Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Getting Rid of the Lines

Fifteen years ago, I went on an interview for a writing position in center city Philly. After my interviewer had spent some time looking through my portfolio, she laid one of my pieces on the table in front of me, and asked if there were anything I’d change about it.

Now it’s important to note that this was many years before God reached out His hand and offered me the sacred opportunity to begin finding freedom from my perfectionist thinking, and walk through life authentically with Him. So in that season of life, I was well versed on interview tactics, such as how to answer the “What’s your greatest weakness?” question in a strategic manner that would essentially highlight a strength. Exude confidence without sounding arrogant – I knew the drill.

And when it comes to my writing, I’ve always been a perfectionist. Not just with the words, but with their context of design and presentation as well. Even since I’ve started blogging, I’ve had to try very hard – to NOT try! (Oh yes, God surely smiles when I have those conversations with Him. Frequently.) So like any other piece of mine, the piece that my interviewer laid on the table I had certainly worked through with a fine tooth comb ad infinitum.

But there was something about the way I designed this piece that seemed like a stellar idea when I started, but ended up being something I didn’t like at ALL when it was wrapped up. My use of lines.

I had created a thick line or bar under each of the subheadings. And during this early season as a writer, my appreciation for simplicity in life began to emerge in my writing. And that meant lots of white space, lots of room to breathe on a page. And for me, it also meant implementing a minimal-to-no use of lines. (I’m actually incredibly line averse now. That's right, I’m quite skilled at going from one extreme to the other, thankyouverymuch.)

So back to the actual interview. When she asked me what I would change about that piece, I broke my own rule {at the time} by revealing my humanity and gave her an immediate answer:

I’d get rid of all the lines.

It was completely out of character for me to be so transparent in an interview. But oh, what a foreshadowing of what was to come. Because you know what? It recently occurred to me that I’m making the very same change here on my blog. I’m getting rid of the lines . . .

In my early posts, like blogophobia and i am the older brother, I got my line feet wet. I had seen other bloggers strikethrough their words in order to say what they really felt, but what most people wouldn't want to admit. And the words in strikethrough always offered me a great “I can so relate to that!” laugh. They still do.

So after feeling a little more comfortable in my strikethrough skin, I found it a handy tool as I struggled to take a retrospective look back on 15 years in The Fixer-Upper Marriage. I was able to share my struggles – safely behind the lines.

And then came my strikethrough frenzy in because pride cometh before the fender bender. Apparently, there was no holding me back at that point. I mean really, just look at it – it’s practically the attack of the strikethrough font! So much wrestling through thoughts and feelings that I shared . . . well, sort of. At a safe distance, of course {behind the lines}.

And I didn’t realize it at the time, but just like the piece that my interviewer laid on the table 15 years ago, that blog entry was the one that the Lord laid on the table in front of my heart, and asked me how I’d like to make my writing better.
Because I started getting rid of the lines.

Okay, so I still pulled ‘em out a couple months later when I shared my less-than-stellar mom moment in flying shoes & dysfunctional status quos.

But for the most part, the lines are disappearing here at Truth in Weakness.
I’m not hiding behind the strikethrough, anymore.

And I don’t know about you, but just like I love lots of white space on a page, I am loving the emotional breathing space that we’re gaining as I step out from behind the lines!
Room to exchange even more freedom together.

But it's hard to get rid of the lines, isn't it? To risk being that vulnerable? Solid yellow lines get cemented into our hearts telling us that we're only safe within the lines (or behind them). So out of fear of our soul colliding with another and ending up crushed in pieces on cold asphalt, we do not cross.

But I've said it before, and I'll say it again:
The best of friendships are based on truth, not pretense, and offer a safe place to be real and vulnerable.

However, I've also reminded us that as we boldly take steps toward authenticity, we are not defined by how others respond to us in our vulnerability. Our identity must be anchored in Christ alone or else this whole transparency thing becomes one big threat.

