Ok….this is the fourth attempt at starting this post. I know what I am trying to say but the words are just not coming out in any logical fashion. They are coming out like cheesy cliches – and that is NOT how I want to sound or what I ever want to share in this forum. I am weighed down this morning by a sadness that I can’t seem to express. Why do I read…hear…and almost believe the idea that its ok to be who I am – but can’t seem to actually own that reality and live it every day? Why am I unable to drown out the voices that incessantly chirp in my ear about my shortcomings? Why is the “bad” always easier to believe than the good? Who am I to think that I am ___________ (fill in the blank with anything…worthy, beautiful, okay, able, – you get the idea). I know that I am told that I have been “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14. I read that…I believe it because it is from God…but there are many days where I DO NOT live it. I know deep in my soul that God loves me. I feel his love carry me through dark times and joyfulness. When I am alone in my fears, I cling to His love to sustain me. I do. But I still have doubts at times about ME. I’m not sure how that makes any sense. Perhaps when I fall to the dangerous act of comparing myself to others – it is then that I feel “less than” worthy. Comparison kills confidence for sure. When I am asked to step out and be bold I shrink and hide behind my insecurities. I become like Adam and Eve in the garden – sewing fig leaves to hide their reality. Ashamed of who they were and what they had done, they attempted to hide themselves from God. What do I need to hide? What am I afraid of revealing to the world? (As I type these ramblings of questions – I truly am not sure I can even answer them. As I reread and edit – I am not sure this even makes any sense). I guess my take away from this time spent pondering is that I don’t have to hide from the God who created me. He knows what I am attempting to conceal from the world – my endless insecurities and fear of failure. He knows and yet he loves me anyway. It doesn’t matter what the world sees or thinks, or if they judge and hate. I am broken. But with God I am whole. I am afraid. But with God I have not a spirit of fear. I am insecure. But with God I can do all things. I am weak. But in my weakness I am strong through Christ. I need to stop sewing leaves to hide myself from the judgement of others and stand strong in who I am in God.
This verse has recently become my favorite verse. I know that I have read it many times in the recent past, but in the last week it has become so meaningful to me. And the more I read it, the more I see how packed it is with so such rich meaning and beauty. The first part that I really love talks about experiencing the love of Christ. God doesn’t want us to just know that we are loved. He doesn’t want us to just feel that we are loved. God wants us to experience his love. I love that idea. Its so much more than a feeling…stronger than an emotion…it is an experience. And even as we experience it, it is too much for us to understand fully. It is not like an earthly love. Its a supernatural love from our creator – the one who created us and who created love. THEN – only after we have experienced this love – THEN we our complete. Hmmm…so earthly love does not complete us. Not love from our spouse, or kids, or friends, or even brothers and sisters in Christ. The love of Christ is what completes us. Without experiencing that love – we are not complete. But when we do experience that love, we are complete with ALL the fullness of life. This is the abundant life that Jesus promised. It’s why he came. John 10:10 says “I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” We are just going to “get by” in this life. Jesus’ love completes us and grants us that fullness of life. So, we experience His love (even though it’s too much for our brains to understand), we are made complete not only with a full, abundant life, but also with POWER from God. So a full life, and power from God. Power to live out our lives, power to overcome struggles, power to fight the enemy, power to love others through their sin, power to spread the gospel, power to fulfill the plans God has for our lives. The promise from God to be made complete with His power is overwhelming to me. Being complete with His power means that there is NOTHING out there that is bigger or stronger than my God. With his power in my I can accomplish all that he has in store for my life – no excuses. God would not call me to serve him, and then not equip me with the tools to do that. To think otherwise is to short change God. As we experience the love of Christ, we are made complete. Life becomes a full, rich, meaningful life. We share in the power that God has for us. Rather than feeling God’s love, or knowing that he loves us, choose to experience His love in your life.
I started a new journal (one of about 10 – don’t judge) this year for recording verses and thoughts that strike me in a new way. I have read through many of the books of the Bible several times, but, as I have said before, I truly believe that the Spirit reveals things to us from the word in a new way as we are needing them or as we grow and become ready to receive them. To that end, I have decided to journal these verses as they present themselves with the significance they have to me at that moment in time. Just the other morning while I studied I wrote down this verse. “…the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6) There is so much meaning layered in these few words. On the morning that I wrote them, I truly was thinking about serving and loving on the people whom God has brought into my life – mostly through Celebrate Recovery and our new church home. And I whole-heartedly believe that truly, as a Christian, our faith is expressed through the way we love those around us. This morning, though, as I re-read that verse, it presents a new, slightly different meaning. I think of this verse today in terms of my covenant with Brian. We just celebrated our first anniversary. I would be lying if I said that everyday of that first year was like a honeymoon, with rose pedals and violins,etc. We had our challenges. Not only the challenges presented by trying to blend our families (I use the word BLEND very loosely), but also just the ups and downs of really learning each other and living together AND growing in our walk with God at the same time. At times, we were overwhelmed and thought that maybe our expectations of this covenant we had made with each other and God were too much. We were very intent on the fact that our marriage was priority and that God was using our love and our union to make us more holy. But in the day to day “muck” of life – that all seems too lofty and leads to disappointment. I am certain that God brought Brian and me together for His purposes. I am certain that Brian is the man God intended for me, and I am so grateful for the love that we share. This verse this morning really spoke to me as far as Brian and my marriage is concerned. We can get bogged down in daily life, raising kids, paying bills, highs, lows, failures and disappointments. But when we take time to be still and to share with each other, “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” I am made more holy through this covenant. I am learning to love like Christ loved through this covenant. I sit here in the middle of a home that has, at times, felt broken and failed…and I am more certain than ever that I am where God called me to be. My faith in God is being expressed through this love.
