Letters to Little: Joy

Letters to Little: Joy

My sweet Little,

You were sitting like such a big boy in the shopping cart, sporting the teething necklace I normally wear like a pro, and taking in all of the action at our local Publix. Kiki had come to visit and was hanging out with you while I placed an order at the deli. I turned to see you had made a very enthusiastic new friend.

She was a middle-aged woman whose youngest child had just turned thirteen, she shared as she cooed over your chubby thighs. She explained that it was good for babies to be fat for their brain development. You looked at me as if to say, “Is it a compliment that she is calling me fat?” You babbled, smiled, and showed off an array of your most adorable expressions as she continued to shower you with compliments of how cute you were. I began to wonder if your head would be able to fit through the door on our way out as you basked in the limelight. We eventually said our goodbyes, only to run into her and her husband one more time in front of the frozen vegetables. She again proclaimed her love for you, to which you smiled and then looked at me as if to say, “Mom, do we know her?”

It didn’t stop with this sweet woman; we drew a crowd at the checkout counter as well. While your introverted mother was somewhat uncomfortable with all of the attention, you were not. Once again I was struck by one of your sweetest gifts: joy.

You are a carrier of joy, my love. No one has ever told you that who you are is insufficient. No one has pressured you to change or adapt in order to be a worthy recipient of their love and affection. As you are fully yourself, you radiate joy to others. It goes beyond making someone else happy, or even being happy yourself; there is something inherently beautiful about seeing someone be completely their self.

It amazes me on a daily basis that you are so full of delight. You have the gentlest and most flexible of spirits that redefines “go with the flow” type clichés. Loved ones melt over Facetime and drive hours just to see you; I have never seen you meet a stranger. Even when your world is upside down, your schedule tossed to the wayside, and your day devoid of active exploration, you remain full of joy. I cannot tell you the good that does to my worried mama heart when our days feel so chaotic and unstable, as many have during this transition.

You possess a treasurable trait that I hope continues to grow with you; an awareness that your joy and your circumstances are not inextricably connected. As I observe you, I am so challenged to remember and cling to that same awareness and to choose joy regardless of circumstance. At some point I started to believe the lies that come against my identity and self-worth, I exchanged the truth and the joy that it carries for falsity. Bit by bit I lost myself. Without even knowing it, you have introduced me to the beauty, restoration, hope and joy that truth carries by just existing as you are. Perhaps it comes from the security of knowing you are loved, wanted, and cared for; which I hope you experience every day of your life. Perhaps, and I am more confident of this, it comes because every aspect of your personality, every tailored trait and bestowed gift is divinely inspired and intentionally purposed by God Himself. Perhaps both are true.

As I grow in motherhood, the Lord continues to impress one thing on my heart: I am loved, wanted, cared for, divinely inspired and intentionally purposed by God Himself, too. We all are. It cannot be true for you but not applicable to me. I cannot pick and choose which words of God apply to me based on my feelings or perceptions; and so if I am to believe God’s word is true for you, I must believe it is true for me as well.

There is an inherent beauty displayed to the world when we walk in our God-given identity that ushers joy into every moment. Joy: not because things are great and we feel happy, but because we are loved, wanted and cared for by Holy God. Joy: not because our circumstances call for it, but because Christ has set us free.

May you never outgrow the joy you carry. May you always walk in the truth of who you are in Christ.

Love,

Mom

The Bulky Button Up

The Bulky Button Up

As I was walking out of the door this afternoon to camp out at my favorite coffee shop, my husband looked up at me and asked, “Are you wearing that shirt?” I responded with an affirmative excuse that it was in case I got cold, which was not entirely false.

The truth is, I love this baggy denim shirt. I wear it often, mostly to sleep, and the moment I put it on I feel instantly comfortable. It is cozy, familiar, and the perfect compromise when the weather is too warm for a sweater but the breeze a bit too cool for short sleeves. It is many lovely things, but it is not the sort of thing that looks fashionable over my floral sundress. What was pretty and modestly fitted has now turned into a bulk of fabric draped over a rather small frame. I went from looking like a person wearing a dress, to a person drowning in denim and floral. It is not exactly the demise I had in mind, nor was it in the mind of my husband apparently. Alas, here I sit in my roomy shirt like a fashion-less frump drinking a delightful honey cinnamon latte; comfortable but convicted.

I am often thinking and praying about what my weekly post should entail. In general, it doesn’t take much to come up with an impression or topic I feel like discussing, but sometimes the process is painful both to experience and to watch. There are weeks where I review my first draft and scrap all of it, staring at my computer screen as though Cortana will magically start to type something brilliant without me. This has been one of those weeks.

It is much easier to be honest and real about the topics with which I am comfortable. Much like my beloved denim shirt, there are a number of stories and experiences I am happy to share openly. They are funny, painful, and (hopefully) beneficial without sacrificing vulnerability, but they are neither gritty nor raw. Much like this bulky button up, I present them when I would rather not reveal the shape or substance of which I am made, when I would rather fly under the radar so to speak, or most accurately when I want to maintain a level of control. It is within this context that the Holy Spirit gently applies a finger of pressure on the closed off closets in my heart, those places that feel too raw to bring to light. There is the truest of reminders within this gentle revelation: healing comes with the light.

