Elizabeth Oates, author of the soon-to-be released book, “If You Could See as Jesus Sees: Inspiration For a Life of Hope, Joy, and Purpose” opens up about balance, comparison, and how she was able to switch her lens and truly see herself as Jesus sees in an interview with Sonoma Christian Home
SCH: Elizabeth, can you describe your family history for our readers.
EO: Sure. I grew up in a pretty dysfunctional family. My parents divorced when I was about two-years-old and my dad was never a consistent part of my life. My mom remarried and divorced two more times. Like many broken families we dealt with abuse, abandonment, addiction, and instability.
SCH: So what is your family like today?
EO: Today my family life is a complete 180. God has blessed me with an incredible Godly husband named Brandon. We have three biological children and are foster parents to a little girl who we are on track to adopt sometime in the spring. I know on the outside we look like the picture-perfect family, but I can tell you we are far from one. Brandon and I work very hard at our marriage. We know communication is something we constantly have to work at. Marriage is a day-in, day-out commitment. Parenting is a joy, but also drain at times. But we keep it in perspective. We try to incorporate lots of tradition and family time together with our kids because we know our time with them is so limited.
SCH: That’s great. So, tell me a little about your faith.
EO: During most of my childhood we were the typical “Christmas and Easter Christians.” We went to church on those days because that’s what “good people” do. If you had asked me if I was a Christian I would have said, “Yes” because I wasn’t Jewish, I wasn’t Hindu, and I wasn’t Buddhist. But I really didn’t know what it meant to be a Christian. When I was a freshman in high school, my mom divorced for a second time and decided that we needed to go to church. She forced me to go, with me protesting, sulking, and giving her all sorts of teenage attitude, but it turned out to be the best thing she ever did for me. I heard the gospel several times and realized I was not going to survive this difficult season of my life without Jesus. I knew there was something missing in my life . . . and He was it! I surrendered my life to Jesus that year and decided to be baptized. I am so grateful that my mom did not give up on me. My life was forever changed that year.
SCH: Wow. What a powerful testimony. So tell us about your new book, “If You Could See as Jesus Sees: Inspiration For a Life of Hope, Joy, and Purpose” — who is the target audience for this book?
EO: Great question. “If You Could See as Jesus Sees” is most relevant for Millennial and Generation-X women because of the personal examples I use, my writing style, my season of life. However, I think the topic is applicable to every woman. No matter our age, stage of life, profession, marital status, whether or not we have children, at some point in our lives:
- We have all looked in the mirror and disliked what we have seen.
- We have all scrolled through Facebook or Instagram and felt left out of the party.
- We have all looked around at our friends and thought their life looked better than ours
- We have all looked down at the corner office and wished it belonged to us.
- We have all struggled with self-doubt, comparison, negative self-talk, discontent, greed, self-esteem, and self-image.
I am passionate about women, no matter their age or season of life, being who God created them to be. No woman can be the woman God is calling her to be if she is stuck in the mires of dissatisfaction, depression, or dysfunction. We need to rally around one another instead of competing against one another. We need to lift one another up instead of pushing one another down. We need to stop seeing one another as the world sees, and start seeing as Jesus sees.
SCH: So how can women do this?
EO: First, we need to address the root issue of why we see ourselves as less than God intended. If You Could See as Jesus Sees provides many tools to help women do just that. Then, we need top stop the reel of negative verbiage and self-talk. I constantly tell my children we need to treat others the way we want to be treated, but I think as we become adults the opposite is true—we need to treat ourselves the way we treat others.
SCH: You mentioned you have a passion for women. Are you involved in any types of women’s ministry programs?
EO: Yes! I am on the leadership team for a women’s ministry called Echo Ministries. It began in 2014 as a non-denominational, inter-generational, community-wide women’s Bible study. We met for two semesters, then took the summer off. We have revamped our structure and now offer an online study and encourage women to gather in their own spheres of influence. It worked out really well this fall and we are gearing up to do it again in the spring.
SCH: So you are involved in different ministries, you write, you blog, you speak, not to mention you are a wife and a mom raising three children plus your foster child. So how do you balance it all?
EO: I get asked that question a lot. Women often say, “I don’t know how you do it.” But the reality is, they are only looking at what I do. They are not looking at what I don’t do. And there is a long list of what I don’t do.
- I don’t garden.
- I don’t sew.
- I don’t craft.
- I don’t scrapbook.
- I don’t cook recipes that contain more than five ingredients.
- And I am a book club drop out.
What I do is I ask myself two things:
- “How much capacity do I have during this season of my life?”
- “What are my priorities?”
Then it’s like filling a bucket full of rocks. My capacity is my bucket and my priorities are my rocks. I start filling my bucket with my most important rocks. Once my bucket is full and I can’t fit any more rocks, the other rocks on my list will just have to wait. I reevaluate my bucket and my rocks from time to time and adjust as needed.
SCH: That’s great advice. Any other tips on balance and time management?
EO: I always tell women that with every child who joins their family, they lose a little more freedom. When my third child was about two years old I decided that I no longer had the luxury of “extracurricular activities” for myself. Meaning, things such as Pampered Chef parties, Origami Owl parties, freezer meal parties, etc. had to go. When my kids were much younger I loved those events because they were an outlet for me to engage in some adult conversation after a long day of babies and toddlers. However now our kids have activities seven days a week. So I have to choose what I’m willing to let go of in my own life to make our family work. Unfortunately, these parties were something that was pretty easy for me to release. We all need to look for easy ways to lighten our load and then be O.K. with disappointing people as long as it means serving our family well.
SCH: Aside from balance, what is your advice to women these days?
EO: My advice is to avoid comparison. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” This is especially difficult in our social media generation. I discuss this at length in the book. Comparing our everyday, mundane lives to the sparkly, eventful lives we see online is a dangerous game we play that leads to negative self-talk, self-loathing, and a distorted sense of reality. We can see one picture on Facebook of our friend’s vacation and it easily sends us into a downward spiral. I advise women to keep life (and social media) in perspective. Remember the blessings God has given them and realize social media is like reality TV . . . it’s not truly “reality.”
SCH: What are some of the topics you address in, “If You Could See as Jesus Sees”?
EO: I cover many topics that women struggle with from
- self-image and self-esteem to
- shame and redemption
- feeling incompetent and unqualified
- and also feeling isolated and discontent.
- I also talk about women’s fears and feelings of condemnation.
SCH: That’s a lot of topics for one book. So how do those all tie into the main theme of seeing ourselves as Jesus sees us?
EO: All of these topics distort the view we have of ourselves. We begin seeing ourselves as flawed, inadequate, unlovable, and unworthy. When, in reality, God’s Word tells us we are chosen, loved, forgiven, and free.
SCH: So if a woman reads your book, what is one thing you want her to walk away knowing?
EO: That she is loved by her Savior, just as she is. Yes, we are all works in progress. Yes, we are all on a journey of sanctification and refinement. Yes, at the end of our lives I hope we all look less like ourselves and more like Jesus. But today, in this very moment, we don’t have to perform, we don’t have to jump through hoops, and we don’t have to prove ourselves. Jesus sees us and he loves us just the way we are.
You can purchase a copy of If You Could See as Jesus Sees on Amazon