This weekend I witnessed one of the most beautiful expressions of two people becoming one. Two lives joining, with God as their Center. They were surrounded by rows of family members. I am so thankful that this was the first wedding I’ve been to since I fell in love with Jesus.

I am only just recently beginning to appreciate the true value of family. More than just having a place to go for the holidays, or the hundreds of obligatories we share together. The thought of a group who knows where I came from used to terrify me. I became artful in recreating myself with every new friendship, relationship, job…but there was always that bunch who knew who I was the year, or the decade, before.

There was a time I used the words of Jesus to suit my own purposes, ironically and foolishly to distance myself from my Christian heritage. When His mother and brothers came to take Him home, He rejected them. He pointed to His disciples and said, “THIS is My family.” The next verse didn’t work in my case, so I just pretended it didn’t exist. Here’s the whole passage:

And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said,
“Behold, My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father
who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
Matthew 12:49-50

He obviously placed a priority on spiritual family over blood ties, but I think it’s important to remember that family dynamics change. Sometimes, very drastically. These same brothers who grew up in the same home with Him (Matt 13:55), who thought He was crazy (Mark 3:21), who mocked Him (John 7:1-3), who grossly misunderstood Him (John 7:4) … sound familiar?? … were praying with the disciples in the end (Acts 1:14). His brother James ended up leading the church of Jerusalem and wrote the book of James. Another brother wrote the book of Jude.

Our family members are meant to be part of our spiritual family. We can see this relationship with John (the self-proclaimed “disciple whom Jesus loved”), as many scholars believe he was Jesus’ nephew. I don’t think John meant to imply that Jesus loved him more than the other disciples, but he clearly understood how much he was loved. He was comfortable enough to rest his head on Jesus’ chest during the Last Supper.

I am so thankful for my Christian heritage. For the family who has led the way in putting Jesus first. For the brothers and sisters God has given me – those in my blood family, those in my spiritual family, and those who I’m so blessed to say are in both.

The wedding reminded me how important each of our choices is. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are building a foundation for our future, and our family’s future, with each decision. Our choices today will instruct and guide our children’s decisions (and so many of our friends and family), and will impact the paths of our future descendants. I was reminded of the countless ancestors who have chosen Christ as our family’s foundation, and who are cheering me on every day (Hebrews 12:1). I was reminded of how blessed I am to be surrounded by brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and cousins who love Him, love each other, and love me. What an honor it was to stand together as a family to cheer on this new couple who has placed God at the center of their relationship, and who has been an example in waiting for God’s perfect timing.

Unapologetic Beauty

I keep finding myself biting my tongue in conversations. Burying my head in a book instead of making eye contact. Leaving out huge details of my life’s abundance, underselling my blessings. I’ve been thinking about this a lot because it’s getting increasingly uncomfortable. It’s not because I feel insecure or inadequate. It’s more like, in this world full of brokenness and pain, I feel the need to offer an apology for how blessed my life is, or embarrassed by the glow that I can’t hide.

I used to think it was because I know brokenness and pain so well, and am careful to be sensitive to what others are going through. There’s some truth in that. About half of you reading this know what a train wreck my life was, just a couple short years ago.

What a brilliant tactic of the enemy to make me feel guilty for finding success, beauty, and Love in life. I’m going to throw in a hippie version of part of Jesus’ sermon on the mount, because it’s so funny and also so clear:

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message)

I love the bit about bringing out the “God-colors” in life. What a perfect way to describe how everything around me looks different now! If I hide my light, my joy, what good is it doing any of us?

A friend just told me that God keeps telling her “no” to things she is asking for. This time, instead of keeping my mouth shut, I shared that I keep hearing a lot of “yes” lately. My questions (and His answers) changed as I learned to trust Him with my future. I stopped asking the same questions that were rejected. In fact, my desires changed drastically as I learned to look to Him for guidance instead of plowing on and making things (all disasters, really) happen. I didn’t tell her this to brag or rub it in her face, but to share the joy and the transformation that comes from letting Him drive.

Twice during this conversation (by two people), I was told that I was glowing and beautiful. I don’t know about you, but I don’t hear things like that on a regular basis. It makes me think of the bride in the Song of Solomon. She compares herself to a wildflower picked on a plain, while her groom sees nothing but beauty:

You are altogether beautiful, my darling,
and there is no blemish in you.
Song of Solomon 4:7

There’s no one like her on earth,
never has been, never will be.
She’s a woman beyond compare.
My dove is perfection,
Pure and innocent as the day she was born.
Song of Solomon 6:8 (The Message)

This is the way He sees me, and you too if you are His – perfect, flawless, beautiful beyond compare. He doesn’t want to see us cowering and hiding the beauty that is straining to shine through us. He wants to see us glowing, sharing, and joy-dancing in our new lives.