This week has been full of irritability that I cannot explain apart from the candid admission that I am a selfish, prideful, and finicky human being. It would be more accurate to say that I have been drowning in a sea of anxiety and irrational fear rather than wrestling with worry. I would like to blame hormones, because admittedly they are powerful influencers in mood and behavior, but in my individual circumstance hormones fail to negate my utter lack of self-control. Perhaps I sound too harsh towards myself at this moment and you are tempted to think in your most southern of accents, “Oh honey, you are not that bad. You have a lot on your plate! Anyone would have these moments!” Should that be the case for you, let me sincerely thank you for your grace but kindly refute the above exceptions to my dragon-like behavior and thought life in recent days.

Let me slip off the comfortable persona with her limits on just how vulnerable she will be, and with a ragged breath express my great need for the Gospel. It is not enough to share lessons I am learning as though I have mastered them, nor is it a service to make much of my shortcomings as a woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend in a self-deprecating way that makes you feel tremendously better as a human being. I am no master and I am certainly flawed, but I am held together by a beautiful, masterful, flawless Jesus.

On days where I have done very little but slap the face of Christ as I take for granted His sweet grace towards me, He still opens wide his arms and calls me home. When I have lost it in a full-fledged panic, chucked faith by the wayside, and clung to the illusion of control at everyone else’s expense, He has remained faithful, gentle, and patient. He has not altered in His love nor His pursuit of me. His mercy has not been depleted, nor has His compassion burned out. This is not to say there have not been unpleasant consequences of my behavior; it is to say that He has been faithful to walk with me even in the midst of repercussions.  

Friend, there is nothing you have ever done, are doing, or will do that is outside of the realm of God’s sufficient grace. He is not a harsh task-masker waiting to beat you upside the head when you return, but a Prodigal Father who longs to wrap His arms around you with an all-encompassing, unconditional love that heals even the deepest of wounds and the most stubborn of struggles. In His economy, nothing is wasted. In His kingdom, no one is irredeemable.

This week, may we slip off that comfortable, controlled covering and come home.

-a

The Grizzly & the Gardener

The Grizzly & the Gardener

My sweet husband crawled into bed last night and drew close to cuddle. Unbeknownst to him, the poor man had snuggled close to a grizzly bear. He was met with a harshness from his wife who normally loves to end her day with a cuddle. He quickly retreated in confusion and hurt, as shame overwhelmed her fearful and frayed heart.

Maybe this scenario is completely foreign to you and your marriage. Maybe you always end the day spooning, never snap at your husband, and he never accidently punches the pillow out from your head when he slides into bed. If that is the case (and I say this with all sincerity) congratulations you two! If not, well, you are in good company.

The truth of the matter is, my nerves are worn and my body feels wasted. I am exhausted. Even though now I should be lying down to rest while my little one is asleep, I find my mind alive with thoughts I cannot shut down. I tried to explain this to Ray yesterday but felt entirely inept at communicating. In many ways, I feel I have lost myself temporarily, as though at any minute I am going to hear over the loudspeaker of my life, “Attention! There is a missing woman last seen in the produce aisle. Please return her to customer service.”

I suppose this is what happens when you wrap your worth up in the many different roles, functions and environments that compose the context of your life. When all that was settled in your life becomes displaced and you find yourself a vagabond; quite literally packing up and traveling each day to different locations as a gypsy. Like an uprooted tree struggling to meet the nutritional demands of its fruit, I find myself dry and desperate for a place in which to plant; to drive my roots down in the cool, damp darkness of the earth and drink deeply. From that place of desperation, I feel myself drifting; uncertain, foundationless and fearful.

So I have spent an obscene amount of money on food, as though chocolate coconut almonds, Southern Butter Pecan gelato, and salty tortilla chips can replenish and restore what is really starving. I have searched for different ways to advance my professional career (only I am not sure I want to advance my professional career) as though expending more energy will somehow help me feel less exhausted (even though looking through graduate catalogs fuels feelings of panic). I continue to push the gas pedal, spinning my wheels deeper into the mud in the hopes that I will soon escape the pit of feeling stuck, all the while slinging mud on those I love the most.

Stop.

What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Where will this lead me? Where do I want to be? Let’s rewind from that place and readjust the trajectory of our thoughts and actions. Let’s find that woman, that woman pre-motherhood, and let’s love on her for a little bit. Let’s shave those legs, do some yoga, peel your eyes away from that parenting article on Huffington Post and let’s take some deep breaths. Let’s practice some of that self-care that is so much easier to preach to others than implement and let’s actually be honest about our preferences for dinner or date night or what we want to watch on TV this evening. Let’s just press pause for a second.

