Monday, February 27, 2012

Making Room {for Healing}

"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted.
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
(Psalm 34:18 NASB)

I told my husband recently that I’d found a great way to make more room in our kitchen cabinets. After he kindly took the bait & asked how, I told him that I just keep breaking dishes. {Really, I don’t know what the deal is, but it has happened a bunch lately.}

But I’m actually not too bummed about it. Because both my glasses and my dishes have unfortunately lost their luster in recent years.
My glasses show the years they spent regularly immersed in water so hard it could cut through a rock. {With every run of the dishwasher, they sadly escaped looking worse than when they went in.}

And the random display of scratch marks on our plates evidence that apparently they weren’t made for cutting. {Wish that memo would have come with the product.} And several of them have cracked under the pressure of microwave heat. {That memo would have been nice, too.}
For the most part, I’ve gotten used to their ugly scars. Probably because they’ve been that way for so long. But since they’ve lost their visual appeal, make no mistake – I’ll gladly part with the stains and the scratches! {And secretly hope that as a result, someday I’ll get need to buy new ones.}

The other day, it struck me that in many ways, I am like these couriers of cuisine.
My mind a glass with cloudy misplaced hope that distorts my vision.
My heart scraped up from critical words that cut like a knife.
And my emotions? Well, they can certainly crack under pressure when the heat is too much.
Many days my soul is fragile china in a world of careless bulls that threaten to crush me.

But I believe that sometimes Jesus allows our hearts to break.
To make more room.
Room for uninhibited freedom.
Room for restored beauty.
Room for renewed joy.

Room in our souls for undiminished healing.
More room for Him.

Our Father is a gentleman, though. Oftentimes, He waits until we can see our pain for what it is.
Until we're ready to abandon to renewal and redemption.

Until we’re ready to part with our pain.

He beckons us, as if to say,
Oh, My precious child,
You don’t have to bear these stains any longer.
You don’t have to feel those scratches in your soul when critical knives are near.
Release your scars, My child.

Bring them to Me.
Bring them all.

And let Me wash you in My living water of hope, healing, and life abundant.
I conveniently neglected to mention that I also have a few pieces that I’m NOT ready to part with, even though they clearly need to go. I have these oversized mugs that I absolutely love to use for pretty much anything. They are my goldilocks bowls – not too big, and not too small. Just right.

But sadly, bear mug 1 and bear mug 2 {See, they even exude the warmth of a bear hug!} now both have a broken handle. So there is now a sharp, jagged knob protruding from each of the two mugs. {Even my 1st grader pointed out that they’re major safety hazards.}

But I LIKE my oversized bear mugs! And all the alternatives before my human eyes will be either, well, you know – too big, or too small.

But patiently, He waits. Offering me something far better than the short-lived comfort of my bear mugs.
Whenever I invite Him to make more room.

Have you ever thought of the aches in your soul as actually serving you well? {to make more room for God?}
Or brokenness as a means to beauty?
Maybe you hang onto pieces in life that are hazards to your heart like I do.

Know that our Father longs to pick up all of the sharp, broken pieces of your shattered soul. To put them back together in way that you never would have imagined.

Webster defines luster as “the state or quality of shining by reflecting light.”

Invite Him to restore your luster, my friend.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

a sacred exchange of story & soul

"a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." - isaiah 61:3

Just a year ago, I was barely able to get up off my couch, let alone step into my son’s Kindergarten classroom. I was in the thick of a health crisis that left me incapacitated for months on end. But the other day, I was there. In his classroom. Looking into the eyes of 20 precious 1st graders as I read a story to them. With my son as my proud, picture-showing assistant.
The story is a cute one about a siamese cat whose imagination transforms him into an invincible, sword-fighting chihuahua. And oh, how I can relate to little Skippyjon Jones, my soul wanting to be something I am not. Often. And missing the splendor of the distinctive ways that God created me in His glorious image. (But that’s another post.)
That afternoon with the children, my heart soared simply to be in their presence, gifting them with the treasure of a story. My imagination walking side-by-side with theirs as we journeyed together to a destination “two bones shy of the end of the world” to come up with a plan to save the world. (Or at least save los chimichangos from the bobble-ito in la casa perrito!)

Such a gift to look into the eyes of these precious souls, theirs looking back at mine. To connect with their hearts and minds. And to learn much about each of them simply by the individual expressions on each face as they listened.
One little girl wore an intent look that reminded me so much of me. Another one brushed her long hair. On the other side of the room, a couple of buddies snuck in a whisper.Each instance, a grand celebration of divine distinction.
And as the pages of time continued to turn, I rejoiced in this sacred privilege of entering their world for a few brief moments. And celebrating the gift that each of them are to this world.

