One of the very first times I remember questioning my identity was when I was only five years old. My childhood best friend and I lived in the same neighborhood. We played every day together. And, of course, our families went to the same church. Around Christmastime, like many others, our church had a Christmas program planned, and they needed a little girl to play a role in the performance. I can still remember the way my heart hurt when I found out they didn’t choose me and had chosen my friend for the role. But the hurt I felt was not from them choosing my friend; the hurt was because all I could hear in that moment was that they didn’t choose me. True or not, at just five years old, I thought very clearly: The reason they must not have chosen me is because I’m chubby and not cute like her. While I don’t feel the same pain and hurt today, as a mom to my own little girl now, replaying that memory is still heartbreaking to me.
I can’t help but think about my daughter. I never want her to doubt her identity or her value, but because she’s human, I know she’ll ask that question throughout her life. My prayer now is not that she would never ask the question, but that she will always know Who to ask.
A Little Pro Tip
No matter who you are, how you see yourself, or where you’ve come from, there’s about a 99.99% chance you’ve asked this question before. Make no mistake, this is a loaded question. Some of us ask ourselves, some of us ask the people around us, some of us ask people we don’t even know on social media and, in desperate times, some of us do all the above.
The question “Who am I?” doesn’t always sound like those three little words. It comes in all kinds of packages: thoughts, thought patterns, feelings of doubt, and often anxiety. “Who am I?” often looks like comparing gifts, talents, abilities, looks, calling, or story. It can mean comparing your family, how you were raised, or even your perspective of yourself to that of someone else. Whether we realize it or not, we ask the question “Who am I?” many times throughout our lives and in many different seasons. Some of us, when we might be walking through an especially difficult season, even ask ourselves this question multiple times each day. As a culture and a people, I believe we’re crying out for the answer to this question more than we ever have before.
So, you might be thinking, I ask myself this all the time. I want to begin our journey together by reminding you that asking questions, even this one, is not bad! But asking this question to the wrong person could be detrimental.
I used to believe discovering who we are was something we figured out when we were young, but I realized with every new season, I was rediscovering who I am again and again. Throughout my life, I’ve watched others far beyond me in years some cases, never truly know who they are at all. As women, we go through many seasons that cause us to re-ask the question “Who am I?” Not to mention the pressure of social media and its access to people and women across the world, which has made count- less women feel less valuable, less original, less worthy, and less captivating.
This three-word question can quickly feel over- whelming and all-consuming when we don’t have an answer. In some seasons, many of us become so crippled by the lack of an answer that it completely transforms the way we think, feel, and act.
One of the most life-changing moments for me came from asking God this question at 22 years old. I was living out a dream of being a professional backup dancer, traveling the world, experiencing different places, and making memories. But this dream wasn’t as perfect as I imagined it would be. I was incredibly confused and lacked peace, not to mention I was also in a relationship that was causing that confusion. Throughout that season of life and through a relationship that lasted four years, you could definitely say I was asking the right question to the wrong person. And, because I was asking the right question to the wrong person, I remained confused and anxious.
So, I want to give you a little pro-tip, straight from my hard-won reality to your heart! Whether you’re 15, 55, or 95 and reading this right now, you will never discover who you truly are by asking more questions about who you are.
Discovering your true identity, your God-given DNA, and your personality — what makes you and shakes you — will only happen by discovering more about the One who made you. Whether you’re reading this and believing in God or doubting every part of Him, I can promise you that He is the way to the contentment and peace with yourself that you’re searching for.
Our Truest Self and Deepest Purpose
At 22 years old, I decided I was done living in the in-between. I wanted to live in the fullness that Jesus came to give me and died to lavish upon me, so I ended the relationship, quit my dream job, moved to a new city, made new friends, and began believing for God’s very best for my life. To that point in my life, those were the hardest decisions I had ever made, but now I can tell you that they led to the best seasons of my life.
Completely starting over caused me to ask the question, “God, who am I?” At least this time, I was asking the right person! I had held on so tightly to the things I was doing and the people I was doing them with that, without them, I truly didn’t know who I was.
