Be YOU: Wisdom from an 8 Year Old

BE YOU

I was tired, hot and hangry*.

It was Friday afternoon and we were closing up shop after our Rummage Sale’s second full day of operation. This is our youth group’s largest and most profitable fundraiser of the year and it takes hours upon hours of work to prepare for the event. We’d spent weeks sorting clothes, moving and setting up tables, hanging clothing racks and pricing items and we were all looking forward to it being over.

During the Rummage Sale, the temperatures in our area hit tropical level hotness when only weeks earlier (on Easter morning) snow covered the ground.  Between the heat, the crazy breed of 7AM rummage sale shoppers and the longs hours I was exhausted. All I wanted was a cold shower, a big ole burger and my comfy bed.

That afternoon as I locked up the bay doors to the garage, my best friend’s 8 year old daughter came up to me and with her green eyes wide with excitement asks, “Can I show you something I made for you?”

I growled a “sure” as I continued working. She unrolled a piece of paper and lifted it up near my face in order to get my attention.

BE YOU

I read it out loud back to Grace, “Be You?”

“Yup.” She smiled and skipped away.

“I’ve been struggling to be me since I was her age,” I thought to myself. Now at 31, I still question whether I’m my true self or just some fraud. My eyes constantly noticing the things in others that I seem to lack. From the completely shallow (like the length of my hair or size of my waist) to more weightier topics (like my long list of insecurities).

This has been my constant inward grappling all these years– wanting to fully accept myself with all my dents and bruises while allowing myself to be imperfect. I’d like to be gracious with myself and my short comings and stop badgering my soul. I’ll be the first one to tell you I’m not there yet. I’m still learning to be kind to myself in the process knowing there will be moments that I forget its ok to be ME.

It’s obvious I’m no master at all of this, but I want you to know you don’t have to conform to some kind of mold. You have complete freedom to be you– to be fully you. Whatever that looks like. Silly. Witty. Sassy. Quiet. Inquisitive.

If I’ve learned anything from Grace’s note, its that maybe I should love me as much as others do. They don’t love me because I’m like someone else, but they love me because I’m me. And if others can love me for me….maybe I can love me for me too.

*hangry= Hungry + Angry

To Those Who Want To Be A Mom

To Those Who Want To Be A Mom

To those who want to be a mom:

Me too.

As a little girl, I would day dream about what it would be like to have a family of my own. Each night in bed, I’d pray and ask God for that family with a desperate urging. Many times I’d fall asleep as tears trickled down my cheek. The whispered pleas silenced momentarily.

Much of my childhood was a war zone. Survival was the goal. There was no coddling or even gentleness, but a harshness in the atmosphere. I remembering being told I was loved, but it was hard to reconcile the contradictory actions with the words. In my heart, I knew love looked different than what I was being shown. A love that didn’t include fear or manipulation.

Even in my own lack, I knew that one day I wanted to be the mom that I had desired. I’d be the mom who chose kind words instead of ones laced with poison. I’d be the mom who put the needs of others before my own. I’d protect my children from harm instead of exposing them to it.

I needed a mom. Not in name, but in deed.

Then, at the moment I thought I couldn’t handle one more wound, I experienced a beautiful miracle. I was rescued. God gave me a new home and a new family. It was as if my life had turned from night to day. The dark cloak of fear had been lifted and I felt relief.

It was in that shelter, that I experienced motherly love like I hadn’t experienced before. There was someone looking out for me–from my physical well-being to my spiritual growth. I knew there’d always be someone waiting for me when I got home because she couldn’t sleep until she knew her daughter was home safe.

Being exposed to this depth of love only increased my longing to be a mother someday.

Since then I’ve made it a point to serve the needs of children including running after-school programs, counseling at camps, teaching Sunday school and being the best (and most sassy) aunt in the world. I snuggle babies (and change poopy diapers). I’ll listen intently as Mine Craft is explained to me for the hundredth time. I’m the queen of dress up. I’m a sidewalk chalk artist. And I can swing higher than you (although now it makes me dizzy).

