“Be Yourself”……or Not??

I walked into the room, lamely late for my best friend’s party, and gave her a massive hug. She wasn’t offended because she’s the most gracious person in the world, and I soon breathed easier and joined the laughter.

I had planned on spending the afternoon walking the beach, shopping for her gifts, and arriving well loaded as all good friends do. But when another friend invited me up to the mountain ridges, I went.

There’s almost nothing a mountain won’t fix. Majesty and beauty, strength and wonder all in one. Exercise and a heaving of those muscles while the heart bursts over snow capped ridges and summer flowers.

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So, I went at a risk of time, paused to snap photos, and listened to my friend say, “You do you!” when I created sudden pauses in the hike because I just had to get that next photo.

Only healthy people will tell you to be yourself when it’s unhandy for themselves.

But later in the night, with the party dwindling and dishes washed, three of us girls sat at the table while heart sharing began to spill forth.

I don’t know why I can’t love myself,” she said. “Why are some things such a big deal?”

Her mom and I listened quietly before I spoke. “I don’t think we’re supposed to love everything about ourselves,” I said gently. “Some things God wants us to change, to work on, to dislike because we’re not doing what we should to be healthy.”

This feminine gospel that tells us to “Be You” at every turn can actually cause a lot of damage. A woman can spend the rest of her life telling herself that she’s beautiful and loved just the way she is, and that would be true. God does love us just the way we are.

But He also loves us too much to let us stay the way we are.

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Some things we’re supposed to dislike so greatly that we change how we are and how we live. For crying out loud sisters, none of us are so wonderful that every aspect of us is awesome. Why waste any more breath trying to prove to our brains what we already know isn’t true, when we are assured by Jesus Himself that the truth sets us free? This includes the truth of all things on all accounts. 

It’s just that we need wisdom on what to change and what to accept.

Right now, my muscles are sagging a little,” I told her. “I’m not going to the gym because I’m working almost every day and it takes all my energy. I can spend the rest of my years telling myself to love myself just the way I am, but my muscles will still sag and I won’t like it.”

But is that okay? Yes and yes!

What about the dark circles under my eyes? I can try to assure myself that looks don’t matter and those are fine—but I will forever hate them, and perhaps God wants to show me ways to de-stress even though I’m in a very stressful circumstance right now.

There’s a lot on my plate and I tend to run like a hamster on a wheel until I nearly drop over. Those dark circles could be a sign that Jesus wants to lead me to a place of rest and greater peace even in the midst of chaos.

I can run with grace or I can scurry with tension. Therefore, looking at myself in the mirror and vainly trying to shove the “truth” that “I’m ok just the way I am” could actually deprive me, keep me, hinder me from becoming who God wants me to be.

God loves me just the way I am, but He also loves me too much to let me stay the way I am. Perhaps some of the things I don’t like about myself are things God is using to show me He has a better way for me to live.

Let’s look at another example. (This one’s vulnerable, sisters.) I have never needed a size D bra, and have always moaned about the fact that someone could land an airplane on my chest and be just fine.

Does God love me just the way I am? A million times, yes!! Do I need to run off for a seven thousand dollar boob job? A million times, no!!

The thing is, girls, what does Jesus want to change and what does He want us to be at peace with?

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One of my friends is targeting her weight. She doesn’t like the added pounds and is making changes to her diet to shed them. She knows she could spend the rest of her life telling herself she’s loved just the way she is, and that would be true—but, she also knows that Jesus wants her healthy, and if a lack of wise choices is causing her body to wear down, He loves her so much that He leads her to better things.

Another friend talks about her smaller-than-wished-for chest. “I’d never spend thousands of dollars on a boob job,” she declares. “If some guy doesn’t like it someday, I’ll tell him to take it up with God because He’s the one who made me that way.”

I smiled. “That makes sense in every way,” I told her.

Accepting our physic is vastly different than destroying our physic, sisters. God may have given me a smaller chest but he didn’t give me an entire box of ice cream to stuff myself with at midnight while I balloon to 300 pounds.

