“Do You Eat Girls?”

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“Are you not thirsty?” said the lion.
“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the lion.
“May I — could I — would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Will you promise not to — do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.
—Excerpt from The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis

I love this scene because it’s one we all find ourselves in.

Thirst. 

You were born with it. And can die of it, too.

You need water to live. But there’s just one problem: you can only get it from one source. And you have to cross a Lion to get there. (Who very well may swallow you up.)

Oh yes, you were made to be wild my friend. To drink deeply. To live truly. To wrestle and walk away with grass in your hair. To live life alive. And to discover the most terrifyingly beautiful One of all; the only one who gives you what you need. And crave.

Run barefoot to the ends of the earth and you will not find a love like this. Drink anything you like–but to find Living Water…

“There is no other stream.”

But Christ.

Braver Than Me

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She charges into the roaring surf at the ocean. And wants to be pushed higher, and higher on the swings. She pets barking dogs. And scales the walls of her crib. She stands on the very edge of the kitchen chairs, like she’s ready to spring off a diving board. And during her bath, she dumps bucket after bucket of water on her head, drenching her face.

How did she come from me?

This dauntless creature?

Who screams louder than I did. Moves faster. Laughs harder. And jumps higher. (In her crib.)

Last week, I set her down in the store, and at once she ran to a giant “Back to School” display, grabbed a lunch box for each hand and charged down the aisle just like someone about to miss a flight (except, she was laughing hysterically.)

“Stop!” I’m yelling, “Come back!”

I snatch her up like a squealing pig, and whisper, “Shhh!” in her ear, trying hard not to laugh. But as I’m prying the Hello Kitty lunch boxes, like suitcases, from each of her hands, a wave of loss washes over my heart.

Don’t grow up, Baby Girl.

She’s only one and a half, but is already racing out of my arms the moment they swing open, like a derby horse out of the gate. And I know the day will come when she’s not just heading down an aisle at the store, but another aisle. Where she is dressed in a white flowing gown, and I stand by with streaming tears, and…a thousand tiny memories of her,
are suddenly awakened,
like a thousand butterflies put to flight.

Please, could I catch just one, to keep?

I want to pin her down forever. Right here. Like this. Where I can stroke her soft white-blonde hair, that curls when she wakes-up warm from a nap. And stare deep into her blue eyes, like two worlds. And to grab her skinny, squirming frame, and pull her close against me, if even for a moment. Could we just stay frozen like this forever?

But I can’t pin her down like a butterfly in a collection. And fragile as she seems, she was made to be free.

Free to fly.

My Darling Girl,
Sometimes, I fear what you will be. Where you will go. The adventures you will take. And the risk.

But if God has given you wings, I will teach you to fly.

To reach higher than me. Love deeper than me. Run harder than me. Stretch further. And be braver.

For when the world goes dark, your hands may need to strike the match and carry the torch. And when the Dragon invades, your bow may need to shoot the arrows into his heart. But don’t be afraid.

For your Rescuer, Jesus,

is coming back,

and coming soon,

for brave hearts longing for Him.

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[I recently had the honor of being a guest blogger and submitting this piece for a wonderful blog called MomLife Now, which is written by an incredibly gifted writer and mother named Sasha, whom I believe you will love as much as I do.]

To My Friends Who Lost Desire

As I was driving in the car yesterday morning, I was halted by this single reality: God is the most important thing. All the questions, desires and requests I had been asking Him that morning suddenly just—stopped. And this question came instead: Do you want God, for God? Or for what He can give you?

It’s a question I haven’t answered since I was in the midst of barrenness two years ago.

Do you want God, just for God?

How rarely I get up early just to go sit in His presence. Just to be with Him. Just to desire Him for Him.

This morning I read Psalm 63.
And it was so simple.
My soul thirsts for you. My flesh faints for you. My soul clings to you.

Often my desire for God is combined with a thousand other requests and petitions. Which is good. I really believe my God can answer every one. But sometimes in the midst of those “requests,” I lose my desire just for Him. Alone.

I no longer realize His preciousness.

To those who feel empty…you were made for God.
You were created to worship God. Not His world, not His gifts…but God Himself.

God is the most important thing.

So throw off the sin, and distractions, and desires that so easily entangle. And run. To God. For God.

“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” Psalm 63:3

6 Things You Can Do for Persecuted Christians in Iraq

This morning, across the ocean, a woman has just watched her little toddler be beheaded, and her husband hanged with rope, and tonight waits to be stripped naked by two filthy, bloodstained hands of an ISIS militant, who will molest, rape, and kill her.

