Eternity in Our Hearts

Bringing what endures into everyday life


3 Comments

Releasing my Racism

Click.

It was a single, thoughtless, and quick noise that would become a loud, confusing, and regretful clamor in my soul.

Just one click.

Years ago, I was in my car, trying to make a left turn out of the bank. I had been to the ATM for cash, and traffic made it challenging to exit left. As I waited, I caught sight of a black man walking toward my car with a fairly quick and confident stride.

I don’t know why – I guess the honest explanation is that it was instinct – but I noted that I hadn’t locked the car. So I did.

Untitled design (24)

It’s easy to say that my response – just one click – became a problem because the man noticed. And he was immediately offended and reactive. I was horrified as he waved his arms vigorously, jumped up and down, and shouted –

“What’s wrong with you, white woman? You think I’m going to hurt you? What’s WRONG with you?”

I mashed the accelerator, turning right as fast as I could.

It’s more honest to say that my response became a problem not because the black man noticed but because it was my response.

Countless times, I have replayed this scenario in my mind. Was it the way he carried himself? (maybe) Was it the way he was dressed? (perhaps) Was it that he was a man? (could be) Was it that he was a black man? (very likely)

I came home and told my husband about what happened. His response was pretty simple, “Well, you should keep your doors locked all the time anyway.” Good husband answer. True yet sad.

And I have substituted many other people in the black man’s place, trying to imagine my response. What if an Asian man walked to my car? What if he were older? What about a white man, a black woman? On and on and on … And every time, I come back to the same condemning conclusion, the voice ringing in my head:

What’s WRONG with you?

I write about “speaking life” and the honor and dignity of every human being. Have I consistently acted this out?

No.

The fact that I even attempt to imagine how I would respond to people of different ethnicity, background, outward appearance, and gender means that there is exists in me a tendency to place people in categories. Where’s the honor and dignity in this?

Does this particular race belong in a “safe” category whereas another race does not? It’s a judgment process that’s discriminatory, racist.

A few years after “the click,” I had an opportunity to write about it in a seminary course on cross-cultural dynamics. I wondered how my black professor would receive this paper. I don’t remember his exact comments, but I remember finding relief in confessing to a black person an action that I deeply regretted. He could have been the man I locked out.

But tragic events have stirred the internal pot all over again. I still have struggles to release. Upon hearing the news, I’m influenced by the polarization among black people, police officers, Christians, Muslims, homosexuals, heterosexuals, Democrats, Republicans and on and on and on … And if tomorrow I find myself in the same scenario after using an ATM, can I say that I would react differently this time? I’m not sure. As an American, I thought that we as a people had progressed so far toward justice and equality, but have we? The examination needs to begin in my own heart.

Writing that cross-cultural paper offered me relief in the act of confession (which is essential and biblical). But I am still a sinner in need of daily grace and cleansing. I am weakest – yet potentially most harmful to my fellow human – when I think I am above temptation regarding racism. I need to be continually in the act of release, letting go of every puffed-up attitude, every prejudice, every blind eye, every root of inequity. And I cannot do this unless I open my hands in humility and implore God to replace my grip on self-righteousness with His liberating love.

Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10).

Last month, our family volunteered at an Albanian camp which served a mix of children from orphanages, desperate poverty, and relatively “normal” homes. And I was delighted that, for the most part, I could not tell who was who. In my eyes, they were all children unattached to categories.

My daughter’s summer reading assignment is The Same Kind of Different as Me, the true and powerful story of friendship between a black homeless man and a white prosperous businessman.  While I know that discrimination and ethnic tension exist in Albania, all I saw for one blessed week was the same kind of different between the Americans and the Albanians across a broad spectrum of life experiences. What made it possible? How can our family come home and live changed?

One way, I think, is that we simply need to try. At camp, Americans fumbled through broken Albanian phrases, and Albanians tried their halting English with us. And we laughed through the awkwardness. Sure, it was uncomfortable at times, but the success of camp depended upon our perseverance toward understanding. By the end of our week together, we were a team, loving and valuing one another through the differences. The same thing, I believe, can happen in my neighborhood, town, state, and country.

I feel a similar responsibility toward my black brothers and sisters to keep the conversations going. To release my pride and fumble through the awkwardness and own the discomfort and say, “I want to hear your stories and listen to your experiences because I value you and I see God’s image in you.”

Another way to live the same kind of different is simply by living differently. I like how Albanians eat food that’s freshly Mediterranean and how they greet me with two kisses on my face and how they speak to each other with gusto and animated body language.

