I’m writing this letter about twenty years early (or forty if your father has his way), but one day you will read these words and they will connect. They will mean something to you. What I need to tell you can be summed up in one word: WAIT.
Let me explain…
Yesterday I was resting in my favorite chair. It was about 5:00 pm, and I had been feeling under the weather all day. I sat and watched your daddy take stacks of folded clothes from the couch into our bedroom to put them away. Stacks that I folded two days ago and that I could have easily put away, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. He didn’t say anything; he just did it. He did it for me because he knew I needed help. And as I watched him, I had to fight back tears because I suddenly had this thought: “I hope Molly finds this some day.” And I think you will, if you can remember to wait. Wait on the guy who finishes your chores for you – who comes through in little ways to let you know he cares.
Wait on the man who looks you in your eyes and holds your gaze as he tells you you’re beautiful. Wait on the man who has a habit of telling you this when your hair is greasy, you’re makeup-free, and you’re wearing yesterday’s sweatpants. You’ll know he means it.
Wait on the man who gets up and goes to work. Wait for the guy who sacrifices in order to provide for his family. Wait for the guy who has a strong work ethic and takes pride in what he does. Wait for that man who dreams big and invites you to dream with him.
And when your dreams seem too big, too scary to ever come true, I hope you wait for the one who listens to your insecurities but then speaks truth into your heart and breathes confidence into your spirit. This man will bring you to tears by reading Proverbs 31 to you, telling you YOU’RE that woman, and believing it with every fiber of his being.
Wait for the man who thinks for himself – the man who stands apart from the masses unapologetically because he is rooted and grounded in God. Wait for the man who doesn’t need anyone’s approval. The man who teaches you how to be brave and courageous. The man who will fight for you and for what he believes in. Wait for this man.
Wait for the man who looks at the stars with you and ponders the mysteries of the heavens. Wait for the one who writes you poems…not all the time, but just enough to remind you how deeply his love for you goes. Wait for the man who buys you jewelry and flowers, but no stuffed animals (because that’s just cheesy)!
Wait for the man who makes you feel strong, capable, and worthy. Wait for the man who would never disrespect you. The right one will honor you even when he’s out of your presence. You wait on this man, and your heart will never doubt him.
Wait on the man who allows God to break him down and mold him into the man he’s meant to be. Wait on the one who has a calling to serve his Heavenly Father. Wait on the man who isn’t perfect, but who keeps pressing on, getting back up, and learning from his mistakes.
And finally, wait on the man who smacks your booty when he walks by, who hugs you for a full 60 seconds when you need him to, and who gives you amazing massages, even though you’re quite possibly the world’s worst masseuse and will never be able to repay him!!
My darling daughter, one of these days you will be wondering if it’s love and if some boy is the right one. My prayer is that your daddy will set such a high standard in your eyes, that you will never be tempted to settle for anyone less than who you deserve. Don’t get in a hurry to find love. Don’t feel pressured to give yourself away. WAIT. Wait on the Lord, and He will send you a man who is everything to you that your father is to me. God will grow the love between you as the years pass. Your patience will be rewarded.
(Check out Emily’s blog here)
Let’s be honest, girls. Being brave doesn’t always look like the scenes we see in movies – you know, the ones where the heroes save the day with their super-human bravery. Real life BraveGirl bravery doesn’t usually look that glamorous, does it?
You know what’s brave? Obedience. Obedience is brave. And I’m not talking about going to church or loving your neighbor. Yeah, those are both crucial and important, but I’m talking about a different kind of obedience. I’m talking about the “I just want to GIVE UP, but I KNOW that Your will for me is greater than my circumstances, so I will trust you, and I will choose you” kind of obedience. I’m talking about making hard choices that don’t *feel* good all the time, because we know they’re right in His eyes.
Maybe it’s your marriage. Or maybe it’s a relationship with a friend or loved one. Maybe God is asking you to take a leap of faith, and it’s so, so scary. You feel inadequate. Maybe you made some really bad choices and you feel like you’re too-far-gone…
Want to be brave? Be obedient. Stand firm in the truths of His promises. Make the choice that, although it seems harder, you know will honor Him. Want to be really brave? Take the lie that you’re not good enough, not strong enough, not worthy enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, or not capable enough, and throw it in the garbage. Then take the garbage out to the dumpster and leave it there, because you don’t even want to *smell* that lie when you open the garbage to throw something else away! Throw. it. away! And then, choose Him. That’s brave.
