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

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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.

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. 

The Awkward Challenges of Singleness

The Awkward Challenges of Singleness

Stores have been stocked with bags of conversation hearts and boxes filled with assorted chocolates in preparation for Valentine’s Day before we even had a chance to put our Christmas trees to the curb. More chocolate in stores…who am I to complain?

I have even less reason to complain the day after Valentine’s Day because chocolate goes on sale. Chocolate is good, but 50% off chocolate is even better!

Truth be told, as a single person, I’m not anti-Valentine’s Day. Or rather, I’m not against the idea of it. I’m a fan of romance and love having an excuse to tell those I care about that I love them in cute/cheesy/adorable cards. (Did I mention there’s chocolate involved in this holiday?!) I’m not opposed to love, if anything, I wish every day were Valentine’s Day. And no, not just because of the chocolate, but because I think love should be celebrated daily. Or if not celebrated, at least shared.

It’s not easy being single around Valentine’s Day though. There’s those “Every kiss begins with K” commercials and the increase of rose/flowers pictures on Facebook followed by the “I’ve got the best boyfriend/husband…” declarations. Like I said, I think love should be celebrated so keep the romantic posts coming. I didn’t want to be on Facebook this week, anyway.

The single life has some awkward challenges.

If you’re single, maybe you can relate. And if you’re not, well, maybe you can gain some perspective from this single lady.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a married friend of mine. We were catching up since we hadn’t seen one another in a few months. As we shared, I’d mentioned some different places I had gone or things I had done (nothing super exciting mind you) and my friend kept telling me how much they missed their singleness and how lucky I was to be single.

As a single person, this is ludicrous.

I get there are “perks” to singleness. Heck, I’ve written about them. (You can read that post here.) We aren’t woken up in the middle of the night by a kid who wet the bed and we don’t spend our entire paycheck on diapers. At any time, we can go wherever we want without having to consult another person. There’s a lot of freedom that comes with singleness and when life seems to be dictated by another human being (especially one that isn’t even old enough to read yet) I imagine you’d day dream about five minutes of quiet. Or at least the ability to go pee without a crowd.

My point is, I have no idea how to respond to a married friend when they tell me I’m lucky because I’m single or how “good” I have it. When they say that I want to respond with, “I hear you using the word lucky, but I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

Then, there’s the “third wheel” scenario. Let me state this now– I am extremely thankful that I have married friends who invite me to things. They include me in their life even when that means I’m sandwiched between two booster seats. That’s love, people.

But it can get awkward. Like going out for dinner for example. If it’s a booth, do I let them sit next to one another while I sit across from them? Or, if it’s a table, do I sit between them– having one on either side of me? Then, there are times when you’re at a scenic area and they’d like to get pictures together, as a family, so you volunteer to take the picture. Afterwards, they ask if you want one, too (which is super thoughtful). I’m just glad that photo albums are basically obsolete with the increased popularity of digital prints and social media. I’d have albums full of pictures of me standing in front of various monuments. Like this one:

WH

Or this one:

twine

Yes, that’s me in front of the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, KS. Be jealous. So jealous.

Most of the time though, I borrow one of my friends’ kids to be in the picture with me. I’ve got hundreds of pictures of me with other people’s children.

One of the most aggravating of the awkward challenges is when people will accuse you of being desperate because you want to be in a relationship. I was unaware that having a desire somehow automatically put you in the desperate category, but apparently some people think that is the case. With all of the other challenges, I can laugh-off the awkwardness. That’s nearly impossible with this one. Sometimes, instead of defending myself I let the comment linger in the bloated awkward silence. Other times, my sass comes out on full blast.

Similar to that one, is how someone can assume you’re flirting with them just because you’re both single. I understand that friendliness and flirtatiousness can sometimes be confused, but my friendliness is sometimes just friendliness. Seems to be a tad bit egotistical, to me, to think otherwise. Shockingly, I’m not attracted to every single guy. Just the flannel wearing bearded ones. 😉

I couldn’t end this without bringing up the awkwardness of unsolicited advice.