It’s true. “They are systematically beheading Christian children, raping, and killing the wives, and hanging the husbands,” CNN reports in this must-see video.

For the first time in my life, I cannot ignore it. I can turn the channel, or leave the room, but there is still this un-ignorable weight in my heart. When I speak about it to my friends or family, and hear words like “beheading, raping, and hanging” come out of my mouth, I become too choked up to finish. The Holy Spirit keeps testifying one thing: this is real.

But why do I feel so different about this crisis than all the others that flood across the news feed?  Is a Christian life of more value than a Muslim, or Yazidi?  No.

Then why do I grieve for them more?

Perhaps it is because…

They are my brothers, they are my sisters.

I am connected to these ones.

Born of the same Spirit.

Even though I do not know their names, the sound of their voices, the depths of their eyes…

They are my people.
Through and through.

“These are my people!” Queen Esther cried out. As in, “My own flesh and blood!” When her people (the Jews) were being persecuted, her grief moved to compassion, and compassion moved to high-risk action that would ultimately save them.

God has given us humans this violent thing in our hearts called, “compassion.” But there is reason we feel; it is to drive us to action. Something is not right (be it, Christian persecution, or human trafficking, or people starving while we live in excess)—and God is calling us to do something.

But as so many have said, “What can I do? They’re so far away.”

There are 6 things you can do today:

1. Follow What is Happening
You can’t care about something until you know about it. I am notorious for being out of the news loop. People are repeatedly shocked that I “didn’t know” about major news events. But while I am chanting, “Ignorance is bliss,” people are dying. I often don’t see the point in following the ever-depressing news–because if I’m honest, how does it affect me? (I’m usually consumed with “my kingdom,” when I am called to be consumed with God’s.) Secondly, (though I sometimes wish it), I wasn’t born in the “Little House on the Prairie” era, I was born into this one for a God-ordained reason. What if God has a greater agenda for me than the chore chart that’s hanging on my fridge?

2. Involve Your Kids
I’d like to flash my “mom card” like an excuse for jury duty when it comes to following events outside the playroom or kitchen. And yet, part of motherhood is introducing my daughter to our big world, and to an even bigger God who can save it. It’s okay if my daughter sees me weep over the things God weeps over. Perhaps one day, she will be more inclined to do so as well. In terms of the Iraq persecutions, my toddler and I  have simply been praying for “babies” with “boo boos.” She understands that much.

3. Let Yourself Feel Something

Just like Jack Johnson expresses in his song, The News, “Why don’t the newscasters cry when they read about people who die?” It is easy to be numb to catastrophic events that are so far away. However, author Francis Chan gave such helpful insight in his book, “Forgotten God,” about how to let myself “feel” the weight of injustice right here in my living room:

When he first learned about the realities of children in the sex-slave trade industry, he stayed up in his hotel room and began to think: what if my own kids were captured by the sex-trade industry? He stayed up all night sobbing loudly for them. And the more he thought about it, the more passionate his resolve that there was nothing he wouldn’t do to rescue them. [And as a result gave all of the royalties from his book, Crazy Love, to the Isaiah 58 Fund.]

What if we started actually feeling persecution as if it were being done to our own sisters, our own brothers? Our own children?

For indeed, it is.

4. Pray.
We sing about the God of “Angel Armies,” but do we really believe that? Many feel that prayer is “passive,” when it may be the most active thing we can do for our Christian brothers and sisters overseas. We have no idea that God may be releasing those angel armies at our cries. What is “passive” is talking about praying and never actually doing it (which is what I am guilty of.) But when you engage in fervent prayer, the Holy Spirit will testify in your spirit, what you are doing is intensely active and important.

Remember who you are praying to. Our God is stronger than any military, government, or power in the universe. When He acts, who can stop it? (Is. 43:13) All through Scripture God defeats nations (2 Chronicles 20), strikes armies with blindness, and surrounds his people with angles and chariots of fire  (2 Kings 6), He parts seas (Heb. 11:29), provides food from heaven (Exodus 16), opens prison doors, and story after story, delivers His people. Can He not do it again?

5. Give.
You can donate money to Christian organizations in Iraq. A few legitimate ones are The Voice of the Martyrs (which gives Bibles with the aid), Open Doors and Christian Aid. I usually pass on these because I assume the money won’t get ever get there. But these are solid organizations, and these people need our help.

