Monday, December 30, 2013

Voice

(via Pinterest)
(Written July 20, 2013)
It seems like so long since I have touched pen to paper, when in reality, I wrote in my journal just this morning. Is it really the same, though? I write so many words, every single day; assignments, essays, tests, poems, my 1000 gifts, journals, fiction, but somehow, writing here, it's different. Here, my words are a comfort. I scratch them out, full of emotion, intending to someday proclaim these words to the world. These are my silent screams; my gasps for air when I still breathe. When the pain in my wrists is fiery, when I feel like nobody cares, when I just feel like crawling into some unseen corner and having a good cry, these words can become a refuge. God gave me a voice, and I intend to use it, because frankly, I've been quiet for too long. I realize now that crying alone in the dark isn't a sign of strength ... or maybe it is just the wrong kind of strong. It takes much more strength to openly admit that you aren't actually as strong as you seem. That you're drowning. That you need help. I'm not just sitting here saying we all need psychiatric help. We need Jesus, and we need His body.
Words. It doesn't take many. The English language makes it almost simple to cry out ... because who of us really can choke out a long-winded speech when we can barely breathe? We need divine help just to whisper a few syllables when they have such magnitude; when we are this small. "I need you," "SOS" even, "I need help," "Pray for me?", "I can't do this alone." Because really, we can't. We've somehow tricked ourselves into thinking it is better for us to just stay there on the ground when we fall. We lie there unseen, bleeding, crying as our wounds slowly heal ... and we know full well they're infected. This is what we do almost daily, rather than simply calling for help. You were not made to stand alone. If you feel like you are alone, and that isn't your choice, but your circumstance, I am here. I know that pain. I want to be here for you. Because really, if the body of Christ lets one another down in their time of need, what have we become? Let us be one in Him, standing together. Broken and beautiful.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.-Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12 (ESV)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Bird.

(via Pinterest)
Today more than ever, the title of this blog makes complete sense to me. When I was trying to come up with a name, I just made a list of every random word that seemed to have a connection to me and the impact I wanted to have. I wrote down everything from "haven" to "mama," and then I made a second list of word combinations that seemed to work. The main reason this one won out was because my friend liked it, and nothing with the same name came up on my Google search. Shows a lot of deep thought, huh? But today, today it finds meaning, even beyond what I scrawled out on that one page.
Today I feel as small as a tiny bird on a giant painted landscape. You know the kind I mean. The out-of-place squiggle of black paint on a cloudy colorful sky. Just looking at it, you wonder if it was just a small mistake that the artist covered up. Yes, I feel like a mistake. Some crinkled piece of paper that could have been ... but just didn't make the cut, and so was deposited into the trashcan posthaste. I feel like the baby bird that hasn't learned to fly yet, thinking to myself, "I'm a bird, for crying out loud. What good does a bird do if it can't fly?" So I reason that I'm probably just broken. A broken bird, with no claim to fame.
You see, when you get to that point; that dark area of your life when you feel like you have absolutely nothing to offer the world, you think a lot about what the world actually needs. What you need. And you start to wish that someone, who had been through pain and sorrow, and who overcame it, would come alongside you; would help bring you to your feet. Maybe not even knowing what they are doing; how they are helping you. I can tell you for sure, sometimes it doesn't take much.
A smile on a lonely day.
Someone asking how you are, and genuinely meaning it, to the point that when you fake a smile and say you're fine, they don't listen to you. They grab your hands and look into your eyes and tell you that they know for a fact you are not. Because honestly it can be so. hard. to be fine all the time.
Maybe an encouraging email, text message, phone call, or even a blog post? I, for one, have been impossibly encouraged countless times by women who dare write, it seems, with their very blood and being, with the hope that His name might be praised. And I hold onto a shard of this same dream ... the glass penetrating my skin ... me, so very broken, and I clench it all the tighter, because I know that if it doesn't hurt, what good is it? Because we cannot encourage the breaking without being broken ourselves. And the ones that make the most impact are those that break pieces of their own heart so that others might be whole. You will not hear me climbing 'the storied tower' to somehow minister to the brokenhearted. Because I have been there, felt that, and I've cried those tears.
So what good does that flightless bird do? You probably already guessed. The broken bird sings. It sings not when the hour of tears has passed ... but through the tears themselves. Because when we hear the song of someone, and we know what they are going through; we hear the crack and the tremor in their voice ... we stop and listen closely. We hear them praising their King in the very height of their pain, and something about that song can inspire us more than any clear and confident voice from someone who's soaring.
This is it, then. My broken birdsong.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Good Gifts

