I See You

you matter Deposit Photos

 

I see you.

Take a moment and think about what those words mean to you.  What feelings bubble up to the surface?

These words (and the meaning behind them) have a way of penetrating my heart like few others do. When I thought about those words this morning, I immediately thought of a few other phrases that tend to stir a similar feeling in my heart:

I know you. You matter. You are significant.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written specifically about my One Word this year. For the last few years, beginning in January, I’ve chosen one word to focus on. This year my word was validate. I even have the words spelled out with Scrabble tiles on my fireplace mantle. (Not an original idea, I saw another individual do this and the Scrabble addict living inside me thought it was a clever idea.)

Validate

I have to admit, I haven’t consciously thought about my one word for several months. However, as I look back over the year…I’ve been learning and relearning what this word should mean…it’s been a part of so many things on my heart.

I’ve heard messages at church about how everyone desires to be known. I’ve written blog posts about my own struggle over the years with feeling unseen or insignificant. I’ve written blog posts on my desire to help others feel seen and significant. Earlier this year, the issue of human trafficking wrapped itself around my heart and I felt a burden to help. And, in July, I started volunteering for a local organization that hopes be a part of ending trafficking in this area (and around the world).

To me…all those things circle back to my one word: validate. As I thought more about the ache in our hearts to be significant, I thought about a post I wrote over two years ago about one guy in the Bible who Jesus validated one day by saying three simple words to him…I saw you.

From Fig Tree to Follower
Originally post May 2, 2012

“When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” John 1: 47-48

These verses brought a smile to my face this morning. I love the reminder that God knows us, see us, and understands us long before we are ever introduced to Him. I love the memory Jesus chooses to share with Nathanael. It doesn’t appear to be some earth shattering type moment in Nathanael’s life. And yet something about it was significant to Nathanael, he knew exactly what moment Jesus was referring to.

I wonder what made that particular memory so special for Nathanael? I wonder what he was thinking about as he sat under that tree? We aren’t told what made that memory special…but Nathanael knew and Jesus certainly knew. I love how these verses reflect the unique intimacy we each can have with Christ.

Jesus sees Nathanael and immediately validates that he is not just one of many. He’s significant in Christ’s eyes. I know you. I saw you. You were sitting under the fig tree!

I don’t know about you, but these verses are comforting to me. It’s a reminder to me that God sees us and remembers us all the time. He even recalls the tiny, seemingly insignificant points along our journey. There is no detail in our lives that goes unnoticed by Him.

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Today, let this be our goal. To see people. To acknowledge people. To let them know they matter.

Lord, forgive me for the times my eyes and my heart have missed the opportunity to validate others who cross my path.  Help me to see today.  

Bullying…What More Can We Do?

Bullying after schoolDeposit Photos

I just saw a story of a middle school boy in Florida who took his life last week in the school’s bathroom.  He had been the target of bullying for years.  This story, like all bullying stories I hear about, broke my heart and made me sick to my stomach.

I was never bullied in middle school or high school.  However, I did know people who were endlessly picked on. I was friends with some of these folks.  But looking back, I realize I was not a very good friend. To this day, one of things I regret most about those years was that I was a complete wimp when it came to publicly standing up for people who were teased and treated as outcasts.

I didn’t participate in the teasing…but I didn’t try to stop it either.  I did, on occasion, try to encourage the victim when I thought it was “safe” to do so and when I didn’t think the “popular” kids were looking.  I feared that if I fully embraced the victim…I would become a target too.

I talk to my son all the time about how wrong bullying is.  I pray my son is never a bully AND that he is never the victim of bullies.  I want him to treat people kindly. I want him to be treated kindly.  I want him to stand up for those who are mistreated. As a parent, I want my child to know all the right things to do and then will make the courageous choice to do those things.

