Feel It to Heal It
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Raising daughters today may be different than in years past, but the core of what it means to be a girl is still as God designed it. Terra Mattson helps listeners develop a greater appreciation of femininity.
Feel It to Heal It
Bob: One of the reasons why some young girls grow up with a superficial spirituality instead of an authentic Christianity is because they’ve never seen their moms grappling with real issues in their own lives and seen how the gospel applies to those issues. Here is author and counselor, Terra Mattson.
Terra: The issues I’m seeing most often in Christian homes would be a lot of performance-based Christianity—pressure to be perfect, which doesn’t look like the gospel—but performance-based/just a lot of pressure: “You need to look the part.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 6th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Terra Mattson believes that our daughters need to see us, as their parents, grappling with the real issues in our lives and living out our faith in the midst of those challenging issues. We’ll talk more about how we do that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You’re a mom of three sons.
Ann: Yes; and a granddaughter.
Bob: Well, yes, I know; but you loved being a boy mom; didn’t you?
Ann: I did; yes.
Bob: You liked raising boys.
Dave: She was good at it. Let me tell you—she really was.
Bob: Did you ever wish/did you ever think, “Oh, why didn’t we get a daughter?”
Ann: Well, it’s interesting—I have a sister and two brothers—and we had, between us, 12 grandkids for my parents. All 12 are boys.
Bob: You’re kidding?!
Ann: No; so I thought I was going to have the last one; I was the youngest. I thought, “This will be the girl.” No, it was not a girl. [Laughter]
Dave: He’s all boy.
Bob: Did you grieve at all—
Bob: —not having daughters?
Ann: So did my sister. We both grieved, because there was a real loss of not having a daughter.
Bob: Because it’s fun to raise boys; you loved raising boys, but there is something special—
Ann: There is—and especially, as the boys get older, they cling to their wives, which they should—so there is a sense of loneliness, not having a daughter.
Dave: But we have that granddaughter!
Bob: That’s what I was going to ask.
Ann: And we have some great daughters-in-law, but it’s still a little different.
Bob: Now, that you have a granddaughter, are you finding the experience to be magical?
Ann: You know, what’s so interesting—that I never had with sons?—I see my granddaughter watching me do everything. My sons never watched me do anything; [Laughter] they were watching Dave. I realized she watches me put on my makeup; she stares at me when I do my hair.
Dave: And she never stops talking, so it’s great. [Laughter] She comments on everything she sees.
Ann: It’s true, and I’m like having these conversations that are amazing.
Dave: You never have those with boys.
Bob: We’re going to talk about what it is to raise the next generation of Christian women/godly women. We’ve got a friend, who is joining us to do that. Terra Mattson is here. Terra, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Terra: Thank you for having me.
Bob: Terra and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest. She is a writer, a conference speaker, a counselor; and her book, Courageous—
Dave: Is there anything else you do? It sounds like—
Ann: You’re pretty impressive, Terra.
Terra: I take naps. [Laughter]
Dave: Yes, I hope so.
Bob: And you’re a mother of—
Terra: —two; two girls.
Bob: So you’re right in the thick of what you wrote about it your book, being daughters rooted in grace. You’re talking about the fact that all women are daughters.
Terra: Yes; this is the—I’m really addressing the root of every woman and the needs that girls have, whether we are 65 or we are 5.
Ann: Raising daughters today, in this era and this culture, does it feel different?
Terra: There are some fundamental differences in terms of the voices we’re hearing and the pressures, but the core of who God made us hasn’t changed. That’s the piece that I want to really draw attention to—that the needs of who God is and who He made us to be—that just hasn’t changed; so how do we address it today with the different voices?
Ann: And what is it in your life that made you passionate about this subject?
Terra: Such a good question. I would say that, over the years, I didn’t really set out to be a voice for women. My personal journey is—I was raised by a dad, who wanted boys—football player. He had two girls; he raised us to be—I could throw a football better than most boys—[Laughter]—in fact, Jeff brags about that. [Laughter] The idea of fishing, and gutting my own fish, and all those things were part of my growing years—and wonderful parts—I think it gave me a lot of strength. I had a very involved dad.
The piece that I missed was appreciating my femininity and understanding what it meant to be a woman. I’ve been a woman in the midst of many men for most of my life. God has had me in a role, whether it’s been on church staff—I’ve been invited into the leadership room, and I’m the only woman—so I’ve had to learn how to use my voice.
