Just Say, “Thank You”

relaxed-498245_960_720Perhaps you have heard phrases such as, “under promise, over deliver” or “plan for the worst, but hope for the best”. Phrases like this are said by realists. They know unexpected things happen and therefore their goals, endpoints, or dreams don’t always have the desired outcome, so they plan upfront for a possible miscarriage of hope and expectation. This is wise in terms of business or finances, but in terms of most other areas, it is more detrimental than helpful. And admittedly, this is my default setting in relationships. After talking to many women, I believe it is for most of us; we deflect.

We meet someone and make excuses for why they shouldn’t or won’t like us or expect too much from us. In conversations, we dismiss compliments, minimize who we are, what we’re capable of, the things we have accomplished as well as successes we have earned– and on the same token we treasure those very things we hide from others. We worked hard for them. We even find our parts of our identity in them.

We undervalue our self-worth continuously—and when it comes to building friendships, it either weighs us down until we’re immobile and isolated or we timidly tip-toe our way into friendship, feeling our way around, deflecting—which, honestly tows a fine line between humbleness and pride—until we feel we are accepted and know to what level we are accepted.

The reasons we do this may vary from one woman or situation to another, but of the few women I know, we do it to beat others to their certain judgement of us. We know our weaknesses, so we point them out to others before they point them out to us or gossip about them behind our back. It’s a coping mechanism; a form of self-protection against our own insecurities, a way to control what people will think of us. It’s that whole, “if you can’t beat them, join them” anthem.

This helps no one. It belittles who God made us to be. He did not make us to be insecure, to make excuses, or even to try to win the approval of man. I know this in my head, but my actions reveal a different story.

Here’s a classic situation: I invite people over to my house. And even though I have cleaned profusely, cut and arranged fresh flowers, prepared a meal, the moment someone compliments something about my home, I make excuses for why their compliment isn’t really true. I might even beat them to the punch, if I see that they have noticed something unflattering. I point out how our house is in the remodeling stage and parts of it are unfinished, resembling the 70’s. I tell them that although I love decorating (And I do! If I did not go into teaching, I would have gone into interior design), I don’t really know what I am doing. I point out the miss-matched this and that or the…. In reality, I worked hard for that miss-matched item and I like that it’s slightly weird. I like that my house isn’t done being remodeled because I would miss dreaming and planning how I would fix up my fixer-upper. stamp-895383_960_720

I do this all the time. I struggle, I mean really struggle,  to accept a compliment (even if I really am having a good hair day!). I have a great friend who used to call me on this each and every time I would start to deflect. She would stop me mid-sentence and adamantly say, “Just say thank you”. This was hard for me. Saying thank you implied I agreed with the compliment, which wasn’t always true and even if it was true, I feared being mistaken as prideful. Still, I knew my continual rejection made others uncomfortable. They had gone out of their way to say something nice and I rejected it, which communicates disbelief and lack of trust in that person’s words. I don’t know about you, but I want my words to be taken seriously and as truth—they are an outward expression of my character.

So, I practiced. I know this sounds silly, but I did. As they say, “Fake it until you make it”. My mouth would say, “Thank you” while my head would be swimming in doubts. I literally had to remind myself of the Psalmist’s words, I am fearfully and wonderfully made; I know that full well”. (Psalm 139:14). Admittedly, I do not, yet, know that “full well”– though my heart longs to. I want to graciously accept His compliments and live boldly and unapologetically from that sacred place. And it is sacred, not something to discount.

What has happened over the years of just saying “thank you” is I’ve learned to genuinely smile when someone sees something good in me. It doesn’t matter if they don’t have the back story or see the imperfections. What they see is good. They like it (or me). A complement is flattering and accepting. It reveals to us that we are not invisible, worthless, or discounted. We have been seen and appreciated, which is what we seek and continuously pray for year after year—sometimes through painful tears. God uses people to share His acceptance and love for us in countless ways and I am certain giving compliments is one of those ways.

The excuses we make are nothing short of toxic. It doesn’t matter if they’re based on fact or falsity. If they keep us from leaning into the truth that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, then our eyes on more on ourselves than on Christ. It is my prayer that God would seize my heart and help me to believe and live from who He says I am in Him, not in the world.

hands-1047634_960_720Thank You, Lord Jesus for never giving up on me; for loving me like You do; for finding me beautiful and special and delightful. Thank You for giving Yourself sacrificially on my behalf because You wanted me; saw value in me; knew me. Thank You Lord for caring for me, taking my burdens and shame. Thank You for forgiving me and wiping my slate clean—again. Thank You for your gift of eternal life with You. Thank You for loving me with an endless love.

I’m so glad He doesn’t come back to us with excuses as to why He doesn’t deserve our gratitude and praise. Can you imagine how we’d feel if He discounted our praises to Him?

Just Say Thank You

The Secret Life of a Waffler

food-863484_960_720A Waffler, not to be confused with makers of the sweet morning delicacy, is one who bounces between one or more things indecisively; one who is torn; plagued.

I’ve always known I was a Waffler. The battle has existed from the time I was a wee girl, which even then led me to play a role I was never meant to play; the role of the “good church girl”. Growing up in the church, I became bilingual—fluent in Christianese as well as World, but it was a role, not reality.

I wanted my words and actions to be pure of heart, honoring to Christ, but they weren’t always because they were often done out of expectation. I wanted to believe all I heard, but some things begged for answers to questions I feared to ask. I wanted the love songs I sang to the Lord on Sunday mornings to genuinely reflect my heart, but they didn’t. How could I say I loved someone I didn’t really know? I wanted the words in the Bible to jump off the page and penetrate my heart and morph into this intimate relationship with Christ that I kept hearing about, but rarely saw. I wanted God; I wanted to feel Him and when I didn’t, I just kept following all the rules— the self-imposed rules, the subliminal rules, and the rules bellowed from the pulpit week in and week out. Boy, did I know the rules! And boy, did I hope they would lead me to Christ.

As a young girl, I was certain the rules lined the yellow brick road, which would eventually lead me to Jesus.

The-RulesI like rules and boundaries. It makes succeeding—winning– easy. But what I discovered in this quest to know Christ more and who I am in Him is that rules do not equate relationship, nor do they equate salvation or anything else except to meet the expectations of others. And this is where I have struggled—and I think many of us have– because we’ve deceived ourselves into thinking if we _______, then God will ______. We’ve made our relationship with God contingent upon what we do, rather than what He did!

I struggle with my identity in Christ. I really do. I am fully aware of all the things that should disqualify me from God’s acceptance, forgiveness, and love. My defects stifle me and tarnish the relationship Christ desires for me. I do this by believing that Christ sees me as I see myself. In my head, I know this is far from the truth, but my heart consistently clamors to catch up.