One day, as I sat in my apartment in Nashville, God reminded me of a video my mom had sent me months earlier. In the video, I was about three years old, standing in the playroom of my home. I grabbed the karaoke mic and said with great confidence, “I love Jesus.” In that moment, God was gently reminding me that the most important title I would ever have is simply being “His,” a daughter.
What does a three-year-old have to offer? What important thing can a three-year-old achieve? Not much. And that was the point. He didn’t want me to achieve anything, be anything, or do anything for Him. He didn’t care how much Scripture I had memorized, how many followers I had on social media, how many people approved or disapproved of the relationship I was in, or how successful I was by my or anyone else’s standards. God just wanted me to know whose I was — I was His. And when we know we are His, we discover our truest self and our deepest purpose.
Now, let me be clear — I’m not asking you to quit your job, move to a new town, or completely start your life over. But I do want to ask if there’s something, anything, holding you back from being who you truly are. I know that can be a bit of an overwhelming question, so it’s okay if you don’t know right now…
Although my story involved moving and starting over in many areas of life, I can tell you that it wasn’t all about those external changes. The physical changes were a tangible result of letting go and letting Jesus show me who He is and who I am because of Him.
You’re In A Beautiful Place
Maybe you’re in a new season of life, and you feel like you’re back at the starting line. Maybe you just moved to college, or maybe your kids just left the house and you’re rediscovering life as an empty nester. Maybe you just got married or maybe you’re pregnant, and your body is changing like crazy. Maybe you’re a grandma now, or maybe life threw you a curveball you didn’t see coming, and you don’t even know what to call the season you’re in. If I could put my hand over your forehead right now, the way my dad always would, and speak peace over your mind and rest over your heart, that’s exactly what I would do.
The truth is, though you may not feel like it now, you’re in a beautiful place. You’ve got a really good Friend ready to walk with you, ready to work with you, ready to show you who He is and who you are because of Him. Whether it’s for the first time or whether it’s for the hundredth time, it’s never a bad idea to ask your Father, to ask Jesus, to remind you who you are.
Taken from Daughter: Becoming Who You Already Are by Laney Rene
Laney Rene is a wife, mom, and founder of The One He Loves, a ministry which exists so every woman can be refreshed, encouraged, and reminded of Jesus’ loving-kindness toward them. She’s the author of the new book, Daughter: Becoming Who You Already Are. Laney is known for sharing the goodness of Jesus in a way that is not just inviting but also captivating. After walking through a painful season and into a redemption story only Jesus could come up with, Laney couldn’t keep the good news to herself. Today, as a worship artist, author, and speaker, Laney continues to find creative ways to share the heart of Jesus with everyone she can!
I don’t know about you but I am definitely one of the most impatient people ever. I’m the one who leaves for a class 30 minutes early because I can’t stand the thought of being late. When I say “let’s leave at 2:00pm”… I’ll be in the car ready by 1:45pm… just ask my roommates lol. Oh, and don’t even get me started on Atlanta traffic… good thing Michael is one of the most patient people and drivers I know… safe to say he does most of that driving hehe.
My point in exposing my bit of impatience with these things is because it applies to more than traffic or punctuality on small silly things.
I get impatient with those things because I’m WAITING / WANTING to get to a destination.
Ooo read that again.
I get impatient with those things because I’m WAITING / WANTING to get to a destination.
When I’m sitting in traffic and have an event to get to… I’m thinking about getting to that event… not the 1000 cars I gotta get by to get there.
Waiting is a natural part of life. No matter if it’s in traffic, a long line, a test grade to come back, a flight…etc.
Waiting is also a part of FAITH. God continually calls his people to wait for the Spirit to be revealed. In fact, the history of Israel is a history of constant waiting. From Egypt to Exile, the people waited for their redemption, looking forward to the Messiah. And in the new testament came their messiah… Jesus. Now we wait for Christ’s return, and for the full establishment of God’s kingdom upon the earth. What hope we have!
But… like waiting in Atlanta traffic or fill in the blank… waiting for God to reveal purpose in a hard season, or for all of the promises of God He tells us in His word, can be frustrating at times. I don’t know about you but I’ve definitely found myself in seasons (still am) of asking God “Why do I have to wait for the good to come of this?”
