6.26.2017

The Beauty of Contentment



"There must be more than this provincial life."
- Belle, Beauty and the Beast


Maybe so, Belle. Maybe so.

I think it's easy to get lost in daydreams of something better when what we already have is actually pretty great. (In Belle's case, her adoring father, cute hometown, seemingly carefree schedule, unlimited access to books, various admirers, and not to mention her physical beauty and figure...)

I guess what I'm trying to say is that although Belle's ache for the next big thing is relatable, there's also something to be said for living a life of contentment.

I'm not talking about a life without dreams and aspirations. I'm talking about a life driven by gratitude rather than dissatisfaction. A life defined by the beauty of simplicity instead of the complexity and pain of comparison.

Like Belle, I'm guilty of getting lost in the wistful woe of wanting something more than what God has provided me with, especially when it comes to my physical appearance. I often compare my body to other women and deem myself inadequate if I feel I fall short. Sometimes instead of accepting the body God gave me and working to make it the best it can be, I wallow in what no longer comes naturally to me anymore, i.e. a fast metabolism and ability to eat a whole pizza by myself and not gain an ounce of weight.

There must be more than this provincial body of mine...who's with me on this?

Perhaps you struggle with finding contentment with your physical appearance as well.

Or maybe you struggle with contentment in your marriage. Have you ever thought there must be someone else out there who could make you happier than the man you're married to? Do you compare your husband to your friends' husbands and take mental notes of what they do that yours doesn't do?

Maybe your home/car/finances aren't quite measuring up to what you dreamed they'd be at this point in your life.

What is it about your current situation that you wish were different?

Once you figure out what the biggest areas of discontentment in your life are, ask yourself this: Is the thing you're struggling to live joyfully with something that at one time you considered to be a blessing?

You see, blessings grow dull and get blurred by discontentment when we allow comparison to creep into our hearts.

Comparison truly is the thief of joy. Proverbs 14:30 says, "A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot."

There's not a whole lot that sounds better than a tranquil heart after being worn down by years of discontentment and comparison. The question is, how do we honestly overcome the way we've grown to see our circumstances that for so long we've deemed as subpar?

My sister went to Honduras a couple of years ago and told me about a woman she saw there who lived in a house with a dirt floor. Yet, every day, this woman was seen sweeping her floors. She didn't have very much, but she valued it anyway and did her best to take care of it.

Even though I didn't see her with my own eyes, the image of this lady sweeping her dirt floors stuck in my mind. When I think of her, I'm struck by the beauty of her contentment and the value she placed on what little she had. This is how we are called to care for the blessings we have been entrusted with. I think we keep on taking care of our bodies because it's the only one we have. We pour into and invest in our marriages because it's what we vowed to do. We work our hardest for the employer that hired us because they did so in good faith. We value what God has entrusted to us, whether it be a dirt-floor house or just the smallest one in the neighborhood.

I think we start acting like what we have is valuable--we water our own grass--then we watch it inevitably thrive as most things do when they are treated with care.

May we begin to see our surroundings with fresh eyes, full of gratitude and grace so that we may be able to confidently claim contentment in all things. (Phil. 4:11)  

<< published on bravegirlcommunity.com >>                                                                        

4.24.2017

The Quiet Craftsman (a short story)


I'm learning a lot about The Craftsman. As most steady, reliable artisans do, he takes great care in the details of his creations. Though capable of mass-producing beautiful works of art, he often chooses to instead make each piece unique, intricate, and with just enough "wow" factor to distinguish his creations as something only He could have made.

It's unfortunate that it took me so long to realize that such intentionality and beautiful customization requires me to sometimes wait longer for the end result. Also, I've come to realize that The Craftsman is most quiet when he's working. I'm here to tell you about the time I mistook his silence for apathy.

You see, we had a meeting; and though it was, admittedly, mostly one-sided, I was clear about exactly what I wanted and when I wanted it by. Because I heard no audible rejections, I assumed we were on the same page with this vision I had cast. I felt confident as I left my orders in his hands and walked out of his workshop on that bright day full of hope.

The door shut behind me, and I went on with my life for the most part. Occasionally, I thought of the plans I had laid out for The Craftsman, but I knew he was the most skilled artisan in all of the world, and that even if he had to tweak my plans a bit here and there, the end result would be worth it. 

