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Living the Christ Life

Set your mind on things above

 

 

 

I wanted to reflect something amazing.

I wanted to live something noble.

I wanted the Divine to invade in such a way that we all stood in awe of His glory.

But then the kids got up whining.

They fought through breakfast and one wiped his snotty nose on the couch and we stumbled out the door late and I had to take Little Bit to the doctor.

It was rush hour and we literally squished ourselves onto a subway that was packed like sardines with people who had bad breath and B.O.

And when we got to the hospital to have blood drawn, we entered this open air hall crowded with nearly 1,000 people… all of them there to have blood drawn.

It was hot and stuffy and there were no chairs and the wait was long. And that ache for glory, for something noble and worthy, it seemed to slip away, further and further beyond reach.

I could feel the slipping, the slow death, the faith and hope being wrung right out of me by a thief I couldn’t even see.

And I wondered what a person is to do when life has starved her of what really matters. How does she regain faith when it’s been lost? How does a hope-deprived heart regain its health? How does a perishing woman apprehend her life line, that glimpse of Glory, before it’s too late?

 

Set your mind on things above

 

And I’m standing in that huge outdoor hall, waiting our turn for the needle, when the woman beside me asks about my Little Bit. “Her parents didn’t want her?” she asks. “Was she abandoned?”

I wince at such a cruel question, like I’d been elbowed in the gut. Because I am her mother. We are her parents. But it was asked in ignorance, so I overlook the words and speak to the heart of this woman. “My Little Bit was left in a cardboard box the day she was born. But we are her family now.”

We chat a few minutes more. I want it to be enough. I want to go back to just waiting, go back to being numb. I want to retreat into my shell of no- risk living. Hoping for Glory is just too painful. It makes the heart ache.

And yet.

I know this is an opportunity for me to share the good news of Jesus. On the one hand, I want to hope for Glory. I want to live the Christ- life. On the other, I just feel so tired. I’ve done this so many times before, it all seems canned, mechanical, so… futile.

But the prompting inside, that  internal force, the tidal wave of hope… it’s like He’s laid His hand on me and I cannot help but speak up.

So I do.

I can’t say that my heart is totally in it. I’m not full of faith that something miraculous will happen as I open my mouth. I just… simply… begin.

“I’m a Christian,” I tell her. “We adopted because adoption is what God does for us. He brings us who are without hope into His family.”

And no sooner do the words leave my mouth than the lady beside me flails her arms and reaches for her purse. She’s a crazy woman, digging deep in the bowels of her bag. She comes up with a pack of tissues just in time. She bursts into tears.

“I’m a Christian too,” she sputters, dabbing madly at her eyes. “Just haven’t been to church in a very long time.”

And I’m shocked. You don’t meet Christians like this here. Not in this country, not in a hot, crowded, smelly hallway where you are just one anonymous person. I voice a few more words, awkward and tentative. I don’t know where to go with this. I’m listening for His prompting to direct my words, guide my speech.

The life of Christ fills me then and I do know. I know why we’re here, why years ago we left father and mother on the other side of the world. I know why we squeezed into a subway that morning and stood lost in a crowd of a thousand. I know. It’s so we could stand next to this one woman and be the Father’s voice- her Father’s voice- to her. “You are very special,” I tell her. And I’m really just relaying a message from our Daddy.

“There is something He wants you to do, some way you can serve, and no one else can do it. He’s prepared you for it and He’s given you this ministry. He has tailor made you for this job.”

Tears are dripping down her cheeks and her heart is soaking up words that are not mine. We are two crazy ladies crying in public. Everyone around us stares and I’ve a mind to let them in on the joyous secret:

God draws lambs into His fold. He restores hope to His people.

We all like big shindigs. We want church planting movements, big followings, best sellers, and we don’t want to settle for anything less than A.W.E.S.O.M.E.

I get that.

But God whispers to our child-like hearts, “Don’t ever despise the day of small things.”

The Lord rejoices in the small beginnings… and He is a God who leaves the ninety and nine for the one.

And sometimes you can know it at the strangest of times, like in the midst of a very ordinary day when your kid smears snot on the sofa and you feel your inadequacies and you are standing next to someone with body odor. You can know that in spite of everything that’s wrong with you, God has given you the ministry of reconciliation.

