about fear and comparison.

comparison

I’m at Starbucks on this sunshiney day and I’m still thinking about fear, about how much I depend on it to motivate me. And it does. It can easily drive my heart and take advantage of my insecurities until I’ve made a mess of my feelings-holder and my day.

I’m afraid I don’t stack up, so I serve lists in my day and look for validation there. I end the day defeated and trying to find marrow in a dry place.

I’m afraid someone else won’t do it just right, so I hover. I rob others of joy and myself of the truth of my weakness.

I’m afraid I’ve made all the wrong decisions as a parent, so I walk around with my heart sinking into my stomach and keeping me unsettled and unfocused. I miss opportunities to just move into my people anyway.

I’m afraid that I’m not a good enough friend, mother, wife and child. I’m afraid that a season isn’t just a season. I’m afraid that God’s good thing for others means there isn’t enough for me, even though my brain knows His goodness, His largeness, His beauty.

So, I look around. I watch what happens in other people’s lives. I store away all the ways that they are better, that their life is better, that they have better good things.

I compare.

But, that’s not how God made me to live.

I believe that God’s love for me is the death of comparison. I believe it. And I’m teaching a class on the truth about comparison and the freedom God wants for us tomorrow night. I’m inviting you. Thursday, February 20th. 9 pm (Eastern). The Influence Network (you don’t have to be a member to take the class). Sign up right here.

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I wanted to mention that it is my joy to be a part of The Influence Conference again this year. In a turn that only God could design, I’ll be speaking this year. He has already begun to till up my heart soil about this weekend and what His words through me will be.

It’s going to be a sweet weekend of community with a list of speakers that you will want to hear from. There’s a place for you. Tickets are on sale right now. I hope you’ll consider joining this community of women who long for God-bent hearts.

saboteurs.

sabotage

When we are afraid that we aren’t good enough, what if we said, “I am Loved?”

When we are afraid we’ll fail again, what if we said, “I am Loved?”

When we look around and see that others do it better, what if we said, “I am Loved?”

When the way looks unclear, vague and overwhelming, what if we said, “I am Loved?”

John wrote this truth: that Perfect Love tosses fear to the side. There is one Perfect Love: found on a Cross, in an empty grave, alive again. Christ tosses fear aside like garbage. It is not precious to Him. We are. We are, and it isn’t possible for us to walk in Perfect Love and fear.

What if fear is the greatest weapon against us? What if Love is the greatest form of sabotage? What if we take up arms and strike down every fearful thought with the truth? What if our world becomes gloriously ruined because we choose to believe that we are Loved?

Let’s be saboteurs.

about sailboats and a home tour.

hometourbedroomdresser2

One of the things I have a hard time writing about here is the fact that I am an annoying and incurable nester. I love to love our home and live in it. I love to shuffle everything around and reimagine and reuse. After four years of living here I think we are getting closer to using every inch well. Somehow, though, I never feel comfortable with that voice in my writing.

Today, I have the sweet privilege of sharing my home (or at least the downstairs portion) at Life Made Lovely. Heather is one of my favorite bloggers. Her faith story is truly a miraculous telling of how God meets us in our deepest loss and walks with us. Every week she shares a real home that is filled with real people. It is my joy to be featured there this week. I hope you’ll pop over there!

As I was putting together all the little bits and pieces, I found myself really wanting to tell the story of my sailboat painting. In the end, I decided to leave it out because I had already been wordy enough. It seemed like just the right sort of thing to share with y’all.

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I hit repeat one more time. It’s a song: a beautiful guitar-driven mash of words about being on a journey. It’s Ben Rector’s “Sailboat” and it has attached itself to my heart. A song about a journey, yes, but not the beginning or the end. It’s a song about the middle: about going somewhere but not being there yet, about the inglorious day after day of not there yet. Somehow listening to it honors a truth–an anthem–beating its way through my heart. Life is full of beginnings and ends, yes, but it is full of so many middles. I want to honor my middles instead of only worshipping beginnings and ends. There is much in the middle to learn, sing, enjoy.

