Friday, September 30, 2011

I Am What I Am

Wednesday night as I was putting Levi, my 3 year old, to bed he asked me, "When I get big will I turn into another person?" Deep thinker, this little man of mine.

Funny how God uses thoughts from Levi to speak to things I have been pondering. In this case, I'd been thinking that when God created me, He had a vision of exactly who I was, am, and would be. Even though I am marred by sin and in a fallen condition, I can rest in who He made me to be.

There are a lot of things that I struggle to accept/like about myself that are not at all related to sin. Many of them are part of the design of how God made me. Physically, I am short and have a small frame and am weak. I don't like that. I want to be taller, larger, and strong. While I can take care of my body and workout to get stronger (and I do), I can't change the height or petite frame or even make much of an impact on the strength factor. This is how God made my body; it was His plan for me.

I'm pretty sure that nearly every woman in American can relate to my struggles. Most of us don't fit the body image presented to us by our culture. I have wished at times that God had shaped me differently. You know, a little more here, a little less there, maybe some abs of steel would be nice too. Have you ever looked at some of those Renaissance paintings of beautiful women (rounder, heavier, and paler than today's magazine covers) and knew you missed that perfect time period?

However, I'm learning to like me like He made me. I'm learning to drop the comparisons. I can't be her and she can't be me. Guarding my media choices helps, but the real work has to go deeper than that. I can't go hide in a cave with posters from the Renaissance to feel better about myself. The real work has to be an inside job.

And that inside job can't be only about me trying to feel better about myself. A friend of mine recently stated, "We have low self-esteem because we think we are so much better than we are. When we prove we are not as perfect as we thought, we beat ourselves up about it. And then we call it low self-esteem."

My focus must move from what I look like on the outside to being the person God has created me to be within. My main purpose (as is yours) is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. True beauty is something that radiates from within. When God works compassion and gentleness in my heart, then I am beautiful. When I share His goodness with others, then I am radiating His light and life and loveliness. And there is no supermodel or Venus who can outshine a woman who is reflecting the love of Jesus Christ.

Thank you Father for what you are teaching me about real beauty. Thank you for all the living examples You placed in my life that have this beauty within. Specifically, I thank you for my mom, my Aunt Mamie, and the friends You have given me that reflect your glory and beauty. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The List

I have been a list maker for as long as I can remember. When I was in school, my list read something like this: write paper for literature class, review chapter 11 for history, ask mom if Lisa can come over on Friday.

In college it looked similar, except there was no asking mom and I added laundry and grocery shopping to the list. Cooking for one hardly seems like cooking so it didn't make the list. I did have another list of what I was going to cook and eat, otherwise how would I be sure to get what I needed at the grocery store?

I know that when I was a young wife I definitely mastered the list. I loved the list! I ordered my day and got things done. And I loved crossing off all my plans as they were completed. What a sense of accomplishment! I planned meals for my family and made a grocery list accordingly. I broke down the household cleaning and chores into days and got all of it done most of the time--in addition to serving in the church and homeschooling! Really. I'm not making this up. I truly was on top of things for awhile.

Nowadays, I have joined the world of the frazzled, working moms. And (surprise!) I am frazzled! My house seems to be a constant mess. Meals usually consist of one main dish. It is your lucky day if I prepared some vegetables or a salad and bread. 

And that to-do list that I once LOVED and enjoyed marking off? Well, now it is longer than ever and rarely or never accomplished. So, now, I HATE the list!

Before the list was telling me, "Good job! Way to go, you did it!" Now, that same list mocks me daily and snickers, "Well, how about that? You didn't manage to even get one of these things done today! Way to go!" Stupid list.

I could give up the list altogether. However, I am two things: forgetful and obsessive. That means that I often worry that I will forget something important. So while I may not need to write down things like "vacuum" or "laundry," it is helpful for me to write down little things I need to do that might get overlooked. If I have an appointment, it is good for me to write it down. Otherwise, I will either forget and miss it, or I will constantly remind myself not to forget it. So, I guess that stupid list has its good points.

