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Lie #6: You Are Broken & Useless

 

 

Not long after I started singing on the worship team again and just as I was nearing the finalizing of my divorce, I was out to coffee at Starbucks with one of the band members. Casually my friend asks out of nowhere, “So…been writing any songs lately?” I kind of chuckle, shake my head and mutter something like, “Nah. Honestly, I don’t even think I know how to write a song anymore…”

 

He kind of sat there quietly a moment, got a “hmmm” sort of look on his face and nodded his head in understanding for just a second, but then tossed out a very practical suggestion: “Well….maybe you should try writing a song about that.” 

 

He wasn’t joking, but I laughed, and I’m pretty sure that I promptly changed the subject. However, to my surprise, his little suggestion totally planted a seed in me.

 

It just so happened that the very next day was the “Great Atlanta Snowmageddan of 2010” and I was snowed in at home. I say this in jest, because we probably only got an inch or two of snow that day, but when it snows in the South, it basically shuts the whole world down. The problem is that usually the snow melts but then freezes and turns into a total sheet of ice, making roads a really deadly game of bumper cars in real life. So. If you have the option to stay home, you absolutely do!

 

Basically picture this: snowflakes start to fall and millions of Atlantans leave work and school early (and all at the same time) as panic breaks out of what’s to come. As everyone tries to frantically get home (or to the supermarket for bread and milk, DUH) before the inevitable happens, the interstate is already becoming one giant, congested, ice-covered slip-and-slide. 

 

We don’t have salt trucks in the South, so of course people start sliding into each other, forming even worse traffic jams and total stand-stills - so much so that someone’s 30 minute commute home turns into an 8 hour one. Then cars start literally running out of gas or overheating in the ridiculously jammed chaos. 


Before you know it, drivers just start abandoning their cars right in the middle of the interstate and huffing it by foot to the nearest warm Target for shelter. No one else dares leave their home to come pick them up, so they hunker down for a long winter's night in the furniture section on some outdoor lounger for the evening. But don't worry, they grabbed a furry pink throw blanket off the clearance end-cap, and thank goodness Target also has Starbucks these days. Oh, and plenty of snacks.

 

You think I’m kidding, but if you live in Atlanta or a similar Southern city, you know I’m not. It’s a real thing. We dread the annual Snowpocalypse. But we kind of of love it, too.

 

So, I opted to stay toasty warm at home that day, and as I’m watching the quiet snow fall outside my window, the dusty keyboard and notebook in the corner start to call my name. I remember what my friend said just in passing the day before. I take a deep breath and walk over the the keyboard. And I attempt to write a song…about not knowing how to write a song. 

 

To my utter surprise and amazement, something pure and unexpected flowed from my soul. Now, I promise you, it wasn’t the greatest song of all time by a long-shot, and no one will likely hear it but God himself. Nonetheless, it broke something new loose in me. 

 

You see, when I was little, I used to write songs about almost anything. It started at like 6 years old. I’d write a song for a friend who was moving away. I’d write a song for my grandparents' anniversary. And sometimes I’d also write songs about God. It wasn’t really until I was a senior in high school that I started to write corporate worship songs for my church to sing.

 

As an adult, I’d gotten to where I was only writing worship songs for the church. I suppose partially because it was my job to. That was great and all for that season of life, but after my husband left me, the problem was that my heart was not erupting with "praise." I didn’t have a song of victory in my heart to shout from the rooftops. I felt defeated. Sad. Discouraged. Disillusioned. And I basically didn’t feel like I had anything to sing about. 

 

Bottom line was I felt totally broken. So broken that I felt completely useless to God. 

 

But now, I know that was a lie.

 

My friend’s simple encouragement to write a song about “exactly how I was feeling” at “exactly where my heart was at” that day untapped a whole new kind of (Biblical!) response in me I’d never really explored: LAMENT.

 

lament  [ləˈment/] noun

1. a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.

 

Numerous Psalms in the Bible are full of lament: David questioning God, expressing His hurt and frustrations to God, crying out in tears and anguish while vulnerably expressing his doubts. I love that the Bible gives us those examples…and in the same breath calls David “a man after God’s own heart.” 

 

I found such freedom in being able to express my broken heart to God. It was so healing to write and sing about my grief, my sorrow, my questions, my sense of loss, and my fears. It was really therapeutic for me. I never thought I’d share the songs with anyone else, but they were what I needed to say to God. I still cherish them, and cherish those precious times.

 

In fact, the day we signed divorce papers, I came back to the church in the heavy haze of what had just happened. I sat down at the grand piano in a hollow basement practice room and wrote a song called “Cold” (listen here, if you like).

 

Sometimes I would get brave enough to sing the songs for my mom, and one night she said to me, “I don’t know, Sher…I think other people need to hear these songs…” I kind of chuckled and said something like, “Well where am I going to sing them? They’re kind of dark, mom. It’s not like I can sing these at church!” She responded, “Well…..I don't know, but I think God really wants to use them.”

 

A few weeks later, I happened upon a new coffee shop in a different part of town than I normally hang out in and saw that they had an open mic night coming up. I felt a nudge in my heart that maybe I should come share a few of my songs there.

 

So I mustered some courage, dusted off my guitar, and showed up to sing 2 of my new songs on a random weeknight in front of a small, random, audience. I was terrified. I didn’t think the songs were really any good, and I had no idea how they would be received. I felt incredibly vulnerable, raw, and exposed. But I just felt like I needed to do it. 

 

I will never forget, in the far back corner of the coffee shop, there was this young woman sitting there all by herself, tears streaming down her face the entire time I sang. I kept looking at her and wondering what was going on.

 

As soon as I finished singing, she immediately crossed the room towards me and blurted out, “Oh my gosh! It’s like you just sang my story! I had to come talk to you. I’m in the middle of a divorce and it’s killing me. How are you making it through?” I had the opportunity right then and there to tell her about Jesus. That little encounter in that random coffee shop truly changed my life, and changed how I viewed what I had been walking through. Ashes to beauty, indeed.

 

So. I started singing the songs everywhere. Coffee shops. Bars. Restaurants. People’s back yards & living rooms. And yes, eventually even in some churches. I started getting brave to do more than sing, but I also started telling more and more of my story as well. I watched time and time again as people wiped tears from their eyes when I sang and shared, and I watched as Jesus’ healing power meet them in the midst. Somehow it made it all feel worth it. Every time I stepped out to share the songs & stories, I felt like I experienced a new layer of healing in my own heart, too. What a beautiful mystery. What a faithful God.

 

It wasn’t long until that same friend who encouraged me to start writing songs again began to encourage me that I should record some of those songs now, too. So, we began the process of recording a little artistic EP called “Weathered.” I felt like I finally had some new wind in my sail, and was so grateful for a new season. 

 

Around that time, I was out with my parents for a belated birthday dinner celebration at PF Chang’s (can I get an amen?!?). While we were at dinner, my mom started to have trouble breathing, so we rushed her to the ER.

 

After a few tests, the doctors said it was a good thing we rushed her in so quickly, because she had had a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in her lungs). He said most people don't survive it. She was in ICU and they were doing everything they could.

 

It was few scary days, but she did start to improve, and they eventually moved her out of ICU. Once they got her stable, they started to do more tests, though, because they needed to try and figure out what had caused the clot to begin with.

 

Since my mom was doing better, my dad was back at work one day while I was hanging at the hospital with mom. Unexpectedly, the doctor and a nurse come in looking very somber. I took my mom’s hand as he began to give her the results from the tests. 

 

They said she had breast cancer. Cancer. That awful word we all dread to hear. 

 

And just like that, the wind got knocked out of me all over again.

 

However, as the doctor is still talking and tears are streaming down both our cheeks, I had the most unexpected thought of gratitude. I literally said to the Lord in the quietness of my own heart:

 

“Thank you that you allowed me to walk through the grief and pain of divorce so that I could understand what my mom is going through right now and be strong enough to hold her hand through it.” 

 

I’ll never forget what happened next. As the doctor finished what he had to say, my mom started quoting scripture. 

 

She was an incredible woman of God. In fact, she LOVED to study the Bible and teach the Bible. She spent her free time writing Bible studies and instilled in both my older brother Scott and I such love for learning God’s word over the years. What a testimony to who she was that in her darkest moment, His word flowed out of her. 

 

Before I knew it, though sobs of tears, she began to raise her hands, - and with my hand still in hers, both our hands end up raised, and there we were: worshipping God through our brokenness, right there in the hospital room. 

 

I don’t remember exactly everything she said that day, but I do remember one thing, which was this: 

 

“God, my life has always been in Your hands, and I give my life to you again now.”

 

Not too long after that day, more tests were ordered. It revealed that the cancer was Stage 4 and had already spread to her bones and her brain. We were in total shock. Talks of treatment shifted to trying to prolong the time she had left.

