Archive | contentment

when God the Father seems overly protective

Though I sometimes suspect I’m turning into A Morning Person, I have to admit to a life-long hatred of alarm clocks. The sound my phone makes across the room when it’s time to get up for work is one of my least-favorite ditties ever to exist. In that inevitable moment, I forget that I am the one who told the alarm precisely when to go off and that, after all, it is just a piece of technology, not some demon set on ruining my life. I always give myself time for one “snooze” as I dive back under my comforter and appraise the day for nine minutes.

After forgiving God for allowing this injustice to happen so early in the morning, I begin to pray in short, sleepy spurts. What shall I do today, for The Kingdom? What are His plans for me? How can I glorify Him?

These prayers may sound quite pious for 6:30 AM, but I assure you they are merely the product of sleepy habit and a lot of grace. I cannot even say that my heart is necessarily “in it” at this point in the day (as is sometimes evidenced by my grouchy behavior once I leave my bedroom,) but it’s definitely a good way to start the day. I often look back on these little prayers around noon and think, “Well? Have I begun? Am I doing His work, or not?”

But do you know what irks me about these prayers? It’s the calm, consistent answer they so often receive. I can almost hear the smug tone in God’s voice at 6:33. There is no special assignment. There is no exciting task. It’s almost as if He replies with a small smile and a, “Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

Day after day after boring day.

I hold my palms out in reverent prayer. WHATEVER you might want me to do, Lord, I’ll do. I’m available to you. I am willing.

“Okay,” He replies with that little smile. “Just keep doing what you’re doing for now.”

So, I know I’m being a bit sacrilegious by characterizing God the Father this way. After all, smugness isn’t exactly a fruit of His spirit. But this is the way I feel, sometimes. Like God is not using me. Instead, He’s just keeping me on a shelf, safe and still. I can almost see the dust collecting around my feet.

The truth is, at eighteen I thought I was ready. Everyone thought I was mature for my age. They applauded my wisdom and discretion. I wanted to be married, to adopt kids, to go back to Haiti do mission work. I wanted to be on the New York Times Bestseller’s list with a riveting scrutiny of society. It wasn’t that I wasn’t afraid at times, or that I never felt unqualified, but those feelings never really go away. Big things will always make little people nervous. Why not just start now?

And God gave me that little smile. I think it was the first time I’d seen it. And he patted me on my little head and tucked me into my little bed and told me to grow up. And, like all little children do, I told Him I wasn’t sleepy and I didn’t want to go to bed! I wanted to stay up with the grown-ups and do grown-up things and have fun! And He chuckled a little as He turned out the light and pulled the door, as if to say. “That’s nice, Deary.”

So I pitched the riveting manuscript and was rejected. The guy who would’ve married me got turned down. The tickets to Haiti were never purchased. The alarm clock continued going off at the same time every morning and I continued to lie in bed, nine minutes at a time, wondering what the heck my purpose was.

Now I’m twenty-two and, I’ll admit, a bit weary of God’s overly protective tendency’s at times. I get the feeling He’s holding out on good things for me because He just wants me to be near all the time. To get to know Him better. To spend my hours with Him and talk with Him. Where’s the adventure? Where’s the launch? Where’s the applause from society that comes with great accomplishments? Where’s the fodder for my blog, for Pete’s sake? Nothing every happens to me! I shriek (and throw myself onto my bed with the grace of a prepubescent brat.)

God gives me that look like I don’t know best or something, and leaves me to my pouting.

Other girls get married. Other girls have babies. Other girls travel. Other girls get published. I was never jealous of the girls who had phones before me, cars before me, pierced ears before me…but this? Are they really more qualified? Why can’t I be an early bloomer? (Stomps Mary-janes indignantly.)

This may be an exaggerated description of my relationship with God. I would like to think there’s a little more mutual respect between us, and less whining. But the truth is, I do complain a lot, about my lot. Elisabeth Elliot says of Psalm 16:5, “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup and have made my lot secure.”