(via Pinterest)
I'm not gonna lie - I was anticipating this Sunday thinking that I was gonna be a huge day-maker. Really, it was a valid expectation. I was taking a bag stuffed with presents for people who I knew would not expect them, or have prepared something to give to me in return. In a sense, this was selfish of me, because gifts are one of the main ways I show love, and I get a very real happy high when I have a lot of them to give. So the thought of handing my friends various teas, treats, cards, packages, and ornaments ... it just about made my heart split with happiness. And knowing that these sweet women would all be surprised? Even better. That's just one of the many quirks of me.
So Sunday finally came. Ask anyone and they'll tell you: what you expect and what actually happens ... they're two very different things. I woke up thinking, "I've got this." I got ready without a hitch, had breakfast, and waited ... and waited. Soon I was informed that we weren't going to be able to make it to Sunday school class, and thus, didn't have to leave for service for an hour. I could feel the remnants of my picture perfect day crumbling around me. I used my extra time to sink into the Word ... because in my "super productive" morning perspective ... I'd postponed the most crucial and important part of my preparation, choosing to clothe myself in more rouge instead of righteousness. So, a very humbled version of myself quietly approached the throne room, and found myself slipping fast into a pit of anxiety. All those expectations I had placed on my day turned out to just be burdens on my back. I started wondering things like, "What if so-and-so doesn't come? I don't know how long that fudge is supposed to last." "What if I forgot someone?" "What if they don't like them?" "What if someone has a peanut allergy?"
What if I had asked God what His plans were for my day, before making my own stipulations?
What if I had placed my trust in Him, instead of trying to do all of it by myself? Let's face it. One of us is omniscient ... the other is not. One of us is all-powerful, omnipresent, unfailing ... the other is a mere mortal misfit.
At this point, I tend to remain in my stupid thought-process, despite His whispers. I decided to be self-conscious instead of anxious. Great plan (picture this in a really sarcastic font). I mean, really, the best way to start a Sunday is by telling yourself what a loser, screw-up, and lost cause you are. (Warning: do not attempt this at home. Or in public. Or ever.)
So I went to church in my pretty festive outfit, with my ugly destructive thoughts. I sat in a pew. I worshiped Him for all His goodness, because that wasn't the problem - I knew how perfectly good He was ... I just forgot that this perfectly good God loves even the mere mortal misfits. Forgot that in His eyes, I was worth it.
In His place, I would have given me a spanking. A slap on the back of the head. "Haven't you gotten it yet?" "Really? Aren't you supposedly celebrating Me sending my Son to die because I so loved you?" It's a valid point, you'll surely agree ... but He didn't yell at me.
I sat down in that pew, and that sweet, real woman said it loud and clear, "He wants to whisper to us, 'I am with you!'" And it penetrated me to the core. I sat speechless. He could have yelled in frustration ... but He whispered in love. And my God ... my beautiful God, He didn't stop there. Each person I talked to after service, He used them to speak value into my heart. I soon stopped expecting to be the one doing all of the blessing as I approached my friends. My gifts seem like nothing when compared to the words and love I received.
One woman saw my passions and called them gifts. One gave higher value to a work of my hands, then held me tight and gave me value, saying words that nearly made me cry. Another had visited this wee corner of the blogospere, and encouraged me until I was left flabbergasted and praising God. And one showed me how the smallest things, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can have radical impact. I was left stunned, and almost too blessed to function; the very image of a cup overflowing. And now this song plays, and I remain undone. And my day didn't end there!
Today I was reminded of the beautiful reality of a Father who delights in giving His children good gifts. Sweet tea for the car ride home. The luxury of a two-hour nap to cure a piercing headache. Being able to participate in a surprise birthday party for a friend. Crying laughing between a twenty-something and an eighty-something; us all  feeling quite young, and blissfully silly. The unexpected gift of a feast from my brother and his sweet wife. Sharing it with friends and family. And then babbling about grace to my dear friend who can thankfully understand me when I text that happy.

