Thursday, December 17, 2015

I want to do something. Something significant. 

Not for recognition or pride. 

I want to do good for goodness sake. 

I want to be life giving, empowering. 

I want to point people to their loving Creator. 

But something paralyzes me. 
It's not fear. 
Not complacency. 
Not confusion. 
Not even comparison. 
It's a debilitating need to be different. 

A mental battle with conformity.

And sometimes it causes me to talk myself out of His work in me.

I can love people. But so can countless others. 
I could start a movement. 

But so many people are already moving in bigger and better ways. 
I have gifts. 

But they aren't unique. 

They are gifts shared by any number of humans everywhere. 

I'm just not that special. 

But this is what separates the humble from the holy: 

offering your simple gifts for His sacred purposes. 
Trusting the talents He has given. 

And knowing they were given to be offered back. 
What He makes of them is not for your concern. 
How and when He transforms the common into the consecrated is His secret alone. 
And even if I'm not in on the secret, I want to be a part of the whispered glory revealed in it. 
My talents aren't unique. 
But they are offered back. 
And the offering makes all the difference.

  1. What is your most overwhelming mental battle?  How does it cripple your effectiveness?
  2. What does it mean in your own life and with your own talents to offer your gifts in the way God plans to use them rather than the way you think they should be used?
  3. In what ways does offering yourself require strength?  In what ways does it also require weakness?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"Do you think all women are desperate?"
His question surprised me because I had no idea where it was coming from.  
And the Super Girl in me bristled.
"Desperate for what?" I asked.  I'm pretty sure I also scowled a little.
"I was just listening to a radio program on the way home from work today and it was talking about the emotional desperation of all women."  
He looked right at me, waiting for my response.  He knows me. And he knew this wouldn't sit well.
I got up from the floor where I had just completed my third set of 20 push ups.  Red faced and feeling the blood pumping through my arms I answered him simply, "no".  

Before I was even born, I was fatherless.  The world just isn't a safe place for children.  Maybe that's the real reason that we are all born with fisted hands.  
We have to come out ready to fight.  I came slowly and painfully to my first breath of life and into the arms of a mama who loved me completely and grandparents 
who saw me as their gift of joy and repayment for all the pain the world had inflicted upon them.  I was cherished and treasured and adored.  But I was never 
Daddy's little girl.  I'm sure I babbled on and on about "dadadadadadada" in my first year, as most babies do.  But there was no dada to light up with joy and puff 
his chest out with pride at the sound of his name emerging from my drooling lips.  And even though I was surrounded on every side by people who poured love out 
to me in such great amounts that I could have very well drowned in it if they weren't also the people who carried me through deep waters, there was a part of my 
heart that felt forsaken.  A part of my tiny girl soul that cried out for his strong arms to wrap around me and the stubble on his chin to get caught in my hair when 
he leaned down to kiss my forehead.  I needed daddy.

Thirty seven years and countless challenges, disappointments, joys, emotional pits, and life lessons later, I realize the strength that follows need.  
There is a deep need in you to be valued.
There is a deep need in you to be loved.
There is a deep need in you to be cherished.
There is a deep need in you to be connected.
These are not weaknesses.  They are human needs.  Placed there by the God who carefully crafted every aspect of your heart.
In you there is also strength. 
In you there is also resilience.
In you there is also the ability to peer down into the well of need in another heart, pull your own bucket from its depths, and pour into their emptiness.  
And through some miracle that we may never fully comprehend, to see life giving water rise to the brim of your own well as a result.
Strength, for the woman of God, isn't what gives you power over another person.  Strength is what gives you the power to lift another person higher.
But how do you turn a need into the ability to meet one?
By seeing yourself in others.  

Being a woman of strength requires a willingness to use that strength to benefit others.
Using your gifts and grit for another's growth and good.

  1. Are your life experiences solely for your lessons learned, or are they useful for bringing strength to others?  Have you been using them for that purpose?
  2. Are there areas of your life where you are still letting old scars tighten the skin around your heart?  If so, how is that working for you?  And how can you, instead, let God make those scars work for Him?
  3. In your weakness, He is strong.  Daily remind yourself that weakness is not failure or punishment, it is a beautiful opportunity for the Spirit of God make you more dependent upon Him.  

Saturday, December 12, 2015

I've been contemplating recently what it means to be a woman.
Specifically, a woman who is a follower of Christ.
Scripture talks about women having "a gentle and quiet spirit". 
Many of us read this and our hackles go up. 
We fear that "gentle" means "weak".
But I'm quite sure that it doesn't.
Gentleness is spiritual fruit.
Spiritual fruit comes straight from the Spirit of God.  It is His character being fleshed out in our lives.
Therefore, God is gentle.
And God is not weak.
So, gentleness and weakness are not synonymous.
I believe it's actually the opposite. 
Gentleness is the height of strength.  
It is a characteristic of Christ, and not counteractive of leadership and confidence.
True gentleness is a rarely found mix of fortitude and nurture.
It's a choice to acknowledge your power, but to make that power submissive to your love.
There is a beautiful courage in the gentle spirit.

