We Just Have to Look

Lot’s wife ignored the warning and looked back, and she became of pillar of salt.  God’s love letter is full of warnings, but do we believe that it is motivated by the deepest love and concern in existence, or do we view God’s word more like the words of an angry parent shaking their finger?

 

Yesterday, I was privileged to share an entire hour praying with my beloved sister in Christ, Shazam.  This isn’t her real name – it is my term of endearment for her, because she fits the definition – (an introduction of an extraordinary deed, story, or transformation) – she’s shazam! in my book.  She is raising littles and I am raising teens.  There is a vast difference in age – she in her early 30’s, me in my mid 50’s, but I was amazed by our similarities as she shared her mother’s heart with our Lord.  She expressed her deep concern that her little girls would be wise and heed the warnings, to not look up at the solar eclipse.  She thought it silly to pray about this, but my heart was ministered to – I had been experiencing these same concerns for days.  You see, I am raising young adults.  Both are away from my presence most of the time now.  This hen no longer gathers her chicks.  They are out in the world adulting, and I am very aware that I can no longer protect them from everything.  God is teaching me to let go.  God is teaching me to trust in the One, who loves my children even more than I do.

 

When Shazam finished praying, I prayed too.  As I handed my children to their King, I realized the spiritual implications that are at play.  Why do humans always want to look, even though we’ve been warned to look away?  It made me realize that we are all mischievous or rebellious children, ignoring a loving parental warning.  I’ll just do it – invincible I am.  I can play with a little fire – I won’t get burned.  Sin is exciting for a season, but there is a consequence to pay.  Looking at the eclipse for a moment is exciting, but there will be a consequence to pay, and like sin, sometimes the consequence will last a lifetime.

 

God doesn’t warn us to take the fun out of life.  He warns us, so that we can live a full, abundant life.  Life with less heartache.  Life without the aftermath of the consequence of looking at, or touching the fire of sin.  He is the perfectly loving Parent, who wants the most incredible good for us.  I will commit this day, to being an obedient child, and wait for the good that He has planned for me.

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Deep Within

I am your greatest earthly treasure, but you’ve placed me upon a shelf. You pour yourself into things, that will be tossed away tomorrow. Look at me! Strangers, acquaintances and friends affirm me for a season, but you don’t see my gifts. Look at me! You see my adornments and your hands and lips examine the jewels, but you don’t see my heart and mind. Look at me! You praise my efforts, but always with a suggestion. Look at me! I am only a whisper away from you, but you don’t see the tears in my eyes. Look at me! What do I want? I do want you to be thrilled by my adornments, I do want you to praise my best, but I also want you to be amazed by my heart and my mind. Who am I? Don’t look at me, but look deep within me.

 

This statement could have been written by any married woman living today or throughout history. It is incredibly common for a wife to feel this way.  She isn’t necessarily depressed or not functioning, but she feels emptiness.  She needs encouragement.  She needs her best efforts to be praised, without an added criticism, in the form of a suggestion.  She needs to feel valued.  She needs all of her gifts and abilities to be appreciated, instead of being seen as problems or complications.  She needs you to be amazed by every part of her – her mind, body and soul.  She needs you to believe, and show her, that she is the butter to your bread.

 

Husbands, I’m trying to help you to help yourselves.  If any of the above sounds familiar, your wife is needing you to go to school.  She needs you to love her, by studying her.  She is worth the effort.  Your marriage is worth the effort.  Make her your lifelong learning project.  A man learning about a woman, is an attractive man.  I know it’s hard and probably foreign to you, since she is a strange and wonderful creature, but anything that is important, requires time and effort.  She doesn’t find it easy and natural, but she tries to make your physical needs her priority and put you before the children.

 

Women are relational, soft-hearted and responsive. Women have a deep need to be understood. If you remove the outward beauty and all of the tasks that she completes, you will find her essence. Her essence is her qualities and character. It is her own unique set of gifts, given to her by her Creator. Does she seem to attract those that you deem as unlovely? Is she kind, thoughtful and generous – putting others above herself? Is she sensitive to the moods or hurts of others? Does she love others, even though she gets hurt? Does her heart of compassion move her to take action?  Does she impressively deal kindly with you, the children and others outside of your household?  This is her essence, which is to be appreciated, not viewed as a problem that needs to be fixed.

