“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalms 18:19

He delighted in me.

God delights in me. This means I give him great pleasure and I please him greatly. That just makes me giggle with joy.

But surely not every day – he doesn't delight in me every day. Sometimes I just wear him out, right? Well, there are days that my children wear me out but you know what, I delight in them even then. So I'm thinking the answer is, yes, every day my God delights in me. Through all my junk, delight. Through my judgement of judgemental people, through my pain, through my faults, God delights in me through it all. Just like my littles are not their actions, their maddening actions. I am not my actions, my maddening actions, either. And that is how God can delight in me on my worse days, as well as my best.

And I've learned that he brings me into spacious places so that I can hold my arms wide open and spin with uncontained joy. He brings me into a spacious place so that I can feel alive in ways that I don't always feel alive. God wants to give me room to run. Room to impact other people. Room to lift my head up out of my own circumstance and notice the hurt of others. Room to dance with the people that are dancing and weep with those who weep. Room to pull others into the spaciousness. Room to see God delighting in them, too.

It's easy to forget “..my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30). Life is heavy. I go through periods in life where I feel the full weight of this world. And it is not easy or light. But then I read John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I remember, I don't have to carry the weight of this world. I don't have to make sure Truth wins – because Truth has already won. I just need to “Be still and know that I am God. I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” It's gonna happen. Not my job to make it happen. Sometimes my job is to just. be. still.

I need to rest in the spaciousness of God, love my neighbor as myself, set down the heaviness of my worldly burdens and bask in the delight of my God. And when I do that, I'm better for it. I'm more open, effective, loving, and peaceful.

God is doing a mighty work in me and I feel like I'm just watching it happen. He is taking my pain and weaving it into a precious fabric. The more I let go of worrying about what other people think of me, the more effective I become. The more I recognize in others the flaws I know are in me, the more generous I become. The more I see that we are all just flawed children of a delighted God, the more I space I have to breath deeply and make a change in my corner of the world. For who am I to withhold my delight, when you are delighted in by God?

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

This is Bob Goff. I realize this is not God. But, I think Bob does the best job of anyone on earth in delighting in everyone he meets. When I think of God delighting in me, I think of meeting Bob Goff.

God delights in you. Rest in that. Take your pain, your fear, your stress and for just a moment set them to the side and stand in front of God, knowing that He delights in the you that only you and he know.

 

There are just some parenting moments that shine such a bright and clear light on a subject. These moments can illiminate from an angle that is fresh and revealing. We had just such a moment this week.

After dinner one night Grace began telling us what she had learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in school this week. She told us that he tried to “help black and white people be together.” And she also explained that “black people couldn't drink out of water fountains and they couldn't go to the park.” She was very incredulous about all this – like “Can you believe that?” Then she explained that some people hated him for trying to get people together and they shot him and he died. So I asked her what she thought of all that, just curious to understand how she would process such a grown up story.

She crinkled her brow and said, “Do you mean what did they teach me?” And I explained that I really wanted to know what she was thinking when she found out that black kids used to not be allowed in the parks. She said that she thought that was “really bad.” She went on to say that we are all the same on the inside and that everyone should be able to go to the park!

By this time we had been talking for a while. She was explaining such a grown up concept and doing a good job of processing it for a five year old. I am amazed at how capable they are to take in the harshness of the world without being overwhelmed. And then she asked me something that just stopped me in my tracks. She said, “So mommy, what is it that makes a black person black? Is it black hair?”

I asked her then, “Honey, are you asking me what we mean when we say black people? Are you saying you don't know?” To which she replied, “Well, it's black hair, right?”

All my baby knew is that there was some random characteristic that we picked out and her first thought was hair? Maybe?

I talked to her about some of our friends that are black, friends she has known her entire life. We talked about how there are so many shades of skin, and black can mean a whole lot of shades, just like white can mean different shades. She went on from there to inquire about green people, and I knew the teachable moment had passed and she was moving on.

But I couldn't move on. “Is it black hair? It's black hair, right?”

And all I could think is, “It could have been.”

Because it could have been, right? Prejudice shows up in so many random and vicious ways, but it always boils down to some arbitrary characteristic that we just decide is the difference.

And when I look at my beautiful, innocent five year old explaining evil to me, but then fall short of understanding something none of us truly understands…I weep.

Honey, I pray you grow up in a world that continues to try to move away from intolerance, prejudice, and hate. I pray that you always look at this part of our past in disbelief. I pray that you vow to be better than we are. Because this dream of Dr. King is not realized. It is progressed and it is progressing, but it is not realized. I pray that your generation takes majestic steps forward, where we have crept. I pray you all have breakthroughs that alter the course of history, where ours have only shifted it, sometimes forward.

I pray that you can talk openly with your black friends about the past in healthy ways that move you both forward. I pray that we raise you to acknowledge you are afforded a pervasive and systematic privilege that is still today, denied to many – and I pray that you help expose and spread that privilege. I pray that you are forgiven when you fall short and that you extend forgiveness when others fall short. Because that will happen – such a subject as race in our country, it is rife with hurt.