You are MORE than a conqueror!
You can do ALL THINGS through Christ who gives you strength!
You ARE enough because of who you are in Him!
You are NEVER too far gone!
Get in the word and read what He has to say about your circumstances. Get on your knees and surrender to His will. Put on the Armor of God and prepare for battle. And once you do that, trust Him. Even when the mountain seems too big, trust Him. Reject the lies and choose Him because you know that He is (was, and always will be) faithful. And then choose Him again… and again – sometimes every minute of every day, knowing that it will all be worth it in the end. That’s obedience – that’s Brave.
I recently attended a funeral that was different than most funerals that I’ve attended in the past. Some things were the same of course…tears and hugs were definitely shed and shared among family and friends, there was a thoughtful slide show accompanied by worship music displaying a life well lived and loved. There was an anointed preacher, worship music, and the building itself was a church. So, yes, much of it was like a typical funeral.
But there was something different about this one. I sat there trying to put my finger on it. In fact, it was the first funeral where I didn’t really want to leave. Usually I’m ready to get the heck out of dodge when it comes to funerals…and even some weddings for that matter. But there was a peace, a hope, and tremendous love within the walls of the church that day. There was joy and there was laughter. It wasn’t a funeral at all. It was a celebration of a life that honored God and people.
The man’s name was Mr. Doug Lowrey. He was a man that inspired many for his tenacity and perseverance in everything he did. He beat to his own drum and everyone loved him for it. And if they didn’t love him for it, they couldn’t help but admire his ability to do it. And if you knew him well, you might end up beating your drum like his. He was that kind of a leader. A true legacy. He was a people person who relentlessly and fearlessly pursued people for the Lord and as a result, was loved by MANY and lives were changed…eternally changed.
As I reflected on why I didn’t want to leave the funeral, I remembered a line of wisdom I caught a long time ago,
“The people we hang around often reflect who we are.”
I realized the people filling the church that day possessed the same kind of qualities that Mr. Doug did. They were “Doug’s people” and he was theirs. They were people who loved God and who cared about and loved others well. I think most of them understood those words I mentioned above: peace, hope, love, and joy. And there Mr. Doug brought them all into one place and I was surrounded by them. THAT’s why I didn’t want to leave. I saw many familiar faces with hearts of gold and I knew that the faces I didn’t know, most likely shared the same heart. It’s the heart and spirit of God.
“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” -Galations 5:22
I knew that if anyone didn’t know God that day, they surely walked out feeling His presence and witnessing His love. And I know that’s exactly what Mr. Doug would have wanted.
That day was a sweet reminder of the simplicity of our role here on earth yet also the depth, weight, and long distance reach our role can carry if we do what we are called to do…love God and love people.
When the Pharisees asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37
Notice the order Jesus mentioned in loving God and people. He mentioned God first. It’s because God is the source of love, knowing who we are, and why we’re here. God has given us this moment in time in all of history to fulfill a purpose unique to each one of us. We can’t know that purpose until we know God first. And it’s important to note that “knowing” God is much more than believing in Him. It’s an intimate relationship with Him. Not surface level. He has too much to offer than just surface. And if you’re like me and most people, you want more. The good news about our Lord is that He offers limitless abundance. And it’s FREE.
I know Mr. Doug wasn’t perfect. None of us are. But he understood why he was here and many people go their entire lives and never know. He understood because he knew and pursued God. Because of that, his purpose flowed and lives were touched and changed.
So if you’re struggling to find your way, then start where Mr. Doug started… with Jesus. As you discover Him, you’ll find yourself. Your purpose will take root. In fact, it already has. He’s just waiting on you to seek Him and find it.
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33
Thank you Mr. Doug for blessing my life and for the gift of reminding me of the BEAUTY, the POWER, and the IMPORTANCE of pursuing God above all else and how that pursuit not only changes us and guides us, but it changes the lives of those around us. THAT’S a purpose worth living for and there’s nothing else I want more.
R.I.P. Doug Lowrey
Listen. I need to talk to you. It’s not about the hole in the ozone you’re singlehandedly responsible for because of the Aqua Net in that perm of yours or that you need to forgive your dad earlier and love him better because he won’t always be around.
This is serious.
And it will change the way you walk for the rest of your life.
So get some coffee (you’ll be addicted by college anyway) and have a seat, okay?