You can know He’s made you alive in Christ.

 

 

“I come as one who desires, who seeks, to be prepared to live out the life of Christ today on earth, to translate His hidden heavenly glory into the language of daily life, with its dispositions and His duties.

As I think of all my failures in fulfilling God’s will, as I look forward to all the temptations and dangers that await me, as I feel my entire insufficiency and yet say to God- ”I come to claim the life hid in Christ, that I may live the life for Christ;” I feel urged and drawn not to be content without the quiet assurance that God will go with me and bless me.

May I indeed expect to live the life hid with Christ in God, so as to make it manifest in my mortal body? I may. For it is God Himself will work it in me by the Holy Spirit dwelling in me. The same God who raised Christ from the dead, and then set Him at His right hand, has raised me with Him and given me the Spirit of the glory of His Son in my heart.

Believe what God says about you. Accept what God has bestowed upon you in Christ. Take time before God to know it and say it. The life of every day depends on it.”

Andrew Murray, The Master’s Indwelling

 

Join something new we are doing here?  A 4 week eCourse on Abiding in Christ and living out our new identity? The course begins February 4. Get all the details here. 

When you need some perspective { A Tradition for Difficult Times}

The Teacup Tradition {Helping Children cope with Difficulties}

A Tea Tradition and story for facing hard times

 

 

Dear Daughter,

When they told me what we had to do, the world stopped and I just needed to pull you close and sit down. They said for you to grow, I must give you injections every night before bed; but that isn’t the worst part. “They’ll need to be given in the stomach,” the doctors said. “These will continue until she has reached adult height, in about ten years.

And I don’t know what the next ten years will bring us, but I know hard things and painful nights will certainly be part of our lives.

I wish there were some other way, a way to avoid pain and discomfort. In this life, there is no such way.

 

That’s why it is important for me to give you something greater than a pain-free life, my daughter. I want to impart to you perspective.

 

I want to train you how to stop and see the unseen.

So daughter, I’m shopping for a teacup. Yes, you and I are going to sit down to tea.

Before the injections start in a few days and our evenings shift and change, you and I are going to have tea. And I’m going to tell you a story…

 

 

The Teacup Story

Once upon a time there was a quiet little shop tucked away amongst the busy streets of London. This shop was magic because from time to time, items in the shop ~ like wooden horses and over-stuffed elephants ~ would briefly come to life. One day a little girl and her mother were visiting London and got lost. They stumbled into the quiet little shop and began looking at the varied items found there.

The mom noticed high on a shelf sat a beautiful teacup. It was lovely! The mother reached for the cup to show her daughter. As they touched the delicate flowers and ran fingers across the cup’s rim, something surprising happened. The cup began to speak!

“I have not always been a teacup. You see, there was a time when I was just a lump of red clay. My master took me and rolled me, patted and pounded me over and over and I yelled out, ‘Don’t do that. I don’t like it! Let me alone.’ But he only smiled, and gently said, ‘Not yet!’”

“Then WHAM! I was placed on a spinning wheel and suddenly I was spun around and around and around. ‘Stop it! I’m getting so dizzy! I’m going to be sick,’ I screamed. But the master only nodded and said, quietly, ‘Not yet.’”

“He spun me and poked and prodded and bent me out of shape to suit himself and then… then he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. ‘Help! Get me out of here!’ I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as he shook his head from side to side, ‘Not yet.’”

“When I thought I couldn’t bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on the shelf, and I began to cool. Oh, that felt so good! Ah, this is much better, I thought. But, after I cooled he picked me up and he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. ‘Oh, please, Stop it, Stop it!’ I cried. He only shook his head and said. ‘Not yet!’”

“Then suddenly he put me back into the oven. Only it was not like the first one. This was twice as hot and I just knew I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried. I was convinced I would never make it. I was ready to give up. Just then the door opened and he took me out and again placed me on the shelf, where I cooled and waited ——- and waited, wondering “What’s he going to do to me next?”

An hour later he handed me a mirror and said ‘Look at yourself.’ “And I did. I said, ‘That’s not me, that couldn’t be me. It’s beautiful. I’m beautiful!’”