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It’s the weekend before Christmas and Tom has given me a Saturday afternoon to run about. I drive five miles across town. I drive past the neighborhood where my Grandpa lived all of my childhood, with it’s metal-toyed playground. I meet my college roommate at Atlanta Bread Company. Just like every year it’s almost Christmas and it’s a balmy 80 degrees. We sit outside in the breeze and drink hot coffee. We have one hour to talk about everything and nothing. It’s a gift. On the way home, I pop in to my favorite thrifty antique store. I’m looking for cheap oil paintings, mostly landscapes or portraits. I scan all the same booths that usually have art and I turn the corner to go home. My eyes light on two sailboats caught in green and blue waves. It’s too much to spend on myself days before Christmas so I settle for a portrait study of a woman with bouffant hair in sepia tones.

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It’s the day after our Christmas festivities. All the family are gone. We’ve settled in to watch The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. My six year old is in heaven. He is Reep! He is Peter! He is Caspian! He swashes imaginary swords and tumbles around the den. In no time, we’re watching Reepicheep cross over and through tall waves into Aslan’s land. I am a mess of tears with Lucy and Edmund as they say goodbye for a long time. I think about Christ. About how faithful He is. About how He is in the middles with me. I remember how they got there: through a painting of a Narnian sailboat.

Later, I lay my head on the pillow and pull our heavy down comforter up over my chin. I’m thinking about that sailboat painting in the antique store. I get up and count my Christmas spending money. There’s enough and I go to sleep vowing I will drive over the bridge to buy my painting in the morning. I wake up praying, hoping it is still there.

It is. I buy it and smile all the way home. I thank God that He speaks to us in all kinds of ways. Later, I hang my sailboat painting right there in our bedroom.

I look at it everyday. And everyday I thank God for beginnings, ends and, most especially, middles.

about coffee and the flu and a snow day and expectations.

snowdaybirdhouse

It was a Friday morning a few weeks ago. We slid into the worn booth of a local coffee shop, my friend and I. The air was full of that heavenly, earthy, roasted smell of ground beans and hot water. It’s my favorite smell God ever made. We sat there with an hour to fellowship and a million little things to cover. She asked, “How are you?” And it was not the kind of how-are-you that you can skirt with an oh-you-know-same-old-fine. It was the kind of question that deserved an honest answer. And the honest answer is that I’m doing things but feel like I’m getting nowhere. I am afraid: afraid that I’m not productive enough.

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It was a Monday evening last week. I sat with my feet dangling off of the doctor’s exam table, a fevery and mostly delirious mess with a heavy heart. My body ached and I was sure I’d never been hotter than that moment. Tears came easily as the nurse swabbed my nose, pricking my eyes first and flowing freely as she turned to leave the room. All of the sudden the weight was more than just my sick body. The exam room became a sanctuary and the place where I sat–feet dangling–an altar. It was the flu and it came without reason but there was more than just a body sickness. As I waited for the doctor to come in masked up and prescription ready, I went over all the corners of my life and how they have been left untended lately.

My expectations were too heavy for me. My expectations are too heavy for me.

And so I did what I’ve learned to do. One by one I placed all of the things in God’s lap. Is this for me and from you? What about this? And this one, too? That one? That one I want so much. But You can have it if I’ll move forward in You. You can have it if it will unparalyze my heart. You can have it if You want it: the most painful but productive words I’ve learned in my 19 years of walking with Him.

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It was last night and the water bubbled over dirty dishes. My husband stacked his oreos up on the counter, crunching through them one by one. The water bubbled and the cucumber soap smell filled the kitchen and I let my heart things flow out. We almost never come at a problem the same way so I tried to make my words the kind that he hears well. He listened and I fumbled my way through, how I’m like my children on a latent snow day: waiting and waiting and waiting for the promised thing and realizing that it’s a not yet. It’s still a not yet.

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I took two weeks off from this space. I didn’t mean to, but the flu stole a week and then I just couldn’t make words form. It’s mostly because I need to do some heart work about my expectations. I don’t know how but I want to drag all of my stuffs and things under the umbrella of grace. Surely there is a place where productivity is covered in grace. I’m not sure what that means for this space. I’ve learned to be unafraid of putting precious things on the altar. The truth is that this is a precious thing to me and I have a story I want to tell. It’s a story God is making my very heartbeat. It’s my story but you are there; I see you all around the edges. But. There are other corners of my life and I’m trying to decipher what all of that looks like in tandem.

This isn’t an announcement, just so you know. I have some fears about this space: that I think too much, that I write too many thinky things, that I don’t write enough happy and how to posts, that I’m too small. One thing I’d like to say about 2014 is that I stopped using fear at the foundation, that instead I hoped and planned and dreamed and tried out of God’s great love for me. I’m going to be working on that.

no matter.

sunnyday

On a humid, thick aired day in the South, the sun is your enemy; the way it beats down punishingly and singes you all around the edges. Your skin breathes hot and your nose is always pinky tender from hours spent outside.