6. Raise Social Media Awareness

This is what I am doing right now. Many don’t know what’s going on, and will never read my words—but they will read your words. Because they know and trust you. If you have any type of social media account, you have the power to do this. What is God pressing on your heart to say about it? Share that.

You can also upload the picture below to your social media profile to show loyalty and stand with the persecuted Christians in Iraq. Click here to read more about the meaning of this symbol.

I heard yesterday that the only reason America is helping in Iraq, is because they are concerned about the oil and money in it. Maybe that’s true. Maybe not. I don’t know what America’s agenda is about.

But I do know what God’s is about.
And He will advance His kingdom.
He will unite His people.
He will build His church.
And the neither the Islamic State, nor the gates of hell will prevail against it.

Your prayers, or offering, or awareness-spreading may be the only answer to an Iraqi sister’s prayer tonight

….as she lays in the dark on a cold floor with a knot in her stomach, waiting to be raped, clutching onto her last dying hope: not to deny Jesus Christ as Lord.

For when it’s all over, when that ISIS militant is all finished ravaging her body, and deems her “worthless,” and ends her life, by bullet or sword

…she will at last open her eyes to eternity, and see another Man standing before her.

The One who formed her. Who first uttered her name into existence. And knit her together in the secret place. She will look down, and no longer be naked, but clothed, in white. And his warm hand will wipe away all the tears from her eyes and heal all her wounds and whisper, “Before I formed you, I knew you, and you are Mine. Come, I have prepared a place for you at Wedding Supper of the Lamb.”

 

Photo Credit

Frozen Pizza and the Crisis in Iraq

“What’s for dinner?” my husband asked. “Just pizza,” I replied, pointing to the box of frozen pizza on the counter. “Just pizza?” he said with a curious smile, implying my obvious ingratitude. “Okay,” I rolled my eyes, “We get to have pizza tonight!” I exclaimed in my most enthusiastic voice. (But not very convincingly.)

As I threw together a quick salad to go with it, my mind stayed glued on my husband’s implication. “Just pizza?”

My mind flashed to the news I heard that morning: Thousands of innocent people stranded on top of a mountain without food or water for seven days, waiting for rescue, or death.

Men, women, children, babies–hungry and thirsty. What they would give for even a morsel of any food. 

Every day I have food and water. I rate things like a frozen pizza ‘a kind of crappy dinner.’ I push my cart through aisles of food. Thousands of choices. Varieties. I can’t even decide there are so many choices. I can eat what I want, whenever I want. Without a thought.

60 children are confirmed dead on top of Mt. Sinjar tonight–from extreme temperatures, hunger, and thirst.

“Just pizza?”

I grieve for these little ones tonight. I have been given so much. Most of the world has so little. And I don’t even know it. They usually seem so far away. Like another world.

But tonight they seem so close.

I lay in my warm bed with my husband. My daughter sleeps across the hall in her crib–safe right now. Another report surfaces in my mind: hundreds of young women have been taken captive by the militants with “vicious” plans for them, and are being held in schools in Mosul, “most likely being abused in demeaning ways by the terrorists,” Amin reported, “to satisfy their animalistic urges in a way that contradicts all the human and Islamic values.”

Tears roll off my cheeks into my pillow. I lay in my bed wondering, what it would be like, to be one of them? What horrors do they face tonight?

My husband rolls over and tells me, “You’ve just been reading the news the last few days, Bekah. But this kind of stuff is going on all the time, all over the world.”

He is right. I hate that he is right. This is our world. The one Jesus came for. Because it’s broken and hurting and so very sick. Sometimes evil things can masquerade as beautiful ones…but sometimes the whole world turns and sees evil for what it is.

Urgency courses through my blood stream. And yet, I don’t know what to do. I pray desperately for their rescue. I ask God to send angels to war for them. To save them. I can’t stop thinking about them. Babies are dying of starvation and young girls are being raped. Every day. This is reality–even if I can’t see it.

I grow increasingly restless, unsure of what my hands can do, or my voice can speak, or my wallet can spend to help, help this injustice all over the world…to stop. I don’t know what I can do, but once I do, I hope to do it with all my might.

What can I do tonight? Tomorrow?

Stop complaining about things that are only “first world” preferences, and start being relentlessly grateful for what I have. Like food. Water. And that God has sustained me, and my family one more day on this earth.

