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!

 

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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.

Thanksday #95: ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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I hated my wedding dress.

Well actually, I loved the dress a lot. When I saw it in a picture for the first time, I knew it was the one I wanted. The problem was, I hated it on me. But I had ordered it immediately and spent no time looking at what else was available, or seeing what dress was best for my body type. And so wedding day comes and I’m so self-conscious (because, hello, have we met?) and wishing I would’ve shopped around. (Like Mama said I’d better.)

I loved my flowers.

They were eggplant-black calla lilies and simply breathtaking. For a February wedding, I thought it was a perfect contrast to the ivory dress. I think they ended up costing as much as my dress, I can’t be sure. But they were worth every single penny.

BOUQUET

I hated my make up.

Greg’s never been a huge fan of a lot of make up anyway, so I was going for a soft-palette that I did myself and that included a nude-ish lip. The problem was, I brought no other make up to the church. And suddenly my whiteness in early February while wearing an ivory dress with soft make up and a nude lip made me look very, very pale. So I borrowed some lipstick from my friend to brighten things up a bit, and it wasn’t a color I usually wear, which made me self-conscious (because, hello, have we met?).

I loved our music.

A brother and sister duo sang all the music and even the song I walked down the aisle to. Their voices were beautiful and matched our unusual selection of songs perfectly. Hearing them sing us down the aisle as Mr. & Mrs. to some Stevie Wonder put a smile on my face that still appears when I think about it.

WEDDING

I loved the groom.

I loved his highlighted hair and clean-shaven face (which I now like scruffy instead). I loved how he stood proudly at the front of the chapel with a small white calla lily boutonnière. I loved how he whispered funny things to me during the ceremony and we awkwardly stared at each other during slow parts and I was so relieved we were laughing…being us…even at the altar.

GREG

The thing about my wedding day is that it wasn’t totally perfect. I missed loved ones who couldn’t be there. I was self-conscious and practically dragged (drug?) my dad down the aisle because seeing everyone watch me freaked me out. It wasn’t a fairy tale, I didn’t feel like a princess, it wasn’t everything I ever dreamed of. (Mainly because I never actually dreamed about my wedding day, to be honest.)

But the marriage…oh, the marriage. Not perfect — but perfect imperfection.

We celebrate 11 years of marriage today. Eleven years since that not-so-perfect dress was put on my not-so-perfect body and I not-so-perfectly said vows that I meant with my whole heart.

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And as I do every year, I kick myself for not shopping for dresses or hiring a professional person to do make up. And then, as I do every year, I wave away those thoughts as the memories of these past 11 years flash in a rapid slide show in my mind…

…our first days in our house as husband and wife
…our early days figuring out ministry together
…finding out I was pregnant for the first time
…curling up on the couch to watch ridiculous TV and eating take out
…taking our daughter for walks at the park
…boxes of Little Debbie oatmeal pies
…missions trips
…italy
…the times Greg wouldn’t let me have a pity party
…the times he gave me space to process, mourn, cry
…the laughter, OH THE LAUGHTER
…Georgia football games
…his strong fingers entwined in mine as we grab toilet paper in bulk from the warehouse store
…pushing him out of bed accidentally when he snored too much
…his strong arms holding me after my first miscarriage
…the mediocre dinners and uninspired grocery shopping he puts up with
…unending support toward my dreams and callings

All the good, the bad, the ugly and the great that make up 11 years flood my mind and heart until it could burst.

I’m so lucky to do life with this man.

The thing about a wedding is that it’s a day and the thing about a marriage is that it’s a lifetime. (click to tweet that)

DANCE

A wedding day is important and by all means, make it as perfect as you can. But it might not be a fairy tale you’ve dreamed about always. You might be self-conscious about showing your arms in your dress and wishing you had ruby lips to say “I do” with while missing people close to your heart. It might all be awful or it might all be perfect.

But it’s all the other days that really, truly matter. Your wedding — it’s not everything.

Everything starts the day after the wedding and the day after that and the day after that.

Everything is the mundane that’s made extraordinary simply because you’re together. (click to tweet that)

Everything is realizing you’d rather spend one day at home doing nothing with him than spend a thousand days of exotic adventure without him.

I cannot imagine doing life without this man.

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We celebrate 11 years of imperfect perfection today. And while we’ll celebrate and look back, mostly we’ll laugh and look ahead. And while we’ll reminisce, mostly we’ll dream. We’ll dream of all the extraordinary mundane-ness we’ve yet to experience together; of all the bulk toilet paper yet to buy; of the football games and mediocre dinners and snoring left to endure.

