The Associative Property


“Tell ’em about your blog, honey!” My husband waved his arm from me to our new friends with a proud gesture.

I could feel my face redden before the words were half-out of his mouth. I shot him a look, but it was too late. Their eyes were already glazing over.

“I … uh … yeah. I’m gonna kill him. I do have a blog. It’s nothing, really. Where is the waiter? It’s just a – um… I don’t really like it or anything. Come, Lord Jesus. Wait, tell me about your kids … ”

Or your pets. Or your roof shingles. Anything. Please.

My husband apologized with his eyes and mercifully carried the conversation toward politics and religion.  Ahhh… safety. 

I love writing. I’ve always enjoyed journaling or even writing poetry for close friends and family. Recently, I’ve discovered that having a public audience encourages me to write more and get better. It’s a fun hobby and I’m appreciating the creative outlet.

But in certain circles, I hide it. The term “blogger” has such a negative connotation for some folks, that I’m often embarrassed to wear it.


I’m also on staff at my church. When things are going well, it’s great. But when times are tough, it’s really hard. It’s not personal, but people are hurting and I hate being associated with their pain. I love my church. I love my role there. But there are times when I don’t wear my name badge in public.

And for many years, we were a homeschooling family. In most communities, I flew that banner proudly. But there were other situations where I tucked it way out of sight.

I wear and have worn many labels in my life that invited both judgement and praise: field hockey player, young bride, stay at home mom, mother of four, public schoolers, protective parent …

And in the trying times, when the labels have a stickiness that rubs me raw, or when the ID lanyards begin to draw tight into a suffocating squeeze… When the stereotypes press down on me and I choke on insecurity…

I shake them off faster than you can say it’s fickle-thirty.


Yes, but I’m not one of those hard-core homeschoolers, we don’t grind our own wheat or anything…

I’m not sure. I just kind of keep to my own ministry work and I’m not involved in any of the decision-making…

Yes, I’m going to hang out at the class party, if you don’t mind. I’m usually not so hovering, but my son is feeling shy today …

I un-peel, re-stick, and twist my labels until they say what’s positive, popular, and safe.

Like Peter with Jesus. Denying. Denying. Denying. Warming my hands over comfort and lies. 


But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. Mark 14: 71-72

Jesus knowingly joined groups that would ruin His esteem. He willingly pursued hurtful sinners who would deny Him and cause pain.

Not once did he try to shake off their weight. My weight. 

I’m a blogger, a staff member, and sometimes guilty by association. I’m a fair-weather saint, an all-weather sinner, and always guilty because I’m guilty.

Guilty of the very judging that I hate.

Guilty of the criticism that I can’t take.

Guilty of the rejection that I fear.

The only thing I hold tight is self-preservation, and the only circle in which I remain is a shifting one of pride.

But on the cross, Jesus renamed me with labels that last forever and really make me squirm: Forgiven. Righteous. Loved.


In math, the associative property states you can add or multiply regardless of how numbers are grouped.

The Associative Property of the Gospel states I’m grouped with Christ inside parentheses of grace and truth –  regardless of how weak I am. Because of how weak I am.

He sticks my name tight to Himself because He knows I’m a hopeless peeler of His.

And His addition always equals life – you can count on it!

As sure as the rooster crows…

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

39 thoughts on “The Associative Property

  1. Beth Willis Miller July 28, 2015 / 4:39 am

    Karen, WOW! What an open, honest, transparent and TRUE post…I am right there with you…how blessed we are to rest in the “parentheses” of grace and truth…many blessings to you ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown July 29, 2015 / 6:34 am

      Beth- Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving your kind words. Blessings~


  2. Ifeoma Samuel July 28, 2015 / 5:03 am

    I love you Karen!
    The Lord Loves you more,
    He alone understands you friend.
    He alone will make you stronger, braver and more amazing.

    Precious Blessings to you

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Michele Morin July 28, 2015 / 5:30 am

    As sure as the rooster crows . . .
    Right there in the parentheses with you, and wearing a lot of the same awkward labels.
    This is a beautiful post (and it’s cute that your husband is so proud of you!).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown July 29, 2015 / 6:35 am

      Michele- Thank you! And yes, my husband is cute 🙂


  4. Tania Vaughan (@TaniaJVaughan) July 28, 2015 / 5:47 am

    Wow – what a brutally honest and brave post – you have spoke from your heart straight out there and I so appreciate it. I have been hiding what I want to be true to because it won’t be ‘popular’ but it’s where God’s called me and your post has encourage me – thank you. Be brave – I hate it when people ask me what I do I have never quite got to the right answer but I’m getting there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown July 29, 2015 / 6:36 am

      Tania- Thank you so much for your encouragement and kind words. They are truly appreciated.


