Even though I had been a single mom since (almost) the day I found out I was pregnant until about seven months ago when I married Dale, I have a confession to make . . . I have always HATED the label Single Mom. That one decision I made almost 19 years ago still defines me today in many ways, yet it has always really bothered me. See, my anger and angst about the label of Single Mom was because, deep down, I wanted to be recognized and known as Tara. I wanted someone to see ME – the real ME – not the mom leaving work early to turn in the overdue camp paperwork, the mom trying to get to work without pancake syrup on her clothes, the mom who had no one to help her at home. That’s just life and I don’t want to be known for my choices. I want to be known for who I AM . . .and I prayed that who I AM would one day be different from how my life looked or the labels that described me.

Even though most of us hate to be labeled, we all identify with and define ourselves with labels. Usually they relate to a role we play in society or the consequence of a decision either we or a loved one has made.

Love them or hate them, what are the labels (roles, decisions, consequences) that have defined you?

As I was praying in preparation for speaking at the BTG Single Moms Retreat this past May, God gave me a message for them that felt significant: YOU ARE MORE THAN A SINGLE MOM. And I believe he has the same message for you. Take the answer or answers you had above and repeat after me:

YOU ARE MORE THAN __________________________________.

For some of you, that may be a relief because the labels you live with are not a blessing. God wants to free you from that burden. For others, that statement is scary because you have wrapped your identity around that label. I am not discounting the importance of your role or the potential JOY you derive from it. But here is the bottom line: God designed you for MORE than the life you are living today. He designed you with purpose and he loves for you WHO YOU ARE, not for what you do or the choices you’ve made. He knit you together in your mother’s womb and he knows every little detail about you, including your hopes and dreams.

Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart . . .”

God has plans for you. Those plans may include the label you listed above, but ultimately they are more than the sum of your labels. And the dreams he has placed on your heart – the tender desires that you cry about when you’re alone at night – they are a part of who God has designed you to be! His purpose for your life INCLUDES those tender desires.

I have spent many a night crying in fear and pain with deep yearning in my heart for something more in my life — I call that deep painful yearning a tender desire because it makes you feel vulnerable. It is painful to hope – what if you are only hurt and disappointed again? I would cry out, “God, I am trying to do all of this on my own. I know I made choices that led me here, but please, Lord, please don’t leave me here!” I was scared to admit my dreams (even to God) because I was scared that God may just leave me there, Stuck and Alone (two more labels I had to carry).

Psalm 37: 4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD; And he will give you the desires of your heart.”

We’ll come back to the “Delight yourself in the Lord” part later — some of you can’t quite imagine what that would look like. But for now, let’s talk about those desires of your heart.

What is the tender desire deep in your heart? The one that brings you to your knees? The one you are terrified to admit because you can’t bear the disappointment? What plans are you afraid that God DOESN’T have for you?

This study, should you choose to follow along, is about those tender desires God has placed in your heart. The word “desire” in Psalm 37:4 also translates as “what is lawful and right, really good.” That tender desire that is from God is REALLY GOOD! Isn’t that a blessing to know? I don’t know your tender desire, but I am praying that you would experience a release during this study that would allow you to grab hold of the future God has for you instead of the labels you’ve been burdened with. You are MORE than the sum of those labels. You are actually who God designed you to be – even if your life looks nothing like it, you can choose to live the life God has planned for you instead.

Christ did not die for us on the cross so that you could remain stuck in limiting negative labels. He came for YOU, sweet daughter — not for religion, but for relationship, and not just for eternal life, but for an abundant life here and now.

Read John 10:10 in a few different versions:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (ESV)

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (NIV)

“A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (MSG)

I love reading a verse in a few different versions; as a newcomer to the Bible, sometimes seeing the slight variation in words helps me to understand the verse on a deeper level.

Based on that reading, here are a few reflection questions. I encourage you to find a journal or start a Google doc or email yourself — read, reflect, and answer the questions below.

1. The thief comes to steal your joy and destroy your God-given dreams. There are labels the enemy is using to keep you stuck in your circumstances. What labels and negative thoughts are keeping you stuck?

2. When you are at your very best — feel most alive, and are at peace — what words describe you?

3. Christ came to give you a LIFE ABUNDANT. What do you think of when you hear the term “abundant life”? What would an “abundant life” look like for you?

4. Reread the verses quoted in today’s lesson. Which speaks to you personally today and why?

  • Your ACTION Challenges for this week:

  • Take one of the words from your answers for reflection question #2 and write “God designed me to be _____________________.” Place it on your mirror and say it out loud each morning while you power pose*! (My piece of paper reads God designed me to be ACTIVE & VIBRANT!)

  • Take the verse you most connected with from today’s study, write it on a Post-It note, notecard, or piece of scrap paper and place it somewhere you spend a lot of time (like the dashboard of your car). Read it to yourself or out loud each time you go somewhere this week.

*Ummm . . . Tara, what the heck is a power pose? Watch this TED Talk by Amy Cuddy to find out –– it’s absolutely fascinating and I think it gives insight into how God designed our minds to work.