Psalm 45:11

I’ve spent the last couple of hours trying to figure out how to say what I want to say this morning.  In fact, what usually takes me an hour or at most two has taken me more like four hours.

Really, I’m still figuring it out.

So, I’ll ask you to forgive me if this seems ragged, pieced together crudely or less eloquent than I sometimes am.

And even more than being worried it won’t be good writing…I’m also worried it’s going to be a little too heart-real and a little too soul bare.  I’m going to share something that sums up my life’s struggle and it’s a little bit scary.

Deep breath.  And then I’m jumping in with both feet and I’m going to show you a deep, deep piece of me.

Here is the truth.  I’ve struggled always with feeling like I don’t measure up.  I’ve struggled always with feeling like I’m not enough.  It’s hard for me to receive the affections of my God and King.  It’s hard for me to believe that He’s “enthralled with my beauty”. (Psalm 45:11)  My whole life…I’ve just longed for belonging.  To know and be known and to be loved anyway…All my life, I’ve felt this feeling of restlessness and  “if only”…This restless feeling of longing to be better, to be more, to prove that I’m something, that I’m someone.

There have been so many who have loved and who do love me.  I am blessed to be loved so much and so well.  But the truth is this:  there have been a number of people and circumstances who have left me with deep wounds and left me deeply scarred.  And while I would allow the Lord to work on those wounds and scars, to soothe them with His oil and with His love…I guess I didn’t let Him keep at them until they were fully healed. I always held back enough of that woundedness to fuel my self-pity and my insecurities.  My restlessness.

The restlessness came and went.  I would throw myself into this or throw myself into that…I would spend too much time away from home doing the work of the Lord or put too much faith in this friend or too much weight to that friend’s opinion.  I would agonize over things I’d said and things I’d done…wondering if I could’ve said it better, could’ve done it better.  I would beat myself up with “if onlys” and self deprecation.  I was (and often still am) my worst critic, my worst enemy, my worst friend.

The restlessness drove me to constantly reinvent myself, to make me second guess my every move.  I lived and died by what others thought of me.  And there would be seasons where it was better and there would be seasons where it would be much worse.  On a scale of 1-10, ten being the worst and one being the best…I would go through cycles of being every single number.

Whenever I would find a place of belonging, I would cling to it hard and throw my all into it.  I would serve my heart out, doing the work of the Lord, sacrificing all else….and sacrifice is good.

But did you know?

He desires obedience more than sacrifice.

And it was only when I began to be obedient to His leading, listening to His prompting and putting what I wanted on the backburner that I began to feel freedom.

Freedom from the restlessness and freedom from the desire for the approval of others.

Freedom.

You see, I am right where I am supposed to be.  And nowadays, my service to the Lord has more to do with what happens within my four walls than what happens out in the world.  I am fulfilling my calling.  By just being present in my home fully…body, mind, soul and spirit…I am doing the work of the Lord.  I believe I’ve learned the art of contentment, at long last.

I started to make a list of every volunteer ministry position I’d ever been in…but it was a long, long list.  I spent quite a few moments on it, listing my accomplishments, my job titles, my endless hours of serving.  I found pictures to match the job descriptions.  But He stopped my fingers typing and said no to the list.

Because this particular entry is actually not about what I’ve done.  It’s about why I’ve done what I’ve done.

I’ve served for lots of reasons.

1. I love the Lord.
2. I love to do His work.
3. I love to serve out of my giftings.
4. I am a team player. I believe that kingdom work is more effective when we do it together.
5. I love being a part of something that impacts the world.
6. I need to belong. I need to be known.
7. I crave the approval of others.

And it’s numbers six and seven that begin to get me in trouble, to distort things.  All these many years I’ve lived, I have often lived according to numbers six and seven.

It’s scary for me to share this stuff.  I’ve deleted it and typed it, deleted it and typed it again.  I want the world to see that I’m whole, that I’ve got it together, that I’m okay.  But the truth is that…I’m somewhat  whole, being constantly healed and loved into His image.  That I absolutely do not have it together, but I rest in the Hands of the One who holds everything together.  That I’m okay but only because I’ve been redeemed.

And I think it’s important for you to know that this work He’s done in me…He can do in you.

Here and now I’ve discovered this side effect of dwelling in thankfulness.

I don’t need to please anyone anymore.

I don’t need to reinvent myself.

I don’t need to try so hard to prove I’m okay.