Sometimes when God nudges my heart about a friend, I will put them on my list. A written reminder to "call Rita" or "write a note to Ashley" helps me to minister grace and stay connected with others. Okay, maybe the list is not so stupid after all. Maybe it is even a good thing.

And always, always the list tells me to write. WRITE it says. WRITE. WRITE.WRITE. And here I am writing.

Generally, "write" gets moved from day to day as the demands of work and wife and mommy take precedent. Still, the words are there to remind me that I have a goal; that I have a calling and I am not to let go. Times get busy and crazy and I get harried, yet I am compelled to share how the grace of God is working in my life. I want to encourage believers to ask for more faith. I want to challenge myself to see God at work around me. I want to offer a taste of the sweet life of knowing Christ to those souls still separated from hope. I want to leave something behind me that testifies.

God gave His own list to Moses to take to the Israelites. He wrote them with His own finger on tablets of stone. The list was called the Ten Commandments. God's list doesn't change from day to day like mine does. It is always the same. Consistent. Perfect. Eternal.

When I tried keeping God's list I found I couldn't. And if you try you will find the same thing. There are two purposes in His List: 1) to declare Who He is and 2) to show us we are not Him. 

When I discovered I failed at perfection, then I knew I needed Him. I knew I needed Someone bigger and stronger than me. I knew I needed a Savior. Paul says in Galatians 3:24, "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith." It was by attempting to follow the law, that I saw my own shortcomings (sin) and thus the law led me to Christ. The list I could not do, Christ did on my behalf.

"So now we have a high priest who perfectly fits our needs: completely holy, uncompromised by sin, with authority extending as high as God's presence in heaven itself. Unlike the other high priests, he doesn't have to offer sacrifices for his own sins every day before he can get around to us and our sins. He's done it, once and for all: offered up himself as the sacrifice. The law appoints as high priests men who are never able to get the job done right. But this intervening command of God, which came later, appoints the Son, who is absolutely, eternally perfect." Hebrews 7:26-27 (MSG)

Thank You Father for sending Your Son, Jesus, the Perfect Sacrifice for my sins that I may have freedom and forgiveness.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Give Me Your Eyes

I sat in church on Sunday listening to the closing song, "Give Me Your Eyes," by Brandon Heath. I watched my college student daughter stand to her feet and raise her hands to the Lord and ask for those kind of eyes. And my heart marveled at how God had brought so many good things together right now. It was as if the Father had arranged all of these details just for me and my family.

Right now, Taylor, my daughter is in college and in love with the Lord like never before. It is an amazing and wonderful thing to watch. 

Right now, my church, First Baptist Woodstock is refueling and reigniting its college ministry. We have a new college minister and he has a heart for Jesus and a heart for college kids. 

Right now, my son, Caleb is in high school. Our high school ministry is challenging these students to take Christ to their campuses, to their friends, and to the nations. Caleb wants to go on the mission trip to Ecuador over spring break. 

Right now, I am overwhelmed with emotion. Tears flow as the Spirit speaks to me and confirms that coming here in the midst of our sorrows was all part of the big plan (see my earlier blogs about the City of Refuge if you don't know my story: Not only would we receive healing and new hope, but our children would be blessed after us.

Sometimes when circumstances are difficult and I am weary, the only thing I can hang onto is heaven. I just want to go ahead and get there and leave all of this behind. While it is appropriate to long for heaven, in those moments I am forgetting that God has a plan for me in the present, a plan that includes hope and a future for all of my life. Jesus hasn't left me. It's not all up to me until He comes again. He is working and arranging and bringing together all things for His glory and for my good. And I can trust Him. 

"I know what I am doing. I have it all planned out --plans to take care of you, 
not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for." 
Jeremiah 29:11 (Message)

Give me your eyes to see how You are working all around me and bringing things together for my good and the good of my children after me. Thank you that Your plans give me the future I hope for.