The differences enliven me, and why would I come home to America and want us to all be the same? For a long time, I thought that “speaking life” meant that I regard a person primarily at a soul-level, meaning that I look beyond the external and into the internal. And I still believe this is important. One of my favorite Scriptures is 2 Corinthians 5:16 – “So then from now on we acknowledge no one from a worldly, an outward human point of view.” Ultimately, all souls matter.

But part of releasing my racism is embracing the externals too. As God sees colors clearly, so must I. Speaking life is ascribing value to its multi-facets which reflect color like a precious gemstone in the Light.

I’m committed to do my part, but a complete release will be the work of the Holy Spirit deep in my soul.

Lord, make me willing. Open my hands, my heart, and my eyes and make me willing. Humility is where the healing begins.

**********

Linking today with Holley Gerth. Visit her site to read hopeful words – “God Isn’t Afraid of the Dark” and discover what other writers are contributing.

Holley-Gerth-Button-250x250

Here’s a collection of really good words – convicting, inspiring, moving words. I’m grateful for these pastors and writers who are helping me to process a jumble of thoughts and to release my racism:

From Adam Mabry, What I’m Learning about Pastoring a Multi-Ethnic Church:

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-im-learning-about-pastoring-multiethnic-church

God isn’t colorblind. He sees colors quite clearly.

The picture in Revelation 7 isn’t of a grey, amorphous humanity. It’s one of persons from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation before the throne of the Lamb. God sees their color, culture, songs, and stories. He chose them from before the beginning, that his kingdom would be a multi-ethnic one.

When white pastors like me disconnect from the racial problems in our nation, we’re guilty of two errors: We affirm the negligence of those who look like us while affirming the fear of those who don’t—namely, the fear we don’t really care about them.

We’re all made in the image of God—black and white, young and old, rich and poor. We’re also all shattered and strangled by sin. But we can’t stop there. The gospel also means that peace is possible—peace with God and peace with each other.

Pastor, inflame the sanctified imagination of your congregation to hope for a world they don’t yet occupy, a world free of racial hatred and shaped by holy affection. Give them the imaginative tools to desire the kingdom of God. Don’t let them settle for the latest version of man-centered utopia pawned by politicians and prognosticators. If we can get this right in the church, then the church will showcase an inexplicably good story to the world.

From Jeff Cook, Why I’m a Racist

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-im-a-racist_us_57893b9ee4b0e7c873500382

The security guard that makes a mental note that they are there, the woman who locks her car door as they walk by, and yes, the times they get pulled over for driving while black. (No matter how much or how little you think that happens, we all know it happens.)  So you see, while I am very uncomfortable when forced to confront a terrible reality that I can generally avoid, my friends and neighbors of color are forced to confront it every day.

I have to make it my business to overcome my discomfort;  I have to be intentional about educating myself and raising my awareness so that my ignorance can diminish; and I have make it personal.

I need to let my heart break at the fact that there are people in this country who do not receive the benefit of the doubt, ever.

If ignorance is defined as lack of knowledge, education or awareness then I am most certainly ignorant of the racial inequalities that exist in our country. The beautiful thing about ignorance, though, is that it is easily remedied ― but not without willingness and intention.

From Bryan Loritts, Four Ways to Pursue Grace in a Racially Diverse Society

http://www.vergenetwork.org/2014/11/07/an-unfinished-progress-4-ways-to-pursue-grace-in-a-racially-diverse-society/

I have become entrenched in my conviction that culture is not to be ignored but subjugated to the master culture of the kingdom of God. My blackness is not to be dismissed, but submitted and subjugated to the redeeming power of the cross, and in humble participation to this new chosen race and royal priesthood called the church of Jesus Christ.

From Erik Wolgemuth, writing on Trillia Newbell’s site, Don’t Move On

http://www.trillianewbell.com/2016/07/11/dont-move-on/

I don’t need any more wake-up calls because I’m not asleep. I recognize that I’ve been in a position that allows me the choice to sleep…but no more.

I can’t pretend like my black brothers and sisters – and their children – are experiencing life in America just like I am. And where this equates to inequality and injustice, that must stop. Further, I’m done discussing the value and equality of all lives only when the news and social media chatter prompt it. When the headlines change – and they will – I refuse to move on and pretend like all is well.

I want to raise my children to see skin color that’s different than their own and praise God for his beautiful diversity in creation. I need to grow and learn, which means I acknowledge that I don’t know what it’s like to live as a black man in America. But I won’t sit back – my black brothers and sisters deserve my proactivity. To pray. To weep. To repent. To learn. To listen. To grow. To love. To speak. To remember.