This is new to me, this feeling of peace that has replaced my restlessness.  This feeling of having good gifts to offer…but not feeling like I have to do every single thing that comes my way to prove my gifts are good.  This calm, this release…this freedom to be the me-est me I can be.  It’s new.

It’s good, my beloved ones.

I say that I think it’s come about because of thankfulness and I do think that’s true…but I’m thinking about my life now and my life during my most restless times…and there are quite a few things that are different now.

1. I live in a healthy home. My husband loves me fully and as Christ loved the church. He values me for who I am and I have nothing to prove to him. He loves me because I am me and he doesn’t ever ask me to be different than who I am and he doesn’t ever ask me to be better or do better. He just loves me, I am good enough for him…and that makes me want to be better. A Christ centered marriage…for this I am every day so thankful, so grateful and so overjoyed that I could cry.  What a good, good gift.

2. Obedience. I am living out my true calling. God has been asking me for years to put my wifehood, motherhood and stewardship of my home first. And I’ve listened for a season here and a season there but with no consistency. I love my family, I love being a mom but there were definitely times over the years when I became a ministry-aholic. A messy, messy house, kids that needed more of my time than they got and (in my first marriage) not making my husband a priority all limited, I think, my freedom from the restlessness. And it so typical of me, trying to meet my needs my way instead of His way. Now, I put John, my children and caring for my home first. I don’t do a ton of ministry away from home because my gifts are best suited to my home. I sing in the prayer room twice a month and hope to eventually move to once a week. I lead a small group of first graders at church every week and that’s it. The rest is here- at home. And I have bloomed as I’ve lived out His will for me.

3. Thankfulness. It’s teaching me to see His goodness and to see His love for me. I must believe He loves me as I am when I write out all the beautiful gifts He gives me everyday. It makes it easier for me to give and receive love because my heart is satisfied with the goodness of God. I’m no longer starved.

Here I am, just me, but beautiful in the eyes of the King of all.  I was good enough all along…because I am made in the image of the King.  I am covered by the blood of Jesus and through that filter, God sees me.

It’s so simple and I want to make it so hard…but here I am!  I’m almost forty, and I’m just figuring out so many things.

He loves me.

I read Psalm 45:11 in every possible translation and every single one was truth and we must write this truth on our hearts.  Write it on your hand, write it on your mirror.  Know it and believe it.

“Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
honor him, for he is your lord.” (NIV)

“For your royal husband delights in your beauty;
honor him, for he is your lord.” (NLT)

“Then the King will desire your beauty.
Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him.” (NASB)

“So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.” (KJV)

“Be here—the king is wild for you.
Since he’s your lord, adore him”.  (the Message)

“So the King will greatly desire your beauty;
Because He is your Lord, worship Him.” (NKJV)

What’s verse or truth can you share with us today? A verse, a truth that says who you are? Will you share it?

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Look For the Joy

I am pulling out of the neighborhood to go to preschool when a huge truck on gigantic wheels roars up behind me.  My rear bumper and his front bumper are only a breath apart.

He stays on my bumper until he is able to pass me on Rte. 17 and when he passes, he roars by angrily.  He gives me a hostile glance and continues on, flying down the road much too fast.

My going the speed limit has really offended him.

Fast forward an hour or two and I’m at the grocery store.  There is a bagger there that I often see and I don’t think he enjoys his job.  He always grumbles through putting the groceries in my cart.

He continues to grumble as he wheels my cart out to the family truckster.  He tells me far more than I need to know about how corporate just doesn’t get the needs of their store.

I tell him to have a good day and he doesn’t reply.

I think about both of these men later as i’m ruminating on the day with my hands in soapy dishwater.

They were both angry at the outset.  The one was in a hurry, furious that a speed limit keeper would be in front of him on such a busy day.  The second was put upon, a victim, angry that his job wasn’t the way he thinks it ought to be.

I pray, “God, give them both something to be thankful for today.”

Truth is, the attitudes of both caused me some anxiety.  Because bitterness, grumpiness, hostility…it can be contagious.  And I’m working so hard on holding steady.  Letting God be the master of my attitude.

I pray again…”God, give those men something to be thankful for.  Give their hearts some joy.”

And He reminds me of how it was when I was looking for troubles and not looking for joys.   Some people get trapped living their lives like that- always looking for hardship, looking to be offended, looking for reasons to be put upon and disgruntled.  I was living like that.  It’s a truth I can’t deny.

And I painted it as realism, as being honest and authentic.  I’m not denying that in this life I have troubles.  I do.

