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?

This is the Body

Community:  a unified body of individuals

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Lila has preschool.  I pick her up at 12:30.  She bounds out of her classroom with blonde hair flying smiling big.  Seconds after our reunion hug, she’ll say, “Who is at our house?”

She always wants to know.  Who do we get to see today?

At four and a half, she understands the importance of community.  And she loves her community.

Tonight, we went to our new community group at our new church for the second time.  We are digging in at Waters Edge.  We are all in.

It was good.  I’m anxious to see what’s next on our horizon.  This season of pruning and change has been painful and beautiful all at once.

We drive home, chatting about this and chatting about that and my mind is on community.  I am still thinking about community as I come into the house and thank Aubrey for caring for little sisters and a crazy dog in our absence.

I’ve said this before and I say it again now…we are rich in community.

Our family is a big, beautiful community.  We are blessed on both sides- parents that love us, aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins…family.  We know about unconditional love and support and grace.  We know because our families show us unconditional love and support and grace every day.  We are not alone.

We have friends.  Friends on both sides of the water, friends from our old church, friends from the neighborhood.  This weekend, we gathered with three different groups of friends.  Old friends on Friday night, friends to laugh with, remember with and laugh with some more.  Friends on Saturday to play cards with while kids run wild and happy.  Friends on Sunday, friends to eat with and pray with and tell and hear stories with.  All of these friends…iron sharpening iron.

And now we have a new community.  A new community of believers to do life with, to love Jesus with, to be the bride with.  We will be the body with this new community.  We have jumped in with both feet and we are all in.

We are not alone.  We are never alone because God designed us to know and be known.  He has given us each other.  He has given us each other to love well, to serve, to sharpen.  We must be the body and love each other well.  That means putting ourselves out there.  That means going the extra mile for each other.  That means that we meet the needs of other first and ourselves last.  We practice JOY.

Jesus First
Others Second
Yourself Last

Oh Lord, let me be one who loves well.  One who does community well.  One who serves others.

Jesus, make me more like you.

As Christ Loved The Church

Valentine’s Day draws near and all day, when I’ve put my mind to writing, I can think only of my husband.

When the subject of men and marriage comes up, he always says, “Men are supposed to love their wives like Christ loved the church.  And Christ was crucified for the church.”

Christ was crucified for the church, He suffered and died to bring her to life.  This is how a husband should love his wife.

John does this everyday.

He does it when he gets up before the sun, prepares for work, wakes a stepdaughter for school and makes coffee for me.

He does it when he drives an hour to and an hour from work.

He does it when he stays away from home for two extra hours four days a week to teach a homebound student to bring in extra money for our family.

He does it when he wakes in the night to soothe a fussing baby or chase a child’s nightmare away.

He does it with every diaper he changes.

He does it when he takes out the trash, every day and without being asked.

He does it when he drives big girls here and there and everywhere.

He does it when he plays video games with a stepson.

He does it when he goes fishing with a father in law.

He does it when he prays and prays and prays for each child in our family and for the ones that are in our heart.

He does it when he leads our family Bible study every Sunday night.

He does it when he graciously receives anger that was really earned by my first husband.

He does it when he calmly and kindly points out that I might be losing it.

He does it when he gives Lila and me a big hug.  All three of us at once…she waits for this each day.

He does it when he prays healing for my aching joints and when he prays for God to give us just one more baby.

He does it in the way he encourages me to write, the way he loves my words as much as I do.

He does it in the way he listens to the oldest daughters in this house….respectful, calm, wise.

He does it in the way that he loves us well- all of us, me, Julia, Deanna, Aubrey, Chase, Lila, Claire and even Caroline.  His thoughts are on what we need and how best to serve us.

He does it in the way he loves me just as I am.

He does it in the way he believes.  His faith is solid and strong and like a mountain.  He believes, always, that God is good and He is with us.  He does not struggle with believing that the way that I do.

He does it in the way he leads.  He makes his decisions based on the leading of the Holy Spirit and with the whole of our family in mind.  He is a gentle leader, gentle with discipline and with exhortation.

He does it in the way that he laughs with us.  Our house is a place of joy.

He does it in the way that he values family time over any other time.  He doesn’t subscribe to “me” time.

He does it in the way he delights in these children.  Every one is a miracle to him, from the very oldest to the very youngest.

No, we are not perfect.  But we are blessed.  And while our marriage is not without it’s flaws, I count it every day as a joy.  There is no one I would rather do life with than my husband.  There is no one who is a better friend to me.  There is no one who loves me as fully as he does.  He is a gift.

Happy Aubrey’s Birthday, Sweetie.