I Am the Unlovely

In the wake of the horrific tragedy that took place in Orlando, FL last weekend, I instantly noticed a disturbing trend. Maybe you did too? Posts in the blogosphere and Pinterest pins and Instagram photos started flooding my news feed.

And many of them pointed out ways Christians could “love the unlovely”.

It made me ill. And mad.

If you’re still reading, let me tell you why. And if you follow along here regularly, you’re already ahead of me, aren’t you?

I am the unlovely. 

This isn’t a slam against myself. Or self-deprecation. Or a result of low self-esteem.

No, it’s Truth, with a capital T.  And I believe in a God who so loved me, and you, that He was willing to die to show us the extent of that love.

And because I believe that Truth, and am so overwhelmingly thankful for His love, I long to love everyone like me.

Every unlovely.

So, you know, every human being.

Not just now, all of the sudden, since evil attempted to get an upper hand (once again).

Not just in the aftermath of any great “reveal” where we find out someone we know or love is addicted or afflicted.

Humans don’t suddenly become “unlovely” in those instances. And I’m beyond sure about this, friends, because I am now, and always have been, unlovely.

From dust we came and to dust we will return.

Truth.

So the next time we are tempted to look upon another human heart as “unlovely” and worthy of being loved, let’s take a quick look in the mirror.

And remember…

If we call ourselves saved, well…

Jesus didn’t come to save the healthy ones.

And, I’m not good with if/then statements in science, but I get this one. If He came to save the sick, and He surely did save me…

Then that makes me one of the unlovely ones.

Oh, yes indeedy!

 

Ask First

Her blonde curls unfurled behind her as she chased her little neighbor friend across the field. All eight years of her pumped those legs to catch up with all three years of her little friend.

And, when she did catch up?

Giggles.

Galore.

“I’m gonna get you! I’m gonna tickle you silly,” she kept saying, to the delighted cries of the neighbor.

My Sweetgirl gently tickled and chased, causing the newly three-year old fits of laughter. There was more glee to behold in the scene than my heart could take in.

But, I did.

Then, I waited…

For the right moment to have that uncomfortable conversation with my precious child, who meant only good. I’m talking about the reality that tickles can also be bad. And that, to be appropriate, you must always ask first.

“But, it ruins the moment, mama,” she insisted!

This is where #parentingishard. It’s in these joyful moments that you are loath to interrupt, that you realize you must.

I didn’t want to. And I most certainly wish I didn’t have to.

But, touching varies radically from family to family. Respecting that fact means asking first. I had to convey this to my sweet one without dulling the beauty of a precious interaction. An interaction that happens not only amongst her and her friends, but also within family.

And it hit me – this is where the lines get crossed. Or not.

These are the conversations that can allow fear to skyrocket if not handled delicately. But, at the same time, I want her to know that if anyone tickles her, and it makes her uncomfortable, we are a family who talks together. All the time. About everything.

Even uncomfortable tickling.

So, if you find yourself in a situation that requires some gentle conversation about appropriate touching, here are a few things that I found helpful. Hopefully, you will too:

  • Watch for cues. As we were talking, she mentioned that when I tickle her, it sometimes hurts because I tickled “too hard under my armpits”. WOW! I had no idea. Just talking about this opened up the opportunity for me to apologize and acknowledge that she didn’t like that. It also helped me use language she was using as I forged on with my harder points.
  • Keep it simple. I chose to wait until this age to have this conversation. You, or families you know, may choose to do it at an earlier age. Or, a later one. My goal was to make sure my child understood that asking first also meant respecting any form of “no thank you”. And, again, I used the language my daughter used. “Friends”, “family”, “appropriate” “tickling”, “hurt”, “uncomfortable”, “like”, and “secrets” were all worked into our conversation.
  • Allow for questions. This one was hard. Because, when you open up this can of worms, sometimes they stay in their nice round can, and sometimes they come out in every direction. Our conversation? There were no shoving those worms back in the can! So, I just let the questions roll in. And, some of my more brilliant answers included the words, “Maybe” and “Sometimes” and even “I’m not sure”. I hope it’s obvious that I didn’t have all the answers. And I thought it was important for my Sweetgirl to know that while I will always accept any question, I might not always have an immediate answer.