I think so much of our Christian faith is spent in evaluation mode; looking inwardly, measuring ourselves against “God’s Standard” (which by the way is often man’s mislabeled standard) or adding and subtracting this behavior or that behavior in hopes to meet…I don’t know…holiness (I guess that’s what we’re after), that we spend more time thinking about ourselves than worshiping Christ.

Holiness means to be “set apart”. God sees us as such; clothed in His robes of righteousness, not in our inadequacies and sins.

I do not have His eyes. I cannot see what He sees.  I cannot even comprehend what He sees, but I believe in Him—and that has to be enough; has to be! As I write these words, I can practically hear the words of Hebrews 11:1 being whispered in my ear:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”.

Without a doubt, I believe God’s Word is infallible. I know, to my core, I can trust every word, every promise written. I do not question it. So if I don’t question it, why am I not living as if “He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world” (Romans 8)?

God is FOR us—not against us.

But we live as if He is. We replay our past sins and failures and live from the platform of condemnation when God clearly states that “in Him there is NO condemnation” (Romans 8:1). In order to truly live freely and embrace our identity in Him, we MUST accept and believe this. He did not come to live as man and die a brutal death for us to essentially die with Him. No! He came so that we might have life and life to the full (John 10:10).

I wonder what would happen if I started reconstructing my identity based strictly on God’s Word?

Who Does God say I am?

bible-1068176_960_720God looks beyond my defects, faults, failings, inadequacies and sees something I have yet to comprehend: my worth, my value; that I am His daughter. His beloved. His Delight. In Him, my identity is secure. It’s not contingent on what I do or not do.  It’s based on what He’s done.

I think that’s it…we, like Peter (the dude who walked on water), have to keep our eyes on Jesus because when we don’t, that is when our enemy whispers all our self-doubts, shame, and insecurities over us and we begin to sink. God’s view of us hasn’t changed, ours has.

I am learning I must affirm the identity Christ has assigned me and learn to live from this place for Him. I cannot do this if I keep feeding my insecurities. I am not discounting my past, sins, or failures; I’m just refusing to live from them anymore. I want freedom. I want Truth. I don’t want to waffle anymore.

Recent Posts:
The Greatest Lie Ever Told

Dear Boy Dating Our Daughter 2

Last week, I began a short dating series titled “Dear Boy Dating Our Daughter”. These letters will serve solely as a communication tool for my girls. In no way would I ever consider actually sending these letters. I’m pretty sure any boy interested in our girls would run for the hills! I decided to write this series because my own dating experiences were…subpar and completely misguided. It is my hope that my girls don’t date as a way to find their identity, but as way to live fully in who Christ already says they are.

Dear Boy Dating Our Daughter,

We see how you open the door for our daughter, caution her to watch her step when you see an obstacle ahead, how you offer her your coat when you sense she is cold.  We see how you look into her eyes as she talks and how you follow up with thoughtful questions in hopes to understand her better or challenge her to think or see things from a different perspective. You are a gentleman. It seems as if you know that romance and respect are closely linked.

A woman who feels respected automatically feels as if she is being romanced

Luke Text

We’re not saying be romantic to or with our daughter. We’re saying, be respectful to our daughter. They look different, sound different, and in the end, respect will gain you a girl who will fawn over you far more than if you simply tell her she’s beautiful. If you struggle to show her respect, she will struggle to believe you really care and (eventually) love her. Your choice, but choose wisely.

The more time you spend dating, the greater your respect should become for one another. How and where you spend your time together is critical to the health and success of your relationship. Although you might balk at the parameters we set in place, such as spending short periods of time together, but over a prolonged period—and in a public setting, let us explain why. First, as a built-in safeguard against temptations and secondly, because as you spend time together, you talk about a variety of issues—some deep, some not so deep; you experience one another in a variety of situations that bring out different levels of stress, joy, and comfortableness. If you keep plowing ahead without taking time to digest what you’re discovering in one another, you may miss some valuable follow-up conversations. Remember, dating is an evaluation time. You don’t need to hurry the process. Hurrying always leads to mistakes. We’ve mentioned to our girl that dating is like savoring an exquisite piece of chocolate, not inhaling it.pexels-photo-large

What we know of you so far is delightful. Admittedly, we even get a little weepy because we love seeing our girl so happy. But, we’re cautious still because we also know that ANY MAN can do romantic things for a period of time, be on his best behavior for a season or two, show good manners, even exhibit respect for a while. “A while” or “a season or two” isn’t good enough. Sorry. A real man doesn’t “win” her over and then regress back to animal kingdom! No, a REAL MAN listens and continues to listen, even to the words unspoken. It’s called being present, being intentional.

“Listening is a universal sign of wisdom” (I wish I knew whom to credit for those well strung words).

It nearly goes without saying that good listening results in better understanding. Good listening leads to asking thoughtful questions. Put another way: Good listening plus good questions leads to seeing the person’s inner thoughts and convictions. Listening sees the real person. This is where respect will be nurtured and has the ability to lead to a lifetime of mutual admiration.

Dear boy, you have to know we have raise our girl grounded in respect (it is *the* keyword in our house). She will respect you before you have done anything to deserve it. She will build you up, encourage you, support you any way she knows how—and even in ways she has yet to learn. She understands your reputation is the very rhythm of your heart and she will live to honor you in that place. She will always act on behalf of your best interests, even if you do not always see her actions as such. We have raised her to look upon you as “the only apple tree in a pine forest”. You are the object of her delight, but she lives to a high standard—as we hope that you do as well.

The standard? God’s. Yep, His. It is our hope that you have such reverence for God’s standard that you would honor it and never allow your own agenda or “needs” to supersede His. God has called you to be a warrior—to love our girl as Christ loved the church. God’s plan for you is His best, it’s completely necessary, scandalously ridged, and incomprehensibly rewarding. Don’t let anything sneak in to spoil the purity of your relationship. This requires constant evaluation, endlessly battening down the hatches, unceasing prayer for protection and strength.

Obviously, we’ve talked all about sex without actually mentioning that awesome three letter word! To paint a better word picture, I’ll borrow Tommy Nelson’s analogy:

“Would you set a fire in your living room? No? Do you have a fire place in your home? If you have a fireplace, you likely set a fire in your living room, but you keep it contained in the device made explicitly for keeping a fire contained—your fireplace made of brick, glass, and metal, with pokers and screens all designed to keep the fire precisely where you want it. That same analogy applies to sexual fire in a relationship. Keep in bounds. A fire kept in bounds provides warmth, happiness, and comfort. Out of bounds it destroys everything in its path”.

man girl bikeDating is exhilarating. We love that you are investing in our girl. Please pace yourselves, not because we are crazy, slightly over-protective parents (!), but because ultimately you desire to live out your relationship according to God’s plans, not yours—not even ours. Eventually, the two of you will develop something so precious—a “we” identity—this is what we call the sweet spot. It’s where you’ll shine more brightly because you’re working together, pulling together, dreaming together. This togetherness is worth fighting for. Warrior on!


