Restore Us

Restore-Us

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about Joel 2:25.  I’ve been thinking a lot about restoration and change and how we are redeemed, set free, saved.  How we can live because He died.

I’ve been thinking about His Church, our Church, the Church.  And I don’t meant the building you go to (or don’t go to) or the place down the street or where your kids went to Bible School this year or where you go for choir practice.  I mean The Church.  I mean us.  His people.  The ones He loves and died for.  The redeemed, set free and saved.

And I want restoration for us.

Not just restoration for each of us personally, because of course I want that.  But this is more, this is bigger.  This is restoration for His Church.

A return to loving God and loving people the way that the very early, brand new church did.  A Church who loves by feeding the hungry, speaking up for the silent.  A Church who empties herself out for the ones He loves.  The ones He died for.  A Church who wouldn’t rest if someone was still hungry or naked or alone.  A Church who adds the lonely and the weird and the quirky to its table.   Who beckons the lost and the solitary.  A Church who loves like Jesus loves.

Acts 2:42-47

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.   Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.   All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.    Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,   praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Isaiah 58:10

If you extend your soul to the hungry And satisfy the afflicted soul, Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, And your darkness shall be as the noonday.

James 2:14-18

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?Can such faith save them?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

Proverbs 31:20

She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.

This is the thing.

We don’t know how to do this.  We see the missionaries and the foster moms and the ones cooking in the soup kitchen as “Super Christians”.  We’ve admired our brothers and sisters as they’ve gone about loving well and feeding His sheep and we have wondered at how sacrificial they are.  Wondered at how they pour themselves out for others.  We’ve seen those faithful ones and we wonder how they have the time, the tolerance, the patience, the resources, the whatever it takes to love on the unlovable, to bless the broken, to demand justice for the downtrodden.

We don’t know how they do it.  We definitely don’t know how to do it ourselves.

But we can learn.  He can teach us.  He can restore our hearts to loving well and serving others and pouring out ourselves.  This is restoration.  Learning to love like Jesus.  Learning to serve like Jesus.  Living free because of the Blood of Jesus Christ, saved from the weight of our past, present and future sin and so in love that it oozes from our pores.  So in love with Jesus that we see His people through His eyes.

I so want that in my life.

More than I want freedom from anxiety, more than I want to buy my own house, more than I want to write a book, more than I want to lose fifty pounds, more than I want anything.

I want that deep restoration of soul.  Restore me to live a life of love.  Restored to love so well and so deep.  Restored so that action must follow.

My soul has not been stirred this deep in such a long time and it is cranky and unsure of where we’re going and what we’re doing.  It’s at war with itself and through the window you can see Poor Me and Discouragement and Worry with their noses pressed to the glass.  They are ready to steal this stirring from me.  Always so ready.

And so I press in to Him, sing a little louder, get cozy with Henri Nouwen in the book “The Inner Voice of Love”, open my Bible and read those beatitudes and read those Psalms and I sit at His feet and it is sometimes kind of hard.

It is sometimes really hard.

I’ll keep you posted…but I’m planning on my life changing.

 

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?

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.

Talking About Gratitude, Again

40.  Sunlight through the window
51. Cold diet Pepsi
52. Claire’s pride at putting on a hat all by herself
71. Sister giggles
107. Paw saying, “I sure am glad that Wayne and Teeny had a daughter named Chris.”
110. Talking baby names with my sister
115. Finding plastic animals in odd places
154. Lila and the “communication” juice
166. The joy of writing and sharing my words
179. Watching Aubrey in her play
182. That salty air smell
193. Humble words from one daughter
194. Hopeful words from another daughter
225. David’s giggles when I kiss his cheeks
230. Kind words from unexpected places
234. Paw’s face when she saw Chase today
248. Green beans cooked in butter and brown sugar
250. Laughing with all of these crazy daughter women
252. Feeling that sense of belonging
262. My bedroom fans
273. Watching the smoke from the fire lift up during worship outside at our family Bible study
282. Paw’s dove pin
288. The song, “My Soul Sings”

