he wore these socks. An older lady gave each of the pastors several pairs (I have no idea why) and Kenny took one look at them and said he would never wear them and Cooper snatched them up. Last year in elementary school, he was known by his socks- long, glow in the dark fluorescent green ones, fuzzy ones with Christmas ornaments on them in the middle of May, and ones that have caused grown adults to advise him he looked like a girl and never wear them again. I figured that fashion statement had died in elementary school…..until today.

While I have been worried for the past three days about how he will adjust to middle school, how he would “fit in”, whether or not he had the right binder and knew the combination to his lock, he was fine. And I was not.  By day three he was comfortable being himself, socks and all. It never occurred to him that middle school would be anything other than amazing. I had thought of all the things that could go wrong and how I would talk him out of feelings of unworthiness when he got home. I never needed those parenting strategies. On his first day, he said he walked up the wrong set of stairs and everyone was going down and he was the only one going up. I panicked for him. I was wondering if he was made fun of or if he felt insecure, etc. He just laughed it off and said, “Next time I knew which stairs to take!” No big deal. For me, that would have been a defining moment. One more way that everyone else knew what to do and I didn’t. I learned in that conversation what it meant to be brave at 11 and decided I wanted what he had.

My whole life I have struggled with insecurity, not ever feeling like I measured up, and wishing I fit in like other people. As early as I can remember, I have not wanted to be different than everyone else. I went to great lengths NOT to be noticed as outside what I thought was the “norm.” After years of counseling, prayer, and good friends speaking truth to me, I still have not overcome the fears I have battled my whole life. That I was not acceptable. That I was on the outside and somehow everyone else was on the inside. That everyone else knew how to do this “life” thing and I was in the dark. That I would get it together one day like everyone else and here I am. Somehow I still don’t have it together.

As I have raised my children, I have feared them failing. Not because it would make me look bad or because I needed them to succeed, but because I was operating with the mindset that I had growing up- failure is crushing because I am defined by my successes.  If I never try, I cannot fail.  So as they have wanted to try new things, I have been very reluctant. I have not told them so but I have deep rooted fear that they will only get hurt if they put themselves out there.

My seventeen year old decided six months ago he wanted to be a runner. Simple- he started to run. He did not weigh out how he would accomplish the entire sport of racing. He just put on his shoes and ran the lake. Now as a senior he has joined the cross country team. I would have not done that if my life depended on it in high school. But he never thought twice about it. He trains every day, takes his wins and losses, and tries to improve all the time.

I have done some running in my life and at one point I was running 5K races regularly.  Then I had some injuries and had given up the sport I never even really liked. On Monday after the kids returned to school and I finally had a day not already planned for me, I put on my running shoes and made it all of two miles before I fell onto my couch, exhausted. I already wanted to give up. The self-talk in my head was saying, “You can’t do this. You are never going to be good at running. You are too old. You are too fat.” After one day I wanted to give up! But as I ran today, I thought of how brave my son was. Joining a cross country team the last year of high school and never doubting he could do it. In that moment when I was sure I was never going to succeed, I kept running  because I knew if my 17 year old could be brave so could I.

Last year, my fifteen year old son decided two weeks before guitar auditions for Harrison that  he wanted to learn classical guitar and try out. Mind you, he did not even know how to hold a classical guitar at that point. His instructor told him he needed a year to prepare for the audition. I don’t think my son even heard those words because after 3 lessons he went into a room with his guitar and the teacher and played. I sat outside the room, overcome with panic and fear. I tried to listen through the thick door and when it came to sight-reading not a note was being played. I was texting my husband the whole time with “THIS WAS A VERY BAD IDEA.” I did not want him to feel the pain of rejection because from what I was NOT hearing coming out of that room it was not going well. He was not only accepted into the program but a year later was accepted into the most elite guitar group at Harrison. As I have watched him practice hours everyday, it never occurred to him not to try because he might fail. That was not an option in his mind. It certainly was in mine!