Quietly he spoke: ‘I want you to remember. I know it hurt to be rolled and pounded and patted, but had I just left you alone, you’d have dried up.

I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled.

I know it hurt and it was hot and disagreeable in the oven, but if I hadn’t put you there, you would have cracked.

I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all over, but if I hadn’t done that, you never would have hardened. You would not have had any color in your life. If I hadn’t put you back in that second oven, you wouldn’t have survived for long because the hardness would not have held. Now you are a finished product. Now you are what I had in mind when I first began with you.”

 

 

Daughter, you are like that teacup. God is the Potter of your life. His plan and delight is to make something stunningly beautiful of you. But beauty doesn’t just happen. Beauty is shaped with intentionality. Beauty and purpose sometimes come only with force, fire, and discomfort.

If our teacups could talk to us right now, they would tell us it was all worth it. The shaping and the fumes, the fire and the heat. One day, you will be able to say the same thing.

For now, we must get to know our Potter. He is good, always… and always faithful. He knows what He’s doing.

In wisdom, He knows just what to bring into our lives to shape the beauty, color, and flavor He aims for us to have. He never takes His eyes off of you or forgets what you are going through. He never gets tired of His project or decides to quit. He promises to finish what He started in you. He even wrote you a letter so you can know for sure and never forget:

 

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”   Jeremiah 29:11

 

Oh daughter! I can see the beauty taking shape in you! I can see determination starting to shine through. I can see gentleness being formed. I even catch glimpses of compassion and service. Daughter, you are a masterpiece.

Whenever you are tempted to despair, whenever you are tossed about with doubt, this will be our tradition … we’ll pull out the teacups and reflect on our Potter.

Much love,

Mama

 

 

**Repost from the archives. Author of the original Teacup Story unknown.

Encouraged here? I invite you to subscribe for updates. As a subscriber, you’ll receive the link to download my brand new eBook, “The Family Table.” Thanks for being a reader and friend!

The Teacup Tradition {Helping Children cope with Difficulties}

 

Weekend Reading {A Love Story}

 

 

 

 

“I’d like to tell you a love story.

I could tell another story instead. I could recount a gruesome, premeditated murder. I could describe unspeakable acts. I could take you behind the scenes into the shielded private world of my Amish neighbors as they mourned the horrific losses of their daughters, granddaughters, nieces, sisters, and friends. I could speculate about secrets deeply buried in a troubled heart. I could attempt to decipher the clues of brokenness and irrational, twisted thinking as the man I loved, the man I thought I knew, descended into a silent madness.

I’ve been asked to tell those stories time and time again. But those stories are not mine to tell.

I was not at the crime scene. I was not privy to murderous plans. I cannot violate the privacy of my beloved Amish neighbors who showed me nothing but tenderness and grace when their own hearts had been shattered. I did not know there were dark secrets inside my husband, Charlie, nor did I know there were clues to watch for. And I simply cannot fathom the darkness that invaded Charlie’s head or heart.

The only story I have to tell is my own. Although an unspeakable tragedy invaded my life and thrust me into a sudden storm of darkness, my story always has been and continues to be one of miraculous love…”

Marie Monville, One Light Still Shines: My Life Beyond the Shadow of the Amish Schoolhouse Shooting

It isn’t very often that I buy a book full price anymore. I’ve learned that if I wait long enough, I’ll find it on sale eventually. But when I read the excerpt of her story, her tragedy, loss, and tenacious, redeeming hope, I spent the $7.99 to read her journey.

I wasn’t planning on doing any more posts on the blog this week, but as I began reading this story, I knew I had to share it. It isn’t very often that you find a gem. This is one and you need to know about it.

Just lean in and listen… {If you’re reading via email, click over to watch the video}

Read her story here: One Light Still Shines: My Life Beyond the Shadow of the Amish Schoolhouse Shooting

When you need a Savior with Skin On

redemption on subway

 

 

redemption on subway

 

 

It’s raining when I leave. I say an early morning goodbye to the kids and the hubs and the house to attend first day of  University. For the second time.

Me, pushing 40.

The subway is crowded and my pant legs are muddy and I stand scrunched in a corner next to a man who uses my head as a prop for his morning newspaper.

