He Covers

He Covers

As I laid in bed with my daughter telling her stories before bedtime, we could hear the thunder getting louder. At first it was so faint, she was unaffected by the distant rumbles.

A few minutes later, the claps of thunder got closer and louder. She stopped for a moment and held still, realizing a storm was beginning to pass over us. “Can you get closer to me, momma?”

A couple more booms and she interrupted our story. “Momma…can you get your arms and hands and hold me?”

I moved as close as I could to her and wrapped my arms around her, holding her head close to my chest. I could feel her nervousness in the tension of her little body. I hated that she so scared, but I loved being right there with her—guarding over her, wrapped around her. We finished our story and I sang our nightly lullaby. Ever so slowly her breathing softened and her muscles relaxed.

Even after she fell asleep, I laid there for a few extra minutes absorbing the sweetness of my girl’s words—“can you get your arms and hands and hold me?” I loved that I was her security. I loved that I was the one that brought her comfort and peace. I loved it because sometimes…I just need that too.

Whether it’s been one of those days, or I’m in the thick of a really challenging life issue, there are times my heart begs God, “Can you please just get your arms and hands and hold me?” Some days I just need to feel that comfort and security wrapped around me and covering me completely.

God, can you please just get your arms and hands and hold me?

God’s Word says that he is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1), our rock, fortress, deliverer and shield (Psalm 18:2). The entire book of Psalms is overflowing with people’s pleas for God’s rescuing, as well as declarations of God’s faithfulness.

After I lost our first baby six years ago, I laid in an ER bed trying to process the emotional and physical brokenness that I had just endured. The chaplain walked in to talk with us. He laid a mint green shawl down the length of my body, covering me. It was crocheted by a hospital ministry and given to mommas who had just lost a baby. Over the next few weeks, I held it, I wrapped it around my, and I covered myself with it. And every time I physically covered my body with it, my heart was being covered too.

As humans, we all have this need to be covered in different ways. We need shelter to cover our families. We need clothing to cover our bodies. We need bandages to cover our wounds. Maybe you’ve even heard the expression, “I’m covering you in prayer.” We are all in need of covering.

Even now, as I pray at night, I ask God to cover my life and everyone and everything in it. Cover it with his protection, his blessing, his anointing.

When it seems like darkness is swallowing the world, He covers.

When evil threatens the security of our hearts and minds, He covers.

When anxiety attempts to steal our peace, He covers.

It doesn’t mean that the pain dissolves—but He promises to cover you with comfort. It doesn’t mean that brokenness disappears—but He promises to cover with restoration.

Our God is a God who covers. He sees and knows and covers. His love covers you and it destroys fear. His light covers you and it drives out darkness.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4

Grieving Good Friday

Cross

Good Friday.

The day Jesus died.

We know the story. And we know what happens 3 days later.

For years, I read through the story of Jesus’ crucifixion in a steady rhythm with the resurrection already in my mind. It eased the sting of the words. It made it a little happier to read. I resisted soaking in the visual of my Savior being mocked and tortured…for me. My stomach churned to settle into that place.

Oh yes, Sunday was coming. But Friday came first.

The explosion of Christ’s glory was coming. But his blood came first.

I wonder how “good” the day Jesus was crucified looked to his followers.

Their King, their Savior, was betrayed, captured, mocked, spit on, tortured, then crucified. That doesn’t bring the word “good” to mind.

It looked like it was all over. It looked like darkness had won.

The Messiah; the one they had hoped for, the one they believed in, the one they gave everything up for; was now hanging lifelessly on a cross.

The forehead that wrinkled in empathy for the hurting and the lost; the forehead that crinkled when he laughed and smiled, was now wrapped with a crown of thorns. Blood poured out, streaming down the length of his mangled body.

The strong arms that had embraced little children were now stretched out. The same rough, carpenter hands that touched blind eyes to give them sight and that washed the feet of his disciples, were now nailed to the cross.

The feet that had walked countless miles to bring hope to the hurting were also now nailed together.

The voice that commanded the winds and the waves, “Peace! Be still!”; that called into the tomb, “Lazarus, come out!”, was now crying out from the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”

Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

We have come to call today Good Friday. We call it good because that day changed everything.

On the day He died, we were brought to Life.