From Jen Hatmaker on Facebook:

I promise to examine the darkest, most discriminatory parts of my heart, the ones tucked away from public scrutiny and in some cases, protected from even self-awareness through justification or denial, and I commit to pull those places into the light, repent for harboring and nurturing them, and do the work required to banish them from both thought and practice.

It’s all any of us can do. When the world is on fire, we look inside and see if we’ve lit a match. It is no small thing to offer our own love and grace and brotherhood and sisterhood to our communities. What would happen if we walked straight over to the one person, the one group we most fear, most reject, most disparage, most misunderstand and reach our hands out for understanding and unity? If we sat down and said, “I’m listening. Tell me your story…” I believe we would see healing in our time.

 


2 Comments

A prayer when we feel powerless

DSCN3618

The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This post is a prayer in response to the tragedy in Orlando and to words I wrote last week:

Lord Jesus, You tell us to speak on behalf of the powerless: the orphan, the widow, the outcast. We look to You, our Advocate, for the courage and conviction to go to the margins and open our arms. Jesus, You are our example and our guide when we need to speak against injustice and speak for the Imago Dei, every person created in the image of God.

But it’s increasingly and frighteningly clear that even the places where those of us in the prime of life go to learn, to worship, to gather with friends are no longer secure from just one person filled with hatred and bigotry.  God, this leaves us feeling powerless too. We need You. When we feel scattered and confused, we run to Your safe arms. Remind us that nothing happens apart from your power to redeem and rescue.

When it seems that we cannot relate in lifestyle or choice with those who have been targeted, Lord may we draw together in humanity. Forgive us for making distinctions, and give us courage and conviction to go beyond the safe lines we draw around where we feel comfortable. For all of us can relate with the experience of being human, being afraid, being needful of comfort and grace and someone to stand with us.

And in this world, sometimes we also feel powerless to do anything against the encroaching darkness. May we remember that the dark only exists in the absence of light.

Give us courage to be Your light in any way and any place where You lead us. Today that can happen in our homes, our workplaces, our grocery stores. We can shine for You in simple, small ways that will never make the news but can give someone a glimmer of hope that kindness, honor, and respect still exist in our world. For You are still here, You are still in control, and Your love always overcomes.

In You, Jesus, Love is the most powerful force in our world, and we will choose and live it to the full this day.

May Jesus Christ be praised. Amen.

I alone cannot change the world but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. (2)

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing. attributed to Edmund Burke

Untitled

Compassion

 


Leave a comment

Powerless

I wouldn’t call it “outrage,” but deep within I’m down, restless, antsy, tired. I think maybe you are too.

I visited mom today, and I struggle with this role reversal, this constant wondering if I am serving her well. Since mom fell, we hired home health care to assist with her personal needs. The quality of care, I’ve discovered, depends on the person working with her and varies greatly, as this particular agency has difficulty in finding a consistent caregiver. This morning, I was saddened and concerned with what I observed.  When I left, the word “powerless” came to my mind.

I’m not one to complain. If I order a salad without mushrooms, and it arrives with mushrooms, I will pick through my salad rather than send it back (I see this as a tendency to shrink back, something I’m not proud of).

But when competent care for a loved one is what’s not being delivered, it’s a much different matter, and I have to speak. And so, I am learning – slowly, reluctantly – to “complain,” to make the phone calls, to be that client, to give words to something that isn’t right.

Sometimes, I admit, this feels like an imposition – it cramps my style, it goes against the grain of who I am. Speaking up, for me, is uncomfortable. But today, I realized afresh that this situation isn’t about me at all. It’s about my mother, and her right to be treated with kindness and dignity. If I have to speak up, I need to remember that I am giving words for her as much as I am speaking words against someone else’s lack of care.

The ladies at the place where mom lives always say things like, “Oh, you have such a good daughter.” And I wince, because really, I can very much be that clanging gong in 1 Corinthians 13 who goes through the acts of service without the purity of love in my heart. And every day, I must ask Jesus to make my heart a receptacle into which He pours His love. I am a needful soul who deeply wants to get over herself and learn what it looks like to reflect the One who was our advocate when we were powerless.

For at just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6

And I am not alone. Especially today, I see it in us, a common and visceral reaction when people are stripped of dignity and are left to wonder if they have any worth, in the eyes of a society that is most interested in applauding and preserving the attractive, self-reliant, young, and strong. I see this very evidently as I scroll through my Facebook feed. You are using your voice to speak against a despicable crime against an incapacitated (at the time, powerless) woman and against the lack of accountability toward the perpetrator. And you should be. I join you in this.