But in the winter? When the new year has brought more grey days-rainy deluged days that weigh you down soggy? A sunny day is hope. A sunny day is grace. A sunny day is a promise.

It’s the way shards of light cut lines across a swept wood floor: how each plank shines and shimmers. It’s the blinding glint off of years old wavy glass panes: how you have to squint out of your kitchen window as the light pours over your backyard fence.  It’s the way you hear an out of place bird song, one always saved for Spring. It’s the way you feel connected: how you hear child shouts lilt over boundary lines, all scooping up the last few minutes of daylight.

A sunny day is a memory stone. Once, the world was overcome by its sin. Once, it drowned in the waves of its selfishness: greed, imperfection, comparison, hatred, disobedience, pride. Once, the world really was in over its head and there was no way out except a boat full of four legged things and one family.

And a sunny day is a delivery on a promise. Never again will we be overcome with sin. Never again will our pride-bent hearts have to be our destruction. Never again will our imperfection have to be our undoing.

So. No matter how many days we have been out to sea, lilting and hoping and squinting for the shoreline? No matter how many months we’ve felt the rain pummel our red-rimmed, tired eyes? No matter how many puffs of air gather round and make the sky and our future seem vague?

A sunny day will come.

fresh start goals.

a fresh start.

Here are my goals for 2014.

seek Him.

I want to pursue knowing God more deeply through surrender, study and a stronger focus on prayer. Advent uncovered some stony unbelief in my heart, and I am praying that God will cut through all of the fogginess those untended corners can bring. Whatever He does do this year, I want to keep showing up. I struggle most with being persistent and specific in my prayer life, so I’m feeling drawn to focus on that. My dear friend recommended Val Marie Paper’s prayer journals to me, and I have loved using mine so far.

Mostly, I am committed to wrestling and pulling all of my identity under the truth that I am Loved.

pursue them.

I want to know, love and like Tom more than ever. We have more flexibility than we’ve ever had in the day to day, and I am focused on serving him and spending time with him.

I want to disciple my children by consistently seeking the Lord together, establishing daily habits of togetherness and parenting them one-on-one more frequently. I hope we’ll read aloud more together. I hope we’ll draw near over the Word more and more frequently. My biggest challenge will be finding more individual time, which I am finding is a high need since we are in some transitional years as far as age.

anchor by rhythms

I long to serve my family by establishing and maintaining rhythms that anchor our home and communicate my love for them. Basically, I hope to grow in tending to our home life.

walk in truth

I want to focus on my overall health with an emphasis on making wise and moderate choices and meditating on God’s truth about me. I have so, so much to say about my health journey. I just refuse to spend one more year focused on losing weight. I’m tired of it. I’m feeling a little disillusioned with all of the healthy eating talk right now as I don’t see much of Christ being brought into the dos and don’ts. In the past month, I’ve come to a realization: as I’ve ventured more and more into healthy eating ideology, I’ve become that weird food person, which feels ok but isolating. Full disclosure? My family does not love the way we have been eating lately.

Still. I battle my self image and long to change every single day–many, many moments throughout every single day. I’m not sure where this leaves me except that I would love to make meals my husband actually likes. He eats whatever I make, but I would love to see him genuinely excited to eat a meal he loves. And I see. I see (Jamie Foxx SNL skit, anyone?) that we live in a culture that worships food and diversity and availability. I don’t want to be fooled by a false freedom, but I’m not sure I haven’t been exchanging that for a different kind of worship: a worship of what I can do.

So. All I know is that I want to believe what God has said about me. Change happens this way: mind, heart, actions. I’m starting with my mind this year and reading over and over again how He loves me. Then, I’m trusting John 10:4: that Christ goes before me and that the more I know His voice, the more easily I will follow Him. God has a path marked out for me. I won’t lie. I’m afraid to not start with what I can do, but this feels more hopeful than any other way. This doesn’t mean that I’m abandoning all of what I’ve learned over the past year. I’m just bringing all of that under the truth-telling light of God’s Word.

write hard and clear

I want to be brave this year. I am prayerfully pursuing some new things with my writing, and I am scared. I feel a strong allegiance to who my audience is and want to circle around that more and more. Mostly, I want to write in a way that illuminates God’s work in my life and connects me to others.