You’ll soon read a story in high school English about a young woman
who was forced by her
community to wear the scarlet letter A to show her sin of adultery to the world. The marking on her dress, along with her public shaming, was her punishment for her sin and her secrecy. You read it as a strange fiction at the time, disconnected and far-fetched from real life. But not too long after that class ends, you will begin to live out your days marked by your own secret A and it will make perfect sense.
There will be a season in your life you split your time between friends, playing every sport, or learning how to drive. You will fall for a boy who says he loves you. That desire to feel loved will pull you out to sea, away from solid ground, and drown you whole. I wish I could change the story here for you, but you will find yourself pregnant.
You’ll soon figure out you’re on your own in this one.
With a daddy’s words about shame if he ever finds you in this boat ringing in your ears and the sight of the boy you loved with his arm around his new girl, you will feel like you don’t have a choice.
But you do.
And you did.
You will make the decision to have an abortion.
It will be easier than you thought it would…or should be. You’ll walk into the clinic expecting to defend or beg for your decision, hoping no one would try and talk you out of it and also wishing someone would. You needn’t have worried: there will be no care about why you’re there, nor comfort or even eye contact.
Just a signature here with a fake name and discharge directions advising against basketball practice for 72 hours.
You’ll go back to school on Monday and almost hemorrhage yourself into the hospital in math class but just wait for the death that will surely come at home because you don’t want to wear that scarlet letter now, do you?
And you don’t tell anyone.
And you live to see another day.
Because life will be different for you now.
You will wake up one morning a mostly whole young woman and go to sleep that same night as a different half-dead version of yourself.
This will not change for more than twenty years.
One day you’ll sit on the edge of the bed and tell the good man you married about that day so long ago at the tender prompting of a God you barely knew.
You’ll brace yourself for the disappointment you deserve to carry for what you did.
And it will never come.
He will hold you and tell you how sorry he is and how much he loves you. He will never mention it again for all the years and you’ll begin to wonder if he forgot what you told him. This will be your first experience with Jesus in this terrible story.
There will be many times you sit in a church service and listen to the pastor discuss how the murdering of babies is a sin. You’ll wonder for just a breath if there’s still someone who doesn’t know that. You’ll concentrate on a cellular level for your body to not twitch or move in reaction to this still-bleeding wound being publicly probed. You’ll feel the heat rising in both cheeks like two red guilty stains that give you away and imagine everyone is staring at you.
You’ll leave church with a heart more tangled and confused than it was coming in that morning.
For a long time you will feel you don’t have a right to be pro life. After all, you made the wrong choice. You feel like a hypocrite participating in the walks or conversations for awareness or your desire to talk to women about your devastating experience with abortion.
So you don’t and you sit quietly with a soul groaning to speak up.
But after you’ve grown a bit, you might start to notice that the people who have maybe the most right to talk about how dangerous a fire can be are the ones you can see whose skin has melted from the flames. They’re the ones you tend to listen to in life anyway and not the ones who care more about the fact that there’s a fire than the people getting burned up inside it.
There will come a season that you fall madly in love with Christ with the full functioning capacity of the half of your heart you allowed to live past sixteen. And He, calling us deeper still into love, will whisper one morning in the quiet:
You’ll understand what He means and you’ll be scared. But more than the fear? You feel relieved. He’ll send you a sister who walked her own different but still broken road and lived to see the spacious freedom on the other side that only those who understand the dark-honest depth of their need get to experience. She’ll hold your confession tender in her hands and whisper true things in your ear that shed light on things long hidden.
Just like your husband, just like Jesus:
you will be exposed heart-naked and human as the day you were born…
and fully loved anyway.
This will begin to breathe a new kind of life into the deadest parts of you. Once again and sweeter still, life will be different for you now. And while you would change this part of your story in a single heartbeat, you would never give back one inch of knowing this kind of amazing grace.
You’ll own freedom in a different way after the wound in your soul begins to close up, but I also need to warn you: you’ll still have to defend it, fight to believe it some days. There will be this thing called the internet and a week will never go by without your scarlet letter being called out. You’ll take the stones thrown in social media venting about abortion and you’ll feel confused by the church you love, mad for the women being alienated with harsh words, and sad for the unborn babies none of this is helping.
And you’ll stay offline for grace and peace’s sake.
You’ll think there is a better way for the body of Christ to advocate for the life of the unborn, to be a safe place for girls who think they have no choice, and to also heal the bondage of shame for women like you who made the decision to have an abortion. You believe the silence forced on women who have the capacity to change the conversation will be deafening and a blow to the defense of life. But you feel like admitting any of this will earn you a lettered dress forever.