This is just a sampling.  Some of them are so close to my heart that I just can’t type them out for the world to see, they’re between Jesus and me.  Some things I’m thankful for two or three times as I turn the pages and I laugh at my redundancy.  Lots of things are food related!  Many of them are about being a mom.  About Bible study nights, about our home and our family.  But these are all things that:

1.  I may have missed if I hadn’t been looking for them.
2. I can now remember by reading back over them.

I may have missed the way the words of that song touched my heart.  I may have missed the way the sunlight came through the window to kiss my hand as I washed the dishes.  I may have missed the beauty in Creation that God made for me.  I may have forgotten to say thank you for the beauty and the joy and the glory He has made…just for my pleasure.  He delights in me and He gives me good, good gifts.

He gives them whether I say thank you or not.

And I may have forgotten the words Paw said to me back in January…before she was too sick to speak anymore.  I may have forgotten the way her face lit up when Chase arrived.  I may have forgotten the funny things that happen when you’re the mother of many and they are all so different and glorious…all their notes joining together in beautiful, harmonious chaos.  I may have forgotten about the night that Deanna, Julia, Aubrey and I stood at the landing and talked about life for who knows how long…but it’s written down now.  I can read back over my gifts and feel them all again…feel my gratitude again.

I can relive His love for me, over and over.

And I think about how it was before and how I tried to control my disappointments.  I went looking for what was going to go wrong so that maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much when it happened.  I expected the worst, I called myself a realist.  I told Him and I told me that I would ask for no other blessing…that His Presence and His Gift of Salvation were enough to sustain.  And yes, they are.  He is with me and He is faithful to the end.

But He also is a Good Father and He gives Good Gifts.

There’s no doubt that horrible, awful things happen.  There’s no doubt that in the world we will have trouble.  Doesn’t the Word say so? John 16:33  “In this world, you will have trouble…”

But, beloved ones, there is also no doubt that “I remain confident of this:  I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

There is goodness to be seen.  I have a spiral notebook that is filling UP with goodness.  And imagine if I had been faithful to record every day!  Sometimes days have gone by and I’ve forgotten to write things down so I know that I must be missing 100 gifts, at least.

Psalm 16

5 LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Strong Love

And here are more of my joys…

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Important Things

I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s really important in life and what I’m really living for.

Lots of things are important, lots of things are urgent…we must work, take care of the house, care for the children, get dinner cooked, finish the laundry, drive this one here and that one there.  We must walk the dog, pick up kids from preschool, clean the bathroom, do the homework, get to the doctor’s appointments, pick up the groceries.  At the end of the day, we fall into bed exhausted and I wonder sometimes aloud–

Did I do what was important today?  Did I do what I enjoy doing today?

Because doing what I want to do, what is enjoyable, is a whole other thing.  We want to watch a movie, check Facebook, play Draw Something or Words With Friends, we want to nap, eat Reese’s cups, visit with friends, linger over one more cup of coffee.  We want to paint our nails or color our hair or read a magazine.  We want to sit in the sun with eyes closed.  There are so many things we want to do that don’t necessarily fit in with the urgent.

The days fly by and all I’m doing is rushing around and trying to Get Through The Day.  

And I want more than that.  I want more than just getting through the day.

I say to John all the time, “It’s another marathon week.” because we have one jillion things planned, scheduled and that urgently needed to be attended to.

But what really matters most?

If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you know that my inner me is under major reconstruction.  God is really weeding some crap out of my heart and making me better.

This has been a painful and glorious process.

Since Paw has gone on to the Lord, my heart and my prayers have been fixed on the heritage she’s passed down to us.  The heritage of faith and family.  On Easter Sunday, my heart almost broke with love for my family, not just my immediate family but aunts, uncles, cousins.  I saw unique beauty in each one, I saw Paw in us all.  Memories and moments and quirks and strengths and weaknesses of  60 odd people coming together in the most beautiful tapestry that Paw began with her own two hands years and years ago.  This is Important.  This is Vital.  This family is full of love and life and laughter.  This family is a good, good gift.  And what better way to honor our Paw than to keep it close.  Deep inside, I hear a cry, “Do not take this good gift for granted.”

