Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Ultimate Boo-Boo Kisser

Today I am physically hurting and emotionally drained from thinking about the fact that I am in pain, want it to be gone, and that it is keeping me from doing all that needs to be done. The physical pain paves the way for the guilt to drive right in for the emotional blow.

ok... deep breath.

I have ulcerative colitis, which put me in the hospital almost exactly a year ago, but I have been fairly "flare up" free since then. Over the past few days however I have been dealing with the pain again. Fun.

As my mama reminded me this morning, it's true I have a tendency to pull away when I am experienceing any type of pain. I kind of go inside myself. I mean, it is MY pain, so I think I should be the one to have to deal with it- not everybody else. And it is easier for me to deal with it without everybody watching, you know?

I just don't like that kind of attention- the pity, I suppose. I guess part of me want others to simply acknowledge that they understand I am in pain, but I then have a hard time allowing anyone to help me through it.

For example....

When I was a little girl I would often keep my boo-boos to myself. I would go hide, or go to my mom in secret about whatever had happened.

As Mama reminded me today, "When you hurt, you hide."

And sometimes I hide right out in the open.

This one time in particular, when I was in the second grade(7 years old), I hurt my finger(I can't remember exactly what I did, but it was definitely finger related).

My mama did the mama thing and expressed her sympathy for my boo-boo, and knowing how I felt about her overreacting to my pain, went about things as if nothing had happened.

But this time, apparently, I needed more.

Thinking back to the situation, Mama said, "That time you finally decided you'd had enough of the pain, but you didn't know how to tell me."

I wanted to come out of hiding but wasn't sure how to do it.

So, I wrote her a letter.
She kept the letter...

Outside of the envelope(yes, I put it in an envelope):
To mama
From Julie.
Don't let anyone else see this.

The note:
Dear Mama,
My finger has been hurting all day. I wish you would take me to the doctor.
It hurts badly.
Sometimes you know I'm kidding, but this time I'm not.
I mean it. When I touch it, it hurts.
Please!!!!!!!!!!(big fat colored in exclamation points)
Love, Julie P.
(good thing I put the "P", right? or she might've gotten me confused with that other Julie hangin' around! Knowing my mama, anything is possible, though...)
Don't say anything to me about this unless you take me.

I remember writing that letter.
I remember distinctly my heart beating fast when I left it for Mama to find it.
I remember thinking that I wasn't sure what to say the next time I saw her, knowing she had read it...

...but I don't ever remember wondering if she would act on my behalf.

I knew she would do what was best for me- doctor or no doctor-whatever needed to be done to comfort me in my pain, to bring healing to the hurt, I knew she would do that...even if I didn't know exactly what that would look like or mean for me.
I just trusted.

That is who she was.
That is who she is.
That is who my Jesus is.

But I had to go to her. She knew my pain, she knew I was hurting.
But I had to ALLOW her to help me.
I had to willingly receive what she had to give...
...even if it meant me being a little uncomfortable.
...even if I did not understand the process.

I remember the relief when she came to me and said, "Julie, let's take a look at your finger. I don't think I saw it closely enough earlier..."
She never brought shame to the situation for my hiding, she never laughed at my fear of admitting I couldn't do it on my own.

She simply spoke to my need.

And that is what Jesus wants to do...speak to my need...to your need.
But we have to stop hiding right out in the open.

Trusting Him is not being weak, it is knowing where to find the purest strength.
"Therefore, do not lose heart.
Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day."
2 Corinthians 4:16

Your Heavenly Father can bring victory over the source of your pain, even in the middle of the hurt...if we stop hiding.
It's time to cry out "PLEASE!!!!!"- big fat exclamation marks and all!
Instead of drawing into myself, I need to draw near to Him...
...the Ultimate Boo-boo Kisser.

"But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord.
I wait for God my Savior;
My God will hear me."
Micah 7:7
Don't say anything to me about this..........................................................just kidding!
Really. I'm over that......ok, ok........well mostly, anyway. ;)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Calling All Perfectionist Control Freaks

