"Yes" be "yes"

There's nothing quite like sitting down, feeling light and full of the Spirit's word, and then getting smacked with your sinful nature. Here I sat, excited at the opportunity to write while M gets the last of his nap, as I sped through the usually lengthy warming up of my very old macbook. Even more excited, as the technical side of things was looking up, I logged into my site... and wouldn't you know, ten minutes later, lots of long deep breathing and prayers unceasing, my little old buddy managed to stop showing the spinning rainbow wheel and allowed me access to share these feeble thoughts of mine. "Oh how kind of you, sweet little white MacBook. Please don't take it personally if you find yourself out on the curb one of these days."

I have to laugh. This is such a picture of our lives. Riding high on the love of the Lord and the truth of who He is and then something as small as a technical error brings about our sin nature faster than an exploding gasoline truck in a head-on collision. Or maybe it's just that fast and intense for me. As sweet and kind and gentle as I may painstakingly try to appear, my tendency lies more in the area of anger, irritability and carelessness. But we all have our things, right? That's one of a bazillion reasons why we need grace. Every day. All day.

Well I've had a small little passage on my mind these past several weeks. The fact that it's been residing for so long in my mind and not being shared with the world goes to show my willingness to try to be less selfish... I don't want to.

Ok, obviously I want to, but what my soul wants and what my "self" does are usually two very far-apart things. Several weeks ago we were going over the Sermon on the Mount in BSF. We read a verse I've read about a hundred times, but in discussion a fellow classmate shared an alternate version of the passage and I haven't been able to shake it since.

"Simply let your 'yes' be 'yes' and your 'no', 'no'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." -Matthew 5:37

I don't know about you, but in my circles I don't find myself making many oaths. When I think of myself saying "I swear" I'm brought back to my Jr. High locker bay and swearing to my friend that the boy she liked asked about her. Or that I swore I wouldn't share her secret crush. Or asking my best friend if she swore my permed hair didn't look and smell too awful. (That actually happened. The night of a formal dance at school, where I knew I would be dancing with my long-time crush. Who's idea was it to get a perm the day of a potential slow dance sesh? Sigh... Oh high school and your drama. Glad to be rid of you.) To be honest, I don't do much of that these days so this verse has always been a lesson in future instances where I might need to swear on something. My classmate shared the Message translation of this verse and it gave it much more life and applicability.

"And don't say anything you don't mean. This counsel embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying 'I'll pray for you,' and never doing it, or saying, 'God be with you,' and not meaning it. You don't make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say, 'yes' and 'no'. When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong." -Matthew 5:33-37 MSG

So.... what can I say after that? How many countless times have I, in hearing of another's difficulty, said, "Oh man, I will be praying for you." and forgotten about that oath within seconds of departing? I'm ashamed to say this happens on the regular. But here is the problem: I never intentionally tell a person that I will lift them up only to know that I in fact will not. I think the bigger issue is a lack of true understanding of the power behind the prayers I am willing to offer. If I truly understood the power behind the Spirit inside of me would I be more willing to pray right at that moment? Have those words become just one of many scripts we, as a society, say to one another?

This happens in more than just the Christian circles. "I'm thinking of you" "You're in our thoughts" "Let me know what I can do to help" "Keep me posted on what happens"

This is not just another problem with Christians, for non-believers to add to the list... this is a problem for humanity as a whole. Underneath our facade of empathy and care lies a lot of selfishness and only enough willingness to do what we are comfortable with... so long as it does not interfere with our own plans for ourselves.

I'm talking about you. And I'm talking about ME. Big time me. Majorly me. Oh man this is me.

I really want to be close with people. But not just close... I want to be their "person". The kind of friend you'd think of first to hang out with. Or when someone asks who your closest friends are, I'm on the list. I want to be thought of to be in your wedding. I want to be trusted to help in a time of crisis. I want to be that person. The favorite auntie, most helpful child, most thoughtful granddaughter. The problem is, I allow that underlying selfishness to rule and reign in my actions. My heart is all in, totally there, bursting with love. But my butt is still at home, sitting on the couch, surfing facebook, instead of calling you. Selfish. I think of you and your current heart-ache while I'm tending to M and I think, "I'll text in a bit" and a "bit" becomes never... or midnight when I think of it next. Naturally this problem has seeped into my intentions of prayer. These past weeks I have felt convicted time and time again that these promises must be fulfilled. My words must stay true to my oath. Unlike a friend who may also forget that I promised them prayer, my Lord does not. He is not vindictive, He will not come after me and scold me for saying and doing two different things. But just the reality that He remembers fills me with sorrow. How many dates have I ditched with Him in forgetting to pray?

