Self-Image

Chosen

Ephesians 1:4 (NLT)

“Even before he made the world,
God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.”

I hope you all will forgive me for digressing from my “Who I am” series for this week. But God spoke to me this week in an illustration that I want to share with you. You see, as I was walking home from dropping the kids off at school on Wednesday, I came across a random Chihuahua. He was in a yard that I didn’t recall him belonging to, and he started barking at me, and then he followed me briefly (and forgive me, the picture is a bit blurry–he wouldn’t stand still). He finally decided to stay where he was, but as often happens when I encounter a stray dog, I began to daydream. What if he followed me home? What if he refused to leave? What if he chose us to adopt him?

Now, you have to understand—and I mean no disrespect—but we are NOT Chihuahua people. We like BIG dogs: Bernese Mountain Dogs, Great Pyrenees, Newfoundlands, those sorts of dogs. But there’s something about the idea of a pet choosing you, isn’t there? About them adopting you, if you will. At least there is for me. So, I thought to myself that, if this dog indeed were to choose us, we might find ourselves inviting him into our lives and our home and becoming his forever family. We might.

There’s just something about being chosen. It’s like destiny, do you know what I mean? That’s one thing (among many) that I love SO much about God. He has chosen ME. He has chosen YOU. Psalm 11:3 says, “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” There is such comfort in knowing this. The old hymn states, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!” But I dare say, “Blessed assurance, I am HIS!” Know this assurance today, and rest in the peace that comes from being His chosen.

Who I Am–Part I

Ephesians 4:30

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

The new year, for many, is a time of resolutions. But for me, it’s just as important to spend time reflecting on the person I already am as it is to contemplate the person I want to become. So that’s how I want to kick off the new year. And to get a feel for who I am, we need look no further than my body art. If you want to know what’s important to someone, consider what they’ve had imprinted on their bodies in indelible ink. In the same way, my tattoos offer a glimpse into the memories, passions, and dreams that comprise me. So this week, I want to tell you a bit about my very first tattoo.

When I was in high school, I met someone with a multi-colored ichthus tattoo on their ankle. Theirs had only four colors, but I remember thinking it was really neat. I decided then that I wanted to get a similar tattoo when I turned 18. Of course, to make it my own, I chose to include a cross as well, and to incorporate more colors. When people heard about my planned tattoo design, some expressed concern. Are you sure you want a Christian fish permanently etched on your skin? I mean, what if the end times come? What if the antichrist rises to power and starts executing Christians?

Well, so be it. I have no intention of denying my Lord—tattoo or not. Granted, Peter thought the same thing and ended up denying Christ three times in one night. But as much as I believe that I would remain strong, I’m happy to take the choice out of my hands. And do you know what’s funny? When I got my tattoo, my parents cautioned me to be sure this was what I wanted. At the time, my dad was pastoring a small church. And that first week, when I showed up at Sunday service, it was my DAD who was showing my tattoo off to the congregation members. Oddly, I think that he had a sense of pride that I would wear my faith like a badge of honor. And I imagine that God feels a similar sense of pride when He looks at that tattoo. I pray each day that I will reflect Him in my thoughts, words, and deeds—that I will honor Him in my behavior, so that people will see Him in me. Because being a believer in and follower or Christ is the single most important part of who I am. And I’ll leave you with this question: Who are YOU?

Through Eyes of Compassion: Leah

The story of Jacob’s family represents the epitome of dysfunction. You almost have to read it for yourself (Genesis 29:31 – 30:24), but the gist of it is that Jacob’s wives—Leah and Rachel—along with the servants of each woman, are for years engaged in a fertility contest of sorts. They try to one up each other by any means possible or necessary. Why?

Well it all goes back to the fact that Leah was Jacob’s first wife, but not his first choice. And while Leah was fertile, she was not loved by her husband. She spent years trying to earn his favor and his love by bearing him one son after another—six sons in all. We might, at first glance, be tempted to judge Leah for attempting to manipulate Jacob into loving her. We might condemn her for foolishly attempting to secure Jacob’s affections through childbearing. But recently, God gave me fresh eyes to see this woman.

Interestingly, Leah means tired, or weary. What a fitting name for someone who has tried so hard and so long to be enough for her husband—to be good enough, beautiful enough, fruitful enough. Leah would never earn Jacob’s love. But truly, one must consider whether love that is “earned” is really love at all. Isn’t that what makes God’s love so profound, after all—that we could never earn it ourselves?

So now, when I see Leah, I see her heart—a heart that, very simply, is ever longing for love. Sadly, she kept looking for it in the wrong place. And I wondered, if I had been Leah’s friend, how would I have prayed for her? Seeing her in this new light, I think I would have prayed something like this:

Lord God,

Only you know the depth of your love for Leah.
Only you know how priceless she is to you—
so priceless that you would sacrifice your beloved son to ransom and redeem her soul.
She’s been looking for love in all the wrong places,
looking for significance outside of your will,
and trying so hard to be enough apart from you.
Help her to see that you are enough for her…and that, in you, she is enough.
No matter what the world tells her, she is loved by you.
Bring her peace and contentment in the knowledge of this
profound and inexplicable love.

In Christ’s name and for His sake,

Amen.