My “lot” is what happens to me-my share of that which comes by the will of the Power that rules my destiny. My lot includes the circumstances of my birth, my upbringing, my job, my hardships, the people I work with, my marital status, hindrances, obstacles, accidents, and opportunities. Everything constitutes my lot. Nothing excepted. (Be Still My Heart, pg. 35)

Can I accept the fact that My Good Father secured the lot that is my singleness? That He designed me this way and set me on this path? Can I accept the fact that He ordained for my book to be rejected? That I’d have to break someone’s heart? That I’d have to learn from mistakes? That my friends would move on and move away without me?

One of my favorite stories from the Bible is about Mary and Martha. I think I love it because it’s about women, and sisters no less! And it takes place in their home and shows their personalities and, let’s face it, tells a story all women have experienced. Martha is cooking and cleaning because they have guests and she is ticked that Mary isn’t helping. She’s just sitting there, hanging out with Jesus. Hello! I  can imagine Martha thinking while she gives Mary a wide-eyed glanced over Jesus’ shoulder. A little help here?!

But Jesus is sort of related to the God I’ve been describing here. He has a way of snuffing out our self-righteous plans with a look or a word.

“Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 The VOICE.)

So what if I have an extended adolescence? So what if my life looks boring to other people? So what if I’ll never get to prove how good of a wife/mother/author/missionary I could’ve been at nineteen? God hasn’t been smug with me. He’s been patient. He’s given me years of chances to “choose that one thing” that cannot be taken away from me. I wanted to be Martha, working and doing big things for Jesus. I wanted to show the world how dedicated I was to Him. But it turns out He really doesn’t give a darn about what the world sees me do. He cares about my heart. If I cannot sing a serenade to Him, why do I think a solo concert in front of a big audience will bring Him glory?

I have a  feeling there is a Mother Theresa out there right now who hasn’t been discovered by the media and never will. An Elisabeth Elliot who doesn’t land a book deal. A Gladys Aylward who still hasn’t made it to China, despite her efforts.

God’s ways are not my ways. He actually does know better. So maybe I’m a slow learner, a late bloomer. Maybe I did need a little more time on my Papa’s lap, as my friend Jessiqua would say, before chasing my dreams. Maybe He’s preparing me for a greater work than I’ve ever cooked up on my own. And maybe it won’t win me fame or esteem. But maybe it will matter.

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when you have a whole box of matches (and none of them will light)

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It was a pink, glowing morning. I slid the key into the lock and slipped through the front door of the office, flipped the lights on and opened the blinds before plopping into my spinning chair. The day before, I had found a small box of matches in the office kitchen and I was excited to finally light the candle I had cleverly brought to work and moronically been unable to light. I pushed the box open and saw five small matches. Perfect! I thought. This will last me through the week!

I selected a match and struck it against the rough edge of the box. Nothing. It had been a while since I’d used a match. We have completely succumbed to fancy candle lighter sticks at my house. I scooted my chair out, stood over my desk and ran the match across the box again. Nothing.

I probably wasn’t using enough pressure. I struck the match again and it immediately snapped in half in my grip. I dropped the two pieces onto my desk, grabbed another match out of the box and quickly it across the scaly package. It too snapped in half! I gingerly selected my third attempt and held my breath as I rubbed it along the box. Nothing. I rubbed it again, quickly but gently. And again, and again. Finally I realized I had rubbed off all the ignition, turning my match into a useless little stick.

I carefully selected my next victim and scratched it across the rough strip on the side of the box. It lit! I held the match to the candlewick, singeing my fingers a bit in the process. Ouch! I had forgotten how quickly matches burn up. I panicked a little and blew the match out with some unwarranted vigor. There! I smiled at my candle…only to realize I had extinguished that too. 