Embrace true conviction; discard insecurity. Our minds are a battle ground and we get to choose which side we give energy to.

God doesn’t target anything for us without extending an invitation to us. Letting us “be us” isn’t the most loving thing for our Creator to do when we are harming ourselves. Therefore, this near-gospel of “Be Yourself” has a side effect that can be dangerous and full of bondage.

Our Creator God has good things in store for us. Loving Him is the key; not loving ourselves. Loving Him will cause us to be at peace with ourselves while simultaneously changing ourselves. It’s not one or the other—it’s both!

Our greatest healing comes not from embracing our lack, but from embracing God’s fullness to replace the lack. We won’t find the fullness if we coddle ourselves in the lack.

For the love of our Creator, for the love of our families, and even for the love of ourselves, I’m urging us twenty-first century women to take a second and broader look at what “loving ourselves” really is!

Reality Versus Illusion

As I was driving along, staring at the mountains, I pondered this lovely daughter of mine in the passenger seat.

She hadn’t wanted to go to counseling, but I knew she needed to go. My brain was so full trying to figure out finances and kids, plus deal with my own pain, that I almost did the easy thing to let her avoid this, hiding her struggles in silent brooding.

It was easy to get sidetracked and start living and breathing as if the natural life was all that existed. Survival mode can do that to a soul. Eat what goes down, read what pops on a screen, and work the motions of life while struggling to inhale the air necessary to survive.

I glanced over at the truck next to me, then looked up at the mountains ahead as I wondered why it’s so easy to get swallowed up by the world. The reality is we are spiritual people in a human body but tend to live as though we are humans with splashes of spiritual experiences.

Our spirits live forever, momentarily in a human body that will soon fade away, and, in fact, get older each day as our minds often struggle to embrace the inevitable fading.

Sisters, we won’t be here forever. Forgetting God while remembering the universe and its inhabitants is the greatest illusion we could encounter. Yet, we are so human that we want what we can see, feel, taste, and touch only with our mortal eyes.

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Our mortal eyes were created by an Immortal, All-Seeing Eye which looks over the face of the whole earth to see whose heart is perfect toward him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

In the God realm, our empty, survival-mode lives are meant to be filled. But it takes faith. Real faith, which is described as the “evidence of things not seen.”

Get that—there is evidence, but it is unseen. There is life which is not understood by mere human experience. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

There is life beyond this life, and we forget God when we allow ourselves to be swallowed up with circumstances.

When we live as though people can ruin us, we forget that there’s a God greater than people–and He’s always victorious. His word is final and it is always good toward us.

Evil will not triumph over good. The very same God who will judge all evil in the end also has the final say for our souls right now. In his light, pain must be healed, broken must be made whole, and our souls must find peace. He can do nothing other than GOOD!

Right now, no matter what, we can live in a better reality when our souls are connected to the Ultimate Reality–Jesus Christ.

Toss aside the illusion that people, places, and things have the final say over our lives. Live in truth, and we will be free. A created being always finds its greatest meaning in its Creator!

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My daughter fell asleep on the way to her counseling appointment. She didn’t want to go, but she left that room worlds better than when she had entered. We didn’t talk about it as she wanted her privacy, but we bought donuts and realized again that there are better things for us to live for, focus on, and give our lives to.

Sisters, He is a healing God, your Savior, alive and well, never dead, and never silent. He, more than your circumstance, is your Reality! 

Is God Still Good?

I looked at the face book post with the caption, “God is so good!” and wondered again if she would say the same words if her life wasn’t rocking in prosperity.

What if her business was plummeting and she faced thousands of dollars in debt rather than millions in revenue? Would God still be good?

I’m also thinking of Job this morning, and how God calls him “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” (Job 1:1, ESV)

Satan shows up before God’s presence and tells Him that Job only loves because God is so incredibly good to him. He tells God to take away Job’s blessings and he will surely turn from his love for God.

