Beautiful Sisters

I was raised in a home with four children – me in the middle of three brothers. Relating to girls has always been a challenge for me. In fact, I really didn’t understand, trust, or like girls at all. Last year, I realized this in a new way and began praying for some sisters…and an open heart!

This is a shout out to the beautiful sisters I have been blessed with this year, and to those who have been in my life longer…waiting for me to become a real sister.

My three brothers have each married godly women. The bonds of family connection add an interesting dynamic to the sisterhood we share. I am so thankful for a fun, diverse, and feminine element to our family gatherings! Quite frankly, we have taken over. I know you would be there for me and, more importantly, I now know that I would be there for you.  Thank you for patience and grace as you’ve watched my life transform in sometimes painful ways before your eyes!

I am so thankful for my Type-A sisters. Without you, we would still be setting a date to go to dinner. I thank you for taking charge in such a sweet way that I barely noticed! I am profoundly honored that you have trusted me enough to let me see the vulnerable side of you, and let me walk through life with you. There is no greater gift you could give me! You are inspiring, challenging, and motivating me to new heights.

There are sisters in my life with the gift of nurture and service. Wow. You are teaching me how to full on “squeeze the stuffin’ out of life”, how to listen, how to proactively seek out ways to serve others. You are full of encouragement, strength, and words of LIFE. I cannot thank you enough for your example, and man am I grateful for the times I am at the receiving end of your generous heart. You are changing my legacy.

My own sweet mama is a sister to me, in every way. Through personality clashes, huge disappointments, difficult family struggles, and every dirty phase of this life, you have always stood firm in your faith. I am alive today physically and spiritually because of the grace of God, manifested because of the prayers you (and dad) diligently poured out on my behalf. I am thankful for a home that has Bible verses taped on the walls at family gatherings, and that encourages conversations about the Lord. Thank you for a godly heritage.

There are sisters down the street who have shared with me the music of heaven, books, and lessons as you feel prompted. You have trusted me with your babies, given my children a safe haven to study and play, and encouraged me on this journey of parenting and growth. You have uplifted me with your example and the timely truths you have spoken into my life.

Walking through this life with heavenly-minded sisters is the greatest gift I have ever received. One of my favorite verses is this:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

It’s a favorite, but not because it gives me a magic wand to get whatever I want. I love it because it promises a changed heart. Two years ago, in my wildest dreams, I couldn’t even imagine asking God to send a bunch of women into my life. Now you are his daily messengers of love, grace, encouragement, laughter, and peace. I love you!!

Layers of Release

School is back in full swing around here, bringing lots of additional responsibilities to our lives. It’s been another exciting time of transition!

For several weeks, as I have gotten progressively more frustrated watching one of my kids struggle with a focus issue, I’ve been thinking a lot about the joint responsibility of surrendering control to God while managing life well. One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn, and the one I have to constantly check myself on, is to lose the tendency to control situations, outcomes, and behaviors. I’m realizing there is an extremely fine line between “management” and “control”.

My children have a few personality traits in common – they are both funny, smart, loving – but for the most part they are total opposites. Do you think it’s ironic that the traits triggering my control sensor are those each of them shares with me – things I have worked desperately to weed out of my own life? Things that only change with a transformed heart, like pride and irresponsibility. No matter how many times I blow a gasket trying to control their personalities and behaviors, I cannot change their hearts, just as I couldn’t change my own.

They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.
2 Corinthians 3:15-18 (The Message version)

Any time I’m in a repetitive struggle like this, I try to pull back and think about it from God’s perspective. I’ve been feeling so ashamed of my constant attempts to impose my timelines, my desires, and my expectations on my greatest treasures…but wondering where to draw the line. I started asking for an example, so I could see the best way to deal with these situations.

HE is the best example! He does not force us to choose his way by a certain age or act like something we are not. He LOVES our different personality types and gave us different gifts! He will discipline us, he will correct us, at times he will graciously rescue us in miraculous ways. But he will never make us think or perform a certain way. Why? Because he’s waiting for a relationship. He wants us to GET IT in our hearts.

When it comes to managing the things he has placed in our lives, it should be similar. I want to know my choices (and my kids’) come from a sincere heart, reflect a deep desire to grow closer to him, and are not made out of fear or pressure to perform.

The hardest things for us to let go of are those we love most. For me, it’s my children. For some, it’s parents or a spouse. For others, a career, money, an image. Yourself. There is nothing we can do to change a heart – that transformation can only be done by giving it to God. We have to learn to love each other (and ourselves) wholly like he does, share his grace, encourage each other, and trust him and his timing. We can rest in the knowledge that each of us was made the way we are for a reason, that he has a special plan and purpose for each of us.

For we are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

Love Notes

I got a love note!!

It was a text, actually, but I’m still going to count it.