 

See and appreciate her essence.  Praise her for all of her qualities, and brag about her to others.  As a woman ages, her physical beauty will change, the volume of tasks that she can complete will reduce, but her essence will remain, and it will become even more beautiful in time.  Give her the hope and encouragement that she needs, by looking deep within.

My Word Lesson

It wasn’t always this way.  Words haven’t always meant so much to me.  I didn’t always grasp the impact of a word, or the chasm created by the absence of words.  Now I seem to have a love affair with words.  Sometimes I choose to keep them to myself, and sometimes I use them to express my heart, and sometimes I use them to make someone else feel good, but unfortunately, sometimes my words have made someone feel bad.

 

Recently, our son said “mom, you don’t talk to us the way that you used to – you’re not as kind and patient as you were before”.   Before what?  My heart broke, and I thought long and hard.  It seems that the pressures of my current life and challenges were really getting to me.  Due to the necessary busyness of my life, I now believe that my relationship with my Lord began to suffer.  The branch, had become disconnected from the Vine.  The fruit that had existed on the branch, was beginning to shrivel and rot.  This manifested itself in short-tempered and harsh attitudes and speech.   As I wrote this post, I realized something else.  My son had been witnessing his mother as she worshiped God on Sunday, and then she returned home as a hypocrite.

 

I make no excuses for myself.  Yes, the demands are great, but do I have the same power in me that raised Christ?  Yes, it is available to me as a Christian, but if the branch is disconnected from the Vine, I am also disconnected from His power.  This is the power that could enable me to have grace on my tongue, no matter what my circumstances.

 

Now we’ve come full circle.  Why do words mean so much to me?  One word – legacy.  I want to leave a sweet legacy.  As it has been said, “taste your words before you spit them out”.  I want my words to be silent when appropriate.  I want my words to be carefully measured, with exactly the right amount of grace combined with truth.  I want my words to be merciful, encouraging and uplifting.  I want to be speaking these words for the rest of my life.  I want these words, to be the words on my lips, as I speak my very last.

 

I am the Vine, you are the branches.  Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.  For apart from Me, you can do nothing.   John 15:5

Youthfulness Doesn’t Have a Number

You know her.  She walks into the room, and others become aware of her presence. She is hated by some women, and loved by most men. The woman that despises her, will search high and low, to find a chink in her armor.  Men will notice her, and think that she rocks completely chink free. There is just something about her.

 

What this woman possesses and releases into the room, is the magic of youthful feminine loveliness. She is confident, but this doesn’t mean that she believes that she’s perfect.  Actually, it is quite the opposite. She is very aware of her imperfections, but she chooses to view them in a positive light. This kind of confidence, comes from a deep relationship with the One who designed her.  She is happy with her appearance and her personality – imperfections, quirks and all. The confidence that she feels, allows her to reach out to others, freely giving of herself, and she works to accept that she may never receive anything in return.  This doesn’t always come easy to her.  There are days that she could easily curl up inside of herself, to lick her wounds and insecurities, but she chooses to reach outwardly instead.

 

How does she do this?  It’s really not that complicated.  She is sweet, spicy and fun.  She is open and honest – showing her authenticity.  She smiles.  She looks others in the eye. She talks to the ones that others ignore. She listens with care. She doesn’t allow herself to be cliquish.  She may not be young, but she exudes youthfulness.  She’s like a magnet that draws others in.

 

Don’t be jealous of her – she isn’t your enemy.  You would be better served to examine your own attitudes and demeanor, and then learn from her.  Here’s a word about men.  They like this woman, and they can’t see anything wrong with her, so if you are tempted to speak negatively about her, or even raise an unapproving eyebrow when her name comes up, you might be pushing a man away.  A man won’t always be able to identify why this offends him – he just knows that it makes him very uncomfortable to hear a woman attempt to destroy his image of woman that he admires.  Men are attracted to youthfulness, and they are repelled by prudish catty behaviors.