And at the end of the day, I could still hear Him whispering, "I am with you." Even on the bad days, the 'meh' days, the crazy days ... He is Emmanuel, God With Us.

Monday, December 23, 2013

On Fear

(via Pinterest)
There are nights when I don't want to sleep. I feel like this is just a me problem, but something tells me that I am thinking way too highly of my own uniqueness. We are all flawed humans, and there must be at least one other person in this world that has this issue. I need sleep. It's kind of one of the basic necessities of life. Especially today. My head is pounding, my back is bothering me, my hands are screaming (figuratively), "Why, you fool, why?!" I wish I had something valid to respond, but then part of me reasons that if I started talking to my hands, I'd end up in a psych ward. I tell myself that I can write something wonderful; make something good out of this dreadful feeling, but this is either denial or pride, and neither is pretty. Nothing I can make has any value unless it has God's hand in it, so I'm begging the Lord to make something out of this restless night that is worth it.
You who do not share this problem (and you who do) might be wondering, why in the world would I not want sleep? Sleep is wonderful! I agree, I really do, but for me, right now, sleep is hard. Harder than staying up until all hours of the night (this was written after 1:00am on a Saturday night), after a hard day, when my body, mind, clock, and friends all tell me that I need sleep. I've never been good at sleep. I have trouble getting to it, for starters. I can spend hours just laying there, mind running through every past embarrassment, every future aspiration, every random whimsy. My brain doesn't quite know when to shut up. Then there's the pain that sometimes prevents me from getting comfortable. And tonight, the thing that I am most afraid of, is what happens when I finally close my eyes; the world that waits for me behind them.
I have dreamed the kinds of dreams that no one wants to remember.
I have dreamed the dreams that seem so beautiful, but then when you wake up, and they're gone, you find that all you want to do is cry and cry, the whole day through.
I have had dreams break my joy to pieces, and I cannot remember one dream that hasn't made me feel broken myself.
So excuse me if I'm scared to sleep tonight, when my brain is full enough to keep me restless, and the thoughts beneath the surface; the ones I am afraid to think, I can almost feel them knitting themselves into nightmares, and this is what my struggle is. Needing rest. Afraid of sleep. And when I wake up, can I honestly expect to feel better?
This is the kind of black hole that a fearful heart digs itself into. I shovel dirt onto my head and wonder why I find myself buried. I crouch, trembling, in a corner of my pit, and I realize that I have let fear consume me. Because a heart that fully trusts in God has no reason to fear, except the holy fear of a holy God, who has the power to rip the world to shreds, but chose to rip Himself to shreds instead ... to save people who fear fleeting dreams of might-be's and won't-be's more than the all-powerful I AM. I let this sink in for a moment. There is nothing more real than God. The wheels begin to turn, and I remember just who God is. God is the only perfect One. God is love. (He is infinitely and beautifully more than this, but for my purposes, I only had to list two attributes to have a moment of profound realization.)
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love."1 John 4:18 (ESV)
Perfect love (aka God) ... casts out fear. Focus in on the middle part of that verse for a second: "fear has to do with punishment ..." I am literally (not figuratively) punishing myself by fearing. I could quote a dozen verses at least that fit in with this subject. The Bible is chock full of wisdom on this, because fear is an epidemic that has been spreading ever since the Garden of Eden. Mankind hadn't even gotten through one generation before fear slipped in. Fear that God wasn't telling the truth. Fear of being caught in their sin, in their nakedness.
When we stop believing in perfect love, fear can take us over, punishing us for sins that God has already marked, "paid for." Only we didn't believe it. At least, at some point, we stopped believing it. So we tremble and quake in fear of things that quite honestly have no. real. power. All because we won't let ourselves sink completely into grace's ocean. Maybe we think we have to swim through it. But what is grace, if we force ourselves to work for it? What is really the gain when we find ourselves merely dripping in grace on some distant shore shouting, "Victory!" when we could be drowning in the overwhelming flood of grace. This grace and victory was never meant to be fought for ... the battle isn't ours. He fights for us. Ours is to simply surrender to the ocean. I am in no ways minimizing what effort, and laying down, and pain it takes to do this ... but it is all so that His may be the fight. And His may be the victory. Because He is all that matters.
Yes, amen, and goodnight.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