You feel like you are doing everything right but still find your feet in a season of waiting and disappointment. Maybe even feeling like He’s forgotten about you. Your dreams. Your desires. The work you have put in.
YOU AREN’T ALONE.
Something the Lord has been teaching me in my recent season, is PRESENCE. Waiting can teach us a number of things but the tug of my heart is “Being present.” Embracing HIS presence. Allowing HIS presence to keep me or lead me to where He wants me.
There’s freedom in that. There’s freedom to surrendering to HIS presence.
The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years, crying out for deliverance. God responded by sending Moses to lead them to freedom. (Exodus 1-12)
Jeremiah often faced rejection and persecution for delivering God’s messages. Yet, he remained patient and steadfast. And God provided (Jeremiah)
David had to wait many years and face numerous trials, including persecution by King Saul, before finally becoming the King of Israel. (1&2 Samuel)
God is working in the waiting.
But did these people just sit still in the waiting? No. they didn’t give up on their faith. They kept pursuing the Lord. And He came through. Every. Single. Time.
One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 40:31…
“But those who WAIT on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.”
Next time you grow impatient in your waiting, or grow frustrated in your season…
Remember these things:
He sees you. Keep seeking Him.
What God has for you, you can’t speed up, can’t slow down, can’t delay and can’t stop.
But we can control the posture of our hearts. To trust Him. To stay present where He has our feet.
Even when we feel our feet should be somewhere else. We can’t see the big picture he can. He has plans to protect you, teach you, love you, mold you and shape you. He wouldn’t keep you in a season if there was nothing else beneficial from it…
“For we know ALL things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”
Not all things are good, but God can bring good out of anything.
God can see what you can’t. Trust Him. He’s not letting go of you… so you don’t let go either!
“One of the scariest realities in life is that if you insist, God will let you do it your way.” – Louie Giglio
I convinced God that my plan was better.
Year 2023 was finally going to be MY year. The hopes and dreams I had for myself were unlike any other year. I went into 2023 with the mindset of “This is IT! This is the year things are going to happen for ME! I can just FEEL it in my bones!”. Have you ever done the same? I’ve made a vision board for the past 5 years, and it’s one of my favorite traditions at the beginning of a new year. I sit at my computer, I pull up Pinterest, and I just GO to town. Then I get all of the photos together and I print them out, then tack them on a board (highly recommend making a girls night out of this by the way). Last year, my board was COVERED in things I believed were going to happen for me in 2023. Key words… WERE going to happen. Now for starters, I need you to know, dreams are SO good! You SHOULD have hopes and dreams. You should TOTALLY have a bucket list. Dreaming excites me for the future, but it was almost as if I knew better than God for year 2023. It was like I was making a board of all the things that I was manifesting into my own life, and God was the afterthought of all of this. Whew, even writing that takes me back.
My dreaming quickly became unhealthy. I would look at my board every day when I woke up, and just wonder when God was going to make it happen for me. My vision board was COVERED in these things I was convinced my life would look like in the next 12 months. A relationship taking the next step, traveling with certain people, moving back home, planning future things, etc. It became so unhealthy, that I started to ignore red flags that were just waving right in front of me. Like, the brightest red flags you have ever seen y’all. Things that I swept under the rug, because it didn’t align with how my year was going to go. How I had PLANNED for my year to go. So I ignored them, naturally. – Fast forward just two months into that year, and a big portion of my dreams were all of a sudden stripped from me. Not only were my dreams stripped, but so was my identity. Because along the way, I had put my entire worth in everything but Jesus. I was lost, at a dead end, and searching for any ounce of hope I could find.
For the one who has found themselves in a similar place, I want you to know, I deeply empathize with you. Asking God questions like, how could this be your plan for me? Why does it seem that for so long, I have celebrated everyone else’s dreams becoming a reality, but mine are still at a stand still? Does God even care about the desires of my heart anymore? And friend, these are all questions I actually encourage you to keep running to Jesus with. He would much rather you run to him with your doubts and anger than run further away from him. He is the safest place I know. A place where I bring all my doubts, fears, frustrations, concerns, confusion, and questions.