I know it sounds dramatic, but standing there in the haze of another failed match, I couldn’t help but relate this to my love life (or lack thereof.) It seemed that for every hope, there was always some grand disappointment. There were the matches that snapped in two as soon as we began, the matches that never lit at all, much to my chagrin. There were the matches that I accidentally extinguished and the matches that left me feeling burned and dejected. And there weren’t all that many matches in the box to begin with!

Sometimes I blamed it on myself. I am too shy, he’ll never notice me. I was to forward, I turned him off. I got scared and ruined everything. 

Sometimes I blamed it on him. It would’ve worked if he hadn’t done that, if he had given me a chance, if he wasn’t already interested in someone else.

Sometimes, without admitting it, I blamed it on God. Was I even given a chance?

And that’s when the “chances are’s” begin. Chances are, I’ll never meet anyone. I say to myself as I wind down after another discouraging day. Chances are, if I do meet someone, he won’t be interested. Chances are, if he’s interested, I’ll mess things up somehow. Chances are, I’ll wind up brokenhearted and alone. Chances are, I’ll be in this same situation when I’m 25, 30, 35…

But the sun rises every 24 hours and, blinking in the light of dawn I remember that things are never so grim as they seem when you’re waiting for the shower at 12:30 in the morning. I smile to think that even if “chances are,” my life is not up to chance. My life is up to someone who loves me more than I deserve, knows me intimately and has a good plan for me. Whether that plan includes marriage or not, is not for me to know. I just have to trust that, whatever the journey is, the destination is the same.

I eyed the matchbox with the look a pitcher gives a batter before throwing a fast one. This ends now. I gingerly picked up the last match and struck it against the box with faith and determination. Much to my surprise, it lit on the first try! I calmly held it to the wick. Much to my surprise, the candle began to glow! I cupped my hand around the match and gently blew out the flame. Much to my surprise, it diffused without my burning my fingers in the process. The candle was lit at last!

I grinned and looked around, but there was no one there to celebrate with me. I didn’t mind. I dropped back into my chair, took a deep whiff of the lovely aroma and turned my computer on. Work was allowed to begin now.

on being called anorexic

"Being skinny doesn't make me love my life..."

I doubt I’ll ever forget it. I was at a science museum, I was about fifteen and I probably weighed ninety pounds. I was a healthy, happy teenager having a fun day out with my family the first time I heard it. Someone whispering (loudly) from a group of students to my right. “Oh my god.” She gawked at me. “Anorexic!”

My sister and I just kept walking and later laughed about it. Wow! What do they know? I was far from anorexic. As a matter of fact, I often ate more than my friends, who were all average-size if not big for our age. I had no food issues whatsoever. The only thing I was guilty of was having my mother’s genetics and a high metabolism. Today, at age 22, I am not the bean pole I once was. I don’t wear adjustable waist pants anymore and I finally turn the airbag on in the passenger seat. However, it has recently come to my attention that many people still view me as that girl at the science museum did.

I am an underweight, flat-chested, spindly adult. I am also perfectly and completely healthy.

I don’t eat low-fat. I love cooking with butter, getting seconds of bread and I often indulge my sweet tooth. I don’t work out very often. I really need to get back to it, because I want to be stronger and protect my bones against the osteoporosis that runs in my family, but I feel unmotivated a lot of times. One of the reasons I feel unmotivated to work out is because my body changes very little when I stop working out. In other words, I couldn’t get fat if I wanted to. And because of that, you might hate me.

Trust me when I say I have plenty of other things to bemoan in my life. I don’t have to struggle with weight gain to relate to feeling down about my body or unattractive. I don’t have to constantly try to lose weight to understand the pain of striving for unmet goals. Yes, you guessed it! I’m skinny. But my life is not perfect.

You know why? Because (and this may come as a shock to our 20-something minds, but) weight and worth are not the same thing. 

I am a skinny twenty-two year old woman. I have to be the happiest person in the world, right? Wrong. Being skinny doesn’t make me love my life. It just doesn’t. If I could suddenly have the body of a super model and the teeth of a toothpaste commercial and the hair of a viral Pin, I would not be happy. There is something much deeper and more spiritual to life’s joy. Just ask any beautiful, rich, famous celebrity who is overdosing on their depression meds right now.