Please, please understand that I am in no way comparing my mother’s situation to a sexual assault. My mother is not a victim of a crime.

But I am sad when I observe, in many ways and degrees, how the world sees human worth in conjunction with externals. Those who are capable of contributing to society enjoy an elevated degree of status, according to the world’s standards, while the weaker members are marginalized.

When this attitude seemingly crosses into the courts, where fairness and justice are expected to be upheld, we are rightfully angry.

From the incarnation to the Cross, Jesus identified with the vulnerable. The outcasts are the very people that Jesus, Himself a refugee child, sought out when He walked on earth and ushered in an upside-down Kingdom.

Like Jesus, we must resist the cultural way of preferring the powerful and pushing aside the powerless. Only the Gospel of Christ rightly defines human dignity. Our natural attraction to power is reframed at the Cross where Christ submitted Himself to weakness and death so that we may be reconciled to Him and our brothers and sisters as well.

And we must speak up. I want to be part of the response to the inequities. Like you, I want to speak against a cultural perspective that places people along a spectrum of power and worth.

Not everyone is powerless but it’s obvious in our society than some have less power than others. What would our world be like if this were not so?

Perhaps it would look like neighbor being for neighbor, regardless of zip-code or ethnicity. Men treating women like vessels of honor instead of pawns for pleasure. Women building each other up rather than backstabbing. Elderly persons participating in community rather than being cast to the margins. Refugees receiving welcome. A child who feels safe in a home.

Yes, sometimes we must speak against, but let us actively look for ways to speak for.  This doesn’t have to involve words at all. Sometimes it looks like listening. Sometimes it means looking away from a phone to meet one another eye to eye.

But may we remember that our tongues possess power, like a ship’s tiny rudder. Let us not give in to the lie of insignificance, for simple, heartfelt words or actions can steer a fellow traveler in the path of hope where she is no less than fully valued by Jesus, the all-powerful Lord of all.

Compassion


Leave a comment

A grateful prayer for teachers

 

Untitled design (23)

God, we thank You for the seed planters, those who hold kernels of knowledge with open hands and release them to the soil of the future.

Dedication spurs them to greet each early morning and prepare the ground for growth. The seed planters approach the learning fields, not knowing if the soil will be dusty and unyielding that day, or tender and willing. But faithfully they plant and wait for harvest. You supply vision and strength to press on, and we reap the benefits of their perseverance.

lightstock_69274_xsmall_user_6617753

The seeds are unique, and equally important. Some carry the fundamentals of letters or numbers or respect for authority or the discipline of waiting one’s turn. Other seeds bear the blueprints of equations or critical thinking or elements of composition.

Heavenly Creator, You are the source of all intricacies, patterns, origins and foundations of life. We thank You for the planters who bear Your image as they delight in design, pursue creativity, and inspire discovery.

Untitled design (23)

Every seed develops slowly, first downward before upward. We thank You for the planters who understand the importance of deep roots. We are grateful for the planters who understand that knowledge without character is a lacking goal. As they wait and as they invest in success beyond externals, we ask You, God, to supply wisdom, perspective, and patience.

20160405_152328

Some seeds will sprout for a time, until they are tested, and the soil will let them wither away. But other seeds will slowly reach down and then branch out – one word, one lesson at a time – until a life purpose rises from the soil and unfolds.

Untitled design (14)

We release our culturally-imposed pressures and we trust that growth progresses in Your time and in Your way. May the planters trust You with the fruits of their labors. And may the fruit-bearers hold kernels of knowledge with open hands and release them to the soil of the future.

Let us join You in speaking hope and purpose into the seed planters. The offering of the seed is difficult and sacred work. Let us, the parents and fellow investors and co-laborers, offer life-giving water, to sustain and refresh both the sowers and the soil. Into our fields – our children and our communities – spur us to cultivate Christ-like love and honor and respect.

A Prayer for My Mother on her 80th

With grateful hearts, we thank You, God, for the teachers, the seed planters. Their every effort matters as an act of hope, an investment into a field that we may never see with earth-bound eyes. Yet, we trust and rejoice in the future harvest – for every seed, every enduring act of hope, every eternal harvest finds its source and sustenance in You.

May Jesus Christ be praised. Amen.