As I sit here today writing the honest state of the place I found myself in a year ago exactly, I wish you were sitting right in front of me, so I could tell you face to face where the goodness of God was in the midst of all my unknowns. The healing that had to take place in me, required me to unclench my hands of all the things I thought I was in control of, and let go and just look to the Father in complete desperation. That’s the place I needed to be at, that’s the place he needed to show me where I needed to look all along. The things God showed me, the ways he protected me, the days to come that would soon explain why he let certain things happen, they were only just around the corner. And friend, I believe the same is true for you.
The scary thing is, I don’t think God would’ve gotten my attention any other way. I was so completely fixated on the plans I had for myself, that I didn’t even think to ask Jesus if this was even remotely where he wanted me to go. I had to be broken so he could do the mending in me. The mending that couldn’t be done by any human being on this earth. So what mending does Jesus need to do in you? What area of your life do you need to give BACK to Jesus? What area of your life are you completely OBSESSING over?
Struggles have not been absent in my life ever since, quite the opposite actually. But in the struggles, I have this unwavering faith that He who promised is faithful. He didn’t begin a good work in you to just leave you hoping for the best… no, he who began a good work in you will carry it out to completion. To find healing, you have to be vulnerable long enough to go to the places your mind tells you to avoid. There’s something that happens within us when we invite only a trusted few into our mess. It gets messy. And I believe that’s actually how Jesus created us to live. He doesn’t promise an absence of struggles in this life when we follow him, instead, he promises that he will never leave us when we find ourselves in the deepest of them. And let me tell you something, He is who I want to be with when I find myself in the valley.
Before you go, I want you to know, He is not withholding from you. Read that again. He wants GOOD things for you, friend. Things that your mind can’t even comprehend right now, because you simply wouldn’t believe it. He’s protecting you, pruning you, and maybe for the reason so that you’ll be able to bear more fruit in the season to come. He is a GOOD good Father, and He can be trusted with the deepest longings of your heart.
Cheering you on — mads
Oh how easily I attempt to avoid the “sting” of conviction for my own complacency and comfort. I think in our world of constant distraction, it’s easy for all of us to ignore or grow numb to the gentle conviction of the Holy Spirit. We grow complacent. When we are complacent, we don’t welcome conviction.
Complacency results in a lack of desire to change, or the belief that one doesn’t need to change. Conviction disrupts our complacency. I’ve learned that we as humans do not love to be disrupted or interrupted, especially by conviction.
We get comfortable in our sin, so when conviction hits, we turn the other way and pretend we didn’t feel it… or at least I do at times. To be honest, over the last year, I have grown so distracted that I wasn’t necessarily “pretending” that I didn’t feel conviction, I was actually too overwhelmed by my distractions that I didn’t think I had the capacity to dig deeper when conviction hit. I knew the conviction would require me to sit and reflect, but my distractions told me I didn’t have time to do that, so I continued on, and “ignored” the conviction of the Holy Spirit telling me to slow down, reset, and release control.
The sting of conviction often hurts so much we don’t want to acknowledge the root of what’s going on deeper…the fear of having to change, the fear of giving up control, the fear of turning from a life that has grown to be incredibly comfortable, the list goes on.
I’m sure we have all found ourselves here at some point in our lives…maybe you are in this place right now. If this sounds familiar to you, I want to send some encouragement today.
A GOOD STING IS A GOOD THING.
Let me say that again. A GOOD STING IS A GOOD THING.
Conviction may sting, yes. It may be uncomfortable and not feel so great, but it is a GOOD thing because it is from the Holy Spirit. When we are convicted, it means that God is reaching His hand out and wanting to refine us. He is bringing attention to our sin or ways in which we have turned to things other than Him for fulfillment, so that we can turn from that and turn toward Him. This is called sanctification, meaning “set apart to be made holy and purified.”
I think sometimes we confuse the two words conviction and condemnation.
Conviction is from the Holy Spirit.
Condemnation is from Satan.
Conviction leads us to repentance. Condemnation overwhelms us with guilt and shame.
The good news is that in Christ there is NO condemnation. Satan has no say in our sanctification process because Christ has made us new, calling us holy and setting us free from the enslavement of sin and death.
