I Am Beloved

20171009_213139-1Not everyone speaks truth to or about us.

I had listened to some horrible things thrown at me. Words I knew were not true slung so hatefully at me stung when they hit. They didn’t stick long, as if only the glue of truth could stay on me, and for that, I am grateful. But the bruises they caused are still tender at times.

But I decided to make the reminder of truth more tangible and lasting. The day I took off my wedding band, my daily Bible reading had me in a favorite section. Romans 9-11 became near to me during my first visit to Israel. Now my hand and heart felt so empty, yet I read, “I will call Not My People, My People, and she who is Unloved, Beloved” (Romans 9:25). 

I know the context of the promise is far beyond me, yet I knew that God was reassuring me of the truth of my identity and worth. No matter how twisted and cold someone’s love had become for me, God calls me his beloved. And since God is love (1 John 4:8), his love trumps anyone else’s. His being and presence is love itself. Only he is pure love. Only his expression of love is full and right and lasting.

And his reminder and words of truth are etched on my skin and heart as a lasting reminder or who I am and, most importantly, who he is.

My Pure Purpose

communion.StephanieI held the communion cup and wafer in my hand.

To some, communion is simply something they do, move through, check off their list during a worship service. I have to admit, I’ve moved through the motions at times. But it has been sweet and meaningful so often to me in the past year. It’s been filled with significance, a recalibration of my heart and soul.

And as I looked at the cup and wafer, I paused. I cannot simply fill myself with God. That is his ability. Mine is to empty myself. To make room. To be receptive and willing and humble.

It’s easier to take action and move forward with the illusion of control. Well, perhaps easier in the short-term. But it is not reality.

I paused because I needed to wait until I could breathe, make space, and prepare myself to honestly receive whatever it was that God wanted to give me. He doesn’t give me what I want or what I believe I’m prepared for. He gives me what I need: himself.

It’s hard to explain, because we live in a world that focuses on self. We don’t like to give up self. But life isn’t about us. It’s more. As a wise young man recently taught, “Our lives are not about us. Our lives are God’s to purpose.”

This journey of pure purpose is centered on just that. And I am thankful. Pure purpose is not just a blog or a Bible study. It is my journey and hope.

So, God, please continue to change me and grow me and recalibrate me. Because I set myself aside so that you can have your way. I empty myself so that you fill and nourish me. I set myself aside so that you can live in and through me and get the glory.

Tears Together

Better-Together_preview_116366I recently posted about walking on the track with tears and healing. My own hurt and healing, tears and trials, sadness and strength.

But when I walked the same track a couple weeks ago, tears began to stream down my cheeks, and it had nothing to do with me. I was burdened by the struggles of so many friends.

  • friends continuing to feel the ripple effects of the death of children
  • friends sitting beside their parents who would soon be gone
  • friends facing numbing diagnoses and the difficult decisions that go with it
  • friends who had lost a life partner in one way or another in the past year
  • friends coping with fractured families
  • friends dealing with betrayals and lost friendships
  • friends burdened to help others but uncertain how to begin to meet the overwhelming needs

I don’t know how God handles it all.

Well, obviously, he is God. But I had a moment of glimpsing so much pain and suffering, doubt and questioning, needs and crossroads. I sank into a depth of compassion and empathy. It wasn’t an active struggle for fixing everything but a burden to share for a brief moment.

I am incredibly blessed by the relationships in my life. I get to do life with so many genuine people, and that means there is an abundance of issues facing all of us. Some are lived more publicly than others. But we all have them, whether we see them or not. And when we are willing to deeply do life with others, we not only share burdens as we walk alongside each other but we also share joy. Because it is in the context of the suffering and loss that we find contentment and peace. It is not in the absence of problems. We cannot arrive into a state of complete happiness by fixing and achieving things. That is a striving that will never be satisfied. Instead we share life completely with all its imperfections. We walk alongside people with their imperfections. We give and accept grace. We forgive and love and help. We struggle and heal and grow. Together.

Abundant Sweetness

20171227_192956.pngMany years ago, I received a package of Reese’s Christmas trees in my stocking. It was a package of six trees, except my package only had five. And no one in my family would confess to stealing one.

If you know me well, you know I like Reese’s. That’s probably an understatement. I can get into a fairly intense conversation about which Reese’s cup/tree/egg/heart is the best based on it’s peanut butter/chocolate ratio. Or we could discuss the best way to eat a Reese’s to maximize savoring the taste.

The bottom line is I like my Reese’s.

To this day, my daughters insist they didn’t eat one of my Reese’s trees. While I still give them a hard time, I actually wonder if someone took the missing tree out of the package in the store, and it went unnoticed until scrutinized by a Reese’s fan like me. But it has been a fun family joke.

And this year, it was taken one step farther. When I reached into my stocking, I found handful after handful of Reese’s. The entire stocking was packed! Someone commented that perhaps my new supply would last me a year.

Not likely.

I can say with certainty that I will enjoy every bite, not so much because of my love for Reese’s but because each bite reminds me of abundant generosity of and fun-loving memories with my girls.

Doing Our Best

Doing_My_Best-Download-CDRHow many times do I hear or use the phrase “doing my/his/her/your best,” primarily with the intent to encourage someone? We want to think we’re doing our best to get through something, to learn something new, to mend a relationship, or a plethora of other situations, but are we really “doing our best”?
I don’t want to discourage anyone and step into a perfectionist approach, where we have to do better and better in order to attain some sort of superhuman level of effort and achievement, but isn’t there always room for improvement? Do we settle for “enough” when there is room between where we are and where we can be? Do we pull down the concept of “best” and move it into our “enough” to soothe and reassure ourselves?
“Best” isn’t perfect. Best is what we can completely offer. Sometimes it’s more or less than other times. We have different amounts and gifts to give to varying situations and relationships across time. Our “best” doesn’t look the same across our entire lives, let alone a single day. Our “best” is more of a moving moment. It changes.
But “best” is more than “enough.”
“Best” isn’t settling. It is a settling into.
“Best” isn’t striving. It’s an intentional stride.
“Best” is less about what we do and more about who we are, who we are becoming, and who we are trusting God to grow us into.
Our best is a lot less about us and much more about God. And he is beyond enough.

Make a Difference

mother-teresa-people-unreasonable-forgive-honest-3s8hJust because you don’t get the desired or expected outcome doesn’t mean you don’t make a difference.

We might want to give up when we try to help or influence someone, and they don’t receive what we offer them. We can approach people with a plan for how we will interact in the most positive and helpful way, and things can still go horribly wrong. People can take what we offer in the wrong way. They can refuse and ignore us. They can even hurt us. And we can be surprised, devastated, or discouraged.

Yet the results we see don’t define the finality of the influence we have. Sometimes a seed is planted or cultivated in ways we can’t fathom. Sometimes something is uprooted or pruned. Sometimes the turmoil is important, because without it, someone wouldn’t consider and process something.

Don’t let your limited perspective of the results determine your next step. Only God sees it all. The best you can do is to trust him. He can plant, cultivate, prune, uproot, heal, teach, and guide under any conditions. Just don’t expect him to make everything and everyone fit neatly into your timing and expectations.