A Teachable Heart, Humility and BIG News

I have BIG news!

I’ve kept quiet for about as long as I can … we’ve passed 14 weeks now and so (drum roll please … )

We are expecting again! Yes! Praise God, He’s gifted us a baby girl! She’s due on August 21, and we couldn’t be more thrilled! So far, all her little black and white pictures are perfect; labs are just as expected and we’re anticipating her arrival with all the jitters that might be expected. I’m not sure if I want time to fly (or if it is) or if I wish it would take a deep breath and slow down.

I’ve been praying for a long time that God will continue to soften my infantry officer husband’s heart. His job is such that it reinforces discipline, structure, stoicism everyday, but I long for the gentleness he shows at home (sometimes) to take root and flourish within his strong, stable personality.

And as I’ve added a new little one to my daily, desperate prayers, I’ve heard God whisper to me, “You’ve asked me to soften his heart. She is all a part of the plan.” But that’s not all God said:

“And if I’m going to soften his heart, I’m going to humble yours.”

Umm … well I have to be honest, I’ve asked God to do that. But am I ready for this? I’ve tried to adopt a more humble heart, to identify selfishness, self-righteousness and slippery, undercover arrogance, but I was not prepared for God to highlight my pride in the way that He did.

Anyone who’s been pregnant can tell you–advice is instantly flying from every direction, at all times, with all kinds of conflicts, in all form of tones, with all manner of conviction and from individuals with all levels of experience–from none, to aged to those not so much more experienced than myself.

Now, I’m not one to internalize all of this and find my head swimming and panic beneath the onslaught of suggestions. I have specific people that I ask specific questions of, and blessedly, I have a doctor I greatly respect. I’m covered. But …

Does God care how I answer those who offer unsolicited advice?

On several occasions lately, and one specific one even today, someone I dearly love and respect has offered advice that I didn’t not ask for nor require. My immediate response was one of coolness. At the time, my hackles raised invisibly. I tried hard to keep my bristling hidden.

“You know, I really think you should … ”

“Did your doctor tell you that … ”

“I’d advise against that … ”

Their advice, while sincerely intended, addressed things that I have already thought through and come to a conclusion regarding them in my own pregnancy. And I said so.

“In all due respect, here’s what I think … ” (And basically, I think you’re wrong.)

God let me get away with it in the moment. But when I sat down this afternoon, God brought to mind His precious word.

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” Proverbs 19:20

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 12:15

Abby, I didn’t say you have to apply their advice, but as you pray for humility, my word instructs you to receive it. Don’t counter with your own opinion; receive well-intended counsel and seek me for wisdom in prayer at home. 

I don’t think my response to these individuals was disrespectful. I do love these people and worked hard to hold my tongue. But, I can’t say that my heart wasn’t railing with frustration and indignation at their assumption that I might not know something. And then God concluded His whispers with this reminder:

“A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.” Proverbs 21:2

No matter my words, expression or the impression I give to others, God knows my heart and He judges my intentions. It is for my heart that I’m held accountable.

Oh Lord, give me a humble and teachable heart!

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A National Debt of Gratitude

This is a phenomenal post by Melinda K. 

Have we become ashamed to show patriotism?

It may depend on where one lives and whether or not one was raised to appreciate our military and our freedom they protect. I wonder, however, if most of the holidays established to celebrate our heroes and our country have not been reduced to nothing more than picnics and parties. Have burgers and hot dogs replaced flags and memorials? Do we now ignore their sacrifices and hold “sacred” the three-day weekend?

While we enjoyed the freedom to gather with family and friends for cookouts, did we soberly consider the sacrifices that were made to give us our freedom?

Please read this whole article at The Bottom Line … 

Debt Free

As the holidays loom and my wallet constricts as miserably as Santa on a diet, I came across a familiar verse. I’ve never seen the Lord’s Prayer in this light before…I hope this is fresh to you too.