Some time went by, and I still had not received an update on the status of my requests. Friends began to ask me about it, and I reassured them that my plans would come to fruition because I knew I had left them in good hands. I spoke with confidence, but secretly wondered if The Craftsman would be contacting me soon.

Time continued to pass, and I began to imagine the worst: perhaps The Craftsman had been so busy with other work orders, he had completely forgotten about mine. Maybe they were lost in a pile of dust-covered plans and though he originally had good intentions of getting to them, they were simply lost in the shuffle. That's when I decided that maybe he needed a friendly reminder of what I had asked for and the deadline for which I had requested.

I approached his workshop door, and in preparation to knock, noticed a small sign hung outside. It read "Just Trust Me." I wondered whom he had left that note for. After all, I was sure our issue had nothing to do with my lack of trust and everything to do with a small miscommunication or even just an honest mistake on his behalf. I mean, I understand he's busy. He's the best there is, and everyone is constantly piling demands on him. I decided I would be gentle in my reminding him of my orders that I had submitted long ago...way before my friends had put their orders in and already received theirs...but that's beside the point. I'm sure it was just an honest mistake and The Craftsman merely needed me to pop in to remind him that it was my turn. I was excited to let him know that I wasn't too upset and that I could forgive him.

I knocked but he didn't answer, so I left a note asking him to please give me a call so we could discuss the status of my order.

After another period of time passed, my patience began to fade as I watched everyone around me receive what seemed like immediate answers to their requests.

One dark, cloudy day, I marched back to the workshop and pounded on the door. It was silent inside and the words "Just Trust Me" stared back at me from the sign on the door.

Shaking my head, I yelled, "I did trust you!" as I pounded harder on the door. "What did I do to deserve the silent treatment?" I implored. "Talk to me! Give me something!"

The silence that followed was deafening, and bitterness flooded my soul as I nursed the rejection I felt. I paced back and forth outside, shaking my head and casting glares in his direction in hopes that he might see me through the window and feel a taste of the disappointment I felt. "THANKS A LOT, GOD."

And with that, I turned and walked away, convinced he had forsaken me.

What I most regret about that day is reacting based on assumptions of what I thought was going on inside that workshop instead of the reality that I was too impatient to discover. What I couldn't see was just on the other side of the door with the sign that read "Just Trust Me." What I couldn't see was the hands of The Quiet Craftsman, dirty and calloused, working around the clock to widdle, carve, sculpt and weave together the most beautiful masterpiece I could've ever imagined. What I couldn't see was His face, quiet and steady, with a tender and loving visage as he thought about me while he worked. I didn't see him softly smile at the notches as he carved them with careful skill. I didn't see the tears that spilled out of his eyes and landed on my masterpiece as I yelled at him from outside. I couldn't see his heart broken by my lack of trust. 

What I didn't understand was that his silence came not from a place of abandonment or apathy but rather from concentration. The Quiet Craftsman was doing his job. The most intricate of masterpieces take time to complete.

Since that day, I've learned to appreciate the beauty of the silence. I've learned that in order for The Craftsman to complete his best work, sometimes he needs quiet. And time. And trust.

I know that the day will come when the door of his workshop will swing open, revealing the most magnificent, breathtaking masterpiece I've ever encountered. And the best part about it is that it will be my very own, unique in its character and details.

I returned to his workshop one day recently with a marker in hand. I approached slowly, with fondness and reverence. I smiled and ran my fingers across the words "Just Trust Me," then placed the tip of my marker on the sign and wrote underneath, "I do trust you."


>>published on bravegirlcommunity.com<<


3.27.2017

The Last Shall Be Light


Today I am writing to the rejected. To the ones scarred by the words of others. The ones who sit in silence way too often and feel lost in the shuffle. Those who look different from everyone else in the room. To the ones picked last.

I see you.

But even more importantly, God sees you. He understands your pain because he walked in your shoes, rejected by a world that had no valid accusation against him.

Isaiah 53:3 describes Jesus as being "...despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief..."

The One sent to redeem the world was a man of sorrows, well-acquainted with grief. He was more than just rejected; he was despised. Oh precious forgotten one, if ever you've been understood, it's by Him. 