Untitled design (21)

a grateful prayer for teachers (2)

 


6 Comments

Nothing to do with algebraic formulas (or what I learned in May)

Every May, students demonstrate what they’ve learned over the course of their classes. Our daughter just completed middle school with final exams, projects, and papers. And although I wouldn’t call it a “test,” May has been a time to examine what I’ve learned too (let’s just say that, unlike my daughter, it has absolutely nothing to do with algebraic formulas).

As I wrote in my what-I-learned-in-April post, spring is usually my favorite season of the year, but it’s been far from usual – meaning down in my soul. And May has been even more difficult.

But thanks to Emily (who asks us to share what we learn each month) and Candace Payne (aka Chewbacca lady), I’m learning to look for light-hearted, simple pleasures that might seem quite ordinary but which hold the potential to infuse gratitude, laughter, creativity, and beauty into daily life.

As Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” So here are a few random, creative, and soul-good things – with a couple of more serious reflections mixed in – that I’ve learned in May …

1 – Brian Hull is an amazing talent. Love, love this! I can’t decide which Disney/Pixar character in this version of Hello is my favorite. Watch and let me know which one you like the best …

2 – From the Disney Style website, you can download printable templates to decorate graduation caps (on the top of the mortar board). The designs feature The Incredibles, UP, The Lion King, and Tangled. Since the templates were introduced, creative grads from the class of 2016 have been sending in their own designs, including caps inspired by Peter Pan and Finding Nemo. You can see them {here.}

I’m thinking a Star Wars inspired cap would be far, far away the coolest.

GraduationHatsAll-728x485

3 – There are 915,103,765 ways to combine a mere six, eight-stud LEGO bricks. What? This cannot be right. I simply can’t wrap my wee brain around this fact, but I read it on a visit to a Lego-inspired sculpture garden. I googled to confirm, and sure enough, a professor from the University of Copenhagen took 21 days to come up with all the formations. He estimates that it would take hundreds of years to determine all the combinations using nine or ten bricks.

So if you need an inexpensive idea to occupy your kids this summer, there you go.

4 – Brookgreen Gardens, where the Lego sculptures are on display, is a beautiful place to visit, if you’re ever in the Myrtle Beach, SC area. The hydrangea gardens are in full bloom in May. We met some barn animals too, including my favorite – a bashful little lamb.

IMG_20160531_115633340_TOP

IMG_20160531_120629114_HDR

IMG_20160531_103840080

IMG_20160531_103850143

IMG_20160531_104935276

IMG_20160531_125612308

5 – A new study finds that engaging in the arts actively (writing, painting, cooking, singing) or receptively (listening to music, visiting a museum) for 2 hours per week improves overall mental health. I believe that the creator God wired us, in His image, with creative natures that find deep joy in reflecting and enjoying the processes of making things new.

There is always something to be thankful for. (2)

 

6 – March 17, 2017 is.the.day. My daughter and I have many feelings about the release of Disney’s live action version of Beauty and the Beast.  The dark and mysterious trailer is minimally perfect.  Out of darkness Lumiere asks, “What if she’s the one?” All the chills.

 

7 – “Appointment” is a part of disappointment. Faced with a circumstance that turned the opposite of what I had hoped, my initial reaction was to feel bitter and sorry for myself. But this time, gently – because He speaks truth with love – the Holy Spirit showed me that this response, an unwillingness to open my eyes and hands to His sovereignty in every delay and unmet desire, clenches my soul into a fist. But when I turn to Jesus with weary but open hands and confess, “I need you,” He appoints peace. He supplies patience.

This is not a one-time doing. It’s my daily choice to release what I thought was better and trust in God’s best.

When I’m disappointed by another person, an open-handed response says that I trust Jesus as unchanging, sufficient, and steadfast. When I’m disappointed by unfulfilled expectations, an open-handed response says that I trust that God supplies everything I truly need. When I’m disappointed in myself, an open-handed response says that I trust that I am no higher judge than Jesus who never condemns. And when I’m disappointed in God, an open-handed response acknowledges that He is God and I am not. Each of these disappointments hold in them an appointment through which I may grow in grace, if I will choose that response.

8 –

Simple-Sugar-Scrub-Recipe-

wellnessmama.com

For Mother’s Day, my daughter made me a sugar scrub with coconut oil, sugar, and vanilla extract. I enjoy and highly recommend it. But if you use such a scrub in the shower, be aware that it makes the floor quite slippery. I may or may not have learned this the hard way.