You know what really makes me sad when people ask about my weight? It’s not that I feel judged and violated (though sometimes I do.) It’s not even that our society is obsessed with thinness (though it is and that’s awful.) It’s that some girls actually do have eating disorders. And instead of treating these words with caution and being sensitive to folks who cannot control how they view their bodies, we call skinny girls “bulimic” because we can’t stand for them to fit into a societal requirement we don’t.

My dad works in a hospital. He has literally seen girls in Central Texas die of starvation because their minds are so ill. They keep nourishment from themselves despite the urging of their doctors and their mothers whose hearts are breaking. And yes, we have the media to blame. We have photoshop and Sports Illustrated and Pinterest and billboards to blame. But it’s also a disease.

A disease I am grateful I do not have. 

If I don’t call you “fat” and tell you to get on a diet, if I don’t whisper and snicker and call you “glutton,” if I don’t flaunt my body like society wants me to and tell you it’s my hard work that keeps me so “perfect,” will you not call me anorexic? Will you not call me “disgusting,” “boyish” and “sick” as I recently heard folks saying about another slim person?

There has recently been a movement to take our obsessive eyes off of being thinnerthinnerthinner all the time. It is great what words from fuller-figured celebrities can do for girls who aren’t beanpoles like I was. These sort of words prevent eating disorders, I truly believe. But, can we not swing the pendelum so far as to hate the thin? Can we stop imagining that every woman in a size 0 is a “skinny b*****” who kills herself to be thin and judges the heavy? Can we please stop singing that song about being curvy so boys will like you? It’s not helping, really. (Meghan Trainor-you are beautiful, but you would still be beautiful if your thyroid went out on you in the night. And don’t change your body for boys. You’re worth a lot more than that.)

So yes, I’m skinny. Yes, I can eat pretty much whatever I want and see little to no change in my figure. No, I don’t imagine this will last my whole life! And no, I do not have an eating disorder. Now if people would stop picking me up and swinging me around when I try to hug them, all would be right in the world.

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how deep the father’s love

sisters forever

I have been trying to write this post for more than an hour, but I am continually interrupted. I keep finding myself singing the song “Little Girls” from Annie. Whenever I walk into my room, I either find small shoes spread across my room, or that my own shoes have been marched to a new location. Fuzzy ponytail holders and geography books and neon fake nails turn up everywhere. I’ve been invaded.

In the past hour, Jubilee and Meggie have been “sitting” on my bed squealing and talking about boys, diamond rings, marriage, babies with cheeks like squirrels, and how old everyone will be when everyone else reaches these milestones. Meggie is set on having at least one baby as brown as Jubilee. Jubilee wants “chocolate milk babies” (biracial!) and they both agree on the squirrel cheeks. Just now, from their room, I heard Meggie saying her prayers with my parents. She prayed I find a job and get a boyfriend soon, because I am so old. (Update—I did get a job! No news on a boyfriend, yet.)

It feels somewhat ethereal to have Meggie’s face so close to mine as I sit in my usual spot on the bed, laptop open and pillows strewn about. She is here, in moving, living action. She is Meggie and she is home. She is Meggie and she is ours. It’s like a little miracle every time she smiles.

When we lived in Haiti, there was a time I wanted us to all be home together so badly, it was like looking forward to heaven. I cannot help but relate adoption to our true homecoming once again. It feels as if all is right in the world when I see Jubilee and Meggie playing together and hear them giggling down the hall. It seems like this is the happily ever after, the climax, the victorious justice that triumphs over all the pain in her early life and in the long wait. There are rough moments, and the good moments are often the product of lots of hard, loving work, and yet it amazes me to see two girls adopted from opposite sides of the globe, mesh together in sisterly affection. That is the product of God’s grace!

