Tag: beauty

Dig In

I stare, again, at the pile of dirty dishes in the sink. Crusted-on enchilada sauce clings to a pyrex casserole dish. Plates from lunch, yesterday, still dusted with crumbs from the dino nuggets and smeared with Emma’s secret sauce mix of ranch and ketchup. With the sink nearly overflowing the surrounding countertop is also buried beneath a layer of milk and cheerios cereal bowls, cups, my favorite perfectly sized and shaped snowman mugs I use year-round, and random untensils.

I sigh a deep sigh. Trying to breathe out some of the weight I feel crushing in on me. The house has felt claustrophobic to me lately. Like the walls of domesticity have been slowly closing in on me with the rising of the laundry pile and the pull of needs-to-be-met of little hands on my yoga pants.

I stare down the unmoving dishes, silently damning them for their presence and constant regeneration.

I look out the large, square window above the sink to the hills above the roofline of my well-worn middle class neighborhood. There is a single tree, an oak I would guess, but then again I know nothing of trees, standing lonely on the top of the farthest hill directly across from me in the distance. I feel my soul tugged toward it. Surely there I would lose this crushing sensation! There in the wide open spaces where I could think and feel and my soul could stretch. I imagine overlooking a vast ocean where my creativity could spread endlessly.

I look down and continue my dishwashing standoff.

Dig in.

Why is this so hard for me?! Why does every step of this homemaking journey feel like I’m walking through deep water; striving, muscles tense, making slow progress.

My phone lights up, beckoning me to the cyber world beyond. My Kindle lies on the edge of the counter near the coffee pot enticing me to lose myself in another story not my own.

Dig in!

I want to! I stamp my feet like an obstinate child, attempting to push back the temptation to yet another distraction. Please, Lord, please! Help me to want what you want for me here. Help me to dig in here, right now! 

Once again, I am reminded of the journey to the Promised Land. The land spoken of so beautifully in Deuteronomy 8 as “a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.”

To quote Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there.”

Suddenly I am struck by the phrase “out of whose hills you can dig copper.” Wait a minute. This is The. Promised. Land. Where I eat bread without scarcity and water springs up in abundance and everything I could desire hangs heavy on the trees surrounding me in plain sight!

And yet, even here there are hidden things. An element only to be accessed through digging. By sweat and toil and strength and perseverance.

I’m not sure what part of this great Exodus journey I’m on. I’ve written before of how this place mostly feels like Jericho, wandering in circles waiting for the wall to come down. Waiting for my time to truly march into the Promised Land and possess it. It sure doesn’t feel like bread without scarcity as I attempt to scratch out writing time at 5am weekdays and every other Saturday morning in my Starbucks sanctuary.

But I am encouraged that there is work to be done even there. Somehow it helps me to see the importance of it here too. The work is not bad. Even in the good land I will need to dig. Maybe here is where I’m meant to practice, to build up my strength for what is to come.

I sigh again, this time feeling a bit of the burden lift. Lord help me to dig in. To find the hidden elements in the place I am. This place that you have brought me. If I’m going to believe in the future possession of the place you’re bringing me, I have to believe in the purpose of where you have led me right now.

I lift the tap and wait for the water to warm. I lift my eyes once more up to the hills. A spectacular sunset is sweeping the western horizon beyond my lonely oak tree. Dusty blue sky bisected by fluffy clouds that fade from purple shadows to rose gold hues. The descending sun setting the hills ablaze. I stare transfixed at the technicolor cloud symphony playing out before me.

Yes Lord, such beauty. Even here.

I squeeze the blue scrubby sponge under the warm water flowing abundantly and reach for the soap.

And I dig in.

When Life Isn’t A Fairytale

I grew up in what many consider to be the golden era of Disney animation. My all-time absolute you-can-only-pick-one favorite was Beauty and the Beast. I still remember the cool darkness of the theater and feeling my spirit soar as Belle belted,

“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere

I want it more than I can tell

And for once it might be grand

To have someone understand

I want so much more than they’ve got planned”

Me too, Belle! My seven year old heart beat in tune to the story unfolding before me, my half eaten box of Sour Patch Kids (mostly red ones left) forgotten in my lap.

I could spend the next hour analyzing how that one stanza of her song encapsulates my childhood hopes for my life. Maybe it even formed a primitive liturgy that in some way shaped the way I processed my life, though I may be over-thinking.

