Thursday, January 16, 2014

I'm a Little More Country Than That...

              A few weeks ago I heard our pastor tell us about how he had to surrender football to God for a season.  He grew up the son of a pro football coach, and he and his brothers played football as well.  Sundays were made for football.  He himself played football in college.  When God called him to the ministry, obviously, he surrendered the dream of going pro and settled for probably watching some games taped or just catching the end or even missing them all together.  But at some point he felt God ask him to “give Me football.”  He felt that he already had given him football, but the more he prayed about it, the more he realized that football was still an idol in his life, and for five years y’all he did not watch football at all…that’s a pretty big sacrifice for a man who grew up that way, but he laid it down on the altar to God to say it will not be my god…and obviously, now he can still enjoy football, he just knows it’s not his God.
              Our church is in a season of fasting and praying for this upcoming year, and we have a devotional that we do corporately.  A couple days ago, our devo was entitled “What’s in a Name?”  and it discussed the names people call us and the identities that we take on, but that our most important name, our most important identity is in Christ.  God has called us by His name; He has made us in His image.  We are called Christians…but is that really the identity that we cling to most???
              I told the story of my pastor, because I think in a large way it illustrates well how we don’t know if we really just hold our identity in Christ or if maybe we have made a tiny bit of an idol/safety net out of other identities until we are asked to lay them down or they are stripped from us.  Pastor Joe was pretty much Joe Football at that point – his family didn’t go to church growing up, they weren’t religious – they were football – and he gave up football, even watching it….
              When Scott and I got married and our daughter was born exactly one year and three weeks later, I had a lot of identity change fast.  I mean I hadn’t even graduated from college before I married Scott – I went straight from high school to college student to married to mom in just a few short years and my world was rocked.  My body changed.  The activities I was involved in changed.  I wasn’t able to go the hair salon and get my hair highlighted (and all my sista’s out there that need a good stylist said a good amen), and at the time I was in school and married and mom and living on nickels and dimes trying to make ends meet. 
              I remember really wrestling with God over my physical appearance, especially.  People treat you differently, I felt, and I just felt so…worthless.  I remember just begging God to get my hair done.  Feel free to laugh, it’s ok.  I remember just wrestling over the thought of someone seeing me disheveled with spitup on my shoulder and baby boogers across the knees of my jeans, my roots grown out in some sort of backwards hombre, and clothing that could not hide all the baby weight that I had gained along the way.  I mean, I know all moms go through this to some degree, but we were in some pretty serious situations and I was also working full time by this point and taking 18 hours of courses trying to finish my degree, so I was a little worse than your average just had a baby look.  I felt ashamed.
              And God and I wrestled.  I cried.  I cried a lot!  I told him how I hated that I felt so humbled and ugly and how people treated me like I was so worthless.  I hated feeling like I never had it together.  I hated feeling so sleep deprived and like everything was out of control.  I had so carefully built an identity where I was mostly well put together and well-manicured and well liked, and now I just felt like a mess, and I was hiding. 
              It was in that place that God asked me where my worth comes from.  He asked me, “What is your name?”  “Who are you?”  Are you a blonde haired cheerleader?  Are you some girl who used to be a cute little blonde haired cheerleader in high school and now is some typical has been overweight mom?  (He didn’t say that last part – that was me)  Your family doesn’t like you – so do they get to decide your worth?  Who are they?  Are you Scott’s wife?  Are you Laurelei’s mom?  What if something happens to them?  Who are you then? 
              And then I cried more.  And God had me go to the place where what if the worst happened and something happened to my sweet hubbie and my precious babies – even then, God would still be on his throne.  Even then.  And who would I be then? 
              And then it came to me…
I am the daughter of the Most High King.  A princess of the highest royal line, not that I am better than any other, but that I have chosen to accept my inheritance.  My freedom cannot be taken from me unless I give it away.  I have power, I have beauty, I have strength because I am made in the image of the Most High God.  The One and Only – The God!  I am loved.  And I am not hard to love, either.  I am loved well.  I am adored, admired, and wanted.  I am paid for at a high price.  I am His.

And my friends…so are you.  What other names have you allowed people to call you – for me it was unlovable, irritating, ditzy, too deep, sensitive, too quiet, too loud
Or what identities have you clung to –

Hobbies or relationships or even I heard a song today that made me think “I’m a a little more country than that”…there was a time in my life where I told God I would go wherever He called me – even if it was to the city (which to me is a like a mega sacrifice), not that these are bad things….just they must all be surrendered to our identity in Christ!  Because under Him our desires, our hearts true desires will always be fulfilled.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