Somewhere near the Dongmen Bridge it happens. A man standing in car #105513 passes out. I see the crowd move like a tidal wave away from him. Bodies circle around him where he lays collapsed. From my corner spot, I see his legs protruding from the circle of bystanders.

Everyone seems frozen. Unsure? Uncaring? I wonder if the man is traveling alone? Is there anyone here who can help him?

No one steps forward. No one stretches out a hand.

Just as suddenly as his collapse, the man scrambles to his feet and white-knuckle grips the overhead handle bar. A few standing close start to snicker, undoubtedly relieved the ordeal is over. Someone has the sense to give up their seat. He stumbles to sit, sinks back and leans his head against the side of the car.

He’s sitting on the same side I’m on, about 15 feet away and I watch him. He’s young, maybe 25? Then he groans and closes his eyes. We are all riveted.

When he starts to slide down on top of the gal beside him, I know he’s passed out again. She reaches out and tries to push him off but she can’t. She’s holding him up, looking wild at the passengers around her. She’s panicked and desperate and her eyes plead for someone to help.

Not a soul budges. Everyone stands and stares and doesn’t move a muscle.

The man needs medical attention and why doesn’t someone near him make a phone call? Push the emergency button? Yell for medical assistance? Something? I’m just a foreigner, an outsider. I’m no one’s savior.

But I can’t wait any longer. I hoist my bag and push my way through 15 feet of people. I grab him with both hands and gently right his unconscious body. “This man needs medical attention. Where is the emergency button on this subway?”

No one knows. Everyone seems relieved that someone has stepped forward. Like I know what I’m doing. I don’t.

I ask a woman nearby to contact the subway’s security. “I don’t know how to call them,” she tells me.

Why won’t somebody do something?

The man is still out and he’s lost control of his bladder. Urine drips down the seat, puddles the floor. Another stop comes and goes and we’re still trying to get help.

The young man briefly comes to and tries to sit up. “It’s okay,” I tell him. My hands are on his shoulders. He blacks out again.

Where is that emergency button? I keep asking. I finally find the button and press it.

Nothing happens.

I’ve been elected in charge so I’m making the executive decision: “When we stop, someone needs to get off and alert security that this passenger needs medical attention,” I tell the passengers. I’m staying with him. At the next stop, a woman jumps off and starts yelling for security. The train shuts the doors and leaves without her… and without help.

The young man’s face is beaded with sweat. He opens his eyes and looks at me. There is green matter rolled in the corner of his left eye. “We’re going to help you,” I reassure him. My hands still hold him tight. I’m straddling urine.

His body relaxes. “Thank you,” he whispers.

Security is standing on the platform at the next stop. We are able to get the young man off the subway and to the medical station. I see him to safety and continue on to my stop.

It’s still raining when I exit the subway station, the world above oblivious to the cares of a single soul struggling in the bowels below. I dodge puddles and on-coming traffic as I walk to the University. I can’t help but wonder it: “What if it had been me on that subway? Would anyone have come to my aid?”

I’m pretty sure of the answer.

And there comes a time in a person’s life when she senses her own deep helplessness, her raw need, her vulnerability, her sheer isolation. Past our exteriors and our busyness, our smiles and successes and accomplishments, deep in the bowels of the soul, we know we’re depraved deep and broken to boot. And no one is capable of reaching us. No one can bridge the gap. No one can put us back together.

I groan guteral with David, “Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. Psalm 142:4

Surely we all are that young man on the subway.

But there’s something else. There’s another whisper flooding in, giving hope, speaking truth. God’s voice speaks as One who takes notice of man. “I looked, but there was no one to help, and I was amazed that no one assisted; so My arm accomplished victory for Me…My own arm brought salvation.” Isaiah 63:5

And it’s the good news we can cling to, that when there was no one to step in and rescue, God Himself donned flesh and came down to dwell among men. God ate with sinners and He spit in dirt and He asked, “Do you believe?” And He said to the broken, “Your sins are forgiven you.”

The profane is transformed by the Sacred, the broken redeemed by a Lamb, the dead given new life.

We have a Savior.

It’s just that in the midst of the mud and the mess and the mundane, we need reminders.  On that muddy walk to University I notice the bottom of my bag smells of urine.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

At the University, I duck into the bathroom to wash my hands. Glancing in the mirror, I’m surprised to see the cross prominently hanging around my neck. I had forgotten I was wearing it. The gold shines beautiful there against the black backdrop of my top.