9 –

Our brokenness is a better bridgefor people (2)

I had lunch for the first time with an acquaintance that I’ve known for a while. Through tears, she revealed painful secrets that I would have never suspected. As my heart ached for her, she said, “I feel funny telling you these things because you seem to have it all together.”

This stung. I’m not a person who has it all together and I don’t want to be. But I confess that I wrestle with the temptation to turn what I share on social media into a selective, filtered highlight reel. To know and be known without editing is scary. My daily life is one of hard and honest questions, weaknesses, frustrations, and sin. I don’t believe it’s always necessary to showcase these struggles on media outlets either, but somewhere there’s a delicate, discerning balance in what we reveal to the public eye.

Our time together was a reminder to reconnect with real life, face-to-face relationships. Through the rest of lunch, we had a deep-friend-level conversation about pain, community, and healing. I told my friend that I was more like her than she may have ever realized.

Sheila Walsh says, “My brokenness is a better bridge for people than my pretend wholeness ever was.” We need to build better bridges for one another. I recently wrote a post that made me queasy and twitchy with its vulnerability. I second-guessed it a hundred times, but it became by far my most-read post, and to be honest I’m not sure how I feel about that, other than raw.

But I’m learning that pretending that we have it all together prevents us from coming together.

Together, we need Jesus and we need to see how He chooses to heal our brokenness or He chooses to use it to draw us, and a needful world, to Him.

May, you have taught me well. Somewhere deep inside, there’s a Chewbacca lady who wants to laugh out loud and linger with your lessons (no mask required).

*****************************

I’m joining the “Let’s Share What We Learned in May” discussion at Emily’s site {emilypfreeman.com} today …


12 Comments

Dear younger me (the anorexia years)

I recently heard Dear Younger Me, a new song by Mercy Me and I wondered – if I wrote a letter to my younger self, what would I say and what time of life would I choose? Middle school? High school? College? Those were certainly significant seasons when I made decisions that have shaped who I am today. But undoubtedly I would write to the person I was in the most heart-wrenching and pivotal time of my life – in my mid-twenties when I struggled for 5+ years against anorexia. Many years later, here is what I would say to that young woman –

image

image

Dear younger me,

This is not the end. Night is darkest just before the morning. I’m writing to tell you that there is hope. I know it’s hard to believe now, but you need to know that healing and joy await you. But freedom will come at a cost, and I am years down the road to tell you that your life is worth it.

You are not your eating disorder. I know you feel utterly consumed by shame and fear. You think that little exists of your life other than your obsession with controlling your weight and your calories. You feel, not only in body but also in mind and in soul, a sliver of the person you used to be. But you are still you – lover of all things Disney, gardener, sports fan, bookworm, wife, daughter, sister, friend.

Let me tell you who you are most importantly. You are a beautiful daughter of God, and He has not turned from you. He created you according to His pleasure and His purpose, and that hasn’t changed (Ephesians 1 and 2). You still make Him smile. He still sings songs of love over you (Zephaniah 3:17).

God’s plans for you remain full of promise (Jeremiah 29:11). Your mistakes won’t negate His love for you (Romans 8:38-39; Psalm 103:12). One pound more or one pound less cannot change one ounce of His delight for you. The way you idolize control breaks His heart but it doesn’t break His unfailing acceptance.

You are redeemed and glorious because you bear God’s image, and He sees beyond your destructive behavior into the heart that He fights for.

Do you think that God would uniquely and purposefully create you, provide a way for your eternal peace through the anguish of the Cross, and then weigh you down with the burden of proving your worth? No, He is waiting for you to come to Him and receive the rest of knowing that Jesus is enough.

Younger me, you can overcome. You have not received a spirit that makes you a slave to fear but you have received the Spirit of a child of God (2 Timothy 1:7, Romans 8:15). You believe in the Resurrection. Did you know that the same power lives in you? Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). Because I’ve known you for awhile, I can say that you aren’t brave except for the power that Jesus gives you. And He will give.

Desperately cling to His strength for one decision at a time. Your grip on control is just an illusion, but the older me can tell you that Jesus is victorious, and He will break the chains that have held you captive.  In Christ, the old will pass away and the new will come! (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Jesus gave His all to pluck you from the hands of destruction. As you claim Christ, you are not your own; you were bought with a precious price (1 Corinthians 6:19 – 20). Jesus promises neither an easy life nor a culturally prosperous life but He promises that you will find your deepest, most liberating satisfaction in trusting Him (John 10:10). This means that you must open your hands. You must let go. Your freedom will become reality as you yield to the Lord.

