God doesn’t want to be a stranger.

He doesn’t condescend our failures, He descended to our places.  He walked our dusty paths and traveled well-worn roads to meet us.

He’ll come and meet you, right where you are.

God is not unknowable.

He doesn’t stand aloft, aloof; He waits patiently for invitation.

He wants you to cry out to Him, call on Him, count on Him.

He is not mad and overbearing; You cannot sin more than He can forgive.

You cannot make more mistakes than He can use.

There is no tear He cannot comfort, no trial He will not walk you through.

He doesn’t want you to be afraid.

 

God doesn’t want to stand off at a distance, watching, waiting.

He’ll reward you if you seek.

He has plans for you, he has hope for you, he has a future and you are in it.

He has wisdom for you, if you want it. He gives it freely when you ask.

He has strength for you, when you are weak in the knees, and He has rest when you are weary. He has perfect peace when all you’ve got is turmoil.

He knows your needs before you ask, your heartaches, your sorrows, the little things that delight your heart.

He has meaning for your life, and purpose.

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God doesn’t want to keep you at arms length; He isn’t far away.

God wants to wrap you in His loving arms.

He heals your broken heart, he bandages your wounds.

He takes away your tears, and seals them up in a bottle.

He washes away the dust and stink of your dirty feet.

He wants you to know and hear and heed the whisper of His voice.

He sings for joy because of you.

He calls you friend, He calls you child, He calls you firstborn.
He calls you Loved.

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Romans 5:11, NLT So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

IMG_7754Jesus is her Savior, she said. Her Lord, she said. And heaven was her eternal home. She had no doubt. She told me these things resolutely, she went to Christian school, after all, and she knew the truth for her whole life. But she didn’t pray, not all that much, not all that often, only when it was really really important, because God had much more important people to listen to, like the president, the Pope, Mother Teresa, perhaps. She just didn’t want to get in the way, she didn’t want to take up God’s time from people who were doing real work for the world that needed it so badly. It was ok that way, she’d make it through without wasting God’s time. She didn’t want to burden Him with her petty stuff.

And then life happened. And life choices were made. And there were bumps in her road, but she still believed, she said, and she’d make it through, she just knew. But she didn’t make it through and her life on earth was over and done way too fast and then she went to her eternal home long before I was ready for her to exit this one. But her words will never leave me and I wish that I had time to tell her one more time how she was never in God’s way. She knows now what I wish she could have known on this earth, that God designed her and me and you to be in His presence, to be together, to heap our burning desires, our deepest needs, our trivial thoughts, our fleeting ideas and longings and everything else, all on Him. She doesn’t have to think she’s a burden anymore; her identity is solved her problems completely resolved and she is wholly His and she is wholly loved.illusion

Perhaps our life choices would be so much more clear, our paths, our destiny, perhaps God’s perfect will would be more easily known if we knew the truth about who we really are, how we are never in the way, we can never burden God with any care or thought or pain or idea. Perhaps the bumps in the road would seem smaller, and wouldn’t slow us down quite so very much, if we realized our identity is not in who we are or what we do or where we go or who we hang with or just how we look. Perhaps if we could see ourselves that way that our Jesus sees us, we would be different people after all. Perhaps we would look different or talk different or speak different to ourselves and to those who dare to come near.  Perhaps it would be easier to find our true selves when our trueness is God’s truth about us, perhaps we could love ourselves, really truly love myself, as God loves me.

Then it would matter so much less what that Facebook says and I wouldn’t need to search for significance as I scroll through social media and what that Twitter tweets me would tell me so much less about my worth and perhaps it wouldn’t mean so much or hurt so hard when the job doesn’t last or the pants suddenly seem too small and the number on the scale is too big, or when the children talk back or the bills pile up and we can’t ever seem to dig our way out. Perhaps we could do so much more than just get through this thing called life and we could run our race with joy and that penetrating, paralyzing fear wouldn’t make us so afraid if we found our completeness in the One who took on our identity and made it His very own, who gave up both heaven and earth to draw us close.

IMG_7751Perhaps if we didn’t strive quite so hard at knowing or doing or being or finding peace or making our way but just rested our very selves, our very identity, in the love that comes from Jesus, perhaps if we were known as one who is loved by God, if we just knew ourselves as one that is wholly loved by Jesus, we would wholly love ourselves and we would wholly love others and isn’t that a whole lot better of a life when what makes you tick isn’t you finding your way but you, finding yourself completely loved by Him?

imageLife gets a little too heavy sometimes, when the bills roll in faster than the paychecks do, and the babies aren’t sleeping at night because of stuffed up little noses, and I can’t control the hurt that’s haunting my heart over the pain my loved ones bravely face, and then the laundry mounds up high and it’s just the last straw in an overwhelming pile of straws after staying up late drawing puppies for a 2nd grade diorama, and I stop and wonder, where is God in all of this? Where is He when I can’t keep up with the life that I created and the circumstances that I didn’t? Oh, in my head, I definitely, pridefully, know the answer.  He’s right here. He never left. And He never will. But sometimes it takes my soul a little longer to catch on to when my head once learned all the right answers in Sunday School, so I squirm in my spot and whine about life and finally, finally, seek out ways that help me feel closer to Him.

And I start to remember that all of us here in the northern hemisphere are pretty Vitamin D deficient, which leads to fatigue, and fatigue to overeating, and overeating to a bit of depression when the winter gets deep and dark. And it’s no wonder that all we want to do is sit on our sofas eating cookies and dozing off when the heaviness of life gets a little to weighty to bear and makes me feel far away from God.

