Being You (31 Days #30)

To read all the posts in the 31 Days series, click here.

They say to be who you are.

Just be you. The world needs you and your voice and your perspective. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else or wish for what they have, because God has a unique plan just for you. 

They say it and say it and say it. They all say it. And you know it. You know it in your head but the connection between your head and your heart is so broken. Just so broken. And the running marquee continues to display,

But what if you don’t know who you are? Or worse, what if you know exactly who you are, but don’t like it? 

What if — when the pressure rises and you feel completely lost and full of doubt — the real you that you fought to keep hidden emerges? And she’s a petulant child, kicking and screaming what about me??

What if, when everyone’s telling you to be you — you suddenly realize you don’t want to be her?

We struggle with not feeling enough — smart enough, strong enough, pretty enough, talented enough, thin enough, known enough. And the insecurities and doubts that arise from feeling just not enough can drive you into a shell you weren’t born with.

And those times are hard — not feeling enough is hard.

But in those times, you don’t recognize it as who you are…you recognize it as what you’re not.

Then there are The Times. The times when your flesh takes over every part of your mind and soul, and nothing you tell yourself — no thoughts or clichés or scriptures you muster forth — can shove it back down.

And you’re forced to stare face-to-face with the reality of you. The ugly, sinful you that is so easy to keep hidden from the world as they watch you from the outside and read your carefully crafted words and know your (photoshopped) highlight real.

And there you are. You and y-o-u. And your breath catches and you want to turn away but there’s nowhere to go. And your heart aches because she is not who you want to be. But she’s part of you. She might not take over all the time, but she’s there — lurking under the surface and now that you’ve gotten a glimpse of her, you fall to your knees in a desperate cry for God to redeem her and make something beautiful from the ashes she holds out with trembling hands and red, swollen eyes.

This concept of being — of being still and being free — it can’t always be a quiet moment in a fall meadow. It can’t always be moments of peace in your cozy chair with your fuzzy blanket, or giggles with your daughter or snuggles with your son.

Sometimes, being means sitting with you — with who you are, the real you — and owning her. Recognizing the ugly and the sinful — the brutal and the broken. It’s being aware that you are not perfect, you aren’t quite whole, you just aren’t there yet.

Sometimes, being means accepting you. All of you. The messy and the chaotic in the left hand stretched as far as it can. And the healed and the redeemed in the right hand stretched as far as it can.

Sometimes being means recognizing that Christ is the one in the middle of the left and the right and He’s the bridge to both of them. Recognizing that you’re not either/or. You’re both.

Remembering Jesus is the and.

And when you realize that this tension is supposed to exist, you realize that they are actually right. You can be who you are.

Because who you are is held together only — ONLY — by the grace of God. And that is a story that always stays fresh and never gets old and we can never tire of hearing.

The world needs you and your voice and your perspective. Because God’s word is always alive and His word is etched on our hearts and in His hands, and therefore it can never be old.

You and you, and Jesus is the and.

You Jesus you.

They say to be who you are.

And they’re right.

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Being in Communion (31 Days #20)

To read all the posts in the 31 Days series, click here.

On weekends, I’m posting a graphic and verse…a simple reminder to Be.

(And can we pause for a moment to acknowledge this is my 20th post? IN A ROW??? 11 more to go. I think I can, I think I can…)

Today’s verse is Psalm 4:4. I used the American Standard Version for the graphic, but also love The Message Translation: “Complain if you must, but don’t lash out. Keep your mouth shut, and let your heart do the talking. Build your case before God and wait for his verdict.”

I love this so much, because it gives us permission to feel. Permission to be. Whether it’s anger or frustration or outrage, it tells us to go ahead and feel what we feel, but to also search for the reason behind the feeling…to get to the root of it. Is it fear? Pride? Hurt? Those feelings are valid. But it’s our reactions to those feelings that become the sin. And instead of acting on the feeling — God’s saying to stop, sink in, relax and BE STILL. The hardest time to do it — no doubt. But also the most important time.

Still practicing this myself. Daily.

Have a blessed Sunday, friends.

BE STILL-PSALM 4-01

week 4: crawling, part 2 (metamorphosis: embracing a life of becoming)

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I’m sorry I didn’t post last week. I was at the beach and was so caught up in fun and sun and family quality time…I decided to throw some grace at my feet and take time off (albeit unannounced time off). It was just what my soul needed. Thank you for understanding!

If you’re new here, welcome! This is week four of the Metamorphosis series. To catch up on the previous weeks, please click here. Be sure to scroll down and start with the Introduction.)

I’m certain I could not have escaped the crawling, since as I see it now, the crawling is essential to our growth. But had I listened, paid attention, heeded the warnings and signs and admonitions…I’m certain the molting and shedding process would have been less painful.