All of that stuff is super fun and extremely fulfilling. I’ll continue doing all of those things as long as I’m alive, but being and doing all of those things does not take away my hearts desire for a child of my own. To be woken up in the middle of the night. To hear the words, “Hi, Mom!” To apply band-aids and kisses to boo-boos. Or to receive handmade cards for Mother’s Day.

I tell you all this so you know that I can relate to your grief. Whether you are childless because of singleness, because of loss or because of infertility my heart is truly full of love for you. I know that doesn’t change things and the desires are still gnawing at your heart. There will still be tears and moments where you look at other people’s children and think, “Why can’t I be a mom?” I know how hard it can be to see another friend posting baby bump pictures and wonder if that will ever be you. I know how frustrating it can be when others complain about sleepless nights when you’d trade a full nights sleep for a baby any day.

I see your pain.

You have not been forgotten or overlooked. For you, the one who longs to be a mom, I grieve with you. I cry with you. I pray with you. And for those with the sought after title of “Mom”, I celebrate with you. You’ve been given a most wonderful treasure.

Why We Suffer

Why We Suffer

We live in a world that pursues pleasure. We are looking to “get rich quick”, “lose 10 pounds by Friday” and “live our best lives now”. We want to do what feels good and makes us happy and we want to do it NOW. Anything that hurts or is difficult is avoided at all costs. If there is time or commitment or cost involved we shy away thinking there has to be an easier way. This is nothing new. It’s been happening since the very beginning.

I think that’s been part of my struggle in the harder seasons. Don’t I deserve to be happy? Why can’t things be easy for once? I question and I cry and I wonder where I’ve gone wrong or why God is punishing me.

Woe is me!

I’m getting dramatic, but that’s how I feel in the midst of it all. It hurts. It’s uncomfortable. And I don’t like it. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever *like* it. In this difficulty though I believe I’ve found some clarity on why we suffer. It isn’t because God hates us and wants us to hurt. It isn’t because we are screwing up (although that can be the case). It’s because He loves us.

What?!?! I know what you’re thinking. That’s crazy talk. I must have lost my mind. No, I’m not doing drugs and I haven’t been drinking (I know you asked yourself that).

God knows that suffering has the opportunity to produce something good in our lives and because He loves us and wants the best for us He let’s us walk through it. What good could it possibly produce? I’m glad you asked!

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

It produces endurance and character and HOPE. And I need hope.

In the midst of the pain it’s hard to remember that something good can come from all of this. Recently, a friend shared with me this expert from the Streams in the Desert devotional and it was a powerful reminder to me that this process is necessary and the results are beautiful.

“Several years ago there was found in an African mine the most magnificent diamond in the world’s history. It was presented to the King of England to blaze in his crown of state. The King sent it to Amsterdam to be cut. It was put into the hands of an expert lapidary. And what do you suppose he did with it?

He took the gem of priceless value, and cut a notch in it. Then he struck it a hard blow with his instrument, and lo! the superb jewel lay in his hand cleft in twain. What recklessness! What wastefulness! What criminal carelessness!

Not so. For days and weeks that blow had been studied and planned. Drawings and models had been made of the gem. Its quality, its defects, its lines of cleavage had all been studied with minutest care. The man to whom it was committed was one of the most skillful lapidaries in the world.

Do you say that blow was a mistake? Nay. It was the climax of the lapidary’s skill. When he struck that blow, he did the one thing which would bring that gem to its most perfect shapeliness, radiance, and jewelled splendor. That blow which seemed to ruin the superb precious stone was, in fact, its perfect redemption. For, from those two halves were wrought the two magnificent gems which the skilled eye of the lapidary saw hidden in the rough, uncut stone as it came from the mine.

So, sometimes, God lets a stinging blow fall upon your life. The blood spurts. The nerves wince. The soul cries out in agony. The blow seems to you an apalling mistake. But it is not, for you are the most priceless jewel in the world to God. And He is the most skilled lapidary in the universe.

Some day you are to blaze in the diadem of the King. As you lie in His hand now He knows just how to deal with you. Not a blow will be permitted to fall upon your shrinking soul but that the love of God permits it, and works out from its depths, blessing and spiritual enrichment unseen, and unthought of by you.” (Streams in the Desert, J.H. McC.)