 

Good news – youthfulness doesn’t have a number.  It exists in a woman that whether she is physically young or not, she captivates others with a glow that comes from within.  It’s her capacity to love others, and it comes from a confidence that quietly, softly radiates outward.   Youthfulness is so much better than merely a young physical appearance. This woman will actually make others feel better after they have had interaction with her. She breaths life-giving oxygen into a room and into the lives within it.

Happy Birthday Madeline!

Two years ago, I started a new journey.  Up until that time, I’d never written for creative purposes – only for business.  I had a desire to write from a biblically feminine point of view, and a dear friend encouraged me to do so.  When I started writing, I never thought that I’d still be writing two years later.  To be honest, I never envisioned that I would still have something to say, but God keeps providing me with material.  I want to thank each one of you for reading.  For those that take the time to comment, every time I fear that my ramblings are meaningless, you show me that no struggle is uncommon and when you are helped in some way, my heart is lifted high.  Let’s see what this next year brings, because Madeline is now in her terrible twos.

Going Sleeveless

Mostly ready for church, I reached over to grab my little white sweater and place it over my sleeveless blue jumpsuit.  I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and stopped.  I faced the mirror.  I turned to the side.  I was the same woman, but I was a different woman.  I still had the same scar on my upper left arm and the same arms that I haven’t liked for years, but I was seeing the silhouette of a different woman.  She was a woman, that God was making into something, that she could feel good about.  Suddenly I was comfortable exposing my arms.  I took that sweater and carried it to the car.  I told myself, “better bring it, just in case I get cold”, but that wasn’t entirely the truth.  I was bringing it, just in case I freaked out about going sleeveless.

 

There I was with my exposed arms in a room with over 300 souls, but there were only two that knew the victory that I was celebrating.  Me and my daughter.  She knows because, we have discussed our body image issues.  She sat beside me and smiled a knowing smile.  This past week, I thought about it a lot and I marveled.  I sensed that my last Sunday moment, was a pivotal moment in my life?

 

Like most people, I’ve lived with body image issues during my life.  There are occurrences that may have sent me in this direction.  Some serious – the innocence of a young girl being taken by someone that she trusted.  Some trivial – the hurtful snarky remarks by women that I didn’t even like.  It doesn’t really matter how trivial, because all of these occurrences shape how we perceive ourselves.   Thankfully, how I have perceived myself, is not where the story ends.  God is taking a caterpillar and turning it into a colorful butterfly.  Ironically, it was as though my perimenopause years were my cocoon and now that I’m at the doorway of menopause, the metamorphosis is bursting forth.  He is replacing my insecurities, with an ever-growing understanding of who He says I am.

 

There sure is a lot of heartache in this life, but I’m choosing to trust God with it.  Instead of getting bogged down, I’m learning to focus on my blessings and the work that God is doing in me.  My God is good and faithful.  He loves me and calls me His beloved.  My husband and I celebrated 35 years of marriage this week.  He loves me, likes me and still thinks that I’m the most incredible woman on planet Earth.  I could just stop there, but let me go on.  I have two amazing children, and although they are each going through their own “growing pains”, I can see and believe that God will bring beautiful fruit forward.  I have kind and thoughtful friends that love and accept me, exactly the way that I am.  God has provided me with everything that I need, plus a little bit more.  And finally, you actually want to read my ramblings.  By the way, I’m celebrating my 2nd writing birthday soon  – I’m now in my terrible twos.

 

I’ve wished that I could have gotten to this place sooner, but then arriving wouldn’t have been so monumental.  Everything that matters takes time and hard work.  That scar, is evidence of a life lived, mistakes made and a reminder to me that we all have scars, and we still need to be loved and accepted.  Those lines around my eyes, tell a story of a woman who even though life is never perfect, she can still smile from a genuine joy that exists deep inside.

 

I realize that this might be a silly story to many, but I’m glad that I get to share it with you.  It’s about way more than going sleeveless.  It’s about being at peace – with myself and with God.  Is there anything that you’ve been trying to hide?  I hope that my story inspires you to “go sleeveless”.

