Lenten Notes: Day 3

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To someone who walks to the beat of their own drummer. 

 

Dear S.S.,

Goodness, I love you. I cannot even begin a note to you without becoming overwhelmed with the amount of good you bring into my life.  You friendship is truly a unique treasure in my life, and it challenges me to be better every day.

I was thinking of you and praying for you this morning, and it struck me how excited I am for the new phase of our friendship that is coming up in a few months. Looking back on how our relationship has progress, it has been beautiful to see something grow so naturally in love and respect, and I thank God for you more and more as the years go by. I know that your priorities and lifestyle are about to be rearranged, but I wanted to take a moment to let you know how excited I am to learn how to love you well in the midst of them. I am thrilled that I can be nearby for you, and I thank you for always allowing me to be a part of your life, no matter what has been going on.

As I write these letters, I am struck by how many people have made an impact on my life. Your handprint on my heart has truly been a special, individual one, which is fantastic as it is always urging me to grow in new ways. Thank you for being steadfast in your love, insistent on reconciliation and maturity, and your contagious laughter. I see the world differently with you by my side, and it is a beautiful place. Can’t wait to hug you again soon.

With love,

Me

 

Lenten Notes: Day Two

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To someone who is in need of healing. 

 

Dear M. A.,

It feels funny to be writing such a strong, resilient woman a letter of encouragement, but so natural as well. Without hesitation, I can adamantly declare that you are one of the most incredible women I have ever known, and I am so overwhelmingly proud to be one of your adopted daughters, and so blessed that we are sisters under our King. How amazing is that?!

I wake up and go to bed each evening staring at a string of bible verses that your J. sent me back in undergrad. It wasn’t until today that I really noted the themes among them: victory, strength, healing, confidence, steadfastness. All wonderful encouragements. These common phrases show me the impressions of important things pressed upon her at home throughout her life. It makes so much sense; after all, how could she not be affected by the worldview of the most significant woman she knew? You have trekked through so much, and while there has always been a need for some healing (as there is for all of us, whether we acknowledge and seek it or not), your confidence has inspired those around you. Jesus is a tangible, certain thing for your family, and he will always remain its head, even through times of pain or doubt.  I may have been the first one to VBS, but I have gained so much spiritual wisdom from the likes of you and your kin.  I continually am indebted to you for the love, grace, and strength you exemplify in my life.  I love you infinitely and cannot wait to see you again.  Remember, I always have a place for my favorite visitors down here!

All my love,

Me

 

Lenten Notes: Day One

A friend of mine challenged me to write a note to forty people during the Lenten Season. Each day, there is a qualifier: someone who inspired you, someone who is a good dancer, someone you haven’t seen in over a year, etc. I will say a prayer for that person, then post my note here. I’m already behind and am sure I won’t be consistent, but let’s try our best, shall we?

 

Day One: A Note to Yourself

Start with the tough one, fine.

Dear Lord, thank You for everything that this season signifies- Your great sacrifice, Your great love. I am consistently humbled to remember that You consider me part of your family.  Walk with me this season, Lord. Guide me and break the parts of me that need to be broken, and sustain me and love me through it. I want to be a better daughter to You, and there is so much in my flesh that hold me back. Mold me and use me for Your will today.  I love You. I love You. 

Dear Me,

First of all, you can do this and it’s going to be so wonderful. I am so looking forward to connecting emotionally with others that have touched my life over the years. Remember to be generous and humble with your words, serving each friend in love. Kindness and warm thoughts can go so far in a world that is getting colder and less outwardly-concerned. Can’t wait to look back on Easter and see where we’ve gone.

~Me

Why Wives Shouldn’t Have to Submit to Their Husbands, (And Why I’m Going to Do It.)

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Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.

I became embittered toward the Bible’s unfair treatment of women at a young age. Before I had finished grade school, I had decided that I wanted to be a pastor.  After all, my pastor was one of my favorite people in the world, and I was a beast at AWANA Bible-quizzing.

And then came a sermon on 1 Timothy chapter 2, and I was in a right state for some time.
Did I live in a world where women were not to be pastors and teachers and Pope? (Okay, maybe not Pope).