You’ll mourn for the one out of every three women who hemorrhage their shame in private because, as we all find out, death is often preferable to judgment. The church will hurt, but it’s also where you find your healing so you’ll need to forgive and love like your Jesus does. Christ took away your letter and put it on Himself just for you, girl. So your response will be to live a life of gratitude.
One last thing before I go?
One night you’re going to come home from confessing the twenty-plus-year-old shame you’ve gotten used to shackling to your own leg to a bunch of women from different churches. Because practicing the freedom you already own is still new for you, you’re going to drive away with tears falling into your lap singing to God with one side of your mouth and cussing with the other side at the anguish it takes to put words around this part of your story. When you get home, your precious husband will ask you, “How’d it go?’
You’ll pause too long and your eyes will flood all over again. He takes you in, he tells you it’s good, it’s all so good.
“This is God’s story and he already took care of that, Baby.”
God is good to send others to tell us the things we sometimes forget to remember. It’s just one of the ways He gets to wrap His arms around us while we are here and whisper low and sweet deep down in our ears:
“I see you and I fully know you.
You are mine, sweet girl, and you are loved.
I exchanged every letter of yours for My own life.
Now go live, and love others, like you believe Me.”
You’ll keep finding out over and over that vulnerability is usually scary, courage often follows obedience, and that this story is not about you.
And one day you’ll decide to believe Him and you’ll want that freedom for others even more than you want it for yourself…
and you’ll write yourself a letter.
I’m sorry to keep you so long. I know you have basketball practice, but this just couldn’t wait another minute. Take care. And go a little easier on your parents, okay? One day you’re going to see how much grace they really needed.
This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh, Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me
-Phil Wickham, This is Amazing Grace
Melissa Blair is a writer and recovering Texan now living in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas where she finds joy dating her husband and raising their three little Blairs. She believes there is always treasure buried beneath the dirt of every day and can be found writing the mess out of life at melissablair.net.
I was never a girl scout. I never camped out. I never sold cookies. I never earned a sash full of merit badges.
However, the other day as I pondered God’s grace, His unmerited favor, I realized that in many ways I am trying to be a girl scout right now in my everyday life. And, in some ways, without really realizing it, maybe you are too.
For me, I have always thrived on order and doing my best. Making things “perfect.” I never rebelled as a teenager or any other time. I liked following the rules and receiving the praise that accompanied that choice. That was my identity, and I worked hard to keep it intact. Still to this day, that pretty much sums up how others would describe me because that is what the world sees.
Whether you are a rule-follower like me or not, you could still be an unknowing girl scout. Let me explain.
So many of us, get up each morning and put on a sash without even realizing it. It is a sash of our own making, each one different. As we go about our day, we work and we strive to earn badges to decorate our sashes, hoping those awards will prove to ourselves and to others that we have value. That we are worthy of their attention. These badges come in all shapes and sizes.
Some (like me) might be trying to earn the badge of BEST MOM as you precariously balance PTO, potlucks, car-rider lines, sports practices, bed times and bake sales—all with a smile to make it look as if “it’s no trouble at all.”
Others might be working to earn the BEST WIFE badge by catering to your husband’s every wish out of love and a hope that he will notice and return your love in some way.
Still others are striving to receive the MOST RELIABLE EMPLOYEE badge as you work your tail off day in and day out to gain the admiration and respect of your boss, and maybe a promotion as well. Working to pull yourself up the corporate ladder rung by rung as you aim for the top.
The list of possible badges could go on forever. BEST VOLUNTEER, MOST WITTY, MOST FUN AT PARTIES, PERSON WHO NEVER SAYS NO, MOST CONSISTENT BIBLE READER, MOST CREATIVE, PINTEREST WORTHY HOUSE, BEST PHYSIQUE, MOST ADVENTUROUS and on and on.
You name it. There’s a badge for that.
The thing we all have in common when we try to earn these badges is EXHAUSTION—physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, or maybe all of the above. These badges we try so hard to earn and place carefully on our homemade sashes are only temporary, no better than stickers really. They NEVER LAST. We constantly feel the burden to do more and better to keep them in a place of prominence, where we and everyone else can see them. These flimsy badges fall off and fade so we must earn them again. It is a vicious cycle that leaves us feeling worn out and defeated.
The good news is we can stop. Right here. Right now.