Try online dating!

He’ll show up when you least expect it.

Get a hobby! (Yes, someone did tell me this)

Make the first move.

The list goes on and on. I find it funny that most of this advice comes from married people. Married people who have in fact been married for a long time…longer than I’ve been alive. Even funnier is the fact that most of the time I’ve been single longer than they ever were. Not that I think I’m some kind of expert, by any means, but I do have some experience in this area. More than I’d like, that’s for sure!

Awkwardness is a part of life. My advice on all of it? Don’t let it hinder you from amazing relationships. As single people, we need married friends. They tend to make dinner every night and if you treat them right they might just invite you over every once in awhile. We need friends of the opposite sex. They teach us invaluable lessons on their gender giving us helpful insights on how their minds work.

I could add more to this wonderfully awkward list, but I’d like to hear from you. What challenges have you experienced as a single person or as a married person in dealing with single people? Let me know in the comments!

You’re Invited!

ONE

Sometimes…oftentimes….I find church boring.

It’s just that it seems a lot like a meeting to get through. Granted, a meeting that starts with a song, or rather, a half a dozen or so. For some the songs come out of hymnals with an organ accompaniment while others use songs written in this decade. I’m not picking on either one, I enjoy both.

The point is every service starts the same way.

Music. Check!

Next, there’s the offering/ announcement/ hug your neighbor time. When visiting a church, this is my least favorite time. I’m not a fan of hugging strangers. That could be because I’m all of 5 feet tall and hugging anyone means my face automatically goes in their arm pit, shoulder or chest. Here’s the deal, people. If you’ll bend down a few inches I’ll stand on my tippy toes. Ok?

Luckily, we live in an age with smart phones, so this is also a great opportunity to look busy on your phone. I think there’s added points if you update your Facebook status with a Scripture or some lyrics from a song sung that morning. (I get it. I’ve done it, too) Extra, EXTRA points if you use #blessed in the description.

The capstone of your morning is listening to a sermon. It’s a trail mix blend of stories, Scripture and pithy truths to scribble down in a notebook or on the back of a bulletin (and most likely) never read again. Heck, by mid-week I’m not even sure I remember the verses that were referenced. That might be because, periodically, throughout the message I’ll find my mind wandering to the weather outside, the fact that my leggings are cutting off my circulation or the laundry list of tasks I need to accomplish the coming week.

I’ve been to numerous churches in my lifetime and the general outline is the same. Come, sing, give money, hug people, listen to sermon and go. Ya sit, stand, sit and you’re out of there by lunch. You can almost taste the Chinese buffet now. Mmmm….Sweet and Sour Chicken.

I’m not saying any of this stuff is wrong. It’s good to worship. It’s good to give. It’s good to hug (sometimes). It’s good to be taught. I just think we’re missing the point.

Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven. 

Matthew 6:10

I think about Heaven a lot. Maybe it’s because life is so freakin’ hard or maybe it’s just because I’m homesick (Heb. 13:14). Its been said, “Don’t be so Heavenly minded that you’re of no earthly good.” That’s a bunch of bologna.

If anything, we need to be more Heavenly minded. What would that look like? I’m not exactly sure, but sure isn’t some mandated meeting. It’d be more like a party. There’d be laughing and food and celebration. No one nods off at a party. No one checks their watch at a party. No one is worrying about work the next day at a party.

I love inviting friends to parties. Meetings…not so much. This isn’t some lame-o excuse for me not inviting my friends to church, then again, maybe it is. The last thing I want to do is bring a friend to church and have them leave thinking, “If that’s Christianity, it sure is boring. I’d rather stay home and watch football.” I think they call that doing more harm than good. Truth be told, I’d rather stay home most Sundays, too.

But, if I can invite my friends to a party, that’s a different story. I’m not talking about flashy lights and fog machines, either.