 

My parents didn’t share the exact prognosis with me at the time, but I found out later that basically the oncologist had given her 6 months to live. I was actually in the studio recording the title track on the EP “Weathered” that very day. Mom and Dad came by the recording studio that afternoon, because after mom got sick, she had told me to get busy since she wanted to hear my next album before Jesus took her home. 

 

And that I did. She had started losing her hair from the chemo and radiation treatments the day we had a listening party at the church. She showed up with a hat on, and I just knew. We cried tears of joy and sadness as we listened with other family and friends to these songs that had been written in the midst of my divorce. Mom also encouraged me to not cancel my CD release tour, but to get out there, sharing my songs and story, winning as many hearts as I could to Jesus. She said nothing would give her greater joy. 

 

So I’d call her from the road when she was home sick from chemo, and would tell her what God was doing night after night.

 

She fought really hard for about 7 months, but sometime around 12:45am on October 27, 2011 - while we were all sound asleep - my mom passed through to glory from her cancer-stricken body into Jesus’ loving arms.

 

It was exactly 6 years ago today that Frances Annette Keller went to heaven. She always went by Annette, but if I ever have a daughter, I think I want to name her Frankie. Cute, right? 

 

My mom was the most amazing mom, wife, daughter, and friend. Anyone who knew her knows that, and knows that she gave the most amazing hugs, made the best food, baked the best Christmas cookies, loved to laugh, had a smile that could light up a room, was insanely fun to be around, and would buy birthday cards in advance for every single person she knew and never forgot to mail them out right on time (I found her stash for the whole next year of birthdays after she passed, by the way. love her.).

 

She also relished any excuse to gather friends and family for a party, loved to give the most thoughtful (or playful) of gifts, was a hopeless optimist, fiercely loving, and had a really adventurous heart. I get that from her for sure.

 

Lovingly known as “Mama K” by all my friends whom she basically adopted as her own, she was a missionary kid who grew up in South Korea, she came back to the States for college and met a (soon-to-be) pastor there whom she married, she had two kids (Scott & I) who are both worship leaders and songwriters who grew up to serve Jesus, she lived to see her grandson Caed celebrate his 1st birthday and almost made it long enough to meet her adorable niece Addie, she celebrated 40 years of marriage to my dad before Jesus called her home, and she faithfully served Jesus all her days. She left such a legacy. 

 

After she passed, I knew I had a choice: I could either let her death “take me out” - give in to the grief, the sorrow, the despair of it all, throwing in the towel on ministry and music and life - or I could choose to live...for her....for Him...live my life doing what He made me to do, brokenness and all. I chose the latter.

 

 Here’s the thing I now know first-hand, just as Psalm 34:18 tells us:

 

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted 

and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

 

Best news ever. 

 

Are you feeling broken today? Then you are in good company! Not only is there a world full of people who relate, but God is close to you right now, and he promises to save.

 

In fact, I started to dig into this “broken” thing a bit more a while ago. A friend of mine actually raises horses and I felt prompted to ask her about the process of “breaking a horse” and what that really means. Here’s what she told me:

 

- There are LOTS of methods of breaking a horse (or some prefer “gentling” a horse)
- Every horse is different and requires different techniques
- You can “cowboy” a horse if you can physically manage it, but if you want to partner with the horse and have it really enjoy being with you, it’s a whole different approach
- Don’t charge a horse; wait for them to come to you, or they’ll retreat
- If at any point you feel them pull back, retreat to the “safe” point, building their confidence that you’re not going to hurt them, then slowly try again
- They may freak out when you introduce something new, so start gently and slowly
- Repeat, repeat, repeat – repetition and patience is the key
- As confidence builds they will surrender more quickly because of TRUST
- They learn a lot from the herd and can be dangerous if you let them misbehave (kicking, bucking, etc.)
- Discipline/correction is necessary (stern voice, a gentle bump on the nose to get their attention, etc.)
- Horses always move away from pressure/discomfort, use that to get them where you want them
- Once you convince the horse you love them and are not going to hurt them, they’ll joyfully follow you anywhere

 

I had to laugh, because I could so see myself in what she shared! Can you?? How many of you feel a little pressure in your life or something new and  “unknown” happens and you start totally freaking out??? Can anybody else relate as much as I could?!!?!?

 

Oh that we could trust Him more. 

 

He is able to use the pain and loss we have experienced in our lives to break our hearts for the things that break His. I can tell you that I now have TONS of compassion for those who have walked through divorce, chronic pain/illness, or the death of a loved one. And my heart is usually moved to do something about it - at the very least, to try and provide hope or encouragement for those in the midst. 

 

Here’s the thing: the Father loves us, loves being with us, and loves to partner with us. There’s so much that He wants to do in us and through us to reach a broken, hurting world, and I have totally seen how He has been able to use the pressure/discomfort of my life to get me right where He wants me. What the enemy intends to use to destroy us, God can (and will!) use for good! 

 

One of my favorite verses is James 1:2-5:

 

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it.”

 

Your brokenness is absolutely beautiful to Jesus. He himself was broken for you on a cross. He modeled for us that being broken is not the weak, defeated choice. It is a strong, brave choice to face brokenness head-on and to keep following God in spite of it. Jesus did the unfathomable and followed God through brokenness, torture, and even unto death - all so that we could experience real Love - the kind of love that conquers all.

 

He was broken… for YOU. 

 

Not for the best version of you that is perfect and all put together on the outside - but for the broken, most vulnerable, worst parts of you deep down inside. You know, the bits that actually need redeeming. THAT is our God. 

 

So. Take a chance. Right where you’re at. Embrace exactly how you feel today. Be honest and vulnerable and real with God about where you're at. Figuratively speaking - however it looks for you - “write that song” today about *not* knowing how to write a song. Then don’t be afraid to sing that song with all your heart for others to hear it, too. Don’t be afraid to tell you story - messy as it may be! Use it to encourage others to cling to God through every storm just as you are this very moment….and just wait and watch and see what He’ll do! He wants to bring healing and hope to a hurting world through you, and has amazing plans for you!

 

I know it can be difficult to see the forest through the trees where you're in the thick of it, but I promise you this:

 

Your brokenness does NOT make you useless. In fact, it might actually be that until we've experienced brokenness that we are not really as useful as we could be!

 

Through the cracks of our own broken souls, God’s love can be poured out all the more to those around us in desperate need of hope. Let's live the kind of lives that are sweetly broken & wholly surrendered to Him!

 

 

 

 

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Click the links below to read other blogs in the series "Fat Girls Don't Deserve Love [And other lies I believed for way too long]"

Preface: No More Stalling: It's Time to Be Brave

Lie #1: Fat Girls Don't Deserve Love

Lie #2: It's All Your Fault

Lie # 3: You're Just too Much but Never Quite Enough

Lie #4: You Are Invisible 

Lie #5: Divorced = Disqualified

Lie #6: You Are Broken & Useless

LIE #5: Divorced = Disqualified

 

So I know you were wondering in that last chapter, "What were you doing living in Brazil? You skated right over that detail…."

 

Well, it all started when a half dozen or so of my worship songs got translated into Portuguese and then got recorded on an album by Vineyard Music Brazil somewhere back in 2010 or 2011, I think. They then invited me to go on a short-term trip to lead worship (in Portuguese!) for national pastors & leaders conferences there (2 years in a row), and I made a bunch of new friends, ate the most AMAZING food, and had the best time!

 

During the second trip, I was invited by one of the churches there to move to Brazil longer term to lead worship, teach guitar/piano/voice lessons, and train up worship teams in their region. I said yes and pretty much sold everything I owned before I left the States, because I wasn’t sure if I’d ever really come back. It was quite and adventure, indeed!

 

I suppose Brazil may have subconsciously been my "Why not?" reaction to a rough season of life (please tell me you've seen "We Bought a Zoo"...and if not, go watch it like NOW. My blog will still be here when you get back. Go. No, really…).

 

Or maybe it was kind of my own "Eat, Pray, Love" experience, so to speak….because I also ended up going on a month-long ministry trip to Italy, Germany, France, Monaco, & Switzerland with a gaggle of about a dozen Brazilians right before I moved to Brazil, which was a life-altering trip as well. One end of the dinner table would be speaking Italian and the other end would be speaking Portuguese, and I’d just be sitting there with the best smile, even if I could only gather like 8% of the convo happening (and YES, the spaghetti was AMAZING. Oh! And the gelato!!!).

 

I will always treasure my time oversees, and I absolutely adore the Brazilian people and culture. Backyard Brazilian BBQs, frozen açai, Guarana, pão de queijo, and Christmas day pool parties were the jam. To top it all off, God truly met me there in incredibly tangible ways. It’s like I got back to “me and Jesus” again and all was well with the world under those late night Brazilian skies.