It still would have been painful (they don’t call them growing pains for nothing), but it would have been less… excruciating, I guess.

My crawling time after God gave me the word — the birthing — was excruciatingly painful.

The warnings came various ways and through various people. Be on guard was the message sent and after the third time, I was determined. I thought I knew what to do and how to prepare. I decided I knew what to be on guard of, so I took every precaution to fully guard that territory. City walls went up, soldiers on guard, prayer encircled around me.

I had no idea the territory God was really after to grow was in a whole other continent, far, far away…seemingly small and otherwise disregarded.

I didn’t know.

I remember the day the crawling started. I remember the exact moment — what I was wearing and where I was headed and that it was even in the afternoon. It started with the simplest statement — triggering a then-unknown need in me. I was instantly filled up and fed and felt special and important and immediately, all I began paying attention to was that.

The more I paid attention to that, the faster it took on a life of its own. It snowballed and blossomed and I knew it! I knew it deep in my soul that it was wrong and that I could stop myself at any moment. And yet, I felt completely out of control and helpless. It felt bigger than me and badder than me and seemed to bring out all the ugly I promised myself I would never have. Ever.

The shedding and molting of ourselves as we crawl leaves raw and ugly in its wake. (tweet)

It was a literal and physical tug-of-war between my flesh and my spirit. I could physically feel myself being pulled apart and it ached desperately. All day, every day, I was the epitome of Paul,

Listen, I can’t explain my actions. Here’s why: I am not able to do the things I want; and at the same time, I do the things I despise.” (Romans 7:15, The Voice)

So I spent all day not doing the things I wanted and at the same time doing the things I despised.

I crawled and despised. Day after day.

For months.

As I walked with eyes wide open into places I knew I shouldn’t go, the red flags would billow all around me shouting, Warning! Danger!and yet I would walk in and hand over my identity and worth and dignity and volunteer to crawl.

Isn’t that something? I was already in a crawling season, and I willingly went lower. Crawled harder. Made an already painful time unbearable.

But can I tell you a secret?

Every single day that I crawled…every day that I poured shame over my head and lathered up in guilt, Jesus stood across from me. He stood there watching, not with eyes of disapproval or anger or disgust, but with eyes of compassion and eagerness. His eyes held eagerness and unwavering strength and His tender hand was extended out to me, palm up. Every single day.

And the days that I refused His hand and turned my back to His eyes, He called out behind me,

I love you! You’re not alone! I am not ashamed of you! You can get through this with My strength, just ask! Ask and believe you’re worth it!

I crawled and despised, day after day. And He simply watched and extended and called, day after day.

For months.

I sometimes look back at that time in my life and realize the crawling could have been less painful had I heeded the warnings. If I had paid attention to the things that felt slightly off-center and askew, and the things that felt like they were a complete one-eighty from the Truth that I knew. Or maybe it wouldn’t have been less painful, but not lasted as long. The opportunities God gave me to get out were daily.

However.

I’m a firm believer in not wasting time regretting. That’s the first and easiest way to remain stuck in a season of crawling. Instead, I believe in remembering the past, praising God for what you learned, and then flying. on.

So I choose to look back and realize it probably couldn’t have happened any other way. There was too much for God to transform in me. All the ugly had to rise to the surface so He could skim it off. And while I wish desperately at times that I would have been smarter, more aware, stronger…I realize that it happened exactly the way it did because it had to.

The beauty of the crawling phase is that it will come to and end. Sometimes God decides it’s over, and sometimes we have to take one extremely difficult step and He meets us there.

But most blessedly, so we can fully recover when it’s done, God then brings us into a time of cocooning.

My friend, I don’t know exactly where you are today. But if you are in a crawling season, feeling a very real tug-of-war of spirit and flesh, I urge you to please look over your shoulder. See Jesus, right there? He’s the one standing still, watching you intently and interceding for you. His eyes hold no disappointment or anger. Only compassion and love, and an eagerness for you to put your hand in His and to walk on. His forgiveness and mercy are greater than the crawl. I promise.

Love,

MDS-SIG-01

week 3: crawling, part 1 (metamorphosis: embracing a life of becoming)

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(If you’re new here, welcome! This is week three of the Metamorphosis series. To catch up on the previous weeks, please click here.)

A mother butterfly is incredibly intentional about where she lays her eggs, because once the egg hatches, the caterpillar emerges and immediately starts on the very important work of eating the very leaf they were born onto.

Right there — where they were birthed, is the exact food the mom intended for it to eat. Not the leaf on the plant next to it, not the one down the street. That one. Right where they are.

Caterpillars grow very quickly — however, their skin does not stretch or grow. So in order to grow to full size, it molts and sheds its skin several times. For a Christian, the molting and shedding of old skin is a process that happens over and over again, regardless of age, maturity or season of life.

