Hey there- I'm Lindsay Atkinson.
I live in Illinois with my husband, Colin, and our five children (two sets of TWINS!). I am a Jesus-lovin' mama and bride, registered nurse and have found myself dedicated to helping other women who are "in the thick of it" feel as though they are more than equipped for the journey. In a society full of filters, editing options, and instafeeds of perfection I have an aching in my heart to simply share the everyday and mundane from the best place I know- high grace and high truth.
I named my blog Lindsay Atkinson writes because after years of encouragement from friends and family I have been asked to write about what we call #TheAtkinsonChronicles.
So, welcome! If you are viewing as a visitor, I hope you feel a little more like a friend when you leave. Blessings to you.
Each day there is a truth that no one is exempt from. The truth that we have the same amount of hours in a day, same number of days in a week and so on is one of the non-negotiables we are afforded while under the sun. However, I feel there is a great necessity in evaluating how we spend that time. How is it that so many people are living their lives to the fullest? To the fullest I mean with purpose, productivity, and within the parameters assigned to them individually; and yet others remain idle, or unproductive? It is a fascinating tragedy to me. One that I feel needs attention. A danger to be treated with a posture of delicacy but closely tethered to a serious urgency. Although the time allowed in each day we are given is the same, the number of days for each of us are unknown; they are numbered. In Job 14:5 we are reminded that, “…you know the number of his months. He cannot live longer than the time You have set.” We all have an expiration date.
A conversation I find myself in regularly with others is one that is housed around an idea of purpose. Statements of “what is my purpose” or “I am waiting to discover my purpose, for now I am just waiting” are on repeat on the hearts of so many. I too have been in this place! This place of idleness that I have ignorantly labeled as waiting. With my personality, and enneagram identification of being a ‘8’, I have also found myself to be busy yet not fruitful. Days that I have exhausted myself and my efforts, believing that I am walking in the light of my purpose yet come home overspent, overstretched and empty. Days that I would replace discernment in decision for a spontaneous yes. Believing the lie that because I can I should. Should-ing on myself. By the end of the day, my spirit was empty and my soul thirsty. I was operating out of a place of exercising my free will, versus using my free will to CHOOSE God’s will.
There are so many people in my life in transitional periods right now. Transitioning from places of employment at home, to contemplating joining (or rejoining) the traditional workforce, friends in the process of adoption (alllllll sides of this process), friends whose marriages are struggling because they are so tired, too tired, to invest in them. Friends that have found themselves so wrapped in child rearing that their identity has been confused, and they have built it on motherhood alone. It is back-to-school season, the littles are leaving and these mama’s are being left with the harsh reality that they have been starving their hearts for the five years leading to their child’s first day of kindergarten. The day is here and they realize their purpose, or their why, was solely based on their child(ren) without regard to their own needs. I cannot begin to count the tears shed over the hurting hearts of friends who have realized that “all of the sudden he is in junior high, Lindsay? Where has the time gone?” One woman of a now high school graduate even shared with me, “If I could share one piece of wisdom with moms of little ones, it would be that when I look back I regret that I worked so much. I know that I would have never looked back and said, I wish I would have worked more. Oh if I only knew then what I know now…” It is heartbreaking. Yet, there is work to be done here. We can learn from the wisdom of those who have gone before us, and start right where we are. I firmly believe this to be true.
How many people every day have a day that is similar to this: get up, rush to get the kids ready and out the door, show up to your job, groan nearly the entire day because you are miserable, watch the second hand tick until you are able to clock out, mentally shuffle through the ‘have-to’s of the evening that have you exhausted before you walk in the door, cook dinner, clean up, pick the shortest book possible for bed, and collapse at the end of the cycle. Only to be reminded that is is Monday, meaning there is four more days left of this cycle. The cycle that has trapped you into believing this is what you HAVE to do. This is what you SHOULD do. I know I have been able to say this more times than I can count. There is a remedy for this; and it is free to you.
We frequently tell our children, “You were born on purpose, with great purpose, for a purpose.” I believe this to be true for all of us. The purpose for our lives is to live, serve and glorify God. This does not mean perfect church attendance, leading or participating in small groups or serving in the community for a photo-op once a month. Serving God is showing up, yes indeed. However, it is the where, when and how’s of showing up that matter. Where your heart is while doing it. It is imperative that we learn how to surrender our agenda to God, to allow him to reveal to us what He wants from our day. What he wants to do with our time- right down to the minute. We must remain open to the divine interruptions that can (and will!) change the course of our day(s); but even greater is when we see the fruit of it changing the course of our lives. Instead of showing up to a job that you hate, out of provisional fear, you have the choice to show up to what God has called you to do out of faith in His promises. The conversation of “I am so miserable at my job, but it pays the bills” breaks my heart. Breaks my heart because I know how joy robbing it can be. Your life is more than just paying bills! What do you dream of doing? What is it that sets your heart on fire? In all of us, there is something, each one of us. The idea that just does not go away. That yearning for something that is begging to be fed and fulfilled deep in your bones but is neglected by the busyness.
