Karen McBride: Permission to be Real
Meet Karen McBride, a 49 year old wife and mother of four.
Because we shared the same church family for decades, she’s been in my life for as long as I can remember. Over the last ten years, though, she has become a dear friend.
There are a lot of things to love about Karen, but one consistently comes to mind first when I think of her: She offers the world an invitation to be real, permission to be imperfect. Every time I encounter her vulnerability, my heart breathes a sigh of relief.
It’s okay that, a year after buying it, the collage frame sitting on our dresser still displays the pre-packaged photos of strangers. It’s okay that the once beautiful plant Andrew brought home months ago now sits root bound and near death because of my lack flower pot anointing. It’s okay that those family relationships still have a hard time working. It’s okay that some of life’s i’s and t’s aren’t getting dotted and crossed.
Our day to day lives can sometimes feel like we’re trying to juggle twenty balls and are dropping nineteen of them. It’s into this lingering sense that we can’t quite get a grip on life, or at least a particular part of it, that Karen’s life speaks…
Into the days that were supposed to be perfect but turned out feeling so very flawed…
The things you wish were true about your life but simply aren’t…
The moments you had hoped would feel like a movie but then totally flopped…
The things you wish came easily to you but don’t…
The things you think you ought to be doing but never seem to get around to…
The moments in life when beauty eludes you and the annoying, unglamorous mundane is all you see…
Into these seeming failures Karen speaks, inviting us to let our hair down, take a deep breath, and receive His love this very moment.
Let’s take her up on this invitation as we encounter a few glimpses of her life…
A Dreamy Anniversary
Had such a romantic Anniversary… Started with being jolted out of bed at 6:15 by the obnoxious alarm … I of course looked like a model with perfect hair, makeup, and breath. After my beloved arose from his slumber, I lovingly screamed “HAPPY ANNIVERSARY” from the bathroom. As I dashed out the door to work, I managed a quick pop kiss and “love you.” Following a full day at work I sent my love a sensuous text… About how to finish preparing the potatoes and grapes for a banquet tonight. When we were at last reunited, we rushed around like chickens with our heads cut off and ran out the door. We then ate a delicious meal with 150 of our closest friends. It was so nice for them to choose to celebrate with us…. I mean, we had to have a lacrosse banquet while we were there but still … To top off our day, we then ran around the neighborhood chasing our dogs who once again escaped. It is such a bonding experience to run through the neighbor’s backyards in the dark praying that they aren’t real attached to the “shoot first, then ask questions” philosophy..And now we are sitting on the love seat… Watching the NBA while Jeff ices a sore elbow … This my friends is marriage at 24 years… And I wouldn’t have it any other way. (We did go out on an anniversary date on Saturday night AFTER two hours of moving our college kid out! And it was nice!)
The Dreaded Yearly Check-Up
Real. Raw. Confessions of a chubby girl. You probably don’t want to read.
Hopefully it will help someone…. And I promise I’m not asking for pity.
On this day more than any other I am defined by my weight. It’s yearly checkup day, the day that every woman loves to hate. Today, more than any other I will struggle with a number that measures earth’s gravitational pull on my earthly vessel. I will struggle to make a paper gown cover all of me. I’m convinced that a very skinny girl created these. When I get done with the gown, it will probably appear that a cat has been in the room with me because the gown will be torn and shredded in areas. Vera Wang (or a starving aspiring fashion designer) really needs to consider coming up with a nice gown for these occasions. Billions could be made. However even the most beautiful paper gown can’t cover shame.
It will not matter that I like my hair or that I have good nails. It will not matter that overall I like me. It will not matter that I’ve potty trained 4 kids. It will not matter that I’ve demonstrated tremendous self-control and let them live. It will not matter that they’re pretty cool people. It will not matter that I have a strong marriage. It will not matter that I was a stay at home mom for many years. It will not matter that mid-life I went back to school, changed careers, and am now doing what I truly believe I was created to do. It will not matter that instead of spending time at the gym, I’ve spent time with my nose in a book. It will not matter because the fact that I have not been able to hold this one area of my life together will be glaring. The failure to lose weight and keep it off will be the loudest thought in the room.
When I go in for the doctor’s speech, and I hear about my weight, I will resist the urge to say “no I had no idea I need to lose weight or that it’s unhealthy or what it takes to lose it.” Like does anyone really believe that chubby girls don’t know this? I will resist the urges to defend myself or of trying to convince the doctor that I don’t sit around and drink gallons of soda, and eat bags of chips and cookies all day. I will not explain to her that the transition from chubby to skinny FOR ME is a heart, mind, spirit, obedience, and emotional change and that FOR ME the answer does not lie in a pill, a supplement, a diet, or a stringent exercise routine. It lies in changing my relationship with and to food and in submitting this area of my life to the Lordship of Christ….. and I have not done that consistently. I will simply look at the doctor and say “I understand and I will try to do better.” I will walk out of there like I have many times and hope I can get it together for next year. And I will go do something nice for someone else.
The Writer Behind These Posts
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a need to be real, to be vulnerable, to be known and loved for who I really am. I am self-reflective by nature and carry a burning desire to understand and to be understood. In part, I think that this is why I majored in Psychology – to seek understanding for myself and for others.