One of the difficulties of T being deployed is the short, never deep, and often interrupted conversations we have. It's been a long time since my best friend has really been able to know and hear my heart, and me his. It sucks, in every sense of the word. And this, I now realize, is just how my Father must feel. When I begin to talk with him about a dear daughter of His, and suddenly I'm interrupted by my phone or my kid, that's a moment where He is left with only a piece of my heart. Then I forget and go on with life and He waits. He knows what this daughter or son needs before I ever even think to ask Him, but the intention behind my heart is an issue all of it's own.

And this is why I haven't been obedient in exploring this any further. It's a matter of my heart needing some changing. This is never easy. But it's always necessary.

Here are 4 questions you can ask yourself with this passage in mind: 1. How do Jesus' words concerning oaths emphasize His requirements of absolute truthfulness? 2. What commitment have you made to God that Jesus' words remind you to keep? 3. How would your relationships change if you obeyed Jesus' words in Matthew 5:33-37? 4. What could you expect God to do for you if you obeyed this command?

It's humbling and amazing to think of how simply and wonderfully my relationships with others and with God would and could change if I just obeyed. Maybe I could actually have a deep, meaningful conversation with my Savior and know that I am also building a friendship in the process. Maybe I could actually feel the closeness with others that I claim to want and need. Once again, it goes back to selflessness. Life can't just be about me. It must always be about Him and those He loves.

So to this I say, if I've told you I will pray for you for something you are in need of, don't be afraid to ask if I actually did it. If we all put a little meaning behind our words we just might see a lot more kindness around us. Life can't be about us. We aren't here for that. We are here for one another. We are here to bring Him glory.

The weight of the world on my shoulders

It's been awhile since we've been together, and there are many reasons why... but to sum it all up I will just say that life has happened, as it always does. Sickness has happened. Fellowship has happened. Weariness has happened. It's all been here these days, but I'm still here and my mind still keeps ticking with the lessons and ponderings of this place. Christmas is in a week. One week. I don't recall a Christmas before where I have felt as weary and burdened and tired as I do at this moment. Much of this could be due to some circumstantial elements. I'm just ending a wonderful long weekend with my best friend whom I have not seen in three years. So being filled up and encouraged and embraced by my Lord through fellowship with her was an incredible blessing that I did not want to end. This leads me into the other element I'm up against that I just don't really want to think about. He's not here. Oh how I want him to be. Any other year, if you presented me with Christmas money or asked for my gift list, I would have a few things in mind that I'd want for myself. But this year, truly, all I want more than anything is to hold his hand while we watch our sweet boy open his presents... to sing Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra while decorating our little tree... to watch him taste test his favorite Christmas cookies. But, alas, I know this is not a possibility. So the second thing on my Christmas list would be peace. Peace when I want to be sad that I can't cup his face in my hands and tell him I love him, or that I can't get frustrated at him for eating all of the cookies before Christmas has even come. Peace when I want to be angry watching all those around me hustle and bustle over gifts and money and things. Peace when I want to bury myself in a mountain of blankets and sleep my way through the next two weeks. Oh Lord, if I can't have my first wish then please give me my second. I'm learning to say "no". And also to make time for the things I need to say "yes" to, such as time for my soul to meet with my Savior. This morning, as I sat here with tears, wishing so bad for so many things, I turned to see a verse taped to my side table.

"If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." -Matthew 21:22

Despite my circumstances, despite those around me, I choose to believe that my God is big enough to supply me with the peace I need to say "No" when I need to, to accept the times when I must say "yes" and to remember that He is beside me to carry the weight of the world for me.

"Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and 'you will find rest for your souls.' For my yoke is easy and My burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-29

The world around us is a very heavy load to carry most days, but I believe it is even more so in December. There is so much expected of us: Elf's, presents, sales, perfect Pinterest parties, baked goods, Christmas cards... the list is truly a long one. And every year there are those who take the time to call us to action, to encourage us to embrace the real meaning of Christmas. I am thankful for those people. Because we need them, year after year, to elbow their way through newspaper ads and tv commercials, Christmas music and viral videos of virtual Christmas cards, to remind us what we are here for, why we come together to celebrate the last month of the year. A year of successes and failures, triumphs and tribulations has come to an end and we cannot go back and redo any of it. But what we can come back to is the Savior Jesus, who knowingly accepted His position as Savior of the world, and came down to become a lowly and fleshly human so that we could be saved from year after year of mistakes. He accepted, lived with, and loved the fleshly and sinful humans that were with him while He was here so much that He sacrificed Himself for them. He also accepted and loved the fleshly humans that were to come, for thousands and thousands of years, and sacrificed Himself for them too. Take a second to ponder how many sins, how many mistakes, that one sacrifice paid for...