 

I think my time in Europe and Brazil in 2013 was kind of part of my "recovery" from 2 super traumatic events in my life. At least that’s how I interpret it now. At the time I was just saying “yes” to an adventure with God when I felt I had nothing left to lose.

 

I will get to the second traumatic event very soon, but I think it's important to unpack the first traumatic event in detail, because it has definitely been the source of some major lies I have believed about myself for way too long.

 

I got married on September 4, 2004 to a handsome guy I’d gone to high school with. It was a beautiful ocean-front wedding in Anacortes, Washington. We were surrounded by a couple hundred of our closest friends and family that day, and it is still absolutely one of the best days of my life to date.

 

The irony is that in high school, he and I only had one class together that we can recall - journalism our sophomore year - and we weren’t really friends or anything. However, he had dated a friend of mine, and I had dated a friend of his, and we knew of one another. 

 

He was athletic, I was artistic. He was outgoing, I was shy. He said he basically remembers that I rarely spoke in class, but that I got good grades, was musically inclined, and was a good student. I remember that he ran cross-country, played baseball, was cute, cool, and popular, and  I honestly never imagined he’d give me the time of day. He moved away our junior year.

 

Fast forward like 7 years later, and we actually re-met online. Our first phone call, we basically shared the testimonies of what God had done in both our lives since high school. He was finishing his bachelors degree, was headed to seminary for a Masters of Divinity, and felt called to be a pastor. I never went to college, dove right into music, recording, and ministry at 18, and was a full-time worship leader on staff at a church at that time.

 

One thing led to another, and in the following months, God totally brought our paths together. After 2 years of dating, we got engaged and got married. 

 

He finished seminary and became a full-time pastor in 2007. I recorded a worship album with Nathan Nockels and started to tour full-time as an artist around the same time. My music career started to take off a bit in 2008 when Christianity Today named my album “Fearless Now” one of the “Top Worship Albums of 2008.” 

 

I knew our marriage had bumps like any marriage, but I absolutely loved him, and I believed we could weather any storm. And we did have them. Storms, I mean. Well, they felt a bit more like “strikes” against us, maybe…

 

Strike 1: Physical challenges. He needed a surgery our first year of marriage. I had to have a surgery a few years later. I had 2 herniated discs in my low back that left me unable to walk without a cane for a season (more on that later) and had to undergo spinal decompression treatments and physical therapy for over a year until I was able to walk normally again. So that led to a pile of medical bills. 

 

Strike 2: A move across the country. When we moved across from Mount Vernon, Washington to Atlanta, Georgia for him to finish up his degree at a particular school there that offered his program, that left our house sitting unsold and vacant in WA for 28 months. We finally gave in to a short-sale losing 20K+ of our investment. We also both really struggled with life and ministry in Atlanta; it was never the greatest fit for us (enter discouragement).

 

Strike 3: Debt & depression. Financial strain started to weigh on us. His $80K in student loans weighed in on top of that. He started fighting severe anxiety, depression, and insomnia. He started to see a counselor. The counselor wanted him to take meds. He refused. I was still certain he’d come through it alright and leaned into God.

 

In late summer 2009, I had just come home from a short 12-day tour. He was always super supportive of my music and ministry, and I felt so blessed to have a husband who encouraged me to do what I was made to do. 

 

However, when he picked me up from the airport, I just knew that something was terribly wrong. It was like the man I had married 5 years prior was no longer there. I kept trying to reach out and find him those next few days. I asked him if he wanted me to stop traveling. He said not at all - that he knew I was doing exactly what God wanted me to be doing. But I could tell that the depression had gotten the best of him. 

 

Finally, a few days after I got home, he told me he had been contemplating divorce. Divorce. The word side-swiped me in the gut, knocking the wind right out of me.

 

As I asked 10,000 questions and tried to understand, he was saying things like, “I feel like I have this sickness and that I’ll never be free of it until I’m free of you…” and things like, “I want to be a husband and father, but I don’t want to have kids with you. I feel like I need to get out sooner than later so that I still have time to have a family with someone else.” When I asked him if there was someone else, his response was, “No….but there’s the dream of someone else.”

 

Then the kicker was when he said, “I feel like you’ve racked up all this debt and that you can’t be trusted as a wife anymore. It’s as bad as committing adultery.” I was in total shock. I couldn't believe what was coming out of his mouth. I had worked full time through our entire marriage supporting him while he finished school. I had worked so hard, tried so hard, and I felt so betrayed, so hurt, and so confused. 

 

I begged him to see a marriage counselor with me. He reluctantly agreed.

 

We went to 8 sessions. He seemed to have a softening of heart about halfway through, and I thought perhaps we had gotten over the worst of it. But then one night he actually told me he’d had a dream, and he said in the dream he felt like God had told him to divorce me. I was dumbfounded. I eventually surrendered to the fact that there was nothing I could do to change his mind.  

 

As we return to the part of the story where he was packing his bag, he literally walked out the door that terrible Friday night in 2009 and never returned. I remember falling to my knees in utter disbelief in the front room of the house, watching as his tail-lights left our driveway for the very last time. Through tears and screams and gasping for air, I think I muttered something like, “What do I do now, God? I don’t know what to do….please tell me what to do...”

 

The day after he walked out, I moved in with my parents, canceled all my tour dates, and basically crumbled into a hundred million pieces. In one fell swoop I’d lost my husband, my home, my church, my job, my music career, my reputation, his side of the family, some of our friends, half my belongings…and to add insult to injury, even our two cats. My mom and dad helped me do the most basic of things that seemed totally overwhelming - doing my laundry, cooking meals for me - crying with me & praying over me all the while. I was a total wreck.

 

At that point, I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever do music again, lead worship again, or write songs again. It didn’t seem possible to ever recover. I felt so ashamed. So broken. So embarrassed. So hurt. So abandoned. So alone. So discouraged. So ruined. I felt like I was living someone else’s insanely awful nightmare and this couldn’t possibly be my life. Anybody else relate?!?

 

He had made me believe it was my fault our marriage failed and that I was the source of our problems. Don’t get me wrong,  I have no doubt I contributed - marriage is a two-way street - but I also had no doubt I was willing to do anything and everything to stay in it, work through it, and stay married at all costs. He chose to walk away, and I basically had to accept his choice. It nearly killed me. It was completely unbelievable that the man I married could just walk away from me like that. It made no sense.

 

You know that old book called "The Scarlet Letter" that you likely had to read in school at some point - about the woman who committed adultery and had to bear a scarlet "A" on her chest? Well...after my husband walked out on me (and our divorce was final 6 months later), I totally felt like I had a scarlet "D" carved on my forehead. To me, that D not only stood for “Divorced” but even more so, I believed:

 

Divorced = Disqualified

 

At the crux of it all, I felt my divorce basically disqualified me from ever doing ministry again. And that broke my heart completely. I felt like I had failed God & that my life was ruined.

 

I am so grateful for the friends and family who rallied around me at the time, and I had some fellow worship leaders from another church in Atlanta who reached out to me as well when they heard what had happened. I started hanging out there on Sundays, hiding in the shadows, and basically silently crying through the services. Sometimes people would come stand beside me and just stay quietly there with me until I was ready to talk and share my story. Precious friendships started forming, and pastors started speaking life back into my life. Healing began to happen.

 

I’ll never forget a chat I had with one the pastors there one day. He said to me, “You know, whenever you feel ready to lead worship again, there’s a place for you here.” I thanked him for his kind words & the invitation, but told him I was afraid I’d honestly just get up on stage to sing but would be a puddle of tears instead. His response was something like, “That’s okay. Cry then. There’s a whole church full of hurting people out there who need to see that we can worship in the midst of our brokenness right where we are, and that to God even our tears are worship. So whenever you’re ready…you just let us know.”

 

That short little convo and his precious words meant more to me than he’ll ever know…and it broke something loose in me. It wasn’t long at all until I was up on stage singing again.

 

It was Easter weekend 2010. Our divorce wasn't finalized yet, but the settlement over our belongings was, and Good Friday just happened to be the day that the judge had chosen for me to go move my belongings out of my old house. 

 

I will never forget how dark that day felt. This empty feeling hovered over me in blackness and regret. It felt so symbolic to me that it was happening on a day when we were remembering Jesus being crucified and the powerful declaration he made: it is finished.

 

Basically, the entire worship community from my new church showed up to help me move that Friday, and it was amazing. They busted a move and got me out of there in like 2 hours and into a new apartment - an apartment all of my own that was only possible because some of those dear new friends offered to pay my entire rent for like 6 months - making a whole new start possible for me when I broke as heck, in more ways than one. 

 

I spent all day Saturday home alone in my new place unpacking, trying to make sense of it all. I was reminded that day what the disciples must have felt like that day after Jesus died. I’m sure nothing made sense to them at all, either.

