The Truth About Guarding Your Heart…

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about being surprised when God’s goodness shows up in our lives. This post was about a relatively small matter…a stolen check that was miraculously found and returned to the bank.

Over the past few weeks this idea of expectation, desire and disappointment has become a running theme in my life. Sometimes I think God uses ‘small matters’ like the check to plant seeds in our hearts that are eventually nurtured and grown when big matters come along.

Since writing the post about the check and God’s goodness, two significant disappointments have been leveled at my husband and me. Two things we hoped for, wanted, desired, two things that seemed sure, and real, and true, were taken from us.

I know we’re not alone. Every day someone is always losing something. We lose jobs, homes, health, fortunes, marriage vows, babies and loved ones.

And we gain things too. We gain weight, debt, addictions, diseases, stress, burdens and piles of empty treasures.

When life doesn’t turn out the way I thought it would. When big disappointments happen. When dreams vanish, hope is deferred and desire is left unfulfilled, I always experience a temptation to doubt God’s goodness, a tendency to guard my heart and protect it from pain.

There are verses in scripture that tell us to guard our hearts, and I know many people think it is okay, and right, and wise to guard our hearts from pain. But the more I experience desire and disappointment, the more I find God telling me to do just the opposite.

Instead of guarding my heart, He tells me to embrace my desires. He tells me to embrace the pain. He tells me to embrace Him.

Believe me, this is NOT what I want to do when something I hoped for, prayed for, believed in, is gone. In that moment when I’m on my knees fighting hard to believe God still exists, let alone believe I can trust Him, it doesn’t feel right, or good, or logical to leave my broken heart open, exposed.

But for there to be life? For there to be hope and deep, deep healing, I’m convinced this is the only way.

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis there is a story about a boy named Eustace who is transformed into a dragon. Towards the end of the story Aslan finds Eustace and frees him from his dragon body by painfully removing his scales.

Coming face to face with our desires, bringing them before God and trusting Him with our hearts is a lot like this process. It’s an incredibly vulnerable act. It hurts in our deepest places. It strips away everything we’ve used to hide and protect ourselves from hurt until all we have left is who we are, what we love, and a God who promises life.

And though it doesn’t always seem so, or feel so, in this process there is freedom. Though we’re vulnerable, and aching, and teeming with longing, we are free from our striving to make life happen. We are free from our constant attempts to do this, or be that, or figure this out. We are free from the running, the hiding, and the exhausting work of building walls that block out pain but kill our hearts.

Instead of trying (and failing) to be everyone and do everything, we are free to be who we are.

Instead of figuring everything out, we are free to figure God in.

Instead of running and hiding from pain, we are free to run and hide in Him.

Because that’s what the temptation to doubt God and the tendency to guard our hearts is really all about. I see that now. It’s about trusting in that thing I desire more than I trust in God. It’s about trusting my abilities, my resources, my plans, my timing, my feelings and never really trusting Him.

It’s the difference between relying on myself and relying on Him. It is the choice to handle life on my own, to shut out desire, to avoid pain or let the desire and the pain lead me closer to Him so that He alone is life.

Grace for the Good GirlIn her book, Grace for the Good Girl, author Emily P. Freeman shares the following quote from her friend, Heather, who speaks of her battle with cancer and her young daughter’s illness:

I do not fear what my future holds. I can’t. I can’t spend the energy anticipating the next horrible event. I am choosing to anticipate the next great provision, whatever provision that may be. I am choosing to believe that no matter what, even if God calls me home tonight in my sleep, He never stepped off His throne. He simply brought me closer to it.” (Grace for the Good Girl, pg 201)

In the midst of my recent disappointment this is what God is teaching me, and this is what I’m learning to do.

Does it still hurt? Absolutely. Like scales pulled from flesh.

Am I still waiting? You bet. And I might be waiting a while.

But I don’t have to hurt and I don’t have to wait by myself. All I really have to do is keep being me, desire and all, and let God keep being God.

There is no guarantee that the things I desire will be fulfilled the way I want. But there is a guarantee that I will never be alone, my needs will be met in abundance, and I will always be loved.

And just like that check that mysteriously appeared when all hope seemed lost, this is truth I can take to the bank.

Truth you can bank your life on.

Today Was A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there were kings and queens of Narnia…

For the last four weeks we’ve been taking a journey into the land of Narnia. If you missed parts 1-3 you can read them here, here, and here.