My heart and mind settle into that raw place of his crucifixion. My stomach still churns knowing He took the punishment I deserved. And my heart aches with raw gratitude knowing how desperately I need his salvation. It breaks me. It brings me to tears.

Chants of victory are coming…

…but groaning cries of bitter mourning came first.

So today, allow yourself to grieve and feel the weight of that day – the day that changed everything.

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

To Love the Unlovable

roses

I recently watched a very complicated situation unfold. I wasn’t directly involved- more of a bystander. But a friend I love dearly was in the heart of it, so I got an up close view of the whole thing.

A close relative of my friend was injured and needed to be cared for during their recovery process. In the best of circumstances, her relative could still easily be defined as “unlikable.” So throw in a traumatic experience, unstable emotions and a resistant attitude, and you’ve got someone who makes it miserable to be around (to put it nicely).

Throughout the recovery process, nothing seemed to go smoothly. There were physical setbacks, unexpected financial blows, constant opposition and emotional outbursts.

And that was just the surface of the situation. There were layers upon layers of emotional scars that ran deep, adding to the messiness of it all. The person who had inflicted those scars now lay in a hospital bed, unable to do basic things for themselves.

My friend, who could have been justifiably angry from a lifetime of pain, chose to bear the scars with mercy, and love someone who didn’t deserve it. Once broken and fragile, my friend now embodied strength and restoration. She had found healing, peace and redemption over the years. That’s what happens when Jesus gets involved in our messes. Sitting in that hospital room, she poured out grace and love without restraint.

Now before I go on, let me just say, having boundaries is a very good thing. I don’t think the “right thing” or “loving thing” means to keep going back to an unhealthy or dangerous situation or relationship. Sometimes, staying away is the harder thing to do. Sometimes, it’s best to get out of a relationship completely because it’s physically or emotionally dangerous. Other times, love can only be offered through limited interaction like short conversations or through prayers for the person. But other times, love physically comes face to face with the unlovable.

That is the love I saw. Given freely and unconditionally. I watched as the emotionally wounded chose to love the wounder over and over.

She made the decision to love.

It wasn’t the feel good kind of love that’s filled with hugs and rainbows and bunnies.

It was the raw, messy, pain filled, undeserving kind of love.

It was Jesus kind of love.

And it shook me.

But if I can be totally honest, I don’t know if I would have loved as well as she did. If put in that situation, I hope I would love well. I desperately hope I would. However, there were numerous times I watched her be horribly mistreated and my heart thought, “She should just walk away. It’s not her responsibility. She’s the one who has been hurt. Her relative is just finally reaping what they sowed for years. They don’t deserve such a love. It isn’t fair.”

But during one of those thoughts, the Lord very clearly interrupted, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

The example of love I saw that left me in awe was human to human. Can you believe that there is a love even fiercer, stronger and eternal? I too, have been given a completely undeserved love by a holy God. I make mistake after mistake, but He continues to love me.

Is that fair? Not at all.

Do I deserve it? Absolutely not.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

He is a perfect God loving a very, VERY imperfect person. Yet, He calls me His daughter, His beloved. He has not only cared for me when I was most unlikable, He died for me when I was most unlovable. He took the punishment of death that I deserved. Death. That is what I deserved.

How’s that for love.

Raw, messy, never-ending, undeserved love.

Freely given…

…despite mistakes.

…despite failures.

…despite resistance.

…despite messing up again…and again…and again.

…despite never ever being able to come close to deserving it.

It’s easy for me to accept something good that I don’t deserve, but the moment I see someone else given the same good thing, I quickly point out the injustice.

Oh, the love of Jesus!

Yeah, it’s not fair or just or deserved. And thank goodness. My life depends on it…and so does yours.

Life or Death

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Words.

They can be one of the hardest things to tame; faster and more powerful than an angry, raging river. With one swift motion, that small muscle we call the tongue can cut a heart in half.

Isn’t it incredible how something you can’t see or hold can be shared so quickly? Whether or not we like it, words can transform us. They can empower us, motivate us, or they can tear us down and shatter our very core.

Like you, I have been on both the receiving & giving end of other’s words. I have received hurtful words. I have given hurtful words. I have received words that gave me life. And I hope I have spoken life giving words.

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

Every careless word we speak, we will be held accountable for. Yikes.