Our modern day church services seem to place a much smaller value on relationships and community and a lot more value on me facing a podium or a stage or a screen. Before anyone loses their mind, or thinks I’ve lost mine, let me be clear– I’m not anti-church. It’s great to gather together with a common focus (Jesus) and sing songs to Him and learn about Him and build relationships with one another.

I just don’t think what we’ve always done is working. It looks an awful lot like a four-walled box. You come in, you do your time, and you go. That sounds awful because it is awful. I want something more and I think the world is looking for more. Something significant. Something worth getting out of bed for…and not just because there’s shame propelling you through the church doors.

In the end, I want a slice of Heaven on Earth. Not just on Sundays, but every day of the week and I want people (all people) to see that and want it too.

Lessons from the Queen

The

A few years ago, I was a crumpled pile on the floor of a church at a youth conference.

I was one of the chaperones that weekend, and I could easily blame my lack of sleep for all the emotions, but there was something much deeper going on in my heart. In those moments, on my knees, I was asking God a lot of “Why?” questions. The same questions I had asked Him numerous times before and would continue to ask Him numerous times after.

As I wept, someone came to me and prayed for me. I don’t remember the specifics of the prayer, but I do recall that she was praying that, like Queen Esther, I would see the experiences of my life as preparation for the amazing things that would come. There was a sense of hope in her words…there was something more for me than tears and grief.

But that’s how Esther’s story began– with her own set of trials and obstacles. Esther was an orphan and had been taken care of by her cousin, Mordecai. Esther was not only an orphan, but a Jew, during a season when the Jews were being targeted for persecution.

At this same time, King Xerxes was in search of a new queen. He had just banished his wife for her refusal to come when he had summoned her and now needed a replacement. His men went on a  search for the most beautiful virgins to bring to the king. Esther was chosen (as in– she didn’t have a choice) to be one of the candidates.

Esther, pulled from her home, now must go through a rigorous 6-month beauty regiment in order to prepare her for her meeting with King Xerxes. She is soaked, shaved, perfumed, primped, primed, lathered, moisturized and plucked for MONTHS. As much as I’d love some pampering, this sounds like a bit too much maintenance for me, but the king wants what the king wants.

We’ll get to more of her story in a few minutes, but now back to me.

I find myself in a very similar place to where I was a few years ago. Actually, that’s exactly what has me so discouraged. I feel like I’m in the same exact place as I was then. With a birthday coming up this month and many unmaterialized dreams, it seems like I am getting no where. Yet again, I find myself broken, but God continues to speak to me while reaffirming these truths to my heart using Esther.

Preparation is not wasted time.

I imagine in those months of preparation, Esther wondered if all of the work was worth it. There were after all numerous women going through similar treatments and the king would only select one to be queen. How many times did she think, “What are the chances he’d pick me?”

My season of preparation has been long and as time continues to tick away it becomes easier and easier to wonder if all of my hard work will actually pay off in the end.

While God is working on you– cleansing, purifying, sanding, stretching and repairing–take comfort that all of that preparation is not wasted time. There is purpose in this season. You may not see it now, and Lord knows it sure doesn’t feel like “real” progress, but rest assured it is necessary.

You’d never go into battle without being trained and outfitted as a soldier, and the same goes for whatever it is that God has called you specifically to do. There are lessons to be learned, muscles to be strengthened and hurts to be healed.

If you don’t do it, someone else will.

Let me share a little more from Esther’s life. After all the treatments and her meeting with King Xerxes, we are told the king loved her more than any other woman and made her queen. Her preparation hadn’t been in vain!

Although, it seemed like things were going well for Esther, it was not going well for the Jewish people. King Xerxes had signed a decree that said all the Jews needed to be destroyed. The king still unaware that his new wife, Esther, was a Jew as well.

Mordecai is obviously distraught. Wouldn’t you be?! He tells Esther she must convince Xerxes to withdraw this death sentence, but she knows if she approaches the king without his bidding she would be killed! Things aren’t looking good– and Mordecai responds to Esther’s fear with this:

“If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.”

