Love, for Goodness Sakes… (Thoughts on Faith)

I don’t want to be weak & ineffective. And I do not want to be mean-spirited. Most definitely in my faith. But I find myself caught in between two ideologies & it’s a tough line to tow. On my right, the militant & unashamed, wearing theological combat boots & bum rushing through  a person’s wounds & hurtful history in order to dominate the conversation with their own piety. But of this they aren’t aware. On my left, the blended believer whose faith is so contoured into the universe, it’s hard to know where their feet are planted. They unintentionally coax people into embracing their sickness, often giving no true remedy. 

Honestly, I can only share with others the God that I truly know. During my church’s prayer service yesterday, I heard the following, “Don’t be afraid to talk about my Love.” 

Why be fearful talking about God’s Love? And how are we missing it by dwelling in either of the two extremes: militant Christianity or passive Christianity? My guess would be we are defining Love through our own experiences, rather than through God’s explanation. 

The militant believers are afraid of using Love as the center of their evangelism and theology because it appears weak. In their eyes, it waters down the Gospel, taking away the urgency in the call to repentance. 

On the other hand, the well meaning passive Christians oversell the Love aspect as if God is not multifaceted. They take the compassion of God and dumb it down to the fickle level of human experience. And that would be doing the world a great injustice. My feelings change often. But the way God feels about me never will. It isn’t necessary to be overly emotional to help people identify with this Truth: God truly loves me. 

Romans 8:38-39 sums it up immensely:

“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If we have an inaccurate view of God’s Love, then we cannot fully grasp the Gospel in its totality. I can have a head knowledge of how sin entered the world or how I need a Savior, or even the difference between good and evil, but if I do not let His Love affect me, to the point that I am fully convinced of it more than anything else, then I run the risk of dwelling in the extremes of my Faith. Either I conjure a emotional counterfeit that lulls the heart into a slumber or I will push potential believers into a corner of self-righteousness. 

God is Love. And He loves you. There’s more, but it’s that simple.

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Pride.

I have spent so much of my life trying to hold a compliment in my head long enough for it to seep through my ribcage and into my heart. Most times, I end up gagging on a fear that I’ll be found out as a phony.

I’d end up holding the compliment in my sweaty palms, instead. Awkward and unsure, give it a once over and toss it back to its recipient. Or into the thin air.

Now. I can’t seem to hold a criticism in those same palms without my heart crumbling inside of my chest. I’ve never been this fragile. Every face is a potential enemy. Everyone carries the potential to destroy me. My husband. My clients at work. My God.

This isn’t the “toot your own horn” on loop kind of pride. But a sinister type where I feel inauthentic in moments where I want to shine the most. I look over my shoulder and test out each glance. Are you pleased with me?

….and I answer the question with a “Of course not.”

I can see an image of myself as a small girl, with my mother’s church clothes, jewelry, and shoes on. They are obviously too large for me. Swallowing my tiny frame. I want to feel pretty. As pretty as the person whom these clothes belong to. But I spin and twirl and pray for a “Oh, darling. Look at how beautiful you look.”

The one compliment that satisfies the need. Finally.

So I can rest my tired feet and stop this rat race; constant pursuit of pleased nods and grateful hugs from those around me that I often get. But it never seems enough.

I think pride is kin to memory loss. You must be privy to forgetfulness to be prideful.

I forget that I have alwaysbeen valued and cherished.

Even before I was cognizant of any desire to please and take the credit. Before any hands raised in front of pulsating hearts to give accolades, high-fives, or wide hugs. Before the creation of selfies and high school superlatives. Before I knew what it was like to be ignored by a boy I liked.

Pride is an insatiable black hole. Matched only by Love. Nothing can win against Pride except Love. Only Love. When I let Love have its way in me, I can rest, return glances with smiles, and be great because I am Loved. And I truly know it.

“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” – Zepheniah 3:17

Glory.

We’ve finally announced it.

…I’m pregnant again. 12 weeks and 5 days to be exact. And while this pregnancy has already been so different from my last pregnancy, I cannot help but remember where I was mentally and emotionally 2 years ago.

I remember being excited and fresh. I also remember not being prepared at all for the news we were going to get in 7 weeks. If you’ve been following, you know how it changed us. But God, in His sovereignty, decided to allow us the gift of seeing our daughter be born healthy and fully developed. Not a day goes by where I don’t consider how differently things could have happened.

So.

Here we are again. Armed with more medical knowledge, more hope, and a bit more spiritual vitality. Because we know that if God “did it before, he can do it again”. Prior to my first appointment with my midwife, I caught myself formulating a Plan B for this pregnancy. A safety net so that the likelihood of pregnancy loss or preterm labor would be next to nothing, spiritual intervention aside. And, it just so happens that I am not eligible for this special medical provision.