We can rip off those homemade sashes that cause us so many headaches and heartaches and toss them into a blazing campfire because there is something better. MUCH BETTER. However, it is not found in ourselves. It is only found in JESUS.
Jesus says we can stop working and striving when we whole-heartedly place our trust in Him. In Jesus we can say good-bye to working and striving and instead embrace quietness and rest.
“And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” (Isaiah 32:17-18)
That. Sounds. Amazing.
This righteousness is Jesus’ perfect righteousness that He gives to us FREELY because of His grace, His unmerited favor. We couldn’t earn it if we tried. He left Heaven and came to Earth to do all that was required. His suffering on the cross, His death and resurrection was enough now and for all eternity to earn the only sash each one of us will ever need, and He holds it out to us as a FREE GIFT.
His sash is infinitely better than our own. It is beautiful. It is eternal. It is completely COVERED by the blood of the Lamb and full of badges. Unmerited badges, gifts that we most definitely did not earn. Not a single spot remains empty because it is complete. We do not have to do a single thing to finish it. And, the badges found on His Sash are far better than those we try to earn. They proclaim not what we have done but the glorious riches we have in Christ. REDEMPTION, FORGIVENESS, AMAZING GRACE, MERCY THAT IS NEW EACH MORNING, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, PEACE THAT PASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING, UNENDING JOY, A GLORIOUS INHERITANCE, PROTECTION FROM THE EVIL ONE, UNFAILING TRUTH, ABUNDANT GOODNESS, THE HOPE OF GLORY.
These are only a handful from an infinite list from our infinite God. I believe the longer we wear His sash and choose it as our permanent, everyday accessory, the more gifts we will see it represents. As Beth Moore wrote, “Make us as eager to wear Your righteousness and holiness as You are to wear our sins.” (JESUS: 90 Days with the One and Only)
So, who is ready to trade in their old, worn-out sash for a beautiful, perfect, eternally-unfading one on which the badges say, “Beloved Daughter of the King”? I know I am. Let’s wear them proudly as we gather around the campfire to rest and sing praises to the one who makes it all possible. JESUS.
I hope and pray you will join me.
(And maybe we can munch on a few of those delicious cookies while we are at it.)
Questions to ponder…
What badge(s) am I trying to stick on?
What has Jesus given me that is better?
“All that I had planned, dreamed and desired to have in a marriage had been stolen by endless doubt, harassing questions and ultimately Scott walking away from God. He had become my prodigal husband. We were now a house divided, not a home of unity…”
Words from a post I wrote a little over a year ago titled “My Prodigal Husband“.
Words that still rang true exactly one month ago today…
But MAY I SHOUT a little here at BraveGirl Community today?!! Because…
MY PRODIGAL HUSBAND HAS RETURNED HOME!!! He is REALLY HOME! Can I get an AMEN?!!!
So they began to CELEBRATE .-Luke 15:24
Friends – I would love for you to praise the Father for His goodness and His faithfulness for what HE has done! I am in awe of His relentless pursuit of my man.
God NEVER gave up on him.
And can I just say that if you are reading this and you are in the wait for your prodigal to return, you’re in the wait for that miracle, you’re in the wait for that answer to a long awaited prayer…We SERVE a GOD who is Faithful and who is ON TIME…even when we don’t understand. I wrote a post titled In The Wait as I longed for my husband to return. I hope it encourages you and reminds you of who our God is.
My “wait” has been a 10 year journey and I have experienced every kind of emotion and heartache imaginable. And I can tell you, with confidence, that I would not trade a single day. Because without each and every trial- I wouldn’t have grown or known Jesus like I do right now. The fruit I am experiencing in this moment is priceless. It’s a sweetness of the Father lavishly loving on His children…It’s a contagious laughter that had been stifled by the lack of joy in my home…It’s a feeling of UNITY where the enemy THOUGHT he divided and conquered…
JESUS is the way maker where there seems to be NO WAY.
Below is a video of my husband and I having the privilege to share a small part of our story.
I pray it will encourage you wherever you are and whatever you may be going through to remember the relentless pursuit of God and that our Hope is in Jesus ALONE. He WILL NOT stop pursuing the one…
DO. NOT. GIVE. UP.
Scott and Cheryl share a part of their journey. Click here to watch: https://vimeo.com/225758712
Your Sister In Christ,
Thoughts on dreams:
Sometimes we get lost in our dreams as if that’s all they are: dreams. We don’t consider that God planted these desires in our hearts for a reason and that when the time is right, they will come to fruition.