Then, being a counselor, I’ve just spent the last 20 years listening to women—at 60 years old, talk about the wounding of their story and not having anywhere to go, and then the 13-year-old girl coming in, confused about her sexuality—just everything in between. I just heard a consistency of women feeling really lonely, and I resonate with that.
I kind of look the part, so people assume I’m okay. For years, I had hidden my struggling with bulimia. Nobody knew—I was a quintessential leader in helping everybody else—and that was a part of what drew me into wanting to go into the confidential places with people, and give them a sacred space to listen to what they are struggling with and where they are hiding.
I just think that being a girl who didn’t have a voice, or who didn’t feel confident in that, and then coming into my own voice, God is using that to help girls in the church and women to be able to find their voice.
Dave: How is it—I’m looking at two women here, who are both leaders in ministry; and we have two men on this side of the table. What’s it like being a woman with men in ministry? Is it hard? Is it fun? Is it struggle?
Terra: To be honest, there’s a lot of second guessing and wondering if what I say is going to be heard. I would say I experienced that myself; but I’ve heard it from hundreds and hundreds of women—whether it is a wife or whether it’s a female leader as part of a leadership team. It’s a lot of second guessing/wondering if I’m going to be told I’m too emotional/too passionate.
I think I’ve been around a lot of really great men, who have given me and fanned the flame, and said, “Terra, what do you think?”—just like what you’re doing right now. That has really helped me build my confidence, and saying that God has given me a voice and something to share at the table; but that has taken years to build. I’m now in my 40s, and so to do it now; but when I was in my 20s and at the table, I was quiet; I was listening. Then I would go process with my safe people and say, “Is this appropriate to say?”—like I wasn’t confident enough to bring it to the table.
Dave: You didn’t feel that in a room with women?—that was just mostly men.
Terra: No; not at all; in fact, I’m leading, usually, with women.
Terra: I’m asked; you know, it’s very different.
Ann: I would say that same thing. With women, there is a freedom; I’d never calculated my words before I spoke.
I wasn’t as wise as you were because, in my 20s, I was very verbal and vocal in the midst of men. I think some of that was shot down, so then, I would walk away, second guessing/thinking: “Oh, I shouldn’t have said that,” “What should I say? What is appropriate?” “How am I being heard?” You start to second guess yourself of who you are, and how you should act with men in leadership, especially.
Bob: So here is what is interesting to me about you guys describing this—because I’m hearing you talk about the important need that I think that you have, and that we all need, for women to have strength and to have a voice; we need women to have a voice—all of us do. You need to have a voice, and to be at the table, and to be a part of shaping what’s going on in our world.
At the same time, you’re talking about the need for women to understand femininity.
Bob: And we hear both of those and go, “That sounds like it’s two different things”; but Terra, you would say, “No; it’s not two different things.”
Dave: She is shaking her head.
Terra: I love that; I love that you are picking up on that, because I think that is the confusion—it’s got to be either/or—and that’s what happened in my own story. That was, really, the core of my wrestling with bulimia—was the struggle with my body and my emotions—the femininity side of me. I didn’t know what to do with my emotions; nobody trained me or helped me.
Ann: Well, you said you didn’t even express your emotions—
Ann: —for years.
Terra: Everything was spun with a positive: “Can do!” I didn’t even know I had as much emotion until I got married—anybody?—[Laughter]—and then it started flying. I think we laugh because Jeff/we say, “Jeff married this woman, who was so loving and compassionate; and now, he’s got…”—20 years later, I’m definitely using my voice. I have to reign it back a little more with humility.
Ann: Well, go back to why didn’t you use your voice or have emotion.
Terra: Wiring-wise, women—because of God’s design—we do have more hormones and a lot more emotions at the forefront. The variety and the mood swings do happen. Yet, that gets used against us; rather than validating it and just saying, “Yes, that’s part of the journey.” I want to teach women to appreciate the humanity of how God made us and the beauty of it versus we laugh about it; we shame it; and it gets mocked.
Ann: I remember, when we would sit at the dinner table, with the four kids and my parents. My sister, who was six years older than me, wasn’t in the room yet; and my brothers would say, “Let’s calculate how long it takes before we can get our sister to cry.”
Ann: So there would be a competition of they would say things to get her to cry. I remember thinking, “They will never get me to cry.”
Ann: So you learn to be tough and to put a mask on—
Ann: —and hiding our femininity.