So, God says ok. Take it all, but don’t kill him.

Job’s life turns from extra-ordinary blessing into such a pain ridden life that even his wife begs him to curse God and die. Job tells her no, and remarks that she speaks like a foolish woman.

Notice he doesn’t call her a foolish woman; he tells her she speaks like one of the foolish women. Then, he replies with a question, “Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?”

In all this, Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 1:9&10)

See again when he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” (Job 1: 21&22, ESV)

My heart wows over this man because I know something he didn’t know. I get to read the after-math of his painful experience and see that he was really on trial. I get to read how God boasted of his faithful servant to satan, and how satan challenged the Lord with a light-defying war blazing across the reality of Job’s life.

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I get to read how God didn’t flinch for a minute because He knew that Job was aware of his goodness in spite of all odds—and he’d never deny it, even in the face of near death.

Job didn’t know he was in the midst of light and darkness clashing in a spiritual war. All he saw was the death of his children, the destruction of his livelihood, and the face of his discouraged wife as she watched him sit in the dust, scraping his boils with a piece of broken pottery.

Even his friends were so taken aback by his pathetic situation that they sat on the ground with him and didn’t speak a word for seven days.

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Get this—complete silence from his best friends. How horrible! 

But, Job knew something about the goodness of God—that whether or not we understand our circumstance makes no difference in the measure of goodness in the character of God. 

But in the midst of it, even Job began to question God, and he cursed the day of his birth. (Job 3:1, ESV)

God walks him through loss, pain of insane measure, and then, right back to his goodness. Job accepts and receives, long before he’s healed and restored. 

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I wonder how satan slinked back in shame when his boasting didn’t hold weight. He must have watched eagerly for Job to curse God and die. But, though he walked through a season of questions, he never walked away from God.

Light and darkness clashed in a holy war over the greatest question man-kind will ever experience–—Is God really, truly good in the face of suffering and pain?

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A few years ago, my breath was taken away at the blessings that came pouring in to my life. I hadn’t expected so many of my dreams to be realized, so soon. Every day, I was keenly aware of God’s goodness toward me. 

Today, my life is riddled with trials and loss of such magnitude that it takes some serious effort to rise above and keep going. Even more serious faith that God has me, and holds me. Each day, I wake to mine and the kids’ new reality—and helping them through their pain is as difficult as dealing with my own. 

I could ask God why—and sometimes I do. 

I could be angry with God—but I’m not.

When  man betrays you, does God betray you, too? Or is He steady when life is rocky, good when life turns sour, and faithful when mortal man is not?

God whispers to my heart that He’s good. He wasn’t with me before, only to leave when my life turned upside down. 

Heaven still rules. Those who walk away from God when life gets hard fail to see that an immortal God couldn’t be who He says He is if His goodness changed with the choices of mortal humans.

See this—we were never meant to compare an immortal God to fallen humanity. There is nothing to compare, only every reason to turn from man toward God—because God never fails. In fact, the greater man’s failure, the greater God’s own measure of grace toward you. 

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Earth was never promised to be easy, but God has always promised heaven, always given grace for those who receive it, and always assured us that He will never leave us. He has stood by His character and never once let anyone down who held firmly to the truth of what He speaks. 

How can we, as mortal humans, base the goodness of an immortal God on any given circumstance in a fallen world? God never fell when man chose to sin, and my heart aches to see the enemy of our souls win by convincing us that just because man is not good, God must not be, either. 

We live in a fallen world because mortal humans have free will and make wrong choices, but we do not serve a God who is capable of failing. If my God was capable of failing me, He would no longer deserve my life or my praise.

It cannot be one or the other—either God is good all the time, or He is not good at any time. I choose to believe and rest in the former, because I know the latter to be false.

God never promised that we would understand everything, all the time. He did promise grace in spite of everything, and at all times.

God also never promised eternally faithful humans—but He did promise to be eternally faithful regardless of what people choose. 