We are responsible for every single word that we give. If you’re like me, it can be all too easy to justify the words I speak by rationalizing, “Well, they asked for my opinion, so I gave it to them” or “They wanted the truth, so I told them.”

Despite how hard I try to convince my husband, my opinions are not always actually right. Even if the words come easily to me, it doesn’t mean they should be released. And just because I speak with conviction it doesn’t guarantee that the source of those words is pure. My heart can be deceptive. If left to it’s own devices, my heart can be jealous, angry and selfish.

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3

 

There are many times I have to make the conscious decision to bridle my tongue. The more I’ve practiced “thinking before speaking”, the more aware I’ve also become about where my thoughts and words are coming from. Are they coming from a source of jealousy? Is that why I feel the need to say something? Inviting God into that place of my heart and mind has been a game changer for me. He’s revealed how untamed emotions like jealousy, anger, bitterness or frustration can disguise themselves as something harmless. If I give in to their ugly persuasion, they will surely rise up inside of me and try to escape through my words where they can do insurmountable damage. It is easy to hold back? Not always. Is it important? Yes. It’s absolutely vital.

I’m not talking about behavior modification. I mean allowing God into the depths of our heart so that the source of our words will be pure and holy and loving. Words are simply the manifestation of what’s going on inside of us.

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45 

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” Proverbs 11:12

If our first reaction is to “blaaaaaaaaa”, then let’s go to the source – our hearts. Let’s ask the Lord to show us the parts of our heart that we’ve kept closed off to Him & that cause us to feel like those words should be said.

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”        Proverbs 12:18

A Stuffy Nose & A Firm Foothold

Hello sweet friend.

I am so happy to be sitting & talking with you. The last couple weeks have been an absolute whirlwind. I had a cold for what felt like forever & then experienced a sinus-infection for the first time. Having an almost constant headache, stuffy nose & plugged ears was just pitiful. It got a little awkward asking people to repeat what they were saying over & over. I eventually just started smiling & nodding. I have a feeling that one is going to come back to haunt me. Who knows what I agreed to, signed up for & smiled at at an inappropriate time. I’ll keep you posted on that.

And you know when you’re not feeling well it’s hard to handle normal life stuff much less an emotional blow?

Well, I had both.

I experienced an emotional attack this week. It was just…ugly. And the fact that I couldn’t breathe out of my nose or stop sneezing didn’t help. It was something that would have knocked me down & possibly even broke me a few years ago. But this time, it has actually refocused & empowered me because it made me focus & rely on God’s steadfastness even more. It was a clear reminder that when I am focusing on God, the enemy WILL try to distract & discourage me.

But instead of being overwhelmed or discouraged, I’ve truly been so overwhelmed by God’s heart towards me. His protection & care for my heart has been incredible. His goodness is evident every day, but I guess you could say I’m aware of it in a new way. Experiencing it a little deeper. Pressing into it with a greater intensity.

I know Who my foundation is & I know that He is immovable, unshakable & steadfast. So when the violent winds from this world start blowing, I cannot be broken if my feet are firmly planted on Christ. I remain confident. I remain standing. When the Creator of the universe, the God of the heavens, the Ruler over all covers you with His hand…well, the winds become calm & your foothold stays solid.

The Lord is my rock & my fortress & my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, & the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2

Are you experiencing an attack on your heart? Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed or discouraged. Perhaps the mistakes of yesterday are consuming the possibilities of today. Whatever your case may be, know this…

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

I know what it’s like to not be able to handle things alone. But we aren’t meant to. Your God loves you beyond measure. He promises to always guard over you, always unconditionally love you & always stay with you. Submerge yourself in His Word & trust in His promises!

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge & my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1&2

He is our anchor in the stormy sea. He is our shelter in the violent storm. I declare my God as faithful!

Those Two Words

Hello friend.

I’d like to think that I have a fairly decent vocabulary. However, I seem to have trouble with 2 words sometimes. They aren’t long words. There’s no tricky accent on them, nor do they require tongue twisting enunciation. These words are…

I’m sssssssss.

Let me try that again…

I’m soooooorrrrr.

Ok, this is more difficult than I expected. Here’s goes.

I’m sorrryyyyy.

Whew! There. I feel better.