The Girl You’re Dating’s Parents

Related Posts:
Dear Boy Dating Our Daughter 1
What I Know Now

If I Ever Got A Tattoo… Part 2

186H (1)
Read “If I Ever Got A Tattoo Part One” Here

I thought he would leave me and I wondered if I was making the right decision in continuing on in this pregnancy. Most family kept their opinions to themselves. Support, encouragement, hand holding, prayer…boy, did I need that! People, even our loved ones, often do not know how to handle hard things so they say and do nothing. It’s hella lonely. It made me question every lonely step I made. I wanted someone to tell me I was OK, that I was doing the right thing. No one told me I was doing the right thing. No one told me I was doing the wrong thing either. Our walk with Christ is a funny thing sometimes, however, because what I saw so clearly months and months later was that I was never really alone; Christ was actually carrying me in His arms the entire time.

I experienced morning sickness like crazy and because Dennis was out of town, I went to stay with my mom and dad for a few days. While trying to recover from another rendezvous with my good friend, Porcelain, my mom called out that someone was at the door for me. Uuugh, the last thing I needed was to hide my sweat drenched straggly hair and paint on a plastic smile.(We did not tell people of my pregnancy for many, many months–I mean, how do you do that? This was NOT a celebration!) Mom insisted, so I begrudgingly dragged myself to the door. It was the flower delivery man with the biggest bouquet of flowers I’ve ever seen.

The card, from Dennis, read, “We’ll get through this together. I love you”.

I slept soundly that night for the first time in weeks. I didn’t know what the future held, but I knew I wouldn’t be going it alone.

Later, when I asked Dennis what made him change his mind, he said he had been sitting in a bar in Florida and because his thoughts were so heavy, he began talking to “friendly strangers” sitting nearby. They encouraged him to love me the best he could. And that’s exactly what he did! God totally works in mysterious ways–and in bars!

I scheduled an appointment with a midwife and moved through the next couple of months still not knowing exactly what we were going to do: raise this baby as our own or place her for adoption. I did not get attached. I did not fall in love with her. I did not curse her either. In actuality, I felt sorry for her because no matter where she ended up, her story would be one that begins tragically, or at least that’s what I thought then (I really want to write about that someday).

Five or six months into the pregnancy, the doctor discovered an abnormality with the baby during a routine ultrasound and was concerned enough to send us to the hospital for a more detailed ultrasound. The only problem was they couldn’t get me in for a couple of weeks. No worries. It was what it was and I went about my business.

I was indiffernent.


I found myself crying. I found myself praying over her. I said to myself over and over again that I didn’t love her or care about her, but I was lying to myself. I was trying not to love something that the world often deems as evil or monstrous or broken, or so worthless they’d throw her away… The problem is I did.

I did L O V E her.

I loved her so much my heart nearly broke when I realized I might lose her or that she might be experiencing pain or be born with an irreversible abnormality or…

Timidly, I confessed to Dennis that I loved her, that I wanted to raise her as our own. He sat there for what seemed an eternity before a smile slowly crept across his face as he nodded, gulping hard, he said in a near whisper, “Yeah, me too”.

The days waiting for the in-depth ultrasound passed slowly and by the time the day arrived Dennis and I were both so nervous, I doubt either one of us had any finger nails left to bite off! Laying there in the dim room, lit only by the machine itself, we waited with baited breath for the news. The technician didn’t say anything. Instead, she moved the Doppler quickly from one place to another and then back again. Her brows furrowed with each movement. Her concerned look caused our hearts to sink because we knew the news could be bad. Finally, she looked up, smiled and said, “I’ve no idea why you are here. There is nothing wrong with your baby. Would you like to know the sex?” My eyes filled with tears and kept filling no matter my efforts to pull my act together. I was having a baby. We were having a baby. I loved this baby and this baby was in perfect health. She proceeded to tell us we were having a girl.

Dennis and I thought of names for a few weeks, but nothing seemed special enough. Then one night, I covered the names in the baby name book and read only the meanings of the names. When I came across the meaning: “Pearl” with the scripture reference in Matthew 13:45-46, which says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a Merchant looking for fine pearls. When He found one of great value, He went away, sold everything He had, and He bought it”. That was it! I uncovered the hidden name and there before my eyes was the most beautiful, perfect name for our baby:


When she was placed into my arms sixteen years ago, she cried and cried and nestled into the crook of my neck, right where she belonged. She nestled and oohed and cooed and we held her, thanking Jesus the entire day and night long. I did not sleep that night. On purpose. I didn’t want to miss a single moment of her. I wanted to breathe her all in. I wanted to looked over every square inch of her body. I wanted to pray fervently over her hands and feet and her heart and ask the Lord that they would glorify Him her whole life long. I kissed her more times than I am able to count. I nuzzled my cheeks against hers. I breathed in her sweet baby smell. I loved her.

I loved everything about her.


Meg and I. Sixteen years later, this photograph still makes me cry! #happytears

About midnight the phone rings. It was Margie, my midwife. She was crying, which completely threw me off. I asked her if everything was OK, if there was something wrong with my baby. She apologized for scaring me, for calling at such a late hour, and then she tells me she has a confession to make. I’ve no idea where this conversation is going, but my eyes are firmly fixed on my baby in my arms so the world could have exploded all around me and I would have been none the wiser.

She proceeded to tell me that she watched Dennis and I closer than most of her patients because of our circumstances. She confided that although she is not for abortion under normal circumstances, she would have recommended it in our case. She went on to say she never gives her opinion unless asked directly and even then she’s cautious. We never asked. She said with each appointment, she did not understand our increasing joy– and today when she placed our baby into our arms she glimpsed God in a way she had never known Him before. I cry still when I share this part of our story because my response was, “Me too, Margie. Me too”.

God is SO good. I cannot help but to think of Isaiah 61: 1-3
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord”.