To be accepted and to be approved, you have tried too hard for too long. When you say yes to surrender, you will be okay. Jesus will gently guide you to trust your counselors and your nutritionist. I know some people say that you should just pray more, but you really do need your helpers. They are a part of God’s provision for your healing. And at the point of every eating decision, Jesus will make you brave. You may be embarrassed to attend a support group but God will place compassionate people in your path who believe there is a healthy and whole woman inside of you, and they will rejoice as she emerges. Every time you loosen your grip, remember that she is worth it.

Let me tell you why healing is worth every painful choice. The Author of your story has much more to write. He longs to weave redemption into every page. Younger me, Psalm 107 will become for you a word of testimony:

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so … Some wandered in desert wastelands; they were hungry and thirsty and their lives ebbed away.

They cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for His love and for His miracles. He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry.

Some sat in gloom and darkness; they were prisoners suffering in chains … they refused to eat anything and drew near the gates of death.

In their misery they cried out to God. He sent forth His word and healed them. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His love and for His miracles.

Let them tell of His works with songs of joy.

Younger me, your people are going to stay. They are God’s gracious gift to you. Your husband will love you persistently. God has made him brave too. One day, together, you will marvel at what God has done (Psalm 126:3). Your marriage will be sweeter and stronger and more precious that you have ever imagined.

Your mama and daddy will have full hearts once again. One day, sooner than you might expect, they will need you, and you will be there. Jesus will make it so.

Some friends will fall away because watching you go through this is too awkward and painful. But I think you already know who the steadfast friends will be. Ahead there will be lighthearted times when you laugh freely with them again.

Although you think that you’ve damaged your body to that point that pregnancy is impossible, God is able (Ephesians 3:20). One day, this deep desire of your heart will be met in one whose name means “song of joy.”

God has plans for His glory through your healing. You will share your recovery story in magazines, with high school students, and through something called the internet.

Younger me, you will come to the place where you finally forgive yourself. Yes, you’ve lost your career; you’ve been ridiculed and rejected by people who said hurtful things. But one day you will know that God wastes nothing. Somehow, in His plan, He turns ashes into beauty (Isaiah 61:3). You will experience a deeper compassion for yourself and for people battling addictions and shame.  One day you will seek out hurting women and lead support groups; it will not be comfortable, but God will make you comfort-able (2 Corinthians 1:4).

And finally, one day, freedom will taste so good. You will receive gifts, even the ones with calories, with deep joy and gratitude. Your legs will run, without compulsion, but with an appreciation for the ability to exercise a healthy body. You’ll travel across the world to countries where you’ll eat bizarre foods and thrive in the crazy, once unimaginable, adventure of it all. You will embrace celebration and creativity through food as its power over you is submitted daily to the Cross. And as your loved ones gather around the table, it will no longer be a place of angst and concern. You will join them in communion, in thanksgiving, in the fullness of gladness and life.

Girl, you have a lot of life ahead of you. Go and live free. I can’t wait to meet you here.

To God be the glory,

~ Renee, your older me

20150912_144842-1

10431220_10201933580406046_769390736516579888_o

IMG_20151224_112722422

image

image

**********

Such good words of hope from Holley Gerth:

You are living a story today. A story crafted and told by the Author of heaven. The star-scatterer. The mountain-mover. The water-walker. It is a story of grace. A story of hope. A story of, most of all, love.

Sometimes the plot is confusing. Or strange. Or sad. Sometimes we want to cut a chapter out with sharp scissors. Sometimes we want to be the editors with the red ink. Sometimes we want to skip right to the end just to make sure it says “and they lived happily ever after.”

But this is not our role. It is not for us to say, “This is what happens next” or “I’m changing the ending.” Instead we are to trust, to wait, to be in the middle of the mystery. There is so much we do not know, that we will not know, but we can be certain of this: the Author is good and we are loved … there is a God at work who has always been speaking, always been creating something beautiful in the middle of the broken.

I’m one of many writers who are joining Holley’s link-up today. Together, we are grateful that Jesus holds the pen.

Holley-Gerth-Button-250x250


5 Comments

Moving from Less-Than to Lovely

It’s ten degrees above average where I am in North Carolina today – which isn’t a big deal, considering that spring has been beautiful here, and we’ve been spared the kind of weather that’s been disastrous in other parts of the country. But April, which is usually my favorite month of the year, has been far from typical where I live – meaning down in my soul.

From my car, I watch as my daughter struggles up the school steps, bent over with a book-bag stuffed with year-end projects on her back. In her, I see myself, burdened by a load of cares and my same-old shortcomings. Somewhat ironically, the places where I feel lacking are the places which pile on my insecurity and disappointment.

