Friday, November 21, 2014

This I Know

How do we sort through our memories… the good and the bad?

How do we cope with the events in our life… the happy and the sad?

Do you ever feel God stirring your heart as you sort and cope in an effort to put one foot in front of the other?

I’m a bit surprised at what God seemed to whisper in my heart through memories as I watched a movie while we had the windows on our home replaced…

He walks around with a carpenter’s pencil in his mouth. His tools are familiar to me. He works hard and it’s obvious he takes pride in his work. Skilled in his craft, something tugs at my heart. He whistles while he works and I can’t help but smile.

We’re having our windows replaced in an effort to save money (as well as avoid further water damage to our basement). Rather than pack everything needed to complete the project only to unpack it again the next day, the men working on our house left all the materials and equipment in our garage overnight. When I opened the door from our house to the garage this morning, it stopped me dead in my tracks.

Nothing was wrong. Everything was right where it was supposed to be. There weren’t any strange animals in sight. What I saw was what is in this picture: a table saw; construction horses; ladders; and power tools as well as stacked lumber, waiting to be used as trim for our windows… Mixed with the smell of sawdust, I felt a lump swell up in my throat… I couldn’t contain the emotions and wondered why they hit in that very moment.

Growing up, this picture was commonplace in our home. My dad was a carpenter, running his own business out of our childhood home built with his hands. One side of our house held a half-court-sized room with a basketball hoop in it. While we called it the “gym”, it served more as my father’s garage/tool shed. In an effort to make a space big enough to shoot 3-point shots, we had to push dad’s tools and supplies off to the edges of the room…

I’m certain the mix of emotions with this scene as well as the ones connected to the stranger in my home were connected to the familiar memories of my daddy. The sadness I used to feel over the loss of my dad has subsided over time… It’s been almost 7 years and I’ve wrestled with a lot of emotions over that time. There are so many memories that flood my mind and heart and each one requires sorting and searching and giving them to Jesus.

My dad loved me. I know this. And yet, honestly, my dad was flawed. He didn’t love me perfectly. There is a lot of pain in my heart over the memories that thread through my life. At the same time, the fact that my dad loved me is the core of what allows me to miss him as well as make sense of the bad memories that intermingle the good ones. With the truth of my dad’s love for me, I’m able to make peace with every memory I’m left to work through without him.

As I write this, I’m watching the movie, Ragamuffin:The True Story of Rich Mullins. At the point in this songwriter’s story that he decided to go to Nashville, he sang “Jesus Loves Me”. God whispered to my heart that this was the point of my sorting through these thoughts on my blog this morning.
Just as I work through memories of my dad and my childhood with the firm knowledge that he loved me, I’m learning that this is what matters. Not so much that my daddy loved me… but that Jesus loves me; God loves me. My Heavenly Father loves me.

As I cope with all the thoughts in my mind, I realize it applies to the way I attempt to manage my life. Every detail of my world needs to be filtered with this one unchanging fact: My Heavenly Father loves me. That never changes. EVERYTHING is centered on God’s love for me. And unlike the memories of my dad, God is with me as I work through the hard times and good times of this life.
This is where I find peace. This is where you can find peace. This is where our world finds peace. This is the answer: Jesus loves me. This I know.

Do you know the depth of Christ’s love for you? Get a copy of Ragamuffin:The True Story of Rich Mullins and set aside time to watch it. Maybe God will reach your heart the same way he met mine. It's worth every minute and every dime. I just rented it and now I want to own it. The message is life changing!

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” – Ephesians 3:16-19

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I'm Free to be Me

“Why did God make me mean like you?” This was the question posed to me by my 6-year-old daughter. While I smiled at her inquisition, it didn’t stop my heart from twisting inside of me. “God didn’t make us mean,” I informed her. “We just need to ask Him to help us make better choices.”

The most difficult piece of raising my youngest is the fact that every time I look at her, I see my reflection as if in a mirror. She’s filled with passion and can’t contain her emotions. There’s not much of a filter on her mouth. Her strong-willed personality is a battle almost every day. When I’m faced with the need to offer instruction and discipline for her, I find myself hopeless. God, how do I help her change when I don’t even know where to begin changing myself?!

Most days, I wake up embracing the truth of Lamentations 3: God’s mercies are new every morning. Then the day begins and I face failure, disappointment, sin, comparison and discouragement. Most of these hit hard before everyone is even out the door for the day. I struggle with who I am and why I can’t ever seem to overcome.

“You are too hard on yourself.” I hear this often from those I love. Yet, I’m left with a flood of frustration because I feel the need to be… although I can’t quite identify why.

Maybe I demand perfection?

Could it be that I just don’t think I ever do enough to please God?

I relate well to the main character in the movie, Mom's Night Out. Allyson, a stay-at-home mom, finds everything about her night out going wrong. She laments, “I’m a failure. I have failed again. That’s all I do. I can’t… no matter how hard I try… how much I give… I’m not enough.”

“For Who?” She is questioned by the biker friend lending a listening ear. He doesn’t beat around the bush when he directly confronts her woes “… for you? Not enough for you?”

Tears came to my eyes as this unlikely character spoke truth into this broken momma. The words targeted my heart. Just like Allyson, all too often, I feel like I’m not good enough. I’d like to be just about anyone else other me.

In his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Author Brennan Manning states “Though lip service is paid to the gospel of grace, many Christians live as if it is only personal discipline and self-denial that will mold the perfect me. The emphasis is on what I do rather than on what God is doing… sooner or later we are confronted with the painful truth of our inadequacy and insufficiency.” In these words, I felt God opening His arms as the loving Father to accept and comfort me. I continued to read the words by Thomas Merton quoted in the book, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”

“You are accepted,” The Ragamuffin Gospel continues. “Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted.”

It’s me that isn’t okay with me. My husband loves me. My daughters love me. My family and my friends love me. Most of all, God loves me… just as I am. Jesus gave his life for me so that I could spend eternity with Him. How could I question that pure love by fighting against the person God created me to be?

I am passionate. Yes, that means I struggle with containing negative emotions. Sometimes this plays out in the ugliness of anger. However, most of the time, it displays itself in the beauty of love. My weakness can reveal strength if I allow it.

I am strong-willed. Sometimes I can appear stubborn and demanding. More often, it allows me to confidently lead others in following the greatest commandments: love God; love others. Yet what God is showing me is that I am leaving out “…as yourself.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I can’t love others the way God loves if I’m unwilling to embrace the woman He created me to be.

The lesson I am learning is that guilt is a messy motivation. I cannot guilt myself to live better. God has never asked me to live in guilt. As a matter of fact, Jesus came so I could live in freedom. As I read the Bible, this message is engrained into my soul: “Where the Spirit ofthe Lord is, there is freedom!” (John 8; Galatians 5; Romans 6)

It’s time to quit beating myself up. Allyson (in Mom's Night Out) writes on her mommy blog: “I’m a mess. But a beautiful mess. I’m His masterpiece… and that’s enough.” It’s time I embrace that message and live it out. God defines who I am. Not me.

Bottom line: In Christ, I’m free to be me! (…and so are you!)

Do you struggle with placing high demands on yourself that God never placed on you? Take time to read the scripture referenced in this post. God’s desire was to free us. I want my life to start reflecting this more.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” - 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I'm linking up today with Jill Savage for the Hearts at Home Blog Hop, "Third Thursday Thoughts". Check out what other moms are saying on the topic, "Love your Personality," at Jill's blog.