And then, of course, my teenage years subtly blended territory with feminist friends and world leaders who treated their wives – well, let’s just say “in an un-Christian manner” – and books like A Thousand Splendid Suns and women running for President.  There were outcries against “Women, submit to your husbands” and none against “Husbands, love your wives.” Disney princesses suddenly didn’t need a man to be a monarch.  Soon, even women passing ranger school could even be on the horizons!

The undeniable power of the female reared its cultural head.  Women, with the ultimate innate ability to influence, to take the reigns, to wander naked in Eden and have all desire to be with her wherever she roams.

This is the makeup of our gender.  This is how we were perfectly created.  We were not created to submit, we were created in perfection, shameless.  The world was only deemed “not good” when women were found to be lacking in it (Genesis 2:18).

Things should be as they were in Eden at that time.  They should be full of freedom in all but one tree, freedom from pantyhose and underwire, freedom from nasty, tricksy serpents.  Woman shouldn’t be submitting, she should be frolicking with Man and walking in the cool of the day with Creator.  She should be without the knowledge of good and evil and the curse that comes with it.

But we are not.  She is not.  I am not.

The choice was made, and while I did not pick a piece of fruit off a forbidden tree and share it with my husband, trusting a snake over a Friend, I have done no better.

Christ came and redeemed this world for His Father.  For mankind.  For me.  He took my sin upon Himself and because of that, I can share eternity with Him.  I am so forgiven and nothing, nothing, nothing can keep me from Amazing Love.

But the curse remains, and I remain responsible.  I live here, doing my best, but not always doing my best.  The curse remains – my body will not feel like sunshine and daisies when I push children through it into this world.  The curse remains – my husband will not bring us food without some sweat on his brow and thorn scratches on his hands.  The curse remains – my womanly influence will no longer hold its power in our partnership – not in the way it should have. “Your desire will be for him…he will rule over you.”

I cannot argue with the curse unless I have not been Eve.  And I have been Eve.  And I keep being Eve, because I am imperfect and a sinner and even though I often truly do want to follow Christ with my whole heart, sometimes I do not.  Sometimes I want to follow myself, or my fantasies, or my culture.  I should not have to submit in Eden, but I am no longer in Eden and now I have to make my way.

You will not see me as the silent wife.  You will not see me as the abused wife.  You will not see me quietly allowing irrationality to affect my family, unless it is saturated in God’s hand.  I am not raising my hand and saying, “Oh, me! I want to submit! What fun to be forced into submission today!” That’s not the point.  But in order to make a post-Fall marriage work, I believe that one side must bow with respect and accept leadership in certain situations.  It’s not a synonym of oppression, abuse, throwing in the towel.

It’s not even being cursed.  It’s playing the role that is vital to survival, and ultimately joy, in this Post-Fall society.

On Being a sister. Part uno.

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Sisterhood is such a special and high calling.  So I hope there are muchos parts to these thoughts.


So my little brother got married this weekend. He is closest to me in age, interest, maturity, and heart.

When I was in Uganda for my older brother’s wedding, I was not concerned about it. He was the self-confident loner who didn’t need a little sister growing up, so I knew I would be fine. Tell that to my salt-covered face after I finished weeping down the aisle.

I came pretty prepared for Little Brother’s ceremony. I have always been not-a-little sentimental about him. Therefore, I was surprised that my emotions were only expressed in a slight brimming when New Sister was glowing in radiance while worshipping Jesus on her wedding day, clearly focused on the one Man even better than my brother. If those were the only tears that were going to show up, I was sitting pretty. Or so I thought.

The ceremony ended, the new couple entered, toasts were given, the first dance danced. Smiles, many smiles; no tears. The tradition of the Dollar Dance announced- a perfect chance for the happy couple to score some honeymoon moolah.

Eagerly, I threw a buck at the MOH to be the first to take the hand of Little Brother. I spun onto the dance floor and laid a hand on his silk vest. I smiled big, so thrilled to be close to him on this busy day, to do just a little to show my big support for him with a little dollar.

He smiled back. The groom, who had stood so poised and calm amidst the hustle and bustle of a crazy day, smiled up at his big sister.

But it wasn’t that winning grin. It was a half-smile accompanied by a profound look, one that made my heart swell with that whole, (proud) love that only big sisters have for little brothers.

Then surprisingly, shockingly, and wholly unexpectedly, he burst into tears.