Right now, I have a husband who must be away from home an awful lot each day.  He has to do this so that we have enough money to cover our expenses.  He leaves around 7:30 in the morning and he returns between 7:00 and 7:30. That makes for a long day for a family who misses him.  It makes for a long day for this stay at home mom, to be sure.  But we are so thankful for the provision of the second job.  So thankful.

We long for our sixth child but it just isn’t coming.  The project is currently on hold because my back and my joints are not at their best…Medications, pain, finding a diagnosis…this is the focus for the next few months.  But we are so thankful for the five we have and the “extras” God has given us.

And while we’re on the subject…my pain has lately worsened.  My back spasms, my joints ache, I am stiff and rickety.  I’ve got a cabinet full of medications and a prescription for an X-ray in my purse.  But I’m so thankful that I can still go about my daily routines (except for vacuuming…that one chore really gets my back hurting) and I’m so thankful for a doctor who is thorough and who is committed to getting me feeling better.

These are our challenges right now.  These three things.

My gratitude journal?  Where I’m counting out my joys?  More than three hundred things.

I wake up hopeful, expectant, cheerful.  (Most of the time.)  Because even though there are hard things, He is faithful to me.

It bottom lines to a choice- would I rather be joyful or would I rather be angry?

And it’s not about denying the truth.  It’s not about ignoring the hard things.  It’s not about assuming that magic genie God will pop out of the lamp at the right time and give me exactly What I Want exactly When I Want It.  He doesn’t work that way because that’s not good parenting.

Yesterday, I would not give Claire the desire of her heart.  She deeply, deeply longed for a black Sharpie with which to color her legs.  (This is a new passion of hers.)  I said no and I took the Sharpie away.  And, when she had a fit, she got a time out on the stairs.  She did not understand why I would not give her the Sharpie, but I know that I don’t want to have to scrub Sharpie off of walls and baby legs.  She’s not old enough for the Sharpie and she can’t understand that, but I can.

Being thankful doesn’t mean that we get all that we want.  It means that we are content with what we have.  It keeps our eyes from searching for the things we don’t have and keeps us focused on the here and now.

And some things just suck.  Being thankful doesn’t magically make my memories of my divorce sunny and cheerful.  That was a hard thing and it impacted my children and it impacted me.  It sucked a lot.

Being thankful doesn’t mean that my miscarriage wasn’t a horrible experience.  It was horrible and I miss that baby…that baby that would be close to a month old and a welcome addition to all this beautiful chaos.

Being thankful doesn’t erase the things that hurt…it just opens our eyes to the things that bless.

I had to be willing to give up “Poor Me”.  Because Poor Me doesn’t work when you’re thankful.  You can’t fit a full measure of gratitude and a full measure of self pity in the same heart.  I want the gratitude more.

Don’t you want the gratitude more?

Start today.  Read about the Joy Dare online, download the “1000 Gifts” app, get an old notebook, buy a new journal.  Start small.  Start HERE!  Name three things you are grateful for today in the comments section.

Listen to this song while you think it through and then let us know- what are you thankful for today?

Restoration by David Brymer

Be Still

Early morning and I am the only soul awake.

It’s uncharacteristically quiet in a house that usually vibrates with voices, movement, music and life.

I breathe deep.

I feel Him stirring my heart to pray.

But when I close my eyes and open my hands to receive, no words come at all.

I wait.

I am still.

And that’s when I realize that’s the purpose this morning.  To sit and be still in Him.

It’s so hard for me to open up my heart and my hands and to just be still and quiet.  A small part of me always wonders…”Is the offering I bring going to be enough for Him?”

But it is, because what He wants is me.

My sacrifice of praise this morning is to just be still in His presence.

Psalm 131

I Have Calmed and Quieted My Soul

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

131 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 131 Listen!

I have calmed and quieted my soul.

I have been still in the Presence of the One who holds it all together.  I do not do enough of this. No, I’m the one running hysterical into the throne room, throwing herself at His feet and begging for this, that or the other thing.  Or, I’m the one with the short bullet line prayers- where are my keys?  Help this person with this.  Heal so and so. I love you and I’m thankful and I’ll spend more time with you later.

How much more would my life change if I took these moments to just BE with Him?  To not try and solve My World’s problems, to not just beg for miracles and provision, to not just put Him off for times that are convenient for me.  How much more would my life change? He renews me as I sit in silence.  He sharpens me.  He fills my heart with His goodness.

These moments go by so quickly and little ones are stirring…big girls are rising…the phone rings, the dog barks.

The moment of stillness passes so quickly but its residue lingers.