“And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12a (ESV)

Daddy raised his girls to be debt free. “The borrower is servant to the lender,” he would quote Proverbs 22:7. I’ve been blessed by his instruction and counsel fiscally, but is there another kind of debt? Am I someone’s servant or am I keeping others indentured to me?
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, part of His memorable reply is, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The obvious interpretation is God wants us to forgive those who wrong us. But another version says, “forgive us our debts” and perhaps this is more true to the Greek. The word interpreted as “trespass” or “debt” is opheilēma, meaning: that which is owed. Laying aside for a moment, our individual sins against God, isn’t it true that summarily, “we owed a debt we could not pay”? We owe God worship, obedience and love and we fall miserably short, every, single day. He not only forgives specific sins, He daily forgives our insurmountable debt incurred by simply being human. Now He calls us to do the same—to release others from the burden of what they “owe” us.
It’s so easy to declare that my husband owes me affection, my children owe me respect, my employer owes me a raise. But Jesus prayed that I would not only forgive specific offenses but overall, forgive the debts rightfully owed to us. In 1 Corinthians, Paul says love keeps no record of wrongs and does not seek it’s own way. Love has no concept of what it deserves.
Father, teach me to forgive as you do.

Mine is the Story

After six years of full-blown anorexia, six years of tremulous recovery, three years of painful relapse and three years of telling God that I didn’t want to write a book—I started writing my story.

It was difficult to argue with God when He brought me an agent. It was even more difficult to argue when He brought us a publisher. They believed in my story and believed it had the potential to help others affected by eating disorders. So, I started writing.

I wrote the true story of this girl who decided at age fourteen that she would define herself by being thin. She would establish her identity as the one with the most self-restraint, physical discipline and iron will, to the destruction of her body. Mine is the story of this girl who spent her sixteenth, then eighteenth birthdays and a total of six years at an inpatient treatment facility in Arizona. I married at age 22 and then discovered my husband’s addiction to pornography; suffered a relapse and nearly lost my marriage.

The best part of the story was the most difficult to write. How to explain the way God rescued this miserable, dying woman? How to explain the way He finally made the truth make sense? How to write about that day when I walked through an open air farmers’ market on Percival Point in Olympia, Washington—the day the world sprung back to life and I could suddenly see apples and glossy, red cherries and fresh caught salmon as glorious, delicious gifts from God?

It was hard to express the excitement and profundity of that day. For so many years I saw food as the enemy, my hunger as something to be fought against and my body as a foe to be buffeted. But on that sunny afternoon, God revealed food to me the same way that He did to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the way He intended us to view food.

“Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.” Genesis 9:3

The final steps toward the process of publishing have been difficult. On several occasions it felt like I was up against Satan himself. I wondered why? My story seems insignificant. My testimony is small and it doesn’t seem world-changing. But when I shared this discouragement with a friend, she validated my story.

She pointed out, “John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Then she said, “If anorexia’s purpose isn’t to steal, kill and destroy God’s plan, then I don’t know what is! God WILL use your story to open blind eyes and set the captives free. That’s why Satan is trying to sabotage your, no His, story.”

And so, I share my story. It’s not different, no more profound or world-changing than yours. Our lives are uniquely part of God’s purpose and His plans for them are powerful.

If you’d like to read my ebook, or buy the paperback, visit these links on Amazon: Surviving the Predatory Lies of Anorexia (ebook) The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story (paperback)

*Update: The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story, was successfully published in March of 2014. To God the glory! Now, I have embarked on the next journey with Jesus, I’m writing a Bible study. I’ll keep you posted on the process and publication. I can’t wait to share it with you!

Lewis Does It…Again

I so wish I could’ve met C.S. Lewis! He “gets” me like he’s inside my head sometimes. Then again, other times, he washes completely over my head and leaves me gasping for breath, dazed and confused.

This arrived in my inbox last Thursday. I love everything about it. From the consideration of redeemed creation to the gentle appreciation for broken-down bodies.