Imagine something known to be strong.  Like wildfire.  It possesses power and strength.  But it lacks control.  There is no gentleness.  

Now picture a tame horse. Think of how this powerful beast allows her handler to lead her, discipline her, direct her.  Consider her gentleness with riders and the delicate manner in which she takes an apple from the hand of a child.  Is it because she's weak?  Not at all!  A horse is strong, her presence commanding and her power potentially intimidating.  She knows her strength.  And she chooses gentleness.  

Acknowledging your power to harm or heal is a choice.
Awareness of your actions and responsibilities is a choice.
Doing your very best to be gentle is a choice.
But ultimately, true godly gentleness isn't yours to choose or achieve.

Gentleness is not inherent to my human heart.
But it is inherent to the Spirit living in me.

My inclination is to exert my power and will.
His invitation is to give me the gift of living in His power and will.

Gentleness is one of my weaknesses.
A place in my heart where Christ in me makes all the difference.

  1. How have you defined gentleness?  As a weakness or as a strength?
  2. What do you believe about the Spirit of God?  Does allowing the Spirit to be strong in your weakness make you feel weaker or stronger?
  3. And the big question, HOW do we let God produce spiritual fruit in us and what role does our own will and choice play in it?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

It happened again.

That moment when you realize that you've let something emerge from the fetid swamp of your heart and the creature has wrapped its claws around one of your children before you could stop it.

He just wanted to please me.  To surprise me.  To make me happy.  He just wanted a hug.  A smile.
But I made him cry.  It wasn't intentional.  But it didn't matter.

Sometimes the absence of intentionality is the worst of all.

He spoke to her harshly.  The sweet little sister whose heart is almost unnaturally pure and kind.  She was just looking for her shoes.  I had asked her to find them as we rushed rushed rushed out of the house to get someplace.  Someplace insignificant enough that I can't even recall where it was, but in that distracted and impatient moment it apparently seemed important to enough to break his spirit over arriving there on time.  I snarled at him.  I'm sure if I'd had a mirror, even I would have been wounded by the darts of disapproval shooting from my eyes.

"YOU WILL SPEAK WITH LOVE AND KINDNESS!", I growled. The tone of my statement seeped with irony and contradiction.
"But Mama-"
"Stop! It is not your job to tell her what to do!"
His little chin trembled.
"No!  Don't talk back to me." my irritation was taking on  red hot life of its own.  Doesn't this child know who I am?  Doesn't he realize I'm in charge?  And in a hurry?!?
A tear spilled down his freckled pink cheek.
" don't undersatnd...i just...." his words came slow and choppy, interrupted by jagged breaths.  "Mama....I didn't want her to get the bags out of the closet to get her shoes because I put them in there so you wouldn't see..."
"Why in the world would you put bags full of shoes and toys and junk in the closet?" I'm sure I narrowed my eyes at him.
"....because I didn't have time to put everything away.....I cleaned the van out....for you.  I wanted to..... surprise you.  I threw all the trash away..... and since we were in a hurry..... I put the other bags of stuff in the closet.  I just wanted you to be happy..... when you got in the van."

My heart crumbled into a thousand bitter pieces of shame and regret.

But I couldn't take it back.

Isn't that the hard, convicting truth about words and unintentional moments?  You can never take them back.

Once, when I was small, I was wounded by my own impulsive carelessness.  I was doing my homework at the kitchen table, doodling in the margins of my math paper, wishing for a distraction.  Suddenly my Granni's voice broke the monotony, like a life preserver to a kid drowning in numbers and equations.  She had stopped by for an unexpected visit and I couldn't have been more excited to see her!  I leapt from my seat and, in my hurry, the freshly sharpened pencil I was holding gouged forcefully into my thigh.  Reactively, I pulled my hand back, breaking the lead off under my skin.  It hurt.  A lot.  But even more disturbing was the sight of the black lead now permanently embedded in my leg.  Almost thirty years later, it's still there.  A small, dark circle.  Never taken back.  A reminder of impulsiveness and lack of thought.  It's permanence and tendency to wound.

The words I spat to my son that lead.  Sharp and black.  Wounding.  Permanent.  Void of intention but full of ire.

It's easy to move through life as if little things don't matter.  Letting our emotions and circumstances dictate our actions.  Surrendering to what we feel at any given moment.  Moments are like pieces of a puzzle.  Each one small, but every piece fitting together to complete the picture.  Every piece matters.  And you can't just throw the pieces on the table and expect that they will create something beautiful on their own.  You must think.  You must take care.  You must be intentional.  Lack of intentionality just results in an unfinished mess of pieces.

