He Sees Me in White

wedding-dress1

What an exciting and miraculous time!! I have found a (healthy, loyal, patient, funny, hardworking, honest, giant hunk of a God-loving) man! He is so FINE! We both love spending time together! We are making plans to spend the rest of our lives together! These are truly the most joy-filled words I’ve ever written.

And yet…there’s been something just under the surface I haven’t quite put my finger on. A tiny twinge of shame every time I post a picture of us on facebook. I am almost embarrassed at how wonderful he is, and how blessed I am. But more than that…I feel so unworthy of his love. I have never been so “watched” by people who love a man before. I mean, the man is surrounded!! I felt the same way when I met Jesus (no pressure, honey). The more I watch for their approval, the more inadequate I feel.

You know…it’s possible there are a couple people who are thinking along those lines – that he could be better loved elsewhere, and are less than thrilled to see us choose each other – but I’m pretty sure almost all those thoughts are coming from one head. MINE.

Like I said, this little thorn has been hanging out in the periphery where I could barely see it, but this week it can hide no longer. This week, I’ve been tasked with finding The Dress I’ll wear to meet my husband. He wants it to be white, to celebrate the fact that we have both been washed and made whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7), and because what we have together is pure and belongs to the Lord. As I have struggled to pick one…it hit me. My man sees me that way. Jesus sees me that way. Why don’t I??

They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.
~Revelation 3:4-5

Like most lies we believe, there’s a tiny bit of truth to this one – I could never be “good enough” or do enough to earn the love Jesus has for me. There’s no amount of anything I could do that would make a man try to love me the way Jesus does. And there’s no way I can love this man as well as he deserves. These are simply sweet gifts that I can choose to receive, or not. To reciprocate with all I have, or not.

I am happy that the Lord continues to draw me deeper into love more perfect, revealing areas where I am walking outside His best for me and encouraging me to be more like Him. I am far from perfect, and I never want to go without hearing the words and nudges of the Holy Spirit. But OH. Lord forgive me for caring so much about what other people think about me!! For allowing the thoughts and feelings, real or imagined, of other people to influence the worth and value that He’s given me. I am chosen, I am redeemed, I am HIS!

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
~Isaiah 43:1

What a beautiful reminder to keep my eyes on HIM and HIM alone. I get so excited thinking about what He’s done for me, what He’s doing in my heart and life, and all I want to do with Him. And I am so thankful to be able to experience those exact things with a partner here in this lifetime. Jesus has taught me what Perfect Love looks like, and I’m thankful to have the opportunity to give and receive it to the best of my ability. I love that they see me in white.

I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
~Isaiah 61:10

And In It Was a Precious Stone

Oh how I love Jesus who loves me as his friend and wife. How I love the Holy Spirit who empowers and speaks life and truth to me. How I love my Father who reigns majestic while holding me to his heart. I understand so little, but the tiny glimpses into the character of God could fill novels. It’s overwhelming.

I’m trying to embrace the fact that spiritual life is never still. Just like watching your kids grow up, reaching a spiritual milestone does not end the journey. It simply begins a new leg of it. That is both exhilarating and exhausting to me. There are times I just want to rest – to press pause and relax where I am for a minute.

In fact…I am recuperating from a time of trying to do just that.

Today I was reading more of the life of David and got to the Bathsheba chapters.

Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.
2 Samuel 11:1

He let his guard down for a second and opened the door to a string of mess – lust, adultery, deception, murder, death, and family chaos. He repented and was forgiven, but there were lasting consequences to this season he chose to sit it out.

What I love about David is that he wasn’t perfect, and he didn’t let failure stop him in his tracks. Tragic setbacks were met with a renewed diligence, a recharged fervor to move closer to the heart of God. He took responsibility for his mistakes, and he kept moving. The cry of his heart was constantly:

Make a clean heart in me, O God. Give me a new spirit that will not be moved. Do not throw me away from where You are. And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Let the joy of Your saving power return to me. And give me a willing spirit to obey you.
Psalm 51:10-12 (New Life version)

The spring David took a break backfired – it added turmoil and drama from every direction. Still, instead of getting side-tracked and wallowing in self-pity or even shame, he turned his face back to the Lord. He picked up where he left off. He went back to the battle, where he was supposed to be. In his victory, he took a crown… “and in it was a precious stone” (2 Samuel 12:30).

That really encouraged me today, as I face the choice he did between diligence and rest; battle or worldly pleasure; joy or self-pity.

There are rewards, both spiritual and natural, at stake here. To win OR to lose. I’m thankful for the reminder to stay engaged and to press on, for the opportunity to learn from someone else’s mistakes for a change, and for the promise of a beautiful victory in this battle. My life is full of precious stones.

Pocketful of Pearls

When I was a little girl, I was hurt.

I was hurt enough to become bitter, untrusting, and self-reliant.

I knew there was something precious in me, but I hid it deep, and I vowed only the one who fought hard enough would find it in me. I really thought someone would try.

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” – Jesus
Matthew 7:6

My plan really backfired. My whole life, I made it far too easy for people to give up on that quest, and to settle for less than that precious part of my heart. Somehow, I failed to realize that instead of guarding those pearls, I had begun flinging them at anyone who dared to enter my pen.