No Condemnation

(via Pinterest)
I wanted to give up today.
Just yesterday, I was overwhelmed by God's goodness; how he was bringing me joy through the pain, but today? Today I could not find that joy. I even searched through my closet for it (well, actually for a prodigal cat). I overslept today, and I still woke up feeling weary to my bones. My head was pounding uncomfortably, my hands were feeling more than their usual ache, and instead of thinking to myself, "Well, I obviously needed the extra rest," I just felt guilt. I condemned myself, saying that if I'd have gotten up on time, I wouldn't have had to watch my niece in my pajamas; that if I were more responsible, I would have gotten ready and have done all the household duties before she even got here; that everything that went wrong was somehow my fault.
And now, I plug in my earbuds and tune Spotify to something that isn't the "you deserve more" commercials coming from the Christmas radio station that is blaring downstairs, because today, I feel like I deserve nothing. This is true, though. I am completely and utterly depraved in every way. You won't be hearing any prosperity message for me. But today, I found myself in the opposite extreme. Tell me if you know, where in the Bible does it say that since we "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), and so ... we all must tell ourselves every day how very worthless we are? It just doesn't make sense. In fact, the real answer comes later in the same book:
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2)
I don't know about you, but I need to hear that daily. Read it again. We have no condemnation. The devil can say what he likes. People will say what they will. None of that matters, so long as in our soul, we comprehend this radical truth: no matter how messed up we are, no matter how many times we've fallen back into sin, no matter how late we sleep in, how depraved we are ... He still loves us with a love that brings life to the dead, that brings hope to the hopeless, joy to the despairing ... salvation to the shame-filled sinner.
I cannot wrap my mind around this. It is so easy to picture Christ dying for the saints; for those people who never seem to mess up and just reflect Him with every ounce of their being ... but He died for the sinners; the sinners inside each of us. He died for the very people who mocked His name; the ones who spit on Him in His hours of incomprehensible pain, agony, and sacrifice. As His very Father looked away, Jesus poured out His life and blood to save the ones who wanted Him dead. The beauty of this reality is blinding, breathtaking, painful.

So when the voices in your life tell you you're not worth it, know that they. are. wrong. Because the One who knows everything you've ever done; the only One who knows every one of your deepest darkest secrets, wounds, and fears; knows how depraved you really are ... is the very One that says you are in fact worth it; worth Him giving up His very last breath. So tell those voices that. Because there's nothing they could say that could ever change how much He loves you, because He couldn't possibly love you any more.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sacred

(via Pinterest)
I had wanted to use that word in the title of this blog. It sounded so right, and yet, no word I paired with it seemed to make sense, and one would feel quite silly having a blog named just "Sacred." It makes sense to me though, looking back with the retrospect of only a few days. This week has been impossibly beautiful. I know, I know, "nothing is impossible with God," (Luke 1:37) but that's how it happened. He happened, and suddenly, the ugliness of my week became a sacred and lovely thing. Everything that I once based my emotions on went wrong this week (well, not everything, but you get my point). I had the worst joint pain I can remember. My closest friend was extremely busy (that alone used to decide how happy I was going to be). I "had" to go to my least favorite store. A day of my babysitting job, which I absolutely love, was cancelled. I had to make bread; one of the most joint-taxing things I can do. The list just went on and on! On paper, my week was the worst. That's what struck me as I was keeping track of it in my journals. As I wrote down every pain, every disappointment and frustration, I was smiling. Smiling. How crazy is that?
It is no mystery to me, why my week feels so wonderful in all of that unpleasantness. He was caring for me; teaching me. It wasn't that I was doing anything different. I wasn't intentionally reacting to stress any differently. I hadn't utilized some breakthrough Pinterest method that made one feel happier. I wasn't getting extra Vitamin D. I have been letting the outside cat sleep on my bed and lap this week ... but that wasn't it. No sweet cat, hot cup of tea, heartwarming book, caring friend, or long bath could ever bring the "peace that transcends all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). I have been praying desperately for this peace for such a long time. To understand what I feel now, you need to know what I felt before.
I have always been prone to what I call "panic attacks." It stems from the fact that I feel emotions more dramatically than most. The smallest happiness and the most minuscule sadness can make or break me. So when I get stressed or overwhelmed, I usually end up on the floor somewhere, sobbing. That said, that is what would have normally happened after this week's circumstances. Another thing: washing dishes makes me angry. I hate it. This week, and some before, I've found myself actually humming as I scrubbed the plates. God showed me, somehow, how the simple task could bless others; how making something clean could bless me. The action has become sacred to me. And sewing. I'm learning to sew, and for some reason, the machine just stresses me out completely. I finished my first project, and the joy of having made something beautiful far outweighed the cost. This is what He has done for me: He has brought  me joy through the very things that I once let destroy my joy. I no longer am stressing over future plans. I'm more concerned about having my daily time with Jesus than I am about constantly having a friend to talk to. I feel like I don't have to be enough, because in Him, I am enough, because He is enough. It feels so radical, so impossible, so right. I know I will not always feel like this, so I am treasuring it all the more. Treasuring this time when I can hear Him more clearly than I ever have. He has always been here, always been this close ... and now that He has my attention, I am not taking my eyes off of Him.
So this is why I couldn't fit anything with "sacred," because, in Him, everything is sacred.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Like Rain

