Archives for July 2016

He Wastes Nothing {A Full Circle Moment}

I walk in the empty room, and it feels like I live there.  For a moment I see the room as it was…Tweety Bird comforter. Bugs Bunny poster.  I see friends sitting on my bed and in my chair. My word processor on the desk. Robe on the closet hook.

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Twenty-two years since I called this room my home. Since I eagerly opened packages from my momma addressed to Sarah Bailey, 2411 Lyon Tower, West Virginia University, Morgantown.

And it seems so much the same.  Like I’m 18, not 40.

[Side note: Have you done this? Gone back to a place that defined your life? It’s like time stops, right?]

I turn back from the window and my daughter stands in the door – 2411 just visible over her head. And this feeling comes over me.  I wish I could give voice to the moment, but words feel so inadequate.

Joy, I think.  But there’s peace too.  It’s this nanosecond in which I feel God deep in my bones say…I see you.  I waste nothing.  Just look at her!  I have created this moment.

I met Hannah’s dad on this floor. One floor up or down. Another dorm. I’d (probably) never have met him. We didn’t share a major or classes. Different states, different interests  But we did share a floor, a common room with only one TV, and my word processor.

And regardless of how life looks like now, I look at my beautiful, ambitious Hannah standing in the doorway where her dad stood day after day, and I know: this is full circle, friends. This is…she couldn’t possibly be standing there without a sovereign God who loves me and her dad and her.  All of us.

He wastes nothing.  I know in the moments of anger and hurt, it seems He wastes. I know in the seasons of rejection and loneliness, it seems God has left the building. I know in THIS MOMENT, you do not understand. Me either.

But God.

He knows, He sees, He allows, He works. He really does.

And I am overwhelmed and thankful that He gave me this unexpected gift. This glimpse of his work, His plan. This nanosecond of joy and peace.  Truly, it was a moment of spontaneous healing that I can’t articulate.

I wanted to jump and down and say…it was worth it!  All of the ick and hurt were soooo worth it because LOOK AT HER! Look at what God brought through the young couple in Lyon Tower.  Even if we messed it all up later…just look at her.  [insert all the heart and party emoticons right here!]

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And as I walk back down four flights of stairs, I think of Hebrews 11. It’s the Bible’s Hall of Faith.  It was by faith that Joseph…that Moses…that Abraham…that Isaac…that Sarah and on and on.

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going… (11:8)

It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead (11:11-12)

It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. (11:25-26)

The heroes of our faith…going to a foreign land without even knowing his destination , believing she could give birth at 90 years old because God said so, and leaving a life of luxury for oppression.

They did big big things for God. Showed remarkable faith in the following. And guess what?

All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. (11:39)

Friends, they didn’t see all of God’s promises fulfilled or get all he had promised this side of heaven.

And so it is with us. Most of our hurt, pain, sacrifice, and suffering won’t be made whole, explained, or understood this side of heaven. We won’t receive all the promises while still here on earth.

But sometimes, we get a glimpse.  A brief look through the peephole into God’s redemptive work. Into a God working all things together for good. Into the just God who promises that one day He will return, make all things new, and set all things right.

Yesterday, I looked through the peephole of 2411 – a nondescript room on a college campus – and I saw Him at work, felt his peace, and knew His joy.  And I know for sure that He’s a good, good Father holding me in His hands, loving me, redeeming my story, one day at a time.

I won’t see entire plan or know all the answers this side of heaven.  But that’s ok. That’s what faith is.

He Turns the Mess Into a Message After All {for ALL of Us}

I am reading Psalm 139 when I pause and look up.  There’s this moment – one I can’t adequately describe  – when I know: I love each and every one of these women.  Like…really love them.  

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I want to sit beside each woman in the room and read this Psalm to her.  Look in her in the eye and make sure she believes it – deep, deep down.

Before emotion overtakes me, I continue speaking. Except, I am not really speaking at all. I always have a plan and notes; I glance at them intermittently. But, I never really know what the Spirit will bring.

We close with selfies…it is part of His message. (This is my selfie with Tyla Boyd who led worship. She’s amazing!  You should look her up and buy a Forever Redeemed t-shirt!)

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I walk to my seat, remove my earpiece, and sit down. I feel this mix of joy from the gift of sharing his Word with these women. And of burden for each tear shed and head bowed.

Tyla closes us with Jesus Loves Me and those words sink deep into my soul…yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me.  The Bible tells me so.  It’s my niece Chloe’s favorite song, which makes it all the better:)

We pray and dismiss.