Anytime I hear a tragic story of kids ending their life over chronic bullying like this I really wish I could hear from the parents of the bullies. Did they have any clue their child was a bully?  I want to believe that one of the reasons kids are so extremely hurtful and destructive to their peers is because they haven’t been taught by their parents that bullying is wrong. But, I think that’s naive and wishful thinking. I’m willing to guess that if we were able to interview the parents of bullies, we would find a mixture. We would find those who did teach their kids the right thing to do and those who neglected to do this.  Some times parents can do all the right things and kids will still make devastating choices.  As a parent, this scares the daylights out of me. Ultimately, I am not with my child 24/7.  I don’t have control over the choices my child ends up making in that lunchroom or on that playground…or, sadly, in that school bathroom.

The only thing I know to do is to keep talking to my child, to keep asking questions about his day, to keep my eyes open. And here is a pledge I make today:   If my son is ever caught bullying another child, there will be harsh consequences.  I will not blow it off.  I will not down play the behavior or excuse the behavior.  It will not be tolerated.

On the flipside, my heart breaks just as much over the possibility of my son becoming a victim of bullying.  I want to protect him. Again, the only thing I can do is keep talking to my child, to keep teaching him and reminding him of who he is.  I want that truth to shout louder than any taunts he might hear come out of the mouth of a cowardly bully.

What is your experience with bullies?  

How do you talk to your kids about bullies?

Has your child ever been bullied?  How do encourage them and give them hope?

Some Thoughts on Bravery and Belonging

brave

I recently read the above words in the newest book from Annie Downs, Let’s All Be Brave, in a chapter she titled “your people.”

As an “outgoing” introvert (I know that may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s the best way I know how to describe myself.) these words resonated with me.  Over the years, I’ve learned something about myself:  I can quickly and rather easily make lots of acquaintances, but arriving at the “I belong here”  place is sometimes a struggle for me.  I can remember three significant times in my life when I knew for certain (and instantly) I was exactly where I belonged.

The first time I was 18 years old, I sat next to my mom’s hospital bed, held her hand and said goodbye as she left this life and moved onto to the next.  I wouldn’t be able to put this moment into words until years later, but something else happened that day.  I watched what little brave I had, die that day as well.

The second time I was 29 years old.  I walked through the front doors of my old church in North Carolina for the very first time and knew I was home. In the 12 years that I was a part of that church family, God somehow  took this shy, flawed, fear-filled girl and decided to use her to do things she had no idea she could do. I felt like Moses most of time questioning God’s decision. Umm…really Lord…why me?

The third time was just a few short months after walking through those church doors, when I walked through another set of doors and took a seat in a 12-step recovery meeting. I was surrounded by folks from all walks of life and I did the bravest thing I think I’ve ever had to do…admitted I drank too much and needed help.

These were the handful of times I can remember in my life when I recognized belonging almost instantly.  I am so thankful for these times in my life (as hard as some of those seasons were).   These moments grew me in ways I never would have grown had they not happened.

I’ve had other times where I sensed I belonged.  But the process of discovering it was much slower.  I’ve learned and continue to learn over the years that, typically, this sense of belonging happens only after months or after years of investing, establishing relationships, and building trust.  It’s worth it…but it’s a process of give and take…of being there for others and letting others be there for you.  I want this. I need this.  But there are times I still struggle with this.

All this writing and thinking about belonging makes me thankful, once again, that even though finding “your people” here on earth takes time and investment, there is another door I am invited to walk through where belonging and acceptance is instantaneous.  I can’t help but think about Jesus. He longs to call us friend. He promises us that when we walk through His door and take His hand, we belong. (Matthew 7: 7-8) We are home.  And, if we truly believe this, if we truly embrace this… we have all the brave we need to make it through this life.   But I think the mistake we so often make is we stop and straddle the doorway.  We are afraid to come inside and take a seat.

In many ways, as a Christ follower, I have to make the braver choice over and over again every single day: to walk fully into His presence and to take my seat in the circle.  This is where I belong.  This is where I am brave.  This is what gives meaning and purpose to all the other circles.

