Saturday, May 23, 2015

When Fear Overwhelms Us: {Stay in the Light}

Nothing makes me lose more sleep than worry. All the 'what ifs' come crashing into my consciousness, flooding my mind with the worst imaginable scenarios. Imagination is a good thing, but sometimes it can take us down a path of doubt and mistrust.

When this is how my morning started out, it was hard to go back. And rest. It didn't help that I got lost on the way to meeting some friends. With no GPS, I had no other alternative, but to try to figure out how to get there.

Sometimes church signs can be a little cheesy, but lately they've have been pretty spot on. To my right was a brick church with white steeple and in big block letters, the sign read,

Are you lost? Jesus is the way.

Yeah. I sure was lost. 

Being caught behind a train, I had time to call my husband to Google Map my location for me.

Sure enough, I was heading in the right direction, but it was too late to meet my friends.

Was I being protected from something like a car accident or was this some sort of discipline for my wayward mind? I didn't know. All I knew was that I felt so far from God. Like an orphan, just trying to survive.

I could have spent the rest of the day feeling sorry for myself or wallowing in disappointment, but in the back of my mind there was a song. Waiting for me to be still. And listen.   

"The Stand" by Hillsong

In the confines of my own vehicle, the song kept playing on and on, not on the radio, but in my heart. And, the moment my mouth opened, and I sang along and praised God in the midst of my disappointment, sunlight literally shot through the clouds and landed on my upturned hand. The fingers of God. The rest of the way home, I felt its warmth. His warmth.

Jesus is the way. To peace.

Peace with God. Peace with ourselves. Peace with others. Peace in all our circumstances. 

It didn't matter to me anymore that I missed my meeting. God loves me. No matter what. And for that I will sing forevermore.

"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

I returned to the church a few days later to snap this photo. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

{True Beauty}: When a Girl Feels She Doesn't Measure Up

Magazines. You see them everywhere you go. Even in the bathroom. Then there's billboards. Internet ads. Movies. T.V. All with flawless people.

These are the people our society holds up as the golden standard of beauty. And, none of us are able to attain it perfectly.

Sure, we try. But, in the end. When the make-up is off and the shower is on, we see our flaws. 

Living in a culture focused on disproportionate figures and airbrushed faces how can we ever measure up? We are on an infinite quest to find beauty products to quell our insecurities. And it's never enough. Does that mean we're never enough?

When I was a teen, it seemed like my nose grew before the rest of my body. I longed to be like the girls on the talk shows who would tell their story of woe. Not fitting in because their noses were too big and getting a free nose job in return. Sounds shallow I know, but I felt awful because my face was far from perfect. 

Looking at pictures from that time, I don't even see it anymore. But, I sure felt it then. 

Being middle-aged is not much easier. It's a temptation to try to turn back the hands of time (if that were possible). And, erase the lines that tell our age. Or keep up an endless exercise regimen tirelessly trying to lower our BMI and give us that figure we desire.

 If we look good on the outside does that mean everything is okay on the inside?

The times I've struggled the most with my self-image are the times I was trying hardest to look my best. 

This is the world I am raising daughters in.

How I wish I could shield them from the onslaught of insecurity that will come at them as they become women. 

All I can do is pray for grace and be an example of what it means to rest in who I am. Not that I've done this perfectly, but I am learning.

Learning to rest.

To abide.

To know I am loved.

And, by God's grace, I am flawless.

How is this possible? Not only do I have blemishes on the outside, but I still sin. I do the things I don't want to do and don't do the things I know I should do (Romans 7:15).

Because of Christ, I am not condemned (Romans 8:1-4). Because Jesus took my place, being condemned as a sinner on the cross, He took all my sin and gave me His flawless record and His Holy Spirit now dwells in me. 

I'm not only okay to God, but I've been raised up to the level of His Son in righteousness.

He's given me a beauty no amount of make-up could ever attain to. When I am resting in Him, I am loving, joyful, at peace. 

I have His beauty.

In a culture that is figure focused and infinitely insecure, what part of us should we really desire to be flawless?

Our hearts.

Not neglecting to take care of the body, but also not making it the inordinate focus of our lives. We already have a myriad of idols begging for our attention, our focus.

Christ raised the bar for true beauty. The crossbeam. By submitting to the rescue plan that would save us.

Why not focus on Him. His sacrificial love for us. And loving Him in return by sacrificial loving the world. Putting others' needs before our own. Doing the hard, right things in the divine power that comes from seeking, focusing on Christ.

Change may not come right away. But, it will come. And, one day when we look in the mirror, we won't just see ourselves. In those gentled eyes and caring smile, we'll see His beauty.

"You are altogether beautiful, my love;

    there is no flaw in you."