It’s not necessarily that those words are impossible to say for me; it’s the jab to my pride & admitting I was wrong that make them a little sticky. When I miss someone’s phone call, those words flow beautifully off my lips. “Oh I’m sorry I missed your call. I’ve been talking to God in my prayer closet for the past 4 hours.” Ok, it doesn’t usually go that way. It’s more like, “I’m sorry I missed your call. I was blowdrying my hair and a large chunk of it got sucked into the backside of the dryer. And while I was trying to pull it out, I panicked and turned to unplug the thing and stubbed my toe. Smoke from my burned hair had filled the room so I couldn’t see anything and ran into the door, knocking me unconscious for the past 32 minutes. The good news is, I saved the dryer. The bad news is, I now have bangs.”

Simply apologizing for something is sometimes difficult, but saying I’m sorry without putting a “but”, “that” or “if” after it…can be even harder! “I’m sorry that you took it the wrong way.” “I’m sorry if you think I said that out of spite.” Or the classic, “I’m sorry for how I said it, but I’m not sorry for what I said.”

Yep. The I’m sorry without a but, that or if. What a challenge.

I have a friend who’s been through thick and thicker with me. We’ve been very close the last few years. Slowly but surely, little things this person would say & do would make me…well…angry. But did I tell them that? Was I honest to them? No, no, no. Don’t be silly. I just kept listening & listening & taking it in. I would take it personally & and let it build up inside of me. All the while, I was smiling and nodding. My friend had no idea that I had had it up to here with her bad attitude & empty talk. And how could she have known? I was smiling & nodding. I didn’t want to have to deal with conflict or confrontation. But a girl gets to her breaking point eventually. You know what I’m saying. You’ve been there. You take it & take it & then…SNAP! Your face gets flush, your heart start pounding & then bllllaaaaaaaaaa. Out come some not-so-pretty things. “Oh sure, just because I’ve been smiling & agreeing with you about everything you’ve been saying throughout the latter part of our friendship, then all of the sudden I explode all over you, you think I’M crazy. Fine. Be that way.”

I thought that everything was said and done; it had become something that couldn’t be reversed. There were so many things this girl had said & done to me; our friendship was over. But then, my loving God began a work in my heart. I didn’t come straight to the conclusion that I needed to ask forgiveness from this person. It was a journey & my heart began going through a transformation that I can only explain as a God-change. I was craving God’s word constantly. I truly felt my relationship with Jesus deepening into something very special & real. Knowing that I wanted my heart to be cleaned out and made pure, I began to ask God to show me things that I needed to do in order to make things right with people so that my heart, motives and actions could line up with God’s heart. And of course, don’t ya know it…He began to show me people who I needed to apologize to.

Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” 

I love how The Message puts Psalm 139:23 & 24. “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life.” 

I knew swallowing my pride was going to be hard enough, but being genuine with my apology WITHOUT needing or requiring an apology from this person, was only going to happen with God’s strength. I knew I couldn’t do it without tapping into God’s mercy and grace. And when we do that, watch out. I was overwhelmed with love for this person. I wrote out a very long apology & sent it off. I didn’t blame, accuse or point out my friend’s wrongdoings. Even if it had ended there, I experienced this incredible sense of joy in my heart from being obedient to God’s command in the situation. I don’t care how hard the situation is, when we’re obedient to God’s leading, there will be joy in our souls.

Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”

I can love them, pour grace out on them, give mercy to them through Him.

So within a couple of days, this friend emailed back, expressing her heart & how she was sorry too & how we should just start fresh. What an additional blessing that she was so receptive! That’s not always the case though. But that’s ok. We are only required to be responsible for our own reactions & motives. If we are listening to God’s beautiful voice in our lives and being obedient to Him, we don’t have to worry about others’ responses or hearts. It’s not our place & isn’t our burden to carry. We can however, pray that their hearts & long for God. We are all different. We all have varying opinions, priorities & convictions. But as we all run after God & desire for hearts to be like His heart, we will come to this mutual ground of love, understanding & respect towards each other. And that is a beautiful thing.

1 Chronicles 29:27, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you.”

My God is faithful.

