Loving Yourself Enough To Do The Scary Things

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The arena was jam-packed with women wearing their Sunday and Monday and Thursday and Saturday best. Their accessories matched their pocketbooks which matched their shoes which matched their Bible covers. An arena full of sopranos and altos and even a smattering of tenors harmonized during worship and their heads nodded during the lesson and their wallets poured out money during the love offering. Hands were raised in re-commitment to Jesus and tissues were dabbed across blurry eyes and when it was time to break it was as if there was one giant exhale in unison.

We strolled through the lobby deciding what to eat for lunch, my friend and I. We dodged women in their Tuesday and Friday best with their accessories that matched their shoes. Some were impatient with the lines at the food stands, some were frustrated with getting their pocketbooks (which matched their accessories) bumped. Some couldn’t believe there wasn’t enough lunch-time seating for all seven hundred million women jammed into the arena.

My friend and I grabbed lunch and searched for a place to sit among the bright patterns and matching Bible covers. As soon as we took our first bite, we saw him. He couldn’t have been more than 21 and he was dirty and his eyes were glazed and his shoes had holes and he appeared homeless. He walked the aimlessly amid the maze of nodded heads and tear-stained tissues trying to talk to the women, but was largely ignored or smiled at politely as they turned back to their conversation.

My friend and I looked at each other and I knew what she was thinking and she knew what I was thinking but we were both petrified of each other’s thoughts, afraid to say it out loud. I don’t remember who broke first, but the words rang loudly in our ears,

 “Should we pray for him?”

Click here to keep reading — I’m sharing over at my second home, Be Still Be Free today!

 

Loving Yourself and Cleaning House

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[tap, tap, tap]

Is this thing on?

Pardon me while I clean out the cobwebs over here. I mean, my gosh at the stale scent ova hee-ah.

I’ve neglected this place. I really, really have. I miss writing something fierce, but my creative cup is still getting filled over at my second love, Be Still Be Free. And yet I’ve been remiss in tying these two homes together consistently.

BUT NO MORE.

This week over at Be, we’re talking about loving yourself. We’re nearing the end of our series Be Loved and Live, and let me tell you — it’s been a huge blessing to me personally. If you want to start at the beginning and catch up, just click over to listen to each of the podcasts:

Next week we’ll explore what it looks like to truly Love Others. After that, we’re on to a whole new series that is 100% my heartbeat and passion:

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I hope you’ll hop over to check out the amazing things God is doing with Be Still Be Free, and I’ll do a better job of bridging these homes together.

In the meantime, I’ll be here opening all the windows and beating dust out of the rugs — and overall, just bringing this site back to life.

Be free today. Love y’all.

490 Planks

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I did it again.

I took my eyes off the mountain for just a minute and the pull of the valley brought me back low. The chaotic drama woke up a mama bear from hibernation, and though the situation had nothing to do with me at all, I threw my sword on the ground and was ready to fall on it with a mighty vengeance.

My heart lashed out and rehearsed a thousand scenarios of what I would say and how I would respond and countless minutes — maybe even hours — were spent in conversations that would never actually take place.

Time I should have spent praying was instead invested in scouring the Bible for verses that would provide justification to my cause…confirmation that my anger was righteous and “godly.”

In my frantic, passive-aggressive search for verses to ambiguously confront, I found The Verse. But it turned out it wasn’t a verse that applied to the situation…

…it was instead a verse God applied to me:

Don’t think you can decide on your own what is right and what is wrong. Respect the Eternal; turn and run from evil. (Prov 3:7)

#ouch

My head hung low in resignation as the conviction stung deep in my heart.

Am I ever going to get it right the first time?

Don’t ignore the wooden plank in your eye, while you criticize the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eyelashes. (Matt 7:4)

“But God,” I pleaded, “My frustration and disappointment are justified! True injustice happened. It’s not fair!” (I might have clenched my fists and stomped my feet, too…I can’t be sure.)

You must forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven. (Matt 18:22)

I despise this answer. I know in the depths of my heart it’s true, but still I fight it. I want restitution, I want payback. I want to shout and maybe even wield a pitchfork. Maybe.