This means: I need to not be picky about food. Not a little bit. Not ever. I need to never ever say again, “Just pizza.” I need to never apologize to my family or my dinner guests for what I am serving them.

Instead I will serve them whatever food God has supplied, like it’s the best meal on earth.

For, “godliness with contentment is great gain,” and, “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” 1 Timothy 6:6,8

We will hold hands and say “grace.” And mean it. By God’s grace we have been given this food, this water.

This life. For one more day.

 Photo Credit 

[I know this is a real and serious situation, not just in Iraq, but globally. And learning gratitude is only a small part. If you know of, or participate with any social justice organizations, or, can share any practical involvement or beneficial resources, please share in the comments section.]

When Writing is Seeing

“You can talk to God this way,” she said, then handed me a black composition journal and a new pen as we sat in Sunday School class. I did not know the power then, of what she had given me, of what was in my hands. Of words.

That words have life-giving power.

Since I was twelve, I have been scribbling down my thoughts, prayers, dreams, and nightmares in a journal. From junior high gel pens to more grown-up Barnes & Noble types…I cannot count how much I have written or how many journals I have gone through. Stacks.

Writing is how I engage with God. Pour out my heart. Get my bearings. But more than anything: to see. 

To see, is a beautiful gift. And when I stop writing, I stop seeing.  Stop looking for God, stop listening for Him. I go blind so quickly to all He is doing, all He has given me, all He is calling me to.

But to write, is to see. And to see, is to see Christ, high and lifted up.

Here at Barren to Beautiful, the goal is to listen and look for God’s beauty permeating through all of our current life. To see beyond the barrenness, the empty, the want. To put our gaze on Christ, the opener of our eyes. So that we will not walk away empty, or thirsty–but full. And satisfied in God.

I was recently featured by a beautiful blogger named Sasha at MomLife Now. She is one of my dear blogging friends who often helps me to see the glory all around me. She has this incredible ability to magnify small mundane moments into take-your-breath-away sacred ones. She is a true writer who becomes still enough to hear, to see the beauty. It’s amazing how reading about her world, actually makes me love mine more. You can check out a favorite, “Forever My Passion” here or by clicking the photo below.

Part of participating in this blog hop is to feature another blog you simply love.

I am thrilled to point you to Jeanne Harrison at Loving My Lot, the first blogger I ever fell head-over-heels for. Her blog, Loving My Lot, is all about embracing. Embracing Jesus. Your kids. Your husband. Your world currently. However glamorous (or unglamorous) it may seem.

If you want a refreshingly honest voice on the real issues today’s women/mother’s/wives face: read her blog. I have read many books written for today’s Christian women, and I have yet to find a voice this clear, piercing, and genuine (and might I add…enjoyable?).  I stumbled upon her as a new mom, with her post Mom vs. Mom: The War I Didn’t See Coming, but was hooked ever since. She is like a really wise friend, who is not afraid to (hilariously and humbly) tell it like it is. And yet with wisdom, hope, and joy point you toward Christ. She offers everything from book reviews to topics like fearful parenting, romancing your husband, and being intentional with your kids and even practical advice on developing a schedule and taking care of your home. Her words are a continual joy and strength to me. And reading her words have helped me not only embrace, but enjoy what God has given me.

Dear sisters, wherever you are today, whether you are blind to the blessings, or gratefully aware of them: choose to see, and to keep seeing. Whether it’s reading, or writing. Whatever it takes. Listen closely.

You have a God who is speaking. Who can open eyes that are blind. Ears that are deaf. With His words. Words that create worlds. Words that heal wounds. Words that have life-giving power.

Words that help you see.

What Turbo Kick Taught Me About Being A New Mom

I am not sure what gave me the boost of confidence before entering the YMCA that day. But it was dangerous. As I walked in with an extra skip in my step, I looked at the schedule hanging on the door of Studio 1 and noticed a class called “Turbo Kick” started in 10 minutes. Hmm, sounds more fun than the elliptical. (Big mistake.)

I should have taken some cues as I saw a myriad of very fit looking women waiting around in the lobby, all in cute elastic work out get-ups, and I stood there with my Adidas shorts, old basketball t-shirt, and chicken legs. I was not tanned, or toned, or terrifying like any of these women. I asked the lady with the mic on her face (who was clearly the instructor) what the class was like on my way in, “Oh, it’s just like Kick-boxing combined with Insanity.” Those were her actual words. Insanity. (For someone who struggles just to keep up in the Electric Slide at weddings, the only Insanity that I would be proving that day was my own.)
If only I would have walked away then. But alas…

Within the first five minutes of “Turbo Kick,” I was completely lost. The instructor was barking out commands that sounded like a foreign language. “Upper cut! Cross over! Back kick! Front kick! To the wall!” Huh? I was soon in a stampede of women and trying not to get run over.

