Thursday, September 18, 2014

Press me into Your goodness

When I just reread this prayer I wrote last January, I knew I had to post it. I think you'll resonate with this, dear one. Our circumstances may be vastly different, but my guess is that you've been here too....

January 31, 2014

You take me where I am—distracted, obsessive, exhausted, embarrassed, anxious, impatient (in short, a mess)—and You hold out Your hand, draw me in, and say,

Come, dear daughter, who thirsts.
Come to the waters
And, Colleen, you have no money but
Come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk,
Without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
And your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to Me;
Hear, that your soul may live.

O Lord, we are hemmed in by illness and limitations (even after so much forward progress and healing), and by those who, through no fault of their own, cannot understand our limitations and instead make judgments. But it is by this continual “hemming in” that You are teaching me, to my innermost parts, to come to You.

You are pressing me into Your goodness by proving to me again and again that however good something else might be, it can never compare to You.

“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly…”

So that comment that wounded my tender heart—can be forgiven.
The slew of emails and messages and mail I can’t keep up with—can wait another day.
The conflicting advice from naturopaths, functional doctors, pediatricians, chiropractors, and nutritionists—falls silent at the sound of Your voice.
The pang of hurt I feel when Jeremy is the only kid without a slice of pizza—it is quieted in Your love.
The temptation to think only of myself and my small world of constant needs—is conquered by worshiping You in a way that overflows into the service of others.

And that service can be small, go unnoticed, and feel insignificant, but You see it, and You receive it as an offering of love.

O Lord, this hemming in is both tragic and beautiful. It is my undoing and remaking. It is the hardest and best part of my day. It is what makes me hungry and satisfies my hunger.

It is You, the wound-giver and wound-healer. {Because if You didn’t wound me, I would rush to find my healing in all the wrong places.}

You are so good, infinitely better than the greatest good I have here on earth (and oh do I have some). Turn my heart away from these “light and momentary trials” and teach me how to indulge in this feast called You.

Scriptures referenced: Isaiah 55, Psalm 84:11

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Are you weary of waiting on the Lord?

I bet you're waiting for something right now. And I don't mean the traffic light to change or the water pot to boil. I mean, you're really waiting, aren't you?

I waited a long time for two of my heart's greatest desires, marriage and motherhood. But saying "I do" and "We're due" didn't exonerate me from The Waiting Game. Every day of my life continues to offer me a myriad of opportunities to wait on God for one desire or another.

Waiting can be agonizing, can't it? It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do—and I have to do it all the time.

So why after all these years of waiting am I not good at it yet? Why can it still feel so excruciating?

Join me over at True Woman today as I share what I'm learning in the waiting....

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Life comes in seasons

If we could sit on a sunny patio and chat leisurely over iced coffees tomorrow, I’d want to ask you, “What’s the best part and worst part of this season of your life?”

What would you say, dear one?

What’s making your life painfully difficult right now? And what’s making it beautiful and sweet?

We might shed a few tears together as you answer. Some seasons feel more bitter than beautiful when you’re in the midst of them.

Or maybe I’d laugh with joy as you describe a long-awaited hope fulfilled. We’d talk fast and excitedly, and the time would fly by.

Most likely, though, we’d do a little of both, wouldn’t we? Some tears. Some laughter. As Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “Rainbows are made of sunlight and rain.”

So in lieu of that patio conversation, I’ve settled into my couch tonight with a cup of chamomile tea, to share a few things I’m reminding myself these days:

This season of life is a gift. The precious and the painful, they are entwined by gracious hands that never stop doing us good. The very thing that brings us to our knees, makes us weep in despair, or feels like our undoing—that is an integral part of the gift of this season. In time (His time), we will see that our desperation was the beginning of our deliverance.

Sometimes the bitter aspects of life can overshadow the beautiful. Don’t miss out on the joys of this season.

