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Broken Beauty

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It’s been several years and yet the metaphor remains fresh and timely. My sister and I went for an evening stroll on the beach near her home in Saint Augustine. Many large conch shells were left behind from the tide that day. I remember searching for the “perfect” shell but there were none to be found. All were broken in one way or another.

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We talked about how life is like that. Complicated, twisted, full of cracks and crevices. And then we decided to each keep one of these shells as a reminder of God’s strength being made perfect in our weakness.

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Because when you think about it these broken shells hold more beauty than the manufactured, polished-perfect ones found in souvenir shops. [Where do those come from anyway?] Notice the graceful contours which would otherwise be hidden under “perfection.” Vulnerability is more beautiful than veneer.

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Last week I discovered this little gem on my sunrise walk. Memories of the night with my sister and the shell hunt came flooding back. I finally found an almost-perfect conch shell in Saint Augustine! And the more I pondered I became convinced this shell portrays how close we will ever come to getting things right on our own.

Perfection is an illusion. Whatever it is we try so hard to project: a flawless appearance, a successful career, an A-list social calendar, a Southern Living home, children who do no wrong – these things become like an outer shell separating us from each other and God. True beauty is found as God shines through our broken places and we love each other as we are.

Peace

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Peace became my “word” for 2011. I was seeking personal peace and to become a person of peace. It is now well into 2013, and peace is still my word.

I remember being surprised by how such a simple little word is so complex. Peace is a gift from God, yes, but peace is often elusive. This is largely due to our grasping reflexes. We want to grab onto peace and obtain it once and for all. Our desire for control, even our desire to obtain peace, is often the root of why we experience such unrest and personal chaos.

The grasping and striving which come so naturally can actually sabatoge the very thing we are after. As we practice loosening our grip, though, something wonderful can happen. Peace, this gift of God which is beyond our understanding, comes flooding in.

My upcoming posts will likely flow from these thoughts as we look at peace-robbers such as these:

Comparisons with others: Nobody wins, whether you are the one doing the comparing or the one being compared to. Each of us will discover peace as we grow into who God is calling us to become without worrying about what He is doing in someone else’s life. Maybe even while affirming what He is doing elsewhere…

Ingratitude: It is easy to focus on the negatives. Practicing mindfulness, appreciating here-and-now blessings, often develops a spirit of peace and contentment.

Controlling outcomes: Is this even possible anyway? Trusting God goes against our grain but is the way to peace. Live open-handedly in trust like a newborn baby in a loving parent’s arms.

Perfectionism: We can be so afraid to fail that we become paralyzed. Go easy on the person God made in His image (YOU), and accept His grace. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness, so let His light shine through those cracks and crevices. We are jars of clay, remember?

Fear: There is so much evil and heartache in the world, it is tempting to bury our heads in the sand or our bodies under the covers. We need courage to face each day’s battles. Take a page out of David’s life and allow God to overcome your personal Goliaths. Or count how many times the phrase “be strong and courageous” is found in our story, the Bible. Claim these verses; trust in God’s leadership and provision for you and those you love.

Avoidance: Facing the truth about ourselves or our situation is often difficult. It is much easier to carry on as if everything is fine. In reality peace is only found in working through the hard stuff. If there is a mountain in your life you will do well to start hiking. Your other choice is to stay stuck getting the same results.

Lack of Resolution: I am learning to accept the fact that some things remain unresolved. We simply cannot make the right thing happen. Whether it is a disease, a job loss, or a broken relationship weighing on your mind – these things are just part of living in a broken world. There are no pat answers. All I know is that God is with us in the mess, and it breaks His heart, too. He loves us all. I guess if everything were perfect here we would have no longing for Him.

A New Beginning

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Before facebook there were only blogs such as this. Eventually, telling this story will sound like the olden days my grandparents used to talk about, their hiking two miles to school uphill both ways.

Revisiting this old site is like pulling on a favorite pair of jeans or slipping into my well-worn red Toms. Memories rush in of engaging conversations with fellow bloggers, many I have yet to meet. There were Zoe conferences, babies born, retreats formed, a marriage made, and mutual affection for our blogfather. After all this time I am still thankful for the friends inside my computer and the formative role blogging played in my development.

Lately I have been toying with the idea of starting a new site, one with shorter entries of a pointed message. I would like to reflect on and share with others lessons I am learning in graduate school and life.

In the end I decided to keep using this same blog. My posts will be weekly at most: less about me and more content to enrich your lives.

It is good to be back.

Life Overflowing

Revisiting this journal is like thumbing through a scrapbook of family memories.