I looked like a drowning victim. Arms and legs flailing in every direction. If I were in a pool, there would be whistles blowing, and lifeguards jumping in after me, and people standing by with their faces in their hands.

I was bad. I mean, really stinking the place up, and only 15 minutes into it, too. Unfortunately, the class was 55 minutes long. But I was already committed now. I tried to look natural. But as arms and legs flung wildly in every direction, and I did my first “burpee” since junior high track, nothing was natural about what I was doing. Or trying to do. I’d watch the instructor, then the lady in front of me, then the mirror, then the window, desperately hoping (praying) my husband didn’t feel the need to check on me.

Of course he did.

Later that evening, after he was done cracking joke #492 about the whole episode (for he had a lot of material to work with), he said, “And what were you smiling about in there anyway?”

“Because when I saw my reflection,” I confessed, “I thought ‘What if he’s watching right now?’ And it just made me want to laugh!” I couldn’t help it. There comes a point when you are so awful, it’s actually funny. I guess I would call it, “Insanity.”

This is a lot like being a new mom.

When you become a new mommy…you suddenly enter this new world you didn’t even know existed. Motherhood. You are surrounded by all these ladies moving at incredible speeds, who seem to know exactly what they are doing and you are left spinning around not even know what direction you are supposed to be going.

I’m only 18 months into motherhood, but Turbo Kick resurrected a lot of “new mom” thoughts that I’ve been feeling since the start of motherhood, and I’m not ashamed to admit them:

1. “I have no idea what I am doing.”
New moms have no experience, none. Zippo. Therefore, no matter how much you studied your “What to Expect” books, or baby-sat the neighbor kids…you can’t be fully prepared for what’s ahead of you. Don’t expect to hit the ground running. It’s okay to hit the ground and just…lay there for awhile. You will crawl eventually. You are new to this, and you will learn.

2. “I am surrounded by women who are better at this than me.”
Let’s just get this out there. It’s probably true. If you have friends with any mommy experience at all there’s a good chance they know the steps better than you. They know what they are doing, and you don’t. And that’s okay. You can give yourself some grace realizing, “I am a beginner at this!” Be patient. Don’t try to keep up with the mom whose been doing this for ten years, when you’ve only been at it for ten months. Don’t compare, (it leads to despair.)

3. “I am surrounded by mirrors.”
Not only are you surrounded by Super-Mommies…but you are surrounded by mirrors. These mirrors are those lingering questions in your head or your heart that keep saying things like, “You should know what you’re doing. Get it together. You aren’t good enough. You’ll never get it right.” Ugh. Mirrors remind us of our weaknesses and flaws. Look to God instead, He is where your strength comes from. He made you to do this, and He will give you what you need. In His time.

4. “This is hilarious.”
As a new mom, you can choose how you will respond. For me, that day in Turbo Kick, I chose to laugh. I could have been too proud, and walked out. I could have been too embarrassed, and cried. But I chose to laugh. I was SO out of my league! New mom’s, if you feel like you are clueless, laugh. Maybe you are. Give yourself permission to fail, to experiment, to grow. Some days you will cry, whine, or be angry with yourself, and set sky-rocket expectations to “do it better” tomorrow. It’s part of being a mom.

                               You are allowed to laugh. 

Because…this is hard. And because laughing–is evidence of humility. Of growing. Of not always knowing what you are doing 100% of the time. Whether you are a new mom or not, remember one of the the qualities of the highly esteemed “Proverbs 31 Woman” that we don’t often hear about is:

She smiles at the future.
She can laugh at the days to come.
(Prov. 31:25b, NASB, NIV)

You can laugh. You are learning, we all are are. Welcome to not having it all together. Welcome to growth.
Welcome to Insanity.
Welcome to Motherhood.

 

Singing In The Dark: Worship When It Hurts

I left work early that day, my world was spinning. My heart was in anguish, feeling as if it would burst at any moment. And once I arrived home, I was completely undone. Weeping. It seemed like suddenly all the light had gone out of the world. Out of my world.

Sin and death.

