The Bravest Words I Know

I have cried them into a pillow at night. Nearly yelled them at the sky. Whispered them with my eyes to the floor. Swallowed hard and shared them with professional helpers.

I have contemplated them alone. I have dared speak them to company. And sometimes I’ve had them forced upon me by those who love me most.

Each and every time, though it feels like I’m screaming from a depth where no meaningful sound can reach the surface, the admission bubbles up hope. The kind of grace that starts as a whisper, but bounces off the canyon walls until it is an echo that reaches the heavens.

The bravest words I know are these: I Am Not Ok.

For much of my life, personal autonomy was my source of pride. I’m told “me do it” was my favorite toddler sentence. It’s a phase I never outgrew.

There are hundreds of blog posts that could be written on the topic. Because, really, learning to love myself through not being Ok is the story of my life.

And whether you know it or not, it’s the story of yours. It is the gospel. Crimson made white; blind who see; lame who walk; “not Ok” made holy; dead brought to life.

It’s the story of the ages. A story that never ends.

My verses (and yours) continue to be written. But the refrain, the chorus, the portion that never changes… Well, it goes like this:

I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene,
and wonder how he could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean. 
How marvelous! How wonderful!  And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!

Be Welcome Here

??????????????????????????????????Like the toddler who hides behind the curtain while leaving her feet exposed, I pretend the “If I can’t see you, you can’t see me” theory still works. And I keep God in my peripheral vision. Sideways glances. Ducking behind busy-ness and exhaustion as an aversion to locking eyes.

I don’t want Him to see me. Not really. Not the mess I’ve made. Not the things I’ve let slide. Not the dust in my house. Not the unbalanced checkbook. Not the fast food bags in my car. Not the bruises on my tongue from biting back the words that scream from inside my head.

Among trusted allies – sisters and friends – I will admit to my messes. At least that much I am learning. To be broken before other women and together create a space where imperfection is A-OK. But are we just tucked behind the curtains together? Still hiding – and yet still exposed – all at the same time?

Softly I start to hear it. The voice of my Abba calling out for me. He knows. He sees. My toes and the stirring in the corner give me away. And still he does not tear it back and expose my nakedness. He knocks and whispers: “Will you let me in?”

Will I?

Everything in me wants to be more prepared – more presentable – before I step out. More together. More ready. More … I don’t know … just more. Or maybe less. Just different in some way.

Then the radio tunes to this:
Why are you striving these days
Why are you trying to earn grace
Why are you crying
Let me lift up your face
Just don’t turn away

Why are you looking for love
Why are you still searching
As if I’m not enough
To where will you go child
Tell me where will you run
To where will you run

‘Cause I’ll be by your side wherever you fall
In the dead of night whenever you call
And please don’t fight these hands that are holding you
(By Your Side, Tenth Avenue North)

And like the parched, cracked desert my spirit has become, I drink in the holiness and the grace of it all. Thirsty. So very thirsty.

And never before have I longed more for the shepherd to lead me by still waters or make me like a tree firmly planted by the stream.

For in my depleted state – my emptiness – one drop is absorbed too quickly. So instantly I am dry again. So very, very far from my desired fullness. From the PROMISE of fullness and abundance.

I cling to the truth that the Living Water not only wants me to welcome His presence, but that the very source and spring of it lives IN me. A self-irrigating system of perpetual fullness.

So I pray the drops will come faster and larger from heaven even as the bubbles start to rise to the surface.

It’s the declarations that quench me best, I find. (And so often in song.) “Your love never fails, never runs out, never gives up on me.” “God is able; He is on our side; He will make a way.” “Holy. Holy. Holy.”

And though today my cup still feels closer to empty than overflowing, already I can see a me in the not-so-distant future (I pray) splashing around in the mud of God’s grace, spinning in the rain of His love for me, and sporting skin wrinkled by the time spent soaking in His spring.

I’ll lay out the Welcome mat for Jesus. Muddy footprints and all.

The Goal is Peace (Revisited)

I was reading through some older blog entries, and found this one. I was so glad to see it again, and thought it was worth a reprint!

Originally published January 10, 2011

Have you seen the Special K commercial where women nervously step on a very public, very big scale? Scared of what they will see, they are instead rewarded by a scale reading “pride” and “courage” and “confidence.” LOVE IT! And it reminded me of a segment I heard on the radio earlier this week. I caught it in the middle, so I don’t even know who was speaking or the topic of the show, but I turned it on just in time to hear these words, “The goal is not a number. The goal is peace.”

It’s so easy to let the number on the scale determine my mood. Yes, I need the numbers to go down. Today’s number is not healthy. But I have learned over the years that I run the risk of becoming obsessive about my food, whether I’m eating a lot of it or staying away from it. Counting calories, tracking points, measuring workout minutes … for me, those are just substitutes for stuffing my face. They are both means of keeping my focus on the food. And whether I am worrying about what to eat next or what not to eat, the mental energy spent on food is a waste.

To me, “the goal is peace” means to have grace for myself in this area of my life, too. It means that even as I strive to be healthier – move more and eat less – the worry, the obsession, the measuring has to go. Instead I will measure my progress in pride, courage, confidence, and peace.

P.S. I’m blogging my weight-loss journey under the category “40 Pounds of Purpose” … if you want each new entry emailed to you, please subscribe using the link on the right of this page. You’ll also be able to read an archive of entries over time right HERE.

Book Review: Going Deep

 I devoured this nearly 400-page book in less than 24 hours. And didn’t want it to end. Going Deep by Gordon MacDonald is a fictional account of a church that decides its highest calling is to Cultivate Deep People. But it reads like the story of people you hunger to know involved in a process you long to be a part of. For anyone who has ever asked, “I love Jesus but how can I know him more,” this is a must-read.

I admit I typically do not read a great deal of fiction that is intended to have a “lesson” as well. I prefer my novels breezy and fun. And when I want to learn more about a life of faith, I stick squarely in the non-fiction section. So I was a little concerned this could feel contrived with characters crafted to fit a certain stereotype just to teach a certain lesson. But, no. These people are easy to connect with, genuine in their attributes, and feel like people who really live in your church and mine. And this book will inspire you to go find them.

As I read their journey of doing life together – Going Deep both into God’s word and into the investment in each other, it made me long for such connection in my own life. To be cultivated. To become a cultivator. Which, I am really pretty sure, is EXACTLY what the author intended. May there be a tidal wave of Cultivating Deep People movements across our land!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Golf & Grace

One of the things I love about golf is that every hole is a fresh start. Sure, you’re supposed to keep a cumulative score, but I try not to get so wrapped up in a total round (or I’d probably never go back on a course). One hole at a time gets me by just fine.

And no matter what happened on the last tee to green, I have found that I tee up every new ball just knowing this is going to be a good one. Back to zero. Clean slate. Anything is possible right here, right now.

And, to me, that feels a lot like grace. “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

His mercies are new every morning. In fact — every moment.

God’s grace is sufficient to clear the scorecard of my past flubs and mis-hits and splashes and wanderings in the woods. Each moment is a clean ball. A new Goal. And a wide open fairway.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. Kind of like the ping of a well-hit driver.

Enjoy this blog? Find Beth in these Places, too.