Monday, September 29, 2014

Why It's Really Not About Losing Ten Pounds

I lose to find. On forehead wide
The jewels tenfold light afford:
So, gathered round Thy glory, Lord,
All beauty else is glorified.

- George MacDonald

They were the last pair in a pile of about 20 and I pulled them on. 

The last pair in a pile of about 20 in a stuffy Saver's dressing stall -- and I was starting to sweat and starting to lament that only 2 had fit so far and starting to wonder who in the world decided that the limit of clothes that you could bring in should only be six and why in the world was this dressing room so small---

They slid on, like a glove. 

Finally, something that fits, I consoled myself. 

And then I looked down and noticed that I was wearing a pair of pants with a heart-sequin-design on the pocket (and that one of the sequins was missing) and that the button was a kind of fake diamond. 


I guess I'll just take the first two, I thought with fatalistic dismay. 

And if I was the type that cries in fitting rooms, I would have cried -- but I'm not, so I just scooped up my meager findings and tried to think of what winter would be like if I could only fit in my leftover capris from summer. 

Because three months later, I'm still struggling to get this last bit of pregnancy weight under control... and sometimes it seems like a losing battle. 

And it's been frustrating to me -- I am someone who craves order and discipline and if something in my life feels like it's not under control, I am prone to fret about it and try to correct it as quickly as possible. 

Fret about it -- because I can't fit into my pre-pregnancy pants--

And we live in a society where body image has become all-important -- and these pesky ten pounds have made me take a step back to consider -- what is really important? 

And I look into my babies' faces -- all beautiful, made in the image of God -- and then I look down at the stretch marks adorning my belly and I accept them as a thing of beauty, a thing of sacrifice, the surrender of using my own body to give life to another. 

And I look at myself in the mirror, the few extra pounds hanging on, and my body doesn't look the same, doesn't feel the same as before I carried babies -- it's been stretched and worn and changed. 

I struggle with nursing -- I feel weak every day and I get the "shakes" and don't have the energy sometimes that I need -- maybe my body needs the extra calories right now, and I don't really need to worry about it so much... maybe. 

Because it's not really about weight -- It's a heart issue. 

And it's an issue of what real beauty is all about. 

Is real beauty about being a size 4 and about having toned arms and about trying to flatten my stomach and diminish my hip size as quickly as I can after giving birth? 

Is real beauty about having perfectly highlighted hair and perfectly manicured nails and perfect clothing and brilliantly white teeth?

And none of these things are "wrong" in and of themselves, but sometimes we can make them into idols when they become a necessity to us -- when we don't think that we can live without them, like we can't go on living without them. 

If we can't maintain them, then we feel like we have failed in some way, like we are not good enough. 

And I see women in their 50's and 60's trying to look like teenagers--

Wearing "skinny" jeans and starving themselves and working out at gyms, trying, desperately trying to hold on to the youth that is slipping through their fingers--

As my Mama says, "Whatever happened to growing old gracefully?"

And there is nothing wrong with dressing beautifully, or staying trim, or wearing perfume, or exercising. 

Discipline is a good thing, and our Heavenly Father desires that we live orderly, disciplined lives. 

But take it from someone who knows; even discipline can become an idol, when it's not hidden within the umbrella of love for our precious Heavenly Father, when we just do it for ourselves. 

I saw a woman the other day. Coming out of Target, and she was lovely. 

And she was not a size 4. 

Her appearance was not sloppy -- it spoke order and neatness and beauty; her hair was attractively pulled back in a ponytail; she wore a calf-length skirt with sandals. 

And her clothing wasn't chosen in order to draw attention to her body and she looked like she might have had a couple of kids or so -- and she certainly wasn't a size 4. 

Sometimes we can have a false idea of beauty. 

The world tells us that we need to be a certain size, that we need to flaunt our bodies in a certain way, that we need to do our hair in a specific style in order to be attractive, in order to attract. 

But how does Jesus speak to us about beauty?

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 

I Peter 3:3-4

So I take my stretch marks and my callouses and my changed body and I lay them there at His feet, at His nail-pierced feet--

Jesus' body was broken, too -- unimaginably broken.

And His beauty shines through His scars--

My scars can also speak beauty, can also pour forth beauty--

Just as His wounds have poured forth beauty onto me.

I take my stretch marks, my sagging skin, my dismay, and I lay them there at His feet.

And His beauty covers me.

Later, on the ocean shore, I ponder these things, one baby pressed to me in my carrier, the other delightedly throwing rocks into the cold water and my husband's voice cuts into my thoughts--

"You know, you're beautiful in the sunlight."

And the Son's light covers me and I am washed there, on the shore, in His beauty.