Like two arrows shot straight into my heart. Within one hour that morning.

First arrow, Sin. I was cut deeply by sin, the sin of someone I loved.

Second arrow, Death. A dear friend had passed away, leaving her husband, and three kids. Alone.

Sin and death. All at once, I could feel their power. Taste the bitter. And that night as it grew dark outside, it grew dark inside…me. It felt that night like Satan won.

Like he would always win.

Crushed and broken, I sat at the old piano, with no words, watching the neat black and white keys blur with my tears.

                                                            God, why?

Have you ever had one of these moments? When your world suddenly flickers black?

When tears run dry, and strength wears thin,

No hope of going on again,

When hands are fragile, thin, and weak,

No words are left to even speak?

There are nights in this life that are simply dark.

When I was a little girl, I was afraid to go upstairs in our house because…it was dark. So my mom taught me to sing. To sing in the dark.

I’d run upstairs belting out Jesus, Loves Me and flipping on light switches as I’d go…and Mom was right. It did make me feel better. Braver.

And there at the piano, that night, in the dark and death and despair, I somehow remembered. To do it again.

To sing.

The words were choked out, and awkward.

But true.

A song we sing at church, “You Are Good,” a lively, up-beat song—but that night it came out very slow. My voice cracked with pain. Stopping every few words, choked with the weight of it.

I sing, because You are good

I dance, because You are good

I shout, because You are good

You are good to me

 

And in my darkest night,

You shine as bright as day

Your love amazes me

But as I worshipped in my weakness and pain, something incredible happened. The Light began to appear. Like a soft candle in a dark room, growing steadily brighter. Jesus Christ, the Light of the whole world. In whom, there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

I tremble as I write this, but it is true: God is worthy of our worship—even when the darkness comes. And before it leaves. And often, our worship of Him is the very thing that leads us out of the darkness. We take our eyes off our pain, hardship, questions, conflicts, confusion, and put them on Jesus. We do the very thing we were born to do: worship our God.

Singing is powerful. Worship is warfare between darkness and light. It’s not just emotional. It’s not about the “warm fuzzy feeling” that music can induce. We feel better when we sing because the Light of the World actually enters into the room. He enlightens the darkness. He takes us by the hand. He makes us brave.

Whatever your situation, however dark, or grim; however complicated your relationships, or frustrated your efforts—invite the Light into it. Invite Jesus to come into the picture. He will.

The Day is drawing near, when He will stand again on the earth. With a sword upon His side. You with your own eyes will see him. (Job 19:27) And ‘He will wipe every tear from [your] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelations 21:4) He Himself will bind up and heal every wound. Every wound. And for every tear of pain, will flow ten thousand tears of joy. For He is making everything new.

And we will sing a new song that day,

“Where O death, is your victory? Where O death, is your sting?” For Death has been swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:55, 54b)

So,

Sing, Daughter of Zion.

Sing, because of Your God.

Sing,

Even in the dark.

For your Light is coming.

Soon.

I Set The Thermostat: How A Woman’s Attitude Affects the Whole House

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“You have like this bad…aura.” Those were my husband’s actual words. Of course that annoyed me even more. He came home around 10 A.M. and by that time it was too late. It was too hot in the house. My toddler was already too crazy. Evidence of breakfast was all over the counter (…and the floor). The shopping list was only half written.  I was trying to print coupons—but she kept turning off the printer before they could come out. I was trying to save a few bucks—even if it cost my sanity. I was trying…to keep it together. (Did I mention I was extremely hot?)

When he walked in, he could see it all over my face. The irritation. The heat. My attitude was like bad perfume. He could not escape it. And as I spouted off the reasons why, his face became like a mirror. All my angst was soon reflected back at me. My ugliness was contagious. Soon we were both frustrated. And angry. And hot.

We made it, (miraculously) out of the house and down to the (air conditioned) YMCA where we just got a membership. We took turns watching our daughter. He took her to the pool, and I went to the treadmill. To blow off some steam. But as I began to run, I looked down through the glass wall that overlooked the swimming pool and saw them. She was sitting at the pool’s edge and he was encouraging her to jump into his arms. He carried her around in the water, helping her float.

Everyone around me watched the TV screens on their treadmills, but my screen stayed black. I couldn’t help but watch these two. These two—that God had given me. These two—that I was born to love.

With everything.

They spotted me and began waving. I waved back through the glass, catching the eye of the short Puerto Rican man on the treadmill next to me. “She’s mine,” I said. He looked confused. “Down there!” I said, almost shouting, “That’s my daughter!”