The cross. God’s message to us, His assurance that everything really is okay.

The cross! I pray the young man and train passengers saw the cross today, dangling from the neck of someone who said, “I’ll help you.”

The cross speaks truth when we’re desperate lost and need to know there’s a way.

The cross is the daily reminder when we’re buried in the daily to-dos.

The cross says when we were without hope in this world … Jesus came.

When we were aliens and strangers … Jesus came.

When we were separated, isolated, excluded from citizenship … Jesus came.

When we were dead in our transgressions and sins … Jesus came.

He hoisted the cross and He bridged the gap and went the distance and He reached out and He rescued the needy. With complete competency and wild devotion He said, “I will help you.”

There in the mirror, I look at the cross against the backdrop of black. In my weakness and inability and failure, smelling of urine and mud, I hear its message afresh: “Don’t be afraid, you little Jacob. I will help you.”

It’s the hope of the redeemed that changes her life. It’s the  truth that propels her onto the streets, into the classroom, onto the subways. The cross changes everything.

We’re redeemed.

 

How to start a day off right {Coffee optional}

Best way to start the day (coffee optional!)

 

 

 

Best way to start the day (coffee optional!)

 

The sun, it rises before I do.

Before the laundry gets started and the eggs get scrambled, before the children bicker and the doors slam. Before it all presses in on me, the to-do list a mile long… that one faithful witness in the sky speaks:

His mercies are new every morn.

Every cock-crowing, dog-barking, kid-fighting, laundry-piling morning, His mercies are new.

And I could live it.

Instead of scrambling to get up and get going, to beat the clock and out-run the sun, I could just believe that today is covered. 

It’s lying open there on the table when I stumble out of the bedroom. The ancient Words spoken to a fretful woman much like me are underlined: “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?”

And hasn’t He told us worried women time and again? That the way to see glory is to believe He’s got it under control?

The One who governs the sun guards our coming and going. (Ps. 121) He who provides seed to the sower will make provision for our every moment… when the baby cries at 2am, when the child slams fingers in the door, when you forgot to thaw meat for dinner. When you just feel like you can’t do it any. more.

His mercies are always served fresh and tailor made.

The difference that marks a life is how one begins her day. Not with stress and strain, not with fear and fret, but simple like, with faith.

 

“The great battle of our spiritual lives is, ‘Will you believe?’ 

It is not ‘Will you try harder?’ or ‘Can you make yourself worthy?’ It is squarely a matter of believing that God will do what only He can do.”

Jim Cymbala, Fresh Faith: What Happens When Real Faith Ignites God’s People

 

We could live like this.

When the day begins and presses down hard, we could resist the urge to take matters into our own hands. We really could live simple, with belief.

With fresh mercies.

With the sun before us and the wind behind us and the Glory… the Glory all around us.

For the Broken and Exposed

Broken?

 

 

 

Broken?

The Sunday group sits circular on hard wooden chairs and sings to a guitar.

We’re singing “Lord Most High” when the string breaks and the guitar goes sour and the music, it stops. 

“Let me just get this string out of the way,” he mutters. “And I’ll need to tune it real quick.”

We sit circular and wait.

“Oh wow, it sounds terrible without that string,” he sheepishly apologizes. “Well, let’s just sing to the Lord.” We start singing again. Without the string.

We sing of El Shaddai, the All Sufficient One, to the sound of a guitar with a broken string.

And somewhere in the deep, empty chambers, something reverberates and mends in the broken.

The music, it’s beautiful.

The broken string dangles long on the floor and the guitar’s weakness is exposed and the music, why it’s even more beautiful coming from that which is broken. Broken yet willing to make much of the Name anyway.

And I know something sitting there singing El Shaddai with a broken string and a messy life. I know it sure, the way to live a life:  no pretenses, certainly no perfection, just living  willing  in the brokenness.

When a heart twangs, when you’ve stood up and snapped in front of the whole wide world it seems, when you’ve been exposed for the terrible sound that you sometimes are… well, the music can stop.

Lives can be packed away, put up on the “safe” shelf. We can become relics instead of music makers. We can spend a lifetime trying to fix what’s broken instead of singing anyway.