If you are in a situation, or more than one, that looks like something mentioned above you are NOT alone. If someone is not living in it, I can assure you most all of us have at least experienced it at one point or another. I encourage you to get real with yourself. Sit down with yourself and ask those hard questions. Dig below the surface. After tiling, all of that up, I then encourage you to take all of this to God. Drop to your knees, and with all that you have uprooted, sifted and sorted, the ‘mess’ that you sit in that He already sees- present it to Him. Ask for wisdom and discernment for you next steps. Submit yourself to Him, and His will for your life. Agree to use your free will in faith of His will for your life. Can it be scary? Yes! Does it seem confusing or hard, oh yes! Yet I promise you it will free you in a way you have never known. It may be getting yourself educated and prepared for something you have waited your whole life to do. It may look like a mountain to climb, and you do not even have your bag packed. It could even be something less drastic in comparison, but life changing to you if implemented. Yet, as you agree to step out in faith into the life God has called you to your work will slowly stop feeling like ‘work’, or work as you know it now. It is not something to be dreaded. Not something to be loathed. For we were made for work. Work of all kinds. Most specifically, work that the LORD has designed us to do.
So friends, have you had that check-in with yourself? Do you even know what makes your heart beat a little faster, or gets you excited when you start dreaming about it? If you do not, that is okay. The LORD wants to work in that too! Although he delights in giving us things so freely, He is a God of participation and action. Therefore, we must be ready to do the work WITH Him. Ready to hand him our good to be transformed by Him into great. Ready to show us the hallway of options, and grant us the discernment to which door to open. Rather than leaving us to run down the hallway of doors opening and closing, them with the constant cycle of “excited, rushed, unfulfilled and disappointed” He is waiting to show you the ONE door that has your name on it. All it takes is ONE step. Even one small step. The world is waiting for you to fill your designated place in it. Right now, that position is vacant.
Sundays. I love them. Well, I love them when they go my way…
Getting to step into a place that we call home is a blessing. I remember a time when I viewed church attendance as a “have to.” Before it was revealed to me that the responsibility we have as Christians to attend church, to be involved in a community of believers, the honor of shouldering burdens, celebrating successes and praying for the leaders who have dedicated their lives to shepherding His sheep is everything but a have to- it is a get to. It is an opportunity to step into what God is doing. An invitation to move from spectators to participants. We have this opportunity, this gift, 24 hours a day 7 days a week- to participate in what He is doing. Yet there is something just different when we step into one of His houses and do it alongside others. It is an undeniable privilege.
One of my favorite things over the past few years, is visiting other churches. As a family when we vacation it very well may be one of the highlights of planning. We have had some tremendous experiences when we step out of our zone of comfort, and into the unknown. We have had the privilege of visiting churches of all sizes and denominations. We have broken bread in the homes of people that we never would’ve dreamed and heard testimony after testimony of what God is doing all over the world. I do not know about you, but sometimes I get so cozied up in my comfortable corner that I almost forget that his Church is far bigger than simply the one physical building that we call home. It is his body of believers, with or without a building.
Today was a day that I was really looking forward to. A guest speaker was coming to a local church that I was looking forward to hearing. Where he was scheduled to speak is a church that we have many ties to, for many different reasons. Even our children. It has been written in INK on the calendar. Anyone who knows me knows that only certainties are written in ink on our family calendar, and my personal planner. Things such as work schedules, school schedules, etc. All others that are electives are written in pencil. There is something about the ability to erase something that always feels more comfortable, than scratching out with pen. Here comes that word again: comfort.
This morning was a WRECK. When I say wreck, I could easily replace that with a few other choice words… We woke up an hour earlier, just to ensure we had plenty of time. Large family living has taught me many things, but one in particular is that it’s if you plan to be on time, you will likely be late. Therefore, we plan to be early that we are more likely to be on time. Needless to say, the big three were in rare form. Unkind words being exchanged, physical altercations (ummmm say what?! This is the LORDS day?!), the babies being extra destructive. I raised my voice after being told “no” and later being ignored. Everyone lost technology time that they had earned this week by 7:00am. My husband came cruising downstairs into the crazy after his shower and said, “kids, what is going on down here?!”
Every third weekend Colin has to work, which means its church for mama and the five littles solo. Colin gets himself ready and attends the earliest service at our home church, and we meet him there at the following service. Hugging, kissing and wishing him well for the day ahead for him. Today this exchange took place in the foyer as he knew that we were going to a different church. I finished getting everyone packed, was responding to all of the generous and welcoming text messages from friends that were expecting us today and headed out the door. I get to the van and my stomach just sank. No car seats. Let me just say that again, no car seats… I realized that Colin had a set and our nanny had the other. Immediately the grumbling spirit set in. I corralled everyone into the house and the thoughts starting flooding. I was frustrated. I was feeling disappointed. Totally deflated. I had done EVERYTHING right. I had planned and prepared. Until this point. At the end of this entry those destructive twins I was referring to, you can hear their sweet voices of confusion about not going to “turch” today. Too precious not to archive.
Recently I was talking to a friend about the story of Job. She was very unsettled in the book after reading it. Seeds of fear, doubt and confusion were trying to take root in her heart. When I was talking to her I told her that in the book of Job I am now able to find encouragement that has replaced what was once a similar fear. For the sake of time, I wanted to share one of the greatest sources of truth I find in the pages of this story.
Satan is a lion indeed. He is lurking always, roaming the earth to and fro as scripture says. He is always among us with an agenda. The agenda to distort our image of God, to confuse us of our identity. In other scripture it is explained his purpose is to kill, steal and destroy. These are real truths indeed. However, what I find peace in in the book of Job is that this lion is actually a lion on a leash. That he cannot do anything without God’s permission.