(via Pinterest)
"Grace like rain" ... it used to confuse me to no end. In all honesty, it doesn't make sense until the rain starts to pour. I think the reason why it confuses me is this: when I think of rain, I think of storm rain; drowning, relentless sheets. Where is the grace in that? When it rains that hard, and the sky is that dark, it's hard to remember that grace is a good thing; how it brings life. We prefer to think of grace as that unexpected radiant sunshine rain. It's so easy for us to see the good in that; the unabashed beauty of it. We race outside like six-year-olds and just soak it in, fully open to how wondrous it is ... not caring how the event may drench us to our underpants.
God's grace is in both kinds of rain, messed up as it sounds. It is sometimes so terrifying, and we hide under our beds, holding our ears, wondering how this could possibly do us any good. Tears fall from our eyes and it feels like our whole house is shaking and quivering beneath the downpour ... it takes us so long, so very long to see the purpose.
Then the morning dawns.
We still are a bit scared; the child in us timidly approaching the window, half-expecting to find the world has completely fallen to bits, but we see it. We see the life, the beauty, the growth that the rain brought. It all makes sense at last, and we thank God, but the next time a storm comes, we find ourselves racing underneath the bed once more ... and find His grace waiting there for us. Our God holds us tight and reminds us of how many storms He has already carried us through, and of the joy that comes with the morning.
Every so often, the rain falls in the sunshine. We were already basking in the sunbeams before it fell, and when it does, we squeal delighted thanksgiving. We dance in that rain with reckless abandon. The blessing floors us. We invite others to join our dance; our praise, unable to resist sharing this moment, and watching as the wondrous thing floods them. The rain penetrates us to our core, and we just grin and whisper, "grace." And this God who delights in giving good and perfect gifts, He grins back.

In the sunshine-rain days of life, when everything was already going along splendidly, then suddenly we hear God's whisper; see His fingerprints all over our small, sacred moments, accepting all as grace is easy. When we believe that "life is good," it comes naturally to us to believe God is good. Yet when life is hard and full of pain, we blame God, and we begin to doubt His goodness. He is always good. Not sometimes. Not most of the time. Always. Life doesn't give us that promise. In fact, Jesus Himself told us, "In this world you will have trouble ... " but He finished with the answer to our dilemma: "But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33, NIV) He has overcome every trial and pain this world has to offer, so how can we fail to trust Him? Only He has encountered every evil and faced every temptation, and came out blameless. He knows our struggle, and He knows what's best. He has overcome, so dear one, take heart! Allow this grace to drench you down to your toes.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Breathe.