I pray that your generation can find forgiveness for all that is left to be done. Forgive us all of our failings and false attempts. I pray that you can find the path to run forward together and realize all that Dr. King dreamed of, all of it. Resolve our racial differences and then carry his torch to impact poverty in our country. This is what I pray.

Mostly though – I pray you never reach a point of understanding when it comes to evil. Evil understood is evil consumed. May you always, always be baffled by it.

May your innocence grow into compassion, empathy, and kindness.

 

A little bit ago I wrote about my new prayer practice where I visualize being in a garden/forest area with Jesus and whomever I was praying with. You can read that post here and see how the practice significantly enhanced my prayer life.

In the past week I've found two other areas where applying this visualization exercise just brought me to my knees and I couldn't wait to share them with you.

We pray each night before bedtime with the kids. It has always been such a precious time and it's been a joy to listen as their prayers have progressed from the nonsensical – I want to pray about tomatoes, to the rather obvious – praying for whatever their eyes fell on in their room, to now – they pray for friends or any problems they are having, like the abiliy to write a lower case q, and they give thanks for their family and whomever they spent time with that day.

To hear your children reach out in trust and give thanks is a beautiful thing and it never needed enhancement or anything to help me connect. Never the less, my visualization process has become second nature so the other evening when we were praying I suddenly found us in the garden.

Grace began praying, I closed my eyes, and there crouched down before my children was gentle, smiling, joy-filled Jesus. And you know how you just love people who love your kids? How those people just become extra awesome as soon as you know that they treasure your kids? Well, for a moment I saw how much Jesus loves my kids and then we made eye contact and I felt in my soul, how happy he was that I was enjoying these gifts he had chosen for me. It made me do one of those sob/gasps because I was so taken by surprise. Knowing something and seeing something are two different things. I've always known that they were gifts and Jesus loves them, but seeing the giver watch me enjoying them, seeing the love in his eyes – it's a different level of knowing. There was a moment when Grace prayed about something especially sweet, I can't even recall the exact thing right now, but we made eye contact over her head and I was all, “Did you hear that? Isn't that so sweet?!?” And He was all, “I know! She is awesome!” And suddenly I understood more clearly and in a way I hadn't before – that they are gifts. I understood more clearly that, as I delight over them, my God delights over them. I understood that not only does he delight in my children, but he delights in me.

It was just the most beautiful thing. So beautiful, that it is almost hard to go there every night, because it is like looking at something that is just too beautiful to behold. I encourage you to try this – not only when your kids are praying, but as you pray for them as well.

The second moment came this morning at church. I have always done some visualization during worship – but it had been a rather stark visualization process. Instead of a garden it was me and God, but we were not really in a place, it's hard really to even describe. But, if the lights were dim enough I could totally envelop my mind in this one-on-one worship process and it made my worship experience much better. The problem was if I thought someone could really see me, it was hard to stay in the moment. Well, today, as you can guess, I ended up in the garden – and let me just say, it was all I could do not to get up out of my seat and dance. I also had the biggest smile on my face throughout, it was just an amazing morning. It helped me connect, once again, to a more tangible Jesus and see how he enjoys our worship. It was just joyful and exuberant, fun and holy. I'll never worship anywhere else. And I did not worry about what I looked like or whether anyone was looking – because the one person I knew was watching was thrilled.

This does come with a warning. If, as they say in Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion,” applies to you, you are going to be very happy, and need some tissues. It is a joyful and tear inducing practice. At least it is for me. On the other hand, this may sound totally hokey to some of you – and that's ok, we all connect in different ways. But if this sounds like something that might work for you then I highly encourage you to buy some little kleenex packets and give it a try.

If you need prayer – please send me a private message or reach out in any way. I'm happy to spend some time with you in the garden. And if you have asked for prayer (you know who you are) then know that we will be there often.

Have a fantastic week!

 

I'm reading Hands Free MaMa by Rachel Macy Stafford- and it's going to be a game changer. The concept is simple – we need to pay more attention to our life if we want to have a joy-filled, strong life. Well, of course. But she uses stories from her own shortcomings to really open your eyes, gently and with love, to your own shortcomings. You never feel berated, just encouraged to do better.

I am a technology geek, big time. I read my bible and devotions on my ipad, all my books are on the ipad, I'm on social media on my phone or the ipad, and I have good 'ol solitaire on there for distraction when I don't have time to get into a book. I log all my exercise and eating (since the first of the year that is) on my phone or the ipad. I have a tendency to have my nose in a screen more than I should. I knew it, but I also felt like it was all really productive stuff. None the less, I knew I needed to change it and something about this book is helping me better appreciate the cost of distraction.

It will be a process – and I'm not totally sure how it will go, but so far, it is fantastic.

