26 July 2015

Of Painting the World

Last fall I began a project. We had been given (ok, I'd begged for) fence panels that had been destined for the fire with the hope of bringing them new life. I had a vision of using one of these for a wall-sized mural of the earth. The vision of where this mural would be located and for what purpose it was to be created continued to morph, but the vision remained. I would paint a map of the world and write across it some version of John 3:16, "For God so loved the world . . ."

So last fall, I laid my hands on one of those panels and hauled it across the yard in which our children ran rampant while Mommy was distracted and leaned it haphazardly in front of one of the windows to our den. It didn't matter that it would block some light because this project would be finished soon and quickly be moved to its proper place (which I had now decided would be the barren brick wall along the front porch). And I determinedly started painting.

But then the paint didn't apply as easily as I'd hoped on those rough boards. 

Sweat started dripping; it was hot in that afternoon sun.

And then the countries started seeming disproportionate and, altogether, kind of wrong.

I decided to take a break and come back to it another day.

Days later, I was out in the yard and saw my project, leaning in front of the window, from a distance and realized, "I can tell it's the earth!" - it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd thought. Maybe I would finish it.


Someday soon.

But not today. It's too hot. I have other things to do during nap time (that precious time in which Mommy can do things Mommy needs/wants to do). 

I'm just not ready.

And so it went. For nearly a year.

It's too hot.

It's too cold.

I'd have to change into painting clothes.

I have other things to do.

I just don't want to.

I'm just not ready.

Until today. When I sat down, still in my church clothes, ready to sink into the Sunday paper and unwind while everyone else rested. I settled into the den and for the umpteenth time since I started that danged project I mourned the darkness of the den and thought to myself (as I do nearly every other day), "I need to finish that so we can get some light in this room again."

But today was different. Today I finally thought, "This is the day."

I didn't bother changing out of my "nice" clothes, but just marched myself to the craft cabinet, grabbed some paint and a paintbrush and stepped up to the fence. 

Long white skirt flowing, I slapped green paint in all the faded white borders painted months ago. Recklessly and without abandon, I painted broad strokes over the whole earth.

And in that moment, God spoke to me.

Go paint the world with His love, and don't be afraid of getting your church clothes dirty.

Sometimes it's uncomfortable. Sometimes we have to change. Sometimes we have to give up the plans we had for ourselves. And sometimes we have to GO. Even when we don't feel "ready."

Because the world is dark and it's waiting. He didn't send His Son to save us from the fire so we could rest in comfort, adjusting ourselves to the dark, rather than moving the world to allow in His light. 

It might get messy.

It might not be as easy as we thought it might be in the rough-ness of the world, the one that sometimes just seems so wrong. 

But it's His. And it's loved. And we need to tell them.

Because that is what we have been called to do.

Until it is finished.

16 July 2015

Of Being Thankful

As previously mentioned, I'm memorizing my way through Colossians 3, and it has been a life-changer. I'm suddenly recalling the many, many, many (did I say many?) lessons I've heard through my life about the importance of hiding God's Word in my heart. And I definitely agreed with them. But then, isn't there a verse about walking away from what we hear and forgetting to actually put those lessons to action? (Answer: Yes, there is; it's in James 1, in case you weren't sure.) 

31 years into this journey and I'm finally realizing that maybe some of those older, wiser voices in my life actually knew what they were talking about.

So, yes, Colossians 3:1-14 led me to the point of putting away earthly things and putting on a compassionate heart, bound in love, which pulls it all together in perfect harmony. And then, yesterday, I moved on to the next verse on the schedule to commit to memory. And it just keeps getting better (as God's Word is known to do).

"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful." (v. 15, ESV).


Even more so than embracing this all-encompassing love that transforms a heart bent toward anger to a heart designed for kindness, humility, and patience, this next step up the chain - the one to rule them all - peace. It brings an even deeper sigh of sweet relief from this storm that has been raging inside for longer than I care to admit.