 If you recognize Leah in someone you know, feel free to pray these words over her (or him, as the case may be). If you recognize her in yourself, please accept them as my prayer for you. And be blessed.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

For today’s post, I’m digging back into my files for a memory—one that I originally wrote about in February of this year. If you were reading my posts via Facebook before I officially launched my blog, you may have read this one. I was reminded of the post recently when Laredo joined me on the couch one night to reenact the scene. So I wanted to take a look back at what I’d written all those months ago. And I want to give you a glimpse into that same memory….

 Psalm 139:14

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

 At almost 15 months old, Laredo still seldom sleeps through the night. And often, when she gets up for her mid-night snack, she will lay on the couch with me for the next few hours (if not the rest of the night). I miss the extra sleep, but I cherish the time together.

The other night as Chris handed her to me, through the dark I saw her huge smile, and her arms outstretched toward me, eagerly and excitedly. It felt good to know that she wanted to be with me, near me. And then, as we were lying there, her on my chest, she did something she hasn’t ever done before. With her tiny and delicate little fingers, she started playing with some folds of skin on my neck that I had never realized were there. My first instinct was one of insecurity. Should I be adding this to my list of personal imperfections?

I quickly realized that this response could easily rob me of the joy and contentment brought by her presence with me in that moment. She wasn’t trying to point out ‘flaws.’ She doesn’t even understand that it’s a flaw. It reminds me of how, when I was young, I would sit on the laps of my parents and grandparents and use my fingers to trace the veins in their hands and arms—which became more pronounced as they got older. But they didn’t respond self-consciously; they embraced the time spent together.

And now, it’s my turn to set that example of self-acceptance for my little girl. Whether she becomes a young lady who despises, obsesses over, accepts, or embraces her physical features will depend largely on the example I set for her. In turn, I will greatly influence her confidence, as well as her actions and attitudes toward the imperfections of others. I confess, I have a long way to go, but on that night, I chose to embrace the moment, and the little girl in my arms.

Bj Nov 2014 1

Before

Jeremiah 1:5a
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you…”

 Adoption Awareness Month is too quickly drawing to a close—at least for me. There’s so much more that I want to write and share with you. But many of those sentiments will have to wait until November of next year. But on this Thanksgiving Day of 2014, I want to take a few moments to pen my sentiments to Trey (as I affectionately refer to any future child we may be blessed with). But I hope you’ll keep reading, because I think that the words will apply to all of us…

Dear Trey,

As I write these words, you aren’t even a twinkle in your birth mother’s eye. But you’ve been a twinkle in mine for quite some time, and for that long you’ve held a place in my heart. Even better, though, is the place that you’ve held in God’s heart and in His plan since the beginning of time. Jeremiah 1:5 begins, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” God also promises, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

I don’t know you yet, but there are some things I do know:

You were planned.
You are loved.
You are precious.
You are priceless.
You are celebrated.
You have a purpose.

And in case you should ever wonder just how much you matter to your Heavenly Father, Psalm 139:13-18 sums it up:

 13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

What stands out to me in all of this is the word before. And since God is already in the process of forming you, I am already in the process of praying for you. And, as is fitting for this Thanksgiving Day, I thank God in advance for who you will be and for all that He has planned for you. Never forget that you are dearly loved!

Freckles

Psalm 139:14

“I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are your works, and my soul knows it very well.”

I’ve always loved freckles. While Jan Brady was trying her darndest to get rid of hers, I was wishing for a way to get more. Chris has one particular freckle beneath his eye that I’ve always really liked. And if I look closely at Tijge, I can see a number of faint freckles across the bridge of his nose. And I love those, too. Then, the other night, I was looking in the bathroom mirror, in j ust the right light, and what did I see? Freckles!

To be honest, they aren’t freckles at all—they’re age spots. But the point is that, for the first time, I saw them for their potential—not as a categorical deficiency to be hidden and covered up. Rather, perhaps they could add character. Maybe, like crows’ feet and laugh lines, they point to a life well lived and countless memories made. Maybe they are a part of who I am that calls for celebration—okay, that may be going a little far. But how about acceptance? That seems doable.

How about you? Are you ready to embrace your “freckles”?

DPP_2653

The Body

The other night, in the middle of the night, Tijge came to lay by us. He kept tossing and turning, unable to get comfortable—until, that is, he found a cushiony spot on my not-so-flat-anymore belly. Always a source of insecurity for me, I’m ever conscious that my abs aren’t as tight or flat as they once were, let alone as much so as I’d love for them to be.

Lying there with Tijge, though, I was reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:18 and following. In that passage, he compared the Body of Christ to the human body, in which every part has an indispensable purpose (except for the appendix, perhaps). Specifically, he spoke of parts that were weaker, less honorable, and unpresentable.

I know what you’re thinking—Paul’s point was about fulfilling our role and calling within the Body of Christ. But, if the purpose of an analogy is to use something well understood to shed light on something less well understood, that suggests that the Christians in Paul’s day had a better grasp on the value and the function of the human body than we do now. We may know more about disease, diet, and exercise than they did. But we don’t see our bodies for either their God-ordained purposes or their inherent worth. Sometimes the parts of our physical bodies are called upon to serve painful, mundane, or seemingly undignified purposes. And then sometimes, they are called upon to serve as a pillow to cushion the head of a beautiful and perfect 3-year-old boy. And oh, how I cherish those times—and the “squishy parts” that make those memories possible.

1 Corinthians 12:18-27 

But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them,
just as he wanted them to be.
If they were all one part, where would the body be?
As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!”
And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,
and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.
And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,
while our presentable parts need no special treatment.
But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,
so that there should be no division in the body,
but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it;
if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.