At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious…it’s been a long time since I have blogged.
Not because I haven’t written, mind you, but simply because I have not posted the many things I have written. You see, I have a format in the nice, neat little world of my mind that I like to follow when writing my devotions or blogs and I put a lot of pressure on myself to adhere to that standard. There are times I lie in bed and write in my mind…I even go back and make corrections on the rough draft in my head until it’s just like I want it.
But I have come to realize that sometimes, God just wants me to write my insides out.
He doesn’t care how pretty it does or doesn’t look or whether it looks like the last thing He asked me to write or not….He simply desires for me to say YES to what He is asking me to do. To genuinely pour out what He pours in.
For all you other control freaks out there…you know what I am talking about.
We want to have everything labeled, sorted, grouped, filed away before we get before God or take an issue to Him. We even like to take in a typed, double spaced report of our well meaning attempts to rectify the situation at hand. We work ourselves to the bone to “handle” it all so that we don’t have to bother God with it in the first place.
The problem is that this desire for perfection ends up weeding God out of it all because we are so busy trying to achieve that perfection BEFORE we willingly and wholly place ourselves in His presence.
Here’s the irony: achieving anything even close to perfection outside of His presence and power is IMPOSSIBLE…so the reality is, we’re just setting ourselves up for further failure- the very thing we are killing ourselves to try to avoid!
Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
Still sinners…STILL SINNERS. He loved me BEFORE I even knew how to love Him. He loved me BEFORE I even knew I needed to love Him. He loved me BEFORE. Before I was cleaned up at all…He loved me in my mess in order to make a way for me to receive- not achieve- His perfection, His righteousness, His holiness.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”(Romans 5:6)
His free grace is yours and mine in spite of who we are. He sees us and knows us fully…imperfections and all. He isn’t afraid to look at your junk. He saw it in its fullness and STILL sent His Son to die on the cross in spite of it!
Focusing on how to fix what is wrong, rather than on the only ONE who can make it right, is paralyzing. Trying to do it in our own power is doing it with no TRUE power at all…and that is certainly destined for failure. We "were powerless", not "are powerless" according to verse six. We can have the perfecting power of the Holy Spirit right NOW...completely available to us when we make ourselves completley available.
Go ahead, face your junk…surrender.
Control’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Perfection is an elusive ideal.
And Jesus…well, He even loves and sees hope for the weirdo that writes herself to sleep and uses the backspace key over and over again in her head.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ears to Hear

Tonight as I rocked my sweet little girl, I fought the urge to turn on the TV and both of us vegg into sleepytown. Instead, I snuggled her close, face to face with her blankie to her nose and her thumb in her mouth(yes, she still sucks her thumb!). Ever since she figured out that she could conversate, Caroline has loved to lay down with me and say, "Mommy, yet's tawk." In a house where we are outnumbered by males, we once again gladly cuddled close for some girl talk. After she so kindly informed me that my breath was stinky, I turned my head slightly to give her nose some relief and began talking with her about various things. I love to watch her eyes as she talks and see all the wonder that flies through the mind of a five year old with regard to what many would consider to be the most mundane of subjects.
As I squeezed her tight and told her I loved her so, so, so, so, so, so much(this is her favorite thing to say and write to me as of late), I said,"Caroline, do you know who loves you the most? Do you know who loves you even more than Mommy?" She looked at me, a bit confused that I had asked a question with such and obvious answer and said, "Yes! God!".
Determined to make our "tawk" productive and have a teachable moment, I quickly said, "Yep, you're right...but do you know why?"
She looked at me rather unimpressed, cutting her eyes in my direction and said with her facial expression alone, "Nope, but I am sure you're gonna tell me." So being a mother who hates to disappoint, I proceeded , "Because He made you. He created you. He put every piece and part of you together so you would be just the way you are."
I had finally sparked her interest. Caroline thought for a moment and then said, "Which part did He put together first?...was it my eyes?" Chuckling at the unexpected but poignant question, I said that I did not know and instead asked her what she thought.
Without hesitation she gave her final answer, "My ears."
"Why?" I asked, thinking ahead to the wisest possible answer and explanation I could give her once she finished what she had to say.
She looked at me with those big brown eyes, momentarily stopped sucking her thumb and said with full assurance,
"Because He wants me to hear and to listen to what He has to say."
As Caroline snuggled back into my chest and closed her eyes to go to sleep, it was as if she had merely repeated and then rested in a fact that she had always known...a fact she was created to know. And I sat in a stunned silence in that moment I had deemed "teachable"...a moment that a mommy had intended to turn into a teachable moment for her little girl, but what was actually a moment that the Father intended to be a teachable moment for His little girl...me.
Thank you Abba. I hear You loud and clear. Lesson learned.