YES! That in order for things to be accomplished he must petition to God and ASK PERMISSION. That God is aware of his schemes, that He has already overcome Him. That anything that may be cast at me, God knows. A refining opportunity of our faith.
In this morning of trial and joy-robbing feelings I was reminded that God uses all things for the good of those who love Him. Furthermore, that these situations are to be used as opportunity to glorify Him. That I have an opportunity in the face of these trials to glorify God with my response(s). Perspective shift.
When I thought this was all God had for my morning, I got the post-church call from my husband. He was so filled up with what the LORD spoke to him this morning. As he shared the cliff note version of the service that were all housed around the theme “Our God is Jesus” I was brought to my knees. The LORD laid something heavy on my heart that He needed me to digest. He posed the question,
“Lindsay, what were you showing up for today? Were you showing up for a speaker, or were you showing up for me? Do you come every Sunday with the motivation that you have the opportunity for an experience with me? This morning I heard a lot of talk of your excitement regarding a man, but his name wasn’t Jesus?”
It is not that wanting to listen to the author, philanthropist and Jesus follower who was being featured today is bad. Not at all. Rather, my motivation for showing up today was housed from a posture of encountering him, and not Him. The I AM.
Refinement round number two before 9:30am. It was then that I was prompted to repent. Repent to the LORD, simply agree with Him. To thank Him. To the effect of, “LORD, thank you for searching this heart. For continuing to remind me that I am clay in your hands. Allow me to remain humble, teachable and moldable. Allow me to not lose sight of my why. Unearth unhealthy motivations and replace them with those that are simply to grow in my relationship with you. To love you, to know you and to make you known.”
Praising God that He knows my heart. He searches it. That He is so faithful to reveal any areas that need reformation. A lifetime work that He is committed to doing, and delights in. Digging through all of my ugly, dark corners.
May we all be mindful that God is always at work. That He knows our hearts desires; even when we are unaware. That when our plans, our schedules, or timing does not align with His that we will not allow ourselves to be prideful, and that we will not believe those tempting lies that He is not for us. Rather may they be replaced with joy as we sing songs of loudest praise to the LORD who waits for us to surrender. Over and over. That we would realign ourselves according to his purpose and plan. May we always assess our why, so that the LORD can lead us to our greatest ‘what’. Peace be with you, friends.
Below I have provided links for you to view if you are inclined. One is from the service I was referencing that I missed today featuring Bob Goff at West Side Christian Church. It was a tremendous service. We were able to attend via the TryChurchOnline streaming option they offer. So thankful! The next is from the church that we call home, Cherry Hills Church, and the service is given by one of our pastors who has been the greatest shepherd I have ever known. I promise you will not be disappointed by the truth he delivers, by the grace of God.
It is Sunday. Sunday in our world very well may be the only predictable day of the seven we are given every week. The one day that despite unforeseen circumstances, moods and challenges with a family of seven that provide an opportunity for predictability and consistency: we go to church. Nine months out of the year our children attend school. It is the same schedule everyday, yet still I feel that we battle every morning with the checklist- Did you brush your teeth? Please go upstairs and find your glasses. Carter did you change your underwear? I laid out your clothes for the day, why are we in sweatpants and sweatshirt in July? Yes, these are real, daily conversations. Yet, Sunday’s are different. I don’t know why but they are easier in many ways. The bigs get themselves ready, know the appropriate attire and practice appropriate hygiene. They know that on Sundays we bring our best, and it’s not bringing our best for the onlookers, but bringing our best to the LORD. That church is not only a commandment and a responsibility that we have to ourselves and others, but a ‘get to’ that many people in this fallen world do not get to exercise. We give great thanks for this.
We show this gratitude by showing up. By being committed.
For all of my friends that understand the schedule of a nurse, you know that sometimes we aren’t allowed to be physically present; for many things. People in the world, big and small, aren’t only sick and in need of our care Monday-Saturday, but on Sundays too. So there are some Sunday’s that I simply cannot be there. However, my husband takes the kids and I listen to the sermon after work. Every third weekend my husband works, and that requires the flip side. The littles and I get corralled and as we enter church, we meet Colin as he is exiting because he will attend the early service before going to work. It is our rhythm. It is not what I would consider ideal or fit for everyone, but it is ours. That is enough for me.
This morning when my alarm went off I simply could not get out of bed. I have been tired- so tired. Dare I say that! I feel we have almost lost the freedom as mama’s, as wives, as friends, as employees, as Christians to simply say “I am tired.”
I am further convinced that if we find that we can in fact say we are tired; that we do not feel license to do anything about that. Especially on Sundays. It was brought to my heart in Genesis when the LORD asked Adam and Eve in the garden, “Who told you that?” Friends, who has told us that???
Our family is in a season of a LOT of transition. We have commitments under our own roof that are quite demanding, the relationships between all seven of us that are incredibly important to intentionally steward. Then we have the outside commitments. Whether that be work, extra work, friends, neighbors, extra circulars, church commitments, to those in the small group that we lead, individuals and families that we disciple to that we have to make time for. Often it is an impossible effort of us trying to use the 24 hours we are given to put in work that takes far more. Trying to add minutes to our days, add extra days to our week that simply cannot be. When we catch ourselves in this place, we have learned to immediately stop, pray and listen. Practicing the pause is what I have called this; the discipline that the LORD laid on my heart this past January. That I have tried to remain tethered too, and my goodness the blessing in it.