Job trusted in the midst of trial, long before He knew what was really going on. Will we do the same?

There’s a song waiting to be sung in our hearts, a song of worship, a song not contingent on any other fact than the most important one we will ever embrace—that God is inherently, ultimately, and beautifully GOOD.

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Joshua urges us to choose this day whom we serve. Will you say it with me, no matter what:

“As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15, ESV)

When God Hears

God, please send me the right friends for this time in my life,” I prayed one day as I pulled up to my counseling appointment. 

We all know what it’s like to know many people, yet realize that certain people are tailor-cut for specific seasons of life.

I’d been at work so I devoured my lunch as I waited, observing the carpenter working on the interior walls of the church building. A pastor walked by, and I stood to introduce myself, as I’d just been in a leadership meeting with his wife, and greatly admired her. 

The carpenter walked over. “I’ve been wanting to meet you,” he said. “I read your article in the newspaper and purposed to meet you, but wanted it to happen organically.”

Then, he spoke a few words in my mother tongue (huge surprise), and we chatted for awhile. 

Both of us knew our meeting was no accident, so a few days later, he and his wife met me for dinner and we all became fast friends–probably the life-time kind of friends! They offered assistance in any area I needed it, and I accepted. 

My car is giving trouble, and I know little about cars,” I said. “If you could give me some advice, I would so appreciate it.” 

My van continued to get worse, and before long,  I knew the time had come to get rid of the old van and purchase something else. 

Willis and Greta were up to the task, and quickly had my desk loaded with print outs of cars for sale. “No mini van!” was my main request. Somehow, I needed to drive something different.

You need seven seats,” he said. “I will find several cross-overs for us to see, and we will make up our mind from there.” 

Greta and Willis spent the day traveling with me, and after traveling to different cities and back to the same one three times over, we finalized a deal. The car was not only affordable, but had a lot of life left, and I genuinely loved it. 

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I hugged them both as we parted ways on the ferry. “You will never know how much this means to me,” I said.

Willis’ eyes became teary. “You know, when I do this, I feel like I’m doing it for Crystal.”

Willis and Greta’s only daughter had passed away many years ago, and their hearts still ached. She was an angel of a child, and greatly missed. Today, they are an answer to my own prayer, but God always turns giving around to bless the giver, as well. 

I nodded my head. “I receive it,” I said softly.

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I drove home in the dark with Christmas music swirling in the car. In the midst of great heart ache and loss, God came with his own touch to let me know I was not alone, and he was intimately involved in every detail of my life. 

Friends, we can trust him. In the light or in the dark, he is there. Whether we feel it or not, he is there. When we need him, he is there.

We are never alone. Ask him for a touch today, and you will receive it in one way or another. And when it happens, put your roots of faith a little deeper than before. 

You are loved.

Jesus has already been where you need to go. He leads you, walks beside you, and declares his love over your life. You are never alone; if you know Jesus, you are held by the best companion you will ever know.

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He leads you on. One day, trials will dissolve—but until that day, He walks with you to fill in the gaps. Trust him, and sooner or later the clouds will part, truth will reign, and you’ve only to make certain you’re on the winning side! 

Fully Seen by God

I’m willing to be nothing,” I told the Lord over and over again. And strangely enough, He’d ask me, “Are you willing to be something?

It took me aback, but I’d say, yes. Whatever the Lord wants, but why would He ask me that?

Did you know that true humility isn’t conditional on being unseen?  True humility happens when you don’t really think about whether or not you get seen, admired, or praised. You don’t focus there, and you stay real. You don’t care about that side of earthly kingdom stuff, because you are engaged in the heavenly, where all is love.

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As God asked me whether I was willing for both, my life boomed with my fondest dreams, and I began to walk through all kinds of doors. One after another, my dreams came true. I wrote books, and I spoke at conferences. I had a radio interview and an offer for a potential television interview. My soul was alive because I was doing what God asked me to do.

