The Treasure We’re Giving Away (without even knowing it)

Do you know what TV show fascinates me? It isn’t the Real Housewives or one of those Survivor spin-offs. It’s The Antiques Roadshow.

I know, I know. There’s no drama on this little hour of British television. But I’m amazed at these treasures passed down from generations past, with owners who aren’t even aware of their value. It makes me wonder if there are treasures sitting around in my own home (or attic), waiting to be discovered.

A couple of weeks ago my parents visited and since they always bring gifts, I went through my kids’ endless pile of toys. I remarked that we needed to make another trip to the local charity store. Except the store I was speaking of isn’t really all that charitable.

“That guy’s made a fortune because people just give their stuff away,” my Dad said, referring to the owner.

He talked about how employees of this store found antiques worth large sums of money. The owners didn’t know what they had, and now someone else is making a profit.

The discussion made me ask myself- what am I giving away that I should be guarding? Are there things that I should be treasuring instead of throwing away?

Except my mind didn’t go to the material stuff. It went to the matters of the heart.

I give away my time scrolling through Facebook, looking at pictures of other people’s memories when I could be making my own.

I give away my hope, looking to others to affirm me when there’s only One who can give me the validation I need.

I give away money, looking to fashion trends to give me a fleeting thrill.

When we take an honest look at our lives, we often find we give our hearts away for fulfillment that quickly fades. We can run around in endless circles chasing the next validation or high and then wonder why we constantly feel depleted.

If we dig into God’s word, it doesn’t tell us to give our hearts away. It tells us to guard them.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23 NIV

God knows our ADD nature. He knows we need reminders to keep our steps aligned and our eyes fixed on the Author of our hope.

So why do we need to guard our heart? Shouldn’t we keep it open and listen to it like the popular 80’s song suggests?

Yes and no. Guarding our heart doesn’t mean living in fear, cutting ourselves off from relationships, adventures and the abundant life God wants for us.

Guarding our heart means aligning it with God’s Word, letting our decisions flow from the wisdom he freely gives us.

Guarding our heart means letting his love affirm us, not the fleeting things of this world.

Each of us has a treasure worth far more than anything discovered on an antique roadshow or a charity store. Let’s not give it away like yesterday’s garbage.

Let’s guard it, knowing its value. Let’s treat it like the gem it is.

 

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What the Chaos Teaches Us About the Creator

A few weeks ago we had one of those rains where it seems like the whole sky opens up. Trees bent under the weight of it. Birds scurried to find shelter.

Every living creature seemed to realize the need to stay dry except my dog, who I inadvertently left out while running errands. She just laid there sopping wet, hanging her face when I remembered to let her inside.

She had a huge covered porch where she could stay covered, but she chose to take a cold shower.

Afternoon came and the rain stopped but the storm clouds stayed. I drove to the bus stop and was struck by the scene around me.

Trees and flowers and glowed against a backdrop of stormy sky, their leaves all sparkling and wet. It was beautiful.

The dark clouds provided a canvas that illuminated creation. Living, thriving. Not in spite of the storm, but because of it.

It reminded me of situations I’m facing now and the lives of dear friends. Storms are everywhere, and yet life goes on.

I ache for those who fill my conversations and enter my prayers. I curse the devil and wish he’d go away, never to threaten those I hold close.

And then I see my dog laying there in the rain. I see the God’s creation flickering in the storm.

I know his greatness is not limited by these clouds, these distortions to my vision.

Sometimes instead of evading the storm, we have to let it drench us.

We have to let it hit us with all the life lessons, the cold, and even the pain. We can grieve for what’s stripped away from us in the hard rain and we can yell when we don’t understand it, but we have to let it do its work.

And when we do, our roots grow deep. They aren’t ripped up by the tide rushing around us, but are held tightly by promises that surpass all the temporary things of this world.

Christ’s hope doesn’t equal the absence of chaos. It’s found right there in the thick of it. In the tears, the sleepless nights and the questions.

It’s then that we hear him whispering, “Come to me.”

Don’t wait until you have it all figured out and your life is perfect. Come to me in your mess. Come to when when you’re weary and burdened.

And when we do, we find he brings beauty right there in the middle of our storm. He doesn’t wait until the clouds pass and the sun breaks through. His Light shines in the darkness.

His glory isn’t hidden in the chaos. As we draw near, it’s illuminated because of it.

 

When You’re Critical of Your Reflection

When I stand in front of the mirror with my daughter, I wonder what she sees. Does she recognize her reflection or see a playmate as she lunges toward the glass?

I hold her snug in my arms and we twirl around the room.