(via Pinterest)
I wonder what happens when a person just needs some outflow; just needs to press her trembling fingers against warm and pulsating keys, and watch as somehow, someway, words are formed and transmitted onto the glaring computer screen. I don't mean 'glaring' as in, "staring in a fiercely or angrily piercing manner," like the rest of my world seems to be doing right now (my perception is off, I'm quite aware), but rather, "shining with or reflecting a harshly bright or brilliant light." I wonder if this person has any ability left in her to make actual sense to the world. I'm writing anyhow. Because when you're a writer, that's just what you have to do when things go wrong. I've had my decaf cup of hazelnut coffee for the day, so if I'm looking for liquid comfort, tea will have to do, and this isn't one of those times when I'm willing to settle for tea.
Before you close this tab, writing me off as one of those random people who just say whatever they're thinking and then post it on a blog, I have an excuse. I swear I do. I'm a generally emotional person, and when you put an emotional person in a mild but scary car accident in December, they don't tend to think, speak, or write rationally. But, oh, how I need to write. Because I don't want to cry. I need to process this all in some form or fashion, because if I don't, it will stay there, inside me, and it will break me. Because I know that in my current state of trauma and shock, I might just refuse to step into a vehicle until all the snow has melted and I can see tulips and daffodils that tell me everything's okay, and maybe not even then, because accidents still happen, and this is what makes people have agoraphobia, for Pete's sake.
So I process. I try to breathe. I make my shaking hands do what I tell them to, and I try to focus. What can I write about? I don't want to write selfishly because what is the point of that? What good does a blog do if it is simply a place to vent out emotions and cope with reality? I mean, it might help me, but the point of this particular blog is to help others. In order to do that, I must be open. I have to be willing to speak in the middle of the storm and learn my lesson, and not just give a pep talk after the storm is over and the lesson is learned.
A car swerves wildly in my brain and I lose mental focus. That's what happens when you're not as okay as you claim to be.
I can't help thinking of how unplanned the result of this evening was. I was supposed to be in a church, watching children's faces beam and hearing choirs sing. I was supposed to be singing with them. And then a relaxing night of I Love Lucy with a sweet friend. How happy; how normal; how relaxing my plans were. I also wasn't supposed to post anything today. Maybe write a post, if I had time, 'cause I'm the extra-prepared type that does that; that has four posts already scheduled for next week, because what if something happens? Well, something happened.
I still see my brain's impression of the flashing lights from the police car, the ambulance, the fire truck ... every time I close my eyes. So I don't close my eyes.
My hands still aren't doing as they're told. I told them specifically to type logical, well thought out words. The kind that make sense, you know?
Deep inside, I know that this is helping. My heart rate is slowing down to its normal rate. The pain reliever is starting to dull that pounding headache. It's all gonna be okay. No one was severely injured, so I exhale thanksgiving, but what do I breathe in? Somebody tell me, what do I breathe in?! (I'm near panic now, but I'm guessing that was obvious.) Really, I feel like someone is supposed to roll their eyes, hand me a paper bag, and explain to the bystanders that "Miss Hart just sometimes forgets how to breathe." She does, you know. I feel that gentle touch, and in that still, small voice, I hear, not condemnation, not frustration, but peace. "Breathe in grace," He tells me. And I am reminded of how Ann Voskamp always mentions that God's very name; Yahweh; YHWH ... it is the sound of our breathing. When we simply remember to breathe, we say His name; we call out in our almost silence for help from Him who created us. I dare breathe again. What an anomaly, how these slow, quiet breaths can bring peace; inhaling grace, exhaling thanks.
And now, somehow, it all makes sense.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Beauty in the Brokenness

 (via Pinterest)
"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.Wonderful are your works;    my soul knows it very well." - Psalm 139:14 (ESV)
We all have one, us women especially. One, sometimes one hundred moments in the day when we doubt that word, 'wonderfully.' We hear 'fearfully,' all right, but 'wonderfully'? Perish the thought. We look in the mirror and we see it; that "flaw", that character trait, that sin, that habit, that quirk, and that bitterness with which we often see it all through. We hold onto our bit of worthlessness; keep it in our pockets and believe it in our hearts. Us women, we have battles. Sometimes they are never fully won. Maybe it is because God never wants us to stop fighting; to stop remembering?
Think about it.
Your insecurity, what if it was gone? Who really thinks "Be confident, like me!" helps more than "I know that pain"? Would you be able to hold that girl close with all your strength, grasping for grace as you realize she hurts just like you, and sob into her hair all those words? "I've been there; I'm there every day." "You aren't alone." A desperate cry of agony does not beg for a performance of I Have Confidence, it longs for someone to understand! Someone that doesn't take beauty for granted. To be this person, you need to remember, you need to know the pain and the truth in your heart.
What about the girl who just couldn't accept love? She's been broken, and she's seen so much hate, it's hard to feel love. She's known pain, and has silently screamed at the heavens, wondering if she's even worth hearing. What's so great about her battle? She knows. This girl has learned through her trials that He did die for her; she's written it on her hands. Who better to love the broken than the broken? Her battle has many stages, and countless hours of darkness, but, bit by bit, as she surrenders her heart to its Maker, she will conquer. When she finds True Love, she will settle for displaying nothing less. When you love like that; when you love like Him, people can't help but notice. We all long for that kind of love.
As time goes by, those wounds will heal. How much greater is love after utter forgiveness? How much brighter is the smile that fought through tears? Beauty will come from the ashes that seem to drown us, and God's love will prevail. He never fails.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Miracle