She was mine. They were both mine. And as I watched them bobbing around in the pool together, I suddenly wanted to cry. My main job was simply: to love them. To make them feel loved. How do I get so off track? So many other goals, so many other boxes on my checklist. So many other things I want to do. Feel I need to do.

Beyond this.

Just this.

On the way home, I broke the silence, “I’m sorry…for my attitude.”

“It’s okay,” he said.

“No. It’s not. Sometimes…I just feel like—when things get really crazy, I have permission to act however I want,” I said. “Without self control.”

“Yeah,” he said. There was some silence before he spoke again. “It’s just like, when I come home—when I come home, I can’t handle walking into you in a really bad mood. I mean, we can buy some air conditioners. I don’t care how much we spend. That would be better than walking into you all…irritated and mad. I just can’t handle that.”

He was right. I wore my attitude like a big ugly sweater. As the woman of the house, my mood, my mind, my heart all play a bigger role than I than I thought.

I set the thermostat in our house. More than I realize.

My kindness and gentleness…my stress and frustration actually do something to the environment. Not the air, or the heat…but the atmosphere. The state of my heart affects everyone. For better, or for worse.

Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”

Am I building my house? Or tearing it down?

I may be cleaning the kitchen, whipping up dinner, vacuuming the carpets, and organizing the closets—but if I’m doing it with an obligated, irritated, frustrated attitude…am I really helping anyone? Am I creating a life-giving environment?

Last night, the three of us went out and carted home Walmart’s finest air conditioner. And while we all enjoyed the cooler temperature, I know the AC can only work so hard. I need something, Someone much more powerful to change the thermostat in our house, the thermostat in my heart.

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6

Oh God,

            I need more than a machine in my window,

                                                                        I need Your Spirit in my heart. 

How Beach Trips Have Changed

This season’s swimwear is skimpier than ever. I know because I searched rack after rack, and tried on enough swimsuits to dislocate my shoulder. I was just looking for some coverage and support—because, this year, I would be running on the beach. Chasing my toddler. Juking out of people’s ways. And doing sprints to grab her out of the surf. (She’s quick.)

I was disappointed to find so many zippers, strings, and strategic cuts in the fabric–all exposing as much skin as possible without being totally nude. Even some of the one-pieces seemed like something an adult store’s creepy mannequin would be wearing in the window. The sides were totally cut out, leaving no fabric but what resembled the core of an apple, along with strings, laces, and cups almost as thick as my mattress.

Yeah…not happening.

In the fitting room as I hung up suit after suit on the “Definitely Not” hook, and saw the few lone attempts at modesty hanging on the “Considering It” hook, I realized something: not too long ago the suits on those hooks would have been reversed. I used to wear “those” suits that now feel more like lingerie when I put them on.

There was a time when beach time = me time. When my #1 goal was to look good. I’d lay out all day in a bikini, basting myself with oil, basking in the sun, and working on my tan—the only souvenir I could show off, in order to get some attention from guys. This is what I loved and lived for. Then.

What changed?

I’m sure it would be safe to say: my body. But that’s not really true.

It’s something much deeper. Something in my heart.

A promise.

A promise I made on another beach, not in a bathing suit, but in a long white silk gown. Where I walked down an aisle barefoot, toward his beaming smile. Where I looked into his deep green eyes, and clasped his hands. Where the wind took away my veil. Where my name changed forever. My identity changed, merged, melted together with his.

It was a simple promise:

“My eyes only for you, my body only for you.”

The vows we wrote together. The vows we made together. The vows…we had no idea how hard it would be to keep.

My eyes

            Only for you.

My body

            Only for you.

The vows, like our hands clasped tightly together, that this world, and sin, and life, and stress and selfishness would try to rip apart.

The vow to love.

And the love that would give birth to life.

The life of this fearless little girl I now chase through the surf. Her hair so blonde, it’s almost transparent in the sunlight. She’s laughing, and screaming with delight as the waves hit her. Everyone hears. We’re getting soaked and scream together now. I scoop her up just before another wave crashes against us, knocking us off balance. Her little wet body clings tightly to mine. I look up in the foamy wake and my eyes meet my husband’s; he’s gazing at us and smiling, that same beaming smile that met me at the end of the aisle, on another beach, five years ago.

What happened to the girl I used to be?

The Tide came in,

            and swept her away.