One Big Beautiful Scavenger Hunt

Sometimes, there’s a part of me that wishes I could look at words or sights or sounds or experiences and not have my next thought be:

Is there a lesson hidden in here some where that I can write about?

Don’t get me wrong I love looking for stories along the journey. Life becomes one big scavenger hunt!

But sometimes, I wish the turn off switch was easier to find.  Because creators also need to rest. It’s often a challenge for me to sit back and rest, to not create and to not think about creating.    Truthfully, this is one area I need to get better at.  Resting.

But that will have to be a topic for another post.  Or maybe not…because I’ll be resting and not thinking about creating or writing about creating.  Tomorrow is Sunday…so tomorrow I will rest. :)

This morning I thought about the reasons I create and share. It’s because it ultimately brings joy and beauty into my life and I hope to somehow bring joy and beauty into the lives of others. Creating will often consist of these two parts:

we create beauty
we share beauty

Then I thought about how Scripture tells us that we were created in the image of God.

That’s it, Lord. That’s why I feel the need to create.
That’s why I feel compelled to share what I create with others.

If God had wanted to, He could have just created the world and stopped there. He didn’t have to create us. But I believe He must have received incredible joy thinking about sharing His creations so others could enjoy their beauty too.

As I was writing this, I thought about my mom. She loved to write songs and play them on her guitar. Each time she finished writing one, she always wanted me to hear it. I would sit on her bed and listen to her sing and play her latest creation.

We create beauty
We share beauty

The other night, I was out walking my dog around the block. I watched as God created beauty and then decided to share it…a love letter written in the sky for me.

I am  thankful for sights like this.  I am  thankful that beauty is everywhere if we just take the time to look for it.

Today…create something beautiful…share something beautiful.

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I Will Never Play a Role Again

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I will never play a role again.

Having to pretend to be someone you are not is a horrible way to go through life.
The mask becomes your prison.
dictating your every move.

I will never play a role again.

Having to smile and tell people you are fine when you are not is a slow and certain death.
Light struggles to break free,
darkness overwhelms it

Instead

I choose to leave the role behind
to live and feel and breathe LIFE
letting the truth spill out

watching as Beauty overtakes the cell
still standing as the lies come crashing down
rejoicing as the chains snap away

Light floods the scene
Darkness limps away
Freedom reigns

I will never play a role again.

Us Humans Have a Special Knack For This…

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Pain typically leads me off the path before I find my feet more firmly planted on the path.

When I lost my mom, it was only more pain that brought me back to where I needed to be.

Now, I don’t think pain has to be the path we take. Had I chosen to hold on and trust instead of letting go and bolting away, then I don’t think the additional pain I experienced would have been necessary.

This morning I thought about how us humans have a special knack for taking an already sucky situation and making it even harder.

One thing I love about Scripture is that it’s filled with instances of other folks who also have this special knack of making bad situations even worse.  I love these folks because I can relate to them. Their humanness reminds me of my humanness.  Their journeys remind me I am not alone and that my struggles and doubts are not unique.

The other thing I love about Scripture is that it’s filled with stories of a God who has this special knack of looking at these same folks and saying amazing things like this to them:   I choose you.  You’re my chosen instrument…I will use all of it…all of it...for my Glory.

In case you don’t know by now, I love redemption.  I love how God finds a way of using every piece of our story.  I love how even the detours we take into the wilderness end up leading us some place more beautiful than we could ever imagine when we finally become willing to dump all the heartache at His feet.

For some reason, my mind just thought about food to illustrate the point I’m trying to make. (Maybe because I haven’t had breakfast yet and my stomach just growled at me.)  I thought about how there’s edible portions of food and inedible parts of food. But with God, all of it is edible.  He doesn’t discard any of it.  He finds a way to use it all nourish us and/or grow us.

I also love that the lie I believed for years (keeping me stuck on the wrong path for years) was finally exposed.

“You made your bed…now you have to lie in it.”