What? I pulled back to look in his face- I didn’t believe it.
Then I grabbed that boy tight, repeating his name and swaying gently.

“I am so proud of you. I am so proud.”
My tears mirrored his as we did a strange half-dance, half-embrace.

It was my favorite moment of the evening, and it was filled with bewilderment. It ended, another bridesmaid took my place.  If I am any standard, and girls are supposed to be the confusing emotional ones, we women are not good at interpreting confusing male emotions. I sunk against a wall and replayed that tender moment, locking away that lovely, weepy memory.

I haven’t had the chance to ask him what made him drop his cool in that moment, and I don’t know if I will. But I felt so overwhelmingly honored to be someone he loved like that, someone who shook him so deeply on his happiest day. Someone that really mattered to him, in whatever significant way that means.

I let my own tears fall.

Dang it, Little Brother, I was doing so well.

Girl Talk

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Sometimes when I pray, I just want to talk to God about girl things.

Do you feel me? Yes? No? Maybe?

And even though I know that God knows and understands everything, that He took on human flesh in His utter goodness to go through our daily struggles, it feels a little weird.

I have been raised to worship and love this “He:”

Father.

Lord.

King.

even Husband.

There are simply some things in life which you don’t hear fathers, kings, or husbands talk about that mothers, queens, and wives absolutely do.

Woman was formed from Adam, so it seems that our substance should be the same.  When I thought of that, I had this mental image of God physically taking part of the man Adam and molding that part into Eve.

What did that make her? Simply a part of God’s beloved man?

I felt small.  Like I was incomplete; that God could relate to the whole man that He had made, but little me – a mere rib – would have to settle for only being a part of what that is.

But then I remembered –
He’s not the whole man.  That man – deemed unfit to be alone – had taken from him a part of his body, and one that is as close to the heart as possible.  Adam’s rib became a whole new being, a woman.  This woman – in being a part that he was missing – could bring a new sense of wholeness.

Now, I’m not saying “every woman needs a man to be complete” or vice versa.  Not that at all.  I think Disney’s Frozen and other sources can field that agenda for now.

What I am observing is that no human is complete in and of himself or herself.  That no person is supposed to get it all.  That God has pulled His great creation apart in a way so that humankind can serve and help one another, working together to fully experience the life set before us.  The Creator is the glue that can form our understandings (in any type of relationship) into something whole and sympathetic.  We are all very important, and we are incomplete alone.

But not God.  He is that whole being, both parts, fully put together and with wisdom for all. And He offers it to us by simply being there, in His great wholeness.

So even though He still came in the form of a man, and He dealt with the implications of that for 33 years, I have to give my Father the benefit of the doubt, because He has been around for the history of humanity, after all.  He’s seen women do stupid things, and He’s seen men do stupid things.  He’s watched us all cry and felt our pain and sorrow, and He’s rejoiced at our giddiness and glee.  I think that – perhaps – the fact that He not only created women, but has watched us do our thing for thousands of years might just make Him more of an expert than Eve Ensler.  Don’t you?

Anyway, gotta get back to my girl talk.  Luckily, He’s a patient Daddy.

What Am I Really Saying?

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I’m a huge fan of “Aha!” moments.  They are among my favorite kind of moments.

I stumbled upon one woman’s moment today, and I think it’s worth sharing.  I’m certainly glad she did.

Woman Realizes That She’s Been Accidentally Abusing Her Husband This Whole Time…

Birthday Eve Prayer

Tomorrow is my birthday.

I feel really good about this coming year. Who knows why? But I have learned so much so far, and I know there is lots to come, but I really feel as though I know that I know that God will hold tight as I walk forward. I am walking in the faith that He will never let me go, and hopefully that gives me the confidence to leap.

If you care to, share a birthday prayer with me. I pray that I learn to prioritize God every single day this year, and that His perfect characteristics overshadow any of my mediocre ones. That I will not willfully miss an opportunity to love others well, and that I find my joy where it is everlasting in its flow.

Also, I need a new bike. 😛

It Goes

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I don’t feel like I have anything inspiring to say today.

But that’s okay, because my Fitbit told me I already walked my 10,000 steps, so I can be boring.

Also, I’m pretty sure I started this blog thing as self-help and a necessary verbal(ish?) emotional outlet, so I can say whatever I want.