I have no doubt that God has big plans for you. Because of the rejection you have so often felt, you are more keenly aware of those who walk down the same lonely path you do. Your eyes are well-trained to see the pain lying just underneath the surface of other people's eyes. You are able to see those whom no one else seems to. Pay close attention to your ability to observe such things.

The scriptures are full of reminders that God does big things with those rejected by the world, but my new favorite verse out of them all is Psalm 118:22:

"The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone."

How's that for vindication? He was and is the biggest, most important, strongest and most essential element of our lives. The world may have cast him aside, but Jesus pursued and completed his God-given mission anyway. He fearlessly trusted His Father and kept his eyes on Him, changing the lives of everyone willing to look upon his face and accept his offer of eternal friendship. If he had allowed the world's opinion of him to dictate his actions, his mission would have been squashed, thus rendering all of humanity hopeless forever.

Likewise, it is important for us to remember that the world's opinion of us bears no weight on our value. We are valuable because God made us with care (Psalm 139:13-14); He chose us (John 15:16); and He calls us Beloved (Col. 3:12).

To reinforce this truth even further, allow me to remind you of Zephaniah 3:17:

"...He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs."

You. Are. Adored.

You are treasured. You are sought after. Your company is desired. You are valued, beautiful, and seen. You are rejoiced over with songs. 

If you have a hard time believing these truths apply to you, ask God to speak straight to your heart and make them real to you. I believe there's nothing He wants more than for you to understand how vastly He loves you.

The greater we understand His love, the less validation we need from those around us. The less validation we need from others, the more confident we become in being a light. The more of a light we are to the world, the less others have to feel alone.

We, the rejected, can be the brightest beacons of light the world has ever seen if we allow God to heal the dark, unseen, and hurting places in our hearts with His redeeming grace. Through Him, we can love the unloved; we can see the unseen.


>> published on bravegirlcommunity.com <<

1.23.2017

You CAN Sit With Us


Have you ever seen those cheeky graphic tees with the phrase "You Can't Sit With Us" plastered boldly across the chest? Personally, the cute factor of such an isolating phrase is lost on me, but maybe I'm still working through some residual pain of being that middle-school-aged girl who truly was uninvited.

I'm thankful my Savior would never say that to me. In fact, if Jesus had worn graphic tees back in his earth-inhabiting days, I'm sure His would have said, "You CAN sit with us." And the invitation would have been real and all-inclusive. That's just how Jesus lived his life; he made a pointed effort to notice the unnoticed and call the unworthy to do big things with their lives.

Romans 5:11 says that because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, we have been made "Friends of God."

You guys, we're in. We're worthy. Not because of anything we can do but because of everything Jesus did. I'm blown away by this title: Friend of God. My natural inclination is to question my place in Jesus' group, to feel I haven't earned my spot, or worry Jesus might notice I've crept into his circle and decide to cast me out.

But Jesus will never do that to you or me. He's the best friend we could ever have.

And because we have been eternally accepted by Him, our lives become part of something so much bigger than anything we could ever accomplish on our own:

Romans 5:2:
"Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of UNDESERVED PRIVILEGE where we now stand, and we CONFIDENTLY and JOYFULLY look forward to sharing God's glory."
[emphasis added]

Being a friend of Jesus means so much more than just getting a front-row seat to all the incredible ways Jesus works and touches lives; it means that sometimes we get called onstage to play a significant part. We get to participate right alongside Jesus in getting our hands dirty and changing the world. As members of his crew, we have a purpose, and are delegated unique tasks by Him that only we can accomplish.

There is no one in this world that God can't use or doesn't want to use. There is not a person in this world that God doesn't desire a close friendship with. So if you're wondering where your place is, go ahead and approach Him with the confidence that you have already been called, and there's a seat saved for you.

Put yourself back in the cafeteria of middle school. Timid, and clutching your tray, you quickly scan the room for an empty seat near someone who desires your presence. To your surprise, instead of multiple tables scattered across the room, each surrounded by various cliques, there is just one large table. Everyone's favorite friend is seated at the head, and one empty chair is open next to Him. You make eye contact, and all your anxieties wash away. He smiles with radiant joy at the sight of you and waves you over to the empty chair right next to Him. His friends turn to see whom the object of His excitement is, and upon realizing it's you, excitedly join Him in welcoming you over.

