I Feel So Ugly

Today, I woke up feeling ugly.  The mirror was harsh and my thoughts were harsher.

It’s awfully hard, sometimes, to keep moving forward with only a dim picture of what could be.

Here I go, grappling with that old question again! How long, Lord?

I want to see a glimpse, a clear glimpse, of the me You know I will be.

But, right now?

mirror_missindeedy

Well, right now, I only see this dim and very muddled reflection. It’s not pretty. It’s all smudged with “wish I never said that” thinking and “why couldn’t I finish that” questioning. It’s tainted by age that hasn’t been accompanied by wisdom near as much as I would like.

 “It is the same with us. Now we see a dim reflection, as if we were looking into a mirror, but then we shall see clearly. Now I know only a part, but then I will know fully, as God has known me.”

-1 Corinthians 13:12 (NCV)

Age aside, (way way aside, please), it’s worth noting that most days, I’m quite happy to only see my reflection dimly. If at all. The problem I’m experiencing is that as grace abounds more and more, the dimmer the image staring back at me in the mirror.

Maybe that’s exactly the way it should be.

Each time I think I think I’ve got a hold of what I look like, God changes something in me.

And each time He makes adjustments to the old me, I find myself staring at a new and unfamiliar reflection.

Even as I type out these words, I realize that there’s really no need to know exactly how I look. To myself, or others.

It’s got to be enough, His grace has to be enough to cover my lack with His all.

My ugly with His beauty.

Whether dimly or clearly.

Why does it take me so long to figure these things out?

He knows what I will look like. He loves the me that I am now through Perfect Eyes that see past this here and now and into the gorgeous eternal.

Those flaws we see in ourselves, that I constantly see in myself, the ones that glare back at us in the mirror? They are the same ones He uses to draw others toward us.

I’ve watched Him use my ugly to speak into someone else’s ugly, time and time again. He does it with such beauty. It’s staggering.

But then, the times I wake up and immediately hate what I see, I so easily forget that there is no room for hatred in His eyes. The disgust and frustration and disappointment, seen so clearly by my own eyes, are all crowded out by the affection and joy and delight, in His.

For the Lord takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.”

BibleGateway Psalm 149:4 (NASB)

I am His people. I’m guessing that if you’re reading, you are too.

Or, you long to be.

The God who made us, sees beauty.

The One who sees me, sees beauty.

Oh God, how I need to cling to that! 

He promises that He will beautify.

Oh God, afflict us with salvation! 

I’m thanking Him for that promise, today.

Yes indeedy.

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When You Just Don’t Understand Yourself

“Stay open to conversations instead of confrontations.” – Nicki Koziarz

Listening to a session about how to engage millennials in our churches, I was struck by the quote, above, by this wise young speaker. (Ten years younger feels like forever ago young!)

Each word she poured out was filled with exceptional wisdom regarding her generation. I felt, by turns, convicted, encouraged, and hopeful. And, as you can imagine, I’m especially thankful for that last one.

Grace equals hope, for me. Listening to each point made, I realized how many opportunities for connection I’ve passed up. But, mercifully, there is grace. And every time I move toward conversation and away from confrontation, I speak Grace a little more fluently.

That quote, though? Sweet Moses! I was also made fully aware of just how quickly I am prone to launching toward the confrontational aspect of an issue. While the speaker made a special point to encourage us to be wary of doing this on social media, I instantly saw how this behavior could carry over in my relationships.

Has carried over into my relationships.

Ouch.

I recalled words exchanged between Sweetman and myself. During one particular and recent incident, hurt layered over my words in ugly ways. I winced as I remembered details of my portion of our discussion. Leaving the conversation on the floor, and opting instead for confrontation, I felt justified.

At first…

I didn’t give near enough thought to my end game, though. Harmony in the household is not achieved by angry confrontation. We all know this. I know this. And yet, I don’t do this! And this frustrates me.

I feel like Paul.

“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:15 NLT)

Paul’s admission reminds me that I am human (hate that), and that I’m not the first person to experience this dilemma (love that).

He also rightly points out that we don’t fully understand ourselves.

I think this is the part I keep forgetting. We humans can have all the self-awareness in the world. We can be deeply introspective and highly conscious and widely informed about our foibles and propensities.

But, God…He fully understands us.

And loves us anyway.

What delights me is that He continues to use things, like this speaker’s talk on engaging millennials, to reach into my ignorance and show me better ways. He takes what I am and makes me into something kinder. He shepherds me toward grace when I chase after confrontation.

Oh, thank you Lord!

And, when I’m feeling like I just don’t understand myself, I can rest knowing that God surely does.

Yes indeedy!

I Want to Be a Warrior, Not a Worrier

Recently, parents in my little community found out that the long standing tradition of “Step Up Day” (finding out what homeroom you would be in, and what students would be with you) would not take place on the last day of school, as it had in the past. This day always caused much excitement, and more than a little anxiety, as anxious students AND parents awaited The News when their student arrived home on the last day of school.

In certain situations, especially those that pertain to Sweetboy, I can be one of those anxious parents.