I share my posts with these blogs: Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth, The Modest Mom, What Joy is Mine, Yes They Are All Ours, Missional Call, A Mama's Story, Mom's the Word, Rich Faith Rising, Time Warp Wife, Cornerstone Confessions, Mom's Morning Coffee, So Much at Home, Raising Homemakers, Hope in Every Season, A Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries, Whole-Hearted Home, A Soft Gentle Voice, My Daily Walk in His Grace, Messy Marriage, My Teacher's Name is Mama, The Charm of Home, Graced Simplicity, Children Are A Blessing, Mittenstate Sheep and Wool, Imparting Grace, Homestead Lady, Deborah Jean's Dandelion House, Preparedness Mama, A Look at the Book, Essential Thing Devotions, Count My Blessings, Beauty Observed, Christian Mommy Blogger, Serenity You, Renewed Daily, Sunday Stillness, The Beauty in His Grip, Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Here With You

Mama . . .  Mama . . . MAMA! 

My little daughter panicked, frantically calling my name. 

I had rounded the corner to take something out of the closet in our room, and she couldn't see me, didn't hear me, didn't know where I had gone. 

So I popped my head out and she saw me and she ran into my arms, relieved. 

And I hugged her close and touched her tiny face and reassured her little soul, "Debbie; Mama isn't going to leave you . . . "

It was one of my worst fears as a child . . that I would get lost and not be able to find my Mom in a store. That I would be left alone and not know what to do. 

It happened in the library once. My Mom left me for the story-time for the first time--she was nearby, on the same floor, listening with one ear and looking at books. 

But I couldn't see her and I panicked. 

I didn't know that she was right around the corner. 

So I started to cry and they found her . . . 

And my Mama reassured me, "I'm not going to leave you; I was right here all the time." 

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed in this marathon of mothering. 

Where every moment is filled with little voices who need me now, who rarely let me sleep or have a minute "off." 

And this is God's will for me right now--to nurture these souls that the Lord in His mercy has entrusted to me for a season. 

But sometimes I get caught up in the chaos of it all, and I lose sight of the Lord, of His pillar before me and His cloud of fire by night. 

I get lost in the crowd and I just can't see Him. 

And I panic. 

I just don't have the time that I used to to spend in uninterrupted prayer--I often have to "pray as I go," pop in a sermon tape, pull out my Bible while my children nap, and make the most of the opportunities that I've been given. 

If I stay up too late at night, I have a hard time functioning the next day, especially with babies who still don't sleep through the wee hours. 

And sometimes through the tiredness, through the constant "going," and picking up babies and putting them down and feeding them and praying with them and disciplining them and loving them, 

I lose sight of Him.

And like my daughter, I don't know where He's gone. 

So in my moment of anxiety, I call His name --

I search for Him.

And I find that He was right there the whole time. 

Waiting for me to notice that I couldn't see Him for the moment, waiting for me to cry out for Him, to run into His arms in my need. 

Waiting to hold me-- 

And to touch my face with His peace and calm and quiet and trust and tell me, 

"I'm not going to leave you." 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Brokenness, Life, and a Tree

O Love, that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

 --George Matheson

There are so many stones in the brook that you cannot count them. Yet in every ten you cannot find more than one or two that are useable. There was no room in David’s pouch for stones which had not been polished smooth. The process of attrition was essential. In the same way those believers who have not yet experienced trials and afflictions, and who have not yet been disciplined by God, are still not ready for his use. What I am anxious to know is whether I myself am qualified to be a ‘smooth stone’ in the hand of my God.

--Wang Ming-Dao (persecuted Chinese pastor)

God uses broken things.

Broken people, broken things.

Soil that's been tilled broken, the clods pounded hard by the hoe.

Olives broken, crushed, for the oil that flows free and nourishing.

Broken bread to feed the hungry--

He uses broken things.

And so many times He breaks a heart before He heals it.

He crushes before He restores--

"For though the Lord causes grief, yet He will show compassion . .  though His hand wounds, it will yet make whole . . . "

Don't be afraid of being broken.

And I wept today because someone I love was broken . . . shattered. Lost every earthly thing of value and every support swept away like a breath punched out of their lungs.

God reaches down to broken things. He puts tears in bottles and remembers the agony of our sorrows.

And we have to be broken before God can use us, whether through our own decisions of surrender  or through the seemingly hard strokes of the Master's rod.

We must be broken . . .

Every ounce of self-reliance stripped away, every shred of pride pressed into the dust.

We must be broken.

George Matheson, Scottish minister and author of the beautiful hymn, "O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go," broken by blindness and the loss of his fiancé.

Corrie Ten Boom, joyful, Spirit-filled author and speaker, broken by the iron grip of the Nazi death camp.

John Bunyan, who took up his pen and wrote the great classic, Pilgrim's Progress, broken by prison and the fear of never seeing his dear, blind daughter Mary again.

Adoniram Judson, Baptist missionary and great worker for the Lord Jesus, broken by his wife's early death, broken by debilitating depression and prison.

The Apostle Paul, broken by affliction, pain, a constant thorn . . .