For almost three years now, I have experienced healing and freedom in every area of my life – relationally, emotionally, financially, physically, sexually, spiritually (that covers everything, right?). I met the one who MADE all that is precious in me – he has known it all from the beginning and is helping ME find it. I now see that verse on a spiritual level, not just the physical. I’ve been gathering these precious pieces back to my heart and, well, starting over.

Do you know what my pearls are now? They are little peeks into the crazy big love God has for us. For me, they come in the form of words, either from a friend or straight to my spirit from his. They are revelation, encouragement, wisdom. They are priceless treasures! My collection is growing exponentially – I can barely write it down fast enough.

Jesus wasn’t telling us to hoard our pearls, to keep them to ourselves. It’s also not a game to see who will earn one today. His warning actually points more toward how we treat the pearls we’ve been given. Are we throwing them on the ground in front of those unable to see value in them? Dogs and pigs are hungry for something different.

There is a lot packed into that little verse and I’m still unpacking! But I am thankful for my pocketful of pearls, and for the radical shift in mindset. I am excited to share them appropriately – at the right time, to the right ear, and using only his words. They are so full of life!

Cleaning My Mind

This week I had a real eye-opener. I mentioned in my last blog that I caught myself getting a little too cozy with my former way of thinking. It’s true – I got a little boy crazy!

Boy crazy to the point that my face was literally numb for hours one day.  (I told you, I am very junior high right now…I couldn’t make this stuff up!)

This little crush caused a lot of distress for me. Obviously. It’s been a long time since I felt interested in entertaining thoughts of a boy in my life. And what is really weird is that I’m NOT interested. Not in this boy, and not right now.

Still, he was all I was thinking about, and that with a furled brow! One morning, it occurred to me how strange and ridiculous it was. There was no peace in this infatuation; it was a literal torment. I begged the Lord to free me from it, to cleanse my mind and help me get back to peace. He said, “YOU clean it!” Say what?

He showed me that he has already done his part – he has cleansed me, purified me, protected me, given me a new mind and new desires. It is my job to decide what goes into my heart and my mind – it’s my job to take every thought captive! (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
Proverbs 4:23

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober . . . not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance…
1 Peter 1:13-14

He reminded me the key is to constantly renew my mind, by keeping my thoughts intentionally focused on him:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Romans 12:2 a

Once you have experienced his peace, even the most beautiful, custom-designed temptation falls flat. We all have different weaknesses, but the message is the same for anything that is unsettling or blocking the peace in your life. It’s not one I’m super excited to share with the world, but if my silly testimony can encourage anyone else it’s worth it! And I just have to say how much I love you for walking with me on this journey.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7

Taken

Unedited testimony, part 2…

I’m posting this mid-week in the hopes that this one will slide by unnoticed. ha! But before I go there, I think it’s important to say WHY I am getting more personal when it is obviously not comfortable for me.

  • You might want to read my very first posting called Comfortable? to see why this is not at all about my comfort level, or me.
  • I have dropped hints about what a train wreck my life was before Jesus stepped in and opened my eyes, but he deserves much more glory than that. I think that knowing where I was two years ago will shed new light on the radical transformation of my life. It definitely makes those first few postings even sweeter to me, written in the early days of my walk.
  • Something I have battled, and something I constantly hear sweet friends struggle with, is the feeling that I am not good enough to (insert whatever you are called to do here). Total lie!! Hopefully, if that is you, this post will cure you forever.
  • Finally, to honor and protect young and/or innocent ones, this will have many words in quotation marks. You can use your grossest imagination and you will probably not be far off.

I have struggled with “relationship addiction”. I mentioned in my last post that I used to have a habit of bouncing from one shallow relationship to the next, using my camouflaging skills where I would take on another’s lifestyle and build on it. That was not a joke. I reinvented my wardrobe with every relationship. I heard women wishing they had a boyfriend, and thought…???? How do you not have one?! I couldn’t imagine it! I would scan the room, pick one, and by the end of the second date we would be “a couple”. I was a master at finding a great partner to last 4-6 months, maybe longer, depending on what he brought to the table.

I was actually in one of these cycles when Jesus rescued me. Some strange combination of my intense gratitude to God for provision and protection (I have always loved God, just couldn’t believe the Jesus story) mixed with an off-handed comment that my new boyfriend wanted to find a church home piqued my curiosity. It was that tiny peek through the blinds of my heart that gave Jesus his entry point. When I stumbled upon Ephesians 2:8-9 (For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast), I was ecstatic! This faith I lacked was something I could ask for. I prayed for faith, and it came flooding in.

Sound easy? It was the easiest, and the hardest, thing ever. All I had to do was surrender my heart…the one thing I had managed to keep locked away my entire life.

I love the way he meets us where we are. The first place he started for me was to show me how much he loves me. I felt how precious every little bit of my body, mind, and soul is to him – treasured and adored even more tenderly than I had marveled over my own babies. I learned the jaw-dropping, astounding pleasure of hearing his voice.