Years ago I had a young friend who was married to a faithful man who loved her and provided lavishly for her. She hated working and wanted nothing more than to get pregnant. She griped constantly. Her husband made it possible for her to quit her job, but even then she was miserable. Soon she became pregnant and gave birth to gorgeous twins. But she couldn’t stop complaining about how easy working used to be and how hard being a mom was now. In every season she had neglected to enjoy the gifts God gave her, so when she finally got what she wanted—she was shockingly unhappy.

Don’t compare seasons. We’ve all lived through those long winter months of life when the dearest ones around us seem to be enjoying a balmy summer. Their joy may feel like the final blow to your hurting heart, and it takes all the grace you can muster to rejoice with them.

But seasons change, sometimes quickly, and someday they too will know their winters while you celebrate your summer. In this mysterious dance of seasons, we learn to offer both comfort and joy to one another, each in our turn.

Some seasons last a long time, but none lasts forever.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

Motherhood is teaching me this in spades. I thought I was going to lose my mind when my newborn son had colic and screamed for hours every night. But then he’d nuzzle into my neck and finally fall into a peaceful sleep, and it was magic. By the time he was six months old, both the colic and the newborn nuzzling were gone.

Singleness was a long season. But my twelve-year wait came to a sudden end, and in the blink of an eye a new season was upon me, with brand-new joys and challenges.

Psalm 116:7 says, “Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” So dear one, here’s what I keep preaching to myself:

1. Embrace today’s hardships. They are gifts from God.

2. Embrace today’s joys. They are gifts from God.

3. Stop playing the comparison game. It robs me of these gifts from God.

4. This season will soon pass. Don’t miss out on these gifts from God.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Other Side of Jealousy {guest post}

It is my joy and honor to introduce you to my precious friend Danielle Walker. Danielle is a beautiful, witty, intelligent lawyer who resides in Charleston, South Carolina with her dog, Julie Anne. Of all the amazing descriptions I could use for Danielle, the one that comes to mind most quickly is "forgiving." For some reason, despite my countless shortcomings, Danielle has chosen to remain my friend and speak great encouragement into my life over many years. Her love for and obedience to Christ is compelling, and I'm thrilled to share with you here some of the overflow of her rich spiritual life....  

I call it “In your face-book,” she told me. “I hate Facebook.”

I nodded, absorbing her reasons not to post updates on a given topic.

She didn’t say it, but I had to guess that perhaps her abhorrence of Facebook was at least partially related to the fact that God had not yet given her the desire of her heart in the form of a baby.

God knows that I know it’s impossible to get on Facebook without seeing “in your face” reminders of un-motherhood: pregnancy announcements, birth announcements…babies, grandbabies…videos, photos…funny sayings, cute faces…pajama pictures, pool pictures...ultrasound shots…maternity photos…My Little Pony cakes—you name it. Kids unapologetically brighten up the world and lighten up the Internet. And I’m glad they do.

Just the same, I could understand why my friend might avoid Facebook like the Gaza Strip. It was a constant assault on her deepest pain. Everyone else has what she doesn’t have. And it hurts.
It wasn’t Facebook’s fault exactly; deep down—deep, deep down—the problem was jealousy. I don’t know what it is about jealousy, but we do not want to call it that. I suspect jealously has worn more nametags than just about any other sin.

Admit it or not, of all the people who have told me they quit Facebook and of all the reasons they have given, I suspect that jealousy is the one unnamed deactivator of many an account.

Because other peoples’ lives tend to be perfect on Facebook. I confess there have been times I clicked through someone else’s photos and thought, She has everything: she’s beautiful, married to a good man, wonderful kids, nice house, nice vacations… and eventually closed the screen with an overwhelming sense of discontentment. My life stinks…

I’ve struggled with jealousy. It has chewed me up then spit me out in worthless chunks like a redneck, tobacco, and a country road. In fact, there have been full weeks—months—years—when the only times I wasn’t struggling with jealousy was when I had given up completely. It can still ruin a good day quicker than my alarm clock.