Here is the children singing their hearts out to the Lord in honor of Paw on Easter.

All the kids in attendance!

We watched “the Passion of the Christ” on Sunday and I keep seeing Jesus, beaten and bloodied and just made of love and mercy.  I want to burn the images into my eyes and on my heart and I don’t want to forget how I feel right now.  Because seeing that…remembering Him in that way…it makes all the worries that I worry over, all the stressors that I stress over, all the strivings that I strive for…it makes those things seem almost ridiculous.  And while I’m not saying that I should just stop washing the dishes and doing the laundry and only ever read the Bible and I’m not saying that I should never laugh at “Raising Hope” again…I am saying that all the things that make me crazy (or crazier) throughout the day are just almost nothing.

I’m saying that I must examine my life and get rid of the things that hinder love.

And that’s a tall order and it carries enormous implications.

But when I think of Jesus on the cross…when I think of Paw and her faithful, love filled life…I know it’s the next step.  He died for my sins and my pain.  He died for love.  And He didn’t just take too many Ambien and go to sleep…He suffered and struggled and was separated from His Father and descended into hell.  He was beaten and bloodied and bruised.  And my face was in His heart as He did this.  So was yours.

So…all this rushing around…all this stressing and worrying and panicking…all of this must go.

“Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”   Ephesians 5:1-2

Real Love

The Sacrifice of Praise

I think we know in our heads and even in some places of our hearts that God knows best.

But that doesn’t stop us from trying to tell Him what to do.  I often get His plan “figured out” and then I try to make it happen.  Yes, you read right.   I try to make it happen.

This is, of course, fruitless.

I think of Abraham and Sarah and how they tried to make God’s promises come to pass.

It began with this- a Holy visitation and a word from the Lord.  “I will make you a father of many nations.  I will give you and Sarah a son.”

And the two of them wanted that son a lot…Sarah grew impatient and decided they would need a surrogate.  She supplied her servant Hagar to her husband in order to get this son.  But it wasn’t a good thing…and it wasn’t really what Sarah wanted because this is not what God had in mind.

Genesis 21:12 says, “For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.”
The New Living translation says, “…This happened just at the time God said it would.”

God’s timing.  He sets the times and none of our striving can change that.  It’ll happen at the time God said it would.

Last night, I made oven baked chicken with a ritz cracker crust.  It was really good but man, it was spicy.  I couldn’t figure out what was making it so spicy.  Paprika, salt, pepper, thyme, onion powder.  Why were we all on fire?

John suggested, “Maybe you mixed up the paprika and the cayenne?”  And sure enough I had.  We all agreed that it was better this way and it made me think about God.

Sometimes we think we’ve figured out His plan. Sometimes we think we know best but the truth is…

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans for a hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

And only He knows when and how and all of that.  And it’s like the chicken.  Sometimes the unexpected is the most flavorful.  Sometimes we can’t imagine what His best really is, we can only see our best.  And how can we even know what the best is?  God can see the end of the story and we can’t.

I’m in a season of surrender.  I’m in a season of placing all that I try to control and manage and worry about on the altar.  To make my life a sacrifice of praise.  It’s a choice I must go back to day in and day out.  Laying down my plans for my family, my plans for my future, my dreams (this one hurts) for all of us on the altar and giving all to Him.

I want my heart to beat with His.  I want my steps to be in sync with His.  I want to walk the paths He has for me.  It’s scary to lay it all down and surrender my own will.  It’s hard.  But I don’t want to miss His best for me.  Thirty nine years in this life has taught me one thing- I am nothing without Him.  And His best is what I want.  There is joy in the laying it down.  There’s something about emptying ourselves out and letting Him fill us back up.  There’s something powerful in surrender.

He never holds His best back from us.  He gives it with no strings attached and with open hands.  But we have to be willing to release control and take it.

 

Sons and Daughters

I watch Claire climb up on the toy chest by the window to read her book.  She is an unstoppable force, always moving, always doing, always into something.  She is determined.  Her daddy says she gets this from me.

But she is just like him.

She looks like him, her hands and feet are just like his.  She is his mini me.