Man, I love this! If I could ever get past my fear of needles, I would totally tattoo this on my body somewhere. Since the likelihood of me not getting over this fear is great, I will instead try to live from this place; this place of grace and freedom. #adjustingmycrown

Related Posts:
My Testimony
From Where I Stand
Rewriting Our “Ish-tastic” Past Pt. 1
Rewriting Our “Ish-Tastic” Stories Pt 2


If I Ever Got A Tattoo… Part 1

toddler-1208260_960_720By God’s grace, becoming pregnant the first time was easy. Too easy, actually, since Abigail came as a complete surprise! We assumed that when we were ready to bring a second child into our home, it would be just as “easy”.  Three years, many tests, and a complicated surgery later, found us sitting in the doctor’s office taking in the deafening words that the surgery, which was supposed to increase our chances of pregnancy had in actuality left my husband, left us, sterile.

Our chances of having another child, according to the urologist were “less than 1%”. In the midst of this process, the term “secondary infertility” was tossed around from one doctor to another and yet, I never allowed it to penetrate my heart. I could not accept it. Until this day. This day, I had to accept it. I had to move forward. I had to accept our seeming lot in life and learn somehow to make peace with it. But, goddamnit, Why? I was meant to be a mother. I dreamed of being a mom from the time I was a little girl. I played with dolls and house and played dress up–always as the mom. I always wanted to be the mom. I was supposed to be a mom. I didn’t know how to be anything else. I didn’t want to be anything else.

Dreams had not just broken; it was if someone had shattered them into a million pieces, lit them on fire, and then skipped around them while licking an ice cream cone. The pain was unmatched by anything we had ever known.

The shame of an abortion in my past ate at me, adding more shame to my already bruised and battered heart. I knew better, but my mind wondered if God was punishing me for what I had done. This led me down a path of wanting to control everything. I strove for perfection at all costs, trying desperately to earn—I don’t know—to earn forgiveness, to earn acceptance, to earn something. I cannot accurately put into words the madness in which I lived those years. It was exhausting, and utterly wasteful because God had already forgiven me, I already had His love and devotion. I had His favor.

He does not punish.

People often blame God for the consequences of their actions. I did. I learned that my love for Him was conditional. If life was going well, then I was like, “OK God, I love You and You love me” and I would skip and sing merrily throughout my days (OK, slight exaggeration). If life was hard or I didn’t feel His presence, I was like, “You’re out there somewhere God, but I clearly don’t matter to You because this pain is not love”. Nothing could be further from the truth and this is one of my many stories of just that:

Sitting on the cold bathroom floor in April of 1999, eight weeks after I had been raped, I faced the fact that I was pregnant as I stared into the double blue lines of a home pregnancy test– and the likelihood that it was my husband’s baby was slim to none. I cried while my husband and daughter slept in their beds. Through the night, I sat huddled in my blanket on the cold bathroom floor, rocking back and forth, racking my mind for answers, for direction. None came. I hesitated leaving the bathroom without an answer. I wanted to confine the situation. I didn’t want it to breathe all over my life. I realize that sounds absolutely absurd and yet, that is where I was emotionally in those hours.

I had had an abortion 7 years before and had been emotionally wrecked, damaged, really, only to be picked up, loved, and forgiven and then put back together by the gracious hands of Christ. I had been selfish back then. I hadn’t wanted my parents to know I was living a “double life”, a “life of sin”, so I had the abortion to hide my iniquities. I was not that person now. And yet the thought of abortion entered my mind. I felt I could justify it. I felt that even God would understand my struggle to carry my rapist’s baby for nine months. That was asking too much. TOO MUCH!

feet-349687_960_720Watching my husband turn out of the driveway that next morning for work, I rushed to the phone to schedule an abortion. I didn’t want him to know I was pregnant. The rape itself had been too much for him to handle. This…this would put him over the top. I wanted to protect him. I wanted to protect myself. I wanted to move past the rape. I was just starting to gain some normalcy. Carrying a baby to term would prolong the pain. Anger stirred within me and I resolved sometime in the wee hours of the morning that this was my only option.

A woman answered the phone and I immediately began sobbing. I told her I had been raped just two months before and had discovered I was pregnant. She empathized with me and told me we could bypass the counseling portion of the visit, which is usually required, and schedule the abortion itself in just a few days. My heart twisted and turned as we spoke. My stomach knotted painfully and I felt as if I was going to be sick. I clung to the kitchen counter, bending over in excruciating pain and my head began to pound so intensely that I felt a need to hurry to wrap up the call so I could lay down.

I hung up the phone and instantly felt all pressures and signs of illness fade away. I stood up straight, thinking it was just heightened pregnancy symptoms. But then my mind filled with thoughts that I can only attribute to God’s voice or His way of getting my attention. You see, Dennis and I had been begging God for a baby for three years. It was our all-consuming thought and prayer and now one lived within me. I cried aloud, “But God, this baby is not of me, of us. What if it’s a reminder of my attacker? What if she’s broken? What if I can’t handle it? What if… and you know what I heard (not audibly)? In the most pronounced manner possible, “But… she’s… mine”.

“But she’s mine”. pexels-photo-27118-large

I didn’t need any more answers in that moment. I knew what I was supposed to do. I immediately called the clinic back. The woman I had just spoken to answered the phone. “Hi, I just called to schedule and abortion, but I need to cancel it”. The woman clearly taken aback because she remembered my circumstances, questioned, “If it’s not too personal, may I ask why are you canceling?” I remember my exact inflection, my exact words as if I had just spoken them yesterday because they were hardly my own.

“Because being raped is not on me; an abortion is on me. I’ll have no one to blame for that part of the story but myself”.

She didn’t understand. She didn’t need to.

I called Dennis at work and told him to come home. That was asking for the moon and we all know that when we ask for the moon, we rarely get it! I didn’t get it, so I had to wait the entire day for him to get home. Telling him I was pregnant was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. For a few minutes he was expressionless and then his anger exploded and continued to erupt sporadically for a very long time; I’m talking weeks. I could take his yelling and frustration. I could not take his silence. It was deafening and it played with my emotions and imagination. Fear was my constant companion.

pexels-photo-57529-large.jpegHe was in the midst of transitioning positions at work and had to go across the country for six weeks. Talk about bad timing! His last words to me before leaving were, “I owe this baby nothing”. What the hell do you do with that? What does that mean? I know in hindsight, he was dealing with a lot, wrestling with more than any man should ever have to!

If I Ever Got A Tattoo… Part 2

Related Posts:
My Testimony
From Where I Stand
Rewriting Our “Ish-tastic” Past Pt. 1
Rewriting Our “Ish-Tastic” Stories Pt 2

Rewriting Our “Ish-Tastic” Stories Pt 2

Read: Rewriting Our “Ish-tastic” Past Pt. 1 Here

It’s OK that our stories are not in a neat and tidy packages.

Writing a new ending requires vulnerability first, owning the truth, and then allowing it to transform us. What I mean by that is that our stories don’t have to end when the lights go down, when the curtain swooshes to a close on that event or season of life. Just like some letters include a post script (P.S.), the “One more thought”, the “Oh, by the way” comment, our stories can include an “Oh, and….”, etc.. I love a good Post Script!