Sometimes, when we least expect it, God gives us our dreams–plops them right into our laps. Other times, after much prayer and planning, we have to put that first foot forward and take a step towards putting that dream into action–a virtual leap of faith, trusting that the ground doesn’t fall out from underneath us and that God will show up and bless our obedience.
Another thing I’m learning about dreams is that when we’re right in the middle of where God wants us to be, the enemy will do whatever he can to make us doubt our dream. What better way to derail us than to steal our joy while in the midst of our God-given dream? Or make us doubt what at one time we were sure was God’s calling on our lives?
If the enemy wasn’t successful in talking us out of pursuing our dreams in the first place, he will darn sure try to make us abandon the mission once we’ve started it.
He might taunt us with the fear of failure or consume us with self-doubt and anxiety. He might rob us of joy or meddle in our relationships–whatever he can do to distract us from pursuing the path that God has called us to.
Because a daughter of the King who has embraced her calling is a dangerous force to be reckoned with, and her potential impact on the Kingdom terrifies the enemy.
So. Let me encourage you today. Be aware of the schemes of the enemy. Fight against whatever he is currently using in your life right now to keep you discouraged and off track.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes…Stand firm.”
(Eph. 6:10-11; 14a)
Sister, be brave in the face of adversity. And keep dreaming big for Jesus.
“There must be more than this provincial life.”
– Belle, Beauty and the Beast
Maybe so, Belle. Maybe so.
I think it’s easy to get lost in daydreams of something better when what we already have is actually pretty great. (In Belle’s case, her adoring father, cute hometown, seemingly carefree schedule, unlimited access to books, various admirers, and not to mention her physical beauty and figure…)
I guess what I’m trying to say is that although Belle’s ache for the next big thing is relatable, there’s also something to be said for living a life of contentment.
I’m not talking about a life without dreams and aspirations. I’m talking about a life driven by gratitude rather than dissatisfaction. A life defined by the beauty of simplicity instead of the complexity and pain of comparison.
Like Belle, I’m guilty of getting lost in the wistful woe of wanting something more than what God has provided me with, especially when it comes to my physical appearance. I often compare my body to other women and deem myself inadequate if I feel I fall short. Sometimes instead of accepting the body God gave me and working to make it the best it can be, I wallow in what no longer comes naturally to me anymore, i.e. a fast metabolism and ability to eat a whole pizza by myself and not gain an ounce of weight.
There must be more than this provincial body of mine…who’s with me on this?
Perhaps you struggle with finding contentment with your physical appearance as well.
Or maybe you struggle with contentment in your marriage. Have you ever thought there must be someone else out there who could make you happier than the man you’re married to? Do you compare your husband to your friends’ husbands and take mental notes of what they do that yours doesn’t do?
Maybe your home/car/finances aren’t quite measuring up to what you dreamed they’d be at this point in your life.
What is it about your current situation that you wish were different?
Once you figure out what the biggest areas of discontentment in your life are, ask yourself this: Is the thing you’re struggling to live joyfully with something that at one time you considered to be a blessing?
You see, blessings grow dull and get blurred by discontentment when we allow comparison to creep into our hearts.
Comparison truly is the thief of joy. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.”
There’s not a whole lot that sounds better than a tranquil heart after being worn down by years of discontentment and comparison. The question is, how do we honestly overcome the way we’ve grown to see our circumstances that for so long we’ve deemed as subpar?
My sister went to Honduras a couple of years ago and told me about a woman she saw there who lived in a house with a dirt floor. Yet, every day, this woman was seen sweeping her floors. She didn’t have very much, but she valued it anyway and did her best to take care of it.
Even though I didn’t see her with my own eyes, the image of this lady sweeping her dirt floors stuck in my mind. When I think of her, I’m struck by the beauty of her contentment and the value she placed on what little she had. This is how we are called to care for the blessings we have been entrusted with. I think we keep on taking care of our bodies because it’s the only one we have. We pour into and invest in our marriages because it’s what we vowed to do. We work our hardest for the employer that hired us because they did so in good faith. We value what God has entrusted to us, whether it be a dirt-floor house or just the smallest one in the neighborhood.
I think we start acting like what we have is valuable–we water our own grass–then we watch it inevitably thrive as most things do when they are treated with care.