I watch her, not quite seventeen months old, sitting in the sun from the window, thumbing through her book over and over again.  Books are the only thing that really hold her interest.  It’s the only time she is ever still.  So funny that a love for books could be genetic but it must be so.  My niece Addy will tell you about “Uncle John’s room” which is our living room/office and is filled with around one thousand books.  Books belonging to Claire’s daddy.

I think about Lila and how her smile reminds me so much of her cousins on her dad’s side, how her hands are her paternal grandmother’s hands.

I think of Aubrey.  From me she has inherited a love for children and a love for theatre but I hear in her speech patterns and see in her expressions her Aunt Ashley.

Julia.  Now that she is an adult, people marvel at how like me she is.  But it’s not in appearance…we just share some inner traits that people seem to recognize.  Mannerisms, ways of speaking, love of song and prayer.

Oh, and Chase.  He is his father all over again in appearance, but I see some of the Blantons in the set of his eyes.  I see my dad in those eyes and I like to think he gets his sense of humor from me. I know he gets his short temper from me.

They are all five uniquely themselves.  People always look for sameness in their children…this one looks like that one, this one acts like that one…but the truth is, they are all uniquely themselves.  They are all fearfully and wonderfully made.

My favorite phase of child development is the two to five phase.  This is when they become themselves and they are uninhibited enough to just be themselves.  They have all these weird little kid quirks that they don’t know to be embarrassed about.  Julia sucked her thumb and had her “pwo”…an ancient purple pillow that had been mine.  Aubrey came home from preschool every day and changed into her nightgown.  Once that was done, she just had to watch Pocahontas 2.  Every. Day.  Chase carried a handful of change in his fist all day, every day.  I had to pry it from his hands after he fell asleep.  He also toted a basketball and would only wear “basketball shirts” (tank tops).  Lila is obsessed with plastic animals.  We find them in unlikely places- in shoes, on the back of the toilet, perched on top of candles and picture frames.  Yesterday, I found one in the refrigerator.  Claire is not quite in this phase yet, but I see it coming.  She has her own self-ness too.

I love the authenticity of little kids.  I love their unapologetic, this-is-who-I-am ways.  I love that they’re okay with it being weird to dip their rice in ketchup, that they don’t mind that no one else in the house can stand to watch that particular episode of Barney again, that they think getting a sticker is the best thing that ever happened.  They live life full on, no holding back.

When do we lose that?

When do we become afraid?  When do we begin to doubt who we are?  When do our quirks become something to hide and not something to celebrate?

Ephesians 2:1 tells us:  “For we are God’s workmanship...”
Isaiah 43 tells us: “…we are created for His glory…”
Genesis 1, the very beginning says: “Let us make man in our own image…”
Psalm 139, so powerful to me: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

God only makes good things.  You are a good thing.  am a good thing.  Our children are a good thing.  Our spouses are a good thing.  We are all created by His hands and we all deserve to give and receive honor, to live our best selves, to love well…We are all God’s favorites, chosen to be loved and known by Him.

Not too long ago, I posted this:  No One is Youer than You.  At the end, I asked people to list five things that make them special.  Several people contacted me and said this was so hard for them.  Some couldn’t do it at all.  If you are one who struggles with embracing your you-ness, I just need you to know a few things:

There is NO ONE LIKE YOU.
You are beloved.
You have a purpose, you are not an accident.

Right now, Pandora is on tv and Darrel Evan’s “I’m Trading My Sorrows” is on. Lila is belting out, “Yes, Lord! Yes, Lord! Yes, Lord!” and she and Claire are dancing wild all around the living room. Abandoned, joyful, happy dancing. They are not ashamed of who they are, they just are who they are.

This is life.  This is living full.  This is a celebration of who we are.  Ones who are image bearers of the king, ones who are beloved and special and purposed.  Sons and daughters.

This is the Day that the Lord Hath Made

When a loved one passes away…people often say or post, “Rest in peace.”

And often images of heaven are peaceful ones…babbling brooks, warm breezes, angels playing harp music, soft fluffy clouds and long, comfortable robes.