So.

Here I am again. Warmed by the growing miracle inside my belly & holding on to the only thing I have/need: A Promise. This promise was spoken to God’s people before. It was a promise of being the vessels of God’s glory.

Isaiah 60:19-21

“No longer will you have the sun for light by day, Nor for brightness will the moon give you light; But you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And your God for your glory. “Your sun will no longer set, Nor will your moon wane; For you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And the days of your mourning will be over. “Then all your people will be righteous; They will possess the land forever, The branch of My planting, The work of My hands, That I may be glorified.

How crazy is that? God promised them that they wouldn’t need natural means to see & feel light in their lives. He wanted to be so prevalent in their hearts, that the only illumination they would need to see their way, would come through Him. Their glory would be His Glory.

I want my life’s purpose to be to hold and reveal the Glory of God to others and to be used to encourage and inspire others through it. It’s a humbling thought, because God could have chosen a different platform for me to display his Glory. “Why this way?”, I wonder. When I am tempted to question God’s plan for this pregnancy, I train my mind to remember what’s already been spoken.

…the day I took my pregnancy test, I was alone in the bathroom at home. My husband and daughter were in the living room and I managed to sneak away without having my daughter accompany me, as usual. I wasn’t “late” by extreme measures and I was barely symptomatic. I had a feeling and was curious. The moment the test turned positive, I (almost instinctively) placed my hands across my stomach and prayed.

After my “Amen”, I heard, “Joy. Joy this time around.”

Let Them Play

I’m reading the book, Scary Close by Donald Miller and it is jarring loose major parts of my life and thinking.

He tells a story of one of his breakthroughs that occurred while in therapy: speaking to his 9 year old self, who’d he had given the burden/responsibility of gaining attention and validation from others. His 9 year old self had the mindset that he had to be bigger and better in order to gain love from others. Also, this 9 year old represented his outer self; the persona he projected for others. There was also his inner self that existed, his true self, whom the author decided was about 35 years old. His inner self was at peace and okay with being alone most of the time, meanwhile the outer self was stressed and fearful.

The therapist told him to sit in a chair across from his 9 year old self and talk to him. Donald Miller said, “I also want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for pushing you out there in the world so you could impress people for us and fight for us and make money for us while I sat in here and read books”.

I paused after reading this and begin to cry. Looking across my bedroom, I stared at the wall and imagined the age/image of my inner self. She is 14 years old; bangs covering up her quiet, wise eyes, but sitting up straight for fear that others are watching. She wears baggy clothing so that her shape doesn’t show too much, and she’s picking at the sides of her jeans to help keep her from running off to her room; her place of refuge.

She sees me staring at her, so she straightens her back even more, and waits for me to speak.

“I bet you’re exhausted, huh? I’m sorry I let them put so much pressure on you. You’re not even close to being done being a kid, but you’re preoccupied with so many burdens right now. Here, let me take those from you. I know just what to do with them. Please, go off and play. You’re far from done playing.”

Those last two sentences resounded deeply inside of my heart.

Children find both expression and freedom when engaged in play. Imagine, the whole world is filled with turmoil and pain, but our children (the brightest and purest of us) actively seek Play. I had not reached the age where I no longer needed play to express my joys and frustrations. In fact, I needed play at 14 more than ever. It was stripped from me, and I was given adult burdens in its place.

A child who is unable to play is a traumatized child. They see the world with a different set of eyes, and without an adult to protect them, they are left to both understand and defend against this new world on their own.

This was a profound truth to realize because it made me understand why I interact with others the way I do. Why I still throw up a wall when I have conflict in my marriage. And why I still struggle with trusting spiritual authority.

I’m so thankful that God sees me as His child, no matter my age. And that He still encourages me to have liberty and joy in Him. I can cast all burdens to Him and truly be “as a child”. I still believe my days of play are far from over.

Additionally, my struggle fueled my purpose, which is to work with children. Provide them with an atmosphere where they can play freely, without judgement, and encourage their sense of joy and abandon. There are many children who do not have anyone to defend their right to play. Some who have placed adult burdens on to their shoulders and emphasize correct behavior over exploration and the process of becoming an individual. My heart of hearts is to “let children play”.

Their…our…lives depend on it.

Timing

I remember having a TERRIBLE sense of timing.

When to confront. When to complain. When to begin or end a relationship.