And right now, that’s not really anything.  So I will share another bit of Billy Joel, not because it has anything to do with my life or feelings right now, but because I love it and it is stuck in my head, and maybe it will have something to do with you:

So I would choose to be with you
That’s if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break

And so it goes and so it goes
And you’re the only one who knows

Why I Smile.

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I think the best compliment you can give a young person is to tell them how lovely their smile is.

I was checking into a hotel on a work trip recently, and the clerk was an older, Turkish man who was very kind and helpful.

Of course, I was being that customer who had errors on her reservation and had to run him through the mill several times before my card would work properly and all the dates of my stay were correct. (Travel Tip: Make reservations online, not over the phone.  And I try to avoid travel-planning sites and go straight to the source.)

The clerk kindly told me that my room was at the end of the hall, to the left, breakfast started at 6:30, and

You have a very lovely smile.

I both sputtered and blushed as I thanked him and scurried to my room.
(Yes, I think I can accurately say that I actually scurried.)

Now, in case you are wondering, it wasn’t creepy.  It may sound very forward, but trust me, wait until I tell the tale of the hotel clerk who was also a prince. ;-)

His gentle and kind compliment got me thinking (which is, of course, why you are now subjected to reading this).
I was an awkward child.  I was never the one with the great body, the athletic bent or social glamour.  I didn’t have money for or time for the cutest clothes or accessories, and no one was going to tell me that I was supposed to waste one of my precious hours of sleep to get up early and do my hair and make-up.  Ponytails and t-shirts were perfectly fine, thank you very much.

Maybe it was growing up between my brothers or alongside the Olsen twins, but I was not sheltered from the fact that I was not stereotypically pretty.  (If that had bothered me, I suppose I would have traded in on that sleep?).  I have never been one to care much about fluff or sugar-coating, so I didn’t regularly seek approval of what I wore or how I appeared.  I took objective note about myself and went on, because there were simply things I cared about more.

Now, let’s be real here, of course I was an insecure child/preteen/even adult.  No one wants to look fat in her prom dress or called names by the jocks, and there were times when I was sensitive of things like that.  But here’s the point.

I didn’t seek compliments like this, and I didn’t often get them.  And (or?) when I did, I often quickly became skeptical or brushed them off, because those words weren’t for me to keep for everyday use.  I didn’t ask for them, so I wasn’t prepared to take them in – and often I didn’t even want them (they were so illogical!).

However.

People were always telling me they loved my smile.  How it just lit up the room when I sang at church, how it struck or stunned them, or how it made them smile as well.  This comment was such a consistent part of my life from such a variety of sources that I had to believe it.  I had to own it.  And heck, if it was making other people smile and feel loved, I had to use it.

And so, I did.  I’m still not sure that I ever thought my smile was pretty, but I knew that it had this sort of power, a power like no other that I possessed.  As I continued to grow up and continued to grin as regularly as possible, people would call me Elf:

I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite!

Once, I was working as a student in our college admissions office, I was complimented (in the usual fashion) by a couple of visiting parents.  Their enthusiasm was so warm that I needed to verbally process it to one of my coworkers.

I mean, I know I smile a lot, and that always makes people feel at home, but it’s not like it’s actually stunning.

My boss, of course, takes that moment to walk out and look at me seriously and say,

Oh, it is.

and return to her office.

And then this clerk.

I continue to hear this in my life, in a time when I have finally learned the feminine grace of a good sundress and how-in-the-world to use a mascara brush.  Clerks at hotels who have a much better reason to hurry a disorganized visitor on her way do not need to stop and come up with a physical compliment when she is just trying to be as easygoing as possible.  Bosses don’t have to stop their work to reaffirm a childhood asset.

This could turn into an even longer post about the power of positivity.  About how to properly instill self-confidence.  About how we just need to smile more. (I mean, we could obviously totally just stop and talk about how pretty I am if you want to.)

But really, I think what I learned most – even more than how a smile is the most attractive (and cheapest!) accessory – is that letting someone know how great it is to see them smile is the best gift you can give them.  It makes people like us want to smile.  It makes us take the time to see the positive side, the small funny things that busy people forget to laugh at, and the soul nearby who just needs the warmth of a friendly face.

So look around today, and notice a beautiful smile.  And then share it.