Song of Solomon 4:7

 "Restless" by Audrey Assad


Thursday, May 7, 2015

When We Don't Know What to Do: {Prayer Works}

Thinking I'd write a post about Sarah's finger, I snapped this photo

Not again [flashback to the Wal-Mart incident]. This cannot be happening again. Standing near the door frame during Bright Girl's choir practice, my peanut of a three-year-old slides her finger right in the crack near the hinge and before I can reach her, the door shuts and her finger is stuck. Pinched. Squished. 

In a flash, I open the door and pull her finger out, but it's already swelling and so is her voice. Not knowing what to do, I take her outside for a walk to console the child and check for damage. 

Finger seemed intact, but she would not console. Then the most unlikely thing happened. A little Flopsy of a bunny hopped across the walkway into the hedgerow. A little distraction for my Little Bit of girl. To take her mind off the pain. At least for a moment. Before she started up again.

A well-meaning man asked what is the matter.

"My baby shut her finger in the door, and I don't know what to do." I balanced her on my hip and held her close.

He looked sympathetic, but didn't have any answers. Which is sometimes the best thing when there are no clear answers.

Bright Girl came out in the nick of time to find us, and I packed the child and all the rest into the van and headed for home.

Fingers clutching the steering wheel for dear life, I could barely breathe for the stress of listening to my suffering baby girl. 

Passing a church sign along the way, I saw two words.

Prayer Works!

True. It surely does. And that is one thing I forgot to do. So, in the midst of driving, with eyes wide open, I said a prayer. 

Our Father in heaven wants us to come to Him when we're scared or hurt and don't know what to do.

Big sister comforted my little one and her crying ceases for a bit. I can breathe again.

Home seemed to be the best destination to at least drop off the other children and maybe try a walk-in-clinic from there. 

Mentioned going to the doctor and voila! My little one stops crying and says, "All better."

Finger looked less swollen the next day, so I decided to not go to the doctor.

Well, that's not the end of the story for this precocious little preschooler.

All of my children have climbed on furniture and fallen down. Sometimes there's been a few tears, but nothing broken.

Just two days after her finger was squished in the door, same baby girl climbed on our ottoman and fell forward, face-first onto the carpet. Billy rushed to pick her up and tried to console her. Her cries were of extreme pain, so we checked if she could stand. Her legs worked all right, but her left arm hung limp.

Again, my first reaction to her pain was feeling helpless and it took me awhile to see the light and come to God in prayer.

After pacing around the house and having an argument with Billy about what to do (not our finest hour in marriage), I headed out to the car to take her to an urgent care clinic.

The car was nearly out of gas, so I just sat in the parked car, fuming at Billy for his lack of compassion at a distraught mother.

Then it dawned on me. "I'm not acting right either, am I God?"

At this realization, I bowed the head and had a good talk with my Father in heaven.

Billy came to the car to reconcile. We then hugged and prayed together, asking the Lord for the best plan of action.  

From there, I took our Little Bit to urgent care, who then referred her to our pediatrician, who referred again to an orthopedic doctor, where it was discovered she had a fractured humorous.  

And we were all smiles when she ended up with a pink cast. Her favorite color.

This turned into a post about more than a finger injury

Seeing our children in pain has a way of filling us with worry and confusion. But, only one thing is needed (Luke 10:38-42) before all else.

I know I'd rather pray then fret and worry. Maybe I'll remember that the next time I don't know what to do.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV

"I Need You (As the Deer)" by Nicole C. Mullen 

I took this photo on another trip
 Sometimes church signs can be used by God to point me back to grace... 

Friday, April 24, 2015

{Covered}: When Shame Hits You in the Gut

When summer comes around, our gargantuan kitty, Smokey gets sheared like a sheep. Being partly Maine Coon leaves him with a winter coat that is wholly inappropriate for Florida weather. Add to that hairballs (sorry for the visual) and the constant need to be combed, it's easier to just shave it off.

This year, we shaved him a little early. At first, he seemed, well, embarrassedsuch a regal kitty reduced to the likeness of a shivering chihuahua. 

But after awhile he must have gotten used to lightness of it and weaved himself in and out of my legs, begging to be petted. I think he rather liked being free of an extra few pounds of fur.

Don't we all have that "sheared" feeling sometimes? We hold onto those positive labels people give us and when they're stripped away, we feel bare, embarrassed and struck with shame.




These are only a few compliments that can boost our self-esteem. Then, boom! One negative remark and we don't know what to believe anymore.

There's that time I wore a blue jumper and a white shirt with puffed sleeves underneath. And, I get compared to Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz . Mind you, I was a grown woman on her way inside of church, not roaming the neighborhood trick-or-treating with my kids. I'm sure the person didn't mean any harm in his poorly chosen joke, but for the rest of the service I wanted to rush back home and change.

But, this week, when I'd returned from a women's retreat for my church, something must have changed. I was reminded of who I am in Christ and having this perspective made a world of difference. 