Sacrifice: an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.

Holy Spirit, when we shop, bake, cook and wrap, gently remind us of the reality of this sacrifice. That He was born knowing He would be given up for the sake of something worthy in Your sight. The Son of the creator of the universe, the Prince, given up for me? How can I even begin to fathom this truth. Gently walk us through this reality, and be patient in the moments when we don't quite grasp it's magnitude. Give us eyes to see a little less value in the twinkle lights and the indulgent desserts and a little more value in the people around us whom You love just as much. You died for them just as you did for us. In remembering You let us remember to show a little kindness, because really, that is a gift that is carried with the soul much longer than anything that could be wrapped in pretty paper. May we be pleasing in Your sight this Christmas, and may You show Yourself clearly, Father, through the thick haze of the world around us. We do not deserve the peace You are able to provide, and are so grateful that You offer it to anyone who asks. Thank You, Emmanuel, for Your goodness.

I pray that whether you are joyfully anticipating the week to come or are wishing you could become a big brown bear, get your fill of cookies and sleep the days away (just as I do) that He could and would become your focus. There's hope for this, we still have a week left.

Nativity

My Big Question

My great, big, scary body-image question. No, more like a self-image question, because truly, my insecurities and short-comings and false notions revolve around more than just my physical form. But before I ask you the question, and in turn truly ask myself the question for the very first time, let me backup.

As stated in my previous post, I am a believer in the Author's sincere interest in my life; the tiny and the mighty, and everything that fits right in between. He romances, that is for sure. He also asks. He asks for my service, for my love, for my devotion, for my time. Recently He began asking me something I wasn't quite ready to hear. As a self-proclaimed victim of "seriously low self-esteem", I've created a life for myself that , in one way or another, revolves around how poorly I feel about myself. The trouble with this is that I have spent about 65% of my life feeling this way, so naturally, it has become somewhat of a character trait. My story is no different than anyone else, and honestly, that's not what I want to spend time sharing anyways. I will forewarn you in saying that this may or may not take two posts, and it may or may not be very esthetically pleasing to the English majors eye, but just stick with me.

Last week, a blogger that I follow began a series called 31 Days to Reclaiming Body Image (or something to that affect) and my immediate thought was, "yes, another thin, athletic, talented woman giving me advice on how to reclaim body image." And immediately I reminded myself that yes, it is possible for someone who has "all that I think will make me content" to have her own body issues too. So I swallowed my chill pill and kept on. With that topic lingering in the back of my mind one morning I felt challenged with a question.

 

What if you never change?

 

What if, for the rest of your days, you stay the very size you are right now?

 

Your waist doesn't get smaller, and definitely not firmer. Your boobs don't magically shrink and start defying gravity. Your skin keeps on keeping on in the pimple department.

 

What if?

 

While hating every fiber of this question, I also felt intrigued. It was almost as if a tiny shard of these lie-ridden glasses I've been wearing came loose and fell off. A little light of hope? A little glimpse of what might actually be my reality? So I kept mulling over this question, all the while poking and prodding each area of disdain... but with each day the pokes became a bit lighter, less hate-driven. Then I sat to do my BSF study. And I heard what was quite possibly written just. for. me.  We are studying Matthew 4 this week. To save you my interpretation I will simply share the words directly.

"Self-control and trust in God must replace a determination to control their own situation and others. And a truly contented spirit has no room for an attitude of self-pity and complaint." Ouch.  Remember back when you were in High School and instead of just feeling bad about yourself you also made sure everyone else knew how bad you felt about yourself? No? Well I do, because I did it often. See, that's the twisted thing about the deception of low self-esteem. It tells you that you really just feel oh so badly about yourself when in reality it's a serious pride issue.  It's a way of making everything about you and not needing to feel guilty or prideful about it. I mean, how could you? You're the sad chubby girl with no boys that like you. Or so you say. As an adult this habit changes slightly, but at the core it is the same. Instead of friends at school hearing your woes, it's your husband, or your family, or your boyfriend. In an effort to trudge through this life, I've resolved to control the one thing I know how; my dislike of myself. Truly trust God? Have self-control? What are these things they speak of? Do I long for a truly contented spirit more than I enjoy my attitude of self-pity and complaint? This is just one of many pieces that the big question brings about, and yet another reason why I didn't want to answer it when asked.