Terra: The weeds are: “I struggle with body image,” “I struggle with insecurity,” “I struggle with sex addiction,” “I struggle with I can’t speak up with my husband, and I feel like he’s too powerful with me.” Whatever the weeds are, the root is: “I don’t know how to process how I feel, and I don’t know how to put a voice to that.”
We have to learn that, so I want to go back to teaching these girls—and it starts with mom—because she’s watching/your daughter is watching. We learn how to process our emotions through our parents. It’s not to blame and shame; but it’s saying, “We have to feel it to heal it.”
I got tired of hearing the sermons that emotions are bad; because when I read the Scripture, I see a lot of emotion coming from God.
Dave: By the way, I’ve never preached that sermon.
Terra: Amen; good.
Dave: Have you, Bob? Emotions are good.
Bob: I’ve probably said some things about the need for us to trust our thinking more than we trust our emotions.
Dave: Yes, yes, yes.
Bob: You’d agree with that; right?
Terra: I would agree with that. I would say, “We need to hear both.” I would say, “The emotions are sitting to my left, and my cognitive thinking is sitting to my right; and my spirit is sitting across from me. And like the Trinity, we need to hear them all.” But to dismiss one person at the table is doing us distress.
Bob: I’ll say, “Amen,” to that. In fact, I remember an interview we did, years ago, with—I’ve never forgotten this—Robertson McQuilkin was the president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary for years. He told the story of being on a trip with his wife, and she was expressing her emotion. He was doing what husbands are, all too often, prone to do—trying to logically explain to her why her emotions were not rational.
In the middle of the conversation, she stopped him; and she said, “Robertson, logic isn’t everything; and emotions aren’t nothing.” I remember him telling that story; and I remember thinking, “I would tend to say, ‘Yes; logic, over here/you should listen to that a whole lot more than you listen to your emotions.’” That story was a good realignment for me to say, “Your emotions are a part of what God’s given you to give you data and input so that you can make a decision, factoring in both what you know and what you feel to make the right decision.”
Dave: So, what does that “feel/heal it”—what’s that mean?
Terra: So the feel it to heal it—I give a five-step process that made sense to me; and again, because I’m used to talking from the logical down into the emotions—
Terra: —Step One is I need to be able to identify emotions: “Do I even have language?” A lot of times, we are just: “What is that that I’m feeling right now? I don’t know.” You hear frustration a lot from somebody, who doesn’t know how to articulate their emotions; they are just frustrated. It makes sense—it’s like a log in the middle of the road—you can’t go anywhere. So yes, you’re frustrated, but there is more there.
So building some vocabulary—and I want that for our girls—but we’ve got to start first in our own life.
Dave: So you didn’t experience that as a girl, growing up.
Dave: But are you experiencing that with your daughters? Have you been able to change the legacy?
Ann: When they come home and they say, “Someone was super mean to me today,”—
Terra: Yes; and my tendency is to be too busy for that or to give them the: “You’ll be fine!”—like I’m the: “Suck-it-up!”—that’s my go-to.
Ann: That’s mine too.
Terra: But then I have to pause, and the Holy Spirit quickens me to say, “What do they need?” They need me to get down on my knees, and to look them in the eye, and to just listen to them, and let them process.
When you process, it will not end up in their body. It will not leak out in the funky ways that we see with our kids: the cutting, the eating disorders, the sexuality. Those are emotions that are trying to get heard, and kids don’t know that; they don’t know that.
We’re connecting the dot with something very simple to what all us parents are trying to prevent—
Terra: —right?—and to say, “If we can help our kids process their emotions in safe ways—in our marriages as well—then we might see some of the reduction of some of the behaviors we see.”
Ann: What are the issues today that you think, “Oh, moms, we need to address this and help this with our daughters.” Does it start with our daughters, or does it start with us? If it starts with us, what do we do?
Terra: My bias is that it starts with us. The good news is—is that relationship is really the core. If you have a relationship with your kids, then that really trumps a lot of things. The issues I’m seeing most often in Christian homes would be a lot of performance-based Christianity/pressure to be perfect.
Kids are on social media—we know that, and they are more vulnerable—a lot of confusion and a lot of mistrust of those that they don’t have relationship with. There is a lot of abuse happening—peer-to-peer abuse happening—because parents are not as involved; they are on their own social media; they are all checking out.
There is something that has to shift with mom: “What is she hiding?” Here is a common theme—is a lot of women have friends; but they don’t, maybe, have a friend who knows everything about them.