Post Scripts

This learning more about ourselves, understanding our emotions and how they play out in the world around us is HUGE, everything really. It impacts every single relationship and interaction we have with others.

Let me dissect this a little. When we revisit our stories, we can move from a place of dwelling on the past and all the negativity that it is certainly due– to understanding who we are now or who we want to become. I cannot say this enough or express this more than if I was shouting it from a mountain top: We are NOT what has been done to us, or what we have done to others, or even our environment. They shape us certainly, but that shape can be heated up (by being vulnerable enough to revisit it) and be remolded by putting our life, with all its pains and regrets…, into our Maker’s hands.

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify” Malachi 3:3.
This is the rewrite process. The skimming of dross from the silver that we are. Our Refiner sits until the work is done. He does not leave us no matter what garbage surfaces. He will purify us. He promises in Phil 1:6 that “He will finish the good work He begins in us”. He never gives up. He plays the leading role in our stories because our stories are a part of His greater story; part of  His greater plan.

Christ doesn’t dole out love or hope as resources to be used up. He inhabits Love. He doesn’t mete out mercy or grace. He incarnates Mercy and Grace. He doesn’t define truth. He is Truth. Love isn’t merely a thing. It is the presence of God indwelling us, pouring Himself into and through us. Peace is not a thing that God gives, but a serene abiding in Him. We rest in assurance of things to come because He is Hope. We know grace because the Spirit of Grace dwells within us” Jerusha Clark.

When we allow this beautiful truth to wash over us and to seep into the smallest, darkest parts of our stories, can we possibly fathom how Christ views us as clothed in Christ’s righteousness? Do we get a sense of the look in His tender eyes as His gaze rests upon us in our weakness, in our brokenness? Do we sense a Love that knows no limits?

It is imperative to accept this as Truth to move from a place of hiding and/shame/regret to a place where we allow our vulnerability to lead us into writing a new courageous ending to our stories. writing-828911_960_720

It is here, we move from our first responses (of hiding, glazing over the pain, ignoring, over compensating, etc.) to a deeper understanding of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is here that we write our Post Script.

My post Script

In my healing, I gained a better understanding of who I am and Whose I am, but honestly, I am still very much in progress. It has been easier to start with what I’m NOT, which eventually cleared the way to see who I AM.
I am NOT a victim.
I am NOT someone to use up and throw away.
I am NOT worthless.
I am NOT weak.
I am NOT broken.
I am NOT damaged.
I am NOT ugly.
I am NOT unlovable.
I am NOT unacceptable.
I am NOT damned

Some of these took a little longer to believe than others. In thinking about what I was Not, I needed to define who I was or who I wanted to be. To be completely honest, I had to ask the Lord to help me to both accept my identity rooted in Him and to live it out with each and every inhale and exhale. I couldn’t even ask Him for one day at a time. I needed His assurance with each breath! I have genuinely wrestled with my significance found IN Him (no one else)–This is a life long journey and as I have taken one small step at a time, I have clung desperately to the promise that God loves me. He is FOR me, not AGAINST me. If I did not believe this,  I easily would have become enslaved to my distorted thinking; and I would have decorated my invisible, safe, but oh-so-lonely cage and remained where my pain has held me.

“You will know the Truth; and the Truth will set you free” John 8:32.

I AM a Child of God.
I AM unconditionally, unfathomably loved.
I AM incomparably valuable.
I AM dearly wanted.
I AM whole in Christ.
I AM unconditionally loved.
I AM beautiful.
I AM accepted.
I Am made new.
I AM complete in Christ.

I discovered many more attributes as I began rewriting my story. But this gives you the idea. Through my experiences, I have learned Who Christ is to me. I understand more of His beautiful, gracious character. I see Him more clearly. I feel His presence. I hear His voice. I know Him. I really know Him—I was in great need and He was the only One who could meet those needs, and supply the healing I so desperately needed. My heart gushes as I attempt to put into words my love for Him. He is my happy ending. Without Him, it would just be me. And I am not enough on my own. He is my Alpha and Omega; my Beginning and my End!

The flip side:  We can choose to stuff those emotions and all that pain. We’ve tried to, haven’t we? And we have discovered it doesn’t actually disappear. Instead, it compounds, seemingly builds up until it owns us, defines us. I know far too many adults who live in their childhoods and cannot, no matter their efforts, move forward. They are stuck. And if I can be so bold: we can only blame our pasts for what happened. We can only blame ourselves if we give it the power to hold us captive. God desperately desires freedom and not bondage for us. We need to own our stories and allow Christ to reveal the ending He had in mind the whole time. We are worth it. We really are!

“When we said yes to God, He declared our eternal victory” Jerusha Clark.

Related Posts:
“Badassery” Friendships Pt. 1
“Badassery” Friendships Pt 2
From Where I Stand
Nostalgic or Transformative; Our Stories Are Powerful

Rewriting Our “Ish-tastic” Past Pt. 1

holey jeansLast week, I wrote a two-part series about Friendship, which focused on the concept that vulnerability leads to courage. As I have thought more about some of the messy, painful parts of my own story; the parts that leave me feeling exposed, I realized that although I am not unique, the journey I have taken may be. Though initially unconscious of the steps I have taken to rewrite my story, I have most definitely moved through a process where I can now live peacefully with my past.

This is not to say shame and regret do not rear their ugly little heads every once in a while and try to pull me into that dark place, where self-protection and self-sufficiency reside; leaving no room for others, they certainly do. And even though this is a painful place, it strangely feels safe because the only one who can hurt me here is myself. You know this place too. I think we’ve all visited at one time or another. Some stay longer than others, while others never leave. What happens in this place, however, is hurt grows, bitterness creeps in, and the light becomes blinding. If we choose to stay in this place, rewriting our stories will be impossible!

I’ve heard it said that “What we think determines how we feel, which then impacts how we behave” (I wish I knew whom to credit for such geniuses).

Think about this for a moment. I bet every one of us can pinpoint either a story or a situation where our thoughts have been high-jacked! Our minds play on loop: I’m not good enough, I am unlovable, I’m unfixable, I don’t amount to much…” These falsities poison our minds and somehow, if we are not careful, we can actually believe them. Proverbs 4:23 cautions us when it says, “Be careful about what you think. Your thoughts run your life”.

What we can derive from this is Satan wants us to get caught up on the external things we do, not our thoughts. If our thoughts are the wellspring of life, it is essential we begin here as we rewrite the ending to our stories.