One of the greatest propelling factors initially for our “perfect church attendance” was our children. By demonstrating to them that they are children of the most high God. That their last name is Atkinson; and in light of these truths, church attendance is part of the package. That they do not have to earn seats in either of these two places; they have already been bought and paid for. However in response to such, there are certain responsibilities that come with that. Teachings that I am so thankful the LORD showed us first, to be able to help lead them with.
This also includes our teaching and fervent prayer that our children know their identity as Christians isn’t a costume they put on on Sunday mornings, and take off when they get home. That is it who they are. It cannot be removed; nor should it be.
We have missed plenty of events on Sundays. Birthday parties, going away celebrations, sporting events. Anything that impedes on our church attendance. The kids understand that as a family we just simply do not go. The posture in which we do or don’t is of utmost important to us. We do not go because we are ‘better’ than any of the invitations, because we are unappreciative of the intention and inclusion from others, or because the people in our life are not ‘deserving’ of our time and attendance. Rather this is a sacred time that is set aside for our family. That sanctity is something that we honor by reserving it in the way we do. (Disclaimer: If you have such things that prevent you from church attendance I want to be clear in saying that this is simply OUR rhythm. What we feel WE are called to do! So if you haven’t been to church in 7 weeks because you have been at soccer games cheering on your tribe, or traveling in the summer because your schedule allows you keep doing you!) I did not want that to be heard incorrectly. Heard as something I feel is true for everyone because I do NOT feel that way. Now if your last name is Atkinson, well, we can have a conversation about that!
Today started as no different than any other Sunday. Colin was heading to work which means I was left wrangling the littles. It was a torrential downpour. Morning rain I used to just love. However, now with two Saint Bernards, that love has been morphed into a feeling that I can’t quite put into words, but it is an ugly one… It means I will start my morning wrestling these beasts to go outside because they do not like the rain, it will mean wet paws the size of Colin’s, it will mean mopping, it will mean there will be accidents to clean up because they refuse to go out. Sorry for the tangent. Anyhow, after I tended to them the Sunday morning schedule started. Colin has been mentioning recently how my sleeping has seemed disrupted. That I toss and turn all night. That I wake up once, twice or even three times. That when I wake in the morning I look like I never went to bed the night before. Low and behold, he is right. This morning was no different.
We are in a season with a lot going on. More so than usual. The LORD is working. Oh my word is He at work. A prayer that I have been praying alongside two of my most precious friends is being answered. One small reveal at a time. Changes are on the horizon that we never saw coming. Changes that involve faith and courage that I know independent of God I do NOT have! We are in a process of listening and responding to what God has been saying, and friends all I am going to say is the work that is being asked of us is not more than what He will walk us through, but in my humanness its a challenge.
I have a dear friend that has walked through so many years of life with me. She is the most gentle, kind, encouraging, loving person there is. She is a mama to two boys, wife to an enneagram “8” (wowza! bless her heart. A husband and best friend who are “8”s) and has a baby on the way. She is a nurse in a very demanding environment, and all this being said is one of the BEST women I know at resting. She is incredibly good at prioritizing herself and her time in a way that meets the needs of herself and her family- unapologetically. She knows most of what has been going on in our world, and she said words to me this morning that I have NEVER heard. Not from ONE friend; Christian or not. Not from one person that has served as a disciple to myself or my family. Her words:
“Sleep my friend. Even if you just stay home and rest all day. [don’t go to church] Just listen online… I think you need to hear it. Remember His expectations of you are never to push yourself to pure exhaustion. Stay home, rest and pray and absolutely no guilt allowed.”
I realized in preparing to show up this morning, I was not operating from a place of peace. I was in a place of chaos coordination. Checking the boxes. I couldn’t help but immediately gravitate to places of judgement. Harsh judgement of myself and others. I was prompted to reread her text over and over. All I heard was grace. What I read over and over was mercy. Reminders of the way the LORD rested. As He was on a journey to heal, redeem, restore and eventually give His life to save all of ours- He rested. It brought to mind Sabbath. Really asking the LORD to show me how I practice this. When I practice this. What is the lesson(s) to be learned in this.
I get so busy and allow my life to become so loud, that while I am seeking God I fail to remember He is already seeking me. Always. That I cannot hear His whispers because I am too busy checking my boxes; fulfilling my initiatives. Living as a legalist; an old habit that rears its ugly head over and over. Today I am thankful for the messengers. His messengers. That I heard the permission He has given me to rest. Refuel. Simply be with Him. I heard this permission as a result of the obedience of my sister who heard what the LORD was speaking, and who responded. He is always faithful to send them.
As I dove into the word, it was put on my heart to share this message. Share this message with others. That you have full permission to rest. It may not be on a Sunday. It may not mean you miss out on something. On the contrary it may. It may mean that you get the raised eyebrows or experience the scrutiny of others. I have already received texts today about our seats being empty- YES! Accountability is a necessary part of our walk but accountability and accusation are NOT synonymous.