I do not make New Year’s resolutions. I am horrible at them. They are expectations that I rarely (never) meet – which just leaves me feeling bad (worse) about myself. It only took me about 35 years to figure this out. Since coming to the realization that resolutions are not my thing, Brian and I decided to resolve to “be better” by focusing our lives and efforts on a particular word for the entire year. That exercise proved to be very rewarding and actually kept us focused on a goal without leaving us feeling like failures after a few months (and by months I mean days). This year the word I chose is PERSPECTIVE. I wrote a blog this past summer about that word and when it came time to choose a word for the whole year – it really made sense to me. I recently heard a sermon by one of my new favorite pastors to listen to (Matt Chandler) in which the pastor basically called out those of us who compare ourselves to others. (Yes, I was one of the “us”). How many of us can justify our selfish actions, our hateful words, or our sinful behavior by comparing ourselves to someone who happens to be “worse” than us. Well of course I’m going to look like a champ if I compare myself to someone whose behavior is apparently “worse”. But that certainly doesn’t make me into the person God wants me to be – just because I’m not “as bad” as someone else. It can work the opposite way as well. We can compare ourselves to someone who seemingly has it all together and has a perfect wonderful life with perfect kids, no problems, beautiful home (do you see where I’m going with this)…and feel really bad about ourselves. It can wreak havoc on us. Our peace and contentment really come when we have a healthy perspective on things. And as believers, our peace and contentment comes from our savior. How does Jesus see us? What would his perspective be? If we begin to view life through His lens, how does it change our perspective on things? This word has come to mean so much to me as I meet people and learn about myself. There is no way to wallow in my problems when I am worshipping next to a recovering heroin addict. That’s perspective. I can’t possibly continue to worry about finances and budget when I have friends who are currently homeless. I believe that Jesus’ perspective on “sinners” in His time was revolutionary. He didn’t see the woman at the well the way the Pharisees would have seen her. He saw her through the perspective of love…not condemnation. As I embark on another year as a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, a wife, a mom, a teacher, and a woman, I know that IF I am able to keep things in perspective – not MY way, but God’s way – I know that I will be blessed and that God will open my eyes to see some beautiful things in 2014.
So today I came home with such a heavy heart. Teaching middle school is challenging! Teaching middle school in an urban setting – surrounded by poverty, drugs, fights, absent parents, etc) is even more challenging. It is a tough, but at times a rewarding gig. But some days….
This afternoon I had, in my opinion, a less than pleasant interaction with a co-worker and it has really brought me down. Six hours later I am still carrying around the weight of feeling disrespected and I can’t seem to shake it.
And as I sit here, I’m thinking things like “I really need to find another job” or “Just wait until I see her next week and tell her what I really think about her.” But here’s the problem with both of those thoughts. I don’t want to find another job. That school is my own mission field. I am certain that God hand-picked me for this place. And I know that in very small ways I share Jesus with them by just loving on them. And I’m not going to tell her anything that is not of God…because as a Christ follower I am to reflect Christ in all of my actions and words. And what on really think is maybe she was having a lousy day. Maybe she is dealing with more than I know. Maybe she needs someone to share Gods love with her.
It’s amazing what happens when I stop trying to manage life on my own and actually let go and let God show me what my life should look like. God speaks to me in so many ways. Today, in the midst of my struggles, my husband sent me this verse…”The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:14. It was precisely what I needed to hear. And though it came in the form of a text message from Brian, I’m certain that God placed Brian in my life to journey with me through this life. As I sit here and type I am enveloped In sense of calm and comfort. I’m certain that God is here with me…”For God has said,’I will never fail you.I will never abandon you.'”
I know that in each and every encounter God is teaching me a lesson, helping me grow, or simply displaying His love for me. I am grateful for the tears that flow from trying times, because I know that out of those tears come joy. And while there are days that I question my place in such a challenging school, I know that this is God’s plan for me. God called me to this place to do good.
1 Peter 2:21 “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.”
Saturday morning. Springtime. Soccer season. It seemed just like any other normal day as my son and I set up our chairs and settled in, ready to cheer on Carty and her team. The sun was shining, the smell of fresh, hot kettle corn wafted through the air tempting our senses. Life was seemingly “good.” And then out of the blue, it got better! Zach turned to me and began a conversation (with 15 year old boys – that’s almost a miracle in itself somedays). He told me that he’d really been thinking a lot about who he wanted to be, and who he thought God wanted him to be. He said that he was tired of letting life get him down, tired of being depressed, and that he was ready…ready to change…ready to let God be in charge of his life…ready to be baptized. Those words were the sweetest words I could ever hear. I fought tears as I told him how very proud I was of him and how much I had prayed for him to see the bigger picture. We talked throughout the game about what it really meant to be baptized, and how it would change his life. We also talked about the fact that making the decision to follow God would not mean that life would instantly become “perfect.” Life would still be difficult at times, peer pressure would still exist, and “bad things” would still happen. He seemed to understand and said that he knew that he was sure about his choice. He was ready to live out the life God had planned for him.
Later that same night, Brian and I had the privilege of baptizing Zach. It was one of the sweetest moments of my life. I pray that Zach will always remember that decision and live by it for the rest of his life. And I pray that he will be an example to others around him. I will always cherish those words he spoke to me that day…”Mom, I’m ready.”