May we begin to see our surroundings with fresh eyes, full of gratitude and grace so that we may be able to confidently claim contentment in all things. (Phil. 4:11)
It only took two words to rock my family to the core: brain tumor. Turns out the symptoms my feisty mother-in-law had been experiencing were more than weirdly isolated annoyances. And so on a Sunday night I held my husband as he cried and trembled with fear, imagining the worst and fervently praying for the best. The next day we made the first of multiple three-hour trips to the hospital she was in, and our reality shifted in the way it only can when you receive terrible, life-altering news. Time became suspended. The world as we knew it took a backseat.
Let me add here that we traveled with our three-year-old and three-month-old daughters. Because my mother-in-law was in the ICU, our girls couldn’t go into her room to visit. I ended up spending a lot of time in the waiting room keeping them occupied, looking out the window, and observing the other people I shared that room with. I came away from my time in the waiting room with a perspective I hadn’t thought to have before this experience began.
I’ve never been a fan of hospitals. There’s a stark coldness and a distinct smell that makes me uneasy. Not to mention people don’t usually end up in the hospital because they wanted to be there. There are so many sad stories behind each patient and family member who find themselves laying on a bed or sitting in a vinyl chair. It’s overwhelming and I try to steer clear as much as possible. Until I found myself in that neurosurgery ICU waiting room, I didn’t quite grasp just how many ways a person can experience life-threatening trauma to the brain. Each day I heard snippets of conversation around me with words like “aneurism” and “brain bleed” peppered in the way the rest of us might casually discuss what we ate for lunch. These loved ones huddled in their respective corners came from all walks of life. There were older men and women alongside children and grandchildren. Nobody was immune.
As I eavesdropped on strangers’ conversations and heard the words my own family was speaking, I found myself yearning to connect, to go deeper, to release what was on my mind and in my heart instead of tucking those raw emotions safely away. I saw my husband’s family, and especially his mom, through the lens of their mortality. It mattered that everyone in that waiting room was there for the same reason. The trivial things that usually occupy my mind suddenly lost importance. Who cared if my outfits were on trend and properly accessorized; they just had to be comfortable. Keeping up with my social media feed seemed like a chore I just couldn’t be bothered with. My diet and exercise routine had to be put on hold because I was exhausted from the energy it took to comprehend what was happening to us. Any plans I had made were cancelled. Nothing was more important than being there.
Sitting in the waiting room wasn’t all bad. Without a doubt, my favorite takeaway from the hours I spent at the hospital was realizing all the ways God displays love for His children and actually paying attention enough to notice them. Things like a rainbow, a song, or a ring tone probably won’t mean much to you unless I elaborate…
My mother-in-law saw a vibrant rainbow right outside her window just a day or two before her scheduled surgery. God was saying, “I promise I’m here and I’m not leaving.”
My husband played the song, “Eye of the Storm” for his mom to comfort her during her early days in the ICU. Then we heard that song at least once a day each day we were there. The day after my “second mom” had her surgery, a lady in the waiting room had a ring tone on her phone…you guessed it…”Eye of the Storm!” When I shared with this woman the significance of her ringtone, she wrapped me in a hug and we bonded over the wonder that God uses little things when they can make the biggest impact. I was able to hear her story about why she was there, and I’m still praying for her father, Donald, and his recovery.
Speaking of prayer…the abundance of prayers and support from our friends was the biggest way God showed us He was at work. I can’t even count how many people across the country and even in other nations were praying for our family. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when my mother-in-law’s surgery went better than we had hoped, or when she was awake and talking just hours afterwards. I shouldn’t have been blown away when I saw her the next day and she was cracking jokes like always and making sure her kids were taken care of. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I realized how my faith had given way to worry more than I’d like to admit. God reminded me of His tender mercy as I sat with my daughters. He reminded me just how important prayer is – it’s everything!
I realize that our story has had a happy resolution – at least so far. The very night of my mother-in-law’s surgery, when we were in the cafeteria having a snack and taking turns saying goodnight to her, another family was pouring into the hallway, faces red and splotchy, tears streaming down cheeks. Their news wasn’t so happy, and my heart ached for them and the pain they were experiencing in that moment. But for the grace of God, that could have easily been us. And our journey with this brain tumor isn’t over yet. There’s still a lot of healing, physical therapy, and treatment to come. The future isn’t certain, not by a long shot. But as a family, we’ve changed. I can feel it. Whatever we face in the unknown future, whether it be another difficult diagnosis or struggles in the midst of healing, we’ve already come face-to-face with what we say we believe about God. Our faith has been tested, and even as we wrestled with fear, our faith didn’t falter. We could have easily given ourselves over to despair, but instead we chose to daily place our burdens and questions at the feet of Jesus.