We cannot change our past. We can undo what has already been done. We have endured heartbreaking things. Harm has been done, trust has been broken, lies have been told. So, if we are going to rewrite the ending to our stories, we have to get ready to “prepare our minds for action; be self-controlled; set our hope fully on the grace Christ is giving to us” 1 Peter 1:13-14 (paraphrased). One way

What that looks like:
Understand that wrestling with our past, as painful as it might be, is necessary in order to move forward. It’s ok to mourn the loss of innocence, the loss of a childhood, to face that we did not get what we needed, or the fact that what we had was stripped away from us, etc. It’s OK to acknowledge that parts of our stories are wrong, bad, evil, painful. We don’t like these feelings; they hurt. They are the very ones that cause us to run the opposite direction, to glaze over these parts of our stories, not just because they are uncomfortable to us, but we know they make others feel uncomfortable as well. Somehow, we have made ourselves the decider of what they get to feel. (how silly is that?)

My glazed version of one of my stories: I was raped. I’m kind of comfortable leaving it right there. It’s all most people can handle. No questions asked, no details to share. Minimal pain ensued.

Here’s what wrestling with that looks like:
I couldn’t function for days—even the basic tasks such as getting dressed were hard. My body felt as if it were moving through sludge and yet, my mind felt as if I was floating in a numbing hazy. I avoided the mirror because I didn’t want to see myself. I felt ugly. I felt ruined. I feared everyone could tell by looking at me what had happened, which in one moment moved me to tears and in the next, hardened my heart. I feared making love with my own husband for months afterwards because every time I closed my eyes, I saw my attacker’s eyes; and every time my body began to relax, I was jostled by the imaginary feeling of his heavy-handed grip on my waist. I wondered if my bruising and tearing would ever heal or if I would be physically damaged as much as I was emotionally damaged. Flashbacks haunted me both day and night for seeming forever. To be honest, I don’t remember when they became less frequent. It just seemed they were always there and then disappeared; though even now, 17 years later, I am startled by something and my mind replays that night.

Sigh. That hurts to write; really hurts. And it is that kind of pain we glaze over to make both ourselves and others feel more comfortable. However, if I chose to stay in this pain and live, as a victim, my thoughts will hold me captive. I will be locked in an imaginary cage, suffocating. And though I am fully protected here, I would spend my entire life pining for freedom, where I could grow and thrive as God intended me. And you as well. With Christ, we have the power to stop the chatter and to cling to a life in FREEDOM.

Brene Brown says it this way, “[We] either walk into [our] story and own our truth, or [we’ll] live outside [our] story, hustling for [our] worthiness”. barrel 1

No one gets to hold that kind of power over me; nope, I’m not gonna let that happen. I own my truth. I get to say where the story ends.

Read “Our “Ish-Tastic” Stories Pt 2” Here

Related Posts:
“Badassery” Friendships Pt. 1
“Badassery” Friendships Pt 2
From Where I Stand
Nostalgic or Transformative; Our Stories Are Powerful

You Plus Me Equals Us

shredded wheatPicture a handful of strong, determined and loyal men, both young and old who show up to the dusty fields before sunrise, while it is still dark, ready and willing to work. Their job is a long and tiresome one, often working from sun up to sun down. The heat and strain on their backs becomes too much by midday–each and every day– as they plant, nurture, and harvest wheat, but they don’t complain; they keep working “as if unto the Lord”. Years of engaging toilsome work publicizes itself for all to see in the deeply etched lines of their faces, which seemed stained with grit and grime. They wear these lines proudly for they speak of their character and the One for whom they work. They find purpose in their work and confidants in the men they labor shoulder to shoulder with day in and day out. They considered one another family.

Early one morning just as the sun had made its way over the horizon and the birds could be heard tweeting their melodies of glee, their Boss, a loyal, sacrificial man of insurmountable integrity Whom is well respected and highly esteemed in the community, meets them at the fields. This was part of His daily routine for He genuinely cared for His workers and always made Himself available. He balanced His position of Boss and Friend seamlessly and His workers respect Him for His hard, honest direction in both business and matters of the heart. This day, He heaves the bulky burlap bags of seeds from His rig, breaking a sweat Himself, as His men prepare to plant the acres of just fertilized and prepared fields. His men, have grown old with Him, learned the ropes by watching, and imitating both His methods and principals through their years under His care. They knew what needed to be done, so without a word, the Boss tips His hat, gives a quick nod and with a twinkle in His smiling eyes, He turns to leave. He trusts His workers. They have proven themselves reliable, valuable and desiring the best. They know the land and the job so well, they could have written the manual themselves!

Diligently, day after day, the workers sow the seeds and survey the land as they look for new growth and prepare for the harvest season.  They work as if the field belongs to them, doing whatever it takes because they genuinely desire to grow a successful crop and to please their Boss. Weeks pass, when one day the workers notice that among the healthy, thriving wheat stalks, thistles have taken root. In their years of experience, they haven’t encountered such an enormous outbreak. The men look questioningly at one another and with each acre they assess, their growing concern quickly turns to panic.  They sprint back to their Boss, breathlessly panting, “Weren’t the seeds You gave us to plant good? Were they not stored in the cool dark cellar and kept safe?” As they breathed the words to life, they knew the answer. They didn’t have to question their Boss’ methods, but they could not explain what else might have contributed to the heavily interspersed weeds among their prized wheat; the very thing that could destroy it.

Their Boss smiled ruefully, shaking His head, His eyes dropping to where He watched the dust float heavenward with each scuff of His boot along the dry ground. Slowly, His teary eyes met theirs and with such a tenderness in His voice, He whispered, “Boys, I knew this day was coming; a day when our competition would sneak in and plant weeds in My fields in hopes to choke out My healthy stalks”. The men, eager to do whatever needed to be done, replied with raised voices, “Well, we’ll show him, we’ll spend as long as it takes to pull up the weeds. We will restore Your plan. We will restore what is damaged and make it better than new”. Their Boss looks at them again, kindness in His eyes as He walks toward them and speaks once more, “No, my boys. Thank you for your willingness to act justly on My behalf. I appreciate the heart in which you mean to help, but something you might not have considered is if you were to pull up the weeds, you may accidently uproot the wheat as well. Let’s do this: let them be; let the weeds grow alongside the wheat until they reach maturity, until the time of harvest, and then you may pull the weeds and burn them”. The men, confused, questioned Him, “But Boss, are You not worried that the weeds will ruin the wheat? The weeds, the bad, the less desirable will surely weaken or destroy the wheat, the good, the desired–the very thing we have worked so hard to attain”. Their Boss let out a soft “hmmm”, dropped His head and slowly walked back to His quarters.