I believe and trust that God is taking all of these moments– the moments filled with tears and questioning and pain– and using it to do a deep work inside of me. The answer to why we suffer isn’t easy. It’s not easy to hear that suffering is for our benefit, but we can be confident that it will produce an unfathomable strength and beauty in us.

As always, if you are in need of encouragement or prayer please let me know by leaving a comment below. It would be my honor to do that for you! You aren’t alone.

His Glory: Hope for the Hurting

WORLD NEWS

The world is a place full of people who are suffering. All you need to do is listen to the radio or scroll through your Facebook newsfeed to hear about another tragedy. There’s famine, disease, terrorism, even acts of nature ripping through cities, regions and nations. Destroying families. Hurting individuals.

We (you, me, us) all go through seasons of suffering. Seasons. Plural. For some people it may feel as though you get through one and walk right into another.

We all experience it from time to time. It can include portions of our childhood. Or those painful high school years. Maybe it was after the death of a loved one. Or during the sickness of a friend. Maybe you couldn’t even pin point why things hurt so bad– all you knew is that you hurt.

You aren’t alone. That’s one of the most important truths when going through suffering. There are other people out there who feel or have felt like you do right now. We can fall into this trap that tells us no one understands, but that’s a lie. A lie to keep us alone. Even more than that though there are people out there who are for you. They care about you. They may not have been through the same exact circumstances you are walking through, but they can understand pain. They also know how to pray….and make brownies. Both of which I’ve found are helpful and necessary.

In the midst of pain it’s important to keep people around us. We’ll want to isolate and keep to ourselves. We tell ourselves its to shield others from our misery, but honestly we just want to be left alone to pout. That’s what I’ve done at least. I’ve stopped replying to text messages, stopped answering phone calls and hidden away in my room for days at a time to sulk. Those were dark times, times I could have/should have chosen to cling to community instead.

God placed us in community for a reason. We need each other when it feels like the world is closing in. We need people to speak truth to our hearts and our souls because we’ve somehow lost the words. Pain will try and silence you, but your community will be your voice.

In this most recent season I’ve had a bit of a revelation of my suffering and it’s this:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18, ESV)

There is a glory that will outshine all of this suffering. Our suffering won’t even be a distant memory, but will vanish in comparison. That’s where I’m choosing to fix my attention. Because He deserves my attention. He deserves my affection…even when I’m hurting. And when I choose to look at Him, instead of my pain, I’m reminded of all that.

I know what it feels like when I focus on my pain. It doesn’t ease the hurt, but magnifies it. It becomes the only thing I think about consuming all of my thoughts. That type of thinking sends us down a very dark pit. A pit full of despair and hopelessness.

Does it take away our current heartache? No. Will there still be suffering? Yes. I’m not wanting to belittle the pain. The pain is real. It does hurt. But there’s more for us. Something better in the midst of this or despite it all. It is the hope of His glory. (Col. 1:27)

If you need some encouragement or some words of Truth spoken to your heart, please comment and let me know. I know what it’s like to need words…and for those words to come from others. It’d be my honor and my joy to do that…and to remind you that you are not alone. 

Praying for Blue Skies

Praying for Blue Skies

I’ve been doing a lot of praying for blue skies.

Winter seems to be lingering in Upstate New York. The air has a bitter bite to it’s blow and the grey clouds mask the sun entirely. Everyone is sick of the dreariness, myself included. I’m counting down the days to a fresh pedicure and flip flop season.

The blue skies I’m praying for aren’t merely physical. 

It’s been hard to get out of bed lately. The snooze button has become my morning companion and my mental math has greatly improved. I can barely form comprehensible sentences in the morning (ask any of my previous roommates), but I can add 9-minutes to the current time in a jiffy. And I’m not just talking about hitting the snooze once or twice, but for an hour. AN HOUR.

The lack of motivation goes far beyond just getting out of bed. It has bled into every (if not all) areas of my life. Including writing. Every time I sit down to write I feel like I’ve gone dry….as if the last article I wrote would be the last article I’d ever write. It’s been as if there’s just nothing left to say. Maybe I’m not really a writer, but I’ve been living on some borrowed grace.

So, it’s had me wondering, “Can someone go through a mid-life crisis at 31?”