We’ll look ahead and dream and laugh about all of it.

And we’ll love it.

What are you thankful for this week?

Week 5: GIFTS (Foreign Languages)

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Here we are, the final installment of the Foreign Languages series. I do hope this has helped you define your relationships better, and helped equip you to speak love in the way that your loved one — spouse, friend, parent, sibling — will hear and receive. (In case you’ve missed the previous five weeks, you can read them all here.)

So gifts.

As best I can tell, the only person close to me that speaks love through gifts is my daughter. (And if I’ve misread you, GOOD HEAVENS I’M SORRY.) While it comes as no surprise that a child has a love language of giving and receiving gifts, I think now that she’s nine, we’ve narrowed hers down to gifts first, and words of affirmation second.

Lord, help me. Because I suck at speaking both.

I remember the first inklings that helped me figure out this was her: I’d bring her home a 99-cent Silly Putty from the grocery store and she treated it like gold. She refuses to ever throw away any toy because of who gave it to her and for what occasion. She wants to buy things for other people all the time and gets immense joy out of picking out gifts. Small things, like flowers picked from the meadow or a handmade card make her day — and make mine, too, because I get them when I’ve filled her little love tank.

Giving and receiving gifts is something many people enjoy, for sure. But for the person whose primary love language is gifts, it goes beyond the “Aw, thank you, I love it” and turns into “You actually thought about me and what I’d like and took time to get this JUST. FOR. ME. Yippeeeeeee!”

See the difference?

THE MAP

How can you know if the country you’re traveling to is a gifted one? Here are two ways to tell (really, this is just about the easiest love language to discern):

  1. They get you gifts. Wow. So insightful  right? But gift speakers love to give gifts as much as receive them. Maybe they pick up a magazine for you regularly while they’re at the store. Or they remember that a few months ago you admired a particular candle and buy it for you. In other words, they give you a tangible representation of their love for you. Often.
  2. Their face lights up when you get something for them. Maybe it’s 99-cent Silly Putty. Maybe it’s a bag of their favorite candy or a bunch of flowers for no reason. Regardless of what it is, their faces light up and  you can visibly see their joy in receiving the gift. It’s not just an appreciation they show on their faces — it’s a look of feeling treasured. Big difference.

KEY PHRASES

Giving gifts is all about showing you are thinking about the other person thoroughly. Here are some ways to speak gifts to your loved one:

  1. Forget about holidays and birthdays. These are standard gift-giving times and absolutely do not count. (Unless you’ve put a ton of time in selecting the perfect gift that will knock their socks off. Like a diamond Tiffany band. Or whatever.) Instead, set aside a small amount of money that can go toward picking up little gifts throughout the year.
  2. Consider gifts that keep on giving. If gifts is really hard for you to speak, consider something that they’ll continue receiving after you purchase it once — a magazine subscription, a something-0f-the-month club. Auto schedule something they enjoy — like a Stitch Fix or Birch Box — something that comes monthly and is full of fun little surprises they’ll enjoy. And each time they receive the magazine or box or book, they’ll remember your thoughtfulness and feel incredibly loved.

CLOSED ROADS

It would really easy to think that a gift person would be materialistic, high-maintenance or high-budget. But that is simply not the case at all. The cost of the gift has nothing to do with the love attached to it — whether they are giving or receiving. It’s purely the thought of it. A hand-picked card from the store, a hydrangea from the yard, or something you made yourself all have as much an impact as a diamond Tiffany band. Or whatever.

Also, while you should not focus all your gift-giving on holidays and birthdays, it is important to stress to NOT forget about them altogether!! Just as a harsh word is toxic to a words of affirmation person, a belated or missed anniversary gift, or a thoughtless one is disastrous to your gift person. Because remember, for them, gifts means you were carefully thinking about them — to miss an important occasion means you weren’t thinking at all.

CHALLENGE

This week, find one small gift you can get for your loved one, and leave it for them either in their car, at their desk at work, or another unexpected place for them to find. Also, start a gift idea list in a notebook or in Evernote! This is the best thing to do with a gifts person. Each time you hear them mention something they like — from a commercial, a magazine, a store — write it down. When you’re ready to give a gift, you can just choose from the list based on what fits your budget.

What about you? Do you speak gifts, or does your spouse? What types of gift-giving have meant the most to you or them?

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Week 4: Acts of Service (Foreign Languages)

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I have a friend whose love language used to be physical touch. And then she had three kids.

One day, she threatened her husband within an inch of his life if he tried to show love by grabbing her hand or pulling her into a hug.