Probably isn’t a huge surprise she was my favorite Disney princess. She was the reader. My favorite scene of the entire film? The one that took my breath away and filled me with the awe and wonder I think maybe only little seven year old girls can experience? No, not the golden dress in the ballroom. That was amazing, too. And I was super jealous of my neighbor down the street that got to wear that incredible gown for Halloween…

I digress.

No, as you may have guessed, the scene that made my pulse quicken was when the Beast has Belle cover her eyes and leads her to a surprise. She opens her eyes as the curtains are thrown back and dazzling light floods the enormous space that is filled as far as the eye can see with stacks upon stacks of books! Staircases leading to multiple floors, ladders on rollers reaching the highest shelves, and plush furniture beckoning a reader to lounge, to linger in the majesty of the grand library.

As I write this I’m becoming aware this movie may also have played a major role in shaping my hopes for Heaven.

These fairytales I so cherished as a child were kept in my candy wrapper lined pockets through adolescence, but I found living in the abrasive adult world rubs a bit of the sheen off the hopes of childhood. I remember going through a period in my early twenties of feeling embittered toward the princess movies and their empty promises of shining knights and happily-ever-after. I mourned the death of the picturesque life that being in love was supposed to usher in during my early years of marriage.

I grew up and got past my unrealistic expectations. I can still appreciate a romantic princess-y movie, but I’ve traded placing my faith in the stories told by man for the true Story written by God and lived by His people.

One such story I read recently that has been on repeat in my mind is found in 1 Samuel 25. It’s the story of David and Abigail and if you have access to a Bible I strongly urge you to check it out. Or, since you’re obviously reading this on some sort of device with internet access, look it up! I’ll wait.

Seriously, do it.

Doesn’t Abigail just steal the show?! She is wealthy, Disney-princess-beautiful, smart, and loves the Lord. However, her situation is far from idyllic. She is married to Nabal, whose name literally translates: “foolish.” He comes off as kind of a jerk, and she’s left to deal with the fallout.

Instead of bemoaning her situation or blaming her idiot husband for her circumstances, she quickly steps up and takes action to save her family and set things right. Her faith in God’s protection and provision is obvious as she seeks David’s forgiveness for how he was mistreated and states her belief in God’s anointing of him. She boldly proclaims her faith and asks that when (not if!) the LORD takes care of David that he would remember her.

She doesn’t just do all this in secret behind her husband’s back either. Or, well, I guess technically she does. It was kind of an easier-to-ask-forgiveness-than-permission situation. Anyway, she does tell her hungover husband the whole truth of what she did the next day.

And he has a heart attack. Or a stroke. Either way he dies from the apparent shock of it ten days later.

In Abigail we see a woman who did not let her circumstances dictate her response. She did not respond emotionally nor does she blame-shift, but reacted quickly with wisdom and faith in God’s purposes. She obviously was highly esteemed among the young men working for her family. She used the great resources she had been entrusted to bless God’s people. She used her influence to maintain peace. Abigail used her cunning and eloquence to defend her position and gain favor with the future ruler of Israel, unbeknownst to her, her future husband.

David gets word of Nabal’s passing and immediately sends for her to take her as his wife. It’s all very knight-in-shining-armor happily-ever-after-y actually.

We don’t hear much of Abigail after this other than she is at one point captured by the raiding Amalekites and David has to fight to get her (and his other wife) back.

So maybe, not so happily-ever-after.

As mentioned, David already has at least one other wife. And, of course, there’s the infamous David and Bathsheba drama to come. I think we sometimes forget Bathsheba wasn’t the only one married.

Maybe not so knight-in-shining-armor either.

Judging by her previous actions, Abigail was the kind of woman who had learned to make the best of any situation the Lord had placed her in. In her I am reminded that my hope should not be tied to any man or circumstance. My hope echoes Abigail’s vow in verse 26, “…as the LORD lives…” It is because He lives, He sees me, and He cares for me that I have hope that no matter what situation I find myself facing, He will surely utilize the gifts He has given me and care for me.

Personally, this means I am not idly waiting on a fairytale circumstance of being “discovered,” or a prince in the form of an awesome agent or publisher to sweep me out of my current situation as stay at home mom and outlet shoe store employee to usher in a new chapter of life as a writer.

As much as I would love to be like Belle, to spend my free time reading and daydreaming of future adventure, I pray I am more like Abigail: serving diligently wherever I am, ready for action, and already proven wise and capable when I am called.