My oldest son joined the Army last year. With so many unknowns and a lot of questions we were unable to answer, he got on a bus and went to boot camp. With total strangers. And knowing he had some emotional wars to fight in the process. I could not believe that after all he had been through that he had the strength but he did. Seeing him graduate from basic training was one of the proudest moments of my life. He did it and he continues to do it as he works for our country.

My husband is also a very confident person and I keep thinking my kids must have gotten it from him. So I am the only female in our family and the only one who struggles with insecurity. What do I do now? I learn from them. I allow myself to dream the impossible and go do it.  Instead of quitting something because I think I will fail, I stay with it. Even when I realize I won’t be the best, the fastest, the skinniest, or the most graceful, I run. And I believe I can do it. WOW. Those are hard words to even write.

I wonder how many other people are held back by self-doubt and insecurity. What could we do if we just tried? Risked? I don’t know what this chapter holds for me but for one thing I am sure- the boys and men in my life have a lot to teach me and I am blessed to be spectators in their lives. They make me brave.





Abortion and extravagant grace


A profound quote from Ann Voskamp’s blog about the loud, bold posts on social media about abortion.  Humble outreach. Exactly.  It was the first words I heard about the reaction of many  toward  Planned Parenthood that really resonated with me.  Indignation, graphic videos, and the careless ways people approach the subject…..I don’t believe those change the hearts of women who are considering abortion. I think it further silences them about their unplanned pregnancies, keeps them quiet about their consideration of abortion because clearly the  mention of it sends people into a complete meltdown, and certainly shames  the women who are struggling with their past decision to have an abortion.

The anger is aimed at Planned Parenthood but the message is actually predominantly reaching the women who have had or will have abortions. They are the ones reading the posts and the blogs and the ones hiding further in their self-condemnation.  If we handle women’s hearts with gentleness and compassion and they see us as approachable , we can share LIFE with them and maybe one day Planned Parenthood has no abortion clients and there is no more discussion. Period.  The love that is shared with the Gospel will be louder than the abortion clinics’ message if we stop shaming and start loving.

Does the woman walking into an abortion clinic even know one Christian she could call and seek advice from who might be able to tell her of the options available to her, like adoption? Probably not because all she has seen is anger, disgust, and hatred. So she tells no one and goes through with it alone.

Does the 35 year old woman  with a child and one on the way dare tell her Bible study that she wonders if her child will be born with defects  because surely she will be punished for having an abortion? I doubt it.

Everyone has a story and every story matters. What if we stopped talking so loudly and started listening? Sitting with women and hearing their hearts cry out and allowing God to move in the midst…..that is where the movement begins and ends.

I spent a few years volunteering at a pregnancy help center and learned so much about mercy and grace from the staff there. I saw compassion and empowering women to choose life……not the approach I see most Christians using recently.  Every time we speak in generalizations and harshness, we sound unapproachable and arrogant and we set ourselves apart as someone who would never associate with someone who might be struggling with this decision.  So we stand as the SUPERIOR CHRISTIANS and all the while women around us are getting abortions and we will never know. Or women are hiding in our churches, isolated and hurting, and they will never heal because they have to keep it a secret from the SUPERIOR CHRISTIANS. And if you don’t think they are in your pews. check the statistics. And if they aren’t in your pews you probably scared them away before they even made it to the parking lot.

What if we loved more and judged less? Stopped screaming and started listening? Stopped posting and started praying?

Women need each other and when one thinks her sin is the one inexcusable sin she runs from the Jesus we want her to know.  She needs to have a safe place to fall and the world will give her that. Will we do the same, as women who were changed by grace? It never means we must agree with the decision but it does mean that women could come to us, as believers, and we will do life with them no matter what. Let’s show the world that we are saved by a merciful God and because of the extravagant grace shown to us, we have plenty of it to share with others. And let’s be honest about our own brokenness and our own failures. Maybe then we will see women overwhelmed with the love of Christ.