      I didn't want to be there.
      It wasn't that I hated the store, but when you're stuck somewhere for hours, buying stuff you don't need to while away the time until you get to go where you actually wanted to shop - to buy practical things, your temper wears thin. Finally, we were checking out. I slipped off, following my sister to a shorter line than the rest of the family chose, and eyed my purchases: one, two, three cards to send to a friend, and one very worrisome pair of sunglasses. They were the first pair I could actually 'pull off' to the point where I wasn't mocked. Sunglasses usually don't like me, but, with my sensitive eyes, I need them. I self-consciously eyed them over once more. There was no mirror. Had my sisters just tried to be nice?
      A cart pulled up behind me, and I heard the familiar sounds of a happy child and a tired parent. I glanced back and encountered the most gorgeous smile a face ever held. I actually found myself wondering if this sweet little black girl's (I assumed) adopted mother would mind if I took a picture. Probably. The child was grunting and pointing to every pretty thing that caught her attention, as her mother desperately signed and spoke "Wait". It soon was apparent that this little angel was deaf and could not speak except through grunts, expressions, and sign language. I was determined to keep her smiling, and found the task easy - all I had to do was smile at this tot modeling a pink Santa hat, and she'd smile right back. She started pointing at me and grinning, and then she signed something to her mother; one of the five-ish signs I know that aren't letters. It couldn't be. She must have been talking about someone else, right?
      "Beautiful", she'd called me, and then went on to tell me, through her mother, that she also liked my hair. This radiant child, she gave me a new name, just like the Savior I could tell was holding her had given me. I swear, I have never felt so beautiful in my life as I did in that moment.
      I signed "Thank you", one of my other four signs, with as much meaning in my eyes as I could muster. Then it was my turn to check out.
      "Yes, I'll take a bag ... No, I don't need a membership ... No, I can't afford a donation ... Thank you." Funny, how I didn't want to leave anymore. I lingered there, taking my time with my wallet, then I finally had the courage to ask the mother, "What's her name?"
      "Miracle."
      How fitting, for a girl who wears Christ on her face, to wear His name for her on her worldly name tag.
      What if we could do this? Go about the world showing people their true identities in Him? To the shy girl in church, 'You are Valued'. To the woman who has lost much, Held. To the guy who's 'all that', Redeemed. To the people reading this - to you - Worth It, Prayed For, Prince(ss), Radiant, Child of the Living God, Beloved.
      Why do we (us women especially) hide our true names? It's as if we purposefully cover up our God-given name tags with the lies we believe. We look into the mirror, and somehow 'Radiant' doesn't seem to fit anymore, so we hide it under 'Ugly', 'Puberty-Ridden', 'Has-Been', or 'Awkward'. Why do we have such a hard time accepting this love that covers all? We have been redeemed! All the scars this world has pasted on us have no power against the One Who made us, yet we still say 'Guilty!' 'Failure!' 'Loser!' Ever realize what we are basically saying to God when we say these things? We're telling the perfect God that He made a mistake; telling the all powerful Savior that this one sin is too big for His grace. "You're good God, but You're not that good." Do you see how messed up this is?
      Our skin is no longer our own, nor our name. We have been remade, renamed, redeemed. His grace covers even that. His hand heals wounds that deep. His love covers you. So stand with me - praise the holy name of the One who knit you together!