Beautiful Music – Never Out of Style

Men and women are equally valuable, and come in all shapes and sizes, with a wide variety of personalities, gifts and interests, but God made a man to be very different from a woman.  God composed a beautiful symphony when He created masculine man and then feminine woman.  No matter what our cultural influencers are saying, whether platonic or romantic, men are attracted to a soft feminine woman and women are attracted to a strong masculine man.  What are some of the characteristics of this strong masculine male?

 

Physically –  his body is hard and angular and he is naturally muscular and strong.  He can be a little crude and rough around the edges.  He craves physical touch and reads it as love – this doesn’t define him as a maniac.  He is a visual creature, noticing and appreciating feminine beauty.

Emotionally –  he craves peace, and will hide his feelings when he feels judged or when he believes she’ll react badly.  He will always have a little boy within himself.  He needs the women in his life, to be light-hearted and fun to be with.  He’s not your best girlfriend – keep the girl talk and shopping between girls and don’t ask him for an opinion on your outfit – he is afraid to say the wrong thing and if he likes it, you will know.  He desires to please the women in his life.

Mentally –  he feels the need to provide, protect and conquer.  He naturally problem solves.  He’s competitive, never allowing another driver to win the race to the traffic light.  He thinks in terms of compartments or boxes – only open one at a time please.  He needs you to need him – stop being so darn competent at everything.

Spiritually – sometimes, he has difficulty understanding spiritual things.  Don’t use your knowledge or spirituality to intimidate him.  Instead, be an uplifting inspiration to him by living your faith in front of him.

 

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you’re aware of the slippery slope that we’re on – the blurring of the lines of distinction between men and women.  Sometimes, I’m tempted to go crawl under that rock, but then I remember – God has given me a platform to speak truth.  Men are men and women are women – truth.  They are created to be very different from the other, but when united as two perfectly tuned and masterfully played instruments, together they make a harmonious sound.  One is not more important than the other, but one is to lead and the other to help.  The leader instrument provides the direction and cadence and the helper fills in with soothing and soft sounds, helping the strong to be incredibly beautiful.  Imagine for a moment, the helper instrument attempting to take over.  No, the symphony was planned and it is beautiful when played according to the plan.  No competition – just a perfect blend of each instrument completing the other, by playing their very special part and most importantly, the conductor guiding the process.

 

Being a strong leader is a high responsibility and many men don’t understand what it looks like.  They will either buckle under a domineering wife and allow her to lead, or they will take the tyrant approach and rule with a heavy hand.   A biblical leader doesn’t do either of these.  He models his leadership after the example of Christ.  He is a humble, self-sacrificing servant.  He leads with truth but always seasoned with grace.  He never runs over others.  He is courageous and stands up for what is right even when it costs him peace.  He never treats a woman harshly or as though she is lower than him.  He respects women and values their input, because he recognizes that they are uniquely gifted by their Creator.

 

We may not be able to control the cultural trends, but we can certainly take a look at ourselves and ask the hard questions.  Am I playing my instrument according to the Conductor’s direction?  Am I the masculine man or feminine woman that God intended me to be?  Am I helping the men in my life to be the masculine men that God created them to be?  What are the areas that I can improve?

For Exactly This Moment

I hear other people talking about God’s call on their life.  Starting a ministry, going to Bible college, training and going into a remote mission field.  I’m excited for them and happy that they are following God’s leading, but I’ll admit that sometimes I feel like I’m inadequate.  Every ministry that I’m involved in, is a behind-the-scenes venture.  There isn’t acknowledgement or “stage-time”.  I’m fine with this – even comfortable and at peace with it, but sometimes I feel like I don’t get to handle the big guns – kind of inadequate.

 

I was just crawling into bed, getting ready to settle down for some much overdue writing and then some television watching.  It was going to be a nice quiet evening with my husband in bed next to me, doing his evening scroll through Facebook.  Then the call came.  It was a distress call.  I was to throw a few items into a bag, get out the door to someone who needed me.  I handed the telephone to my husband, who began to sooth the distraught soul on the other end of the line.  I stood there completely frozen – stunned at this thing that was happening.  So much was at stake here.  I’m so inadequate.  How would I be able to be wise enough and strong enough?