Just today, I've made a fort for the kids in the living room, they have had a great bubble bath in the big tub and Grace learned how to put her head under water – and I was there to see it! We had a distraction free lunch and went through our Table Topics for Kids and had the most interesting conversation because there is nothing like the answers a five year old and a three year old will give you to random questions. Without argument or cajoling, both kids ate their lunch as we talked. Then we shared some ice cream and finger painted together. It was one of the least productive and most rewarding weekend mornings I have had in a long time.

And it's all part of this quest to remember my identity. I want to be a mom that my kids cherish. I don't want to miss out on those smiles or be a mom that just gets things done. I don't want our relationship to center around discipline – although that obviously remains. By teaching them that I value them and they are worth my undivided attention, I hope to teach them to love other's with that same gift.

Part of my identity is – I'm a mom that cherishes my children and my children cherish me.

I think I'm going to love 2014.

 

Identity. That's my word for 2014. It might have been my word for 2013 but I didn't pick a word for 2013. In any case, I think God's been working on me and my identity for the last year, and from all signs in the past two weeks, He is going to keep at it 'til I get it.

First off, one would think that a 41 year old woman would know her identity by now (not to mention her age, but I almost got out a calculator to make sure I wasn't 42 yet which is what I typed to begin with… I digress). I would expect me to know this about myself, but what I've really done for 42 years, is wonder what other people thought my identity was and then try to figure out if I agreed with them.

It will come as a surprise to some and as absolutely no surprise to others, that I spent my younger years with a pretty wild identity. I thought identity had something to do with power and control, which had something to do with sex and relationships. Although raised in the church, I had no relationship with Jesus and therefore neglected to look for identity in the one place that would have offered me hope. A lot of what I associated Jesus with was judgement, gossip, more judgement, and pot luck dinners – but not hope and not identity.

One day I'll write more about the events that led me to finally recognize Jesus in my life, but suffice it to say that I took a very difficult path. A path that could have destroyed me. As a matter of fact, it did, for a while.

But eventually I figured out how to make better choices and I found that Jesus could be very real to me. And I started to figure out who Jesus was, His identity. And knowing that helped. But as I've been being taught over the last year, I still didn't really know who I was.

This morning my daily reading was Matthew 4:1-11 – this is where Jesus was 'led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil.' I've read this many times, and I have heard many sermons about these verses. But today was the first day God spoke to me through it. Isn't that so amazing, how a passage that you think you know suddenly reveals something totally new? So today, as I was reading about Jesus being tempted with food after forty days of fasting, and then mocked, and then offered the entire world – I thought, “Boy, He really knew who He was.”

I mean, listen, I got really cranky over the holidays from eating junk food and having too much to do in too little time. But He had not eaten for forty days, had been alone for forty days, and was facing a future that was incomprehensible. My point here is that I was really very not nice and gave in to every food temptation put before me, without hesitation or second thought. And never once did I really think about who I really was. I was just a task master, worker, mom, wife, wrapper, doer. I totally forgot who I really was from the stress of the holidays, of all things.

But Jesus never forgot. Ever. For one second. He never forgot who He was. The reason Jesus was able to stand strong against temptations that any human would have naturally given in to was because, despite his weariness, his hunger, his physical pain, and his treacherous future – He knew who He was. And who, pray tell, can stand up against that?

So this morning, I thought about that for a while and then this came to me, “What could you do if you just understood who you are, in every moment, without ever forgetting it.”

And who am I? I am enough. I am enough. I am enough. I am a fully accepted daughter of the most High God. I really am. Grace has done everything for me, there is nothing left for me to do. I've nothing to prove. I am fully accepted.

And when I rest in that identity I'm different. I'm patient, happy, loving, tender, unassuming, and accepting. I can stand up against the temptation to prove my worth through doing because my worth does not need to be proven. I remember that other people's opinon are their responsibilty, not mine. I remember that every single person, even the ones I disagree with, they are enough, too. I let go of the need to be right and remember the unquenchable need to love.

When I remember who I am I write with a flow that is unstoppable because I'm writing from a place of peace. You see, this blog started because God said he would redeem all my pain if I would write. I don't know how that's going to happen and I am reconciling myself to the idea that I may never know. I may write the rest of my life and never know why or whether it helped anyone in any signficant way, but when I remember who I am, I write. Because it doesn't matter what the results are, it is the obedience that matters. I truly believe that this writing is my redemption – I just have no remote idea what that means.

And that is why, if I'm going to pick a word, my word is Identity.

I'm working on memorizing three verses that I picked out a week ago – and as I looked over them this afternoon I was a little suprised to find that each one of them is a reminder that if I remember who I am and who God is, then I can let go of my need to defend and protect, and instead just focus on love.

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you will have trials; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.

Here's to 2014: Letting go of fear. Releasing the need to be right. Embracing differences. Standing for what I believe to be true, but always resting in the grace of my loving Dad. Trusting in my heart and in the promises given to me. And always, finding new ways to love people because when I remember who I am, when I remember my identity, love is the only possible response.

 

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