But we could  keep on singing. We could tune to the Name above all names and keep on singing to Him because it was never about us to begin with. It’s always been about El Shaddai, the All Sufficient One. It’s not about being self-sufficient or self-made but about being centered on the One who carries on eagle’s wings.

It’s about El Elyon, the Most High God, the Name that holds timeless through the ages. Nations rise and fall according to the Name; yet He draws near to the broken and contrite of heart.

We could sing to that Name.

And Jesus, the Name above all Names, takes the bread of our lives and He breaks it. And we know that to make music with our broken, exposed life means we don’t live by our bread anymore but by every Word that proceeds from His mouth. And we come to terms with our brokenness. We accept it dangling long and exposed on the floor.

Because it was never about us to begin with and we are living by the Word, the Name, the very breath and Presence of God.

The breaking, it is a gift.

And we can sing.

When you just need your sister

You have 7000 sisters!

 

 

You have 7000 sisters!

 

Dear sister,

 

I see how you’re bent over ‘neath the weight of it all.

 

I know the silent tears that drip unseen into the dish suds, sense the ache, hear the groan no one else hears. I see the pleading in your soul.

 

We’re sisters, after all.

 

And I don’t know how it’s come to be like this, the way I lie awake at night feeling you close across the thousands of miles, sensing your heart. I just know that sometimes… well, sometimes you just need a sister.

And sometimes she’s hard to find.

My own blood sister? Two years ago told me I didn’t have a place in her life anymore. “You’ve been gone for ten years,” she told me after I returned stateside and tried to stoke the fires of sisterhood. “You’ve no right to speak into my life anymore.”

Her voice crackled across the line, sharp and confident and strong. Mine just cracked, period.

And I remember sliding down the wall in the hallway, phone cord wrapped around a wrist, pierced right through by a sister who calmly spoke un-speakable after un-speakable.

It’s funny really, how a grown woman can still cry over things. How we can weep fetal-deep and still feel so adolescent in our losses.

How a loss like that can make us believe that, while we’ve been holed up somewhere the backside of nowhere, life goes on without us and if only…

In that moment you realize an entire family can move on… can write you right out of their wills and their photo albums and off their family trees.  And you’re left used up and dried out and no one gives a rat’s tail.

Yeah, sisters can give a soul beating to the already wounded.

And sister, maybe that’s why I need to write this letter. Because I get that. But also because I know another part of the story. There is something else, woven right into that heartache and loss.

It’s tucked away with Elijah and his own backside of nowhere. Do you remember? When he was running from Jezebel and told God, “I’m the only one left!” And remember how God said, “I’ve reserved for Myself seven thousand who haven’t bowed the knee or compromised in their hearts?”

Well that’s how it is with sisters too.

When we think we are the only one, the lonely one, we need to remember the seven thousand sisters.

Because today, as I was walking down another hallway, somewhere the backside of nowhere, you came to my mind. And I wasn’t trying to put the two together {I’m really not that smart} but these words were spoken into my heart: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or field for My sake will receive a hundred times as much in this life.”

And it dawned on my lonely, weary, Elijah-like steps how you are the fulfillment of a promise:

For every one loss, there’s a gain of a hundred. 

Your name to me, it’s the balm of friendship, the succor of promise, the reminder that we are seven thousand strong.

And when I get a little note in my inbox from you, it’s like God has shown up in my nowhere.

I don’t know how it’s happened this way. I surely didn’t go looking for this; I only know God keeps His promises and He’s promised us sisters.

You are a promise come true.

Oh, I hope you know it, sister!

Now I don’t know where you are holed up today. Don’t know how many tears have slipped down and away, how many weak smiles have covered up the inner ache. I don’t know how long you’ve been on the backside of nowhere, but I know this:

You’re a promise and I am too. We are promises come true.

Sister, I can’t be there to bring you a meal when you’re sick. Or take the kids out when you really need an hour of GOD. I can’t sit next to you on the couch with a shoulder or share a laugh over coffee. But I can give you words, these words. And I can lift a sister prayer to the God who gave us each other.

So sister, from Ancient Words I ask on your behalf: May healing rise in your morning wings today. May your rough places be made smooth and may you taste the treasures of your darkness. May you discover today the hidden wealth in the secret places and may your waste places be comforted.

