Sunday, November 30, 2014

A love letter to the WOMEN in my life

Boy some days I just can’t stay in bed another minute because my brain starts swirling with all the things God is telling me, mixed with all the things I am telling myself, memories, thoughts, ideas…..
So, coffee…and quick, someone hand me a pen so I can write it all down before it’s all gone and all I have left is a headache. That’s a filthy lie, I need a keyboard, because there is no way that my hand can go fast enough to write all that is brewing between my ears. 

It is still amazing to me that some of the most important lessons in life can be packaged in the simplest ways. Often I expect a huge moment, an epiphany, a light bulb going off and a dramatic and sudden understanding. But the longer I am alive and do life with Jesus the more this isn’t at all how things happen. 
One small and dramatic moment may in fact happen, but then it calls my attention over to all the small, seemingly mundane moments preceding it, all the seeds, the breadcrumbs, the accumulations that gave shape to this mountain of understanding. 

I had one of those moments recently and it suddenly opened floodgates of understanding. Again, the moment was not in and of itself remarkable, and it also wasn’t really just one moment. It was one long string of days when my eyes and heart were opening, and things suddenly making their way from my brain to my heart. And it is still happening. And I am caught up in this tide of swirling new, exciting, stimulating, liberating new ways that Jesus is showing Himself to me, and it is extending to what He is showing me about all that surrounds me. 

I see things differently. Today I could not wait to get out of bed to start making a list of all the things I am noticing for the first time as intricate and delicate parts of a larger and remarkable scheme. But I can’t. I can't really make a list, because these aren’t “listable” things. 
It is life itself. 
And if I were able to describe life itself with mere words, well, it wouldn’t be as captivating and amazing as it actually is. I can’t describe what my heart is grasping, because it has nothing to do with my brain, where words are organized neatly, and where concepts can be explained rationally. 

I am opening my eyes and I am seeing -maybe for the first time- the sheer amount of love that surrounds me, and it almost literally takes my breath away. 

I can’t explain all that is happening, but there is one thing, one specific thing that completely delights my heart in an almost completely new way. The amazing women in my life. See, I have been a fairly social person for my entire adult life (ok, ok, stop chuckling) and I have always enjoyed being around people. But it was always more of a taking for me what I was lacking inside myself. I was kind of a parasitic social person. I was around people partly because I enjoyed them, and partly because I “NEEDED” them to make me feel like I was something. I was always taking more than giving, I was needy, and found a mostly acceptable way to survive. Notice, I am using past tense, NOT because i am no longer like that, but because I am finding and learning new ways. I will probably always struggle with this aspect of my personality and heart. 
For this reason, the women in my life have always been important to me, and friendships have always been an absolute lifeline for me, becauseI have always enjoyed rich relationships. 

But then…I had never realized that I had never truly learned to be vulnerable. And I had never really learned what love entails, because I had never felt safe enough to allow myself to let down my protective walls. Interestingly I had convinced myself I was vulnerable, because I was “ open” with others, and was always wiling to share about myself. But I was really just hiding behind my walls of humor, loudness,and  “openness” enough to truly let anyone inside my heart, where it was cold, dark, and lonely. That journey began years ago, and it has been slow and full of sometimes highly frustrating lessons, dry and fruitless seasons, but it has made way for all this new understanding. 
And it has made way to this moment. 

The moment when I felt safe for the first time in my life. 

Safe enough to let a wall down or two. And it has changed everything. And I owe this to Jesus, His persevering pursuit of my soul, and to the amazing people He has filled my path with. Many of these people are amazing, beautiful, remarkable women. And they have made a life changing difference. Because when the walls came down, I could finally SEE THEM. 
It is so ironic. I spent my entire life demanding that others MAKE ME ok, while keeping them at an impossible distance, and when I finally allowed Jesus to melt my defenses and was willing to be vulnerable, one of the first things that happened was, I was able to forget myself for a bit. AND SEE. Ladies in my life, 
I could see YOU for the first time
And when I could actually see YOU, I felt loved. 

I am sitting here being FLOORED by this realization, literally tingly with excitement over this one small concept. God has made LOVE to be this way! He has made it so that when I feel safe, and I am willing to be vulnerable with you, I will see YOU, and that alone will be enough to feel loved by you.

I was motivated to finally get over my fear, and share myself, because I WANTED SO BADLY TO BE LOVED. But as soon as I felt safe and loved,  I saw that you, YOU also really want to be loved. And You are also offering parts of yourself, You are also needing to be seen, known, held, smiled to. I could see you as you are. And women….YOU ARE LOVELY. 
I sit here contemplating the amazing women in my life and now, a LIST does come to mind! 

You are:

Tender, Kind, Strong, Powerful, Gracious, Giving, Motivated, Protective, Caring, Self-sacrificing. 
You have smiles that light up rooms, laughter that melts hearts, voices that calm storms, arms that hold broken pieces together.
You have the power to bring life with you wherever you go.  You extend yourself and stretch out arms and hands, and hold out hope, and trust Jesus with your life.  

And your love has restored me. Your kindness and pursuit has melted my stubborn heart. Your laughter has kept me company, your smile has made me feel known. And I desire to know you, and laugh with you and smile knowingly, and make YOU feel known. Your joy has become MY joy, your sorrow, MY sorrow. Your desires mine, and your prayers, I hope to never forget to pray them for, and with you. 

You MUST know, that you have brought hope to a hopeless one
you have brought love to one who felt unlovable
you have brought light where there was darkness

You have brought LIFE. You have inspired life. 