  5. Mary Geisen July 28, 2015 / 5:54 am

    Your words hit home-a punch to the gut! This is a good thing because I am guilty of carrying names of who I am but using them selectively depending on the group of my people I am with at that moment. I love your words “all weather sinner” because like it or not that is a title that is always mine. Holding tight to self-preservation seems like a good idea until you realize the exclusion property that accompanies it. Great food for thought today! BTW-you need to call yourself a writer because you are! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown July 29, 2015 / 6:37 am

      Mary- Thank you so much for your consistent encouragement. It means so much. Blessings~


  6. kaylietess July 28, 2015 / 6:25 am

    Yikes, I think I just got my toes stepped on! This is such a powerful message for those of us who just want to make everyone else feel comfortable with us, the gospel is not comfortable and Jesus certainly never bothered to try to make it so. It was a comfort to those who needed it and offensive to those who believed they did not. Reading this, it is amazing how often I think I do not. Thank you for your words today!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Katie M. Reid July 28, 2015 / 6:31 am

    Seriously friend, how do you do it? You writing is top notch and it speaks right to the issues of my heart. Write a book! Delighted to see your smiling face at the top of the linkup today. It hurts when I get that glazed-over look when I talk about my blog or writing with people, so many people, who don’t “get it”. I get you. Write on. You are a writer, and a wonderful one at that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • betsydecruz July 28, 2015 / 2:33 pm

      I’m with Katie, Karen. Your writing IS top-notch. I could also relate.


    • Karen Brown July 29, 2015 / 6:33 am

      Katie- Thank you so much for your consistent encouragement. Truly. xoxo


  8. mbethany July 28, 2015 / 7:09 am

    Karen, I am stunned by this. In the best way! Such powerful words, so masterfully pieced together, and about something we don’t talk about much. You got right to the heart of it….right to my heart in this, anyway. The Lord is working in me through these words….thank you, thank you for wriitng! Blessings!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. underwoodjo July 28, 2015 / 7:59 am

    Loved this Karen! Especially that associative property analogy. Oh. My. Word. Yes and Amen. And BTW, I may just borrow “fickle-thirty” in the future. Love your words, your heart and your honesty, friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown July 29, 2015 / 6:38 am

      Jolene- Thank you so much for stopping by and for your encouragement. I’ll think of you every day at “fickle-thirty” ! 🙂 Love you, friend~

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Lisa Morris July 28, 2015 / 8:22 am

    Your words spoke right to my heart this morning! Thank you for sharing and opening your heart!
    God Bless, Lisa

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Tiffany Parry July 28, 2015 / 11:35 am

    The first math lesson that has ever made sense to me!! I’m a words girl, Karen – but this just added up perfectly. Especially this—> “Forgiven. Righteous. Loved.” I’m so grateful to wear those labels. Much like you, the other ones make me feel awkward and inadequate. It’s amazing how I’m ready to wear what Christ calls me, but not quite as eager to wear what He’s given me. Thank you for the encouragement to stay tucked in between those parenthesis of love and grace and remember that I am His. #testimonytuesday

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Jessica July 28, 2015 / 1:36 pm

    Wow – these heartfelt words hit right at home!
    I too “have worn many labels in my life that invited both judgement and praise.” But I’m so thankful, as you beautifully penned, “On the cross, Jesus renamed me with labels that last forever . . . “Forgiven. Righteous. Loved.” Thank-you Karen for these wonderfully written words of hope and humor! Your gift glorifies Him!


  13. betsydecruz July 28, 2015 / 2:35 pm

    Just love your writing, Karen! You are a writer for sure. I’ve felt that same way about the blogging label, the home school label (I mean, we’re not REALLY geeks, just kind of look like it…) AND the ministry label. Oh, I just want those labels you mention at the end there: forgiven, loved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown July 29, 2015 / 6:42 am

      Betsy- Thank you for always being so encouraging. And face it… we are kind of geeky… 🙂 Love you!