I can’t get that phrase out of my head– maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.

Fear keeps trying to muzzle me: just stay silent– don’t cause any waves.

But then I hear that voice say, “This is YOUR time. Speak.” There’s risk involved. I’ve received backlash for articles. People telling me I’ve lost all biblical morals while others still are convinced I’m on the wide road to hell. All I know is I’m doing my best to be obedient to the call of God on my life and keep a humble heart while doing it.

Go to the King.

In the end, Esther did go before the king and she ends up saving her people. Her actions required not only courage, but intimacy. If she didn’t have favor and relationship with Xerxes, she wouldn’t have had a chance.

Be bold in your requests to the King. We have found favor with God because of Jesus. We don’t have to tip-toe to the throne, but can approach with confidence. You don’t have to be afraid that He will somehow be offended or will want to strike you down like some worthless peon. You’ve got royal status, friends.

Intimacy is key. If I didn’t have a living, interactive relationship with God there’s no way I’d continue on this path. It is through His urging, encouragement and prodding that I keep speaking. I can tell you though, if I wasn’t convinced it was His leading I would have abandoned this ship long ago. I would have etched out a much easier, more pleasant path.

Esther made a choice to be obedient. In her obedience, she was a conduit of salvation and a reflector of the glory of God. May that be our testimony as well– that we would allow God to use us in this season and for this time.

Allow God to prepare you. Let Him use you. And because He has prepared you and because He has called you– you can do what you were called to do BOLDY.

 

 

 

The View From On Top

The View From On Top

A few months ago, I heard a preacher share a story about how when he was a little boy he’d sit under the table where his mother would be working on her embroidery. He’d sit there and watch as she worked and all he could see was a mess of strings. From his perspective there was only chaos.

His mother’s perspective was much different because she had the view from on top. Where she sat, she saw a beautiful picture unfolding. Not chaos, but something beautiful.

It’s all about perspective.

If you read my previous post you already know perspective has been something I’ve been contemplating a lot lately.

You see, I’m realizing my view isn’t the complete picture. It’s a very limited one-sided view.

Then, to confirm this even further, one day as I’m scrolling through my FaceBook feed I see this picture:

crown embroidery

Corrie ten Boom lived in the Netherlands during World War II. She, along with her family, helped many Jews escape the Holocaust– saving many lives while endangering their own. The Nazis did eventually find out about the Ten Booms and imprisoned them.

Corrie was imprisoned for 10 months when she was released. According to Corrie, she later learned her release was a clerical error. Her response to that was, “God does not have problems — only plans.”*

In the picture above, you’ll notice a piece of embroidery that Corrie would take with her when she would share her story with audiences. She would hold up the side which showed the tangled mess of threads and share how that was our perspective. We can pray for things and ask God to move in certain ways, but sometimes (many times) things don’t turn out the way we hoped and prayed they would.

And yet, when we turn the embroidery over, we see a clear picture. All the while, God had been acting and working. We just couldn’t see it clearly from our view. What we need is His view from on top.

All of my life, I’ve been seeing things from the wrong side. I’ve seen the chaos and wondered what God could possibly be doing. I question and interrogate Him in a search for answers. I point to the mess and cry, “Look at this, God! How could you let this happen?!”

There have been things that have happened to me that have been outside my control. I’ve walked through some dark valleys and I’m not here to make it seem like all of a sudden I see good in any of it. I still hurt. And I still question. There are nights I stand in my shower weeping because I just don’t get it.

And that’s just it. I don’t think I’ll ever really get it. As much as I pray to see things like God sees them, my view is still limited. All I can do is learn to trust the Artist more. So, that’s what I’m doing.

Trusting that His view on top is better than anything I can see at the moment and that this mess is actually being woven into a beautiful masterpiece.

 

*wikipedia.com (You can also read more of Corrie’s story in “The Hiding Place”)