Because who can be patient? Who can be meek? Humble, kind and compassionate? From a heart filled with turmoil? How can I bring calm to my life and that of my children, putting to rest this wrathful, earthly self, without peace reigning over all my actions.

When peace is in control, the quiet voice of love can be heard. And all the rest is a natural overflow of a heart ruled by the peace that comes only from Christ.

Thank you, Jesus.

And then, what brings a pure smile to my face. After moving past peace, and breathing that sigh of sweet relief, three simple words. "And be thankful." That's it. Almost as if it's just an afterthought. We are to dress ourselves with compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, wrapping it all in love, ruled over by peace. And, oh yeah, just be grateful.

As I nod on over to Ann Voskamp, yet another voice of wisdom whose truth is finally ringing in my heart even more deeply than ever before, I recognize that maybe it's this counting of One Thousand Gifts that turns our eyes, our hearts, from the one thousand papercuts, so that we dwell on what our hearts were meant to see in this painful world. Because even more than the tiny things that cut us shallow are the gifts given to love us deep.

And be thankful.

This is where are hearts were meant to rest. In a peace that makes us recognize all around us, even in the maddening storm, is sheer gift.

This gift of being alive and being loved and being chosen. As His holy and beloved. 

And what lost trinket or crying child or squabbling siblings or clutter-ridden home can ever drown out this Truth. That when all is falling apart, He stands still. And His peace reigns in our hearts.

And we are thankful.

He is not finished with me, yet.

14 July 2015

Of My Legacy

At the beginning of the year a sweet friend asked if I would join her in memorizing Scripture*. Always being an item on my wish list, but lacking the accountability to follow through, I accepted. As we thought upon what it was we'd like to memorize, God led me to Colossians 3. And I almost feel as though I should apologize to her, because He has been speaking to me so much through this dedicated time of committing His Word to my heart that I'm beginning to wonder if this passage was meant specifically for me and my poor friend is just along for the ride (though, given His promise that His Word does not return to Him void, I'm almost positive He's reaching her through these words, as well).

The two of us took off at a sprint in our endeavor before we realized we have crazy lives and maybe we needed to turn things down a notch. Slow and steady and all. So, it was around April that I reached verse 8: "But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander and obscene talk from your mouth." And back then, they were just words to memorize. I was on a mission, I had an item to check off my list: memorize Colossians 3. Because, you know, it's good to have Scripture to call upon when needed. But, it's not like I need it now.

Oh, dear, sweet Angela.

Now, anyone who has read my words for any length of time might recognize, maybe, that I've had a problem putting away these things labeled above. Anger? Pretty sure I lashed out at my kids just this morning. Wrath? See item A. Slander? Was that me judging others as I gossiped with my husband just the other day? Do you see what I'm saying?

This is my struggle, defined perfectly clearly right here in this Scripture. And, to be fair, I come by it honestly. My ability to lash out verbally, in great force, and with astounding volume, is my grandest inheritance. I gained it from my father and his father before him (and his father before him, so I've heard). It feels an impossibility to overcome such an ingrained family trait, though I have fought over and over to weed it out.

I pondered this genetic code of anger just last evening, while I sat at my sewing table, mindlessly stitching, Spotify playing in the background, when I heard words that pierced me to my soul: 

"You didn't ask for this
Nobody ever would
Caught in the middle of this dysfunction
It's your sad reality
It's your messed up family tree
And all you're left with, all these questions

Are you gonna be like your father was and his father was?
Do you have to carry what they've handed down?

No, this is not your legacy
This is not your destiny
Yesterday does not define you
No, this is not your legacy
This is not your meant to be
I can break the chains that bind you"

And right there, he answered the very question of my soul: Can I change this legacy? 

The answer: I am a child of the King. That is my legacy. This anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk from my mouth - this is not a part of me. For I have died and my life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is my life, appears, I, also, will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:3-4). This is the family tree into which I was grafted the day I accepted Christ.