I know this is only the beginning of a new chapter for my family, but I’m so very happy in this moment that it’s hard to see beyond it. Watching Meggie interact with my dad has had me thinking about this especially. The love of a father is something every little girl should have, but the joy is still brand new for her. Their sweet relationship has taught me a lot about our heavenly father’s love for us. The Bible call us God’s adopted children and that analogy works in so many ways…

1. He chooses us

God the Father “chose us before the foundation of the world” and “predestined us for adoption” (Ephesians 1:4-5.) That means that before we were born, He had a plan and began reaching for us. It’s like a prospective parent waiting to hear from the agency. When the baby’s born, the parents are already putting the finishing touches on the nursery. He loved you before you knew Him. When parents are blessed with biological children, we somehow trust God to make the child turn out “alright” and expect him or her to fit into her family perfectly. When you adopt, you’re saying, “this child comes with baggage, pain, a sad story, but I’m choosing all of that, I’m choosing her.” That’s how God’s love works.

2. He seeks us and waits for us

When my parents adopted four of my siblings from Haiti, they spent three years working tirelessly on paperwork, traveling back and forth countless times, bonding and then having to part, and finally moving down there to run the orphanage and complete the adoptions by hand after everything had crumbled beneath our feet. That’s a passionate pursuit if I ever heard of one. I was so afraid the babies wouldn’t remember us when they finally came home, wouldn’t speak English anymore. I was afraid our love would never be reciprocated. God often has to wait for us with just as few reassuring gestures from us. The pain of our wait was severe. The stress and burden of the work was immense. The result was worthwhile.

3. He sacrifices for us

Do you know what an adoption costs? I cannot begin to fathom the amount of my dad’s earnings that have gone into adoption related travel, fees, paperwork, agencies and then the provision for the children once they come home. Adoption can be financially expensive, but the emotional expense is greater. Have you ever dropped of your own child at an orphanage when you would gladly care for them yourself? It’s not easy.  Have you ever received an email saying your little girl was crying herself to sleep every night and wondering if you’d ever come back? If waiting families ever feel alone in this, they can surely look to Jesus. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize” (Hebrews 4:15.) Did not God send His own son into a dangerous, hateful world to be abused and laughed at and murdered? Does He not see His children aimlessly wandering every day, like so many orphans? His arms are open so wide, and we run to other “parents.” He would do anything for you. He did everything for you. He paid the cost, He’s just waiting for us to come home.

4. He adores us

How deep the father’s love! Or grandfather’s, for that matter. I’m going to switch allegories for a moment and speak about my grandfather. This would definitely apply to my dad, who is head-over-heels for Meggie, but you probably knew that already. Did you know that my mom’s dad, Papa, is equally smitten? This man who was born in a time when adoption was almost unheard of and always shameful, when ethnicities were separated by peaceful but very defined lines, opened his heart up to my little siblings like almost no one else has. He loves my adoptive brothers and sisters just like he loves me, and that’s always been a lot. He inspires me by lying down the picture of his descendants he imagined long ago and embracing a new, colorful version of our family. I would imagine he had to swallow some pride in the beginning, but now he proudly shows photos of his “grand babies” to his brothers and buddies. Meggie and my other siblings couldn’t ask for more than a grandfather who shamelessly adores them. What a Godly example he is. “As the father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” John 15:19

5. He raises us

We get very focused on the homecoming of our new kiddos, and for good reason. That’s a huge moment, changing the trajectory of our lives forever. Poor Meggie, who is highly intuitive for her age, went through every emotion on the spectrum as she flew home, bawling and laughing in one moment. Homecomings are huge for adopted kids, but it’s really just the beginning. The “gotcha day” is Day One of their new life. We’ve made the orphan a son or daughter and now the real work begins, bringing them up to be healthy, strong adults. As for you and me? God will bring His good work in us to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6.)