When we continue to feast on the Word, we grow and learn and understand. And it becomes necessary to shed the old wineskin and embrace a new one. And it all happens in the process of crawling.

The Crawling Phase

The crawling phase is all about growth. By design, it would seem that God’s intent in the crawling/caterpillar phase is to feast and grow, feast and grow. Yes, molting and shedding is required. Yes, the wineskin is supposed to be regenerated.

But to me, the focus of this phase seems to be on the growing, not the pain of the shedding.

The focus is on eating and growing right where you are.

But crawling is a place we get stuck in, isn’t it? Belly to the ground, we tend to take an entirely different perspective as we crawl, don’t we? Instead of eating and growing right where God has planted us, we look around and want to eat what everyone else is eating. Instead of focusing on the fact that we’re actually growing and maturing, we focus on the pain of the shedding of our old skins.

Such a limited point of view we have for such a powerful and omniscient process.

I don’t know why God chooses to work the way He does. I’ve oftentimes reminded Him how much easier things would be if He would just snap His holy fingers and make it all happen the way I interpret it should.

But He is so methodical, so deliberate in His strategies, that it’s only in hindsight we gain understanding about why things happen the way they do.

And those times we don’t gain understanding, we gain peace and an “okay not knowing-ness” that is supernatural.

Or at least we should.

I often think about David from the Bible. A prophetic word is birthed in him that he will be king! And he almost immediately begins his crawling season. For years he runs from King Saul and his enemies, remaining in hiding, questioning his calling and wondering where God is. Crawling and crawling and crawling through deserts and caves and strange towns.

“I’ve done nothing wrong, yet they rush ahead to start the assault. I beg You to help me; come and see for Yourself!” (Psalm 59:4, The Voice)

and

Save me from those who are chasing me. Rescue me, or else they will tear me to pieces as a lion devours his prey; they will carry me off with no one to snatch me from their jaws.” (Psalm 7:1-2, The Voice)

But David — amazing David — while he technically is a caterpillar for years, doesn’t allow himself to remain in a mindset of crawling, ever. When you read each of his psalms, his questioning and wondering always — always — turn back to understanding and peace.

“But me? I will sing of Your strength. I will awake with the sun to sing of Your loving mercy because in my most troubled hour, you defended me. You were my shelter. (Psalm 59:16, The Voice)

and

“God is my defender; He rescues those who have a pure heart.” (Psalm 7:10, The Voice)

There is no better example to me of one who allows God to molt and shed his skin so that he might grow. God could have snapped His holy fingers to make David king instantly — but God was more concerned with David’s character than He was his kingship.

Just like God is more concerned with our character than our calling. (tweet)

And David remembers his anointing, remembers His God, eats on the leaf he’s been given, and continues to crawl and feast and grow.

The time span of our crawling phase is not near as important as our mindset during it. (tweet)

Because that’s where our growth happens. That’s where we learn to “use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5, The Message)

Because here’s the hard truth — God cannot bring to fulfillment His definition of the word birthed in us unless we have eaten and crawled and molted and grown. That includes letting go of our interpretation of how things will work out in order to embrace His powerful and omniscient process.

Is it easy? No. Is there a formula? No. Just look at everyone in the Bible — from Sarai to the Israelites to David to the disciples — the crawling phase was a different length of time for each one of them. And there was no “magical moment” to replicate that will cause our crawling to come to an end.

And while that sounds hopeless, it’s actually incredibly empowering.

Because while crawling is a spiritual phase we must go through to grow, it is not a mindset we have to stay anchored to. (tweet)

We get to choose how we think and what we think on. We get to remember our God and eat His word, feasting as much as we want to. We get to pray at any moment, any day, and know He is close and will not forsake us. We have so many more tools at our disposal in which to survive crawling than Sarai, or the Israelites, or David or the disciples did.

To use a tired cliche, we truly have it all.

My friend, you are not nearly as stuck as you think you are. Choose to look up, think big and elevate your mindset. Crawling keeps your belly to the ground, but praising keeps your soul to the sky.

Are you in a season of crawling right now? I’d like to pray for you.

My sweet Lord, I lift up my sister to you now. The one who feels worthless and alone, the one who feels like nothing will ever change in her circumstance. I pray you will fill her mouth with songs of praise and remembrances of Who You Are, not just What You Do. Bring to her mind every instance where you brought her through the crawling and into flying. Show her where to eat, what to eat and how to praise. And Lord, just for me, so she knows it’s truly you — please send her butterflies as a reminder. In your precious name.

Amen.