Last night, I got a text from a dear friend, who is on an oddly parallel (so odd I should share it at some point) journey with me. She felt compelled to share a book and chapter of the Bible that she felt was for us both – and quite frankly, I was a little surprised. This particular passage has spoken to me many times on many levels this past year and a half.

So tonight, I was walking out to my car and I got another text. This time from a new friend, who at this point knows only the most obvious details of my story. She just wanted to encourage me to read something … you guessed it. The same book, the same chapter, this time with some specific verses.

You guys, I would barely be more shocked if an airplane flew over and wrote it in the sky. I know I’ve gotten a little zealous lately, but texting scripture verses is not a frequent activity of mine. In fact I’m not sure that I’ve ever done it before, even with my besties. Not only that, but do you know how many chapters there are in the Bible?? 1,189. That’s a pretty cool “coincidence” that two women in different circles of my life not only read the same chapter, but both thought of me, and both actually shared it with me within a day’s time.

Isaiah 54 is my love note. I’ve quoted from it before – it describes total restoration and healing, forgiveness, marriage to the Lord, being called to build his kingdom. It promises peace, permanent and loyal love, beautiful protection, and strength. It declares righteousness and safety over my line, freedom, favor, and best of all in this time of self-denial…ABSOLUTE VICTORY.

It is exciting to see how he works through those who are willing to listen and follow through. It’s overwhelming the lengths he will go to make us know his love. Thank you friends for letting me share this tonight – I’m just so in love.

Set Me Apart

This is the most unusual time of my life. The circumstances I’ve found myself in make it possible to spend (painfully) long periods of time in isolation, free to devote to any endeavor I choose to pursue. It’s so easy to squander this time. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of longing to shorten this time of being set apart.

This summer I was experiencing one of those moments where I was…yet again…alone in the midst of many people. I am embarrassed to share this…but I stood there thinking WHY AM I ALONE?? Why are no men ever interested in me anymore?? I started feeling desperately lonely, longing for the affirmation and “definition” that comes from relationship. Thankfully, that moment was shortlived. Standing there, I felt like a hand reached down and stamped a word on my head – CONSECRATED.

I didn’t really know what it meant, but I became aware that I am under some powerful divine protection – from anyone who is not allowed in at this time, but mainly from myself and my old patterns. Seriously, there are times that I feel like I have an invisibility cloak on. I have decided to embrace that as a wonderful gift.

This came to mind again because, well it’s Friday night, my children are gone, I am single and don’t date, and I am allowing no distractions at the moment. It can be awful when this hits! But recently, every time I feel the false cloud of loneliness or imagined rejection rolling in, I see that word over my life like a rainbow reminder and feel immediate peace. I decided to look it up tonight for an official definition.

“Consecrated” means set apart for a special purpose or service.

Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.
Joshua 3:5

That’s pretty beautiful, to me anyway! I think we all have something uniquely amazing to do…some of us just have to spend a little extra time preparing for it! I treasure this time with him.

Thing-Fasting

This is my 9th day of thing-fasting – giving up some very specific things that I have noticed are distractions in my life. I’m not writing that looking to receive any congratulations or sympathy, but simply to report that, in all honesty, I hate it. When I get itchy to partake of some of these little pleasures, I find myself trying to replace them with other things, equally distracting. The biggest struggle of all has been allowing the fast to actually “work” – you know, to focus on what I’ve been distracted from. Even my struggling has been a distraction!

This time of deprivation is producing mixed results. On the positive side, I’ve engaged in some powerful conversations with my kids that may or may not have happened. I can sense that one of my lifelong dreams is on the verge of reality. I am experiencing a more keen appreciation of the sisters in my life, and the awareness of God’s perfect timing.

On the negative side, one side of my personality has really sharpened. It may be that I’m just grumpy…but man. I really don’t like people. This has caused a lot of distress and even guilt this week, prompting a study on self-righteousness and an awful lot of self-examination.

Tonight I started thinking about Jesus, the man. You know, I bet I wouldn’t have liked him all the time either, whether it was the way he chewed his food or his long silences that annoyed me. How can he like us so much?? Have you ever thought that maybe he doesn’t?! I know he LOVES us, but maybe he’s just as irritated with us as I am. So many of his conversations, though full of love, seem to be tinged with frustration.

I am constantly screwing up, getting distracted, being a jerk. He has helped me see these times, but he has never been mean to me. I’ve never felt like he was looking at me scornfully, disdainfully, or arrogantly. He has corrected me, but almost always with humor. And ALWAYS with open arms, patience, and love. It is my desire to learn to see myself and everyone around me through the eyes of grace and love.

For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…
Galatians 5:17, 22.

So this “struggle” really is a war. I am even more motivated to persevere and grow stronger in the Spirit. Maybe this thing-fast is working after all.