 

But Sunday came. I woke up in my new home, got dressed, went to church…and sang on the worship team that Easter morning. I truly felt like I experienced God’s resurrection power in my life that day. It was so powerful encountering God’s presence in worship in a whole new way, brokenness and all. The symbolism and timing of it all was such a gift, and I will never forget it. It was Easter brought to life. I experienced God’s redemptive power first-hand.

 

I think what I learned in the process was that the scars I have don’t disqualify me one iota in God's economy. I now think what I went through actually QUALIFIES me for ministry all the more. There is a whole world of hurting people out there, and I have seen that when I am vulnerable to bear my scars openly, unashamed in Jesus, others can find His healing as I am brave to share my story and simply worship Him in the midst of the storms. 

 

I just LOVE how Jesus takes our ashes and truly makes something beautiful out of them. He has done it for me, and He can and WILL do it for you.

 

Jesus = Redeemer.

 

I feel like my life verse is Romans 8:28:

 

“WE CAN BE SO SURE 

THAT EVERY DETAIL 

IN OUR LIVES 

OF LOVE FOR GOD 

WILL BE  W O V E N 

INTO SOMETHING GOOD.”

 

I'm telling you, God has absolutely woven SO many amazing things together in my life these last 8 years. One of those beautiful new things being a very special movement/event called WOVEN for Women that was birthed right out of my own story and journey. If you want to know more, you can read the story behind it here. We hope to have another gathering in 2018, so sign up for my email list and stay tuned for that!

 
Obviously I'm the queen of ten thousand rabbit trails, but back to the point here...


Ya'll...I am living proof that no matter what you have gone through in your life (or may be in the middle of right this very moment), nothing disqualifies you, nothing can thwart His plans and purposes for you, and nothing can separate you from the love of God. God won’t waste a single tear you’ve cried and won’t waste a single sleepless night. He can do the impossible, and he can turn what the enemy intended for harm into something truly good. If it’s not good right now…then it’s not the end! 

 

So hold on, friends! There’s a new “D” in town: DELIVERANCE

 

It’s coming. You can be sure of it. 

 

His love never fails, never gives up, & never runs out on us. Never never ever.

 

=======

 

If you want a practical way to declare this truth from God’s word over your life, download a new worship remix of “One Thing Remains” I recently helped create for Mountainbrook Kids Worship, and put it on repeat for a little while until you start to believe what you’re singing. Check it out here: mountainbrook.net/mbkidsworship

 

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Click the links below to read other blogs in the series "Fat Girls Don't Deserve Love [And other lies I believed for way too long]"


Preface: No More Stalling: It's Time to Be Brave

Lie #1: Fat Girls Don't Deserve Love

Lie #2: It's All Your Fault

Lie # 3: You're Just too Much but Never Quite Enough

Lie #4: You Are Invisible 

Lie #5: Divorced = Disqualified

Lie #6: You Are Broken & Useless

 

The Day the World Worshipped :: Catch a Glimpse of the 2017 Eclipse

 

Photo Credit: Richard Sparkman

 

We all knew it was coming - the total solar eclipse. It's been sending waves of expectancy and anticipation across our nation to all who awaited this incredible experience of a lifetime on August 21, 2017. 

 

We had 38 years to prepare for it. Some drove hours or even days to get to the path of totality across our nation, hoping to experience the eclipse with family and friends, or even with a crowd of strangers. Some ordered special viewing glasses, some created homemade viewers out of cereal boxes. Some skipped the first day or school or took off from work, setting aside this special and momentous time to experience something truly rare & wondrous.

 

It was cloudy and overcast on the Central Coast of California yesterday, and though I was unable to see it myself in person, I absolutely *loved* watching others experience it around the country via Facebook and Instagram, through photos and videos, and through personal stories shared.

 

Something profound and powerful hit me last night while I watching a video that a friend of mine took in Nashville during the eclipse. Even just watching his experience second-hand, I was incredibly moved and actually began to cry. 

 

He was filming on his iPhone in a wide open park with a crowd of people somewhere in Nashville. There were picnic blankets and pop-up tents, snacks and beverages out with picnics happening around him, and of course everyone sporting all the goofy glasses. He mostly filmed the reactions of the people around him. And. It. Was. Priceless.

 

As the eclipse began to take place, everyone basically hopped to their feet if they weren't already. Then it was like this celebratory eruption of cheering and amazement came over the crowd - kind of like "the wave" in a baseball stadium coming out of nowhere and just taking over. 

 

People were exclaiming "wowwwwww" and "whoaaaaaa" and "wooohooo" or "ahhhhhhhh" or even "oh my gosh!" Everyone was either shouting or clapping or cheering or whistling. Some were even raising their hands. What a powerful moment!

 

Some people started laughing hysterically. Some were crying uncontrollably. Some were doing both at the same time. I even heard one woman say, "Can you imagine if you didn't know what was happening right now?!? Such a surreal experience!"

 

Some people were jumping up and down and some guy even started playing his bagpipes in the park. It was basically the party of the century crammed into 2-3 minutes time (depending on where you were watching it). All eyes were lifted in the same direction, looking heavenward in utter amazement. All attention was focused on the same incredible, unbelievable, astounding thing. 

 

And. Every heart who caught a glimpse of the eclipse bursted forth with complete joy, celebration, praise, and wonder. 

 

What happened was: they WORSHIPPED. 

 

It is proof that no one has to teach us how to worship, and proof that we are actually totally hardwired to worship when something is TRULY remarkable to us. I was texting with my friend in Nashville afterwards and said to him, "It seems like it was a glimpse of heaven!" He responded, "For sure. We were full on crying. It was beautiful."

 

It seems the whole world was nearly euphoric and buzzing like crazy afterwards. The wave of response crossed across our entire nation in a few hours' time. Everyone was talking about it, unable to keep the experience to themselves. I even saw an Instagram post by Apple that said - "It was a 360 degree sunset, and everybody started screaming at exactly the same time."

 

So if you have you ever wondered, "What is worship?" or "Can I really know how to worship if someone hasn't taught me how?" I believe that the world totally worshipped yesterday - most without even knowing it. They worshipped without being taught that they should worship. And they worshipped without anyone showing them/telling them how to worship. Nobody had to do a teaching on, "Appropriate Responses to the Solar Eclipse" or "5 Ways to Express Your Heart in Meaningful Ways During the Total Eclipse."

 

You see, when we TRULY catch a glimpse of the awe and wonder and majesty of God - no one has to teach us HOW to respond. We just do. Our natural, automatic, human response to such a thing is basically to erupt in praise! How it is expressed may look different from person to person, but I think ultimately, the combined expression looks and feels kind of like the greatest party of all time. ;)

 

Reality is that every day is a miraculous wonder - every sunrise, every sunset, every rainbow, every star shining in the sky, every baby born, every breath we breathe. It is all a gift. I think we just become more awake to God's gifts when it is something truly rare - like a total solar eclipse - that we may only experience once or twice in our lifetime.

 

To me, the response to the eclipse yesterday was a tiny glimpse of what I think worship in heaven may be like. I think it's also a picture of what I think worship in the Church is intended to look like as well! Think of it - all of us united together, arm in arm, eyes upward, with hearts, hands, and voices erupting towards the heavens in celebration and praise. 

 

Bring your laughter, your tears, your jumping, your cheering...just bring it on. Your pure expression & response to God's love, power, and majesty at work in and around you. If we REALLY catch a glimpse of Him, we definitely have something to hoot and holler about!

 

My heart and prayer as a worship leader has always been, "Lord, help us to catch a greater glimpse of who You are, that our hearts would be moved to respond in worship." 

 

When we see who He is, when we experience His love, when we are changed by His presence and power - we can't HELP but hop up and shout about it! And not only that, but then we usually want to share the joy of the experience with those around us. It's hard to keep something so amazing to ourselves.

 

My prayer for us all is that we could be more intentional like we were yesterday - that we could step out of our crazy, hectic lives to make room for holy moments MORE than once every 38 years - that we could come to our church gatherings on Sunday mornings every weekend with truly expectant hearts - that we would live life daily with eyes wide open, waiting and watching for the miracles that are already and always happening all around us.

 

If we could truly catch a glimpse of Him daily, our hearts wouldn't be able to help but erupt with absolute raucous praise! Bring it on!

LIE #4: You Are Invisible

 

 

So I just turned 40 a few weeks ago. 


It was a grand affair that my incredible girlfriends put together for me in Santa Barbara - to include a giant slumber party in an "AirBnB," a sunset whale watching tour sipping champagne, dinner downtown at one of my favorite restaurants, the best chocolate peanut butter cake of my life, being spoiled rotten with gifts and pretty things, a homemade brunch on the patio the next morning, and then LOADS of shopping before our road trip home - when we ate leftover cake in the back seat with plastic forks and had the time of our lives. 40 is okay so far. I'm embracing it. I just still can't believe how fast 20-40 went. You 20 year olds, hold on to your seats! It's quite a ride! 