"Are you pregnant?" a young woman asked me as I was hunched over a table, trying to read something.

Shaking my head, I instinctively covered my belly. "No. I have four children, but I'm all done having kids." I didn't know who was more embarrassed. Her or me. She excused herself and left me there. Shame had punched me right in the gut. True, my abs were not what they used to be, but did I look pregnant to other people? I slumped down in my chair.

It didn't take long for me to realize what I was doing. Wallowing. I sat up straight. That 's not me. No matter what I look like to others, my confidence does not come from the outside. It comes from the inside.

Placing my hands on the table, I smiled. The curious young lady meant no harm. And, I didn't need to cover myself, because I was already covered.

We cover ourselves when we feel weak, vulnerable, bare. But, when we trust in Christ's unfailing love for us, we can remember, we're already covered. And ultimately, free. We no longer have to be bound by others' compliments or critiques. Because that does not define who we are.

We are the bride of Christ, wrapped in His robe of righteousness.

While on the cross, He was covered with our sin. Because of His sacrifice, we are covered with His righteousness.

There is no need to hold onto shame. Because, isn't that what we do sometimes? We agree with the initial feeling and wallow in it. But, we don't have to.

We can rest in confidence that we are a new creation in Christ Jesus. 

No matter what is said about us that fact will never change.

"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us
that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 
(2 Corinthians 5:21)

"Jesus, Messiah" by Chris Tomlin

Friday, April 3, 2015

Three Days...

Christ came

 That we might have life.

He died that we might live

Not for ourselves

Any longer

But that we would give

Our lives back to Him

As an offering

A pleasing sacrifice

Made holy and pure

By the blood of the lamb

Who came to take

The sins of the world

Upon Himself

On the cross.

His resurrection power

Breaks through

The hardest

Stone heart.

The light of His glory

Shines in the darkness

Of the world

And His light 

Shines bright in us.

"In him was life,and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
John 1:4,5

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Embracing Autism: A Poem

Hidden away
Unable to connect.
Expression hindered
and self oppressed.

Arms flapping wildly
To sense the body.
Faulty wiring
Gone awry.

Trapped in a maze
Of twisted vines
No beginning 
And no end.

Sticky cobwebs
Never swept away.
Unused branches
Never pruned.
Muted senses

Blocked the process
Of new connections
And old removed.

This tangled mess
Axons misfired
Dendrites misplaced
Encompassing the soul
Cocooned within.

Once upon a time,
On the right track
Cooing, babbling
Speaking child
Set off course.

An injury
Of some sort.
From without
Triggered within.

The immune system
Engaged war
With the one
It was sworn
To protect.

And sensitivities
The hurt.

White matter
And grey
Forced to survive
The wrong way.

The result: autism.

But for this child
Given to me
A bright highlight 
Following grief

My baby.

Read to
 In the mirror

How can I free you?

When I am trapped?

Love is the key
To open the way
In my own soul

To embrace
A new dream
And let
 The old one go.

Monday, March 30, 2015

He Knew Me: An Easter Allegory

He knew me. I mean really knew me. Knew everything that I had done or failed to do. Yet, I found myself wrapped in His warm embrace. I closed my eyes and rested, being filled up with His love.
He covered my tattered rags with His woolen robe, the color of blood. I breathed in his scent. Fresh and woodsy. And my skin had changed. It was clean. Cleaner than if I’d bathed in a cool mountain spring.

I glanced up, but he was already a distance away. His skin was covered in what used to cover me, a thick oily substance, black as tar.

His stride was determined. He didn’t turn back. A cedar tree blocked my view. And, then he was gone.

I scanned the horizon. But, all I could see were the trees that surrounded this lonely valley.

Then I spotted him. Climbing up a mountain. At the top stood a lone tree with two branches, one on each side. I rubbed my eyes. No, it wasn’t a tree. And, those weren't branches. It was a cross.

Dark clouds rolled in and covered the valley. Lightening crashed. I jumped a little and pulled the robe on tighter.

He was gone again. Oh, no. He was somehow fastened to the cross. Streams of red flowed down from his outstretched hands and feet.

I heard Him cry out. Then, fall limp. No. Don’t die. I. love. You.

The sky went black.

Thick darkness covered the valley.

I huddled against a nearby rock, trembling and weeping. Exhaustion overtook me.

When I awoke, there was a light. But, not the sun. It came from within the mountain. A circle of light, as from a cave. Or tomb.

A silhouette. His. He was alive. I cried, but not from sorrow. Joy. My Savior. My King. Please come back. Please take me home.

The sun peeked over the horizon. But, He was no longer there. Don’t leave me. I don’t want to be alone.

A voice. Not outside but within. Deep in my heart. “You’ll never be alone again. I will come back. Soon. Remember. You are mine. And, you have work to do.”