During our dating years, my husband would poke fun at me for having this major flaw. I would deny it, of course, but looking back on it I see that he was completely spot on. Lately, I’ve become obsessed at the way timing plays into my life’s circumstances. No conflict or occurrence is random to me anymore, nor are they without a smidgen of meaning attached. I swear, if I didn’t love Jesus so much, I’d be one of those folks reading the palms and the stars, and instead of Naomi, my daughter would have been named “Serendipity”.

…that does have a nice ring to it though, you think?….

I learned from certain biblical passages (try Ecclesiastes 3, for starters…) that God infuses His purposes and plan for us with both strategy and intention. He isn’t a god who loves anonymity, but He loves to place His signature, with bold strokes and lines — in ink– on our lives. He wants us to know that He’s the artist, the producer, and the author of it all.

He will even risk getting the blame for the bad stuff….because the good stuff is SO. GOOD.

So, I pay extra attention to the order of the story…the order of my story. Because I know that when I do, I will see his signature in plain sight. So plain that it can be overlooked, even.

So, I guess this post will serve as a caution/encouragement: Look up. Pay attention. God is speaking all the time, even when He isn’t talking.

Bed-rest:Intro

What am I going to look like when this is over?

This is the question currently burning inside of me. God forbid I look, act, and believe the same way as I did before. Otherwise, what’s the point of all this? Why did it matter? What was the pain, feelings of helplessness, sacrifice, and testing for?

Was God bored? Had my name been randomly drawn from a large glass bowl filled with small slips of paper? Was it was just my turn to suffer?

[…lots of people believe this, don’t they?]

I can honestly say that I will be angry. Completely pissed off if there is no purpose in what I am going through. If there isn’t anything to pick up among the ash and rubble, for me to use as both token and catalyst for change in my life. God knows that I’m sick of retelling my horror stories as if they were my glory days. I want to actually be better when this is all over.

Because it will be over soon. I saw the end of the tunnel, so to speak, and the light was quite bright and got larger by the minute. Time seems to speeding up. Once I felt trapped in an endless cycle of uncertainty and foggy circumstances; enveloping me like a tornado. But now, I’ve been able to sit and rest in my surroundings, taking inventory of where I’ve landed after such a great storm – the sky is starting to clear, the fog beginning to part away. Not much looks familiar, so there must be an adjoining purpose in being relocated to a place in life I’ve never been before.

God, I hope so…

I have faith that He knew the path, from beginning to end. He predestined the journey, and therefore knows the bottom line for this season. He has already picked out the perfect caption to go underneath the picture; he knows how to describe what others will see when they look at this snapshot of my life…and when they look at me…

I know I will need to relate this description to others when they ask. Because they will.

Those who life live with me will seek an explanation…rather, my interpretation of current events. So I pray I’ll have an answer.

This has been too great…too massive of a happening for me to be struck dumb.

I need to tell the story, plainly but with assurance of its meaning.

May I find it and know it truly for myself. May I keep it close, but display it high as a declaration.

…almost like an introduction.

Green Grass.

Today is Valentine’s Day.

Since this is my first Feb. 14th as a married lady, I initially wanted to revolt against this day. Backwards, I know. But I felt a tinge of anxiety because I felt a growing obligation to either:

a)Brag about how awesome my new hubby treated me today.

b)Avoid offending unmarried/single people who may feel apprehensive about this pagan holiday…

 Somewhere around 9:37 pm last night, I decided to do neither of those things. I’ll simply state a few things, instead…

1. I’m 27. I waited and endured my own personal hell/inadequacies while single, and now that I’m not single, I am going to enjoy it. Why shush  my own desire to celebrate my husband because you may feel a tad envious?

2. Many singles LOVE being single. After a rough season, I enjoyed it also. 

3. Valentine’s Day isn’t just for couples. 

4. God is Love. And He loves all of us. Based on that fact alone, He monopolizes this whole holiday. 

5. Singles who are annoyed with this day should really check their hearts. 

6. (And most importantly) We are such discontented people. Instead of being content with where we are, and make the most of the current season, we’d rather focus our energies on desiring the next stage. I remember crying about not being engaged to my then-boyfriend…I felt it was time. I saw little evidence that it wasn’t time because I wanted what I wanted. I couldn’t see that there are alot more important factors involved besides my own happiness. 

And that’s where the “the grass isn’t always greener” analogy comes in…Image

It’s all a myth. There is no greener grass. No other side. Just a wide open field with a man-created boundary. And God never created it to have a boundary. Simply for you to travel this life following His lead. Enjoying every step. Enduring every hardship. 

Because, as I’ve seen in almost 9 months in a new season, with a new relationship status:

With each new season, there are tougher  challenges. And I thank God that He didn’t allow me to move into a new season with old mindsets & resources.