And the most beautiful part of this passage is that it doesn't just tell us what not to be - what to weed out, leaving merely an empty patch of fallowed ground - it then comes in and tells us what we should be. "Put on, then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience" (Colossians 3:12). Oh, that I could parent like that. That I could be a friend like that, a wife, a daughter.

That I could be one who is known for compassion, kindness, patience. This is my heart's greatest desire.

And then we move to verse 14: "And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." 


The beautiful ribbon that ties all these characteristics into one beautiful package. Were I to only begin each day, each moment, each opening of my mouth, with the decision to love. 

I'm breathing deeply in pure, sweet relief as I type these words. 

He has chosen me. And I am choosing love.

He is not finished with me yet.

*On a side note, I highly recommend ScriptureTyper.com, and its accompanying app, for Scripture Memory. It has really accelerated things for me in the past few weeks as I've started using the app each morning.

13 July 2015

Of Paper Cuts

Remember my post about keeping a positive attitude no matter the circumstances, or how poorly I perform? Yeah, me, too. Unfortunately, it's easier to remember the words than it is to put them into action.

Thus, when my daughter announced she lost a precious toy, AFTER we'd already found it once, because it had already been lost once, and AFTER I'd paraded she and her younger siblings all through the church on that search and then through the parking lot and then squeezed everyone into their carseats (because our behemoth vehicle was tightly parked next to two fellow family-lugging behemoths) and was clicking the last buckle so we could FINALLY get home to daddy, that new wail of, "I lost him again!" might have made me lose it, too.

And I may have been yelling at my six-year-old daughter about making smarter choices, like putting said toy in a pocket or holding it tightly, right in the middle of the church parking lot.

I might have been that mom.


But God is so good. Because even when I'm that mom, I know he's whispering in my ear, "Calm down. I'm still here and I'm still good." And even when I'm kicking myself for failing, once again, to display for my children grace under pressure, I know he's telling me we'll have another chance. This isn't the end. He's not done with me, yet.

Each time this explosive eruption of boiling words comes from within me, I get even more hard on myself remember how so many others have it so much harder when their challenges rise from more than a lost toy, a crying child, or just the repetition of, "Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy . . ." There are those battling big things, scary things, things that give one the perfectly good right to lash out at the world around them.

And I wonder how I think I could possibly handle the real storms of life, even with God by my side, when I can't even handle the drizzle.

And this where we die by a thousand paper cuts. Because when the big hurts come, the ones that cause gaping wounds that bleed openly, we tend to those. We see them, we know their cause and we address them. We bind them tightly, we turn to the Healer and we are renewed.

That's not exactly how paper cuts are handled, though, are they? A thin sliver of nothing slices us in just the right way so as to inflict pain, leaving little outward evidence. You can't even see it unless you know where to look. And it's so miniscule it would be laughable to bring it to the attention of a medical professional. Maybe we bandage it, but mostly not. We brush aside, work through the pain and move on. And in our daily lives, we do this again. And again. And again. Until we're covered in wounds that seem so inconsequential, but when added together can make it unbearable.

But God is so good.

He is ready to heal no matter the circumstances. Big and small. We don't need to wait until we lay dying, whether outwardly or in the pain of our souls, to cry out to him. No pain is too small.

And if we can't trust him with the small hurts, when will we decide something is big enough to give over to him? When we're in over our heads? Or curled into a defeated ball of tears? Or, even when our limbs are cut off and we're bleeding helpless, will we still be crying, proudly, defiantly, "It's just a flesh wound!"?

It may be hard in this season of small things, because the world, our lives, our families, don't always allow us to take a break and mend, but we need to recognize our need for the Healer, turn to Him and allow Him to do His work in us. Because He will be faithful to complete it. Even when the papers keep flying.

07 July 2015

Of My Performance (and How it Doesn't Matter)

The other day, I was considering McKayla Maroney, specifically the meme that the gymnast "is not impressed." Remember this moment?