Can you imagine the talk that ensued once their Boss was out of ear shot?
Do you think they respected His orders, or do you think some of them felt they knew better and acted on their Boss’s behalf?
What do you think the end results would have been?
Who do we identify with in this parable?
(Obviously, I’ve taken some liberties in expanding the story found in Matthew 13:24-29 with the hope that we might picture it all the more clearly and identify with it on a more personal level).

To paint with more detailed brush stokes, this story represents non-Christians (weeds) living among Christians (wheat) and how those with good intentions often believe the best thing to do is to separate the two (us and them). The workers in this story identified with the wheat, as many of us, as Christ-followers, do. Their initial thought was to pull up the weeds, but Jen Hatmaker, in her insightful (and seriously life-changing) book, “Interrupted” points out that “we are qualified to administer mercy, not judgment”. Think about that for a moment. Let that fact sink in. Stings a little, doesn’t it? For many of us, we have looked at the world as black and white, good or bad, for God or against God. We play judge and jury.

Friends, we will encounter more than our fair share of weeds; people that make us uncomfortable because they think, behave, worship, vote, live differently, and/or have a different sexual orientation than we do. (think homeless guy on the corner, those living in poverty in this country as well as others, the lesbian couple in the booth at the restaurant you’re dining at, boisterous Liberal, Republican or Democrat with opposing views, pro-choice/pro-life rallies, alternative music, drinking, drugs…honestly, could I hit anymore hot buttons? You get the point). To be honest, I’ve always identified with the wheat, but as I’ve grown in both age and faith, I find that my heart longs to draw closer to the weeds. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t want to abandon my faith. On the contrary, I want to embrace what it has always been about, the part I have misunderstood, the part my legalistic background has declared bad and sinful and therefore, we must flee from. Jen Hatmaker makes a bold statement when she writes, “The correct character to identify with here is the weed which was shown mercy, not the Savior capable of discerning the human heart”. #convicted

To identify with the “least of these” or the “oppressed” or whatever we choose to label others outside ourselves is so counter-cultural, so uncomfortable, and if we’re honest, it come at a high cost; the cost of being ridiculed or misunderstood. I know this personally as fact! And we cannot make the outcome of whatever we put into motion with others hinge on whether or not it takes root on an eternal level. That’s not our job. Our job is to DO something. “Doing nothing is a blatant sin of omission” and we are held accountable for our actions/inactions. This does require a willing brokenness, a willingness to embrace certain frustration, and confess moments of judgment that seep in from time to time in addition to a fullness of joy we have never really experienced before. I believe becoming less in stuff and stature and living, for lack of a better phrase, (the overused and highly underlived word) on mission is where we find fulfillment, genuine liberty. I can’t help but to think of John 3:30, which echoes the constant prayer of my heart, “I must decrease, so that He may increase”.

What it all boils down to is this: it’s you and me, weeds and wheat, living together. Let’s really live intentionally together. It’s not our job to separate ourselves or even cast judgment on those different from us. That’s God’s job. Our job is to be purposeful, intentional in showing Christ’s love to all people. I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus implied, scratch that, commanded when He said, “Go” and “Do”. Faith is not meant to bless the blessed. It’s intended to bless the marginalized.

From Where I Stand

DSC_0755I’ll never forget those dark eyes, never. If I close my eyes now, 17 years later, I can still see them. I can still see the spacing of his lashes and prominent pupils due to the shadowy-dim light. His girth suffocated me as my face was pushed into the all-weather carpet, burning its roughness onto the left side of my face. Without a thought of possible repercussion, I mustered all I had within me and let out a blood-curdling scream for help, except my body betrayed me and no sound came from my lips. I felt my vocal cords constrict, and my mouth open, but no sound escaped. I tried again, telling myself that it was my fear choking me and that if I could just relax, then my voice would work. It didn’t. The silence was deafening; literally piercing my ears. Silence from him. Silence from me. And still, sometimes, the quiet can become too much for me. I remember thinking that this six-foot-four, 275-pound African-American man would give up after trying for what seemed an eternity to destroy me, but he didn’t. My thoughts quickly changed to wishing he would just hurry. I have no comprehension to this day how long the physical attack lasted. I only know I allowed the emotional portion to affect me a good share of the years since.

I felt like a rag doll; limp, lifeless and hopeless when I was finally left all alone in the dark. I didn’t cry—not right away. I picked myself up, cleaned up the best I could, and then I cried. And cried. And still to this day, I cry.

I cry for me. I cry for him. What has to happen in a person’s life to bring them to such a place to commit such violence without regard for another human being?

Weaving in and out of various parts of the story in an attempt to focus on where I am standing now, this week’s theme, I skip ahead nine months to share that with my husband of now 23 years by my side, I gave birth to a beautiful reminder of God’s Sovereignty, a bi-racial baby girl that resulted from that traumatic night; and a few years later found myself part of Pacific Northwest’s Speakers Bureau for Crisis Pregnancy Centers, focusing on both educating the public and fundraising. (I am incredibly, incredibly passionate about the issue of pro-life! Incredibly!).

At one such speaking engagement at Beasley Coliseum at WSU, I was teamed up with an African-American man. We had never met before and to be honest, I do not remember what he even spoke about. However, after the event was over, he approached me, pulling me aside, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, he said, “I want to ask you for forgiveness for my “brother”. Will you forgive him?” I was completely caught off guard and the strength that I had been mustering up all day betrayed me and I fell at his knees and sobbed like the little girl I so desperately had been trying to hide for a very long time.

I don’t remember my co-speaker’s name, but I have never, never forgotten his words. I have pondered them in every possible way; I’ve turned them over, upside down and back again. I’ve mulled them over, looked for a hidden agenda, trying to believe there was something there I wasn’t seeing. Friends, there wasn’t. His words, however, were not his own.  He was merely the messenger because they were the words of Christ, “Forgive them” (Luke 23:34).

17 years later, I, too, stand too as a messenger. Over and over again, I find myself standing in the expanding space between injustice and forgiveness, loving the unlovable, forgiving those who have wronged; those who have crudely dismissed the beauty and value of one’s life and forever altering others in seemingly unforgivable ways. Standing in this place of Hope happened to me. I wish I could say I have this amazingly loving heart and I sought out ways to show love to the unlovable, but I didn’t.

Somehow in the midst of my seething hatred, wishing ill-will of my attacker so much so that I have literally made myself physically sick and praying for vengeance, God filled me with compassion, broke my heart for what breaks His and allowed me to surrender all those warranted thoughts to Him and rely on His strength and leading in my life. I trust—I absolutely have to—that God will deal with each injustice in a far better way than I ever could. Injustice is something I cannot comprehend no matter how hard I stretch my imagination or try to put myself in an offender’s shoes. It’s ugly and it robs us of our security, dignity, and innocence while often jostling our faith in both humanity and God. Turning a blind eye to injustice is an injustice in itself!