And then they come. One by one.  Hurting and broken. Stories of divorce and shame and loneliness.

“I am going through a divorce.”

“ I’m rarely in pictures because of my appearance.”

“ I apologize over and over for myself.  You spoke directly to my heart. “

I pray with one woman immediately as her anguish is tangible.

One gal takes my picture…”I plan to look at it when I think I am not good enough, and I want to give up,” she says.

I give a long hug to a woman who silently cried the entire time.  I don’t know the source of her tears, only that her life is hard.

“I plan to quit mentioning that I am divorced. I want to stop apologizing for being me.”

“I’ve been divorced for 10 years. God does bring blessing, but I am lonely a lot.”  Tears slip down her cheeks.

Later I get a message from a woman, mother of four, who ran late because of her kiddos’ schedules. Went to the wrong church. Almost gave up and went home. But decided to come anyway.  She’s thankful because God had a word waiting just for her.

And another very young woman who feels she’s not pretty anymore. So very critical of her appearance (and she is so pretty!)  She’s decided to repeat Psalm 139 to herself in the mirror.  To claim it and believe it.

Women of ALL ages – hurting, lonely.  Feeling less than.

I bite my lip, overwhelmed by the brokenness in this world.

Friends, we may all look like we have it together, but we do not.  That woman that just popped into your mind? The one you SWEAR has it all together? SHE DOES NOT. I promise. And even if she does – maybe she’s Miss Perfect 2016 – it does not matter. Her story is not your story.  Walk in his path for YOU, not for her.

And I tell you all of this because…

I lost Sarah a long time ago, beginning in about 2007 – almost 10 years ago. Pieces within me broke as life rammed me from so many sides. This girl I knew so well slipping away…

I’ve hardly known myself for the past three years especially.

But, as I stood on a stage Tuesday in Tennessee, I found her. There she was – so unexpectedly. I wasn’t delivering a message to those in front of me; I was talking to myself. Every single word. I felt like “me” again. The same but different – in a good way.

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And as I greeted sweet woman after sweet woman afterward, I knew…all that stuff you’ve read about how God will take a mess and make a message (I’ve always laughed at that)…how He will redeem the broken and wastes nothing (I always WANTED to believe that)…

IT IS TRUE.  I promise it’s true.  Yes, it took almost 10 years…so God might not be in a big hurry…but HE REDEEMS.

I am not sure what you’re walking through today, friend. But, that girl who used to be you? She’s still in there.  Sure, He’s refined and chipped away at her character and beliefs.  But, the little girl whom he crafted in your mother’s womb? Whom he fearfully and wonderfully made? The heart of her is still in there.

I pray you find her, embrace her, love her, and live out exactly what He made her to do.

Meanwhile…I am celebrating my spunky, Husky-jeans-wearing, third-grade self who just got pink and blue glasses with her initials in the corner.  I really like her! And I am so glad she’s back.

(And it is always sweet to make new friends! )

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Accepting Me {God Doesn’t Make Mistakes}

She smiles while waiting on customers and flipping pupusas. My friend speaks to her in Spanish; her face lights up as she rapidly replies. I’ve heard her speak English, but I jump in with my limited Spanish. She’d delighted to speak her native tongue.

We learn her name is Rebecca. We ask if we can take her picture…not wanting to forget her or this moment. She replies (in Spanish), “Of course, I am very beautiful!”

She’s smiles hugely and poses for her photo.

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It’s just one moment in time. A sweet, older lady proclaiming her beauty, happy to smile for the camera.

But, the moment is profound for me.

It’s God saying…this is what I have been telling you for a few months, Sarah. And you aren’t listening, so I sent an angel – in the flesh – to you in person. (And a HONDURAN angel at that! God is so awesome:)

Here’s the truth – you won’t find me in pictures. I take tons of pictures of my kiddos and my niece. I love pictures. But, I am ALWAYS behind the camera. And if I let you take my picture,  it’s a high-angled selfie that omits my body and camouflages my double chin.

And when my sister INSISTED on a family picture at the beach, I hid in the back.

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Because that’s what I do: avoid pictures or hide in the back.

Of course, you’re onto me, right? You know my photo avoidance has little to do with a photograph and everything to do with shame and insecurity and failure.