That, my friends, is a load of hogwash.

It’s a crippling lie we whisper to ourselves so that we can avoid making the tough, scary, and brave decisions along the path.

Yes, there are consequences to our bad choices.  Yes,  we must choose to confront and deal with those consequences….but by no means does that mean we lie down and settle.

We have a choice every step of the way.  We can make the decision to choose differently.  And despite what that voice of defeat tries to make you believe…it is never too late.

It’s always our choice whether we lie down or whether we get up and keep making progress down the path.

Today, I hope you make the courageous choice to keep going.

The “I just KNOW we would be BFFs if you KNEW I existed” feeling

Lonely teenage girl standing outdoor on cold winter dayDeposit Photos

While out on my run on Saturday, I admitted to my myself that social media can sometimes bring out the inner 8th grader that still hides inside me. There are people I know (online) who don’t know me because we hang out in different crowds. But even though these people might not have any clue I exist, there’s a part of me that thinks we would hit it off  great if our paths ever had the opportunity to cross.  Ever felt like that?

So, that middle school girl inside me sees the cool lunch table but she also sees there’s no seat saved for her because the folks that sit there don’t have a clue this girl exists. I know this is silly…but I’m admitting it’s how I’ve (wrongly) felt at times while engaging on social media.  And, if you have followed my writing for a while, you know that one of my struggles over the years has been battling feelings of insignificance and constantly needing to redirect my heart back onto the Truth.

When I was growing up we didn’t have the internet. We didn’t have the means to connect or follow like-minded people like we do on Twitter. I realize how, nowadays, we can have an almost instant connection to people who we don’t really know.  We think we know them from their blog writings or from their tweets so this leads us to having a false sense of connection with them.

If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, you may have had that same experience with certain folks you’ve followed too. These folks seem to take your thoughts right out of your head. They see life the way you see life. It’s almost like the two of you must have been sitting in a coffee shop just the other day swapping stories about life!

Because of this, you feel certain you would hit it off in “real” life.  Heck, you’d probably end up being BFFs!  But, there’s only one problem. One big problem. This person who “knows” you so well, doesn’t actually know you exist. It’s a one-sided “friendship”.  And, in all honestly, this person who knows you so well (but doesn’t really know you), doesn’t care to know you either.  Now, I’m not saying that in mean way, I’m saying that in a practical, common sense way.  This person might have 500,000 followers and each one of those followers might feel like you do, but this person only has space and time in their lives to invest and connect with a limited number of BFFs.  And I’m not one of them.  And, chances are, you’re not one of them either! :)

Shortly after my run this weekend, I came across this great quote on Facebook.  It’s referring to books and authors but I think it can also apply to folks we follow and begin to connect with in the social media world too.

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”
―J.D. Salinger

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All this thinking/writing about BFFs, about being known, and feeling included made me think of the first time in my life when I experienced the hurtful sting of someone’s acceptance of me suddenly being revoked. On a side note, this is actually one of the perks of having one-sided social media relationships…you don’t ever experience the full effects of being rejected.  Because, you have to actually exist to the other person before you can un-exist. :)  

I  attended a very small school from kindergarten through 7th grade.  There were only about 300 people in the whole school.  During the summer before my 8th grade year, my family moved to a new town.  My new school was a 7th-8th grade middle school.  This school had about 1600 students total.  Instead of 25 kids in my grade, there were now 800!  Shortly into this new year, I  was so thankful a girl named Tricia came along and befriended me in gym class. I went from being unknown to being known by one person. As a very shy teenager, I didn’t make many friends that year, but, that’s okay, I could depend on seeing Tricia’s smiling face in gym class.  As the school year came to a close, I was thankful that when we moved to high school the next year, I would already have a friend.

My high school had over 2000 students. so it took a couple of days to cross paths with Tricia. When I spotted her I was so happy…a familiar face!  I went over to say hi, she looked at me for a split second and then turned away, never to acknowledge me again.  Over the next four years, I began to observe, from a distance, that I wasn’t in the right crowd.  And, Tricia could see that I lacked any potential of getting her known by the right crowd.

