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Johanna Stamps explores how women can become free from a sense of duty, and instead give with love and purpose.

As women and mothers, we are particularly prone to do tasks from a place of “I should.” In this season of Advent, I see all the beautiful things mothers are doing. I often have to quiet the voice that says, “I should be more like them.” What I didn’t realise, until recently, is that this sense of duty can feel like chains that bind me. I’ve decided to explore what freedom from “I should” really looks like. 

It's not saying “I should” that is concerning — it's what is at the root of why we say it. 

My chains come from three main issues: 

  1. I’m not always giving out of love.
  2. I’m bound by other people’s desires.
  3. I’m not being valued for who I am. 

The quick answer is quite simple: Freedom is found in giving from a place of purpose. 

Like most things in our faith, freedom is found in the great “I AM.” 

The Lessons We Learn From “I Am” 

God is never changing. He is who has always been and will be to come. He is Love. He is the Great “I AM.” In Exodus 3, God says to Moses, “I am who I am.” Who God is is always more important than what God does. Similarly, who we are (daughters of the King, wives, mothers, etc.) will always be more central than the task lists we complete because we “should.” 

There are important parts of me that have always been a part of me. 

  • I have unique gifts and talents.
  • I have a unique personality.
  • I have unique ways of cultivating joy. 

We are God’s children, so we are made in God’s image in specific ways. This uniqueness is God’s thumbprint on our lives. 

When we discover this uniqueness, we have the opportunity to love from this place. When we do, our lives become an outpouring of love — God’s love. We are free from “I should.” 

Imagine how everything would change if we served a God who gave love out “I should”. We would most likely experience fits and starts of that love. We would question it when we receive it: “Is he giving it freely, or is there a string attached?” We would feel obligated to reciprocate. 

Instead, God IS love. 

We have access to this love, and when we are living into our uniqueness, it flows through us. 

We are created to get closer to the “I AM” that created us. In doing so, we also get to understand our own “I AM.”


I thought I needed to do more, be more — reach for more. I thought that was living. #catholicmom

What Is Your “I Am”?

God’s love is poured into you though gifts and talents. We don’t conjure them up. We can develop them, but they are there. There is nothing you can do to rid yourself of your uniqueness. Believe me, I tried very hard to be someone I wasn’t. I was living in the “I should’s.”

We are everything we were always meant to be.

Like the acorn rich with the potential to populate the entire earth with trees, all of our potential, all the ingredients to live into our purpose, is already there inside of us.

When I heard this for the first time, it was as if muscles I didn’t know existed began to relax. I tried very hard to be someone else I wasn’t meant to be. I was constantly trying to grasp at new gifts and talents that would make me enough. I was doing what I thought I should do. I thought I needed to be perfect in pictures and on paper. I thought I needed to answer each request that came my way with a smile on my face. I thought I needed to do more, be more — reach for more. I thought that was living.

I discovered that I could employ someone else’s gifts and talents. Work from someone else’s tool box. But it never felt quite right. It felt like serving from that place of “should.”

What I needed to remember was that God gave me a specific tool box, something unique to me and my abilities. My name is plastered on top of my tool box, filled with everything I need to do the work that is set before me.

Our purpose is to be “I AM.” I can say confidently ...

I AM Johanna.
I AM a highly relational being.
I AM most alive when I’m connected with others.
I AM at my best when I’m helping people develop into the person God made them to be.

When I move and act from my place of “I AM” instead of “I should,” I can then be an outpouring of God’s love. From this place, I can listen and communicate my heart’s desire.

Instead of feeling like I should be the perfect mom, I realised I am the perfect mom for my son when I live closer to the unique ways God has made me.

During this Advent, our weeks will be filled with adventures, visiting places around town with beautiful expressions of the season. When I pay appreciation to this beauty and live as I am meant to be through God’s ways, I am embracing my “I am” and leaving behind any “I should.” This is an outflowing of who God has made me to be — an expression of God’s love.

When I live from this place, I am free.

Copyright 2020 Johanna Stamps
Image created in Visme.co using free elements.