How does Abigail’s story inspire you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heaven

Disclaimer: This is my daydreaming, not a vision or prophecy or even an intellectual assertion on what to expect after death. This is a little girl dreaming about her wedding, a child wondering what they’ll be when they grow up, a kid on Christmas shaking the pretty package to discern the contents…

 

The moment I catch sight of Him, the Him Himself, I break into an all-out run. My eyes burn and sting in the radiant light, blurred by hot tears streaking down my cheeks. I’ve run my whole life for this moment. I push harder, feeling stronger, faster. The strain of the sprint is increasingly effortless the nearer I approach.

Suddenly I’m before Him, and I can’t bring myself to look him full in that wondrous face. It’s just too much; He is too much. Instead I collapse in a heap at His feet. And I weep as I have never wept before. The ugliest of my ugly cries, “Oh Lord, the things I’ve seen! All the things I did. The things I didn’t do! The things I thought. The seasons I endured and questioned if You were really here at all, or if You cared. How did I survive? How could anyone survive that place?!”

My favorite memories of the beautiful times float at the edges of my consciousness, but even in my short (or has it been long? or is it just right?) presence here they are foggy and murky, dim in comparison to this new place.

The volumes I would have to write to get this moment right…

My whole frame shakes under the soul wrenching wailing, relief and regret flow mingled down my face and drip onto still pierced feet. He brought me here, He redeemed me. The thought is as absurd as it is wonderful.

In my sobbing I’m aware of something slipping off my head I had not been previously aware of. My crying slows to a pathetic snivel. There’s a crown lying haphazardly at his feet. An intricate and delicate circlet of three grapevines woven together, gleaming gold with grape sized jewels twinkling between the leaves. Oh good, I’ve done something right. That belongs at His feet. I’m so thankful I have something to offer.

His hand reaches for the diadem. I am undone. I decide I will spend eternity in this moment watching that perfectly pierced hand reach for that beautiful crown. As He leans forward I notice the extravagant crown He’s wearing. My gift is paltry and insignificant in comparison, I feel ashamed.

On impulse I lunge out and cling to Him nearly knocking Him into the back of His seat. I’m crying into His shoulder earnestly wishing I had done more, that I had considered this moment more. So very aware though that there was nothing I could have done to deserve the beauty of all this.

I sigh and my senses are filled with the scent of Him. It is a sweet, indescribable fragrance which initiates a bubbling deep within. In spite of my momentary regret there is an emotion so fierce beginning to boil within me I hesitate to even consider it joy. It is searing, nearly painful but with overwhelming ecstasy that is flooding. I grip Him in an embrace with no intention of ever leaving this perfection.

I hear laughter in the distance, not mocking but gleeful. My eyes pop open and over His shoulder I see we are surrounded by a great group of people. I excitedly realize I know some of the faces in the crowd. Even those I don’t recognize look back at me with a knowing in their gaze and the smiling familiarity of family.

I still refuse to let go.

He speaks my name and I fear I will actually burst into flame at the sound of it.

Surely this is not death for nothing has ever compared to this life! What came before was death, there is no shadow of death here with Him.

He slowly, tenderly releases my life-grip on Him and holds me out at arm’s length: a father getting a better look at his newly returned prodigal. The insecurity threatens to return, I feel vulnerable and exposed in such proximity to perfection. My gaze remains lowered.

He reaches out and lifts up my chin. His eyes blazing, corners crinkled in a smile, looks me full in the face.

Every fiber of my being responds instantaneously to the joyous, passionate electricity, I gasp, “JESUS!”

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes– I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!                 Job 19:25-27

Have you ever thought about what comes after death? I would love to know how you imagine it! Feel free to link up to anything you’ve written on the topic.

In the Eye of the Beholder

I happened upon this video while trolling through my Twitter feed and, though I almost never click links for advertisements, I found myself intrigued with the premise.  A sketch artist draws a portrait of a woman through her description of herself, then, without seeing the woman, draws another portrait, of the same woman, from the description given by another person’s impressions.  The two portraits came out strikingly different in some cases.  It is a vivid portrayal of how our perception of ourselves does not always match up to others’ perspectives.

I have a big forehead, protruding nose with a bump on it, and a scattering of acne that I had thought I would have outgrown by now.  I bet the sketch guy would have had a field day with that description.  My portrait would probably end up looking very witch-like, which, according to a brutally honest four year old I babysat in eighth grade, might be valid.  Obviously, I totally dismissed her words and didn’t allow them to eternally traumatize me…  Intellectually, I know that those closest to me would (hopefully!) not pick out those features first, but it’s what I emotionally see in the mirror.  Fortunately, the descriptions were just for a head shot because I would have been in that seat all day listing all the “problem areas” for the rest of my body, and that’s after going from a size 16 to a 6 over the last year or so.  Surprise!  I’ve got some image issues I’m working through, friends.  Anyone else with me on this?