Yes, may your waste places be comforted.

May you not call to mind the former things or ponder things of the past; rather, may you know the Lord is doing a new thing! That instead of the thorn bush and the nettle bush in your dry places, instead of that thorny past that wants to entangle you, the cypress will come up. Yes, the cypress with the myrtle! And you will be a planting of the Lord.

May you know the Lord has promised and it will be fulfilled: the wilderness will blossom and rejoice and we will see the Lord’s glory.

In you, sister.

in you.

And may today you be reminded of the seven thousand sisters, the hundred fold, the promises come true.

All my love,

AJ

Irresistible {And why you already are}

 

 

 

When the forensic artist drew a picture of you from your own descriptions, it really didn’t look much like you at’all. The way you described yourself translated as too fat, too stand-offish, too rigid.

But when others described you, the picture that took shape on the artist’s easel turned out much more accurate: You’re a beauty.

And we all know it’s true. We women are great at under-estimating our beauty, both inside and out. We are good at picking our weaknesses to death and drawing attention to everything that is deficient and we can spend a lifetime haggling over things no one else even notices. As one woman said, we can live “me trying to fix me” sort of lives.

So let’s whisper it clear to the woman sitting next to us: You are beautiful. You are uniquely and wonderfully made and you reflect the image of your Maker.

The way you’re tender with that little one when he’s raw and vulnerable… that’s beautiful.

And the way you throw a meal together when there isn’t much left in the cupboards… that’s beauty.

And when the electricity gets shuts off and you pretend you planned a candle-lit dinner instead of complaining about what you don’t have… that’s irresistible.

When you feel like giving up but you keep on anyway… and add a smile to boot…that’s stunning.

And when you choose to take one little baby step towards organizing your wardrobe, to model femininity, to get your energy back, to live full and lovely, to live more healthy… that is your beautiful can-do spirit coming back to life. It shines, girl, oh it shines!

Sister-Friend, you are beautiful.

And if it were me describing you to the forensic artist, I’d paint you with soft lines of compassion, with a jaw of determination, with a glint of refreshing humor, with the arch of classy nobility. And I’d make sure you knew just how much you reflect Christ to me.

You are beautiful. I just want to tell you how much you enrich my life.

Because I know you are beautiful and I believe we can take steps to living it, I am praying this week… This week, may you un-furl. Un-sheath. May you laugh and nod knowingly at our women stories and may you live loved. And this week, I pray you take the next practical step to living noble and royal. Because the King really is enthralled with your beauty and you really are  more beautiful than you think. (see Ps. 45:10)

 

 

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Embracing Beauty by Trina Holden
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The No Brainer Wardrobe by Hayley Morgan
The No Brainer Wardrobe is a book to help women learn to love the clothes they have, lose the clothes they hate, and shop for items to fill the gaps. Hayley offers images outlining outfit selections, tips for how to shop, and instructions for creating a lookbook plus encouragement to help you save time and money and feel great in what you wear.

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Frumps to Pumps by Sarah Mae
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Hephzibah

There’s 20 minutes before service starts and I’m rushing to shower before leaving out the door with wet hair…and I hear His voice speaking to me.

“Take her a gift.”

I’ve never met “her” before, the young woman from Guatemala who is going to be sharing at services tonight. I hardly know anything about her.

“Take her a gift to show how beautiful she is to Me.”

I’m scurrying around pulling my towel-dried hair back in a pony tail and searching for my missing sandal and this is what He whispers to me.

I pause.

The only thing I have worthy of giving a beautiful woman is the “H” pendant I received at Christmas. And I don’t know if her name starts with “H” or not.

“Lord, what about the pendant?” I ask Him. “Is that what You want me to give her?”

And then He reminds me of the passage I read that very morning, the one from Isaiah 62:

“You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. 

You will be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,  a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted,  or name your land Desolate.

But you will be called Hephzibah, for the Lord will take delight in you.”

 

H for Hephzibah. The new name. The new identity.

“Okay, Lord,” I say as I scratch out a note card explaining why she is receiving an “H”  pendant on a string from a stranger. “This is a *little* crazy, but okay.”