So today as I opened my ears, opened my heart, opened the Word and am soon jumping on to visit a church that I love SO much, I just pray that if you were in need of rest today and find yourself at home that you find permission in that. That you do not fall victim to feelings of shame, guilt, doubt, regret, etc. That we are called to be Christians seven days a week inside and outside of the church. That we would be known by our faith by the way we love and live. Church attendance and participation is CERTAINLY part of this. Yet it is not the ‘it.’ The it is your relationship Jesus. That you allow Him to lead YOUR life, the life of your FAMILY, that you allow Him to dictate your rhythms and habits. So if you are sitting at home after being up all night with littles, a restless night sleep because of work or worry, because you just cannot face a crowd today and simply need to nest with Jesus know you have the permission to. Not because I said it, but because He has said it. He has said it by the way He demonstrated it.
If it is raining where you are, as it is where I am I invite you to crack a window. Listen as the rain falls. Allow it to be a reminder of the way He cleanses. The way He waters our dry spirits. That He is living water. That He is good. So very good. May the drops that fall be symbolic to you, and reveal to you more of God’s character. For me, the rain that is falling is a reminder that our God is peace. May the rain wash away any of the lies you may be tempted to believe as your seat this Sunday may be empty. Seek to hear Him today; He is always waiting for you to pick up that invitation that never expires.
If God is preparing you for something big on the outside, you can count on the fact that it is likely He is going to do a bigger work on the inside. If this is not your first rodeo, you can feel free to wipe your sweaty palms before continuing and maybe just take a big inhale and exhale. God sized plans, involve God sized faith and prepares you for God sized work. The endurance in this process is not comfortable.
I think anyone who identifies themselves as a Christian can attest to the fact that Christianity is anything but comfortable. We were born for the discomfort.
So often I have spoken with friends, or even acquaintances, and one of the common questions I have been asked is, “Why isn’t God answering me? I am willing to do anything He is asking me to do and I still do not have any answers…” One of my first responses is is, “Oh my word- BEEN THERE!” Then I pray into whatever conversation or time I have with this person, and let the LORD do the rest. If there is one thing I have noticed though, it is that as soon as we start visiting scripture we are brought to a place that involves waiting. That the most beautiful love story ever written is one that is woven together with story after story, and testimony after testimony of waiting. Waiting patiently on the LORD. Just for a refresher: Abraham waited 25 years, Moses waited 40 years, Jesus himself waited 30 years… and yet here we stand in a posture of having a prayer not being answered immediately, and being called to patience as the equivalent of being given a punishment and hearing a cuss word. (Guilty. I definitely had patience, waiting and endurance on my curse word list for an embarrassingly long time.)
In all of the years prior to these ‘breakthroughs’ God provided for each of the above mentioned biblical characters- God was working. In their waiting; He was working. He was working on their character development, refinement of their hearts, allowing them to learn and practice endurance. God was working on showing them surrendering their will, for His will. He was revealing more of who He was to them as they learned to reposition themselves to a place of true surrender. I do not know if you can relate to this, but I know that it can be much easier to praise God when all is well, but when I feel God is silent all of the sudden the temptation to fear, doubt and worry come parading in like a three man band. When He is not speaking to me on MY terms. When He is not immediately answering MY questions.
The longer I walk with Jesus, I have learned that I am notorious for putting periods where God wanted a comma.
I will be eager to continue writing a story that he already wrote a conclusion for. Times when I have taken God’s plans and set them aside for my own initiative. I have fooled myself far too many times into believing that as long as I said that I was doing such things in the name of God, that it justified the disobedience. As He reveals to me time and time again, there is only one invitation on the table: that is me to surrender my own will to participate in what He is already doing.
Another temptation I have fallen victim to is believing the lies about my identity. We all have those labels, lingering past mistakes or pieces of brokenness within us that make us feel unworthy or incapable. The pieces that we try and ‘hide from God’ because those are our unusable parts. Others are more external. The sea of critics that just wait and watch for you to stumble, are waiting to catch your towel when you are ready to throw it in, for your boat to capsize. We have the doubters and the naysayers. Those who do not understand what it means to live the life you are pursuing. (Insert: may we be faithful in prayer for all of our brothers and sisters; and those who have yet to be reached by the God who saves, heals, restores and redeems!) Regardless, they surround us. All of the time. It is when we need to check our foundation: have you been building on rock or sand? If your answer is sand, or that you truly do not know what your identity in Christ looks like I would encourage you to stop right now; and grab your bible. Learn, first hand, who God says you are. Not what you ‘will be’ or what you ‘could have been.’ Rather who you ARE. Without this understanding you will be paralyzed in your growth.
I encourage you that to step into the full light of Gods plan for you. You have to be so deeply rooted in the Word to be able to understand what the truth is about you. The truth about who you are. If you do not know who you are, who you REALLY are, you will absolutely fall prey to the deceit that the enemy is planting in, through and all around you- seeds of lies. You will start to doubt what you are waiting for. You will begin to doubt that you are loved, that your life is a beautiful story, that His purposes for you are far greater than you could ever imagine. As you learn more about who you are to God, He will systematically reveal to you more about who He is.
In the waiting we will be tempted to start putting periods where God intended to place commas. We are fooled into thinking all has been said, and there is nothing left. Oh let me tell you friends; there is SO much more in store!! So as you read this, my heart cry is that you would ask the LORD to reveal to you any places you may have placed a period where God wanted a comma. Where you have traded endurance and patience for a deceptively comfortable alternative. I promise you, He is waiting. So put your pencil and punctuation down, and allow Him to read to you the most beautiful story that has already been written; your story.