“Come let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before our Maker;
for He is our God and we are the people of
His pasture, the flock under His care.
Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”
Psalm 95:6-8

“Does He who implanted the ear not hear?
Does He who formed the eye not see?...
For the Lord will not reject His people; He will never forsake His inheritance.”
Psalm 94: 9, 14

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Yep, you got it…no...wait…right a little…

It often amazes me how kids can go through life oblivious to the obvious. And, how things that I find so very important and in need of immediate attention are the very things that do not rate a second glance on the child priority list. For instance, exactly how many times can one mother say in a 2 minute time period, "Brush your teeth, please.”? I would be willing to take on anyone in such a contest- I am sure I hold the record! The very things they need to do are the things they do not want to take time to do. So I nudge them along, sometimes with more muscle than others, hoping they will allow me to teach them and equip them along the way.

Just before we were going into the sanctuary at our church the other day, I looked at my daughter, who was already rather disheveled after a full day of five-year-old play, and saw she had one big speck of glitter just below her eye. Now this immediately stuck out to me, and wanting to get it off before it got in her eye, I called her to me in order to swiftly and assuredly get the job done. I calmly asked her to come to me, to which she replied, "Why?". Not too thrilled with the question, but understanding she was simply curious, I clued her in to the glitter speck resting just below her left eye and told her I would remove it for her. Surprisingly, she again did not come! Instead, she took her hand and frantically ran it all over her face trying to remove the glitter. After her first failed attempt, she became more determined to do it on her own...this time taking two hands and rubbing them over every spot on that precious little face of hers. But when she finally dropped her hands to her side, there it was...that speck of silver-blue glitter holding tight to her now reddened little face. "Now is it gone?" she asked me- rather exasperated that I had pointed the nuisance out to begin with. "Nope. Still there..." , I replied, waiting patiently for her to finish putting forth her own futile efforts, "...just come over here and let me do it for you! I can see exactly where it is!" She finally conceded and in a matter of seconds she was free to roam and play in her glitter free world!

Oh, how similarly impatient and stubborn I am in my spiritual walk with the Lord! I get so flooded in my own perceived priorities that I refuse to stop when the Lord sees something sitting in the way! Caught in my own routine and minimal expectations, I wear myself out trying to remove what isn't supposed to be there. But Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) All too often I deplete my energy by doing something through my own efforts rather than letting go and letting the Lord work in the mightiness of His strength and power: “… ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” !(Zechariah 4:6) With such ease and perfection, my heavenly Father can not only recognize my need, but also fulfill it like nothing else ever could! The Lord doesn't just want to show us our needs; He wants to meet us at the point of our need: “The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.(Isaiah 58:11)
It takes my faith and trust, however, to allow Him work in the very area that He has lovingly and graciously highlighted as a part of my flesh that needs His touch! His Word says to, “…trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn…”(Psalm 37:5-6) It isn't enough for me to just know that I have the need, or just know what needs to be done...I have to, in faith and trust, let go, get my hands out of it and present it to God so that He can allow the fullness of His truth to get the job done :
“As for God His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord is flawless, He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him…It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.”(Psalm 18: 30, 32)
Not only will I find that He is exactly what I need Him to be, but I will also find that I am far less winded and red faced in the end if I will let go from the very beginning- choosing His perfection instead of my pathetic pride-filled pursuits!

The choice seems obvious, but too often we choose to remain oblivious, just like my little girl.
What lengths does God have to go to get your attention?
He desires your priorities to be His...all for your sake.
Will you take the time...take the time to give up?
Allow His hand to touch the face of your need.

“And My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:19

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Blah Blah Blah...You still there?