I tell her she’s beautiful. I tell her she’s loved. She smiles and waves her hands without a worry in the world. She doesn’t care what she’s wearing or how many ruffles are in her hair. As long as she has someone to coo at and a finger to grasp, she’s happy.

In my core I hope if I tell her the truth about herself enough times, she’ll grow up believing it. I know one day she’ll hear other voices besides mine.

Voices telling her she needs to be thinner or dress a certain way. Voices telling her she needs to accentuate this feature or that one.

I can’t say exactly when she’ll hear those other voices, but I know they’ll come. Perhaps you’ve heard them too?

Sometimes the voice we hear in our own heads is the one we need to silence the most.

On a weekday not too long ago, I heard it. I was standing in front of the mirror, and this time my daughter was taking a nap. It was just me and my reflection.

I saw the extra pounds I hadn’t lost yet since giving birth in November. I saw the thin scar stretching across my abdomen, where the surgeon brought my baby girl into the world. I saw dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep and years chasing little ones.

I saw all these things, and I was critical of my postpartum body.

Later that evening, I was cleaning up dishes and my firstborn gave me an unexpected hug. He’ll be nine in a few months, and his hugs are getting fewer and farther between.

But this week, he’s stopped me mid-sentence to give them out. It’s like he senses my need for it. My little thinker who’s so compassionate and intuitive knows his mama better than he realizes.

As I squeezed his frame, I saw the life God gave me. The life he allowed me to bring into the world. I saw the way my sons interact with their baby sister, running to her side when she cries.

I saw the goofy antics my middle child uses to get baby girl to laugh, always the comedian.

After putting the kids to bed, I sat on the couch watching T.V. and my eyes drifted to my belly. My husband saw me and could read my mind.

“When I look there I see the beautiful family you’ve given me,” he said with all the pride of a husband who is also a father.

I knew he meant it.

And in that moment, I stopped being critical of myself and was grateful. I was grateful God gave me a body that can bring forth life and memories and hands to hold them.

I was grateful he gave me a husband to remind me that postpartum bodies are just as beautiful as those who have never carried tiny frames.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

Do you see work to be done, or memories to be made? Do you see wrinkles, or a life well-lived?

I pray you see the reflection of a woman who is enough. Whether you’re middle-aged, enjoying senior benefits, or still in your twenties, I pray see God’s work.

 

3 Reasons Why God’s Promises Go Further Than Our Dreams

The comment popped into my inbox, and it was as though the reader saw directly into my heart. Tears formed and I knew God was speaking.

“Go to the conference with a song in your heart, holding lightly to your hopes and dreams and tightly to God’s promises. Sounds like the two work against each other, but His promises go further than our dreams.”

I knew this woman spoke the truth, but I didn’t hold my dream lightly. I grasped it for dear life, afraid if I let it go it would disappear. With mere months standing between me and my first writers’ conference, I worked feverishly on a book proposal. My publisher’s appointment was scheduled, and the plan was to walk away with a contract in the works.

In the months that followed, my dream became an idol. Although I didn’t see it at the time, it took the place of the God who gave it life. But since he is an ever-loving and patient giver, he put it back in its rightful place.

Whether this reader who commented on my blog realized it or not, she was speaking words I would need in the months to come. When I questioned God’s call and wondered whether I should continue writing, I came back to her insight. What did she mean? Did I trust God’s promises more than I trusted my plans?

The truth was, I didn’t.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing over at iBelieve about how I discovered that God’s promises do, indeed, go further than our dreams. You can read the rest of my post here.

 

Linking up here: #ChasingCommunity

You’re a Daughter, Not a Slave to Fear

I like to watch my kids when they don’t know I’m looking.

I eavesdrop on interactions between firstborn and little brother. I overhear whispers of imagination, hide-and-seek and Legos.

It’s not because I’m trying to catch them doing something wrong. On the contrary, I catch glimpses of their lives I might otherwise miss.

When they notice me, their response is always the same.

“What?”

And then comes the shoulder shrug. Like they’re waiting for a rebuke. As if I’m going to chide them for running or yelling.

I realize it’s partly my fault. Because many times, I do those things. And while I don’t apologize for it, I also want them to know I watch them because I relish in seeing them grow.

I’m a witness to these lives I helped create, and I love seeing them discover new things.

The other day as I was driving to the market, the new David Dunn song, “I Wanna Go Back,” came on the radio. It describes how as we grow older, we often lose our childlike faith and belief that we can do or be anything. Instead of being grateful we have neighbors next door to play with, we feel like we have to keep up with them.

So what does the artist want? To go back. He says he wants to go back to “Jesus loves me this I know…”

As I sat in the car listening and singing along, I thought, “Don’t we all?” I realized somewhere along the line, I forgot God watches me the love of a Father instead of an angry parent waiting to punish me.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing over at PurposefulFaith.com about how we can let go of fear and embrace who we are as daughters. You can read the rest of my post here.