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Sunday’s message at church happened to address this topic of being known.  My pastor pointed out that even though we are all different, we all have one thing in common:  A desire to be known.  He went on to say that what is important is HOW we are known.  Who we are in Christ is the “known” we should ultimately be aiming for.  That’s the known that really matters, the one that really counts.

Here’s a great quote from yesterday’s message:  “You want to be approved and accepted and you want confidence that it will never be revoked.  He chooses you, approves of you and then uses you for His glory.”

Today,  I am grateful that when I keep my eyes firmly fixed on Truth then I do rest in the confidence that I am loved and accepted just as I am.  I am loved by Someone who will never turn His back on me.  I am loved by a Father who loved me even before I existed. Even before I chose to follow Him, there was a seat at His lunch table reserved just for me!

That’s who I want to be known by.

That’s who I want to get to know more and more everyday.

When Crazy Makes the Most Sense

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“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

The other night I was taking my usual walk around the block with my puppy dog.  (She’s 16 years old, but will always be my puppy dog. :) ) For a moment, as I thought about faith and about Jesus, I had one of those “an outsider looking in moments.”  I’ve had these moments before…it’s when it dawns on me, again, just how baffling “walking with Jesus” seems to people who don’t know Jesus.  It sounds crazy.  It makes no sense if our spiritual eyes have not personally experienced what that means.

I tend to have those outsider looking in moments a lot when I take the time to think about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit must seem completely absurd to folks who don’t follow Christ.  Yet, when you experience the power of the Spirit, when you know He has interceded on your behalf or has helped to explain the “I can’t explain moments” to your heart, then you know. And, there’s a part of you that doesn’t give a hoot how crazy the rest of the world thinks you are.  His presence in your life is a constant reassurance that you are going the right way.

I’ve mentioned this before but having faith and trusting in the real-ness of the Holy Spirit, kind of reminds me of the movie Field of Dreams.  Outsiders think you are crazy for wanting to build a baseball field in the middle of a cornfield…and if you think about it “logically” it seem crazy to you too…BUT there’s this force, this reassurance, that keeps encouraging you to keep building, to keep moving forward… further up crazy boulevard!

I read the above verse this morning and it reminded me of one particular thought that came to my mind the other night while out on my walk.   I’m not even sure the thought is completely accurate, but I wanted to share it with you all…

What if Christ followers don’t experience significantly less doubt than those who don’t believe in Christ? What if Christ followers have simply discovered where to take and place their doubt?

“I am the light of the world…whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

There’s something amazing about this Truth.  The light of life is a powerful force.  The light of life explains the unexplainable, the light of life gives peace when the only thing that truly makes sense is freaking out. The light of life gives strength and power, when you know there’s nothing left in the tank. The light of life offers comfort and joy and hope in times when those things are completely out of human reach.

“I am the light of the world…whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Sometimes, I think it’s easy to forget to tap into the power that lives right here with us.  We walk along the path and we forget who goes before us.  He guides every step.  We just need to follow where His footsteps are leading.

Does God Care?

I’m thrilled to have my friend, Anne Peterson, sharing today.  Anne is a writer, a speaker, a published author, as well as one of the most encouraging people I’ve ever had the pleasure of “meeting” in the online world.

I hope you’ll take a moment, read her words, and be encouraged today too!

 

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We’re hurting. We can’t believe how bad the pain is. And a small part of us wonders, does God care? Couldn’t he stop our pain?

Down through the years many have asked the same questions. And while the answers seem obvious to us as we face someone who’s hurting, it’s a different thing altogether when we are the one’s who hurt.

It’s easier to encourage others to trust than it is to encourage ourselves when we get the scary diagnosis, or the pink slip.

God cares

If anyone at all wonders if God cares, perhaps a trip to Gethsemane would help. In this garden God’s own Son prayed, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.