He stands with sincerity as you approach, looks you in the eye, and says, "You can sit with us. You are wanted here."

>>published on bravegirlcommunity.com<<

12.28.2016

11.10.2016

The Giant


God's calling. How many of us have heard it clearly, know exactly what we are being beckoned to do, but still stand paralyzed in the thick, immobilizing quicksand of self-doubt and uncertainty? God's calling can feel like a giant that we are compelled to and captivated by, yet at the same time, utterly terrified to approach. 

If only we had the confidence David had when he approached Goliath. Though small and ill-equipped for victory according to the world's opinion, David didn't falter. His feet walked towards the impending battle with confidence. His hands skillfully placed the stone in the sling, and with unfaltering confidence in what God had called him to do, he carried out the task and conquered the giant. 

David was small but bold. He was human but empowered by the Holy Spirit. An unworthy man was called, and his obedience made all the difference.

He didn't question his ability to succeed based on his physical stature, vocation, or social status. He didn't listen to the discouraging voices around him that said he wasn't good enough for such a battle. Nor did he accept the help of what the world told him he would need in order to have any hope of succeeding. When they said he'd need heavy armor to survive, David chose instead to go only equipped with the talent and skill God had created him to be specifically confident in: his shepherd's staff and sling.

David was just a shepherd who said yes to God. And because he did, his story was written down in history as one to inspire believers such as ourselves that through God, all things are possible.

What if David had disqualified himself from God's calling on his life because he was "only a shepherd?"

What are you being called to do that you feel utterly unworthy to carry out?

What child might never experience a loving home if you never listen to that still, small voice calling you to foster or adopt? What co-worker might never hear of the saving love of Jesus if you never accept that job in the field you feel called to even though it won't pay enough for you to keep living with the same level of materialistic comfort? Who will never know they're worthy if you never tell them? Who will fall between the cracks of society if you never step out of your comfort zone to reach them?

Time is short and precious, and the stakes are high. Ecclesiastes 11:4 says, "Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest."

The time is now. Step out and go boldly towards God's calling on your life. Not because you are able, but because He is.



>> published on bravegirlcommunity.com <<


10.10.2016

Be Still and Know


This weekend I got away with a girlfriend to a cabin on the lake, and it was a refreshing time for my soul. We did some leisurely shopping and ate a lot of yummy, bad-for-us food. It was all wonderful, but my favorite part of the whole trip was the time we spent resting. We threw on sweatshirts and enjoyed a slow morning on the deck, sipping our coffee while nestled under a quilt. We marathon watched HGTV and colored in adult coloring books. We were intentional about not being busy, and we didn’t feel guilty about it.

It got me thinking about the value of resting in the midst of a chaotic, loud, busy world. Jesus created us to work. But he also created us to need rest. Not only does he allow us to rest; he encourages it.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

I know a lot of us struggle with the concept of rest because it can sometimes carry with it a certain amount of guilt. We get used to the busy schedules, traffic jams, ringing phones, and – if we are so blessed – noisy households. We are so conditioned to the busyness, we feel like we are wasting time or being lazy if we carve out some time for quiet.


Can I just remind you that it was God who created the Sabbath? He is Holy and perfect, and he himself rested on the seventh day after creating everything.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing, so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” (Genesis 2:2)

Resting refuels our soul. It makes us better parents, employees, spouses and friends. It extends a shortened fuse, recharges our enthusiasm, and allows us time to hear God’s voice.

Remember Mary and Martha? Martha thought she was doing right by staying busy in service to God, but Mary was the one who was praised for sitting at his feet. I think God knew we as a people would need lots of reminders that rest is not only okay, but it is very good!

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

God wants more for us than constant motion, service, and completed tasks. He wants us to sit at his feet, hear his voice, and simply be still in his presence. It is a gift he has given to us as his dear children.

When is the last time you sat at His feet and let him refresh your soul? He is ready, waiting and well-equipped to lavish you with love and soothe the unrest that burdens your soul.


Breathe in his goodness. Be still and know.

>> Published on bravegirlcommunity.com <<