      I have one more challenge for you: write down your true names. Leave them around as reminders - on your mirror, by your sink, in your car, on your heart. Never forget who you are in Jesus.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Weakness

(via Pinterest)
       My hands shake as I bring the mug of tea to my lips. My hands always seem to shake. I know this isn't true; that I have more still hours than trembling ones, and I strive to be grateful for this, but when the shaking begins, it seems as if there was no beginning, and there will be no end. This is a part of my life now. I have to confess, it isn't my favorite part. “I'm not the healthiest specimen,” I laughingly tell my friends, but it is true.
      I'm not sure when this all started … I only know that it has been a long battle. At first it was my joints. I used to rub my mom's feet when I was little. I remember even then, I had to massage my own hands afterward, because of the pain it brought to them. I was too weak to do the ordinary tasks without a struggle. To this day, merely opening cans is a breaking point. There are days where I find myself crying on the kitchen floor, just overwhelmed.
      While my joint aches and shakes are the most significant of my problems, they are in no way the sum of them. Just in this past year, I have fought with insomnia, fatigue, nausea, digestive problems, almost daily headaches, and more. I wake up nauseated every morning, and breakfast has become a source of dread; an ordinary, simple thing that taunts me mercilessly. Most days I just feel weary to my bones; like an aging woman might, I assume. And yet, this isn't the case.


      It is easy to become discouraged about such a situation, but I have learned to cry out to God when times get rough. When the natural medicine I am taking makes me gag. When just not knowing exactly what is wrong with me threatens to crush my spirit. I cry out to Him because He hears. He does not forsake me, even in this. 'But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."' (2 Corinthians 12:9a, NIV) When I am weak, He is strong, and He can use me for His glory. I take joy in this: my frailty is a constant reminder that I need Him

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Welcome.

(via Pinterest)
So I find myself here, of all places: standing on a figurative cliff, braced to jump recklessly into the heart of the blogosphere … and I dare hope I may someday find my way into the hearts of some dear readers, also. What a feeling, though; I'm scared stiff. I sit here wondering what you all will think of me. Here before me is the opportunity to make my mark, in whatever way I see fit. I could be anybody I want to be! I could make myself out to be brave, sensitive, stunning, the godliest of the godly, and someone who totally has their life together. What I want to be, however, is real. I'm not brave, by any means. To put it simply, I am nobody special. I have failed and flopped in more ways than I can count, but … I am wildly and hopelessly in love with a God Who thinks I'm worth it. Isn't that astounding? The King of kings and Lord of lords, He wanted me. I'm not saying that He chose me above everyone else, no. He chose each and every one of us as sons and daughters, but … I have come to know in my bone, marrow, and very soul that if I had been the only person on the planet, still this screwed up, no less, He would have still died. To save me. And you see, knowing this truth; knowing how deep His love is for every child of Eden … how could I hold it in? I could almost burst with this impossible joy! I want to shout it from the rooftops, but the fact is this, I have a very inconvenient rooftop. No matter how loud I shouted from it, few people would hear or even see me. So I shout across screens, this joyous news: He chose us!
Before you make the decision whether to close this tab and forget this baby blog or maybe stick with me for awhile, I should probably tell you what exactly this blog is about. Give me grace, because, I'm a random person, and I might slip out of the boundaries I've set for myself once in awhile … I do things like that. First, I must say that this blog will be written mostly to reach out and encourage Christian women. I do not say this to ward of any men, or any of different beliefs, or even any youth! I dare not limit you to any box placed around you by this world, because I know what it is like to be different than the person people expect you to be. So come on in; sit a spell. Let's talk real, let's talk about life. I am not putting any masks on; I am putting my raw open soul out on the table. I don't have perfect grammar or punctuation. I rarely say the “right thing.” I tend to babble. Emotionally. What I want this blog to be is a sort of sanctuary. A place where I   can be genuine and unafraid, and a place where readers can be, too. So please, if we can keep hatred out of these digital walls? Let this be the place where wounds are healed, not inflicted. I will warn you that I am not the most eloquent of bloggers, nor am I the most cool. I am simply me. And I'd love to be your friend. If you've stuck with me this long, I have a feeling we're kindred spirits. Let's talk long.