 

Linking up here: #RechargeWednesday

The Wordsmiths’ Cafe- Edition 4: 3 Things to Do With a Rejection

“I could wallpaper an entire room with rejection letters,” my writing instructor said.

I wished he was kidding, but I knew it was true. There have been many times when I received an email I didn’t want to open. The subject line said it all.

“Thank you.”

In other words, thank you but no thank you. Thank you, but your piece doesn’t fit our needs at this time. If we get enough of those emails, we may decide writing is not our thing. It’s too hard, or perhaps we heard God wrong when we felt him calling us to do it.

After writing off and on in different genres for the past eight years, I’ve learned rejection will come. There is no question about it. But we can learn from it. It can make us grow instead of making us bitter, and we can become better writers because of it.

We have to see it as a stepping tool rather than a smack in the face. Even though it does feel like a smack in the face.

Here are 3 things you can do after a rejection:

  1. Ask yourself, “Is this the right market?” There are a lot of publications out there. It can be overwhelming, and it may take a while to find the right one for the piece you’re writing. But if you submit your place to a magazine, e-zine, etc. where it doesn’t fit, the only result will be frustration. Take time to read the publication’s back pieces and see if your manuscript will compliment what they write. If it doesn’t, keep looking.
  2. See if there are any opportunities outlined in your rejection email or letter. Sometimes you’ll receive an email saying the piece doesn’t fit their needs. So what are their needs? Does the publication have a list of themes they stick to each quarter? If so, you may be able to save your manuscript to submit later. Make sure you look at all the guidelines and needs of the publication before you submit. Doing so will not only save the editor time, but you as well.
  3. Take time to explore your niche. It can take years to find your niche and your voice as a writer. Don’t try to rush the process. Ask yourself, “Who am I writing to? What is her story? What are her struggles, her dreams and her beliefs?” Asking yourself these questions will not only make you a better writer, but target your audience. Because trying to write for everyone will essentially mean writing for no one.

Whatever you do, don’t give up! Remember, some of the best writers faced rejection many times before they saw success. Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Max Lucado and Lysa TerKeurst (just to name a few) all forged their way through letters saying “no” before they saw their first “yes.”

Time spent honing your craft and learning is never wasted. Writers write their way through doubt. So pick up the pen, pull out the laptop and keep going.

 

Hope for the Days When You Feel Like You Got Nothing Done

My eight-year-old always stops and says “hi” to his baby sister when we pick him up at the bus stop. He climbs straight over little brother, who blocks his way and clamors for his attention. But he lingers a while over Elise. He smiles and grabs her hand while she coos.

Our four-month-old is teaching us all the art of savoring. She’s showing us how to slow down a bit, to stay in those the little moments.

But oh, how I fight it. It takes an intentional choice to be present, to look my kids in the eye, and focus. To stop thinking about what I have to get done. To stop scrolling through my phone.

A few weeks ago I shared how I felt overwhelmed as I navigated life with three kids, but I think another translation of that statement is, “I’m not getting enough done.”

It’s how we base our worth, isn’t it? The dishes are out of the sink. Check. The laundry is in the washer. Check.

But what if we put a check mark next to the time we spent cuddling the baby? What if we added another item to our to-do list: roll around on bed with five-year-old.

What if we placed as much value on the time spent loving others as we do to getting that work project done?

When my firstborn was a baby, I didn’t savor the time. After leaving my full-time job where productivity was measured in numbers, I felt like I had no compass or boundaries. It took years for me to navigate a life with no commute or schedule.

There are still days when I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing. But every now and then, God gives me a glimpse into his heart. He shows me what’s important, even when I’m forgetful and stubborn.

Jesus was intentional about every moment he spent on earth, but he didn’t rush. And perhaps more importantly, he didn’t make people feel rushed either.

Last week I went through a short study highlighting seven things Jesus said before he died, and what struck me was this: He loved people right up until his dying breath. He didn’t check out emotionally or ignore the people who stood there mocking him and watching him die.

Even while he hung there and suffered, he thought about his mother. He made sure his family was taken care of.

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

 John 19:26-27 NIV

Time spent loving others is never wasted.

When we take our last breath and the people around us look back on our lives, they won’t remember how clean we kept our house. And I’m not saying the never wash another dish, although that would be perfect, wouldn’t it?

They will remember the way we loved others. They will remember the relationships we formed and spent time cultivating.

With each child God gives me, he’s teaching me. And baby girl is teaching me how to savor. She’s teaching me how to love all over again.

 

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