Now, he shows her he loves her by cleaning up the kitchen or vacuuming the living room.

And she feels loved, and their marriage is thriving.

Acts of service is alive and well, serving marriages and relationships of all kinds. You might be thinking that you don’t speak acts of service, or anyone you know…but you might be wrong.

  • Wives show love by ironing perfect creases into their husband’s shirts joyfully
  • Husbands show love by going to the grocery store and unloading and putting away all the groceries
  • Friends show love by creating the perfect birthday party complete with their loved one’s favorite foods — made from scratch, of course
  • Dads show sons love by offering to come help build retaining walls and do other projects around the house
  • Moms show daughters love by showing up when you’ve had a hard week to clean up around the house, fix meals and drive kids to school

Anything sound familiar and starting to ring some bells?

Acts of service is a hands-on, tangible way to show how much you love someone. And I haven’t read this or done any scientific documentation on this theory, but in my personal experience, those that speak acts of service have a harder time verbalizing their feelings. So when they’re not sure what to say, they at least know what to do — and when they do, they do better than anyone else, hands down.

THE MAP

How can you know if the country you’re traveling to is acts of service? Here are a few ways to tell:

  1. They hint about tasks being completed. Your wife might mention, again, how the grass is overgrown. Or your husband might mention the dust collecting in the bedroom or under the bed. These hints might come in the form of a joke, or even a downright nag. Pay attention.
  2. Their face lights up when you say, “can I do that for you?” This is easy to overlook, because you might be spending the whole time mentally thinking, “please say no…please say no.” But if you think your loved one speaks acts of service, keep your eyes and ears open on purpose when you ask if you can do something for them. Their non-verbal reaction might tell you everything you need to know.
  3. They do little things that aren’t “theirs” to do. Your wife might consistently do “your” chores — maybe taking out the garbage, or changing the oil in the car (do people do that on their own anymore?). When your friend comes over, she might roll up her sleeves and just show up in the kitchen and start cleaning while you’re finishing getting dinner ready, or insist she doesn’t leave your house without helping clean up. Your husband might just walk into the laundry room and start folding laundry or getting another load going.

KEY PHRASES

Acts of service is all about selflessness. Here are some easy ways to speak acts of service to your loved one:

  1. Seek opportunities. Start small and do the unexpected random act of service. Grab your mans briefcase and coat when he gets in the door and put them away for him. Gather up all his shoes peppering the bedroom floor and put them all back in the closet. Show up at your friend’s house when you know she’s having a hard day with a dessert you made from Pinterest. Look for small ways to serve.
  2. Be appreciative. Pay attention. When you see your husband jumping in and putting away the kids clothes or cleaning up after dinner, say thank you. Or give her a quick squeeze when you see she’s fixed the buttons on your sport coat. When your loved one speaks service, they are pouring themselves out to serve you — it leaves them feeling vulnerable. Be appreciative.
  3. Respect their rules and boundaries. If your wife has rules about making sure your clothes are right-side-out before putting them in the hamper, then do it. When small boundaries or rules are violated, your loved one will feel taken advantage of, and completely unappreciated. After all, she’s going through the effort to actually wash, fold and put away all the clothes. The least you can do is keep your shirt from being inside-out when she’s doing it.

CLOSED ROADS

If service isn’t your thing, you are going to have to seriously stretch yourself to start speaking this. Maybe you grew up in a home where your mom literally did everything — you didn’t see this practiced at all. There’s no excuses though. If your spouse speaks service, you have to start speaking it, too.

It doesn’t matter how long a day you had, how tired you are, how mentally spent you feel. When you get home, you’re going to have to appreciate that your spouse had a long day too…so roll up your sleeves and do something.

Also…and this is ONLY from my personal experienceyour loved one who speaks service might be a little particular about how things are done. Some might call them control freaks, but I’m not going to. They just spend their time speaking DO, and so they know exactly how they like things DONE. Don’t fight it or argue it or tell them to let it go — simply remember number 3 above and respect their rules and boundaries. And reserve the commentary for your prayer time.

CHALLENGE

This week, when you see your spouse frantically running around trying to do it all, gently walk up and ask, “can I do that for you?” Even if they say no (because they might like it done their way and don’t trust you’ll do that), sometimes the asking speaks volumes.

The key to making all this work is grace and motive. If you trust your loved one’s heart is to please you, it makes it so much easier to forgive them for not being fluent and for mispronouncing a few words.

What about you? Do you speak acts of service, or does your spouse? What has and hasn’t worked for you?

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