Then, a life circumstance crushed me and swept me away in a torrent of grief.  Godly friends rallied round me and held me up when I could not so much as put one foot in front of the other.

I entered a quiet season, one where it was God and me, alone. One where I woke up with tears and went to sleep with a dull ache in my heart. One where, rather than being asked who I was because they had heard my name somewhere, I was asked how I was doing because they had heard about my circumstance, somewhere.

Oh, friends. Can we except the trial as much as the triumph? Can we embrace the quiet as much as the quest? Can we, really and truly, live for the honor of the Highest One, in whom we live, and move, and have our being?

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I don’t really need the action, I need the Activator. When He activates, all is well. When he quiets me down, all is well. Because all is well where He is.

True humility serves Him well more than it is served well by what He does for us. And in eternity, our focus is on Him, and Him alone. His glory will burst from our beings in eternal hallelujahs round the throne, all for Himself.

This is why our focus here is not on our lives, but on His LIFE. Our reward is not from what we do, but from what He’s done. Will you say it with me, “Lord, I’m willing to be seen or unseen, whatever makes you FULLY SEEN.”

Medicate Your Trouble?

So hey, soul!

What are you medicating your troubles with? Because I know that, for many women, the holidays are a most painful time of reminders for what should have been.

So, yeah. Some of us may want to eat our hearts out while others of us get nauseous and can’t eat enough.

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Some of us may shop our credit cards dry while others of us save each penny in an attempt to feel virtuous.

Some of us may want people to surround us while others of us crawl into a hole too small even for our own hearts.

God means to lead us straight to his heart instead of into the chocolate cake (though that helps, too!). He wants us to purchase things money can’t buy with currency of another kingdom, and the more we feel like paupers, the larger His gift of riches.

I want us to see His faithfulness when others are faithless.

See His care when you’re not cared for like you need to be.

God’s no is never meant for deprivation, but is an invitation to wholeness, instead.

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Whatever God says is meant to lead you into better places, deeper graces, and larger love.

Catch the devil red handed in his lie that if you listen to God, you’ll miss out. Tell him to his face that if you don’t listen to God, you’ll end up in a worse place just like Eve did when she didn’t listen. Allow your own Eden to remain by refusing temporary gifts offered in disguise.

You will never eradicate your pain by medicating it with earthly gain. But you can hallow your places when you choose heavenly graces.

Bite into that chocolate, but allow your soul to sink deeply into Someone surpassing all earthly comfort. Thank Him for leading you to deeper grace in spite of your place!

 

How to Pray When You Don’t Know How

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their many words.” Matthew 6:7, ESV

Ever listened to someone pray while squirming with uneasiness in your spirit because you could sense in your own spirit that they were praying more for man than praying to God?

Ever knelt on your own knees, wondering how to reach the heart of God?

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I wonder why we try to pray just right when God’s eyes are already roaming the face of the earth looking for His daughters whose hearts have been made right by His love? Look at how simply Jesus tells us to pray:

He wants His name to be hallowed.

He wants us to ask that His will be done on earth, just as it is in heaven.

He wants us to ask for our needs.

He wants us to ask for forgiveness, and to forgive those who’ve wronged us.

He wants us to ask for protection from evil.

He also wants us to keep asking, like the widow who bothered the judge for bread while he was in bed. She didn’t turn away after he refused to come. She kept asking, and then, he came. (Luke 18:1-8)

Jesus tested the faith of His daughter when he told her that it wasn’t right to give the children’s bread to dogs (implying she was a dog rather than a child [Matthew 15:26] ). She pushed through and told him that even the dogs get crumbs. He immediately gave her what she wished for, while praising her for her faith in Him.

Keep coming, but don’t worry about how you come. God’s spirit intercedes for you with groanings even He cannot utter.

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In your weakness, you are covered by Someone who knows how to touch the heart of God because He is part of the Godhead, Himself.

When you have no words to utter, know that the Spirit utters even better ones for you.

Just keep coming!