Our eldest twins are now eight years old- Grace and Gage. They are eight in terms of years lived, but are pushing closer to forty in many other aspects of their lives’. Last night was a reminder of this; a reminder that I can take notes from them. That there is wisdom in the hearts of children that we adults grow oblivious to; that our hearts become hardened to.
That at eight years old, these two showed me the tremendous beauty in asking for forgiveness that I believe I have traded for the imitation of an empty, “I am sorry.”
My Grace is a talker and a writer- she comes by it honestly. She has been journaling for far longer than I can remember. My daughter learned very early that, for her, writing is a more effective way for her to communicate feelings that she might not be able to verbalize. We have encouraged this for her, and have watched it mature from tiny just-because love notes on our nightstands, to cards she will sneak into my purse or our suitcases when we go away. She writes letters of encouragement to missionaries and welcomes neighbors home from vacations with such tokens in their mailboxes. Using her spiritual gifts of words and encouragement. I cannot imagine where she picked up such things…
Last night Grace came to me with a 4×6 notecard that I could see she had written on. She asked if I would be able to sit with her so we could “talk about something that has been heavy on my heart.” We set all duties aside and I watched as her erect posture started to slouch, her eyes that were initially locked with mine became fixed on the ground, and her voice slowly became lower in octaves. Just flipping the edges of the notecard.
Grace explained to me that she has been carrying something on her heart that she has not known how to make right. That she has prayed about almost every day for over a year, and was still coming up empty handed. She then said, “Mom, do you remember when we went to Saint Louis and I was picked to help with the sea lion show?” I replied, “Absolutely! Wow, can you believe that was almost two years ago? It was one of the happiest forms of ‘you’ I had ever seen! Do you remember Grace, that out of hundreds and hundreds in the audience YOU were chosen to feed the sea lion, and help him to tricks?”
For a moment, she seemed to have her spirit lifted and then she replied, “I do. But I didn’t pick Gage.” For a moment, I was just confused. I looked and saw as the tears started welling up in her bright blue eyes. I asked her, “What do you mean?” She responded, “Gage wanted to go up there with me so bad. I had a chance to pick him to go with me and I didn’t. I went by myself, and left him behind. I don’t even think I cared that he was sad that day.” I could hear the true brokenness in her heart as she spoke the words. I then asked her how this made her feel today. She answered, “SO bad. I just don’t know why I would have done that. I have thought about maybe buying him something like a sea lion, so he might remember I am sorry for what I did that day at the se lion show. . I have plenty of money. Saying sorry just hasn’t made it better though mom.” I shared with her the importance of not feeling the need to buy, earn, or work for love and forgiveness. That these are gifts that Jesus has shown us how to properly give and receive. Reminding her of the scripture, “If it is possible. As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” Romans 12:18. I reminded her that this is what she was obediently following whether she realized it or not. It was then she flipped over the notecard, and asked me to read it. It was Grace doing what she does best, communicating through writing. It looked like this…
She asked if I would ‘deliver’ it to Gage in the morning because he wakes up so much earlier than she does. We then prayed before bed.
She prayed specifically that Gage would not just accept her “I am sorry”, but that in his heart of hearts he would be able to forgive her.
As I listened to the words come straight from the mouth of a babe I could not help but wonder what a sweet, sweet song it must have sounded like to our Father as one of His daughters cried out for His help. That at the ripe age of eight, she felt the weight of the difference in saying “I am sorry” versus “Will you forgive me?”
By the grace of God, morning came. I do not take for granted the fact that God CHOOSES to allow us to wake every morning; I hold great thanks in the sunrise. Sure enough, Gage was up and at it with me at 5:15am. I wanted to give it to him after I was completely ready for work so I could be present, completely engaged with him when I delivered Grace’s heartfelt letter.
Gage is a quick reader. He is a quick learner, quick typer, quick speaker, this list is endless. Again, I admit these are also things he may have inherited from his mama. Yet he just continued sitting with the notecard. Staring at it. Now most people would say that is because 6:00am is a little early to be taking in such heavy words, but not us. No way- the earlier the better. I sat on the couch next to him and said, “Buddy, did you read that?” with his equally bright blue eyes and with Grace’s identical blonde hair he looked up at me and said, “Yes. More than once.” I said babe how does that make you feel when you read these words?” It was his response that brought me to my knees. He gently said, “Mom this makes me so sad.” I said I know Gage; your feelings were so hurt that day. When we revisit things like that it is okay to still feel sad…” as I prepared for my forgiveness speech that I had prepared, he stopped me and said, “No mom, not sad for me sad for Grace.” I sat with that and invited him to explain more of this. “It makes me sad for Grace mom because this means she has been feeling sad for almost two years.” It was in this moment I saw the wisdom of this child. The innocence that God speaks of. It was a living example of why we are all asked to become child-like; to have a childlike faith. To have a child-like heart.
How often do we do this? We carry things that are so heavy with us wherever we go. We carry them from old relationships into new ones. We carry them from home onto a vacation. We carry them from work weeks into our weekends. We carry feelings of guilt, shame, resentment and sorrow and start to wear them as though they are accessories. What I do not like, more than that thought, is when we have traveled with these skeletons for so long that we allow them to start convincing us that they help define who we are. These feelings distort us into believing lies that were never intended for us. Nearly two years I had watched my Grace carry this and did not even know. My own child, and I did not know. Imagine what your neighbor might be carrying? The person sitting next to you on Sunday, the person who cut you off in traffic. Maybe if we could imagine helping shoulder some of this with one another, our world may feel a little more like the community it was intended to be versus a battleground as we try to defend ourselves in unhealthy ways.