Dance, dance, Beloved Angel-Princess!
Dance, and we’ll feast our eyes on your grace!
Everyone wants to see My Beloved dance   
her victory dances of love and peace.
Song of Solomon 6:13 (The Message)

My Beloved, by Kari Jobe: http://youtu.be/k5o_C86EhW8


This post is a little too personal for my comfort. :/

I am a different person than I was two years ago. That girl died. I marvel every day at this new creature that has taken her place. She has JOY. She has superpowers. She isn’t afraid. She loves people she doesn’t like (after a little struggle). Not only is she unable to flirt, she has no desire to. She won’t even tolerate the thought of kissing a boy. She no longer enjoys shopping. She spends hours on…I can’t believe I’m even saying this…a budget. Several times a week. She will be out of debt in (according to her calculations) less than a year.

She is so amazing!! Who is this person??

It reminds me of when you buy a new house. There are new rooms to explore, new secrets to discover. Everything is so different, you feel lost. It feels strange to sleep in that new shell and you wake up surprised to be in a new place. Even when that sense of newness eventually wears off, your reality is changed forever.

I feel an abundant new-ness in my life. Which reminds me of a Bible drill verse from long ago, and here it is:

For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
(My NASB version says “…so we too might walk in newness of life“)
Roman 6:4

The Message Bible even uses a house illustration:

If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!
Romans 6:2-3

All of those old patterns and habits that used to keep me swimming in circles have finally been stripped away. My old house wasn’t just left behind – it was COMPLETELY burned to the ground. There are things I don’t even remember. There was a period of time last year that I literally didn’t understand jokes, and had to relearn to speak to people. Look how this version describes it – exactly what happened to me!

Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did. That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.
Romans 6:11-14

I know that’s a lot of scripture to digest…but those are the only words that matter. They alone have the power to transform lives. I think that’s all the vulnerability I can bear to share this morning! Those who knew me before know this is a miracle…and it happened when I read this verse and asked for faith to believe.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Ephesians 2:8

Ask for it!

Here’s an awesome song by David Crowder.  You Alone:    http://youtu.be/-BQpl_5Q6T4

Been There

Transitions are difficult. Have you ever noticed what happens to you and your relationships when you go through them? If you’re like me, the “less desirable” aspects of our personalities rise to the occasion for our favorite people to experience.

I’m in another big life transition this spring, with a new job. This time around, it’s hard to believe how smoothly the change has taken place. There is really only one area, ok two, that I have been made aware of and have been asking forgiveness for…my impatience and my tendency to want to control my environment.

Last week I got so frustrated. It felt like my kids were willfully ignoring my voice. I found myself repeating the same commands. I heard myself telling them to do things that, by this point (in my perfectly controlled world, anyway), they should be doing automatically. They didn’t make efforts to anticipate or work around my mood. Our interactions left me drained and disappointed.

I went complaining to Jesus about all this. The problem was admittedly my own, and I needed His wisdom and guidance to break free of the cycle. I explained the situation carefully because, (and I told Him this…) while He experienced humanity, He never had children. He really couldn’t understand what I was going through.

He immediately said back, “I have YOU.”

Have you ever been so convicted?? Think I have ever committed the minor offenses toward Him that, in my selfish mindset, were unacceptable coming from my children? Have I ever ignored His voice? Been foolishly arrogant in my attempts to outwit Him? Oh yes, and much worse.

Where most of my frustration was based on lack of control or self-centered motivations, His efforts are always for our own good. What a revelation, to know that He truly has felt the frustration of a parent who keeps trying to impart wisdom to ears that won’t hear. That He doesn’t have a handful of kids that test His patience – He has dealt with the entire population of the world from the beginning of time, including me and you.

The conviction of sin was strong – I realized all the ways I have disrespected my own father, and my Father. But His voice also carried a stronger, overriding conviction – He loves me, He loves me, He loves me. He loves me!

He never stops loving us, even though the majority of us tune Him out and refuse to connect. He has freed me from yet another cycle of bondage, by showing me a piece of life through His eyes. I still laugh out loud every time I think of His words, “I have YOU.” And man, is He right – I am just a child learning to walk in this life.

Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now.
As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy.”
You call out to God for help and he helps—he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living.
1 Peter 1:14-17

Knowing how completely He has forgiven me and how richly He loves me, how can I love my own children, or anyone else, any differently? What a beautiful example we have in Him.

David Crowder Band, Open Skies: http://youtu.be/5o3XBRmx-j8
(“Wherever you are, wherever you’ve been, He’s been there”)