If you don't, or just don't happen to follow the Olympics, about three years ago, this adorable teenage girl gave the most amazing Gymnastic Vault performance anyone had seen. It launched her team to Olympic gold and made her a shoe-in for the next day's individual competition (well, to the viewer with no real background as to what is currently happening in today's gymnastic world - I'm sure to those who actually know who's who in that realm, she had been a shoe-in for much longer). That vault was the entire reason she was in London in the first place. She had one purpose and, for her team, she accomplished that purpose. But the next day, when it was her turn to shine on her own, one slight misstep or muscle twitch was all it took for her to land on the wrong end of those legs and send her slipping back to a silver medal.

And in one day she goes from being known around the world for one thing - her mad vault skills - to being known for something else - that disappointed scowl.

And who can blame her? She was basically a child, and, in the world of competitive sports, when it has been assumed, and known, for so long, that you are the best at what you do and something goes wrong the one day you get to prove that to the world? Disappointment is a given and it might not always be masked well, particularly when one has little experience with it.

It got me thinking, though. Because we all clearly saw her vault the day before. She was outstanding. And, by her account, she had landed that same vault on her feet every attempt for four months solid. Landing on her rear was an anomaly. An anomaly that happened on a really bad day. Thus, it's probably still understood by most watching in those days, that though the gold medal was around another neck, it did not necessarily reflect the true hierarchy of the vaulting world.

So what does an Olympic Gold Medal represent? In many cases, exactly what it's supposed to - the owner has excelled in their chosen field to be called the best in their time. But, even then, what it always says is that person was the best at what they did on that day. For that moment.

Sometimes what it means is that someone else wasn't able to show up that day. It means someone's shoelace broke or they got tripped off the line. It might mean someone else had a leg wrapped too tightly or they were too sick to perform their best. Sometimes it is a facade. Representing that one moment the bearer was better than someone else who might be able to out-perform them any other day.

Its shining status represents one fleeting moment in time.

I've seen it in my personal life - one day (about once in four years - that's all it takes for a gold medal, right?) I feel like a rockstar Mom. I feed the kids something they all like for each of the three main meals (actually, this is what a perfect day looks like in my head, which may not actually reflect anything that has ever happened in reality). I rock snack time, too. I fill our days with activities we can do together. We spend moments snuggling in sheer bliss on the couch. I kiss them all good night and mentally pat myself on the back. We did great that day!

And then I facebook about it. Because that's how I get my gold medal (hello, the world has to know!).

The next day? I wake up to poop falling out of someone's diaper, complaints about breakfast (and lunch, and dinner, and even dessert). I yell more than I should. I cry in my room. I consider myself a failure as a mom. The previous day completely wiped from memory. And, thankfully, unlike McKayla Maroney, I don't have anyone photographing me in those worst moments to broadcast for everyone. (And let's be grateful for that, because my bad attitude days are much uglier.)

But also unlike her, those bad days? The ones with a million mistakes that add up to one bad attitude on display for my family to see - an attitude that only really reflects my disappointment in myself and my failures. Those happen more often than not.

I don't get gold medal performances in practice for four months straight. I land on my rear far more often.

But this, too, is a fleeting moment.

This, too, like those moments at the top, shall pass.

And wherever I find myself today - in that shining moment in the sun, or with a scowl of disappointment threatening my countenance, I must remember - that gold medal, that winning facebook status or even that self-congratulation is not where  my worth - as a mom, a woman, a wife, a friend, comes from.

My worth - in my good days and my bad - comes from Christ alone. His victory brings me to my knees, at His feet, every day.

And my attitude, whether I performed my best or sadly faltered, should reflect my value as His daughter in every moment. Even when my world and the tiny little people in it, are crying out my failures or stripping me of the accolades I want to deserve,

"My worth is not in what I own, or in the strength of flesh and bone, but in the costly wounds of love, at the cross.

My worth is not in skill or name, in win or lose, in pride or shame, but in the blood of Chist that flowed, at the cross."

Whether at my best or sadly slipping, I remain His. And I rejoice in my Redeemer.