But today, my Paw died.  And today, she is with Jesus and so today…I don’t know how peaceful heaven is.  I’m thinking that today, in heaven, there’s a party.  That today, all of those faithful ones from the book of Hebrews are welcoming in one of their own.  Because my Paw lived faithful.

Today is the day that tambourines jingle and feet fly and laughter rings out across heaven.  Today is the day that Paw is no longer bound to her wheelchair or, as she has been lately, to her bed.  Today is the day she can run, she can twirl, she can jump and she can dance, dance, dance without getting tired.

Today Paw will hold hands with Jesus and look into the face of God and the joy that floods my heart when I think about that moment is such a comfort.  An elixir to the grief that this morning brings…knowing our world doesn’t have Paw in it anymore.

Paw used to sing to us on the back porch.  “Oh Jolly Playmate”…I can hear it in my heart even now.  She used to sing as she washed the dishes…”This is the Day”….

This is the day
This is the day that the Lord hath made
That the Lord hath made
We will rejoice
We will rejoice
And be glad in it
And be glad in it
This is the day that Lord hath made
We will rejoice and be glad in it
This is the day
This is the day
That the Lord hath made

This is the day that He called His daughter home.  That He called her to her reward.  And while we will so much miss the wisdom, the love, the joy that our Paw was in our lives…she is home.  This is a day that we rejoice in.

My sister prayed last night that Paw would feel all the love of all of her people at one time and that she would be blessed and rest in that.  The love that she is feeling today is that much love times 100.

We will mourn.  We will weep and we will feel sorrow…but we rejoice as well.  Paw is home.  Paw is loved.  Paw is dancing and leaping and singing and shouting.

And all of heaven with her.

No One is Youer than YOU!

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 1 Corinthians 4:4-6”

I stand at the sink, washing dishes and thinking about things.

I have a lot to think about…my Paw, my kids, my husband, my friends, my family…Caroline begging for attention from the laundry room, laundry begging for attention too.

But I am thinking about my blog and how much I love words and how much I love that God is using my love for words to refine me and to be near to me.  I’m in such a season of refining.

I say to Him, “I’ve always beat myself up because I’m not really a student- I read the Bible but don’t get far studying it…I love to read fiction, not books for learning more about You.  I suck at carving out a quiet time.”  Instead, my day is comprised of thirty second quiet times as I go along.  A prayer here, a thanks there, a tear here, songs sung here.  I want to be like my husband who loves to study and read the word. Or like my old friend Joseph who gets up at 5:00am just so that he’ll have two hours of time with the Lord…every morning.

“That’s how I get through the day.  I can’t be a good person without that time.”  he once told me.

But that’s not me.  I am scatterbrained and easily distracted and I learn by seeing and feeling more than by reading and studying.

“Thank you,” I say, “For drawing near to me in writing and singing.”

And He says, “It’s how I made you.”

I could stand to develop more discipline in the area of study…but God is also okay with me being me.  He made me this way…relational and creative and a little bit flaky.  He is using what I have to change me and to make me more like Him.

Yesterday, I had some of the kids at the dentist’s office and the hygienist was asking me questions about the kids and their teeth and when this one’s teeth came in and about cross bites and cavities…and I didn’t always know the answer.  I couldn’t remember those small details.  I have five…and I’ve had one of them for nineteen years and a lot has happened in nineteen years.  I can’t always remember when teeth came in or how this one’s teeth looked at five or that one’s teeth looked at five.

But God remembers each little thing about us.  He remembers my little idiosyncrasies and giftings and talents and He plans out my life so that they can be used, that they can be placed on a lamp stand to serve the body.

My husband is a teacher and, in his heart, a preacher.  I am sad that he’s not able to exercise the gift of preaching right now but his answer is always this, “God made me this, He won’t forget I need to use it.”  And he doesn’t fret over it…He is confident that God will use his gifts and talents.

God is a Good Father.

Today, get out a piece of paper or open a sticky note on your computer or ask Siri to start a list for you.  Please list five good things about you.  Five good things that make you You.  There is only one you.  Fearfully and wonderfully made and the apple of Your Father’s eye.  And when you’re done making that list, would you share it here?  It would be beautiful to see the gifts of my readers!