Just a few days ago also marked seven years since my divorce was final. I always thought I'd re-marry, and sooner than later, at that. I'm honestly kind of shocked I'm not re-married yet. I mean, I'm a catch, right?!? ;) It's sure not for lack of trying. Let's just say in seven years I have gone out on a lot of dates. Mostly *first* dates, mind you because they have rarely led to a second or third date. Some by my decision, some theirs, some mutual.


I've probably tried almost every dating site or app out there, trying to be open to the universe to potentially bring an incredible man into my life in a way I may never have expected (or even wanted). Then I'll get frustrated and cancel all my memberships and delete all the apps for a while and I just decide to embrace my singleness.


Sure enough, about 4-6 weeks later (or 3 days, it depends on my mood), the apps are back and the memberships renewed (anybody else relating here...it's not just me, right?). Reality is I have not lost hope altogether that there is one man in the universe who will find me lovable...and will have the guts to pursue me and tell me he wants to be with me. That's not so crazy to think right? Right now it feels less likely than seeing a real unicorn in my living room...but I'm still a believer!


Unfortunately, I also am the queen of having "guy friends"  - not typical, normal ones - but the kind who pop in and out of your life every few weeks (or months) as they please, usually for YEARS at a time. They always say I'm "awesome" and "super cool" and that they "love hanging out with me...." but my assessment is they never really SEE me. I might as well be invisible. They never really pursue dating me, much less really KNOWING me. It's super confusing. And super painful.


They treat me like a brother, which is nice...but the not-so-nice part is they also flirt sometimes, tell me I smell good, text me when they're lonely (or drunk), cook me dinner and pour me wine, call me late at night on a holiday to wish me "Happy New Year," email every 6 months to thank me for being so thoughtful and amazing, "like" all my selfies on Instagram, apologize for holding me at arm's length all the time because I "mean so much to them..." and my favorite is when they mostly give me no attention but tell me to please not stop reaching out to them. Sighhhhhhhh. #confusioncentral #alwaysthebackupgirl #imightaswellbeinvisible #itsliketorture

 

I have this incredibly compassionate heart (to a fault) that constantly tries to protect myself, but then caves in to their charm, and I get sucked in over and over again. I then feel ashamed for caving and usually end up blocking them on social media or more (for the 5th time) to try and distance myself, move on, not need them or care who they're out with or what they're doing.

 

For a while, I also don't want them to to have a window into my world or know what is going on with me, either...but then I usually miss connecting with them (even if it was just a few measly social media crumbs they gave me, it was still something, right?!?). Worse, sometimes I just want them to see the "amazing, happy, full life I am living" in spite of their rejection. Most pathetically, I suppose sometimes I think if they see my smiling face in their feed they might actually realize they miss me. But usually, regardless the reason, at some point...I end up UNblocking them...I suppose because at the core, again: I want to be SEEN.  #whenwillieverlearn #iampowerlessagainsttheircharm


If that's not real enough (talk about journal entry here and let's hope none of the guys I've gone out with are reading this post! LOL) I've had these moments, out for dinner or drinks with them (that they usually buy for me), and we're laughing and sharing stories...when I have this voice in my head saying what I wish I was brave enough to say out loud, "You're such an idiot. You have an amazing girl sitting here right in front of you...and you're blowing it. You don't see me at all."


But then, after my internally silent rant, I'm like, "I'm fine, this is all good, I can totally be 'friend Sherilyn.' Besides, it's good for me to have guy friends, right?" But I usually go home feeling totally unlovable, repulsive, rejected, and confused. And the pattern repeats. For seven years it has repeated.


Well let's not forget that this is my second bout of dating. The first bout was in my twenties before I got married. But honestly, over all, the stories from back then are pretty much all the same. Which should not be surprising, I suppose.


We all have something in us that wants to be seen. "Daddy, look at me twirl!" "Mommy, did you see that?!" And even little 5-year-old me, dressed in ruffly dresses and black patent leather Mary Jane shoes on Sunday mornings, resorted to kicking little boys in the shin so they would notice me.

 

I wonder sometimes if I started singing and doing music because I felt so invisible and unheard so much of the time. Singing songs and playing music made me feel somewhat more seen & heard, I suppose - recognized for having a gift, at the least. It's a good thing that God weaves all things together for good. I know He has used a lot of the pain, trials, and struggles in my story to bring about beautiful things in my life! Have you seen that happen in yours, too?


I remember vividly a few precious nights when I was living in Brazil. It was late and actually crazy hot out, and the only relief I could get was go down to pool at midnight and float on my back in the pool. I would float in the silence and look up at the stars and the moon. The world was dark and I was floating there all alone...but I suddenly felt "seen" by God. No one else was around, no one else was looking. But I felt seen. What a beautiful mystery.


I will always cherish those nights in Brazil. I thought God had taken me there to live a long time - maybe forever - but He had other plans for me and I ended up back home in the U.S. after 5 months or so. I learned so much there, even through feeling isolated (mostly from the language barrier) and being so far from home, family, and friends.


I remember getting to this place, a few years post-divorce, where I got back to "me and Jesus." And I felt good with that. Complete. Whole. Healed. Seen. I have always loved this verse from 2 Chronicles 16:


"The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him..."


I am human and desire a partner, companion, friend, & lover to share life with - maybe have a family with - but I know that I don't need a partner to complete me or to be seen. The enemy may tell me over and over, "You are invisible. Why try; nothing will ever change; no one will ever see you..."

 

But I will continue to combat the father of lies with Truth of Jesus...that He SEES me, He hears me, that HE is really what my soul longs for, and that He will strengthen my heart.


Marriage is a beautiful thing that I hope to enjoy again one day this side of heaven, but ultimately, having Jesus is an even better gift - and I will do all I can to embrace it. I will do my best at embracing the years - 40, 50, 60 - as they come, as long as God allows me to breathe. It's a choice to keep embracing life, just "me and Jesus." Even now, I tilt my head back, the moonlight in my eyes, and just remember that He sees me. Right here. Right now. And I smile.

 

Wherever you are right this moment....know that He loves you with an everlasting love, a love that went to the cross and rose back to life again. He did the unthinkable to spend eternity...with YOU. You are the apple of His eye, the object of His affection.

 

YOU ARE NOT INVISIBLE. He sees you more clearly than you even see yourself.

 

And that is a pure, deep, irrevocable truth to soak in with head tilted back and sun or moonlight on your face, today and every day.

 

========

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Click the links below to read other blogs in the series "Fat Girls Don't Deserve Love [And other lies I believed for way too long]"

Preface: No More Stalling: It's Time to Be Brave

Lie #1: Fat Girls Don't Deserve Love

Lie #2: It's All Your Fault

Lie # 3: You're Just too Much but Never Quite Enough

Lie #4: You Are Invisible 

Lie #5: Divorced = Disqualified

Lie #6: You Are Broken & Useless

 

 

 

New Single - THE LIGHT

 

 

Hello Friends!

 

I hope you all had an amazing day celebrating our Risen King! I was privileged to lead worship at my home church this morning - Mountainbrook Church in San Luis Obispo, CA. We had nearly 3,000 people collectively attend an outdoor sunrise service & two indoor celebrations. Many made decisions to follow Jesus for the first time! What an incredible joy! I'm still bouncing off the walls after being up before dawn. He is risen indeed!!!

 

To celebrate in a special way this year, we released a brand new single on iTunes Easter morning - a song written as a labor of love for our church family in a season of vision, growth, and stepping out into new waters with Jesus. We talk a lot at Mountainbrook about "being a city on a hill" and a light to our community.

 

Produced by Bob Hartry of Cat Beach Music, THE LIGHT is a song that not only has a lot of meaning to our church family, but we hope it will also be a blessing to you and your churches, too!

 

One of my favorite parts of the song that was so meaningful to sing today:

 

You have buried sin in the grave
On the day You rose, Love overcame

 

Amen to that! Have a blessed week!
SHERILYN

 

P.S. If you'd like a chord chart for the song, just pop me an email and I'd be glad to send it along! sherilyn@sherilynmusic.com

WOVEN for Women - Recap Video!

 

Well, beautiful friends...if a picture is worth a thousand words, then our recap video must be worth a MILLION! You'll wanna take a few minutes to watch our WOVEN for Women video from this weekend's event (as shown during Session 3)! Special thanks to our intern James who created this amazing recap video in record time & captured so well the heart and fun of our time together, to Megan Fate Marshman for just being amazingly you and bringing us an incredible message this weekend, to Mountainbrook Music Collective for passionately leading the way for us in worship, to all our staff, interns, & volunteers who poured their hearts into making this weekend magical, and to Grace Women Central Coast for co-sponsoring this year's event with us! Hope you all enjoyed this weekend as much as we did! Shall we do it again sometime?!??