Stepping past my body image baggage, an intriguing idea occurred to me.  What if there was a way for a picture to be drawn of how I view my whole self?  A sort of spiritual-ideological snapshot.  What words would I use to describe myself, my relationships with others, ethics, priorities, passions, etc.?  And, if I take this a step farther, how would that image be transformed if the second sketch was from a description given by God, my Creator?

Now I’m confronted with the loaded question, who am I?  On paper, as I somewhat painfully realized filling out an application recently, I’m not that impressive.  No extra letters after my name, no crazy accolades, no valuable connections.  Describing myself is also difficult because I feel convicted to be transparent , but I’m also totally tempted to add a vintage filter to soften reality for a more presentable, Instagram-worthy snapshot.  I don’t think I can justly explain the love, discouragement, joy, chaos, peace, anxiety, and passion I paradoxically experience in varying degrees daily in the many roles I play.  Some days I’m not even sure I could accurately describe my true self that abides somewhere deep inside, concealed between the titles: wife, mom, cook, teacher, counselor, chauffeur, housekeeper, friend…  I feel I need someone to constantly remind me of Aiblileen’s encouraging words in Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help, “You is kind.  You is smart.  You is important.”

Fortunately, I find myself overflowing with gratitude for God’s Word; in the midst of my mind’s muddling I know I have somewhere to turn for truth and perspective to pierce the haze.  (I will repeat the message to anyone who will listen: everything we need to know to live purposeful lives marked by love and filled with hope can be found in the Bible.)  So, after producing that dismal and myopic caricature of how I see myself, I’m looking forward to digging in to discover what God has to say.

It turns out He has quite a lot to say on the subject.  Those who believe that Christ has fully ransomed their lives through His death, God calls: His child (Jn 1:12), friend (Jn 15:15), justified and redeemed (Rom 3:24), set free (Rom 8:2), heir (Rom 8:17), saint (1Cor 1:2), temple (1Cor 6:19), new creature (2Cor 5:17), blessed (Eph 1:3), chosen (Eph 1:4), alive (Eph 2:4), citizen of Heaven (Phil 3:20), beloved (Col 3:12), and the list goes on!  He absolutely raves about us without placing any conditions on His love, other than just believing Him (see 1Jn 4:10).

In the very beginning He tells us that we are made in His image (Gen 1:26).  I don’t have nearly enough time, or theological prowess, to go fully into who God tells us He is and how He reveals Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit.  Based on the sum of my research and personal experience though, my heart cries out that the common denominator among His attributes is that He is love.

 “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us, God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”  1 John 4:14-16

Here in a beautiful and mysterious way we are linked in love.  We bear His image and He dwells in us.  We have dignity and value because we belong to Him.  There is no need for me to try to impress Him with my accomplishments.  He loves me right where I’m at.  He died for me not after I had sought His approval, but before, when I was my weakest and most wretchedly sinful.

You might not realize it from my descriptions of myself, but, as well as struggling with an overly low view of myself, in a great dichotomy of the soul I also have issues with pride.  God has gifted me in ways to serve Him that I sometimes attempt to claim as my own merit.  I’ve started to combat this by speaking out loud how I feel about myself.  It helps me to hear just how ridiculous I sound.  After a particularly great night at Bible study, where I’ve been blessed to see the Lord expanding the ministry, I was having a conversation with myself in the car on the drive home.  (I’m not the only one who does that, right?)  I felt myself begin to slip from acceptable pride in working within the Lord’s power to praise over my own ability, so I shouted out, “I’m awesome!”  I laughed at my hypocrisy,  and then in the dark stillness of my quiet, kid-less car I felt Him reply, “YES YOU ARE.”  It took everything in me to choke back the tears and keep driving.

I think I’m weak, He thinks I’m awesome.  I have body image issues, He thinks I’m awesome.  I wear myself out striving for a gold star for the day, He thinks I’m awesome.  I screw up and give in to temptation, he thinks I’m awesome.  I feel overwhelmingly under qualified, HE THINKS I’M AWESOME.  His feelings for me are not based on my feelings for me.  I’m going to work on internalizing that so that my self-described portrait can begin to reflect more of my true self and less of my insecurities.  I want my perception of me to look like His perspective.  And when He describes my portrait, it looks just like Jesus.  Lord, give me eyes to see what you see in me!

 

How do you struggle with perspective on yourself?  What has helped you to gain a more clear picture of your true identity?  

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