Do you think God wanted to answer that request?

It’s hard to watch those we love suffer. When we sat with my brother who had pancreatic cancer, we felt helpless. Watching the disease rob him of his health was painful.

God loves us, and yet, despite his love he allows us to go through difficult situations. Why? What could possibly come of it?

Trials make us more sensitive to others.

If God had wanted, once we accepted Jesus’ sacrifice, God could have taken us to heaven, but he doesn’t. Instead he lets us be here to encourage others when they are down. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, it tells us why we are comforted. It’s not just about us, it’s for others.

How many times has God used another person to encourage you?

Pain teaches us to depend on God

So often we try to do things on our own, try to fix things. Jesus said, without him we could do nothing. Instead we think without him we can do less, or we can do things more slowly. Sometimes our trials get us to the place where we have to throw up our hands and cry out to God.

Or like Peter when he walked on the water. He was fine as long as his eyes were on the Master, but once his eyes moved, he went down. And God was never out of earshot.

God uses trials to teach us about him.

God uses difficult situations in our lives to also teach us about his character. By going through difficult things we learn that God is sovereign. Nothing touches our lives that surprises him.

Through our trials we learn God is ever present. Others may stand back, but not God.

I’ve lost a lot of loved ones in my life. My mother, father, two brothers and my sister. God has been a constant presence. Although people are tempted to believe God doesn’t care when they go through difficulties, I know God loves me. He trusts I will keep my eyes on Him, no matter how ferocious the wind and waves get.

Whatever you’re going through. Lean into him. He’ll get you through. He’s right there.

 

pic of Anne PetersonAnne Peterson is a poet, speaker and published author of Real Love: Guaranteed to Last, Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival, and most recently, her first children’s book, Emma’s Wish. Anne is also the author of 42 published Bible Studies through Christian Bible Studies, an affiliate of Christianity Today, as well as the author of over 28 articles. For more information about Anne visit www.annepeterson.com, or annepetersonwrites.

Perhaps You Don’t Need That Suitcase

Redhead girl with suitcases at outdoorDeposit Photos

I finished a fascinating book this weekend. Seeking Allah Finding Jesus.  It’s the true story of Nabeel Qureshi’s journey, a devout Muslim whose quest for Truth brought him to the foot of the cross.

One thing this book reaffirmed in my heart was the promise we are given in Scripture that we will find God when we seek him with all our heart and soul.  I am more convinced than ever that the primary problem with seeking God and not finding Him rests with our heart’s inability to want it bad enough.

We aren’t thirsty enough.  We aren’t desperate enough. Our hearts do not want to find Him more than anything else on earth.

There is always a cost to finding and following Jesus and usually what stands in our way is our refusal to confront and face that cost.

In Nabeel’s story the cost was huge, He would have to admit that everything he had ever known, everything he had ever been taught, was a lie.  He would have to risk losing his family if he wanted a heart that was finally willing to embrace the Truth and a life that was finally desiring to follow that truth.

The baggage we carry on our journey is often the one thing that holds us back the most from finding God when we begin seeking Him.  We bring suitcases full of pre-conceived beliefs and assumptions.

Our hearts refuse to let go of those bags.  Sure we might let go of some of those bags but there’s always one that we are certain is okay to keep carrying with us.  Why would God ask us to let go of that bag?  I’ve always carried this bag.  This bag makes sense to me. I know what it looks like. I can close my eyes and tell you what it looks like. I’ve memorized where all the pockets are.

But.

It’s only when we choose to drop all the bags and keep walking along, our hands entirely empty, that our hearts and our minds reach a point in the journey where another WAY of understanding and perceiving becomes possible.

We suddenly understand that the bag we thought was assisting us was really just weighing us down and delaying our journey to arrive at Truth.

Where are you along the path to Truth today?  

Is there a suitcase you are refusing to set down?  

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. Jer 29:13-14