With Much Love • The WOVEN TeamSherilyn Keller, & Mountainbrook Church 

 

LIE #3: You're Just Too Much but Never Quite Enough

 

 

So I just took a red eye flight from Maui to San Fran, barely sleeping, thanks to turbulence and the lovely louder-than-heck flushing toilets that always threaten to suck your clothes and arms and earrings down the drain with brute force. Do they really have to be so super-turbo-charged?

 

I have bed head and fuzzy teeth and greasy glasses and can hardly keep my eyes open...but have a three hour layover until my last leg home. In order to keep myself awake and not miss my upcoming plane should I pass out in the corner while waiting, I decided to attempt to write the next chapter in this journey that was already mulling over in my mind while I was in the sky.

 

First of all, yes - I had an incredible time on my vacation, thanks for asking! It was just the rest & re-charge I needed. This particular flight plan home was probably not my best idea ever, but let's be real - it's the one my budget could afford. In addition to that, since I love to keep things interesting, I figured why not pick up the key to my new apartment an hour after I land and then move my whole life across town two days from now? Yes, people: this is how I roll. 

 

I have lived in San Luis Obispo 2.5 years and have already moved 4 times. Most of my friends and family have given up trying to keep track of my most current mailing address, and I don't blame them!

 

I can hear your thoughts now, "Watch out, Sherilyn's rolling in to town again, feet on the ground running like a crazy person as usual! That girl is just *too much* sometimes!"

 

I've definitely heard that before a time or two.

 

I suppose the most scarring person to utter those words to me was my ex-husband. "You're just too much," is something he used to say when he couldn't handle this moody musician always running at warp speed, working on 3 projects at once and touring and writing and recording and fighting sickness to do it all in record time, and then usually having an emotional meltdown along the way. He couldn't handle my grief or tears or frustrations or need for his love and affection and patience and care. I was needy and too much.

 

Not only that, but I very much wear my heart on my sleeve and don't do "chit chat" well and most of my friendships are deeper than wide and that can also be "a lot" for some people. 

 

I'm an introvert and can come across quiet and guarded at times. I know that might be a surprise to people since I'm on stage a lot and most people assume I'm an extrovert, but I would say I'm an "outgoing introvert." I can be outgoing when the situation requires it, but I easily get "people overload" and when I have my choice in the matter, I always need alone time to get fully re-fueled. Then, when I have free time, I usually choose to spend it with a few close friends with whom I feel very known and very safe. Would you believe I'm actually really shy and that walking into a room full of people I don't know at a huge party brings on a ton of anxiety for me?!?!? Heck, whom am I kidding? That even happens when I know everyone in the room!

 

Admittedly, some of my own insecurities over the years have likely prevented me from being more brave in getting to know people, or in letting myself be known. I suppose at the crux of it is a doubt that I'm worth knowing. I honestly remember hearing my mom say things about herself like, "Oh they won't want to hang out with me, I'm not very fun..." and stuff like that. But anyone who knew my mom knew that you LOVED being around her. Sadly, I think I picked up on some of those same insecurities and often struggle to feel like people actually WANT to hang out with me or get to know me. 


I also went through a season of life that was so traumatizing that even the simplest of questions that most humans ask in initial conversations like, "Are you married?" or "What do you do for a living?" and such were super painful questions to answer, or complicated to explain. So I avoided people a lot, for a lot of years. I think I still suffer from PTSD. LOL. 

 

But with those with whom I am already known and feel safe, I rarely discuss the weather or the latest political news...but rather I tend to go deep, straight to the heart stuff. And usually in those cases, I am not quiet at all, but have TONS of words. LOL.

  

The irony is that to some I am feel like I am "too much," but to others - without me changing a thing about myself - I feel I am "not enough." Like I don't measure up, I can't give them what they need, what they want, what they crave. I'm not funny enough or skinny enough or charming enough or cool enough or chatty enough or talented enough or independent enough or dependent enough or confident enough or patient enough or pretty enough or relaxed enough or athletic enough or lovable enough...

 

I suppose my ex-husband made me feel that at times as well. I never seemed to be able to love him the way he needed to be loved. It seemed no matter what I did, I fell short of his expectations. And ultimately, he just left (more on that later).

 

After he walked out, I couldn't imagine having to tell anyone that he'd actually left me; that he'd decided I was both "too much" to deal with and "not enough" of a wife for him to stay. I was devastated. And it left quite a deep scar that plagued me for some time. It debilitated me. It crushed me.

 

What I love about Jesus is that he is all about the down-and-outers. The least likely choices. The outcasts. The unlovable. He draws close to those who are needy and hurting, he does not run away. Over and over, God has had to re-train my thinking.

 

Psalm 34:18 says, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

 

I love the Message version of it as well, which says:

"If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath."

 

No matter what you're facing right now, don't believe the enemy's lies. You are not too much. And you are perfectly enough. God is near when we are at our weakest places, and he'll help you catch your breath. Just breathe. Tomorrow is a new day. Hold on to his promises. "Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5).

 

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Click the links below to read other blogs in the series "Fat Girls Don't Deserve Love [And other lies I believed for way too long]"

Preface: No More Stalling: It's Time to Be Brave

Lie #1: Fat Girls Don't Deserve Love

Lie #2: It's All Your Fault

Lie # 3: You're Just too Much but Never Quite Enough

Lie #4: You Are Invisible 

Lie #5: Divorced = Disqualified

Lie #6: You Are Broken & Useless

 

 

 

 

 

WOVEN for Women

 

 

 

WOVEN for Women technically began sometime in 2011, though the title itself came a few years later. It was shortly after my mom’s passing from cancer and my divorce a year prior that I basically started traveling the world & telling my story to whomever would listen. Night after night, I shared the stories of love & loss, grief & hope, brokenness & redemption - while also sharing some of the songs that I'd written during the most difficult times of my life. Every time I’d tell my story, there would almost always be a woman cross the room afterwards to speak to me. Usually with tears in her eyes, she’d say something like, “Thank you. You basically just told my story.” I started to see that God was up to something bigger than me.

 

Sometimes these nights would happen in my local coffee shop or a church in Brazil, sometimes in someone’s living room in Texas or a backyard in Georgia, and sometimes off on a women’s retreat in the mountains of Colorado…but no matter the setting, my goal was to take off my mask & be real with everyone in the room. It seemed that when I did that, it give permission for others to do the same - to be real with God, and be more real with others in return. The amazing thing is that I truly found a new layer of healing each time I shared. 

I am living proof: He is the God who weaves all things together for good. Romans 8:28 became the theme verse for each of these events:

  

WE CAN BE SO SURE THAT EVERY DETAIL
IN OUR LIVES OF LOVE FOR GOD WILL BE
W       O       V       E      N
 I N T O    S O M E T H I N G    G O O D. 

 

Fast forward to 2014, when I was newly on staff at Mountainbrook Church in San Luis Obispo, CA and thought, “What better way for the women in my new church to get to know me (and for I to begin to connect more with them) than to tell my story here, too?” That was when the title WOVEN for Women was born. We had our first gathering at Mountainbrook that November. 

There was such great feedback, we thought we’d do it again! Then we started doing WOVEN every few months, and started asking other women to tell their stories, too. Not only that, but we began to weave in other creative elements through the additional involvement of Creative Director, Karen George. Attendance nearly doubled at every event, and it seemed that God’s wind was in the sail. We started to see women inviting their friends from the community and from other churches to join us, and we knew it was evolving into something greater than either Karen or I ever imagined, something larger than the two of us can pastor or host ourselves - a good problem to have!

We feel that God has encouraged us to partner with other churches in the area and extend the invitation to all the women of the Central Coast (& beyond!) to join us this Fall! With Grace Central Coast co-sponsoring the event with us, it is our prayer that God will truly use this weekend to weave our hearts together as friends, sisters, and allies.

 

Grab all your friends and join us in November!

Sherilyn Keller, Founder
WOVEN for Women

 

UPDATE! Here's the Recap Video from our 2017 Event!!!

LIE #2: It's All Your Fault

 

So today is Valentines Day. Most of you probably either love it or hate it. I don't hate it. I love giving gifts on even the most random of days, and am honestly not the kind of person who needs an excuse to write a card that expresses how I feel...so a day that kind of celebrates those kind of sentimental expressions fits right in with my M.O.

 

Even though I don't have a "bae" right now, I still enjoy the excuse to tell my friends and family I love them. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a "wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve" kind of girl. A moody musician. An artsy free spirit. A romantic. A long email writer. A card giver. A person with lots of words and thoughts that I am not usually afraid to share. Usually.