Dave: It’s interesting. As I’m listening—actually, I think I’m just listening to two women have a conversation—
Terra: I feel like we kind of took over.
Dave: —which is awesome.
Terra: I’m sorry.
Dave: No; that’s fine; it’s good. It’s not what I would think if I see the title, Courageous. That’s what I want to hear you say; because it’s like, “Oh, when you think, “Courageous women,” they are going to skip over this and be strong.” You’re trying to say, “No; this is a big part”—right?—“of becoming a courageous woman.”
Terra: Well, you have to be able to recognize your own humanity. A courageous woman is open to saying, “I’m a human being; I’ve got stuff,” instead of pretending that stuff doesn’t impact me or “God’s got it all.” Yes; He does; but you’ve got to do your work.
The story is the idea that God uses the icky in our life—wherever that’s coming from—He uses it to grow the fruit in our life, but we’ve got to hand it over. Oftentimes, we shove it off onto the side; and we think nobody can smell it. [Laughter] It’s/the reality is it’s still there, and we can smell it. Who can smell it the most?—our kids.
Ann: Yes; it is interesting—I was speaking at a women’s retreat. I was really dealing with this; because I have so much in my own past of self-loathing, and the lies that would go over and over in my head, never realizing that so many women—
Ann: —are dealing with those lies in their head.
I asked the women to take out a piece of paper and write down the lies that they were repeating over and over in their head—whether now, or in the past, or both. I had them write those down onto a piece of paper; and then I had them visualize just handing it to Jesus, because they’re lies. The enemy of our soul, Satan, is the accuser of the brethren; he’s constantly repeating lies—and our past and pain from other people—we’re hearing those lies.
I had them ball those up and take them to the cross, which was on the floor, and just drop them on the floor. We did some other things after; but when everyone had left, I was the only one in the building. I went to the cross, and I read these pieces of paper.
I’m telling you—it wasn’t just one lie; it was a multitude of lies of—“I’m ugly,” “I’m fat,” “I’m worthless,” “I’m abandoned”; you know? I just sat, and I prayed. I mean, there were hundreds. I sat there and wept and prayed for each one, that God would reveal the truth to these women, because they’re in bondage to the lies. They can’t be free to be who God made them to be until they deal with the issues and pain in their lives.
Terra: Yes; I love that, Ann. It’s so hard, and I see the tears; it’s heavy, and that’s the weight. That’s where this book comes from—of sitting with that over and over and thinking, “You love Jesus. You’ve been walking with Jesus for how long?”—
Terra: —“and you’re still…”
I think that’s part of the message of grace, to say, “Our humanity is with us to the day we go to see Jesus.” I think there is a message in the church that says, “The more mature you are, the less you struggle.” I’m believing that a daughter, rooted in grace, is courageous; she can stand before her God and say, “I’m still struggling, and that’s why I need You.”
Terra: I want to shift that just a little bit; because there is even shame in going, “I still have the lie,”—the lie that comes from me is that “I’m alone.” I have to fight that. I fight it in my marriage; I fight it—and I know the truth—“…never alone.”
[Emotion in voice] I have an amazing group of friends. I have to literally write things down over, and over, and over; and that doesn’t make me less mature. It makes me more mature to be able to come right back to the Lord—I say, “What do we do with our pain?” We have to have safe people, in addition to our walk with God.
That’s the part I’m really asking a courageous woman to do—is to say: “Who are your safe people? Have you let a couple people in?” Outside of your spouse, let a couple women in and let them see all of who you are. It changes you.
Ann: It does change you.
Terra: It changes you.
Bob: I think there’s a tendency to think that to be courageous means that—when fears, or lies, or negative thoughts come—you compartmentalize or ignore.
Ann: —push them down.
Bob: Right; and that’s what it means to be courageous.
What I’m learning today is that to be courageous is to say, “No, we move into them. We address them; we take them on. We don’t pretend like they are not there, or they don’t matter; but courage is to dive in.” That’s central to what you’re saying in the book, Courageous: Being Daughters Rooted in Grace. It’s a book we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.
Listeners can get a copy when they go online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or they can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy of Terra Mattson’s book, Courageous: Being Daughters Rooted in Grace. Again, order online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order: 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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We hope you can be back with us, again, tomorrow. Terra Mattson will be here again, and we’ll continue our conversation about what real courage looks like as we raise our sons and, especially, our daughters—that’s really the focus this week—so I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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