Romans 8:1→ “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death…”
It never “feels” good when I am convicted and have to acknowledge the complacency I have fallen into because of the entanglement of my sin. But, conviction always leads me to the feet of Jesus where I humble myself and acknowledge my need for Him. But, it requires that I slow down and really sit in what the conviction is revealing that is going on deeper within me. There is always a root of our sin, of our complacency, and of our need to be distracted. And when the root is discovered, that is where the joy and beauty of refinement is really experienced.
May we not be women who run from conviction, but rather embrace it and thank God for the grace and mercy He pours out on us, so that we are not overcome by guilt and shame. May our distractions cease when conviction comes, so that we can rest in the kindness and mercy of our Father, knowing that He is refining us and making us more like Him as we allow the Holy Spirit to dig up the ways in which the world has distracted and numbed us.
Gosh, conviction is never fun, but it is always beautiful because it’s a picture of the kindness of God offering us the chance to be sanctified and renewed each day. LOVE YOU GUYS!
Have you stopped believing that God could do it?
Well, you’re certainly not alone. I recently just moved out of my dream apartment and I am still in awe at it all…
In 2021, I moved to Nashville as an absolute leap of faith. I had one friend that I knew in this city and endless nudges from God whispering to just go… I remember quite literally saying, “well, what’s a year?! Let’s give it a shot. If I love it I’ll stay and if I don’t… California will always be there.”
I had no idea what exactly God would do with that whisper…
Blessings began to follow that little act of obedience– opportunities for work opened up, 1 studio in my dream apartment became available, and every little detail came together with an unmatched ease and joy. Now hear me out, that first year wasn’t necessarily perfect, but if one thing was clear, it was the fact that I was supposed to be in Nashville for longer than just one year. God had bigger and better plans.
It was a typical Sunday attending the Belonging Co. 9am service, where I sat with my good friends, Jay and Reagan. It was Reagan’s last Sunday at church before she moved back to North Carolina and we all had plans to grab a cup of coffee after church. What I thought was a “typical” Sunday was actually the beginning of a beautiful story that God had planned far beyond I was even born (Psalm 139:16). I think it’s safe to say that day I was standing in the middle of an answered prayer.
“Hi, my name is Jonathan.”
“My name is CC!”
On our way out of church we ran into Reagan’s friend, Jonathan Lutz. With excitement in her voice she said, “Omg, Jonathan meet CC and Jay… CC and Jay meet Jonathan! I’ve been wanting y’all to meet!!”
Between us girls, I thought that Jonathan was so cute– and after 2 weeks, the Lord’s beautiful story began to unravel even more. I felt called to sit alone at church that Sunday, to later find that Jonathan would coincidentally sit 2 seats down from me. After a small invitation to a post church hang and an exchange of numbers… we later went on our first walk, first date, and after 3 months of intentionally dating we became ~official~.
Fast forward 1 year later and we were ENGAGED with numerous God moments to tell our future kiddos on how God so beautifully wove his love, grace, and favor throughout our story. (Pst, I’m telling y’all there are SO many little details that point to the goodness of God, I feel like I can write an entire BOOK on it all!)
Friend, God can do it.
Oftentimes, it’s up to us to keep believing that He can (John 11:25-26). I’ll never forget a line Chad Veach shared on Whoa That’s Good, “When you’re walking in the will of God, Heaven is at your back.” There is so much truth in that statement that I have seen come into fruition in my own life. I think God DELIGHTS when we step out in faith into the unknown. Afterall, Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen right?! (Hebrews 11:1-6)
When I said yes to God and moved to Nashville, of course I had the hopes of meeting my future husband, building a community and continuing to advance the kingdom of God. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes fear would try to creep into my mind and heart and tell me that these things weren’t possible for me…
I praise God that I can now stand on the other side of all those fears with a holy confidence that says, “If I’ve seen God do it once, I know He can do it again.” Which brings me back to the first line of this blog…
I moved out of a place that was once my dream apartment, only to step into a new dream apartment that I had always hoped for… only this time I get to walk into this season as a WIFE.
God is so so good.
Don’t stop believing.
CC is a wife, podcast host, social media strategist and writer. Her passion has always been to spread JOY and make heaven more crowded. A few of her favorite things are local coffee shops, yummy cookies, thai food, and any time spent with family and friends!