              For the majority of my life I have struggled to feel loved.  There have been these mountaintop moments where either I wrapped my head around it or the grand expressions of others got the point across and I have received love, but otherwise, I have felt that I have had to work to earn others’ affections.  It’s taken me a long time to really understand this, but it’s a pretty painful realization. 
              The thing is, I learned a long time ago, how to get affection (I’m not talking about physical intimacy here – I’m talking admiration, attention, and the like) if I really wanted it…and I wasn’t mean or immoral.  I sincerely care about the feelings of other people, so talking with them and delving into issues and listening really isn’t that hard for me.  And bonus (for me) I got the love I so desired.  If I wanted someone’s love or affection, I knew how to “dance and sing” so to speak to earn it…sometimes it took a conversation, sometimes it took time to see what they liked, but I knew what would make people like me.  And I wasn’t immoral, I still talked about God, I still told others about God and was kind and loving to them, and a lot of people said that I was helping them.
              So what’s the problem…
The problem is it wasn’t true.  I was projecting parts of myself making them seem larger than they were to seem more agreeable and masking parts of myself I didn’t think people would like, and not just in a way that is gracious or appropriate per the situation, but disproportionate.  The problem is that I was so concerned with other people loving me, and even though I wasn’t being mean to anyone, and even being nice by many standards, I wasn’t loving other people enough (or respecting myself enough) to be honest about who I am and give others the freedom to accept or reject the real me.  It was a facade.  And when life became tumultuous (as it will in seasons) and I no longer had the strength to impress others, I found there was no one who could handle or knew the real me. 
              Desiring to please others is a wonderful quality, but when coupled with a lack of feeling loved it can be toxic, and it nearly choked the life out of me.  But God shook me awake. 
              It took time for me to relearn who I really am again, in balance, but He has shown me, and then the process of learning to love and accept me.  I had to grieve who I am not, be thankful for I am, and be honest about my strengths and limitations.  
              But the greatest pain thus far has been after all that, pressing through and being honest about me (I’m not talking about airing your dirty laundry in town square, just not distorting things to make it look like I’m someone I’m not, and in the right moments with those who seem desirous to grow deeper, sharing more intimate thoughts and feelings) – after all that, allowing someone else to really know you and giving them to freedom to make up their own ideas about you, they might decide they don’t like you.
              And gosh, this pain just makes me want to pack it all up and call it a day  - it was a nice ride, thank you for that Jesus, but I think I’ll go back to my painted on smiles and loud chatter…but then He reminds me, that because He loved us and He wanted to be loved, He gave us freedom to make our own choices.  He did not force us to love or obey Him.  He has revealed Himself to us, sent His son to die for us, and made us great and precious promises, but we are still free to reject Him.  Our Father, my sweet Father, my sweet Jesus knows the pain that I feel.  But He loves us anyway.  And He reminds me that if I ever want to know the sweetness of real love, I’ll have to keep pressing through, because real love can only be real if I am really known.
              I still struggle with feeling awkward, hard to love.  I still feel different.  I still often feel like there is nowhere that I fit other than just right here in my family of four (but I am so thankful that there is at least one place I belong, even if its small).  But while I must grieve again from time to time, I keep pressing in to the God who understands my heart.  I keep asking Him for strength to be authentic even when it seems difficult or painful.  And I keep asking for Him to bring people of good character and healthy relating my way to try again, and that someday soon I’ll find some love to stay. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Coming of Age

              It seems that our culture loves these new sort of “coming of age” stories.  And they are not just for teenagers and young adults; there are coming of age stories about adults well advanced in years.  Each a great awakening, a rebirth in a new season, and a chance to start anew.  Whether they are just starting out, becoming empty nesters, divorce’s, etc.  Our culture seems to hunger for this awakening, for freedom.
              That makes me think…what made them feel bound?  My personal opinion is the “religiosity” of previous generations that smacked of laws and rules rather than boundaries based on trust in our graceful and loving God. 
              A rebirth?  Yes!  We need a rebirth – into the life and spirit of God, killing the flesh with it’s desires that consumed and enslaved us, and birth into a life with a spirit that brings us health and fulfillment, righteousness and Truth.
              A Great Awakening?  PLEASE!  Christians, churchgoers, do gooders – WAKE UP!!!  Our God is not dead He is surely alive, and He is so so so much more than a list of rules and weekly church attendance.  In fact, if those things do not flow out of love and trust in Him, out of relationship with Him, I dare say they are pointless, fruitless efforts.  God is relevant!  He cares about what hurts, and He wants to make us whole, make us meaningful, and make our lives worth living.  He created us for adventure and life abundant.
              God, please help me, help us to see You.  Please let us reflect well the greatness of Your love and kindness, and let us live lives of faith filled adventure with You – let us live ALIVE!  God, please help us to live lives that are pleasing to You, and attractive to others.  Let us radiate!  No one wants to eat a steak off a dirty plate, and Lord, you are the most savory steak – let our plates be clean, and let us enjoy the steak!  Thank You that You are so wonderful!