I know I’m not alone.  I remember times when two of my friends confessed to me that they were jealous of me. I wanted to laugh. But they were serious. These were painful confessions for them.

I wanted to laugh because both came at particularly low times for me. I knew if they really, truly knew my life, they would be anxious to take their own set of troubles and go home. If they knew the tears I cried, the pressures I faced, and the mistakes I’ve made, they would probably be whistling on their way to work—thank God, I’m not her!

And when it comes right down to it, I wouldn’t trade with them either. Not even with the gorgeous girls with successful husbands and adorable kids. Not the movie stars; not the world-class musicians; not even the ice skaters.

There will always be someone out there—probably on the edges of my circle of friends—who is prettier, funnier, nicer, smarter, richer, and just happier than me. They will be young and interesting when I’m old and boring. They will be available when I am tied up. They will think of the right thing to say when words have failed my completely. They will make friends when I can’t even make hot chocolate.

But now that perfect girl is affecting me less.

I have a wonderful life. In fact, I am richly blessed beyond what I can ever deserve.

But that is beside the point.

The point is that I am learning the truth about jealousy. If you are jealous of someone, you either don’t know them well enough or you haven’t known them long enough. The fact is, their life either has troubles or will have troubles. Serious troubles. And unless they have chosen an attitude of gratitude, they probably think their life stinks too.

On the other side of your jealousy is a hurting, confused, lonely, and even scared girl that you just don’t know yet.

I thank God that even though I will always struggle, I’m coming to the realization that jealousy is me believing the lie that I would be happier if my life were different; when in reality it would only be…well…different. In the process, God has freed me to see Facebook as God’s brag book—budding romances, happy families, new opportunities, God’s creation, and, of course, God’s amazing gift of new lives in small packages. As friend after friend has gotten married and had kids, I’ve been able to genuinely say, “I’m so happy for you!” Because I am.

Just the same, if it causes you to stumble, or if you just don’t like it, there is no harm in staying away from Facebook. And unless you are truly ready for war, this would be a good time to stay out of the Gaza Strip.

Visit Danielle at Law, Grace, and Real Estate to enjoy more of her writing. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

An airplane and a cave: lessons in courage and compassion

Photo Credit: (c) 2012-2014 Paullus23 on deviantART.

It was the last place on earth I wanted to be.

I’d always loved flying, but this airplane, with all my worldly belongings crammed into the luggage compartment below me, symbolized the death of my dreams. I’d scored a job as an editor on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., but a 3:00-a.m. trip to the ER had changed everything.

Now suddenly I was on my way home to California minus my health, car, and job. I looked out the window as my dream life vanished beneath me.

In the midst of my daze and despair, God began stirring my heart to chat with the girl sitting beside me. I discovered that Rachel was a Jewish girl from San Francisco and was deeply skeptical of Christians....

Join me over at Kindred Grace today as I share how life's disappointments can be turned into divine opportunities to courageously, compassionately share Christ. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Loving someone in their mess

Her message left me shaken. She said if we had just thirty minutes together, she could get things off her chest; she was angry and needed to tell me the specific ways I'd hurt her.
We'd had this same conversation a couple years prior, so I knew that another venting wouldn't liberate her. I'd tumbled off the pedestal she'd placed me on, and she'd discovered that the woman she considered her mentor was, in reality, a mess.
What she wanted was my perfection, but what she needed could only be found in Christ.
Yet what my heart longed for her to do for me—to love me unconditionally—I've so often failed to do for others. I've demanded their perfection. I've wanted to extract profuse apologies from those who have wounded me. I've itched to unload the silent rant that's been playing on repeat in my head.

And while I knew all of this in my head, there was still a tender space in my heart that longed for her to look past my faults, to realize I was just six weeks a mom, rendered useless by exhaustion and illness. I wanted her to love me in spite of me.
I've actually expected others to make me happy, to help preserve my emotional equilibrium....

Join me over at True Woman today as I share what I'm learning about my own mess, and in others' mess.