Keep up with CC on Instagram @ccalbonero!
Let me ask you a question: Have you ever had a disproportionate emotional response to a situation that should not have affected you in such a dramatic way?
Let me ask you one more: Have you ever stopped to think about what the reason for that response could be?
There are always things beneath the things. We are not simple creatures. Even those of us determined to live steady, unemotionally charged lives are shaped by a million small moments that stay with us. Those moments shape who we are and how we think and how we react—and, yes, how we feel—in a given moment to a given circumstance.
Among the many things I’ve been learning and want to share with you in the pages to come is that those revved-up reactions tell a story—a story about something we’ve lived. They point to a deep-seated something that has gone unaddressed in our heart.
We experience something impactful. We react to that thing by stuffing our feelings or minimizing our feelings or ignoring how we feel altogether. Then something else comes our way, something that’s not even that big of a deal, and we lose it. We unload on a loved one. We catastrophize. We ugly cry, heaving until we can barely breathe.
And then we regret what we’ve done.
Why did we freak out?
Why did we demean our spouse?
Why did we shame our kid or yell at our roommate?
Why did we make that insane assumption and blame and threaten and walk right out the door, slamming it behind us as we left?
What was that all about? What was underneath it all?
Short answer: a lot, as the science and the Bible will show us.
Somewhere along the way, maybe from things I heard at church or just from growing up, I learned I wasn’t supposed to be sad or angry or scared. I was supposed to be okay, so I needed you to be okay too. Or maybe it’s just because I hate the feeling of being out of control and I believed these feelings were too scary and sitting in the hard felt . . . too hard.
Every time I experience sadness, fear, anger—emotions I’ve been conditioned to not want to feel—my brain immediately moves to fight off the feeling like it’s a virus. My brain attacks the feeling, judges it, condemns it, and tells me why I shouldn’t feel it at all. It tells me
that it is all going to be okay. It barks out all these orders about what I need to do so that I can finally stop feeling the feeling.
Worse still, sometimes when you share with me your sadness, fear, or anger, I do the same stupid thing to you.
It’s wrong and I’m sorry. Your feelings, my feelings, are not evil things that need to be beat back.
Feelings can’t be beat back, by the way. Even if you’re the most effective stuffer ever to live, the very best at stuffing feelings way down deep, so far down you believe they can never be found, I’m here to tell you those feelings don’t go quietly. The people who know you know that they’re there. If you are honest, you know they’re there too.
That hint of rage you felt toward your dad, the fear of rejection you felt with your family, the striving that has exhausted you at school or work, the jealousy that creeps in whenever you are at that one friend’s house, the bitterness that flickers when you talk about why you don’t yet have kids, the despair you feel in your gut every time you think of the person you love buried underground— I know you think you packed all those things safely away in a box so that you won’t have to see them again.
But inevitably they pop out at unexpected times, like over a lovely dinner when your daughter is just dreaming beautiful dreams.
Whatever the triggering situation, at some point the next day or the next week or sometime even later than that, you look back on the catalyst—and on your response—thinking, Why on earth did I say (or do) that?
You wonder, How on earth did those feelings sneak up on me? You wonder why they didn’t play fair. The truth of the matter? They were playing fair.
Or playing predictably, anyway.
Because those feelings are tangled up with something very real in your past or present, something that absolutely is a big deal to you, whether or not you’re ready to admit it.
Feelings can’t be beat back.
They can’t be ignored or dismissed.
They are trying to tell us something.
To read the full chapter, click HERE 🙂
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jennie Allen is the founder and visionary of IF:Gathering as well as the New York Times bestselling author of Untangle Your Emotions, Find Your People, Get Out of Your Head, Made for This, Anything, and Nothing to Prove. A frequent speaker at national events and conferences, Jennie is a passionate leader, following God’s call on her life to catalyze a generation to live what they believe. Jennie earned a master of biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. She and her husband, Zac, have four children. Excerpted from Untangle Your Emotions: Naming What You Feel and Knowing What to Do About It. Copyright © 2024 by Jennie Allen. To be published by WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, on February 13, 2024.