Today’s entry is from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Chapter 17, The Hunting of the White Stag:

“But the next day was more solemn. For then, in the Great Hall of Cair Paravel…in the presence of all their friends and to the sound of trumpets, Aslan solemnly crowned them and led them to the four thrones amid deafening shouts of, “Long Live King Peter! Long Live Queen Susan! Long Live King Edmund! Long Live Queen Lucy!”

“Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen. Bear it well, Sons of Adam! Bear it well, Daughters of Eve!” said Aslan.

So the children sat on their thrones and scepters were put into their hands and they gave rewards and honors to all their friends…And that night there was a great feast in Cair Paravel, and revelry and dancing, and gold flashed and wine flowed, and answering to the music inside, but stranger, sweeter, and more piercing, came the music of the sea people.

These two Kings and two Queens governed Narnia well, and long and happy was their reign.

…And they themselves grew and changed as the years passed over them. And Peter became a tall and deep-chested man and a great warrior, and he was called King Peter the Magnificent. And Susan grew into a tall and gracious woman with black hair that fell almost to her feet and the kings of the countries beyond the sea began to send ambassadors asking for her hand in marriage. And she was called Susan the Gentle. Edmund was a graver and quieter man than Peter, and great in council and judgment. He was called King Edmund the Just. But as for Lucy, she was always gay and golden-haired, and all princes in those parts desired her to be their Queen, and her own people called her Queen Lucy the Valiant.

So they lived in great joy and if ever they remembered their life in this world it was only as one remembers a dream.” (From the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, pg 199-201)

Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen. I love this line. Every time I read it, it reminds me that I, too, am a queen (or princess) because I am a chosen daughter of the King.

And this is truth for all of us. As sons and daughters of the King of Kings we have been given an inheritance. We’ve been given a mission, a purpose, a domain. We’ve been given the task of ruling over His kingdom…not just someday, in heaven, but here on this earth.

Just as Aslan crowned Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy the King has crowned us and trusted us to love and serve His people, His church. He’s charged us to bear His image. He’s given us passions and talents, beauty and courage set deep within our hearts so we may rule our domains (think jobs, homes, callings) with honor, and grace, and glory.

It is the stuff of fairy tales. And it is real. It is true. We are the beloved children of God. Heirs along with Jesus.

Think about it. Let it sink in. Are you living in this truth? Is this your identity?

Who are you? What is your royal name? King ____ the ____? Queen ____the ____? If you don’t know, ask! Let God show you how He sees you. Let Him show you who you are.

A friend recently gave my daughters the most amazing gift: a beautiful wind chime to hang in their rooms. With it came a story of how they are both princesses.

Whenever you hear the wind chime, my friend wrote, remember that you’re a princess.

I can’t imagine a more lovely thought.

I hung the chimes in the center of their rooms. Inevitably, I am constantly walking into them or hitting them with my head. But as I hear the chimes, I remember, and I say it out loud to my daughters, and to myself, “You’re a princess! You’re a princess!”

Brave Prince, Lovely Princess may you wake up this day to the fairy tale found in the truth of your identity…your identity in Christ. May you know down deep that you are royalty, a child of the King.

Once a king or queen of the King of Kings, always a king or queen.

May you bear it well Sons of Adam, Daughters of Eve. May your reign be long and happy.

Remembering Nana

Ledger 3Twenty years ago this Thursday my grandmother, Nana, went home to be with Jesus. What better way to remember her than with this post…

Last Thursday my mom and I spent the day cleaning out closets, cabinets and a bit of our basement. As we worked we came across a drawer full of my grandmother’s belongings.

My grandma, Nana, died almost twenty years ago, but before she passed away she lived with my family and was nursed, in our home, by my mother after she suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed on one side.

While sorting through the crowded drawer of Nana’s old wooden hutch my mom discovered Nana’s banking ledger. Living with Nana, for as far back as I can remember, gave me the distinct privilege of knowing her well, but as my mom and I stopped our work and leafed through her ledger, I learned something new and precious about my grandmother: My Nana was a woman of grace.

Years ago, when my mom was still a child my grandma and grandpa ran a general store in rural Mississippi. For years, Nana kept their books by hand, and even after their store closed she continued to keep track of debts and transactions between her and a myriad of people throughout her lifetime.