6. He keeps us close

When we think of death, we think of taking last breaths and being buried, but when the Bible talks about death, it is referring to a tragic separation not from our bodies, but from our Father. When you take your last breath, you’re actually more alive than ever. You’re back to perfect harmony with God, closer than you have ever been. At last in your true home with your true family! God’s whole plan (yes–I mean the whole grand thing,) is about keeping YOU close to HIM. Everything He does or allows to be done in your life is for this purpose. Your creation and adoption, the pursuit and sacrifice–all of this is spurned on by a deep and passionate love of your Father. He can’t wait to right the wrongs and take you into His arms at last. Picture the emotional airport moment times a billion.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

I set my computer aside and peek into girls’ room. My parents are sitting on the edge of their beds, saying prayers. My dad gives Meggie a kiss and a squeeze and tucks the quilt around her shoulders. She’ll have no trouble drifting off to sleep, warm, safe and loved.

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7 Stories that Helped Me Relate to the Poor

EP 7 Stories

I am a very privileged person. Growing up, we may not have had everything we could’ve wanted, but we were never hungry or in need. Poverty was just something I read about in my many, many books. I recently had a conversation with my eleven-year-old sister about why certain people act the way they do. We talked about how much we have to be thankful for and how “hurting people hurt people.” We wound up referencing “The Hundred Dresses” by Eleanor Estes, a wonderful book about a little girl who wears the same dress to school every day, but claims quite brazenly that she has a hundred dresses at home. This gave me the idea for the post you’re reading. Which stories have helped me relate to and understand the poor? I’m sharing seven that come to mind.

1. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

This winner of the 1945 Newberry Honor is a timeless short chapter book for kids. It is one of those stories which perhaps couldn’t be written for adults, but is easily taken in by children. The story revolves around Polish immigrant, Wanda Petronski, who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress to school every day. To avoid bullying, Wanda claims she has a hundred dresses at home. This story doesn’t not necessarily have a happy ending, but an important lesson is learned by the other girls in Wanda’s class and by generations of readers.

2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

After falling in love with the 2005 BBC miniseries, I read this novel during a road trip. Several years later, I still think back on it often. I never expected to find such themes of generosity, fair trading practices and social justice in a book written in 1855. The book itself is fascinating, romantic and well written, but the plight of the factory workers during England’s industrial revolution will stick with me forever.

3. A Christmas Carol (or anything by Charles Dickens!)

While Austen was writing about ballrooms and bustles, Dickens was writing about the grim and grimy lives of those below the poverty line. You’ll see yourself reflecting in the amazing characters in his novels and your heart will go out to every orphan, widow, drifter and pickpocket he concocts.

4. The Rich Family in Church a true story by Eddie Ogan

This story has had a great impact on me personally, ever since I read Eddie’s real-life account online. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but this short tale will touch your heart. What happens when a widow and her teenage daughters try to raise money for a poor family in their church during The Great Depression? You’ll never forget it.

5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Well, the reason this book taught me about poverty is probably that this book taught me about everything. I consider this to be my favorite fictional book of all time. The March family is struggling to make ends meet while Mr. March is serving in the Civil War, and yet they are remarkably and realistically generous. I just love it. It will make you want to give your butter away on Christmas. (The movie is also excellent.)

6. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Though I haven’t read the assumably wonderful book, I adore both the 1998 and 2012 film adaptations. In what I consider to be one of the most incredible stories ever written, you’ll follow the plights of the pure-hearted prostitute, the honest thief who has broken parole, the innocent daughter of swindlers, the once-rich rebel fighter who is willing to lose everything in the name of liberty and an orphan who, against all odds, becomes an heiress. Just. So. Good.

7. George Muller the true biography

A missionary to Bristol’s orphans, George Muller has taught me more about trusting God for financial provision than any other hero I’ve read about. I loved his biography by Janet and Geoff Benge, but I know his autobiography is said to be great as well. Don’t believe in miracles? Read this account.

What stories have impacted how you think about poverty?

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