Is this a hard topic to tackle? Yes. Yes it is.

But worth it.

Yes indeed.

 

 

 

Restore Unto Me

I’ve been calling out to You, Lord.

And you keep answering.

Thank You.

But, Lord, may I ask of you one more thing?

Restore unto me, the joy of my salvation.

Because, it’s missing.  And I feel like I’m chasing it down like a one woman army, lately.

But life is like that – one moment I’m sure of my place within my days and the next morning I plant my feet on the floor and feel the whole thing shift. I know that You won’t leave me or forsake me in this place where I feel unsure, unsteady. I also know that You will be there to catch me and put me back on my feet.

Every time.

You are the surety to my movements.

But, it’s in the calling out for You that I am most surprised, these days. Just the seeming need to blurt out, “I need You, God! I don’t even know why or what for. Please! Be near!”

I feel much like a toddler who has discovered the word “Dada” and has seen the effect speaking this word has on The Hearer. I keep calling it out, over and over. Because, for reasons I can’t fathom, and am not sure I’m ready to at the moment, I am needing my Father in that way.

So, I will continue to lean on You, Abba, and claim it as gift that You answer when I call.

Every Time.

I choose to trust in the reassurance I find in Psalm 143:8,

In the morning let me hear about your faithful love, because I’ve put my trust in you.

Show me the way I should live, because I trust you with my life.”

And You will. 

Because, You do.

Every time.

Without fail.

I will be restored because I believe you are The God of Restoration. Anytime the world swirls, my head spins, or my legs sway, You are there – sure, steady, and strong.

Ready to restore:

              Joy

                  Peace

                          Love

And I?

I want it all.

I need it all.

Yes indeed.

May I pray that for you, too, Friend?

Silently Correcting Their Grammar

Few things slay my inner grammarian like hearing someone botch a perfectly good word or phrase. Folks do it “alot” (ahem).

And I’m silently correcting their grammar.

Hearing Americans talk and write about the Republican and Democratic “cannidates” could spell disaster for the future of our country. And, I’m talking about the mispronunciation of candidates, not the potential election results.

I’m silently correcting their grammar, and praying for the elections.

Listening to a young lifeguard friend tell about the time she had to swim “acrosst” the bay to make sure someone didn’t “drownd” while goofing around in the surf, makes me cray-cray.

I’m silently correcting her grammar, while thanking God for her bravery.

But, for all intensive purposes, I think it’s best if people stop using that phrase. Because, for all intents and purposes, it’s being used incorrectly.

Providing me another opportunity to silently correct grammar.

And I make jokes with my other grammar abiding friends about this private act of silently correcting others’ grammar.

Never once did I give it another thought.

Until…

jokingly used a phrase with my sweetkids the other day. “Listen up peoples!”

And my children not-so-silently corrected my grammar.

Humility…I am still learning it.

Parenting, it is a mighty teacher.

Oh, yes indeedy.

I am trying to train those children up in the way they should go. But, Lord? Could my training not come back and hit me upside the head so very often?

While my defenses rose and I felt the need to shout-explain, “I know that!”, I felt Humility, Himself, knocking on my heart’s door. With each knock, there was a growing unease in my soul at my many silent corrections.

Proverbs 3:7 harked back to mind,

“Don’t be conceited, sure of your own wisdom.”

But, as usual, grace laps over the edges of my spirit as I submit my desire to know more to His desire for me to love more.

The rest of that “train your children up” verse? It says to do so in the hopes that when they are old, they won’t depart from it [their training].

I’ve departed. Oh, how I’ve departed again and again.