Sometimes cold turkey is the only way to go. When I prayed for direction in this last relationship that was hanging by a thread, I opened straight to Matthew 19:11-12:

He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”

Obviously not what I was looking for, so I kept looking…and landed in 1 Corinthians 7:8:

But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. [i.e. SINGLE]

and a few verses down to 32:

I want you to be free from concern. … The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.

Geez, I got the message… we are going to spend some alone time together! I can’t tell you how funny it was when I did a double take and realized that he was calling me a eunuch! (I have allllwaaaaays been fascinated with eunuchs….) He definitely speaks to each of us in our own language and style – for me he is lovingly direct and straightforward, with a lot of humor thrown in. I don’t recommend random flipping to find God’s will for your life…but I think when we’re just learning to seek him, he is so pleased he makes things easy!

I will never forget the first morning I woke up reaching for him, completely free from loneliness, addiction, human co-dependency. Free because he had completely filled my heart. This was my first deliverance of many, which I may share at some point, but I wanted to start here because he’s been trying to take it a step further.

This weekend, I felt him say he really won’t like me better if/when I find a husband – he can’t like me more than he already does. He wants me to stop using other people to hide my insecurities behind. He wants me to stop believing that I’m missing something he needs or wants. I am what he is looking for, I am enough, just me!! He reminded me what a gift this time of undistracted devotion is. He is happy that I am his. I am happy that I am taken.

The Passion of Your Heart : Enter the Worship Circle: http://youtu.be/cyRB213zimI 

Invisibility Cloak

Psalm 91. The end.

I’ve been challenged to stop giving my edited testimony, so I will say more. This is not just my favorite Psalm, it is my story for the last 30 months.

I met God after a lifetime of finding my identity in who I was with. I bounced from one shallow friendship or relationship to the next…shallow because I wasn’t bringing much to the table. I was just camouflaging my way in to other lives.

When I met him, I had no church family. He found me where I was, in my home. He taught me truth and freedom here, in private. Oh man, it was ugly. Weeks and weeks of intense demolition and reconstruction. It was a quiet, brutal, but beautiful time, where he spoke LIFE to me and gently re-shaped my heart to its intended design.

For the first time in my life, I was not changing to impress a person I just met. I wanted truth and more of it! He transformed me into who I was created to be, my true self: pure with an uncompromising heart for him. Once that was established, he helped me find a church home for my little family. What a joy to see that others loved him as much as I did – I couldn’t believe it!

The protection over my life has been ridiculous. I have alluded to it before, but I want to really shout it out today. I am invisible! Seriously.

No, I have not just been given wisdom to make better boundaries and decisions for myself, although that is happening in the meantime. I have been truly invisible to certain people and opportunities that I would probably have jumped on given half a chance. I haven’t been on a date in over two years, and have fought hard not to take that personally. I have found myself craving premature recognition and promotion, or wanting to jump into my calling before I’m ready. He is teaching me patience and perspective, and to trust his timing.

In the last couple weeks it seems like my invisibility cloak is starting to wear thin. In these moments, it’s funny to see my wide-eyed, panicking new self yelling, “Where are you, Lord? Cover me!!” It’s really nice in his covering.

I’m so thankful for my consecrated time with him and, in hindsight, it’s easy to see why this invisible time was necessary. I am still a baby. We don’t expect or allow our children to jump into things they are not developmentally ready for. I love Psalm 91 because it is just so real for me. It perfectly describes my experience with his love and protection. I have treasured this time of being nurtured and raised by my Father. He is so good!!

Abbreviated Psalm 91:
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter,
no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home.
For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”

Pure

It’s been a long process, but there’s a new understanding in my heart. It finally moved down from my head!

I am perfectly, completely, unquestionably pure in his eyes.

Once I learned to stop judging myself and striving for human approval, I made way for the truth to settle in. I’ve been cleansed by the last pure sacrifice. Every heavy debt I keep insisting on carrying around has been paid. What foolishness and, really, what pride to hold on to it…as if I require more punishment, or deserve more forgiveness, than you.

Never consider unclean what God has made pure.  Acts 10:15

Here’s a word for those of us who tend to focus on our imperfections and wallow in our shame: In heaven, there will be one body with scars, and it is not yours or mine. He alone has paid for the right to carry them.

Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 1 Corinthians 1:30

For the last two and a half years, I have been in the process of serious refinement. I’ve allowed him to heat up areas of my life, to reveal and take away things that keep me from who I was created to be. Layer by layer, each cleansing taking me to a new place of abundance.

Bless our God,
Give him a thunderous welcome!
Didn’t he set us on the road to life?
Didn’t he keep us out of the ditch?
He trained us first,
passed us like silver through refining fires,
Brought us into hardscrabble country,
pushed us to our very limit,
Road-tested us inside and out,
took us to hell and back;
Finally he brought us
to this well-watered place.
Psalm 66: 8-12

I know this process will continue as long as I allow it, for the rest of my life! The refinement process is hard and time-consuming – something you would only bother to do with something valuable at the core. I’m so thankful he thinks we are worth the effort! 
 
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
Ephesians 1:4

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