Grace had woken up at this time and I called her to the couch with Gage and I. I asked her if she could guess what Gage might have said in response to her note. Wrapped in her fuzzy, pink blanket she shrugged. I told her his response and she looked almost confused. She said, “Well that was definitely not going to be one of my guesses…” I said, “honestly babe, it wasn’t one of mine either. Now can you tell me how you feel? How do you feel knowing that even in the midst of his hurt, Gage bypasses all of that without question to immediately address yours? That he truly is showing he loves you more than himself, just like Jesus calls us to.” She curled into a ball with a huge smile. In an instant Gage climbed across the couch wrapping his arms around her and kissing her all over. It was sweet to see her act as if she was incredibly bothered by that but really, there was not much resistance coming from her end… Her heart was mended, the healing would start.
I will never forget this morning. I will never forget the overwhelming awe I experienced from either of them. What it felt like to see Jesus at work in and through them. That just when I thought I knew what my role was in this situation, the Holy Spirit shows up and flips the script; don’t you love it when He does that? It also caused me to pause and ask myself, is there anyone that I need to forgive that I have not? Is there anything that has been heavy on my heart that I have not surrendered? Do I need to right a wrong, or bring anything from darkness to light? “Search my heart, LORD” was my prayer. Search my heart in the way you do my eight-year-old children; and give me the strength and humble heart of a child to face these open circles.
One of my favorite quotes is, “to forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Are you being held prisoner by not forgiving? Are the circumstances so large, or pain so deep that you do not even know what that could begin to look like? One of my favorite names for Jesus is Jehovah-Rapha, “The God who heals.” I believe this absolutely refers to his commitment to healing broken hearts. Write that letter (or notecard!), make that phone call, or approach that person you make efforts to avoid. I promise He will be with you. You may not feel like you can, and that may be very true. Rest in the truth that He can. He can, and He will.
Something that I keep being asked is how it feels to be in a place of such vulnerability in sharing things on this virtual platform. Setting a stage for myself with endless rows of seats for an audience. An audience that I do not get to choose. My answer is easy; I do not think about it. That may sound reckless, or even grossly irresponsible but it is true. My calling to share my mountain top moments, the seasons of dark valleys and all of those in between I write because the LORD has asked me to. So I do not think about it as a performance, or something that is to be critiqued by the world (although I undeniably am aware that it is) but rather I am responding in obedience to what He has asked me to do. If that means that for every ten critics I will hear of one heart He has lifted, or for every one hundred ‘dislikes’, the LORD will have used a story of mine as testimony to His greatness- then I know my job is done. His job is done. I am just a vehicle for the message. Nothing more, nothing less. Is it the avenue I would have imagined? Absolutely not! So goes most things He has called me to.
But this story is different. I cannot believe I am writing it; even a fraction of it. I cannot believe it because it hurts. I cannot believe it because I know the chance that this person will read and recognize who it is for. Before I even began to imagine what it would look like at 9:54pm God clearly spoke to me and said, “Go write. Heal.” Healing is a beautiful process; but it is one that hurts. I equate it to breaking an arm. The break itself hurts, but oh the strengthening required after I find far worse. I imagine my cesarean sections and how sore I was post-op; that pain perils in comparison to what the first walk in the hallway felt like. Yet I see the necessity. Tonight, God revealed the necessity of this. That an open wound I have carried so long needs to heal, and I believe He is using this avenue to do so. I do not know the ‘how’, and I do not know the ‘what’, but if you are one of the chosen ones for the audience get cozy. If you’re a critic in the crowd, go easy on this one please.
I have been so thankful that the LORD was so generous to me, far before I was anything close to grateful for Him. All He wanted was a relationship with me and I couldn’t have been running farther in the other direction. One way He kept me covered was in friendship. I have a previous post including more about this; but this one is specific.
I always had a fear of loosing people. I did not know that until I was closer to adulthood but retrospectively I was a runner. I was raised in an environment where you might wake up to your parent home, or you might not. You get a puppy one late night, and then when you come home from school your new found friend is gone. One day you are riding to school in the car your parent just brought home, and the next you are walking because your other parent stole and sold it. You may have a birthday party and keep your gifts, or you may wake up and your money has been stolen by your dad. Sometimes the dark meant it was bedtime. Others it was like an alarm signaling you to get dressed and get in the car because it was time to go find your dad. You would sleep in the back of a grand prix for hours until he was ‘caught’. It was an environment that was not only unhealthy, but it was inconsistent.
I learned very early that everyone left, and at any moment anything could be taken away. Hold things loosely, because the second you get too attached the break away seemed to hurt more each time- not less like one would think. I say that with certainty because there is a hole in my heart that remains as empty today as it did the day it was made almost thirteen years ago. When I ran from the best friend I ever made.
God never short changed me in the friend department. Ever. I consider myself the luckiest person alive to have the community I do. I want to be clear in that because I treasure each and every one of my friends and would never want to be hurtful in thinking that they are ‘not enough’ because believe me; you are ALL more than enough.