But Grace…

I’d like to stop departing now. Please, and thank you.

In the meantime, I’ll stop silently correcting grammar.

Thankfully, there is no statue of limitations on grace.

For the Quitters Among Us

Let me start by admitting I go by another name. It’s true. While “Missy” is certainly one way to turn my head toward the sound of your voice, so is “Quitzilla”.

As we wrap up our study of The Five Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit by Nicki Koziarz over on the P31 Online Bible Studies’ blog, I’m reminded of my “other” name.

And I don’t like it. Or her. (Quitzilla, not Nicki Koziarz, because she? She is LOVELY!)

This person inside of me who doubts she has what it takes to see a new adventure through to completion? I don’t care for her.

And, I know I’m not alone. Friends share constantly about issues they quit over and over again. We all seem to have issues that just can’t seem to be overcome.

  • The weight that won’t come off
  • The relationship that won’t heal
  • The risk we just can’t seem to take

 

Slowly, I’m seeing the patterns of behavior where my inner quitter starts getting most vocal. No surprises in the patterns, either. The enemy of my soul, the one who won’t quit trying to turn my eyes from He who makes everything possible, will press on. It’s my job to see when I’m most prone to hearing his hollow tune over the steady song of my Savior.

And, I think I’ve nailed down how I can do that best.

Just do the next thing.

Simple, right? It should be. But, I tend to get wrapped up in the whole goal. What is my end game? And, I start looking down the barrel of that goal and I get tunnel vision. Big time.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who forgets to take it one step at a time?

Recently, Sweetman and I had to make a financial decision that hurt. It ruined a perfectly good summer vacation plan and put a wedge in some perfectly wonderful friendships. What I most wanted to do, as Sweetman and I approached this hurtful decision-making process, was quit. Flat out throw caution and wisdom to the wind and do what I wanted to do. And that Quitzilla voice roared the whole time we wrestled with the choice before us.

But God…

He keeps reassuring me our resolution was not just the wise thing to do, but exactly what we needed to do to be good stewards of all He’s given.

And He has given much! He has blessed when I deserved less than half a devil dog. He had seen fit to right too many of my wrongs. He washes me new with grace and mercy All The Days.

Moving forward is a matter of taking that next right step.

I’m quitting the quitting.

Yes indeedy!

What’s hard for you for you to quit? What gives you strength to keep going?

 

Getting To the Other Side

I can raise my hands in the air like I just don’t care. Mostly because I’ve learned, after 40 some years of life that it doesn’t matter much what the person next to me thinks about me. In fact, I’m a firm believer in the adage that what others think of me is none of my business.

We’re trying desperately to get Sweetboy to own that mindset, too. The one of not caring what others think of him.

Recently I pulled on my Smart Mama pants and told him how one of the most comforting verses to me, in all of the Bible, is where we are told that people look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.

He was only mildly comforted.

It did, however, distract him. And so, he started perseverating on his looks.

Oh joy.

“But, mama, people are looking at me and seeing my stupid autism!”

Sigh.

I reminded this Sweetboy of mine that it’s okay to detest his Autism. I detest pollen. And allergies. And horses. And clowns.

But, I also (while desperately trying to keep those Smart Mama pants hiked up) reminded him that detesting what is not good should drive us toward what is.

He wasn’t buying what I was selling.

Tempted to hang my head in parenting defeat, I was reminded that although we like to focus on the positive around here, sometimes… sometimes, we have to shine light on the negative to reveal it for what it is.

And, in this case, I recognized some of the hurtful comments from his classmates as Fear.

Seconds away from feeling a parental failure, I remembered that we struggle through the trials so that we can see the mind-blowing beauty on the other side. God’s great reveal, really, is how incredibly beautiful something can look from the other side.

The other side of awful-ugly.

Like, hurtful-ugly comments from preteens whose cheeks you’d like to squeeze clean off their faces. In love, of course.