When will I learn? When will I learn that God holds me just as accountable for my reactions as He holds those who were wrong? That I do not have permission to turn around and engage in the same behavior?

Growing in God is JUST SO HARD.

#whine

This little exchange with God happened just hours after prepping for an upcoming talk about climbing your mountain to gain clearer perspective…climbing in order to be transformed…to be closer to Jesus.

So He gently began reminding me of everything I had passionately rehearsed earlier…

  • That in the valley difficulties seem larger than life and insurmountable
  • That we have to get to the mountain to gain godly and holy perspective
  • That when we get proper perspective, we see that nothing in the valley is bigger or badder or tougher than God is

My head hung low in humility as repentance oozed from my heart.

And then I heaved a big sigh and started climbing my mountain.

I call to You from the end of the earth when my heart is weak. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:2)

Getting to the top was everything I needed.

From the Rock, I can see past the immediacy of a frustrating situation.

From the Rock, I can see how these million little angry dots soften and melt into an entire glorious canvas, painted by a Master.

From the Rock, the shenanigans in the valley fall into the correct order of priority — under God.

From the Rock, I’m more concerned with getting 490 planks out of my eyes so I can enjoy the breathtaking view at the top. (click to tweet that)

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I’m so thankful that God loves me too much to let me remain stuck in a mentally destructive valley. I’m so grateful for His gentle reminders to look up and to see life through holy lenses and proper perspective.

And I’m so thrilled He doesn’t hold the planks in my own eyes against me…forgiving me much, much more than seventy times seven…every single time.

The Playground and the Meadow

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The playground has a castle and a drawbridge and three slides and a climbing wall. There are tire swings and baby swings and regular swings and even big red chair swings the adults can sneak onto if there aren’t a lot of kids around.

When we’re at the playground, my kids are wild and rambunctious and run around yelling and playing and leave every ounce of energy there. The surrounding fence keeps them IN and they swing and slide and climb and run and there’s just so much to DO there.

The Meadow is a wide-open space with exposed granite and a gentle stream. It was made to be a ‘backyard’ for our mountainous neighborhood full of wild hills and forests of trees. There’s one pond and one picnic table and six Adirondack chairs. The stream has tadpoles and the pond has rocks at the bottom from two summers ago when my littlest toddled over, crudely tossing in every pebble he could find.

An army of trees circle the Meadow – more a protective shield than a boundary line – and cast long, lean shadows over the stream and the pond and the exposed granite. In the late afternoon, the sun peeks through with a wide smile like it’s trying not to get caught in a game of hide and seek.

In the Meadow, my kids imagine they are Susan and Edmund exploring Narnia, defeating the White Witch valiantly. They chase butterflies and bring me dandelion bouquets and pretend the big oak is their secret hide out. He chases after her, desperate to be big like she is, and she holds his hand as they cross the slippery rocks so he doesn’t fall and scrape his knee yet again.

In the Meadow, there isn’t as much to DO – there are no swings, or slides, or castles – but there’s so much to BE. In the Meadow, they are free to Be imaginative, Be together, Be relational, Be intentional.

They have fun DO-ing together at the playground, but love BE-ing together at The Meadow.

“He lets me rest in the meadow grass and leads me beside the quiet streams. He gives me new strength. He helps me do what honors him the most.” Psalm 23:2-3

I get caught up in the doing of the playground, too. My playground is ministry and work and friends and family and home. It’s joyous and blessed and holy and necessary. It can become a playground of To-Do’s though, if I’m not careful.

Read the rest over at Compassion That Compels today!

The Gentleness of God

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We met once a month at her house and we’d always sit on the couch with all the flowers that overlooked her garden. Her pup would sit between us on the cushions and sleep for the hour and a half we’d talk. I soaked up every single word she said in my Japanese-designed journal, furiously scribbling her every word with my mechanical pencil. Always a mechanical pencil.

Her wisdom ran deep and her gift of insight and prophecy were direct from God. She’d talk and I’d write and then often she’d pause to make a seemingly unrelated comment or ask a pointed question. But it was always related somehow and most often made tears spring from my eyes and it was as if God Himself were the one speaking. Always as if it were God.