 

It's been a little while since my last blog. Longer than intended. I think it's mostly because I have been avoiding the part of my story I felt like I was supposed to share next. I'm good at avoiding. I have mastered the art of procrastinating. However, I also work well under pressure when deadlines loom.

 

Like when I find out that it may actually be a reality to record a 5-song EP and release it with only 3 months to do it all (gulp!), I suddenly find time to finish those pesky re-writes I have been avoiding. This might have happened this week. More on that development later (I'm promising lots of "more on that later" stories in my blogs lately....make sure you hold me to them!).

 

In the midst of trying to not think about the fact that I'm six years post-divorce and my un-wanted singleness is still screaming ugly lies at me about not being deserving of love (see my previous blog explaining Lie #1 for more on that), I realize that what happened to me when I was 6 years old is still quite at the root of what loudly screams inside on days like this. Therefore, I actually think today is the perfect time to share this part of my story.

 

So here we go.

 

As much as I have pondered leaving this part of my story out altogether, I don't think I can do that. What happened that day did affect my life in a major way, though for a long time I had no clue that it did. Believe it or not, I completely repressed the memory of what happened for nearly 15 years. Not surprising. #wishicouldhug6yearoldme

 

What happened is not really the kind of thing you share in casual conversation, and yet as God has brought so much healing in this area of my life, the opportunities I've had a chance to share it - especially with young girls - has led to God working healing in other hearts as well. Even if you can't relate exactly to what I've walked through, I have learned that it may still touch a part of your heart or story where God may want to reach you...and so I'm gonna be brave and share it. He is the Great Redeemer. I count on that.

 

From a very young age, I remember doing silly things to get boys' attention. I wanted their attention, but never felt I would get it unless I acted out. At church on Sundays, I would actually chase my older brother's friends around in my black patent leather Mary Jane dress shoes and would kick them in the shins. I honestly have no real idea why. I remember them teasing me sometimes. I suppose I likely loved the combination of letting them know I was loud & in charge, but also relished their attention somehow at the same time. #notsuremuchhaschanged? [smh]

 

I don't remember much about that day, really. But here is what I remember...

 

My parents had some old friends over. They were pastors, too. They had two children, both older than I. All four of us were playing in the basement while our parents were upstairs chatting & catching up. I think we were playing some form of hide and seek, maybe? I honestly have no idea why their teenage son and I were alone together in a corner and out of view from my brother and his sister...but we were alone just long enough. 

 

I liked this older boy. And I wanted him to like me. I think even my 6-year-old self just wanted to feel loved. But my 6-year-old self had absolutely no words for what happened that day. I hid it from everyone, never telling a soul. I felt incredibly ashamed and like it was all my fault. I felt guilty that I let him do it, even though I wasn't even really sure what he had done. I *was* sure something about it was very wrong. Even though it "felt good" and I relished his attention, my 6-year-old self knew something wasn't right.

 

It wasn't until 15 years later, when the memory came out of hiding though some counseling, I realized I had been molested.

 

It was a devastating realization, really. I felt so robbed of my childhood & innocence. I think now that I started self-medicating the shame & pain by eating & putting on weight to "hide" because attention from guys became somewhat scary (though still weirdly desired). I had a very strained relationship with the guys in my life over the years.

 

After 15 years of hiding what had happened and 15 years of the enemy working over time to tell me I was disgusting & dirty and that what happened to me was all my fault (and 15 years of believing guys were ultimately "not good" for me) it left a pretty messed up me hanging out to dry.

 

I have walked through quite a bit of counseling since then, and I do feel like God has done a whole lot of healing, but it doesn't mean there aren't still scars. Unfortunately, I know the enemy loves to remind me of those scars when I am at my weakest state. Like on Valentines' Day (a.k.a. Singleness Awareness Day).

 

 

I believe the lie underneath this story that the enemy loves to taunt me with is, "It's all your fault."

 

Have you seen the movie "Good Will Hunting?" Yes, it's full of bad language galore, so no judging (but Matt Damon & Robin Williams, come on!). During the climactic scene in that movie, the counselor Shawn (Robin Williams) tells Will, the very troubled young man (Matt Damon) after many sessions of mandatory (court ordered) counseling..."Will, you need to know that what happened to you....it's not your fault." He says it to Will over and over and over and over....until Will finally breaks down in tears.

 

When I watched that scene, I totally lost it. Like snot-running-down-my-face kind of lost it. Because I realized, like Will, I had also believed the lie that it was "all my fault" for way too long.

 

Can you relate? Has the enemy been speaking that kind of lie over you? Is there something that happened in your life for which he is trying to place the blame on you? Has he become the great accuser in your life? Does God want to free you of the weight of shame the enemy is trying to place on you?

 

I believe God wants to silence the lies of the enemy and remove the weight of his false accusations in our lives, but I also believe we have to be active participants in this, "taking every thought captive" (2 Corinthians 10:5). I love to soak in God's word to combat the lie of the enemy with God's truth. I encourage you to soak in His truth today and let Him speak life and LOVE over you!

 

Jesus knows your story intimately. Every part. None of it is a surprise to Him. And He PROMISES to weave all things together for good (Romans 8:28). Your story is not finished yet. And neither is mine. It's only just begun! His story is the greatest love story of all time, and we, dear ones, are the objects of His love.

 

Everything He did, He did for US. No greater love is there in all creation than His love for YOU & I.

 

Believe it. I'm learning to believe it, too.

 

 

Psalm 109:25-31 (The Message)

21-25 Oh, God, my Lord, step in;
    work a miracle for me—you can do it!
Get me out of here—your love is so great!—
    I’m at the end of my rope, my life in ruins.
I’m fading away to nothing, passing away,
    my youth gone, old before my time.
I’m weak from hunger and can hardly stand up,
    my body a rack of skin and bones.
I’m a joke in poor taste to those who see me;
    they take one look and shake their heads.

26-29 Help me, oh help me, God, my God,
    save me through your wonderful love;
Then they’ll know that your hand is in this,
    that you, God, have been at work.
Let them curse all they want;
    you do the blessing.
Let them be jeered by the crowd when they stand up,
    followed by cheers for me, your servant.
Dress my accusers in clothes dirty with shame,
    discarded and humiliating old ragbag clothes.

30-31 My mouth’s full of great praise for God,
    I’m singing his hallelujahs surrounded by crowds,
For he’s always at hand to take the side of the needy,
    to rescue a life from the unjust judge. 

=======

Click the links below to read other blogs in the series "Fat Girls Don't Deserve Love [And other lies I believed for way too long]"

Preface: No More Stalling: It's Time to Be Brave

Lie #1: Fat Girls Don't Deserve Love

Lie #2: It's All Your Fault

Lie # 3: You're Just too Much but Never Quite Enough

Lie #4: You Are Invisible 

Lie #5: Divorced = Disqualified

Lie #6: You Are Broken & Useless

 

 

 

 

LIE #1: Fat Girls Don't Deserve Love [& other lies I believed for way too long]

 

I remember being called fat as early as 5 years old. Teased by school mates all through elementary school, I always had to wear larger sizes than the other girls. I even remember summers at the lake with my cousins - one of them only a few months younger than I, and I always needed a larger sized life jacket than she did. I was honestly so ashamed of that. It was a small scar, but one that I never outgrew.

 

In middle school, I was hollered at by strangers out of car windows things like, "Mooooooo!" or "Look at that beached whale!" In gym class I was never incredibly athletic, so that was never a fun environment already, but let's just be real - changing clothes and taking showers in the locker rooms at that age is downright cruel punishment for kids who are all at different stages of development. It did nothing for my self esteem.

 

When I was a high school cheerleader, not well-meaning strangers hollered at me from the grandstands things like, "Look, it's Dolly Parton! Watch where you put those things! You might hurt somebody!" And on days that there were games, we were required to wear our uniform all day at school to promote school spirit. I was often teased, pointed at, and snickered at in that short skirt and tight top. Once again, I had to wear the larger sized uniform than the other girls, but it was still skin tight on me. I felt like a freak, and was treated like one.

 

I was shamed and shamed into believing something was wrong my body, basically hiding myself behind baggy clothes and being afraid to be physically active out in the open for fear of being ridiculed and humiliated publicly. I was also led to believe that because of my weight I was less of a person and not worthy of people's time or attention. This was driven home rather hard by my lack of love life.

 

What's sad is I look back on pictures of myself from back then and don't think I looked fat at all. Sure, some people were honestly just mean, but I think ultimately the enemy had an agenda to destroy me at my weakest spot: at my source of worth. I honestly believed most of my life that I really was a total hippo. It shaped my opinion of myself in a really unhealthy and twisted way.