In my last post, I shared that it’s often hard to miss the sweet embraces of our Savior.
This day, my friends, was not one of them.

Now it's your turn! What’s a moment that you beheld recently?

This post is dedicated to the wonderful community of staff and families at our son’s school. We are ever grateful for your prayers and tangible support for our family during my health crisis. And we pray that the Lord returns the blessing to each of you in abundance.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

restless in the dark (& secret soul embrace)

"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you."
- James 4:8

Before heading to bed the other night, I went into my son’s room where he was sound asleep to give him another kiss good-night. Something I often do. But this time, it was different.

As I bent down and gently placed my cheek against his, I whispered a soft “I love you.” And suddenly, his right hand began to move.
He was forming a tired, limp “I love you” sign.

My heart swelled with delight. I wasn’t expecting a response! I was simply wanting to love on him.
One more time.

The next day, I asked him if he recalled our exchange, and he didn’t.
His expression that night was simply the overflow of his heart.

And you know, just as my heart was reaching out to my son that night, so does our Heavenly Father’s heart reach out to us.

And do we know it? Sometimes.
Do we feel Him reaching out to us? Many times probably not.

But whether we know it or feel it doesn’t change the reality.
That He does.

With tender hands of compassion and mercy, our Abba Father reaches out to grace our hearts.
Because He knows that His nearness to us is our good.
Because He knows that our wounded souls desperately need the calm of His healing touch. Especially in the dark.
Because He values us.

And I wonder – what does the overflow of my heart look like when my soul receives His nurture unaware?
Do I instinctively respond with an expression of mutual adoration?
At times . . .

But there are also times when my soul grows restless in the dark . . .

Times when I shrug my shoulders with indifference to astonishing grace.

Nights when I pull the covers up over my heart in shame.
Hoping He won’t see me.

Moments when I lay curled up in a ball and flinch at His healing touch.
Afraid to trust Him with my fragile soul.

I have winter nights when I toss and turn with cold, pouty lip.
Expressing He’s not enough.

Seasons when I’m too weak and weary to respond.
Because I’ve been carrying weighty loads that are meant for Him alone.

And sometimes my soul wears a scowl.
Because my selfishness dismisses the reality of His infinite goodness.

Rather than craft my fingers into a language of love,
misplaced hope forms a fist to cling to my deepest dreams.

All the while I move and breathe in the very presence
of their perfect Fulfillment.

So has your soul grown weak or weary in the dark? Does the overflow of your heart shun the very touch that longs to heal you? Or maybe you fasten your eyes closed because you’re afraid of the light.

Whatever the season of your soul, know that God’s infinite love for you remains fiercely immovable.
His love is not dependent on your response to Him.

So rest, oh weary soul.
Breathe deeply in His presence.
And know that in Christ, you are safe and secure.
Even in the darkest of nights.

“My soul finds rest in God alone.”- Psalm 62:1

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

burnt offerings & walking in worship

[raging battles with the seen: part 2]
read part 1 here.

“victory always begins with a cry for help.”
- beth moore (breaking free)

the other day, my sister sent me a beautiful video clip that my nephew created for one of his classes. his assignment was simply to create a short clip that answered the question, “what is worship?”
and the tears i wiped testified that the question was well answered.

right after watching that, i came upon a post that a friend shared, and was immediately drawn in by both the picture and title. the picture was the runner up to the picture that i chose for the truth in weakness facebook page. so i remain incredibly drawn to it. and the title? something about food. and intimacy . . .

fortunately not the typical must-share-my-favorite-recipe post.
nor another endless rant on which diet is better than the others.
it was about how we interact with food. rather, how we interact with Jesus each time food passes through our hands and into our bodies.

given my recent heartbreaks in my relationship with food, the fact that i came to a post about the spiritual dimension of food immediately after watching a video snippet about worship made it obvious that God clearly had something in store for me.

and in that post, i read this:
“i want it to be an act of worship to incorporate intimacy with Christ in all things — even this, the meal-making.”

i could sense that God was wanting to put two conflicting pieces together for me, but i wasn’t quite seeing the how yet. so i walked out to the kitchen with an inquisitive chant that echoed through my mind: “food and worship, food and worship . . . ”
only to discover that my breakfast potatoes had burnt to a crisp.

i turned off the stove, and God then brought these two words to mind:
burnt offering