Because the truth is that I love my life. I love my husband. I love my son. I love my sweet old pup. The truth is that I handle change about as well as a cat handles being dunked under water. The truth is that however difficult this season has been; it has been equally beautiful. When I neglect to pause, to relocate that woman lost somewhere in the produce aisle picking out near perfect vegetables, I lose sight of the grace, the generosity, and the sweet intimacy that grows in the chaos of transition. I lose sight of the seed being planted in fertile ground and focus only on the tilled soil and fresh horse manure that surrounds me. Let’s be real, focusing on manure gets us nowhere fast and happy, but it’s essential to the plentiful harvest we would all like to reap.

Maybe I’m alone in this, but I have a love/hate relationship with the “Preparing the Soil” season of life. “Do not come near me with that tiller, Jesus! I finally got myself settled and comfortable and pretty-looking!” my heart wants to exclaim. But if I want a fresh breeze of oxygen, if I want the seed to find a soft and rich place to land, if I want to nourish what is entrusted to me, I have to allow the Gardener to do His work in His wisdom. I have to embrace my humanity, acknowledge that ugly sin nature that must be uprooted, and admit my need for someone to tend my very soul. I have to stop spinning my wheels, apologize for slinging mud, take a solid time out to find myself and reencounter the reality of the Gospel…and maybe I take that time out in a nice, warm bubble bath.

May our frayed hearts and worn nerves be restored in the peace of Christ, today.

-a

Letters to Little: History

History

My sweet Little,

As I have been reading through Genesis, I have realized more and more the valuable role that history can play in our present day if we allow it a place on the stage. With that being said, I think there is a lot we can learn from a man named Abram.

Before God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, He calls Abram up from his homeland to pursue a new land of promise in Genesis 12. This land was commonly known as the land of Canaan. God later makes a covenant with Abram in Genesis 15. God begins the conversation in a beautiful way as He reminds Abram that the Living God is His shield and commands him not to fear. We then see God promise Abram a biological son and descendants that outnumber the stars in the universe. We also see Abram take God at His word and God credit Abram’s faith as righteousness. Things are sounding awesome. Then God pauses to reiterate His previous promise (seen in Genesis 13:17):

And He said to him, ‘I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.’” – Genesis 15:7 ESV

I want to dissect this because I think this statement is really important:

  1. “I am the LORD who brought you out…”
  2. During one of his sermons, Steven Furtick said, “When I start to feel hysterical, I need to get historical.” Here we see God taking a time out to remind Abram of His past faithfulness. Who brought Abram out of the land of Ur? God did. Who brought Abram to this land of promise? God did. Who initiated this whole covenant relationship? God did.  God’s faithfulness to Abram in the past establishes a solid foundation for Abram to stand on as he believes God’s promises for his future.
  3. “from Ur of the Chaldeans…”
  4. Terah, Abram’s father, started this journey to the land of Canaan when Abram was much younger. Abram had probably heard about Canaan growing up.  For some reason, Terah stopped short of reaching Canaan and settled in the land of Ur. Why does this matter? Because God is reminding Abram that He has taken him out of the place of settling. God is breaking that generational cycle of settling, of quitting, and calling Abram up as a man of completion and of promise.
  5. “to give you this land to possess.”
  6. God reminds Abram that His actions, His call of Abram, is purposed, intentional, and for Abram’s best. It is not a flippant whim. God is not doing it because He is bored. He did not call Abram out of Ur without a plan for where He was going to bring him.

Now with the reminder of God’s faithfulness within his own story in the forefront of his mind, Abram goes on in the logistics of making the covenant with God. As he finishes those tasks, Scripture says, “a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.’ (Genesis 15:12-13ESV)”

Thankfully, the Lord does not leave Abram in that place of darkness with such a dooming message. He goes on to tell Abram the end of the story, which is full of redemption and victory, but what about those moments in between the deep sleep and the spoiled ending? Why do we not see Abram freaking out in that dreadful state of being? Maybe he did not need to get hysterical because he had already gone historical. Maybe he did not need to give way to fear because he took God at His word and believed that the Living God was his shield. Maybe the same is true for us.

In moments of great promise, where the Enemy feels the most threatened, fear and dread seem to crouch at the door of our minds. God knew this so He spoke truth over Abram preemptively. He reminded Abram of who He was, of His faithfulness, and of His future victory. He speaks it over us as well.

Like Abram, we can move forward in pursuing the promises God has given us even in the midst of forecasted affliction. Jesus promised us troubles in John 16:33, but He also reminded us of the end of the story…He wins.

My sweet and daring little, you have everything you need to run after the promise and the calling God has placed on your life. Like Abram, you are anointed and destined for divinely inspired things! My prayer for you as you grow is that you would remember these three things:

  1. God is your shield; you need not fear.
  2. God’s past faithfulness in your life is a solid foundation of present and future trust in Him.
  3. The end of the story is set; in Christ we have won the victory.

All my love,

Mom