I was sitting at my desk typing late one night, when I looked down at my hands and noticed a spot that I had never seen before. It could have been the poor lighting, or the fact that my eyes were tired (isn’t that an old person excuse?!), but I could definitely see a spot. An age spot. I had already been noticing some grey strands trying to hide between my blonde locks. In an attempt to hide them, I decided to make a slight change in where my hair parted. No one else can see them, but I can hear them laughing maniacally and calling out, “I’ll get you my pretty!” like the Wicked Witch of the West.

At a recent family dinner, I was struck by how mature my 14-year old niece was looking. She was wearing long dangly earrings and there was a faint shimmer on her cheeks. Make-up was once used for dress-up and now she’s using it for real. Like for real. What happened to her holding me hostage on the couch to read…and then re-read…every Berenstain Bear book she owned?

Then, talking to my mom that same night, I remembered this year marks 10 years since I graduated from college. That might have been the final straw.

From my lack of motivation to the intense sadness at realizing I’m getting older to feeling like I’m always going to be in this rut– all I’m seeing right now is cloudy skies. I’ve been praying and crying and praying some more begging God for some relief. While running some errands this week, I started praying again. As I drove, there were grey clouds ahead of me and grey clouds in my rear view mirror. I was surrounded.

Passing an airport, I noticed an airplane taking off and I began remembering the different times I had flown. Each time, the same thing happened. Eventually, we’d get above the clouds and above the clouds there was sunshine. Glorious sunshine. On the ground, the clouds may have shielded the sun from me, but once above them there was nothing hindering my sight.

Here below, it may look like there’s no sun at all. Miles in every direction you may see nothing, but clouds, but I can assure you there is still a sun. It shines big and bright and warm. It’s everything you remember it to be and more.

Just keep climbing. Don’t level off at a lower altitude before you’ve broken through the clouds.

I know things are hard right now, but this is all temporary. Your current struggles are your future victories, but (as much as you want to) you can’t give up. You’ve got to hold on to Hope as a lifeline– constantly pointing your face towards the sky for the moment that the break in the clouds finally comes.

But for now, as we stare at the clouds, this is my prayer for you and me (taken from Numbers 6:24-26): The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Love: A Costly Gift

Love- A Costly Gift

There once was a woman who was known around town as “the sinner”. I imagine that means she was a whore. Giving herself to any man in exchange for a buck or two. There were times, I wonder, if she wanted to do something else but didn’t because she’d been doing it for too long. It could be that over time she got comfortable with her title. Wore it like a badge of honor.

Sinner.

“That’s what I’ll always be.”

But then Jesus comes along. We aren’t told how the woman knows Jesus, but it’s clear she had been greatly impacted by Him. So much so, that when she heard Jesus was at Simon the Pharisees house (also a badge worn with honor) she went to Him. She was unhindered by social cues or even common courtesies, but had an undaunted desire to give lavishly to Him.

What does a sinner have to offer Jesus anyway?

First, she offered Him her tears. Those tears held the shame from all those years and all those mistakes. Tears that she had held in for so long in order to not feel were now falling freely in order to wash His feet. As they fell, they seemed to purify her as well. The toxins of her past no longer bottled up inside. In those tears was hope and joy because that is what she found in Jesus.

Her hair she used as a towel to dry His feet. This detail alone would have enraged those in attendance. Women were not allowed to have their hair down in front of anyone but their own husbands. Somehow in that moment she was not concerned about anyone’s eyes, but only those of Jesus. Her thoughts were focused on Him alone.

And as she thought about Him she kissed His feet. Those beautiful feet which brought such good news to her weary soul. How could she not kiss them?

Then, she took her jar of precious ointment and broke it. Not one drop of the contents would be saved, but all of it poured out on Jesus’ feet. The woman had taken her most costly possession and in an act of extreme adoration gave it up in worship to Jesus.

Amazing how when beautiful things are broken they can bring a sweet smelling fragrance of adoration and love.

As the woman showered Jesus with love, Simon thought to himself, “Hmphh, but she’s a sinner. Come on Jesus, you should know that.” He kept his disgust to himself as he watched her unapologetically love Jesus. Disgusted at the woman’s indecent behavior and Jesus for allowing it.