Love,

MDS-SIG-01

week 2: birthing-part 2 (metamorphosis: embracing a life of becoming)

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On the counsel of some trustworthy friends (preceded by the leading of God), I’m extending this series. I have to be honest — I felt like last week’s birthing post was pretty academic (for lack of a better word), and as I wrote it, I struggled a lot. I felt it lacked personal connection and any kind of transparency, which is sort of a huge thing for me.

I’ve decided to add on to each week, and use personal testimonies of how I’ve experienced each of these stages of transformation. Because if you’re like me,  you glean so much more by hearing someone’s story…and you like to be talked with, not talked at. So the first week of a new stage will be sort of the “thinking” post, and the second will be the “feeling” post. 

I hope you’ll bear with me as I try to funnel down this message of becoming into something you can take and carry into your back pocket. I’ll probably fail miserably — but the wonderful blessing about writing in this space is that y’all love me anyway. (grin)

Thank you for coming alongside this journey and throwing grace my way. And if this is your first visit, be sure to check out the introduction to this series.

It was one of those “lightening bolt” mission trips. The kind where every moment you feel God zapping you and showing you something new, something different, something profound. Where you literally feel yourself changing right then, right there…never to be the same again.

Have you ever had that kind of experience?

It was a spiritual mountaintop for me. The highest of highs where I felt like I had seen heaven — there, on the other side of the world — surrounded by young people representing over 60 nations. Where everyone sang in their own tongue, and the blending of all those voices and languages and dialects was pure symphonic beauty. It made me weep. Every day for nine days, I wept.

Have you ever had that kind of experience?

The return to the States felt like an eternal Sunday night — that feeling of knowing Monday is looming right around the corner and you’d give anything…anything…not to have to face it. I didn’t want to go back to normal. I didn’t want to face the job I had no passion for, a lifestyle that felt excessive, a void of the heaven as I experienced there. Something was birthed in me there. It was huge and filled every empty place and I didn’t want it to fade away.

My first week of reentry was hard. One day as I drove to work I loudly played a Romanian rock CD and remembered what I felt seeing the band play live just a week before. The moment I passed through a toll booth on the interstate, I was immediately overcome by a scripture that God pressed on my heart…hard.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

The tears sprung forth and my heart wanted to burst right out of my chest and I couldn’t bear the ache I felt. The Word, watering the change that was birthed on the trip, was glued to my soul. I pictured what that meant and I wondered how I’d make it all happen. I mentally listed all I’d sell and how I’d tell my parents I was moving across the globe.

A few weeks later in church, as I closed my eyes in worship and sought God desperately, I was again immediately overcome with a scripture that sounded like it was being whispered into my ear — like a secret from a best friend that she just wants you to hear.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! …new thing! …new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

The tears sprung forth again and my heart wanted to burst out of my chest again…but this time it wasn’t an ache I felt but a joy. A deep, simmering, reverential joy and I suddenly couldn’t wait to see what God would do next. My time had come. He was moving and I was so excited to be along for the ride. I pictured what that meant and I wondered how I’d make it all happen. In my mind I saw how I’d quit my job and what it would feel like to walk off an airplane in a country that required a visa for me to stay there.

Have you ever had that kind of experience?

There’s a flip side to that verse in Isaiah that I didn’t know then — there’s a shift that is required to make a new thing possible. I didn’t know that for God to create something new in me, it meant that something old had to die. (tweet) I didn’t know there were things that had to be pruned and killed and that it’s an excruciating and painful process. I didn’t know I’d immediately go into a time of crawling…into a wilderness of my own where Satan tempted and used scripture and where he would have been very pleased to give me his kingdom. For a very steep price.

I just didn’t know.

So when the crawling time came, I was angry and heartbroken and mesmerized and lured all at the same time. In moments of despair it was so easy to shake my tiny, human fists at God as I fell headfirst into the pit. I thought you were creating something new! I thought you were pleased to give me the kingdom! Where are you?! FIGHT! FOR! ME!

I didn’t know that I had to crawl. God needed to kill my interpretation of His word so I’d willingly accept His definition of it.  (tweet)

He births what He births. It’s not up for interpretation or debate or compromise. And what He births requires of us — it requires holiness and righteousness and an obedience to lay down the very word He gave. To lay down our Isaac. And it requires a willingness to hold up a mirror to our sinful selves and allow Him to purify us — so that our desires become His desires and He can be pleased to give us His kingdom.

And when we allow ourselves to obey and lay down and be purified, we begin our crawl.

What experiences can you look back on and identify as birthing times? Are you able to see God’s divine plan in it now? Have you forgiven God, if necessary, for His word looking different than you initially thought it would?

My friend, He is for you. His heart yearns to be one with yours. Spend a few minutes this week jotting down some of those birthing times and tell Him your feelings about them. Ask Him to show you why things turned out differently than you thought they would. I’m willing to bet He’s more than ready to share. 

Love,

MDS-SIG-01