So what lines are you still hiding behind, friend? In what areas of your life is it hard to let go of the lines? Oh, how I understand. Because I still have my own lines in life. But with my soul resting safely in the loving arms of Jesus, I’m continuing to get rid of them.
One strikethrough at a time.

Linking up with Beholding Glory for Faith-Filled Friday

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How to Strangle a Great Marriage

{Ravaged by} Great Expectations: Part 1

I’ve said more than once that if I could just take all of my expectations and chuck them out the window, I’d have SIGNIFICANTLY less problems in my life. Really, they haunt me in practically every relationship. They suck the very life out of me – and those around me. Some nights they wear me out ‘til I am physically sapped to the core.
Tonight was one of those nights.

I was processing this expectation beast with the Lord, wanting to understand the source of a few of them, in particular – the ones that weigh me down with the heaviest of chains. And why I haven’t let them go yet??
Why do I continue to hold onto some of them when I know that Freedom & Joy await me on the other side? . . .

Like every other married person on the planet, I have dreams and desires for my marriage. Noble dreams! Healthy desires. And so the thought of letting go of them feels like resignation.
As if to show my husband grace by releasing him of an expectation is to throw away the value associated with the expectation, and the well-being of the relationship.
It feels like I’d have to throw away the dream.

“You are a slave to whatever controls you.”
- 2 peter 2:19, CEB

Unfortunately, when it comes to something as important as my marriage, I easily lose every ounce of patience {and perspective} and want results yesterday. So for the sake of time, I repeatedly take matters into my own hands.

Rather than talk to God {the Creator and Sustainer of marriage, by the way} about it first, I go right to my husband {in all my ungracious self-life} and “enlighten him” about the speck in his eye.
And I create relational damage every. single. time.

So when I cling more tightly to good things than to our great God, I put them on a throne that only He deserves. Bright hopes and dreams fade into dark shadows of entitlement. Life and vibrance get strangled out of the relationship.
And I miss the treasure standing right in front of me.

: Trusting God doesn’t mean that we have to lose our dreams and desires.
It means we get to find the very Fulfillment of them!

In the Right Place.
{And the other reality check in all this? Just like I'm needing to entrust my ummet expectations into to the Lord's loving hands, my husband is needing to do the very. same. thing. . . }

Dear friend, do you find it hard to entrust God with your soul's desires, too?
And miss the treasures right before you?

Join the many sojourners struggling along this journey by sharing your thoughts in a comment. Then, be sure to continue with us by reading Part 2, Hope for the Critical Heart.

Image courtesy of
Vincent Zegna

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Unable to Pray

I walked carefully up the staircase lined with seated people. Bibles open, eyes closed, heads bowed. Each one pleading for a miracle. Yet making a painful choice of the will to surrender their deep desire for God to spare her life, to the mysteries of the One who gave her life.
In a matter of moments, the still, quiet corridor turned Doorway to Divinity, emphatic choruses flooding the Entrance.
Gutsy petitions boldly approaching the Throne of Grace.
Desperate souls running to the Mercy Seat, begging for her healing.
That afternoon, every inch of their home was an open invitation to prayer. {If I’m not mistaken, it’s the same southern home that still adorns Bible verses on the sheetrock and 2x4s in her handwriting.}

When I reached the upstairs, I began my time in her boy’s room. A sobering place to pray when you’re also a mom of a little boy right around his age. A moment when the challenges of life as a mom instantaneously became pale; invisible, really. And so my prayers joined alongside of hers to plead for the well-being of his tender heart and mind, come what may.

I then walked into their girl’s room, and sat on her dainty chair. And suddenly, I was a little girl, too. Crawling up, saddened, into my Father’s lap. All my uncertainties, all my fears, all in plain view. Feebly lifting my head to whisper a prayer into His ear, asking Him to cover this girl’s sweet soul in His strong grace.

After some time in her room, I came to the guest bedroom, my friend’s mom’s room at the time. Her mom was staying with their family to lighten the load, to walk by her daughter’s side during this cruel invasion of disease. And so I kneeled by her bed and prayed for her. For extra measures of Strength, and Grace, and Comfort. And for my friend's dad. And also her brother.