I’m writing this post to join Emily’s discussion, Let’s Share What We Learned in April. But I think, at the month’s end, I know less than I did before. And oftentimes I feel less-than-Christian for the ways I struggle.

For everything I don’t know, however, I still know this – Jesus is mine and I am His. On days like these April days, I remind myself that where I am less-than, He is more-than. I have little else to claim but His complete acceptance of me.

Perhaps I’ve learned a few other things from April. It makes sense to expect that being generally weary and downcast would decrease one’s capacity to see things clearly. On the contrary, this season of struggle has sharpened my ability to notice and appreciate, to listen and observe. I like how Annie Downs expresses this dynamic:

My ability to feel the depths of something good was strengthened by my choice to feel the depths of pain. I don’t know exactly how this works. I just know the more I hang on and feel, the more I am able to feel; and each time more balm gets rubbed into the wounds of my soul …Looking for lovely is not about pretending everything is beautiful and nothing is ugly and you have no questions or doubts and picking out the beautiful in your everyday is going to protect you from anything hurting ever …. there is beauty in choosing to feel that pain, in calling hurt what it is, and not pretending everything is okay (Looking for Lovely, pages 75 – 76).

20160405_152328

In the past 2 weeks, I’ve been looking-for-lovely and I’ve filled my phone, and even my “real” camera, with photos as spring unfolds herself. It’s humbling to see that I don’t have it all together but even more humbling to grasp that the Creator does. The word “humility,” after all, comes from the root humus, meaning “earth.” Pausing to appreciate His hand in this loveliness gives me perspective.

Look at the birds in the air. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, but your heavenly Father feeds them. And you know that you are worth much more than the birds.  You cannot add any time to your life by worrying about it. Matthew 6: 26 – 27

The spirit of humility which God desires for us is never accusatory, like the less-than thoughts I struggle with. It’s being absorbed with His majesty and mercy. Every “less” in my life is swallowed up in unstoppable, lovely (saturated-with-love) grace.

DSCF1197

As I find solace in the works of God’s hands, I’m learning how restoring it is to set my own hands to creativity.  Every day we go about our lives maintaining things – our possessions, our bodies, our jobs. All this maintenance is necessary; it’s a fulfilling of God’s commandment to steward the earth. But creativity can be spiritual practice as well, a reflection of God who makes things new. When we cook a fresh meal or move furniture around to find a new look or write words or bake cookies or put a plant in the ground or play a few chords, the process can be inspiring and lovely and freeing in itself (no matter what the product looks like).

Unlike God, of course, the outcomes of my creativity are often imperfect or incomplete. It may look “less-than” to me, but every effort makes me intentional, unique, and more alive as an image-bearer of the Creator.

Perhaps I am moving from a “less-than” state of mind toward a recognition of the loveliness within, because of Jesus.

As I learn to regard myself humbly and kindly and patiently, I soak in these wise words from Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

By cultivating a spirit that is more inclined toward delight and less toward duty, I’m treating others more kindly as well. By releasing demands on myself and my people, I let go of those measuring sticks that would keep us living less-than freely, authentically, and abundantly in Christ. The love of our Redeemer is more than we could ever ask or imagine.

I’m ready. Are you? Let’s come alive together.

20160406_155344

20160405_152638

There is a correlation, I’m finding, between beauty and perseverance. It feels like beauty might be knots in the rope you are climbing, gas stations along the cross-country journey, the water stations set up strategically on a racecourse. Beauty is what makes it possible to keep going … I needed to find beautiful if I was going to hang in there. I have spent significant time over the last few years looking for lovely because I do love beautiful things. But mostly because I just don’t want to quit anymore (Annie Downs, Looking for Lovely, page 50).

20160331_152208

Even as we accept our own frailty, help us not to despise ourselves for it. Instead, may our weakness be a reminder of your strength within us. Embolden us to speak even if we misspeak. Enliven us to move even if we fall down. Encourage us to embrace even if we get hurt … As we face those places in our souls that are frozen, may the hard spots begin to thaw in the presence of Christ. May we not try to mop up the water that comes from the melting but offer it somehow to quench the thirst of someone else (Emily P. Freeman, a prayer in Simply Tuesday, pages 199- 200.)

I’m joining the “Let’s Share What We Learned in April” discussion at Emily’s site today.

DSCF1214

20160329_111106

20160405_142752-1

20160406_154913

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 141 other followers