It wasn’t until my early parenting years, though, that I felt a compelling call to vulnerability. You see, more than anything in the world, I wanted to get this parenting thing right. In fact, I wanted to get it perfect. I wanted my children to enter adulthood saved, healthy, happy, well-adjusted, and with absolutely zero need for therapy. Our oldest son was born on May 11,1993 and I am pretty sure that I faced the RUDE AWAKENING by May 14, 1993: I was not going to be perfect at this. I was going to fail. I was going to feel like a failure over and over and over.
As I parented alongside many lifelong friends and acquaintances, I often felt like everyone else had it “all together.” Their kids looked perfect, acted perfect…. Their hair was perfectly coiffed….They were ooo-ing and ahhh-ing over their newborns while I was thinking I NEED SLEEP!
I walked around with a heavy burden of guilt and shame. I knew what I wanted for my children and our family, but I felt ill-equipped to bring that to fruition. I parented out of fear that I was “ruining them.” It became very difficult for me to enjoy the moment because I was so obsessed with all my failures and shortcomings and how I compared to all the perfect moms out there.
But as my friendships with other young moms deepened, I began to realize something powerful: I was not alone. All the “perfect moms” out there were just like me. Many were struggling with their roles as wives, moms and all of the responsibilities and expectations inherent in being women. I spent hours on the phone with these women crying and sharing my struggles and theirs. I realized that we naturally put our best foot forward and that best version of us is often the only one people see. It was then that I committed myself to intentionally being real…to allow other people to know the “together” version of me, but to also let them see the “hot mess me.”
And the Lord was so faithful. He spoke to me consistently. He reminded me to parent out of faith, not fear. In recent years, He has encouraged me by letting me know that I was not created to be “enough.” I will never be enough for my kids or my husband. For so many years, I had desperately tried to be enough. What a relief it was when He showed me this. They were created with God-shaped holes that I cannot fill.
Over the years, I have written much about this topic in my journals. With the advent of Facebook, I was given an entirely new platform for vulnerability and “realness.” I write and I share because I feel compelled to. I want other women to know that it is okay to not have it together. It is okay to be broken. It is okay to struggle. It is okay to laugh at yourself. It is okay to see the failures through a lens of humor. I want them to know that they have a friend who has been where they are, will be where they are, or is right there in the trenches with them where they are right now. There is no need to pretend to be something we are not because it is so much more fun to be who we were created to be.
The Lord’s work in me has been beautiful and precious. I like me. I do not feel pressured to be something I am not. I do not seek to impress. I seek to be real, because it invites others to be real. At the very least, people can look at me and think Well at least I have it more together than Karen McBride!
God has told me that I AM HIS – before I belong to a church, to my kids, to the hubs, or to a job, I belong to Him. He guides me when I am seeking Him perfectly and when I am not. He loves me when I am searching Scripture and when I am vegging out on the couch. He is pleased with me for no other reason than I AM HIS. There have been seasons in my life where I have soaked myself in worship and Bible study… there have also been seasons where dragging myself to church on Sunday seemed like a Herculean effort. He has loved me through every season and He will love me through the seasons to come.
Dear sister in Christ, He will love you too. Through every season. You are His. Be who He has called you to be. Be the real you, the free you, the vulnerable you. There is no one to impress but Him… And He was impressed with you from the moment He knit you together in your mother’s womb.
“She can laugh at the days to come.”
The Kingdom Story Karen’s Life is Telling:
The Kingdom story here is about a God who binds up brokenness, is at work in the midst of chaos, and assures us it never was our perfection He was after.
It’s a story about this Jesus who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17) and causes every detail of our lives to conform to the purpose of His will (Ephesians 1:11). Every detail, even the mishaps. Even the setbacks. Even the mundane.
There’s a common understanding of the will of God as a specific set of events that must happen or else our lives are not “in His will.” The damage done by this mentality has been tremendous. Countless sons and daughters have written themselves off as “forever out of His will” because of past failures, lack of clarity, or a sense that events that should have happened haven’t.
Beloved, take a deep breath and exhale this lie. God is after your transformed heart, not some list of required life events. You’re in the Potter’s hands, and as you yield, He’s molding you into an ever-more-accurate reflection of Jesus. And our Potter is so brilliant that He can use anything, anything, to achieve His desired end.
“Anything” looks different for each of us. It represents those pieces of our lives that feel flawed and un-presentable. It may be broken family relationships. Or your never-ending struggle to be on time. Or the painful reminder at yearly check-up time. Or that child who can’t seem to get their life together. Or a long string of dashed hopes. Or your repeated social blunders. Or the faces of strangers staring back at you through the photo frame in your bedroom.
Whatever your “anythings” are, rest assured, Beloved: they aren’t being wasted. They are tools in the Craftsman’s hands, molding, chiseling, and shaping you into His image.
Thank you, Karen, for giving us permission to be real –
and for showing us how to be our true, vulnerable, and free selves.
This song echoes Karen’s invitation. “Come out of hiding – you’re safe here with Me. There’s no need to cover what I already see…” Let these words wash over your soul.