Sweet amazing kick ass woman. Do you know the power that lives inside you? I pray you do. And because I am me, I will be loudly obnoxious about it until you KNOW, without a doubt, about the incredible power you hold inside. Because YOU have changed my life. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Gratitude is a funny, mysterious thing. In my experience, it cannot be summoned, manufactured, or provoked. I know there are very sweet, kind, loving people who advocate it as a choice. Just decide, be grateful, make a list, count your blessings. It will be good for you. I am not saying these are bad ideas in and of themselves, but rather that for me, they just weren't enough. I actually ended up feeling guilty when I couldn't quite work up my gratitude, when I couldn't be appropriately grateful for all the good reasons I should be. Aaaaah, should. My least favorite word. I would "should" all over myself and just create guilt, not gratitude, shame, not gratefulness. My focus was off. 

The lists are great, but they have to come from a different heart. For me, my heart needed (and still needs, no doubt) changing, and growing. My focus needed changing. My shoulds needed to go away, give way to grace, acceptance, and freedom. A heart that isn't free CAN'T be grateful, it just can't. 

So, what am I actually, honest to goodness, down to my soul grateful for in this season? My heart is changing, and my focus is most definitely changing. My heart, in actuality has always been free, I just didn't know it. I did not LIVE as if I was free, I did not live as if I had been transformed by the immense love of Jesus, or by the reality of what the gospel did for me. The reasons for why that was the case have actually been written about in many previous blog posts, and it's not the point of this one. The point is, that as my heart began opening, changing, and I could experience the true freedom of living LOVED, without shoulds, my heart automatically did the thanking. My heart automatically was oriented towards this unintelligible grace that was pouring down on me. I could not escape God's pursuit...determined, and unwavering. I could not escape His love, His surrounding me, His forgiveness. His all invasive and transformative mercy. THANK YOU came naturally. Without any shoulds, it came from a free heart, recognizing true freedom, and love, perhaps even for the first time.  "Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13:7

I cannot begin to tell you the astonishment of walking this life of faith for so many years in what felt like frenzied fruitless shame. It breaks my heart to see how much time my heart needed, how much pursuit, how much insistence. I am not just stubborn in my head, but in my heart too! 
Faith requires a lot from us, trust sometimes, for some of us, seems like utter insanity after what we have lived through and survived. Paradoxically though, it is the ONLY thing that ever has a chance at healing our messed up heart. Without trust there is no love, without faith there is no real hope. Trust and faith, even the smallest amounts, can open the doors to the most amazing love we'll ever know this side of heaven. Gratitude is wonderful, it floods the heart, it pours out of your face with sheer joy. But it comes out of what is in the heart. 
My heart today is full of joy because I am loved. And because the One who truly loves me knows me and has cleansed and forgiven (and will continue to forgive) all that is depraved within me, I am constantly being renewed, cleansed, and loved. Loved, accepted, cleansed, forgiven, given new life, given new hope. And given a life that goes far beyond the tiny life I know now. 
I am grateful to finally grasp that, in my heart. I AM SO grateful to be known, by the only One who will ever truly know me.

Tim Keller talks about this change in focus, in his sermon about the priority of the inner life. Referring to the reality of Jesus' sacrifice, and God's provision and pursuit,(the GOSPEL) he says (I *might* have paraphrased): "To the degree you let it melt your heart, to the degree you allow it to orient your life, you will experience a joy beyond the walls of the world (and from that, Gratitude!!!) When you take the gospel and you apply it to your spirit, it is a Renewed Spirt. Use it for the HOPE in your heart. It is the ultimate love, joy, hope."

Love, joy, hope. I am saying, these, are prerequisites for gratitude. And because He knows this, He floods our hearts, pursues our souls, and sacrifices for us. And I am so grateful today for that unchanging reality. 

"I will give thanks to the lord with my whole heart" Psalm 9:1

I am so grateful I don't need a list. Just awe, wonder, stunned joy. LOVE. Real, ever-lasting, unchanging Love. That's what makes me grateful. 

Friday, November 07, 2014

Perfect Love casts out fear

Yesterday I listened to a fantastic sermon by Tim Keller about fear and anxiety. By the way...dude can preach! 
The closing part of it was a simple yet powerful statement "You won’t be able to overcome your fear unless you are in community. The opposite of FEAR is love. Fear is self centered. Love is self giving. THEREFORE you will never deal with your fear all by yourself, you have to love somebody." In that moment I knew not only the truth about the people in my life who have become that for me, but beyond that, the relentless pursuit of a Savior who has SURROUNDED me. He knew the depth of my brokenness, loneliness, shame, and desire to be known. He surrounded me with people (You know who you are!)  who have SEEN me. 
Enough that I may come out of hiding and consider that I MAY be lovable. And if I am, then I might also be capable of giving love. And if those things are true, then I may have a shot at overcoming my fear. My biggest fear. The fear of not being known. Of not being WORTH knowing. WORTH the effort, worth the time. 
Yes, Jesus is my identity and who He says I am NEEDS to be true for me, BUT, He is also gracious enough to reiterate that message in loud, unavoidable, real, tangible, flesh and blood ways. This is how He SHOWS me who I am. Through the people in my life. These people, these broken wounded healers of my soul. Thankful doesn't quite begin to describe what I feel today. 
Melting, thawing out, tentatively believing, slowly standing up. These are more accurate descriptions of what this love is doing to me and for me. 
I pray and desperately hope I can offer the same to even one person in my life as I walk forward and keep choosing to believe this about myself. THIS is redemption. THIS is love. This, is the GOSPEL of Hope.