Who I Am

I don’t know about you, but periodically I catch myself letting out a deep, heavy sigh. Even if nothing in particular is happening at that moment, it doesn’t matter. Here comes the sigh. It’s like I’m releasing feelings of being overwhelmed from fighting a battle that I’m unaware of. Or maybe all the stresses of life combine into this huge pile, so I’m not thinking of just one thing that’s on my mind, because 1,000 things are. What do I do on days like this? Well, there’s the classic to-do list. Until I get distracted or realize I just don’t feel like making or doing anything on a list. I can allow myself to be a professional procrastinator if the occasion calls for it. I thought marrying a man who was super organized & motivated would change that about me. Or at least make me look better. But instead, I’m the one that is being asked to pick up my underwear off the floor or keep my paperwork semi-organized. Wow. That transition into superwoman wife didn’t happen as well as I had hoped.
 
Marrying a man that truly finds joy in being organized, having a dusted house & wiped-clean electronics doesn’t make it very easy to pretend to be organized either. I know we’re married, but I still have stories about my college dorm room I haven’t shared with him. Stories that would haunt & disturb him to his squeaky clean core. Marrying a man who thinks being 10 minutes early is being on time has also stretched my “fashionably late by 20 minutes” habits. During my sophomore year, my sister became a freshman at the same University I was at & we thought it would be fun to take some classes together. From the first day of our sisterly-shared classes, I’m sure my sister regretted it. I always knew it took me an hour to fully get ready in the morning. But for a little reason I like to call “loving my sleep more than life itself”, I made us late for every class. It got to the point where she would say, “I love you, Heather, but I’m going to be on time today. You’re on your own. See you at class.” At first, I could convince her that I was just a couple minutes away from being ready to leave & she would wait for me. But then my baby sister wised up & figured out that 2 minutes meant 15 minutes in my language. And I usually had a stressful, hurried walk to class…alone. I take full responsibility for that. But if I could just add one thing, I was always dressed nicely & fully accessorized. Sometimes I even remembered to bring my textbooks.
 
Up until about a year ago, I become completely emotionally depleted while trying to earn my father’s love & make him proud of who I was. But nothing was enough & love shouldn’t have to be worked for or earned. Every time I was told what I was doing wrong, I immediately claimed how imperfect I was & tried harder to change into something different just so I could feel approval to some degree. Comments in my childhood, regardless of whether or not they were maliciously said to me, deeply scarred me. I went from thinking I could conquer the world, to wondering if I was good at anything. I went from thinking I was the prettiest girl in the room, to not eating for days at a time so that I could be somewhat attractive. I almost always had breakouts on my face, so layers of makeup went on to help complete the mask that I liked to wear to cover up the ugliness I felt.
 
Looking back at all of the defining moments that hurt in my life, I see God’s hand. Times I was laying in bed, knowing my decisions were not only hurting me, but hurting the people I claimed to love, I still felt God’s grasp on my heart. He wouldn’t let go. I would cry & ask God why He still wanted me. There was nothing likable, much less lovable about me. At least that’s how I felt. I wasn’t interesting enough or beautiful enough to keep the attention of the people that I desperately longed for. I wasn’t the prettiest, the most talented or creative. I was just…me. And I was a MESS. I always viewed my messy life as a reason that I couldn’t be used by God for something bigger than what I was. I was empty. I didn’t have anything in me that could stack up against the amazing people around me. I had no 5-year plan. I didn’t know what my plans were for the upcoming weekend, much less what I wanted to do after college or the rest of my life.
 
So long story short, I’m a mess. There’s no cute little box with a perfect little ribbon tied around this girl’s life. But despite my messiness, God has ALWAYS been faithful. And I think because of my messiness, God is faithful. God never asked us to get ourselves together before we accept Him into our lives. What I’ve learned is that it’s impossible to get to a point where I feel ready enough, clean enough, organized enough, pure enough, holy enough to approach a perfect, unconditionally loving God. I can’t do anything to earn His love. But that’s the beauty of Who He is. He loves me no matter what.
Let that soak in.
 
God loves you. Nothing you’ve done or will ever do will change the fact that Jesus died for you. He died for you. He welcomes your messiness.
 
Listen to what 2 Corinthians 12:9 says:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
So there we are. I’m a mess & God loves me. I am empty without Him. Anything good inside of me is from God. He is personal, loves unconditionally & pours out grace on me every single day. From the second my feet the floor in the morning, God has given me the strength & grace that I need to live that day; not just get through the day, but fully, abundantly & passionately live. Because I am empty without Him & because I am weak, Christ’s power can be made perfect in that weakness! Praise God! I declare Him faithful!