 

Reality was I was rarely asked out by guys (and to this day am still not). I was almost never asked to school dances (and can't recall the last date I ever had on New Years). Usually a desperate guy friend would finally agree to go to a school dance just days before when all his other options were exhausted. Then I was the girl who would be left sitting on the sidelines while everyone slow danced....because even my date didn't want to slow dance with me.

 

I quit cheerleading and stopped going out for any sports. Sadly, it is after I quit that my weight actually DID start to become a problem (and honestly, it has been a struggle for me ever since). It's like I became what they said I was, and they shamed me out of being active so that I became more sedentary to protect myself from being teased. Quite a horrible thing that evolved now that I look back on photos and think about the timing of it all.

 

I also became much less outgoing and started to be very quiet in school. I was always a bit of a nerd anyways, so I basically kept to my studies and artsy things. Friends from high school now say I barely ever spoke in class and mostly stared at my books. Being called fat and ugly led me to pursue things that I felt I could control - good grades and good performance (musically/artistically).

 

I stayed up half the night most of my high school years, studying or writing papers. I was fighting to get straight A's, which I mostly did achieve - all except my junior year of high school when I got that devastating C in Economics (which meant it was either just not my subject, or I had a horrible teacher....I vote for the latter).

 

I prided myself at being first chair flute player - not just in my school, but in the entire state. I sat second chair only once, and secretly vowed to never let it happen again. I was driven to be the best, for better or worse (I also think the latter). I was heavily involved in band, choir, and musical theater...and was usually at school morning 'til night for rehearsals or performances.

 

I wasn't afraid to sing my guts out like no one was watching, and therefore found acceptance on stage behind a microphone. I started writing songs from a young age as well, and used music as an outlet to express myself. I would write songs when a friend was moving away as a way to say goodbye. I would write a song for my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary. I would write a song for a boy who had no idea I existed. This was long before I ever wrote worship songs for the church, which I feel is a redemptive part of the story (more to come on that later).

 

I strived and strived to earn love and acceptance in whatever way I could, as any human being probably does at some level. Love is something we all long for, right? The reality is we will sometimes go to extremes to find it...I think I strived mostly by performing. Awaiting the applause (whether actually or metaphorically), hoping to feel validated in some way by what I could DO for people, by how I could impress them. But ultimately, I hoped I that I would win their love.

 

However, somewhere in there, my heart was convinced (matter of factly) that fat girls don't deserve love. Period. I was convinced that it didn't matter how talented I was, how funny or clever, how smart, how resourceful, how independent, how kind, how generous, how caring, how loyal, how loving, how amazing...I simply was not lovable if I was fat. It seemed proven time and again.

 

It seems preposterous now that I really believed that for so long. Well, let's be honest; I might have believed that yesterday, even. And I may believe it tomorrow. Really I fight believing it every day - but even so, it doesn't make it true. It is a lie. But as much as I know it in my head, my heart is still sometimes quite slow to follow.

 

I actually wrote a song a few years ago, called "Lovable" (you can listen by clicking here). It was in a season after my divorce (we'll talk more about that some other day), in a time where I felt valued by what I could offer people - my gifts, my talent, my friendship, etc...but I didn't feel fully loved for just being me. I felt like people loved pieces of me, but that no one (especially a man) wanted ALL of me. And I felt willing to trade my gifts & talents for this simple thing of just feeling loved completely, unconditionally. 

 

You know, sometimes women would see my seemingly "glamorous" singing-recording-touring-traveling-single-life and be somewhat envious, and would even tell me so sometimes. Little did they know that I was painfully envious of their husband-2 kids-white-picket-fence-life (complete with the family Christmas photos they mail out every year). The grass is always greener on the other side, you know?

 

I "joke" that selfies exist because loneliness does. Many of us long to share our lives with someone - anyone. I have traveled the world (mostly alone, sometimes in groups), but get teased a lot for posting a lot of selfies. I get it. I'm sure how it looks, but if you will allow me to let you into my secret thought-life...here is what happens when someone makes such a comment to me:

 

"Sure, on Christmas Day, it's okay for people to dress themselves up in their Sunday best and pose for a family photo, but God forbid I post a photo by myself in mine. How vain! I should never post pictures of myself, especially smiling or looking nice or feeling good about myself. I should never post selfies in beautiful places I am visiting to share with friends or family.....not until I have a family, at least. Posting pretty pictures of yourself is only allowed once you have a significant other to be in the picture with you, or a child, of course. Or a dog or cat. I mean, at least have the decency to have a pet in the picture with you. But certainly not you by yourself. How shameful! No one wants to see that! You should take it down!!!"

 

So that is a bit obnoxious, I admit...but I do have days I feel that way. I am poking fun a bit here, but there is some honesty and vulnerability there on behalf of those of us who are single and have been for a while. To this day, I fight the noise in my head that says I'm less of a person if I'm not married or don't have kids. I would love to be married and have a family. And anyone who is close to me knows I have sure put myself out there. It is not for lack of trying. It is just not what God has for me right now. This is my life. And I need to try and embrace that. And I hope that my friends and family can embrace me in this season, as well....a million selfies and all. ;)

 

Well, I got on a bit of a rabbit trail there, but here's the thing: I believe that all of us - whatever our issues may be - have some sort of very noisy, staticky, old recording on repeat in our heads that tends to plague us for most of our lives. What are the lies that have tormented you the most over the years? How have they affected you? How might God want to use something the enemy intended for harm to actually bring about some good - in your life, and in the lives of those around you?

 

"Fat girls don't deserve love" is one lie I definitely believed for way too long. It did force me to excel at other things in my life when I realized my looks wouldn't get me anywhere, so I guess for some of my success I can thank all the kids who teased me over the years. But in all seriousness, I do know that it gave me a great bit of compassion and empathy for the "least of these." I tend to notice people sitting in the corner of the room alone. I tend to notice the unlikely hidden talent that others sometimes overlook. And I am thankful for people who noticed the same in me and called it out over the years.

 

The thing is, deep down, I know I am worthy of love. I know I also have a lot of love to give. Even when that darn noisy old tape of lies plays - when I have yet *another* weekend or holiday spent alone - I know that I *do* deserve love. Every single one of you out there deserves love, too. No matter who you are, what you look like, how talented or gifted you think you are, or what anyone says about you....you are worthy of love. And you ARE loved.

 

I mean, let's be real, some of you out there may be married and have kids but still struggle with feeling lovable or beautiful or valuable, too. It's not that having a husband or children can "fix" what is broken in me any more than it can fix what may be broken in you. Only Jesus can. He is the one who fulfills our hearts. He is the one who satisfies our souls.

 

Do you know the story in the Bible about Jacob & Esau? If not, you should take some time to check it out...but I love this verse:

 

"Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears." (Hebrews 12, The Message)

 

The world sure works hard EVERY day to chip away at God's truth - the truth that HE is the one who satisfies our souls. Not a boyfriend/girlfriend. Not great success. Not money. Not fame. Not a recording contract. Not buying a new home. I know that I have to resist caving in to the way of the world - which tells me to cheaply give pieces of myself away, crumbs to whomever will take them, and to find ways to satisfy myself. This will lead to nowhere good. Tears and more tears. Regret and more regret. I have my fair share. It is worth it to wait on God. It is so very hard, and yet so very worth it. And He is so very faithful.

 

The Bible is FULL of stories of God's faithfulness. I need to read them over and over to remind myself of this when the world tries to tell me otherwise, when the father of lies comes rushing in like a flood when I'm home alone and feeling unloved. So when the enemy's awful tape of lies starts to play, I have a speech prepared. And I say it. I sing it. I write it. Maybe I should dance it, even. 

 

"I am the one and only Sherilyn, daughter of the Most High God. I am wonderfully made, and I will not believe the lies anymore. I will fight every day to cling to His truth...that I am lovable."

 

As I take some time this year to explore the multitudes of lies I have believed for way too long, I invite you to come on the journey with me and to allow the Lord into those places in your own heart as well - places where you have also believed the lies and allowed them to fester for way too long. May He also give you a speech to write, a song to sing, a dance to stomp out....right in the accuser's face! Let's create a beautiful symphony of truth together, living out our lives fully alive to all that God has planned for us!

 

"Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love." (Ephesians 1, The Msg)

 

PHOTOS: Me as a cheerleader in 2nd grade & 9th grade....

 

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Click the links below to read other blogs in the series "Fat Girls Don't Deserve Love [And other lies I believed for way too long]"

Preface: No More Stalling: It's Time to Be Brave

Lie #1: Fat Girls Don't Deserve Love

Lie #2: It's All Your Fault

Lie # 3: You're Just too Much but Never Quite Enough

Lie #4: You Are Invisible 

Lie #5: Divorced = Disqualified

Lie #6: You Are Broken & Useless

 

 

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