I have found that I like to talk a lot more than I like to listen. How many times have I been talking on the cell phone only to realize when it rings in my ear that the call had been dropped five plus minutes ago...yet I've been talking away!?! Even sometimes when I claim to be listening, in reality, I am just talking in my head to myself about whatever it is I am really supposed to be listening to or about what it is I wish I were hearing. Yes, guys, you get the bad wrap about not listening- but you're not the only ones...
So why all my chatter? Well, in some weird way it is comforting. If I am talking, I somehow think I am in control...there seems to be more vulnerability in listening. As I have been diving into a study about hearing God speak, He started it all for me with one simple verse-
John 10:27, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me."
So as I drove home tonight in the clearing thickness of a stormy night, my headlights briefly lit a pasture's edge, and I thought about how much more there was that I could not see. I began to think about what it must be like to stand out there in the middle of night, simply in the middle of darkness. The Lord brought back to me the depth of His truth from that scripture. You see, Palestinian shepherds led their sheep- they did not drive them. The sheep followed because they knew their own shepherd's voice. But think about what it would be like to stand outside in the middle of that darkness and storm and have to be quiet to listen for the voice of the Shepherd. "Be still and know that I am God"(Psalm 46:10)-that seems more difficult and impractical when surrounded by the dark and unknown...but my incessant calling would only drown out the very Voice of direction and protection that is longing to draw me nearer! I only need to call out once because His ears are already intent on me. He knows me. But I can only be led if my ears are intent on Him. The "knowing God", like in Psalm 46:10, is walked out by being still because you expect to hear His voice. John 10:14 says, "...I know my sheep, and my sheep know me." It is a deep mutual knowledge. The Lord doesn't just want to know me, He wants me to know Him...to have a deep knowledge of Him...to know the rises and falls in the sound of His voice...to recognize the subtle inflections...to not have to introduce himself each time He calls...to be waited on expectantly...all because I know Him. My Shepherd wants to impart that deep knowledge to me! Each moment I spend with Him, it is His desire and His delight because He knows that I will then, "...never follow a stranger..." because I, "...do not recognize a stranger's voice."(John 10:4) The Lord wants me to understand that I am vulnerable because I stop listening, not because I stop to listen.
I don't think I am in danger of running out of words to say anytime soon....I can always think of something to talk about! BUT... the Lord is teaching me to find comfort in the silence of knowing rather than in the noise of my redundant cries.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

If I could just...I mean I need to...you know I...

AAAAH! All I want to do is complete a sentence and it seems as though lately I can't even do that! A freshly painted, yet not fully decorated kitchen, scrapbook pages prepped but not prepared, books of song lyrics written but not composed, flea market finds needing to be refurbished, digital photos stored and never shared, decorating items purchased yet not placed, devotional ideas noted but not fully written, green belt gotten but black belt never attained, lists made and never checked off, cabinets crammed and not cleaned...and there's more...but even this list I can't seem to complete! It seems as though I work and work, toil and labor and the pile never lessens...the epitome of the reason I HATE laundry: it is never complete!
Perception not always being reality, many reading this who know me slightly may be surprised by this revelation itself- while those who know me well may only be surprised to find that I am finally admitting how much like my mother I actually am! As I have solidly stepped into this new decade of mine now, I have to honestly look at my self and my life...and I am sometimes taken a back a the reality of who I am! The difference now is I don't run away from it as often! Here's the truth of the matter: I am wracked with incompleteness. It isn't that I get bored with one thing or another, it is that I want to be able to do them all at once, and do them all perfectly. My artistic mind goes 90 miles a minute, I get excited about possibilities, my drive to create takes over and there you have it....I have stepped into another thing that longs for completion!
So, recently, as I sat amidst these many loose ends beginning to entangle and on the verge of strangling me...the Lord showed me one area in which my perception of incompleteness did not represent failure: walking out my relationship with Him.
You see, I am made complete in Him alone: "But if anyone obeys His word, God's love is truly made complete in him; Whoever claims to live in Him, must walk as Jesus did."(1John 2:5-6)I will never "arrive" as a believer- it is a process- a process that I have to walk out and as I do, try to follow after the only perfect model for living to ever step foot on this earth: Jesus. Just like all the many loose ends around me that can never be neatly tied up all at one time, it is irrational for me to feel like I am going to "have it all together" all the time as a believer. As a matter of fact, I set myself up for the very failure I am trying to avoid when I act I though I do have it all together. Why? Because it is then that I have begun to work under my power and from my own desires. Paul reminds us of Jesus' Words to us: " My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."(2 Corinthians 12:8) My flesh will tell me time and again that I have to have it all and do it all...and do it all perfectly. But the Lord will never require of me perfection that I can never attain...He will only ask me to , "...throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and...run with perseverance the race marked out for us... and to, " fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..."(Hebrews 12:1-2)
The height, breadth, and depth of God's completeness, I can never fully attain...it just means I always have something to look forward to in Christ! No, I am not satisfied with my incompleteness as a believer, but like all the other things, I admit it. And by admitting it, I am embracing the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to make glimpses of Christ's completeness known in me....
Maybe now that I have admitted all the other things I haven't finished, I can embrace the "opportunity" for some family and friends to make their "completeness" known- in my garage, my cabinets, my closets, my.....no?....oh well....it was worth a shot!