  14. Abby July 28, 2015 / 10:31 pm

    Karen, I love your words. I smiled at what your husband said because mine has done that so many times. They’re so proud of us! But I get it. I am reluctant to talk about it too and often get that glossed over look. So grateful for the label I where proudly- Child of the Most High. Beautiful post, friend.


  15. Christi Gee (@ChristiLGee) July 29, 2015 / 6:43 am

    Karen, this is such an amazing piece and incredible gift to the rest of us. You drew me in and pulled me through, all the while reflecting back what I know down deep to be so true of myself.

    My baby just wrote a piece about labels in high school and ended with reminding us that the only one that counts is the one from our Maker. I guess we never get away from them, right? Didn’t you think it would be easier farther down this road?

    Oh, how I would love to sit across from you with a cup of coffee and talk about it! Loved my time here this morning. I so enjoy everything you write!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown July 29, 2015 / 6:47 am

      Christi- No, it doesn’t get easier… Coffee and long talk? Oh, I wish! Thank you so much for stopping by. Your encouraging words truly bless me.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Dawn Boyer July 29, 2015 / 7:40 am

    I absolutely LOVED this. I was drawn to the title(insert math geek here), I was pulled in by the gut-raw honesty and the willingness to write real. Yay you!

    And still, I have been there. (I am shaking my head in most of the circumstances) except I don’t serve on a church staff.
    Those labels..ouch, they are painful. So many years I tried to run from them. I tried to rebel against them doing anything and everything that would make them slide (And neither were my kids and somehow the pride monster stole some beauty from me in all that mess, but that is another time and another conversation.)

    Todd Agnew sings a song called, My Jesus. It is probably one of my favorite songs ever. One stanza came to mind when I read that.
    “‘Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
    The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet
    But He reaches for the hurting and despises the proud
    And I think He’d prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd
    And I know that He can hear me if I cry out loud”

    He most certainly loved the unlovable,(me). He most certainly labeled us, (His). He most certainly stood out, (hello, Cross). And yet, He won.

    I want to be labeled by Him. 🙂 Thanks for that lesson, Karen!


  17. Kristin Hill Taylor July 29, 2015 / 8:25 am

    “The Associative Property of the Gospel states I’m grouped with Christ inside parentheses of grace and truth – regardless of how weak I am. Because of how weak I am.” Wow. I love every bit of this – probably because I’ve been there too. I do love how your husband was proud of you and wanted others to know about your blog. 🙂 Thanks for linking up at #ThreeWordWednesday.


  18. Linda Stoll July 29, 2015 / 11:45 am

    I love this, Karen. So like the enemy to get us putting ourselves down, making excuses for using our gifts, explaining away the opportunities God’s given.

    What a great perspective you’ve offered.

    Good, so good, to be here …


  19. Lauren English July 29, 2015 / 12:33 pm

    I love this! I laughed out loud at your description of your husband asking you to tell friends about your blog. I have done the exact same thing! It’s challenging and sometimes scary to proudly wear the names and truths that the Lord speaks over us, and I love your encouragement to trust His words over us and not be ashamed. Thanks for sharing!


  20. Krista July 29, 2015 / 4:20 pm

    I’m linked up next to you at Holley’s. I can really relate to all that you’ve shared. Sometimes it takes one person to open up, speak what they’re feeling so you don’t feel like the only one going through. 🙂


  21. samcitty July 29, 2015 / 8:11 pm

    This hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve found myself making the same excuses as a work-from-home mom (“Yes I work from home, but I still work 8 to 5, have meetings…”). The only “label” we should be concerned about are the ones given by Christ. Be blessed!


  22. loisflowers July 30, 2015 / 9:01 am

    Karen, count me among those who were drawn to your post because of the math analogy in the title. (I’m mostly a word girl, but through helping my daughter with her prealgebra homework last year, I rediscovered a long-buried enjoyment of math!) I hate labels in general, but the ones that Jesus applies? I’ll wear those happily. And your writing? Wonderful! (I’m still laughing about the wheatgrinding and talking about politics/religion to avoid the more uncomfortable topic of blogging!)


  23. Bomi August 10, 2015 / 6:40 am

    Hmmm.. Food for thought:) Thanks for sharing.


  24. Martha G. Brady September 8, 2015 / 12:14 am

    great post karen! i’m afraid i can identify all too well with you on this one! how encouraging that Jesus labels us with those labels…forgiven, righteous, loved! wow!


  25. Jamie February 3, 2018 / 9:50 pm

    wow, very relatable!


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