My Auntie, broken in years past by the cancer that drew her to Jesus . . .

Broken lives, restored; lives that reflect the glory of the Father of the broken.

Severe mercies, that cut away whatever we're leaning on--

Because when every support is taken away, we either fall utterly, or we fall on Jesus.

Walking in the woods with my sister this week along a new trail, we saw a tree.

A lovely, great tree, lying still on the quiet floor of the forest. Its leafy branches sweeping over the path.

A fallen tree, once-great -- now broken.

Quietness all-around, and the tree spread its arching branches over the expanse of the path, making a bridge over the shady pathway

And she said, "How beautiful."

Because this broken thing became a thing of grace and loveliness, a place of shade and a home for birds and animals, a silent witness to the strength and peace of brokenness.

And over the years it will nourish the ground, its wood splintering off, rotting away, giving life from its death.

There is grace through brokenness.

And the Beautiful One, the high and lofty One Whose name is Holy, Who inhabits eternity gave life on a tree fallen, a tree dead, the instrument of torture and crucifixion and suffering and death.

His death on that tree birthed life -- free and rich and new and eternal.

Life out of brokenness, grace out of suffering.

And the Love that was broken on that tree holds us in our brokenness.

Holds us to Himself--

And pours His life into our broken-dying.

O Cross, that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from Thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

You might find me on these link-ups:

Strangers and Pilgrims on EarthInspire Me MondayThe Modest MomWhat Joy is Mine, SDG Gathering, A Mama's Story, Mom's the Word, Rich Faith Rising, Time Warp Wife, Cornerstone Confessions, Mom's Morning Coffee, Motivate and Rejuvenate MondaysSo Much at Home, Raising Homemakers, Hope in Every SeasonA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries, Whole-Hearted Home, Testimony TuesdayTell His StoryA Soft Gentle Voice, My Daily Walk in His Grace, Women With Intention WednesdaysMessy Marriage, The Charm of Home, Graced Simplicity, Theology ThursdaysChildren Are A Blessing, Mittenstate Sheep and Wool, Imparting Grace, Preparedness Mama, A Look at the Book, Essential Thing Devotions, Thought Provoking ThursdayEvery Day JesusCount My Blessings, Christian Mommy Blogger, Renewed Daily, Soul SurvivalGood Morning MondaysThe Weekend BrewBlessing Counters Link PartyThe HomeAcre HopMommy Moments Link UpGrace and Truth LinkupFaith Filled FridaySaturday Soiree Blog PartyTell It To Me TuesdaysSHINE Blog Hop, Faith and  Fellowship Blog HopMotivate and Rejuvenate Monday Link-UpA Little R&R WednesdaysTGI Saturdays Blog HopTotally Terrific TuesdayRaRaLinkup

Monday, September 8, 2014

Turtles, Turkeys, and Teaching Children Gentleness

The turtles basked in the happy sun. 

Craning their leathery necks, delighting in the sweet warmth of the last days of summer. 

A safe distance from the shore; they dare not come any closer. 

Soon. The children would be heading back to school and they could swim easier--

The lady who worked at the park told her, told my Mom--

"Those boys, those boys; you know what they do--they catch the turtles, and they smash them with their baseball bats."

The turtles, harmless, innocent turtles, broken to oblivion and crushed senseless. 

Senselessly crushed . . .


Because destruction, causing pain in some unexplainable way gives a horrible pleasure to the sinful heart--

Young boys--another evidence that humans are not "good" at the root of it all . . . 

And I brought my daughter to the park the other day--brought her to the park to see "Tom Turkey," as she calls him, and Tom's "wife" and the other farm animals in the simple little petting zoo there. 

We walked up to the pen--and she was excited. 

But another girl, about 8 years old stood there too. And she started banging on the pen, banging hard, trying to make the turkey upset. 

And my immediate thought was, "Let's walk away; I don't want my daughter to see this--"

But then, I thought--maybe there's another way--and I spoke kindly to my daughter-and so that the little girl could hear--"What a sweet, gentle turkey . . . look at him in there . . . " and so on--

And the little girl, who probably was never taught not to bang on cages, or that turkeys can be gentle, sweet creatures, slowly stopped banging on the cage. She looked at me and listened with wide eyes. 

And she saw the turkey in a new way. 

Later on, we walked into the carousel and watched the children riding the colorful horses. 

The little girl was there. She saw me and waved happily at us as she went around. 

Children can be taught gentleness. And sometimes the Lord gives us the opportunity to "redeem" a situation. 

The best time to teach a child is when they are young, before the habits are set hard and fast and they are more difficult to break. 

Because if they're smashing turtles now, what will they be smashing later? 

So I try to teach my children gentleness, by the grace of God, and I try to set my example. 

So that they may not cause pain . . .  ("Lord, let my children not cause pain . . .")

And be sons and daughters of grace.