I’ve always assumed Sweetboy needed to know these sorts of things to appease his own angst over the possibilities.

But, in true “out of the mouths of babes” fashion, when I told Sweetboy about the change, he said, and I quote, “That’s actually kinda good mama because then I don’t have to worry all summer about being in a classroom with a not-nice kid or teacher.”

Clearly, this was a lesson that I needed to learn. Yet again.

You see, I had worked myself into a bit of a frenzy over the many negative possibilities that this change in notification could produce. I had convinced Sweetman that we needed to assert ourselves into the process to help “guide” it more positively, for Sweetboy’s sake, of course. I had discussed the reasons this was so not a good idea with other special needs parents.

But, what I didn’t do, was take it to my God.

I’d say “shame on me”, but I’m too aware of the grace He constantly throws me, and will continue to.

Why is it that I still, still take my problems to God, last?

He promises to work on my behalf. Every time. Sometimes, He’ll work in ways I can see and feel. And sometimes, it will be in ways I can’t fathom. But, He is working. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

When we take our worries to God, as He asks us to,then we become Prayer Warriors, instead of worriers.

Warrior.

I rather prefer that title. Don’t you?

Yes indeedy!

While we wait to receive news of which classmates and teachers Sweetboy will be with next year, I’m lifting this prayer up to The God Who Is In Control Of It All:

Dear God, thank you for loving Sweetboy more than I ever could. Help me be patient while I trust You for his future. Take these anxious thoughts and turn them into reminders of how able You are. Thank you for your grace. I surely need it. Amen!

How to Deal With the “What Ifs”

How many times have you heard the saying, “God will not give you more than you can handle”?

If you said “too many”, same here.

Nothing can strike fear in my heart quite as quickly as any situation where the word “if” is involved. It can be one of the most terrifying words in the entire English vocabulary. I’m guessing it can be for some of you, too?

Often, if hangs in the air like a bomb waiting to detonate. That bomb might sprinkle confetti or rain down disaster.

But, OH! How terrifyingly if hangs there.

If this baby has a disability, too. If this precious egg sticks within me.

If I win the competition. If I don’t even place.

If the job ends. If I get the job.

If.

IF.

IF!

What’s your if?

Because, I can tell you this, whatever it is, there’s an answer to it. An answer that every religion, since religion became a thing, tries to answer differently.

And yet, each answer is essentially the same. Because The Creator of All knows our questions before we ask them. And He is faithful to answer.

In His timing, of course.

Ultimately, that’s what irks this If Asker, the very most. The plotter and planner and want-to-know-right-now-er in me is annoyed that I can’t always know what happens if.

I crave certainty. Stability. Dependability.

“If” provides none of those things.

Sometimes, an answer is for me to know. Other times, times I dread, it’s not. Anxiety could set in so easily, during those times. Two verses that I cling to during a time of waiting for an answer are:

“When doubts fill my mind, your comfort gives me renewed hope and cheer.”

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.”

Comfort comes in knowing The One who made each one of us does, indeed, care what happens to us. And, he knows what happens “If”. Not only does He know, He’s got a plan for whichever side of this two-letter word the answer falls on.

Remembering that truth provides a measure of relief, as I consider my desperation for the finality of an answer. It also lifts the burden of trying to figure it all out on my own. There is a time and place for figuring it out, of course. Someone has to decide if we are going to Dairy Queen for dessert or not.

psalm66_19_missindeedy

In the grander scheme of life, though, I’m able to breathe a sigh of relief as I remember that most of what I worry my heart over isn’t for me to decide. God’s ability is higher, longer, wider, and deeper than my inability.

So is His love for me.

And you.

He knows if this is what I can handle.

God knows if this is what you can handle.

“Blessed be God; he didn’t turn a deaf ear, he stayed with me, loyal in his love.”

I’m resting right there.

Yes indeedy.

One Wonderful Kindness

Jesus calls us to be light. Not to be liked.

The two words may sound the same, and I’ve done my fair share of confusing the two as I seek to be liked light in my community, but they are different. This side of Glory, they are so very different.

Those of us who long to be more like Jesus and less like us, are also called to a higher standard of caring for one another. Both the other that we know, identify with, and like, as well as the other that we don’t.

I come a little late to this discussion, but I’ve been giving The Pool Party incident a lot of thought. As I’ve wrestled with strong feelings about both sides of the story as it was initially presented in the media, I realized what it comes down to, for me. This is a story about the depth of our willingness to forgive each other and then pursue reconciliation.

And smack-dab In the middle of this whole news story, I find myself faced with the opportunity to, as a fellow writer I deeply admire recently wrote, “stay at the table”. As I read this article by Deidre, over at the Washington Post, I was reminded that we are invited to spread the Good News that Jesus came to restore.

By living that way.

By speaking that way.

And every single time we choose to love, by not engaging in an argument over who is on the right side of fence, and why, Love wins. Each time we lock eyes with the human on the other side of the table and stay in it, determined to find where our humanity intersects with theirs, Love wins.

Call me an optimist, but, I want Love to win.

Ultimately, of course, it does.

But, I’d like to see it win a few times here on this side of Glory, too.