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Real talk? This is the kind of post that leaves me feeling overwhelmed. There is much here, and I know I’ll fall short over and over again. I will be selfish. I will yell. I will oversleep. I will leave dirty dishes in the sink.  I will speak in anger. I will let others down. A lot. Perfection is not my goal. Growth is.

So. These are my plans. What are yours? I’d love it if you’d share a goal or two for your life right now!

things written on my heart.

thingslearned

Like most people, I get all wrapped up in the romance of a new year. It feels fresh and clean and opportunity-laden; a little pink cheeked year all scrawly and ready to be filled up with all the things. I wrap my year up in hopes and dreams and the resolve to be a better version of myself.

This year I am letting go of being a better version of myself. Instead I am setting goals that I hope will lead me to begin to live out of God’s love for me. The truth is that I often try to drum up the wherewithall and gumption to be better and lovely and liked and good from other things: approval, acceptance, conformity. These all lead to comparison and competition and, well, a fissure-covered heart that can’t seem to hold onto anything worthwhile. Also, I get stuck. Stuck in fear. Stuck feeling ashamed. Stuck in avoidance.

I’ve been working through this process as I reflect and redirect and I’d love to honor what the Lord has been writing on my heart over the last year.

God knows even the tucked away, unnamed dreams we harbor. I’ve taught classes. I’ve shared a message with the women of my church. I’ve led workshops. I’ve met you all here. All these things, I never would have been able to verbalize a dream toward. But when I’ve stood in these pockets, I’ve felt closer than ever to my 17 year old self sprawled on a floral comforter and scribbling words in a composition notebook. This is a dream I never would have named, but it appears I have always had a heart communicate with others.

I need a plan. As much as my right-thinking bent brain revolts against straight lines and lists, I need to be intentional and thoughtful. I don’t want to serve lists or try to squeeze grace out of dry-lived performance but I do want to be engaged and unstuck. Inspired by my friend, Hayley, I’ve begun making some realistic goals for each month and even though I’ve written “Make a chore chart” for two months now, I do see that I am making more progress in my daily living and finding more joy in being a servant in my home.

I want to be sensitive to my distractions. More and more, I am feeling convinced that we are being paralyzed by all of the information rushing around us. There’s a trade off: the more time I spend gathering status updates, beautiful pins and 20 ways to be better, the less I am actually doing and being. There is room for inspiration and I don’t mean to imply that information is inherently bad. But. Information is not truth and inspiration dies when it becomes prescription. I feel compelled to become more and more discerning about the quality and quantity of the voices and stories I allow into my life.

I am a writer. This is still a descriptor I find hard to clack out on keys. And I don’t apply it based on any perceived skill level I think I have. I just find life in words and I love to meet you here, invite you in and extend “Me, too.” My mind is constantly churning and processing and it is freeing to look for the Lord’s hand and sort things out in words and find out that I am not alone. I feel a heart for you and my words are the way to get there.

2013 was a full and beautiful and hard-fought and slow and jumbled and everyday-filled year. What about you? Would you share something God has been writing on your heart?

thirteen years: a letter.

anniversary

If I could write a letter to my 21 year old self,  I would say:

I know you just returned from that conference; the one where you learned about courtship and making lists about your future spouse. Your list is long and detailed, but you won’t hold to all the fluff. The truth is you’ll move away to Roanoke, Virginia in a year or so. You’ll finish graduate school and you’ll commit to a year of ministry. Just before you move away you’ll fall in love. You’ll be so surprised by the man who woos you with laughter and deep set dimples and steadiness. He won’t play the guitar or write flowery words or lead with a heavy hand. He will have a quiet strength and he will love baseball and he won’t let you go on taking every little thing so seriously.

On December 30, 2013, you’ll celebrate your 13th wedding anniversary. It will be quiet and full of everyday things like going to the grocery store and taking down the dried out Christmas tree. Some years will be quiet like that. On your 10th anniversary, you’ll buy a couch and promise to take a trip later. Truthfully, the 13th year will bring hard things. It will hold stretching and disappointment stronger than any year before, things that will tug at both of you and that God will use to keep your bond solid if you’ll let Him.