 

I flew down the highway.  Praying constantly.  I prayed for His protection over the hurting one.  I prayed for wisdom.  I prayed for God to keep my car on the curvy road and to keep the animals off of the road.  I prayed that He would empower me to keep my mouth shut when I needed to, and to give me the words to say that were right for the moment.  I felt inadequate.

 

What should have been a forty-five minute drive, became thirty minutes and when I drove up, my fears abound.  My mind played tricks on me, replaying a time of a hurting loved one from my past – the one that I couldn’t help, because I was inadequate.  I knocked.  We embraced.  We prayed.  I prepared a meal.  I did the dishes and I listened.  I realized that my entire life was preparation for exactly this moment, and this was His call.  It was the appointment that He had made for me.  I then knew, merely listening with only a pinch of input, being in the room while they slept, and praying for them as I kept watch, was completely adequate.

 

His strength is made known in my inadequacy. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Pet Pain

None of us are immune from experiencing mistreatment, but have you ever wondered why two people can experience this and the effects are so different?  One person eventually moves on, accepting the realities and they become stronger, but the other becomes enslaved – blaming every weakness, shortcoming or failure, on the things that have happened to them?

 

The process of emotional healing looks very different for each of us and I would never suggest that there is an appropriate ending time for your pain.  We are unique creations and so our grieving is individual.  Have you ever been devalued and written off as insignificant?  Have you been forsaken by someone that you love?  Have you been the recipient of rude confusing behavior?  Have you been slandered or blamed for something that wasn’t your fault?  Did they seem to get away with it?  Did you choose to not tell what they did?  That old high road is a hard one to walk.  If for some reason, you are still experiencing extreme pain after a significant period of time, beware – your pain may have become your pet pain.

 

Do you believe that keeping quiet about the details of the mistreatment, betrayal or slander is the right thing to do?  Maybe you are protecting someone that would be hurt if the entire truth came out.  Maybe you are protecting a marriage.  Maybe you are protecting another’s reputation.  Whatever the reason, I commend you for your integrity.  You have made a commitment to not run your mouth around – even if they do kind of deserve it.  What’s the downside of handling it this way?  When you watch your offender get away with their crime, or even be rewarded in some way, it will be natural for you to replay what has happened and then your hurts become a familiar and comfortable pet pain.  You can take your pet pain out of the cage any time you like and it’s comforting to cuddle with.  Beware – this type of pet grows into a monster called bitterness and bitterness requires a heavy price to us and those that love us.

 

Why would we want to keep a pet named pain?  When things are done to us, we feel victimized, and victims often feel like losers with no control over the situation.  We are in control when we decide to take our pet out for some quality time.  Even if you’ve forgiven, you might still have difficulty accepting the realities and crave a sense of control.  You do not have to live as a victim.  Realize that when other people treat us badly, there is not necessarily something wrong with us.  Actually, when another human being treats you badly, it says more about them, than it says about you.  Seek out relationships with people who value you.  You’ll feel like a winner with them.

 

If you are not moving forward and still in pain after a significant amount of time, get some help.  First, I always encourage you to spend significant amounts of time, praying and reading God’s word.  Ask Him to help you understand your part and to take responsibility and ask Him for the healing and guidance that you need.  Secondly, get input from a wise trustworthy friend and/or counselor that is not personally involved.  Be aware that they can’t fix you and be willing to hear hard things and do hard work.  Work to get to the point that you despise the pain, instead of seeking alone time to go cuddle up with it.  Sound familiar?  It does to me.  At times of my life, when I experienced heartache from another human being, I would go out to the garden, on a drive or hike with the intention of praying, but often found myself cuddling up with my pet pain instead.  It’s a process – do the work and when you get distracted by your puppy, just tell him “no, not now”.  If needed, give yourself 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night to cuddle.  Soon you may not feel the need to cuddle at all.

 

 

Get ready to move on.  Stop paying the price of reliving what someone else did to you and don’t view every new relationship as though the same things will happen.  Realize that what they did to you, doesn’t say anything about you and good things happen because of you.  God says that you have a future full of hope and He is truth and justice.  If there is anything that God needs to deal with, He will do so, when and how He chooses.  Sorry pet pain, we’re finding you a new home.