Carefully my mom and I turned the ancient pages of her ledger. In her elegant handwriting I read the names and accounts of clients, friends and relatives. There must have been a thousand entries each recording the ways that Nana loaned money or gave aid to people in need.

Along with names, dates and figures, I noticed that each and every page of the ledger was covered with an “X.”

“In her will, Nana forgave every debt,” my mom said. “The “X’s” show that the debts were cancelled.”

My eyes filled with tears at the memory of my sweet Nana, of her generosity and goodness, and I said softly, “This is a ledger of grace.”

There on every page in the form of an inky blue “X”: Grace.

Mom and I went on with our work but as I worked I thought of Nana. Not only did Nana cancel the debts of many, she chose to leave an inheritance. Even when significant amounts of money were never repaid, Nana chose to leave monetary provisions for people she wanted to bless, for people who were in need.

Isn’t this what grace does? Grace doesn’t just cancel out debt, it gives beyond. Grace always comes as an undeserved gift and is always followed with love.

Nana’s ledger isn’t just a record of her banking transactions; it is a picture of Christ. Just as Nana covered each debt that filled the lines of her ledger with an “X,” Christ took the sin that filled the entire world and covered it with one wooden cross.

Imagine the pages of God’s ledger. Every page a person, owing the debt of sin. Every page covered with a blood stained “X,” that speaks one word: Forgiven. He gave us the gift of grace and loved us with the opportunity to live in relationship with him.

This is our cancelled debt, this is our inheritance.

Finding Nana’s ledger has helped me to remember her legacy of grace and has also challenged me to consider the ways in which I can give grace, the ways in which I can go beyond, the ways in which I can follow grace with love. Every time we model grace, we model the cross. Every time we give love, we give God.

If ever I need a reminder of grace I can turn to the pages of Nana’s ledger. I can read the debts, I can see the “X’s,” and I can remember, just as she did, the cross.

~ A message from the archives

Today Was A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a world beyond the wardrobe…

For the past few weeks Today Was Fairy Tale has been taking a trip through Narnia and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. If you missed Parts One and Two you can read them here and here.

Today’s entry is found in Chapter Five, Back on this Side of the Door:

 “’But then,” said Susan, and stopped. She had never dreamed that a grown-up would talk like the Professor and didn’t know what to think.

“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”

Susan looked at him very hard and was quite sure from the expression on his face that he was not making fun of them.

“But how could it be true, sir?” said Peter.

“Why do you say that?” asked the Professor.

“Well, for one thing,” said Peter, “if it was real why doesn’t everyone find this country every time they go to the wardrobe? I mean, there was nothing there when we looked; even Lucy didn’t pretend there was.”

“What has that to do with it?” said the Professor.

“Well, sir, if things are real, they’re there all the time.”

“Are they? Said the Professor; and Peter did not know quite what to say.

“But there was no time,” said Susan. “Lucy had had no time to have gone anywhere, even if there was such a place. She came running after us the very moment we were out of the room. It was less than a minute, and she pretended to have been away for hours.”

“That is the very thing that makes her story so likely to be true,” said the Professor. “If there really is a door in this house that leads to some other world (and I should warn you that this is a very strange house, and even I know very little about it)—if, I say, she had got into another world, I should not be at all surprised to find that the other world had a separate time of its own; so that however long you stayed there it would never take up any of our time. On the other hand, I don’t think many girls of her age would invent that idea for themselves. If she had been pretending, she would have hidden for a reasonable time before coming out and telling her story.”

“But do you really mean, sir,” said Peter, “that there could be other worlds—all over the place, just round the corner—like that?”

“Nothing is more probable,” said the Professor, taking off his spectacles and beginning to polish them, while he muttered to himself, “I wonder what they do teach them at these schools.”

I love this conversation between Peter, Susan and the Professor. I love the Professor’s wit, his candor and his belief in what’s real. I love how his ideas turn the children on their heads and open their minds to a whole world of possibilities.

A few days ago a friend of mine, who had just returned from a vacation, said to me that come Monday, it was time to return to the real world.

The real world? How often do we, just like the children, slip into a wrong impression of what’s real and what’s not?

When we experience days and/or moments of beauty, adventure, and joy there’s always a let down when it’s time to go back to the regular and ordinary of our every day lives. Without even knowing it we slip into a subtle, yet potent, mindset of resignation and acceptance.