Then, I stepped into my friend and her husband’s bedroom . . .
At the time, I knew my friend’s husband was faithfully loving her through the extra mile of her disease. But it wasn’t until a couple years after this event when I watched my own husband carry the weight of the world on his shoulders during my own health crisis that I could even begin to appreciate the kind of deep, selfless love that my friend's husband had given her. And let me be clear: Our journey is of no comparison whatsoever to theirs. But it sure did open my eyes.
I sat down on the floor, leaned my back against the bed, and tried to pray.
And that’s when my wrestling began.

Given the gravity of my friend’s affliction, I was so overwhelmed I didn’t even know where to begin. I just knew that I was in deep anguish for her and her precious family. So I wanted my prayers to somehow carry a weight comparable to the massive weight of their circumstance. I desperately needed my prayers to be effective . . .

As I sat there on the floor wrestling through this with the Lord, He whispered to me.

Stop trying . . .
That wasn’t the first time He had offered those two words to me that weekend. Nor the first time I felt plagued by inadequacy. I longed to reach down to the core of my friend’s being and love on her in ways that would deeply minister to the depths of her beautiful soul. But I felt so very inadequate for the opportunity.
I heard those two words, and I stopped.
I stopped agonizing over my words.
I stopped trying to pray.

But that stopping, it only happened because of God’s mercy to me and His power. Because once I start trying hard to do something, it is incredibly difficult for me to NOT try. Usually feels near impossible.

Shortly thereafter, my Father began to lead me by the hand to pray. I don’t even remember what I prayed. But I remember that it was effortless.
Because it was all from Him, not from me.

That sacred afternoon in my friends’ home, God revealed to me that it’s not compelling words that make prayer effective and powerful. It’s the power of the Holy Spirit living and breathing through me, as I cry out to the Father with honest and desperate pleas.

God also reminded me that He is the only One who can reach into the depths of a soul and impact it in ways that human lives never can.
He is God. I am not.

Yes, He will sometimes choose to use me in the life of another. But my part is simply to make myself available. The rest is up to Him.

Just like I needed Jesus to save me from the power of my sin, so I also need Him daily to be my Power in living out this life.
Including when I pray.

“Jesus responds not to the eloquence of our prayers, but to our pain . . .
Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference."

– Max Lucado (He Still Moves Stones)

~ ~ ~

This piece was written in loving memory of my precious friend and sister in Christ, Tara. I am so grateful for the numerous ways that God worked powerfully through her life, and her testimony, to impact my life. And countless others'. It was a privilege to be called her friend.

Thank you to her closest loved ones who gave me the gift of their blessing to share how God continues to use her life, and her passing from this life to the next, to impact my own life.

If you appreciated this piece, I'd love for you to subscribe to receive my posts. All kinds of good subscription options on the right toward the top.

Image courtesy of Travis Silva

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Soul Love Song

"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah.
He named it Ebenezer, explaining,
'The Lord helped us to this very point.'”

- 1 Samuel 7:12

Most of you know that God recently offered me a unique opportunity for this blog. Last week, I submitted Truth in Weakness in the Circle of Moms “Top 25 Moms with Inspiring Families” contest. I didn’t find out about the contest ‘til six days before it finished, but I decided {again} to make this blog available to the Lord. And then let Him decide what He wants to do with it.

In those six days, numerous friends and family members captured the vision of extending God’s message of truth and grace to a hurting world by championing along side of me with your support. I am so grateful for that, SO grateful. Whether this blog landed in the Top 25 or not, each of you who advocated reminded me {by your example} that I want to be a friend who never hesitates to cheer another friend on in life.

And I am honored to share that on Wednesday at 7pm, God said yes!
Truth in Weakness came in at #21.

Funny thing is, as it climbed closer to the Top 25, it was harder for me to surrender to the prospect of God saying yes, than it was to the prospect of Him saying no . . . Ever have that??