In His great love for us, He mercifully breaks our hearts with our own ugliness.

Then gathers the broken pieces, carefully realigns them, smooths rough edges, and puts it all back together.
Sometimes He has to break us so He can build us.

Life is marked by moments.  Intentional moments.  Unintentional moments.  And those moments leave marks.  Marks that can never be taken back.

I pray that the moments that I bring life to my children's hearts will be fondly remembered.  And, by His grace, the moments when I fail to do that will be gently redeemed.

Some of the best and most vivid memories of my childhood occurred when I was 5 and 6.  That was the year that my mama and I moved out on our own.  Until then, we had lived at my grandparents house and, though I loved them both very much, it felt so good to have my mama all to myself.  It was just a sparsely furnished two bedroom apartment whose biggest selling point was probably the fact that you could get from one end of the place to the other in ten steps or less, depending on the breadth of your stride.  
I'm sure I did some big stuff that year, trips or birthday parties or other "special" events.  
I don't remember any of them.
What I remember is mama.
I can still smell the fish sticks and vegetable soup and I can hear her laughing at me as I waited for dinner with all the patience a 5 year old could muster, sitting on my hands and bouncing in my seat and swinging my legs, wishing mama could just hurry up and make it ready faster.  
I can still see the sleek black talking car and the dark living room aglow with the flickering light of the television as mama and I sat and watched Knight Rider together. 
I can feel the scratchy softness of a bare mattress against my cheek as I lay sick in mama's bed, admiring her while she sewed cloth baby dolls to sell for extra money.  
I can still feel the quickened pace of my heart and the unbound excitement, listening to mama's end of the conversation as she talked on the phone to grandaddy about what they were going to name their new chihuahua.  Tiger!  The name I had chosen for him!
There are so many more things that I don't even remember with words or details or mental pictures.
I remember them with a feeling.
Of presence.  

Oh mamas…my heart aches for you to embrace the truth that it's not about what you can give your children.  It's about WHO you can give them.  

This morning my 8 year old daughter snuggled up next to me on the couch, looked into my tired eyes with her sparkling green ones, crinkled her freckled nose and said. "Mama, do you remember that time in our old house when we sat on my bed after I just woke up and we laughed so much?"  She chuckled at the memory then rested her pigtailed head against my shoulder.  I didn't have any idea what she was talking about.  But I wrapped my arms around her, pulled her closer and said, "I love laughing with you."  Against my arm, I could feel her cheeks swell into a smile.

They may have your Pinterest inspired table decorations securely nestled in their memories for all time.  But it's more likely that their hearts will take them back to the time spent with you around that table.  And those memories will envelope their tender souls like emotional bubble wrap, protecting them from the barrage of hurts that will inevitably assault them as they move through life.

You won't parent perfectly all the time.  Chances are, you won't even parent perfectly for an entire day at a time.  
But your children don't need you to be perfect.  They need you to be present.

He will remember how you looked straight into his eyes instead of at your phone when he told you exactly how he came up with his idea for his latest fabulous lego creation.
She will remember that time she beat you at Memory, and you tickled her until she could hardly breathe with laughter and you told her the only way to get free was to declare you the winner.  And she did, with rosy cheeks and leftover giggles.
One day, he will find himself picking up a can of squirtable cheese for his own children, not because it tastes good but because seeing it made him laugh in the middle of the store aisle at the memory of you squirting it on your face in the shape of a processed orange mustache.  
One day she will smile and sigh contentedly when she recalls lying on the sofa with her head on your lap while you read a book and softly combed your fingers through her tangled little girl hair.

You may not get your bed made every morning.  You may not even get it made for the next 12 years.  But they won't remember your unmade bed.  They'll remember you inviting them to skip their chores and cuddle up beside you in it to watch a movie on a rainy day.
She won't remember that you rarely get around to showering before lunch.  Or that, even more rarely, you get around to wearing anything other than yoga pants.  She will remember that you spent the morning reading her books and laughing with her at the funny parts.
He probably won't recall everyone who was there when he blew out the candles on his birthday cakes.  What he will remember is the way your eyes lit up when he walked into the room.

I've had a lot of fish sticks in my life.  But the only ones I can still taste are the ones that were served by mama in our little apartment.

These babies of yours, they will grow.  Out of your arms and into the world.  
When they set out on their own journeys through life, and they take a long nostalgic look over their shoulder, what do you want them to see?

Let it be you, mama.  Let it be you.  

So when they turn back around and face the rocky road ahead, they'll know without a doubt who is behind them. 

They'll know that you are present.
Then.  Now.  Always.