On this side of the fence.

So, with each new conversation about who was where they shouldn’t have been, and when, or who should teach respect and who should learn it, I choose Love.

I choose to remember how many times I made choices that were so very wrong. Yet someone, somewhere, showed me kindness anyway. I choose to recall the times I should have been in control, but wasn’t, and was given grace.

And still are.

I choose to remember that it doesn’t have to be a “they’re wrong” or “we’re right” kind of discussion. It could be, it should be a discussion about how we can love one another better. It can be another golden opportunity to show wonderful kindness, much like we have been shown.

Not a dismissal of sin.

Not an ignorance of peril.

Not a diss of this or that or them.

But Love. And grace.

Like we first understood it, the first time grace was poured out over us and our own mess.

I might not understand the daily perils of being part of this group or that organization, but I surely do know that God’s grace is one wonderful kindness. I’ve experienced it a time or a thousand.

Have you?

One_Wonderful_Kindness_Missindeedy

Oh God…let me pass on your wonderful kindness to another.

Help us all to pass it on, one to another.

Yes indeedy.

You Gotta Think Positive

When negative thoughts rise within him, Sweetboy needs as many hands on deck as possible to redirect him towards hope. Sometimes, my earnest hugs and feeble words don’t come close to touching his darkest thoughts. Or, it might be a day where my mood might be a tad bit darker than his, making it even harder to help him move toward joy.

But God…

He provided me with Sweetman, who can pick up where I leave off. And He also saw fit to give us Sweetgirl, who carries hope in her pocket every hour of every day.

It’s within the safety net of home that we are able to be helpers to each other. We find ourselves dancing around each others’ moods with just the right steps. And we come to know which moves to use under what circumstances, the longer we have had to be in each others’ presence.

I’m grateful that Autism touches our family. It forces us to dance to rhythms we might never have chosen. It also teaches us to be patient as we learn new moves.

I’ve been giving negativity a lot of thought, lately; as in, wanting to give it the boot. And, when I read this blog post about the ill effects of negativity, by Michael Hyatt last week, holy cow! My determination to keep moving Sweetboy in positive directions got a major boost.

To that end, Sweetgirl and I made up a chant to help our Sweetboy think more positively. Our little ditty isn’t likely to win any Dove or Grammy Awards, but it surely does help to snap that child’s mind into a better place. And, while he does indeed groan whenever we fire it up, we’ve started hearing him hum it to himself as he bounces around the house, once in a while.

“You’ve got to think POSITIVE, POSITIVE, POSITIVE! And only think the BEST, the BEST, the BEST!”

(I totally stole that from God. In Philippians 4:8. Where He directs us to think about only the things that are good and worthy of praise.)

Progress – that’s all any of us can hope for as we go along. Certainly not perfection. There was only One who was perfect. And He longs for us to keep moving forward, inching our way as we crawl on our bellies, some days. But, moving forward, nonetheless.

One way to keep taking steps in the right direction is to keep our eyes on all that is good. Another way to do that is to surround ourselves with folks who look for the best in a situation. I see us, Sweetgirl, Sweetman, and me, as those people for our Sweetboy.

And, I pray God continues to surround him with those people outside of our four walls.

Ahab always told us to “plan for the worst and hope for the best”. Solid advice, that.

And I’d add, you gotta think positive!

Yes indeedy!

For When You Want to Go Down the Dark Road

I find myself in that halfway point between wanting what God wants for me and wanting what I want for me. Right now, anyway, it sure feels like those are diametrically opposed wants.

In spiritual reality, my want is His want.

But, the flesh wants what the flesh wants, doesn’t it?

It feels easy to share the parts of my heart that are dark, in the hopes that those of you reading with darkness in your own heart will know you are not alone. You all help me remember that I’m not alone. The rebellion stirring around in my heart is no less palatable to my spirit when I share it, though.

As if to prove to the rebellion that it doesn’t belong there, so many times when I go to write out of the emptiness, God swoops in and inspires writing that is more joy-filled. Light floods the recesses and all of a sudden, I don’t remember what darkness I was writing to banish, in the first place.

I want to live so that Your will be done, Lord.

Human hearts being the wretched things that they can sometimes be, I find myself returning once again to the words that I originally intended to get out. The ones my flesh want to write.  I string together the thoughts that most seem like they need to get out. I try to stay on the dark road.

He lovingly redirects me by way of joy. He makes hope overshadow all.

I’m able to stay there – in that hope-filled place, for a time. Inevitably, my rebellious heart starts thumping to its own beat again, completely out of tune with God’s heart. And before I know it, I’m headed back toward pondering the angst within me instead of remembering the joy of my salvation.

How long, Lord?

When I do try to head back to that wallowing place, grace always comes. We know this. Don’t we.

There is a verse that never fails to woo me back toward The Light of All Hope. It truly sings the song of my people.

And, I have a feeling it will for many of you, too.

You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.” 

Ephesians 5:8 (The Message)

Brightest_Light_Missindeedy

No more groping along.

It’s the Brightest Light, for me.

Only The Brightest Light.

Yes indeedy.