I arrive at church and we listen to testimonies and finally it is time for the girl from Guatemala.

She is 22 and she’s never been out of her country before and she is scared to be speaking in front of us.

She grew up hungry. Her parent’s were alcoholics and the 11 kids they gave birth to didn’t have food to eat. She became the surrogate parent to her younger brothers, always scrounging for food, collecting old coffee grounds or gathering plaster from old buildings.  Anything they could fill their stomachs with.

She grew up a castaway. At 8, she was raped by 2 of her older brothers, while her younger brothers were forced to look on. When she told her mom about it, her mom slandered her and shamed her and disowned her.

Then, family members filed complaints and the judge ordered her to the orphanage and life changed for little Velma.

She heard about Jesus. Slowly, she began to trust. Slowly, she began to believe.

After the service, Pastor asks me to come forward and pray for Velma with a “V” and I pray Isaiah 62 over her and when everyone is dismissed, I slip her the gift.

She looks at me like I’m crazy but I’m grinning  because I know why He told me to give a girl named Velma a pendant with the letter “H” on it.

And isn’t it glorious?

Our loving God Himself wants her to know she is no longer forsaken.

No longer desolate.

She has a new name. A new identity.

She is a crown of beauty in the hand of her God.

 

Psst, click here for your “H,” because you are renamed too. Print it and post it on your fridge, carry it in your Bible, or get crafty and make your own pendant. Because you are a crown of beauty in His hand…and He takes great delight in you.

What if Jesus Really Is Among Us?

The Furman family goes up front to light the Hope candle and Little Bit squirms in her seat beside me.

We read aloud of a baby born, one who had no form or beauty that we should desire Him. One whom men hid their faces from.

He was Despised and Rejected.

“Who believes what we’ve heard and seen? Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?” Isaiah wrote it and I wonder it.

We all stand to sing, us all dressed in our Sunday best, heels and ties and I can almost see it stretched into our faces: We think we would do much better. We would welcome Him and serve Him and celebrate Him. We would honor Him as rightful King.  We would not treat our Precious Savior so.

Yet behind our exteriors, I feel the pain of hidden faces, faces turned from deep pain and need. I feel the rejection of one having no form or beauty. I enter the vulnerability of weakness. And aren’t I acquainted with being passed over, of not making the cut?

I glance at Little Bit. She sits there in her black velvet dress, hair flowing and blending and sticking up just a bit with static.

We are like black sheep, I think.

I think of the cardboard box she was found in, the umbilical cord severed and pulsing fresh. Cut off and Despised. Rejected. Passed over.

And it strikes me…what if Jesus always comes just as this? Weak and without beauty?

And why do I tend to look for Him among the stately?

“By oppression and judgement He was taken away,” we read the words, but I can hardly voice them.

This is how we treat Jesus?

“He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.”

“Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.”

And I think He is right here, sitting beside me.

Jesus amongst us.

Doesn’t His name mean God with us and isn’t He close to the brokenhearted and doesn’t He say that when we do something to the least of these, we’ve done it unto Him?

How have I been treating Jesus?

The vulnerable child…the unlovely teenager…the obnoxious family without form or beauty…those with no fancy presentation, no black velvet dresses.

Have I been seeking Him at the Inn when He’s in the stable?

It’s not going to win me popularity or acceptance or an easy life, this seeking Jesus among the beasts and straw and dung.  Staying at the Comfort Christian Inn with all its safety and amenities would be so much easier.

But He’s not there.

I see Little Bit coloring in her seat. I see all her un-lovelies, the rejection that has scarred and marked and distorted. And I see Jesus.

I’m like Mary, birthing the Divine in the stench and cold of a barn. There are no fancy fixins…but there is Immanuel. And being given the opportunity to nurture and love the least of these, the weak and unlovely? Well it’s the opportunity to love and serve Jesus Himself.

For this is how He comes.

I set my Bible down and pull Little Bit into my lap. I wrap my arms around her tight and whisper into her hair. “I love you.” I say it fierce. “You are a precious girl and I’m so glad to have you.” She makes a loud, obnoxious noise right there in church and I just squeeze tighter.

I am in the stable and Jesus is among us.

Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.

Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many “righteous ones,”
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—
the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

~Isaiah 53

 

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