Half-marathon. Huge weight loss. Divorce. All the weight is back plus a few bonus pounds. And I do not want that failure  – those choices – that image to be recorded for everyone to see.  (I know  – I see people every day in person…as if they don’t see the real me;)

So, here I am.  My highest weight ever. Preparing to meet with a publisher. Preparing to speak at a church girls night out.  Praying over messages and outlines and ideas, asking God to bring me just the right words- just what his girls need to hear.

And so He speaks – over a period of weeks. He doesn’t give a message that I am interested in sharing. In fact, I look up and ask him, “why do I get the hard ones? The ones where I have to do the work and admit my faults? Can’t I just speak the words?” (I know. This is dumb. No one wants to hear the words from someone perfect who is not living what she’s sharing. But still. Man. I am SURE there’s something ELSE to say.)

But, God reveals his message in small pieces for weeks – even if I am mostly unaware. Until that moment comes when I look up, and say, “I see what you’re doing.”

Just so happens (actually, nothing ever just so happens in my world!) I am leading my ministry team through I Want God by Lisa Whittle and this week’s’ chapter? I Want God More Than Popularity. And these words…which I’ve never noticed in my previous readings…jump off the page: He knows we will have to consider our image above everything else and that will extinguish passion flames and truth-telling and free speech. (101)

See what happens when one is preoccupied with image? Or appearance? It’s serious when we let anything hold us back from passionately sharing Him. I know this to be true.

Then, I see this post shared again and again on Facebook.  I remember ignoring it a few years ago. (I’ve always been an “ignorance is bliss” kinda gal).  I click on it.  So You’re Feeling Too Fat to be Photographed.  I read these words…Life doesn’t wait until you “get thin” enough to capture it. Life is happening… it is happening right now and the only moment we are guaranteed is the one we are living….you’re feeling too fat to be photographed? OK… but you’re the only one who notices. The rest of us are too caught up in loving you.

Can we agree on this? It’s true, right? Y’all don’t read my words and think…she’s fat. In fact, that sounds ridiculous. And I am NOT living life to the fullest as I sit and wait on the magical day when I will look exactly as I always dreamed. I am actually wasting days and gifts.

And then God sends Rebecca. Smile engulfing her face as she unabashedly says,  “Yes! Take my photo! I am very beautiful!”

I want to weep. Or scream “I hear you!” Because as I watch Rebecca I know…

I DO NOT live out of who He says I am. I live from the cultural standard.  I’ve known this for awhile, but refused to acknowledge it. To give it to God – or even ask His opinion. I keep waiting for “the moment.”

You know “the moment,” right? The one where you say…I will do _____ when I get through ______. Or when I am ________.   I will write a book when I lose 100 pounds, and I am not too embarrassed to promote it. I will invite more friends over when my I have time to redo my kitchen or mow the lawn. I will go back on the diet after I get through this busy summer.

I will do this when I get through that.

The problem is…there’s always another this and that. They never cease.

And I spend day after day, reading his Word. Writing what He places in my heart. Serving and loving and living…and never acknowledging the elephant in the room…the feeling that I feel less than. I feel life is on hold until I lose the weight.

An attitude and way of life that looks at my Creator and says…You made a mistake. Sure, you gave me certain gifts, but I can’t use them because you made me bigger than all the other writers and speakers.

And while I know I have free will and I don’t believe God ever intended for me to gain this much weight, the truth is…he doesn’t want me to stand on the sidelines while I deal with the consequences of my own poor choices. He wants me in the game. He has plans for me. Fat or skinny. And I am letting fears and others’ opinions paralyze me. Make me inactive.

He wants me to be like Rebecca.  Yes, you can take my picture because this is ME right now in my journey. And I am accepting and loving who God has made me in this season. And thankfully he’s not finished with me yet, but for right now, I am THIS girl.

And she loves Jesus and his people more than anything. No amount of weight should or will keep her from sharing Him.

Sister, what’s holding you back? What moment are you waiting on? Why do you run from the camera – or why do you think you need to be front and center? What’s holding you back from being who he made YOU to be? Why do you compare yourself to other girls? Do you think God made a mistake when he made you tall? Fat? Skinny? Lanky? Awkward? Smart? Big nosed? Did he really mess up?

I don’t think so. In fact, his word has much to say about you and me, friend.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me Psalm 139:16

Please don’t life keep passing you by. It’s time to move forward in His promises, sure of His love, confident in His grace and mercy, filled with His hope.  Don’t let another day pass. Be strong and courageous for the Lord your God is with your wherever you go!