So, I pulled up those pants and secured them with the belt of Truth. Particularly, 1 Samuel 18. We read through that whole chapter together. We uncovered some treasures.

The truth in this passage was that Jonathan, Saul’s son, found a friend in David, the soon-to-be-king that Jonathan’s father detested. I’m speculating here, out of the ugliness of Saul’s hatred for David came a beautiful realization for Jonathan.

You see, during those dark times, Saul was certainly not pleasant to be around. And, I’m guessing that Jonathan quickly realized, to his relief, that he was not alone. That David, too, suffered the wrath of Saul.

As I shared this story, afresh, with my Sweetboy, I saw light begin to spread through his eyes.

I then relayed that infamous incident during my fifth grade year where I was the recipient of cruel comments because I was the only one who hadn’t shaved my legs yet. The cutting remarks nicked worse than any razor blade ever would.

But, I found a friend, that year. We commiserated during gym about being the only two girls, surely, in the history of ever, whose cruel parents kept them from fitting in.

Miraculously, just as God likes it, grace washed over Sweetboy’s face as he realized that he and his two best buddies had each other. That he wasn’t the only one to be at the receiving end of spew from Jealousy.

“I’m glad I have a possie, mama. They get me.”

Yes indeedy, child.

He realized that he isn’t the only one.

Neither are you.

Nor am I.

And that, friends, is a beautiful truth on the other side.

I Almost Wore the Fake Rings

As I sat on a plane, slowly descending back into my home state, God nudged me. He’d been nudging me for a couple of months, actually. But, the glint of the overhead light, off the diamond in my wedding ring, was His final hip-check.

I had spent the previous few days listening and learning from some of the best Christian Speaking and Writing professionals. Filled to the fullest would be an understatement. Session after workshop after keynote speech, the same few words kept being repeated. It felt much like Morse Code, alerting me to a message meant for my heart alone.

I started to decode the message in my journal after that first day. But, distractions were everywhere and my eyes weren’t fixed.

And, I know that because the next day, I found myself copying those same few words again. Only, this time, I chose to just sit with them a bit. I knew they were meant for me to hear. I just couldn’t grasp why.

Days later, enjoying some pool time amongst precious friends, the conversation flitted around those same words.

Again!

And then, twenty-four hours later, sitting in seat 6B and enjoying the unexpected pleasure of a row to myself, guess what? As I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, it became clear that God wasn’t finished laying that message on my heart.

Clearly, I hadn’t received it the way I needed to.

Hearing and receiving isn’t always the same thing, is it?

I’m going to tell you something that I’ve told you about four hundred times, already.

I.

Need.

Grace.

As I confidently share with others, all the time, God declares we are enough. God declares that I am enough. Made so by Christ. The solid rock on which I stand.

Because, friends?  All other ground surely is sinking sand.

I’ve found myself descending in it a time or twenty.

But this particular message, the one where God fills my empty places, and declares that He is enough, just hadn’t sunk in.

In fact, prior to leaving for this particular trip, I was so hoping to impress the outside world with my worth that I was willing to wear my fake wedding rings. (If you’ve experienced pregnancy or weight gain… or better yet, pregnancy AND weight gain, then you know exactly why I even have the fake rings!)

I was willing to wear these rings to a conference of OTHER BELIEVING WOMEN!

Oh God, how I still need You!

I didn’t… wear the fake rings, I mean.

At the last-minute, I reread a piece I was going to submit for a Writing Critique session. The following Bible verse was central to my piece.

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”   (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV)

This verse is central to my being.

1samuel16_7_missindeedy

Indeed. The entire five days, God filled me up, poured me out, and shined His light in dark places. In me. Through me. He showed me, much like he showed Samuel, that He has no need for me to impress anyone with anything other than the heart He’s given me.

And as that light glittered off the diamond, the real diamond, of my wedding ring, I realized all over again how very much grace I need.

Still.

And always.