We don’t believe the beauty, the adventure, the joy are lasting. At least not for us, at least for not for now. Those things are for a time…they aren’t what’s real.

And here’s where our thoughts go awry. Here’s where out sense of logic and truth begin to get skewed.

We were made for Heaven. We were made for paradise and Kingdom glory. And the glimpses of these things, the moments of beauty, adventure, and joy we experience are evidence of the truth.

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes,

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

This “other world,” the beauty, the adventure, the joy, the longing in our hearts, and all the things of God…this is what we’re made for. This is what’s real.

Brave Prince, Lovely Princess may you wake up today to the fairy tale found in the world our hearts were made for. May you be reminded of all that is true, of all that is real. May you live, breathe, and find your bearings in the Kingdom of God.

May you find the real world in Him.

A Mama Never Forgets

My two-year-old, Tenley, recently went through a spell where, for two weeks, she decided she didn’t want to take an afternoon nap anymore.

Since Tenely has always been a great napper this behavior was very unusual. I wondered if she was giving up naps for good. I wondered if I should let her. I wondered if I should try something new or stick with our routine and hope she’d eventually come around.

In search of advice I posted a status comment on Facebook eliciting help from my online community of skilled and beautiful mamas:

At what age did your child stop taking an afternoon nap?

The response I got blew me away. Dozens of moms, both family and friends, responded with all kinds of advice, wisdom, and encouragement.

I was surprised to find that moms of all ages weighed in. Somehow, I guess I expected to hear mostly from mothers of young children like me. Mamas who are currently in the thick of the nap time battle just like I am. But this wasn’t the case.

Most of the comments I received came from moms of grown children. Despite the fact that it’s been years, perhaps even decades, since their daily schedule fluctuated around their little one’s nap time, they still remember their child’s habits, behaviors and sleep patterns in perfect detail.

While the comments I received were helpful in answering my question about Tenley, they also served as a reminder of four important things:

1)     Fellow moms both old and young are a tremendous source of advice and encouragement.

2)     It’s okay to ask for help.

3)     In the awesome, and often overwhelming, task of mothering I am never alone.

4)     A mama never forgets.

On this Mother’s Day, I think these four things are important reminders for all of us, no matter what stage of life or parenting we’re in.

The church my family goes to has a small room next to the sanctuary set aside for nursing moms or moms with small, wiggly and/or fussy children. I fall into category number two.

Whenever Tenley gets too noisy or wiggly to stay in the sanctuary for church service, I take her to the Cry Room. Week after I week I sit there, listen to the sermon and watch the moms around me. Sometimes it makes me sad to see other moms come in and out of the room looking weary, frazzled and drained.

I know the feeling. Motherhood is a round the clock job. There are times when our infant’s or young child’s needs require constant care and attention. (For the record, I hear teenagers can be the same way!) Sometimes the only break, the only place of solace, the only peace and quiet we get are a few minutes alone in the shower or bathroom…and let’s face it mamas, there are times when even this oasis falls under siege.

I know that sometimes in the midst of the love and care we constantly dish out to our children and our families it’s easy to feel alone. It’s easy to feel like no one else sees, appreciates or remembers our hearts, our needs.

But who can understand a mother’s heart, a mother’s needs better than a fellow mom?

And who can see, who remembers us better than God?

In the midst of motherhood we are never alone. In the ups and downs. In the love. In the efforts that no one sees, in the endless hours of endless care we are seen, we are cared for, we are loved.

As mothers we are wholly invested, fully and completely bonded to our children. Of course there are times when it doesn’t feel this way. There are times when this doesn’t come easy, but none of that changes a mother’s love.

It is this love and bond that makes it possible for a sixty-year-old mother to remember exactly what time of day her son took a nap.

It is this love and bond that makes a mom willing to give up sleep, privacy, and church service to meet the needs of her infant or toddler.

It is this love and bond that reflects Christ and His love for us.

He sees.

He remembers.

He knows.

He loves.

So mamas, let’s look for ways to encourage one another. (You are awesome by the way.)

Let’s remember it’s okay to ask for help. (Anyone know how to get your five-year-old daughter to stop watching Frozen?)

Let’s take comfort in the fact that we are never alone. (I, for one, am here for you.)

Because a mama never forgets. (And neither does our God.)