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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

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