I had a very vivid dream last night that I was skydiving. But, it was like skydiving + pretty Olympic-style diving mixed together. There were about 30 other people learning to dive with me, all in perfect unison, and I kept jumping way farther out than everyone and I was all sorts of off. I was the only one who couldn’t seem match the flock. We were practicing in a big foam pit and the teacher kept telling me to point my toes and try again.
The most vivid part of my dream was that I wasn’t embarrassed or frustrated by my lack of perfection, despite the perfect synchronization of everyone else in the room. I got up and joyfully — gratefully — happily tried again. I was humbled and grateful to be taught to fly right.
There’s no secret decoding needed for this dream. I have been humbled as of late. Except in real life it has been hard and I’ve cried and I’ve been hurt and seen my ego rear its ugly head. My heart has been challenged and God has been not-so-gently showing me that He wants more of me. A lot more. And I haven’t written about it yet because I don’t have everything figured out. I’m still learning how to dive. But, my fear is turning into flight as I let go and let God show me how. He is changing me. Again.
Pride = about me. Humility = about Him.
God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6 NIV)
Five years ago I was lost and scared and also thought I had it all together. Through so many challenges that seem to come in tidal waves in my life — Ari and I healing our marriage through great humility and acceptance of our faults (and therefore deep forgiveness of each other’s faults), giving birth to Grace, wading through the waters of Postpartum Depression, trying to figure out what my new identity is as a mama, family sickness, and so many other things – I’ve watched God ignite change in me that I never expected. And He is not done and hopefully never will be. I am still very much on the prideful end of the spectrum than I am on the humble end. That’s the humbling part of this. I have most definitely not “arrived.”
I never see these tidal waves coming and then suddenly they wash “me” away. The shore of my heart is left cleaner and fresh and sparkling and ready. But, the tides keep changing and waves keep crashing and slowly but surely, the shells that are carried from the deep blue get smooth and turn to sand. Amazing how the cycles of nature reflect God’s work in our own lives. God, your creation is so beautiful. Thank you for the ocean and these waves in my life. Just when I think you’re done with me, I start to smell that intoxicating salt air again.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:3-11 NIV)
It’s the “He emptied Himself” part of this text above that gets me. He emptied himself. He made himself the lowest. He gave up everything. He gave His life. He could have just come to earth and made Himself king on a throne, but He humbled Himself to show us how to live. He is not just sitting in a cloud-carried palace in the sky; He knows our pain and that the very hardest thing for us to do as humans is to die to self. So, He did it for us to show us the way.
And so I’ve been asking myself lately, “How do I LIVE this? How do I dive into the life God wants me to live and pour myself out for others like He wants me to? How do I fly right? How can I die to self every day??”
Head >> Heart >> Hands. Our thoughts direct our hearts which direct our actions. With my head and heart in all sorts of new territory lately, I’ve found myself diving into uncharted territory. I’m still in the middle of this tidal wave pouring into my heart, so bear with me here. I’m thinking this wave will keep pouring for a while. And I’m starting to welcome it. When we seek God and ask Him to show us His way, there will always be more waves to wash the shore clean again and, each time a new wave crashes or water laps against the shore, the topography changes, the coast is nourished and new treasures are brought from the sea.
In reading Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted and her most recent book 7 (which Ari just finished also) and praying and reading the Bible, our lives have most definitely been interrupted in many ways.
I’ve been thinking so much about my own excess. Excess of resources, comfort, food, clothes, and just stuff. I feel like I’ve been letting go of stuff constantly since the tidal wave of Grace’s arrival, but I also keep accumulating more stuff. Bit by bit, God is showing me His heart in this and changing me. We’re working on changing our lifestyle and drastically re-structuring our budget, giving, household and the way we look at our resources.
We planted a garden and have been going to the farmer’s market, stopped using paper towels and I’ve been doing hours and hours of research on everything from organic farming to green living to tomato staking. And we have a long long long — I repeat, LONG — way to go. And here is a lot more to this that what I’m writing — this is just a peek into where my heart is.
But, let me be very clear about these new convictions in my heart. It’s not about following a set of rules that will lead to holiness. It’s about my personal relationship with God and what He wants us specifically to do. Your excess and giving and change may be completely different than mine. It’s not about following rules; it’s about acting from the heart. It’s not about being better than someone else; it’s about being the best version of ourselves.
Photo by Faith Teasley
The goal: pour ourselves out for others like He did for us. When we have excess it means we’re taking resources away from someone else who needs them. Our excess is showing us how much we have to give.
We’ve started praying and talking more about adoption these last two weeks. We don’t know what God wants of us – whether adopting ourselves, supporting others in adoption, being foster parents, teaching and mentoring orphans… we’re not sure. But, I know it’s something. I’ve found myself up late at night many nights praying for children who have no homes, reading adoption profiles of disabled and older children and waking up in tears. My spirit grieves for the children and I think of these words:
But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46 NLT)
My motivation is not about eternal punishment, but my love of the Lord. If you’ve gotten this far in this post, I know what talking about my “love for the Lord” may sound like. These kinds of words and phrases used to turn me off and still do when I don’t feel the heart behind them. So to make this a little more real, let me explain:
Say you opened your mail one day to find a bill for $100,000. It’s not a mistake. You spent it all on things to make you “happy.” You can’t pay it and you keep spending, trying to fill a void that cannot be filled. The police knock on your door and say you have to pay now or be taken to jail forever. Stripped from your life, no time to say goodbye to anyone, you are taken to prison. Forever.
A day in prison turns into a week which turns into a month then a year. A very dark year. You worry about your family. You cry all day every day. You feel like you could wither from devastation and the knowledge that this is your life for the rest of your days. You feel hopeless and angry and like there is no way out.
Photo by Faith Teasley of the Elberta peaches in our garden.
And then suddenly your door is opened and you are let go. You are truly free. Someone has paid your bill. And brought your whole family to you and given you a beautiful second chance. Your jail record is completely erased, no guilt or shame follows you home as you are welcomed back with open loving arms. You are free indeed.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)
Guys, that’s how I felt. I spent all of my heart on things that didn’t matter. I didn’t even realize it until my world started to crumble. Then, God — through pain and challenges and many dark days — came and changed everything. Every single thing. He set me free.
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Cor 5:14-15)
His love compels me.
SO, that is why I love the Lord with all I am. He literally saved me from a life that was going nowhere fast. And so the deepest desire of my heart is to show everyone – my mailman, the wonderful women I work with, Grace and Ari, my neighbors, my clients, strangers who comment on my Instagram posts, the old man who walks around the lake at the same time we do every morning, the UPS guy… EVERYONE I can possible come in contact with that God is real and good (even and sometimes especially in challenges) and I could not possibly have orchestrated this change in my heart myself.
I did not make this happen. He did.
I love Him so much for how He has changed my family. So much I can’t even begin to describe it and I want to love Him back with my life. With my actions and the fruit of my work. I’m sitting here at my desk feeling my blood run through my veins just as fast as this tidal wave has crashed in on me and I just want to jump through my screen and pray with you (yes, you) as you read this for whatever is holding you back from diving in too. The water is warm and crystal blue. (By the way, if there is something I can pray for you for please leave a comment here and I’ll do it.)
I hesitated to write this post, knowing it would not be perfectly wrapped up in a pretty bow. So far, you’ve gone skydiving with me, endured a tidal wave and gone to jail : ) How’s that for a Wednesday!? My hope, however, is to simply share with you that He can change everything and make you new. Welcome the tidal waves. Welcome the teacher’s instruction to help you soar. Welcome the new even though change is hard. I’ll leave you with these words that say it all:
(2 Corinthains 5:17)