And in the 13th year, he will love you like he always and never has. He will always see you as God made you: beautiful. And he will tell you more than ever. He will hold you under his shoulder as you begin a new stage of life. He will faithfully nudge you as you draw deeper and deeper into God’s love for you, as you turn away from defining yourself by performance and acceptance. A new thing will be birthed in you during your 13th year of marriage. And every truth, every victory, every step will have come through him first. He will believe for you, pray for you and love you when your hair is dirty and you’re wearing the same old yoga pants.

Everyday won’t be like this. You’ll needle each other and argue over things like toilet paper and groceries and your future. You will fight. Hard. And you’ll cry. You do will the hard work and you will be stubborn. But. On your 13th anniversary, you’ll be so overwhelmed with how much you like this man you met at 18.

I know you’re afraid and hopeful: afraid you’ll never fall in love and so wistful for the day that you will. I know you think that marriage will mean the end of insecurity and loneliness and uncertainty. It won’t. You’ll still battle timidity and take forever to make decisions and worry about what everyone thinks. But. You will have someone to walk with. You’ll feel beautiful when he stands beside you, brave when he takes your hand.

And you will like him.

If you are reading by email or through a reader, click through to listen to this sweet and poignant song by Ben Rector. 

Sweet photo taken by my lovely friend, Lorien.

forever and always.

GodWithUs

On a Sunday morning we are all dragging our limping hearts and bodies through the motions. Up and dressed. Hair just so. Fancy shoes instead of everyday shoes.

Except this morning has been full of battles. The clothes aren’t right. Hair is too knotty. All of the sudden there is a standoff over shoes. It appears that some of us woke up ready to fight.

After we pour in the van I sigh to my husband, “How can you be for someone when their will is so often set against yours?” I feel tired after weeks of the same old battles. I know who I want to be as a mother but it feels impossible on this winter Sunday.

When we’re finally settled and ready to receive the Word broken open for us, I see that it’s Immanuel: God With Us this morning. I remember how months ago I asked a friend to pray for me in the face of disappointment: Pray for my unbelief? That I will believe God is for me, for us right here?

She sent back love and prayers and a sermon filled with the truth. God With Us. I listened to it over and over again, amazed at how it settled over my heart.

And on this Sunday, I think about this God With Us. About how He isn’t just for or against us. About how those are battle lines. About how He is with us and that is a love line. How for is the promise and with is the fulfillment. I’m reminded of the unbelief that prickles around the outside corners of my heart. Help my unbelief, Lord.

I imagine God With Me as I hear another no. I imagine God with me as I fail again. I imagine God with me as my heart swells over toothless grins and chirrupy bird-like voices. I imagine Christ choosing us over and over again as He wraps up in our skin; forever and always, He promises.

How tender that is to think of Him with me forever and always. This is who I long to be as a mother. More than just for. With. Relationship is in the with: drawing near when obedience is hard, drawing near when hearts hurt, drawing near when wills go to battle again. I won’t change my for. But I pray for God to show me the tender of with. I pray that He will show me in my own heart and that it will break open and out.

Merry Christmas, friends. He is with you forever and always.

Christmas this year.

I almost gave up on opening the door on my Christmas home this year. There are two reasons. One: my words are rusty and I feel a little jumbled. Two: I don’t feel the most confident writing about decor choices. But. I’m going to do it anyway.

This is how I decorate for Christmas: I wait until the 6th(ish) day of December and then I start to feel this desperation that I’m eons behind. So, we lug the decor down and I splatter it everywhere and I throw things here and there without the slightest plan. But it works for me. I’m not a planner, I’ve found. I’m more of a discoverer with these types of things and I just have to try a million things until my heart sets on something.

So. I’m posting today for the discoverers out there.

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No garland this year. But I did make this wonky wreath out of trimmings from our tree.

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We watched video tutorials for folding and cutting paper snowflakes and then strung them up in doorways.

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This little nativity is from Mexico. I think my girl has set this vignette as it appears no one is fighting or using weaponry.

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We bought a thirty dollar, crooked tree at the lot down the road and called it good. I felt ambitious and finger knitted a garland that only ended up covering half the tree. We used it anyway. Then my short people threw some ornaments up. We’re shooting for excellence over here, people.

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We have slowly been settling into our new bedroom downstairs. It’s still a very much in progress room. My daddy built that headboard for me and I’ve always wanted to hang a wreath on it but just got lazy, I guess. Until this year.

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I still love our new bathroom where I wrapped some flannel around my husband’s first hunting trophy and strung garland in the window.

Also! Grover wishes you a very, merry Christmas!

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I’m linking up with my friend, Nester.

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