The sidebar links to a post titled “I Don’t Want to Miss This” which is about enjoying the stage we were in as a family.  

Time was slipping through our fingers so quickly, and I remember experiencing anxiety when pondering the teenage years on the horizon.

We have now reached the dreaded horizon with great relief those anxieties were unfounded. Rather, these days rank among our most fun!

I am proud of the mature young ladies these little girls are growing up to be.

Rachel will be 15 soon, and driving (yikes!). Just this summer she has changed from girl to woman. It is amazing to watch these changes and to catch glimpses of what she will be like as a grown-up.

At the same time I treasure still having a “little girl” around in Ali, who is 9 and full of personality. Ali and I have become quite the swimming buddies, and she is my shopping/cooking helper.

And my Claire. She is 13 but still a kid at heart. I am thankful she is not into make-up or boys yet. Claire is the happiest when taking care of Pogo and Rosie or surrounded by farm animals at Madison’s country home. Last night at the fair I enjoyed winding through the barns with Claire, petting pigs and feeding goats; her natural habitat.

We are in an overflow season. Our calendars have become invaluable, and our house is becoming inhabited by more and more teenage girls. A group of dads are building band sets in our basement at this moment. This is the life we are building, and I sure Don’t Want to Miss This.

On Faith and 40

It has been a long time to leave a valley post up, but some valleys are deep. 

The valley is teaching me about faith. Faith is more than belief, and it involves more than trusting God. Faith is also larger than a personal relationship with Him. Yes, faith includes these things, but there is also a call. 

Faith is becoming more of a verb in my life. A living into the person God is calling out in me. It is freeing, really, to quit worrying so much about my position in the world. To cease grasping and focus instead on His grip and His purposes.  Faith calls us to bold, risky living because we have nothing to lose. We begin to open our palms and just let go.

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I turned 40 this summer. 

In my entryway hangs a saying, “The best things in life are not things.” The print is especially meaningful because Andrea helped me pick it out. And the best things in life are the Andreas.

My conclusion at age 40: We are created for relationship. 

God himself is relational; a Trinity, not a Solitary. And God desires relationship with us so much that he went through hell to establish a direct link from our hearts to His. His Spirit actually resides within us… an amazing experience! 

So, if faith is a verb, a living into something, it must be about relationships and not so much personal accomplishments. With this in mind I hope to faith (v.) these next 40; investing in people rather than accumulating things.

A Valley Post

I sometimes miss keeping this journal and wonder if I even remember how to write. 

The lack of thoughts on this page represents the desert I am going through spiritually. I know God is present, but my feelings say He is on haitus in my life.

This beloved journal records the mountaintops as God felt close. It seems only right to record the valleys as well when He seems far away.

This is a season of silence and waiting on the Lord.

Quick Update

Just checking in to say hi! I hope you have enjoyed celebrating Christ with your families and friends. Our family has had a blast. We have so much to be thankful for.

My passion has been renewed during these couple weeks off. This fall has been full of transitions with some spiritual battles thrown in. But these times are to be expected, and God is faithful. He walks through our valleys with us, many times carrying us through. I want to always love Him and honor him with my life.

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I wanted to tell you about this book John gave me for Christmas.  It’s called Pilgrim Heart, written by Darryl Tippens.  He is a kindred spirit, and I hope to meet him someday.  I recommend this for your New Years reading list if you haven’t already discovered it yourself.

My mother-in-law blessed me with an iPod, which already has over 100 songs from cd’s mainly, and 10 from my iTunes gift card from Tim. 

The exciting thing to me is that this slim little electric blue gadget holds a wealth of spiritual truths that I can take along with me anywhere. I’ve really enjoyed loading sermons as well as the ccm music which calls my heart toward worship. It’s also been fun rediscovering some old 80’s favorites and lighter stuff, too. 

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Sermon recommend: Landon Saunders Night Without Vision from ACU Summit, 2007.  It’s free! It’s amazing! It’s also the only sermon I’ve had time to listen to yet. :)

Song recommend: Worthy is the Lamb by Darlene Zschech. And for a light, fun, Jamaica-sounding song: Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. 

I could go on and on…got some U2, Alison Krauss (A Living Prayer), Zoe of course!, and Amy Stroup of course! I would like to get some Sting, Journey, JT, Styx, REO, Boss, Boston, Martina, Carrie, Sugarland, Kenny… 

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My plan for tonight is to finish un-decorating (such a sad word), and then getting Christmas some cards in the mail. I may even write a letter to go along with the picture. Be watching your box! and watching, and watching…

May God bless you richly in 2009!