. . . i knew the term, but what did it mean for me? i googled pondered the thought, and came to another article that said:
“the altar of burnt offerings is also known as the altar of sacrifice . . .
as the Father was willing to sacrifice His son,
as the Son was willing to sacrifice His own life,
as abraham was willing to sacrifice His son isaac as a test of faith by the Lord,
so too, should we be willing to sacrifice all that the Lord asks if we truly desire to return to His presence.

and like a ton (or ten) of bricks, it hit me:
God was calling me to offer this painful area of my life to Him.
to surrender it on the altar of my heart.

i then read elsewhere that burnt offerings served as reminders to those offering of their depravity. and oh, my depravity have. i. seen.
i returned to my scorched potatoes, placed them on my plate, and brought them to my dining room table. to eat them.
as an act of surrender.
as an act of worship.

"so here's what I want you to do, God helping you:
take your everyday, ordinary life—
your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—
and place it before God as an offering.

THIS is true worship.
(romans 12:1, combo of the mssg & today’s niv)

i bowed my head before the almighty King of creation, and with the closing of my eyes began a healing stream of repentant tears. i was overwhelmed and humbled by the privilege simply to come into His holy presence – particularly in the very context that’s been such an ugly one for me.

my soul was remembering the holiness of the One in whose presence i sat.

it was as if, amidst the intensity of my struggle, i had forgotten it.
at least within this context.

my relationship with food has become a place of bitterness, resentment, and perceived entitlement.
where was i when the foundations of the earth were laid? . . .

"surely i spoke of things i did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know. "
(job 42:3)

i was grieved by my complaining.
and lamenting my lack of gratitude.

"let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.
there we will receive His mercy,
and we will find grace to help us when we need it most."
(Heb. 4:16)

i laid it all before Him in confession, and surrendered the struggle.
and i invited Him to transform this area of bitterness, resentment, and entitlement into a place of contentment, thanksgiving . . .
into a place of worship.

i want to walk in worship in this context, Lord.
i want to walk in worship . . .

not just in the easy places of life,
but in the ugly, grueling, despairing places.
when my soul aches within me, i can still worship You.
i can worship You in my sorrow.
i can worship You WITH my sorrow.

that morning, amidst my deep longing to have full freedom with food, God graciously reminded me that He wants better for me.

He wants me to have unbridled freedom for my soul.

"my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
(psalm 73:26 )

so tell me, friend . . . what are the heavy chains weighing down your soul today? the chains that you've longed for God to loosen and exchange for wings of freedom flight.

cry out to Him.
know He hears you.
and receive His power to walk in worship – even in the most anguished, desperate places of your soul.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

marriage & the ordinary ever after

a few days ago, i was in the produce section at the grocery store, and there was a couple nearby. probably somewhere around my age. as i made my way to the ruby reds, i overheard her mentioning to him a few interesting ingredients for a recipe that was far over my simple culinary head.

and as i took those few steps in the outskirts of their moment in time, i wondered if she knew this ordinary day with him would come. an outing with prince charming of pushing around a rickety grocery cart . . . a far cry from their sunset strolls along the beach like days gone by.
and i couldn’t help but wonder if she was disappointed by this unromantic, ordinary task.

after having noticed their together in the ordinary, i started to think about the ordinary-ness in marriage. and how unprepared we are for it.
in fact, we become afraid of it.
how could these mundane tasks do anything but leech our starving souls?

our culture has succeeded in teaching us at an early age that a thriving relationship means a thrill ride through life that takes our breath away. in good ways, of course. therefore, when the ordinary rises its unappealing head, as it always does, we start to wonder if there’s a problem.
because where did the thrill go?? . . .

and then, when ugly invades our lives and batters our hearts, we can experience pain so deep it takes our breath away.
not the thrill ride we had in mind.

but what if . . .
what if we embraced the ordinary?
even celebrated it.

because it’s easy to revel in the highs of life with our spouse.
but it’s a selfless act of sacrificial love to embark on the mundane.

and that.
is extraordinary.

our souls are sacred ground, friends. so when we invite Jesus INTO our mundane, we find Him there.

and suddenly, that rickety grocery cart, that kitchen sink, that small cubicle – isn’t ordinary anymore.
it has become a place of worship.

it has become extraordinary.
because He is in it.
scroll back up to the top and take another look at the picture.

see that couple?

when my husband and i grow old together, i hope that’s what you’ll see.
two souls experiencing the ordinary – together.
walking through life – side by side.
hands positioned for servanthood – ready to help share the load.

and me rockin’ the purple pants!
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