I refuse to turn a blind eye to it—I run toward it now. I write to prisoners, through the Prisoners for Christ organization, study the Bible alongside them, write notes of encouragement, direction and prayers over them. When I mail my letters, it is only the beginning because I vow to continue to pray over each prisoner. I have no idea if the words I write are meaningful to them or are life-changing, but I do know I am showing them Jesus the best way I know how. I stand with my arms outstretched toward heaven in humble thanksgiving for the forgiveness that I have been graced with and desire with all my heart to share that freedom with those held captive (physically and emotionally) by their own unforgiveness and sin. I stand as messenger.

Wondrously Known

DSC_0592While running errands on a cool dusk evening in late September, I noticed an older bedraggled gentleman hunched over, shakily holding onto one side of his walker, while attempting to a hold his large cardboard sign for passer-byers to see with his gnarled fingers of the other. As I rounded the corner, I saw that he was wearing only one shoe and the other had no laces. He had dropped his sign and was struggling to pick it up.  I was immediately endeared to him; maybe it was because he had a grandfather-like quality about him, maybe it was because I could see that his needs extend beyond the simple plea scrawled on his sign as I looked into his milky grey-blue eyes, I don’t know. I was running slightly behind, but decided to park and walk one of the gallon-size Ziploc bags filled with various necessities I keep in a box behind my seat, over to this man. As I struck up a brief conversation with him, he told me that he had children and it was them that he was on the corner for, not for himself. They needed milk and school supplies; neither of which were in my bag, mind you. I put my hand on his shoulder, looked him in the eye and told him I was deeply sorry for him and his family and that I would pray for him. He thanked me for my kindness as he reached out to grasp my hand for a brief moment before we parted ways. It was a sweet encounter I will never forget, but not because he was a precious old man, which I am entirely endeared to, or because I gave him one of my necessity bags. No! It was because I understood moments later that I was not meeting his greatest need—to be seen, to be known.

I realize that the territory that I am about to embark comes at the risk of sounding slightly haughty. I assure you nothing could be further from reality because after my brief encounter with this dear man, I rounded the corner, briskly walking back to my jeep pretending I didn’t see the haze of my breath drifting heavenward, and was struck, as if by lightening, by the fact that I had never asked the man his name. It seemed so simple, so little in the grand scheme of what I was attempting to do that I have bypassed this noteworthy detail dozens of times without this thought ever crossing my mind; but this night…this night I could not escape the mournful, heart-crushing pain that accompanied this realization. This level of grief was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced because with it, after copious contemplation and soul searching, I understood what it really means to be seen, to be known and the undeniable significance this is for all people (I think herein lays a glimpse into the meaning of the “Love your neighbor as yourself” commandment–Matthew 22:39). For days, and even now, when I recall this story, my soul aches so deeply, so intensely, that my prayers scarcely grasp adequate words to convey my sincere sorrow and conviction for not seeing God’s child. I did not see Him.

I have often asked the Lord to break my heart for what breaks His, to give me His eyes to see the lost, the weary, the broken, and that He would show me how to respond in a meaningful way. And all this time I thought my sensitive heart was a fractured replica of His. Maybe it still is; but I know in the deepest part of who I am that God has called me out beyond my comfort zone and into an area where I have no choice but to trust Him to lead me. It is here where real faith stands. And it’s here that I have been fearful to set my anchor.

Author, Francis Chan, reminds us that “God’s definition of what matters is pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love”. The question then becomes, “How do we love?” It is not a matter of if or who, or even when, but how do we love? If we were to pull apart Psalm 139, we would see how Christ loved us. Though I will not dissect each verse for you here, I have to point out at least verse one: “Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me”.  This word know is not a mere encounter. In the Greek, “yada” is a verb meaning to “know relationally and experientially. God Knows [our] hearts entirely” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary).

“To know” can be based on factual knowledge as well as relational knowledge—and I suppose it is the later that I reference as I attempt to write out my thoughts.

I believe one of our most basic needs and deepest longings is to be known. Sure there are those of us who, on one hand, fear being really known—at that ugly, gut level that even spooks us from time to time, but on the other hand, we have a tremendously, desperate desire to belong, to feel a part of something grander and deeper and all encompassing. We know to reach this place; we must become real. As I write these words, I can’t help but to think of one of my most treasured childhood stories, The Velveteen Rabbit, written by Margery Williams:
[in response to asking if becoming real happens all at once]”It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Our fear of being known often keeps us from being real, raw, and vulnerable with others, but what if I told you that we are already known. All our flaws, fractures, scars; all our shame, regret, embarrassment; all those dreams we’ve been fearful to breathe to life, all those tears we’ve cried—all of it—all those pieces that make up the real us—what if someone saw all of us? What if…

John Piper paraphrases 1 Corinthians 8:3 beautifully when he writes, “Deeper than knowing God is being known by God”. God knows us from the inside out. Contemplating on the incredible fullness of this phrase, I understand that I not only belong to Him, but am loved, and adopted by Him. Being known, being connected to Christ, is nothing short of intimate and privileged and saving and friendship and…profoundly humbling.

This realization not only deepens my awareness of what it means to be seen, to be known, to be loved, but also the primacy of grace and the necessity of it to precede our relationship with Christ. In other words, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Without His gracious and sacrificial love for us, we would not have the ability to love Him. God is the source of our love and it is the Holy Spirit who enables us to love. When we know God, we can love as He does (1 John 4:6-7).

As Christians, we have often made our lives all about us knowing Him—but we often skim over the fact that He knows us—the real us—and He profoundly loves us in ways we cannot possibly fathom and made us His own.  C.S. Lewis wrote in his book, The Weight of Glory: “To please God—to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work, or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or a burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is”.

To be known, to be truly seen by the Lord is a tremendous gift of grace. And in turn, I want to live Christ all the more boldly, all the more loudly, all the more intentionally. It is enough for me to be known by Christ. More than enough. It’s actually who I am! So I take this new found appreciation for what it means to be known, to be seen, by God and think of the shoeless man on the corner—the man whose name I will never know—and know God sees him, the real him, his needs, his hurts, his dreams—and because God is gracious, He will prompt our hearts to know how to love others the way He does. Without a doubt, there will be times our faith will be tested, where we will wonder if we are on the right path, or doing enough ,or even the right things. God sees the motives of our hearts and when we trust Him to led us in unchartered oceans, where sometimes we fear dropping anchor, He meets us there, firm and secure, and works in and through us to show His love to all people.