There are two Psalms that brought me comfort over the past few weeks: Psalm 33:18-22 and Psalm 37:25-26 & 39.
Whatever you’re facing today, your Father is right there in the thick of it with you. Let Him be your hope. Trust that He will not forsake you, but will be your strength today. Rejoice in Him, who is your Help and Shield!
With much love,
We hear about abiding. Abiding in Jesus. Abiding in His Word. Abiding in the vine. But what does that mean? How does this work? It should be easy, right? But some days, abiding can feel hard and maybe even scary. We feel far from God or question if we are “doing it right.”
A few months ago, I was praying and felt like God gave me this beautiful picture of what it looks like to abide in Him:
I look out. My view is breathtaking. I see Amazon-like rainforest stretching out as far as the eye can see. Lush green growth. Hills and trees far into the distance. I am up above it all but also surrounded by thick leafy green. My view is shaded and framed by branches and leaves, a thick canopy above me and a living floor of leaves and ferns below me. I am clinging to a vine, suspended high above the ground. This vine I cling to is The Vine. It is thick and strong and healthy. Even with my full weight on it, it is secure. I am confident it can and will hold forever and never fail if I continue to cling to it. So, I cling. I hold it with a death-like grip that makes my hands ache. I cling with everything I have out of fear of what will happen if I don’t. I am safe, but there isn’t rest.
As I cling there, I begin to look around. I see other vines hanging nearby. They aren’t nearly as thick and strong as The Vine, but I think, “If I just grab onto one or two of those as well, I will be more secure. After all, more is better. Right?” I reach out and grab one vine. Then I notice two more close by so I grab those as well. These other vines seem to be helpful. They seem to add to my security. They are things like money, recognition, relationships, careers, material things. However, with each small vine I add, my grip on The Vine gradually loosens as it becomes just one among many that I am trying to grasp.
Suddenly, one of the small vines fails and falls to the ground. I am shaken to the core as the earth seems to crumble around me, and I slip down until I grip The Vine once again. Over time, this happens again and again. All the other vines fail. Some quickly. Some over time. But one by one they all fail. They all fail to last. They all fail to give true security. They all fail to be trustworthy and faithful.
After surviving these failures and disappointments time and time again, I realize something.
THE Vine is still there. The one that has always been there. The Vine that is secure. The Vine that is strong. The Vine that has never failed and will never fail.
I realize something else as well. I am still clinging. Even though life has been filled with heartache, I am still clinging, and I still know deep in my heart this is the only vine that will last. I will cling only to it. The other vines are still there, always nearby. From time to time one falls to the ground. But now, their falling does not cause me to be shaken because I am holding on to The Vine.
So, instead of looking around for other vines to grab, I begin to look at and study The Vine. The more I pay attention to The Vine, the more I notice and love about it. I see how full of life it is. How it never withers. I notice tendrils perfectly placed to secure my feet and give my hands a rest. I spot another place where I can entwine my arms. Each of these revelations brings me closer to The Vine. I am becoming part of The Vine, truly abiding and resting in its love rather than clinging to it out of fear. I allow The Vine to wrap around me, it is a restful and relaxing place. My fears, once so strong,—fear of disappointing others, fear of failure, fear of death—have fallen to the ground along with the other vines. Those fears have been replaced by appreciation and admiration and love for The Vine that has held when all others have fallen. I am being held securely by The One True Vine.
In fact, I feel so secure and free that I begin to swing. I throw my head back, hair blowing in the wind, and I swing. I feel the freedom of a child on a playground, and I swing. I feel ready for whatever lies ahead because I am with The Vine, and I swing. I laugh and smile and breathe in life as I swing with Jesus, The Vine.
I am so thankful for this beautiful picture God has shared with me, and now I get to share with you. He has reminded me of it so many times when I begin to chase after and cling to something other than Him. He has also reminded me of these truths.
More of Jesus is the only thing that is truly and eternally better.
All other things will pass away. Everything else will wither and fade and disappoint, but God will remain forever—faithful, loving, and true. He will never leave me or forsake me.
Jesus came that I might have life and have it more abundantly. Abundant life is found when abiding in Him. When I abide in Him, He will abide in me. Wrapping His powerful arms around me. Loving me with His perfect and never-ending love. Speaking truth to my heart. Holding me in his nail-scarred hands.