The following morning, God brought me to a divinely-timed blog post of praise, based on the verse above in 1 Samuel. I had never been to this blog, but clearly, God had led me there. And my soul kept singing the love song of praise below.

Thank you, my friends and fellow sojourners.
I am celebrating Him with my Ebenezer soul!
- Tanya

Come thou fount of every blessing
(by Robert Robinson)

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I'll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I've come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Friday, March 2, 2012


Today, I am excited to offer you my first guest post! Lily has been a pioneer of transparency to me, so I know you'll appreciate the powerful message that the Lord has for you through her. Lily also happens to be my sister. {smile}

They thought it was rather silly when the doctor recommended a sleep study for her. Downright weird. “Ridiculous, new-fangled nonsense,” they privately scorned. But when the neurologist told them she had severe sleep apnea, they were stunned.

The watershed for diagnosing sleep apnea is if you stop breathing 5 times or more in an hour - then you have it. My mom? She stopped breathing 30 times in the span of an hour. Yes, severe sleep apnea.

Amongst other problems, sleep apnea can cause heart problems. My mom’s had those for years. Could this be the reason? They questioned . . .

I remember my mom recounting her apnea test to me. At one point, they woke her and brought her oxygen. I can’t describe the rush I heard in her voice as she told me how good it felt, but it was obvious this taste of getting what she needed was powerful.

All this time, she has done without the oxygen. All those nights she’s done without . . . breathing. And to her, it was normal – her normal.

And the thought ran through my mind, isn’t that like any of us? We tend to define normal by what we’ve always known, by what is familiar to us. Somehow, even in the midst of living with difficult circumstances, we can be duped into thinking our familiar experience defines normal simply because it’s all we’ve ever known.

And then . . . in steps God. His truth sheds light on our experience and shows it for what it really is. Our eyes are opened and our breath is taken away by the vast difference between our normal and what God says is good. Our false definition shatters into pieces and in the shattering, a new hope is found -
the hope of the Lord revealed in His truth.

We all need that beautiful, objective Caregiver to step in & set us straight. To tell us that we’ve stopped breathing, acting more like a dead man than one who pants vibrantly with life.

We can do that, you know. Stop breathing.
We don’t always know we’ve done it as it can happen when we’re sleeping.

God wants us to breathe deeply of His love and of His grace. But sometimes, we spiritually fall asleep into despondency and numbness.

I do. I stop breathing at times.

I am so thankful for the Lord Who comes, wakes me up, and offers me oxygen – offers me Himself.

“Inhale. Breathe deeply,” He says,
“take in all that you can of Me.
Let your lungs fill completely; let it go all through your veins.
I am here to resuscitate you.”

And as I inhale, I can feel the newness of His life infusing my soul.

Oh Father, we all are prone to stop breathing at times. Without even knowing it, we often fall asleep and become as if lifeless, without breath. And somehow, it can start to feel like normal to us.

Come, wake us. Resuscitate us according to Your Spirit. Breathe on us that we might have breath and we might inhale and exhale the life that You give. Fill our spiritual lungs completely.

And where we have adopted a sense of false normalcy, give us Your objectivity to discern merely familiar from good. Redefine normal for us in light of Who You are, for since the fall You are the only truly normal we can know. We are all askew.

Help us to know Your truth as our objective measure. Our experiences are so in our faces that we tend to receive Your truth through their lenses. Give us eyes to see beyond them.

And teach us to breathe, inhaling all that You are and exhaling all that honors You and Your Name. To Your Name be glory.


About Lily . . . My name is Lily, and I'm on an imperfect journey of knowing and loving a perfectly wonderful God....in the now....in the midst of whatever I'm going through. My heart has found its resting place under the rescuing cross of Jesus, though I foolishly wander from its haven. But all the while He beckons and calls and remains my Redeeming Rescuer, redeeming my ordinary things for extraordinary purposes. Redeeming all of me. And in the end it is all glory for Him and grace for me.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...