I looked Sheryl in the eye, face to face with her weather-worn skin, and with despair dripping from my voice I confessed, “I can’t do this. I can’t do motherhood. This is too hard.”

She stroked my hair and put her palms to my cheeks. I know. I know. But you can do this. We’re praying for you.

Tension started to leave my body at her touch, my shoulders visibly relaxed just a bit. I received her comfort, and for a moment I didn’t have to be composed or strong or any of the other impossible qualities we women manage to summon up in the cobwebbed corners of our days. Sheryl put her arms around me, and I allowed myself to be nurtured.

There are few women in this world (besides my own mama) from whom I have felt such maternal love.

Sheryl has a prison record. She has a sordid past and addictions that insist on following her like a shadow. She loves Jesus, but isn’t one of those “saved, sealed, delivered” stories we like so much to hear. Life is far messier than that for Sheryl, and I get it. Boy, do I get it. What I love about the God-Man is that He doesn’t care as much about erasing our broken places as He does about putting skin on and sitting down in the shards with us.

I used to run wall to wall, trapped in a box that rote Christianity had built for me — a box in which there were the “good” people and, well, everyone else. I loved people from there inside that box, but I could never bleed with them. I believed that they belonged to me, but I could never understand how I belonged to them.

So in His sweet, sweet mercy He broke me.

My story of motherhood is one of brokenness. I have been trampled down and beaten up and, oh, glory be to the One who comes to sit beside me in my mess. Finally, I am the poor in spirit. Finally, I get to really see the kingdom of God — a kingdom where a woman like Sheryl holds up the arms of a woman like me, because we are women just like each other.

I am weary of a church in polished shoes. I have no place there.

Give me the church with bare feet caked in mud, the church with a prison record, the church who knows she’s a wreck but extends arms wide to hold me anyway. I will be stilled by her touch.

Once, after a service, a well-meaning woman in freshly ironed trousers patted Sheryl on the shoulder and said, “You’re welcome in church any time!” Without missing a beat, Sheryl brightened and in her raspy smoker’s voice enthusiastically responded, “So are you!”

We are all welcome here. We all have something that the other needs — today, right here and now.

Not next week when we’re not so depressed, not after 12 months of sobriety, not after we stop yelling at our kids. We need each other today. Let us recognize the gifts that we have within us to give and let us believe that every human being we meet has something to offer us, too. Let us believe Paul when he says, “we belong to each other.” {Romans 12:5}

Related: Celebrate each person just the way they are by hanging this hope-filled pennant that says: Home is where you are welcome, just the way you are!

  • Janet


    ” What I love about the God-Man is that He doesn’t care as much about erasing our broken places as He does about putting skin on and sitting down in the shards with us.”

    Oh my. I cannot tell you how this phrase completely upended me.

    Or this one; “I am weary of a church in polished shoes. I have no place there.”

    I am undone. Yes, give me mud caked feet and mess where I feel I am loved no matter what, where everyone feels they are loved no matter what.

    Through your words, I feel a strong kinship and sisterhood with you and Sheryl.

    Thank you.


    • http://www.agreatparade.com/ Shannon Evans

      Wish I could give you a hug in real life, Janet!

  • Tina

    Thank you, Sheryl and Shannon… I am broken, too.

    • http://www.agreatparade.com/ Shannon Evans

      You’re in good company, my friend!

  • Rebecca

    This is my church. Seriously, AS IS Church is real with real people that go out into the community and do life and invite all people to come and hear about this God-man whose name is Jesus. Everyone has a name, everyone has a story, everyone matters to God and therefore they matter to us.

    Thank you for your words this morning. May we all find someone that will love the messy us and may we all find someone who is messy we can show God’ s love to.

    • http://www.agreatparade.com/ Shannon Evans

      Amen! Thanks Rebecca :)

  • Joanne Peterson

    Shannon, this describes my daughter. We never really had a relationship but now after many heartaches, and mistakes, and just loving her where she is, broken, we are slowing forming one. It is Christ’s heart of compassion that is the difference, seeing with different eyes. I am also Sheryl even though I may not look like her, I have my issues that may look acceptable but is still sin. If I judge, I am guilty of lovelessness.
    I too well get the tough motherhood from adopting kids from hard places. In the midst of it right now. This blessed my socks off. Grace and peace, Joanne

    • http://www.agreatparade.com/ Shannon Evans

      I’m humbled and encouraged that you shared a bit of your story here, Joanne. There is room, even in the pain. Praying for you and your daughter today!

    • Beth Williams

      Super glad your daughter is coming around! I’ve been praying God would change her heart and bring her back to you!
      Blessings :)

      • Joanne Peterson

        How do I begin to thank you Beth? This is only by God and His workings, and those who are offering prayers that move God to act on all of our behalf. Hugs, Joanne

  • M

    This post has touched me in way that no other has… Thank you! I am one of the worn and broken. I read these posts and want to belong, but always feel like an outsider because I am like Sharyl. Give her a hug for me and thank you for reminding me that Jesus doesn’t care if my pants are pressed.

    • http://www.agreatparade.com/ Shannon Evans

      Ha! No he certainly doesn’t. Thanks for taking a minute to respond… Everything’s better when we know we’re not alone.

  • Beth Williams

    I grew up in church–the “polished shoes & perfect outfits” type. This is how I feel about those churches: “I am weary of a church in polished shoes. I have no place there.” AMEN!! Now I am a member of a quaint country church that cares more about the person and their souls than what you wear to church! We welcome anyone and everyone! We love you because Jesus loves you and us! We are all sinners saved by grace!–Not perfect but saved!!
    Blessings :)

    • http://www.agreatparade.com/ Shannon Evans

      Your church sounds wonderful, Beth! :) Wearing nice clothes certainly isn’t a problem, but feeling pressure to be “put together” before you have anything to offer the Body surely is!

  • karen

    I LOVE Sheryl’s response about being welcome in church!!!! SOOOOOOO good and SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO true! Thanks for that smile!

    • http://www.agreatparade.com/ Shannon Evans

      Isn’t it the best?!

  • patrici. Ward

    Hello this my first time joining the conversation….going through a difficult time.. but God is in control

    • http://www.agreatparade.com/ Shannon Evans

      Hey! I’m just now seeing this… so sorry for the long delay. Saying a prayer for you right now, friend. May you be held up by the Comforter and by His people. xoxo