Poor, stupid Simon got caught up in his critical and judgmental thinking. Quickly pointing at someone else’s sins while forgetting he had his own.

But at least I’m not her.

Stings a bit to hear. To hear how similar Simon can sound and to know that I’m often swept up in my own pious thinking. I mean, come on, I invited Jesus over for dinner. Give me some credit.

When He came, because He’ll always come, I treated Him like a commoner. I say it’s because we’re just “that comfortable” with one another, but somehow dishonor veiled itself as familiarity. The intimate greetings we once exchanged have become the awkward side hugs between acquaintances or the cold distance between lovers sleeping back-to-back.

What was it that caused the woman to have such a zealous love? The fact that she knew she was loved and forgiven.

This is where my heart begins to ache, because I know it’s her realization of His love for her that causes her to act. Her expression of love was not meant to earn His love, but in response to His love. All the tears and all the kisses were in gratitude for what He had already given her. When you’ve seen a love like His you want to reciprocate and she did in the only way she knew how.

God, I want a love like that…again.

Not that I’ve ever lost His unconditional, unfading love, but I’ve forgotten how generous of a gift I had been given when I had been so undeserving. I, too, had been a whore freely giving myself to lesser loves. I had been the unclean woman. The sinner.

Then, there He was and in an instant His love did for me what I could have never done for myself: forgive. I need a renewed revelation of that love. To stop trying to earn it or work for it, but to catch a glimpse of it in such a way that it brings me back to my knees in awe. And in that moment not care about the tears, or the stares, but to be consumed by it allowing myself to cover Him in kisses and pour out my most costly worship at His feet.

My prayer for you is that you would catch a glimpse of the great love He has for you and that it would cause your heart to worship.

Modern Day Slavery & What You Can Do

Modern Day Slavery & What You Can Do

It is estimated that there are 27 MILLION modern day slaves.

It exists in 167 countries….and yes, America, too.

It involves children. Every 1 in 5 victims is a child. Many of them involved in the cesspool of the sex trade.

That’s a HUGE problem.

It is such a large problem in fact that many people wonder if they can make a real difference. “What can lil’ ole me do when faced with such a staggering statistics?” we ask ourselves. It is overwhelming and for many of us we can barely wrap our minds around it.

But the truth remains–there are men, women and children being held against their will to work for little or no pay. They are mistreated, exploited and abused in ways unimaginable. They are people just like you and me. My “neighbor,” as the Bible calls them, and I’m commanded to love them as I love myself (Mark 12:31), which means I can’t turn my head and be silent.

When we don’t know what to do we often do nothing. I’m talking from experience here and I’m certainly not pointing any fingers. I am aware that someday soon, I will continue on with my regular every day life and forget that some people’s regular every day life is hell. I’ll forget about the millions, but they will not forget.

But today I want to do something in hopes that it lights a fire in my soul that has been complacent for far too long. That it reignites the love I have for people…all people…and that I can use my gift to help spread the world.

It was Edward Bulwer-Lytton who said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Today, I pick up my pen.

What can you do?

Get Involved

Freedom 4/24 is a non-profit organization based in Virginia. Their mission (as taken directly from their website) is:  to raise awareness of the sexual exploitation and human trafficking of women and children around the world and to provide financial support to partner organizations dedicated to bringing freedom and doing justice. 

A good friend of mine, Tim Spaulding, is the President of the organization and his passion for concerning this injustice is inspiring. On Freedom 4/24’s staff page, he includes Elie Wiesel’s quote “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.” Tim has chosen to take the side of freedom and lives his life committed to that mission.

There are a variety of ways you can serve Freedom 4/24, no matter where you live. Check out their website for more information.

Give

There are numerous non-profit organizations that you can donate money to, including: Freedom 4/24, International Justice Mission and Love146.

Spread the Word

If nothing else, help spread the word on social media. Use your voice and your podium (yes, we all have one thanks to FB, twitter and Instagram) and shed a light on this darkness.

Whatever you choose to do is fine. Just do something.

How will you love your neighbor caught in slavery today?

**Statistics on modern day slavery were found here.