So instead of reaching for the choimagecolate I reach for a doorknob and step out into the sunshine so I can look for signs of life in the outdoors, signs of hope, signs of lighter and brighter days. And it is there that I relearn my favorite life lesson that God has revealed Himself through His incredible undeniable creation. And I start to see His hand in a freshly budded leaf, and hear His voice in the delicate song of a robin, and He whispers to me softly through the whispering of the woods and my soul starts to catch on that God is with me and I was simply looking in the wrong place.

cropped-IMG_7754.jpgAnd I remember that when God created this earth, He spoke and made it out of nothing. From nothing, not from dirt or mass or matter or even so much as an atom or electron, from nothing His words brought forth life, the life that now tentatively pokes its way up and out of the frozen ground, and flits about snatching worms out of muddy spots, and shows that winter doesn’t last forever. It’s just a season and if God can create everything we have ever known from absolutely nothing, ex nihilo, nothing at all, than surely He can help fresh, new life poke through my frozen heart and refresh the staleness that has been my spirit in the harshness of the winter days.

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And that is what I love the most about my budding homestead, that every inch of every acre reveals a little bit of God’s unfathomable creativity, His mindfulness of every detail, His penchant for variety, His love of life and newness and spring after the winter and most of all, His love and His nearness for me. And every blistered hand from raking and every aching back from sowing, and every tiny squeal of delight from tiny humans gathering eggs or chasing chickens is an opportunity, a possibility, and the unbelievable ability to work alongside of our Creator to bring forth life where there wasn’t life before; it is the means to tend, and nurture, and experience miracles that are tiny and miracles we’ve never seen before, and a way in which we can learn to love and adore and learn to be loved and adored as we hear His whispers in the woods and feel His nearness in the sun and sense His breath breathe new life into our very souls.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re in the city or the country or in the in between, if you feel like God is far away I can promise you He’s not. I know it in my prideful head from Sunday School but I am daily learning it in my soul that God is close even when I worry that He is not, and we can learn this daily lesson together, one tentative step, one chicken egg, one blooming budding growing stem at a time.

And maybe you don’t have an acre, maybe it’s just a backyard spot, or a sun speckled window with a little room for a bowl or even just a potato where you can plant a seed and call it a homestead of your very own. And as the seed pokes it’s tender stem through the ground of that pot that is your very own homestead you can see and learn and know that the very same God who spoke into life lacey soft petals and stormy weather strong trunks of trees and green and plush blades of grass and singing birds and chicken eggs is the very same God that got down in the dirt of the earth and fashioned you with His very own hand (Genesis 2). And that my friend is hope and joy and love and closeness and may we never forget the holy God who got His hands dirty in the earth- for us.

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Hebrews 11:6, NLT

 

At 14 years of age, I mastered squats, wall sits, pull-ups, bear plank leg lifts, and dieting. Because I didn’t  like the way my body looked.

In high school, I biked, I lifted, I did calisthenics for 5 hours a day and I secretly followed my parent’s Weight Watcher’s plan. Because I still didn’t like the way my body looked.

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I thought that once I achieved the right degree of thinness I would like myself more. By age 20, I was 20 pounds underweight. I was skinny! But I was tired, I was very weak, and I felt sick.  And I still didn’t like the way my body looked.

Loving your body has nothing to do with how skinny you are. No doctor
ever told me to lose weight. No doctor ever told me to change my diet and get skinnier. In my twenties, Weight Watchers turned me away because I didn’t weigh enough to participate in their program. My BMI was probably never too high. But still, I thought loving myself and having a positive body image would come when I was the right weight, the perfect degree of skinniness. But it never did.

It took something else entirely. It took learning to see myself as God sees me – as fearfully and wonderfully made – to start to get my body image under control. And I’m not there yet; I sometimes still have to remind myself to be healthy, not skinny. To be strong more than slim. To love the body I have and not compare it to someone else’s. For too many of us, we see ourselves as ‘fat’ no matter how thin we are, because we try to compare ourselves to models in fashion magazines, to our thinner friends, or to young teenagers who haven’t even hit puberty. But God doesn’t compare you and me to someone else. He designed us, He loves us just as we are.  I love – and I need-  that verse in Psalm 139 that shows us that God’s works are wonderful – and we, yes you, yes me – are one of those works:

Psalm 139:13-14

New International Version (NIV)

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.

I need to let those verses sink in to my head, my heart, my soul. I need to see myself with the awe and the wonder that God created in me and recognize all of the amazing things my body can do (birth a tiny human, for instance). I admit, I still want to shed a few pounds that somehow appeared as I worked my way through seminary to earn my MDIV. But I’m working on healthier, happier ways to go about it because I don’t want my daughters or my sons to equate thinness with self-love. I want them to learn to love their bodies and show love to their bodies by eating mostly healthy meals, by being strong and fit, by seeing themselves as I see them, and most importantly, as God sees them. I wouldn’t love my children any less if they were short or tall or obese or thin – so why would I put the same pressure on myself? God’s love means I can love myself no matter what my outsides look like.

I’ve done Weight Watchers, Pilates, the Daniel Plan, biking, low fat, low carb, It Works!, Zyng, I’ve juiced, given up sugar, flour, and attempted just about every other diet plan you can imagine. And none of them ever filled up my soul and made me happy because my soul simply doesn’t need to be skinny. My soul needs Jesus. My identity is in Him, not in the shape of my outsides.

I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not totally sure what the right fit and healthy me looks like yet, but that’s ok. I’m just taking a little step at a time, finding the right balance between Paleo and clean eating alongside an occasional donut, staying active every day and exercising sometimes, and trusting that God loves me enough to have made me wonderfully. And that feels better than skinny ever did.