I was fifteen when I met this friend. She was the funniest person I had ever met. She was so beautiful, but it was not solely external. It was her heart. The way I could see her heart on the outside of her because she literally wore her love externally. She couldn’t help but share it. She was smart, so kind, and the most loyal person I’d grown to know. I cannot start with the list of memories we made over the coming years; and if I did some might be incriminating. But they are my memories and I love them. I never had a friend who I felt loved me in the way she did. We were nearly inseparable from the time we met. She had many other friends too, as did I. In fact many were mutual. But we traveled together, we ‘’did life’ together and I thought we would forever.
As the seasons changed, the school dances came and went, another cheerleading season ended, and school years passed talk of college came. It became more than just a whisper. It was an imminent event; she was going to leave. I will never forget the day I realized that. How hard I cried wondering why I would have EVER chose a friend that was older than me. Why would SHE choose me? Only to know that like everyone else she would go to college and forget every trace of me. I was so angry. I was angry about everything, but most angry with myself. I did not even realize it but I had become closer to someone in a matter of a few years than people I had known nearly my entire life. I never once even considered what my life would look like without her in it. Once I did, I did what I did best. Ran.
I intentionally tried to stop spending time with her. I intentionally started rekindling friendships with people I knew would be there. I started choosing to drink more often, and think less often. This is what I did. In all of my wisdom of seventeen years old. The saddest part of this, is that I did not even have a clue that I was doing that. I was living in the defensive, self-preserving place I learned so young. Responding as an eight year old in a seventeen year olds’ body.
I was equating her to people that she was not. I was placing expectations, and feelings of failure on her that she never deserved. And I can assure you the pain she felt in investing in me so heavily to only be treated so poorly was something she never deserved. Ever.
She did leave. She went on to college with many people I knew. I would always try and ask others how she was, who she was dating, and what she was doing. I stayed up to date with her majors and even celebrated her graduating from my kitchen table. Both times!
It seems so simple to onlookers I am sure, and the question begged to be asked is, “why didn’t you just call her? Why didn’t you say you were sorry?” The truth is, I did. I called her one time. I did not have her cell phone number anymore (that was part of the purge; remove all evidence of what could potentially make you remember the hurt) so I called her at her parents house. I knew she was home from college. As I tried to start a conversation I could hear in her voice the disgust. The hurt. That the sound of my voice was one that she was not expecting, and did not want to hear. I folded like a house of cards and politely excused myself. Ran.
Several years later, we did become Facebook friends. I was able to see what her post college life looked like and it represented everything that she was. A life that included a boyfriend who clearly adored her, a career, a big city, travel, and so many smiles. It included the faces of people that I once called friends too that were not as weak as me; friends that stayed. People that knew the value in friendships in a way far earlier than I did. People that got the privilege to still ‘do life’ with her in the present, versus mine that was only made of memories from the past. I saw her get married behind my iPhone screen, I even saw her get the opportunity to be a mama! She wanted that so desperately and I earnestly prayed to our God she would get that chance. The name she chose; let’s just say I clearly have the same love for it.
I know she felt like the most blessed person to be that tiny angels mama (and is she ever!) but I saw that tiny girl to be the lucky one. For the heart I referenced earlier that I got to see on the outside, that baby girl got to hear from the inside. What a gift.
So what has held me back this far. I was told by someone who I consider to be incredibly wise, that often times when we ask for forgiveness its self-serving. It is to make a peace within ourselves that the other person has probably long forgot. That the open wound you carry likely now takes shape of a scar for them. I could be completely arrogant in thinking that she was so hurt by me. That the ending of our friendship was not as significant to her as is was to me. Yet I just cannot bring myself to honestly believe that. Yet I know what it felt like to hurt her so terribly once, that the idea of hurting her twice by bringing that to light brings the tears that are falling with these keystrokes. I have prayed that the LORD would give me an opportunity to apologize. That I would be prompted to be able to contact her now and tell her all that I have wanted to say for thirteen years. That I know I cannot go back and undo the harm, but I can commit to a different level moving forward. Yet I have never been given the peace to do so; so I haven’t.
We have had small, cordial conversation due to social media and I am so thankful for those. Even for the one word responses. I have even just typed “I miss you” and not sent it, wondering if it somehow would make it to her heart. Her world is so full of love and life, and she hands it right back. I give such thanks to God for providing for and loving her in such a way that she knows who she is, and where she stands. For providing her with the husband she deserves, a family that I love so dearly, and friends that stand beside her so strongly.
I do not know if this will ever make it to her. If she will ever see the words I have written. If she would know they were for her. I would give anything to have the chance to say I am so sorry. I am so sorry for being so fearful. For accusing you of being like anyone else other than yourself; because that is an insult. Every time I “like” or “love” a post of yours I do it with all of my heart. Truly, when I see you happy, it makes me so happy. I would be lying if I said I did not become envious on so many occasions when I see pictures of you and I am not there, because I remember a time when I was; a time long ago. That although you saw me as a runner, I’ve become quite talented in the art of staying. But please know that although I may not be in those pictures, or seated at your graduation, attending your sweet baby girls baptism, or there for your house warming party that I celebrate you. I pray for you always; and although not beside you I carry you with me in that ‘you-shaped’ hole that hasn’t seemed to be filled in my heart.
Maybe I will get the chance to feel your friendship again. It was not today, but maybe someday. I have waited thirteen years, and if I waited thirteen more it would be worth the wait.