One spring day, as the roses were blooming pink over my shoulder in the garden, I sipped iced tea and poured out my heart over a troubling issue I was facing. My heart was heavy and my mind in discord and she had been espousing all manner of wisdom and scripture related to the issue.

I sat with my head down, tears falling onto my flower-print cocktail napkin and she paused — one of those God-Speaking pauses — and she asked (in more of a statement than a question),

He’s always gentle with you, isn’t He?

* * *

I’m sharing over at Be Still Be Free today! Hop over to read the rest!

A Beautiful Life: Wrap-Up

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He runs with his whole self — arms pumping and knees high and it’s full body engagement, all the way down to his toes, his running.

Her limbs keep growing — long and lanky. Legs keep her grounded and confident and arms emphasize the truth she speaks when it counts the most. They don’t stop growing, those arms and legs.

They climb the leafless tree into their self-proclaimed fort. She’s the mom and he’s catching the bad guys. They hop over the babbling stream and look for tadpoles, although I suspect it’s a tad early. Her shoes have been come off and the water tickles her toes. She squeals in delight.

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He must catch up to her — though he’s four, he’s almost as strong and fast as she is (in his mind) and trails just steps behind. He plays anything she requests for the sheer pleasure of being with her, but I suspect it won’t be long before he starts demanding his own way.

These trees are still bare and the sunlight filters through gently, casting long, sinewy shadows just like her limbs. In a blink the leaves will appear then disappear again and she’ll be old enough to leave…long shadows of those arms and legs resting in her wake.

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I didn’t plan to take this time today…to press pause on my to-dos and come to this meadow — our Eden — to play. I didn’t plan to be still on the large rock and lay back to feel the sun on my face, hear the babbling of the steam and be lulled into a peaceful surrender by the breeze.

I didn’t plan on watching them age before my very eyes and be moved to tears by their laughter. I didn’t plan to notice with excruciating detail how quickly they’re growing up. I didn’t plan on any of it.

My plans included a bullet pointed list anxiously waiting to be slayed — a dinner to be prepared, a laundry basket to unload, a work project to complete. And, and, and.

But He directed my steps today. I chose to walk with Him and he led me on a more important path, and it led to this beautiful moment.

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Here on this rock, despite my stress and worry, I found pleasure never-ending in the sound of little footsteps and pebbles tossed into the stream. Here on this rock, I found true joy in the laughter of fighting bad guys and playing tag. I found contentment and that supernatural way time can stand still when you are.

Here, on this Rock.

I didn’t plan any of this today, but He did.

My cup overflows.

You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life.
As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending,
and I know true joy and contentment. (Psalm 16:11)

* * *

I hope you’ve been blessed by this series, and I pray the varying voices of the guest writers has left a melodic symphony playing across your heart. But most importantly, I pray you’ve been encouraged to Tharseo — to be of good courage and good cheer — simply you are free. Click here to read the rest of the series — posts by bloggers I adore with my whole heart.

Watercolor hearts photo ©iStock.com/beastfromeast (modified by Elevate Ideas)

Always. Pantote.

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Always be joyful. (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

You know the verse. It’s the first part of a long command to always be thankful…always pray… no matter what happens.

Always be joyful.

A stand-alone sentence is a stand-alone verse blended into a unified command reiterating to always. And I wondered about that word always…because really, it can’t mean a-l-w-a-y-s, right?

Always be joyful.

It can’t mean be joyful during…

…moments when your marriage is struggling.

…days after you’ve received a difficult diagnosis.

…weeks when your child is wayward.

…months when money is tight.

…years that relationships need reconciling.

…decades you’ve lost all dreams about your future.

It can’t mean to be joyful when Life shows up the way Life does – unannounced and uninvited, with fists flying and guns blazing 

Always be joyful.

It certainly can’t mean that. Right?

* * *

I’m honored to be sharing over at Compassion That Compels today! Click over to finish reading!

Compassion That Compels is a ministry showing and sowing God’s love and compassion with Compassion Bags for women battling cancer. I’ve gotten to know Kristianne online, and her heart and desire to serve women battling cancer is the real deal. It’s an absolute honor to be involved in the smallest way with this ministry!