"Will you put aside your self-centered life of urgent but empty pursuits and ambitions? Will you trust the One who offers God's acceptance and transformation to real security and peace? Your Savior and King is here for you." The society we live in offers a lot of quick fixes for a lot of things. Just watch an infomercial. Major results in minor [time, commitment, money, effort]. This has always been my beef with diet fads, which is why my story does not include many of those. I have, however, bought into exercise tapes (Hip Hop Abs, anyone? Insanity?), the fitness magazines, and endless pins on Pinterest. The basic idea in our culture is that everyone has a "better" that they could be. Or for me, "should" be. I should be:

  • shorter
  • thinner
  • faster
  • stronger
  • dress "hipper"
  • be "more frugal"
  • crunchier (or more "natural" for those who don't get what that means... mom...)

I could keep going. And let me clarify one thing. No one, and I mean no one has told me that I need to be these things. These are things that have been fed to me by the thief of joy and author of deception. He has no greater love than seeing me live a life controlled by pity and pride. Two key words stuck out to me in the above quote: acceptance transformation

In a life filled with Pinterest and Facebook and mommy-wars and living "naturally", what woman (or man) in their right mind isn't desperately searching for acceptance? In a world of crazy, fat-melting Amazonian fruits and fitness magazines and Crossfit, what person doesn't long to see their physical body transform? But the truth I am beginning to see is that the acceptance and transformation will never be found in these places. It is found in the quiet places. Places of solitude, places of love. Family, laughter, joy, this is where we can truly feel accepted because we can truly just be. And the more I take the time to place myself there, in those moments that truly matter, the more I will see my soul, mind and heart transform. This weekend was my High School reunion, and it was absolutely no coincidence (maybe more like a harsh joke) that I would be pondering this question while returning to the place that birthed so many of these insecurities. I'm not a makeover story, the girl who walks in the room and blows everyone away with her crazy weight-loss and gorgeous hair and clothes and blah blah blah. I'm just an older, more mature version of the same girl who shied away from cool kids and ate lunch by her locker. As Saturday progressed and my womanly nerves began to get a little wracked, I truly asked myself that question, "Is it okay if you don't change?" (I decided that while I might be willing to discuss my options on being okay with the state of my physical form, I do know that there are parts of my mental, emotional and spiritual form that I do not want to see stay the same. But that is a topic for another post.) As I made my way to the neighborhood Target I passed something that made me smile and remind God that I had, in fact, not forgotten our previous discussion.

IMG_2596

I mean, what? This handmade sign, in a random person's front yard. Not a question. Not a call to confidence. Just the words that have been on my mind some five days or so. "Laura, your self-esteem is not found in anyone you will see while looking straight ahead but only when you look up." Needless to say, I made some giant leaps in acceptance that afternoon and resolved to enjoy myself no matter what. And I did. And the question still lingered.

So I will ask you the same question. If nothing changed, would you and could you be okay with that? If the answer is no, what are the things you do not want to carry into your life fifteen years down the road? Will these things hinder the way you love yourself, your family and your life? Will this drive a wedge between you and your Maker, the One who crafted you with such great care?

There are always ways to better ourselves, but I'm challenged to take a step back and see where I'm allowing my focus to lie. I always tell myself (and I know you do this too, so don't deny it), "Once I [do, make, lose, accomplish]_______, then I will finally be able to be content and put this whole big mess behind me." Another question to ask myself is, "If _____ changes, will I truly be content? Or is that an excuse to continue to look inward instead of out?"

I don't know about you but I've missed a whole lot of lives around me simply because I've been too busy feeling sorry for little old me. Some 17 years have passed and I can honestly say I do not want to spend another 17 replaying the same scenes.

So to that I guess I would like to ask you "My Big Question". Would you, could you, be content? (Cue the green eggs and ham.)

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it" (1)... not even a hot bod with killer hair and glowing skin. Not even an awesome "body after baby". Not one single bit of it. So to this I aim to remember that my body is a temple of the Holy of Holies. My husband and son deserve my very best. My future children deserve a healthy oven from which to be baked. So I must do what I can to take care of what has been given to me. But to these aims, not the aims of the society of which I live.

"Keep your lives free from the love of money (or beauty or societal acceptance) and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." " (2). Guys, this is really what He wants... for me, for us... to truly know that He will never leave us, even when we wish so badly we could leave ourselves. This is what life is about. Contentment in Him, because He is here for us.

Next time you look in the mirror, really look at yourself and ask. It might be interesting to see what you find.

To read more about the 31 Days of Reclaiming Body Image you can visit www.thelittleway.net

Verse references: 1. 1 Timothy 6:6-7 2. Hebrews 13:5