TO MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE: On the resurrection of the body and of all creation; and on the goodness of the bodies we now have.
26 November 1962
My stuff about animals came long ago in The Problem of Pain. I ventured the supposal—it could be nothing more—that as we are raised in Christ, so at least some animals are raised in us. Who knows, indeed, but that a great deal even of the inanimate creation is raised in the redeemed souls who have, during this life, taken its beauty into themselves? That may be the way in which the ‘new heaven and the new earth’30 are formed. Of course we can only guess and wonder.
But these particular guesses arise in me, I trust, from taking seriously the resurrection of the body: a doctrine which now-a- days is very soft pedalled by nearly all the faithful—to our great impoverishment. Not that you and I have now much reason to rejoice in having bodies! Like old automobiles, aren’t they? where all sorts of apparently different things keep going wrong, but what they add up to is the plain fact that the machine is wearing out. Well, it was not meant to last forever. Still, I have a kindly feeling for the old rattle-trap. Through it God showed me that whole side of His beauty which is embodied in colour, sound, smell and size. No doubt it has often led me astray: but not half so often, I suspect, as my soul has led it astray. For the spiritual evils which we share with the devils (pride, spite) are far worse than what we share with the beasts: and sensuality really arises more from the imagination than from the appetites: which, if left merely to their own animal strength, and not elaborated by our imagination, would be fairly easily managed. But this is turning into a sermon!
From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack

Courtesy of Bible Gateway

What the Hatmaker Said When She Interrupted Me

God keeps interrupting me.

It started with this appetizer last week. On top of that, having just moved to a new place and flexing my “get acquainted” muscles, I’m looking for the places to plug into my community where I can have an impact for Christ. Then, I was chosen to be one of 250 bloggers to receive an advanced review copy of Jen Hatmaker’s updated book, Interrupted. I was primed for Jen’s book, pondering and praying about God’s next move in my life.

For the next few weeks here on Predatory Lies, I’m going to plow through Jen’s book with you. By the time we’re done, you’re going to have to read it just to see if you agree with my revelations from it. (But that’s okay because through July 31, you can get a 20% discount on the book here. Oh, and I’ll be giving away a copy on Predatory Lies, too!)

I’m only a few chapters in right now, but let me tell you, Jen Hatmaker kept me up last night. No, not reading. I’m pretty good about turning the lights out at a reasonable hour even when I’m reading a great book. But she got under my skin; she kept me awake pondering whether or not I’ve totally missed God, if all my attempts to follow Him, to work out my salvation, to hone my vocation and use my little life for His glory—whether I’d gotten it all wrong.

Here’s Jen’s first epiphany: “And from the heights of heaven, this is what I heard: ‘You do feed souls, but twenty-four thousand of my sheep will die to day because no one fed their bellies; eighteen thousand of them are my youngest lambs, starving today in a world with plenty of food to go around.’”

Gut punch.

Jen follows that excerpt from her conversation with Christ with dozens of statistics. It’s heart-rending. Honestly, the statistics have always been available, but most of us have learned to scan over them when we see them in print, or change the channel when the Compassion International commercial comes on, or squirm in our seats when they take a special collection for missionaries in Uganda.

Before you squirm now and bail on me, take heart, I’m going to take a different spin on Jen’s message. Yes, she kept me awake, but it wasn’t God leaning into my heart saying, “You’re not doing enough.”

I wrestled all night, “God what do you want from me? Where am I supposed to go, what am I supposed to do? Is all my Christianity filthy to you because I’m not on my knees cleaning a leper’s sores in India?”

No.

(I know I’m kind of all over the board right now, but bear with me.)

Jen’s right and I’m not wrong. I’m not averting my gaze from her statistics and I’m not going to quit reading the book because it makes me uncomfortable. In fact, I’m going to change my prayer life, increase my financial giving and take brutal inventory of my excess. I’m making a commitment today not to buy anything else this year that is not consumable—no new clothes, dishes or decorations. I am committing before God not to live in blissful ignorance of the needs of God’s global, precious image-bearers.

But God hasn’t called everyone to take up Jen Hatmaker’s mission. God hasn’t called every Christian to march under her banner.

A couple years ago, God wouldn’t let me out from under James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

About that time, He opened doors from Brave and I to become a certified pet therapy team and we’ve been visiting the sick, elderly and lonely. I am passionate about this. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s boring or frustrating trying to carry on an encouraging conversation with someone on the brink of senility or trying to appear interested when a lonely child won’t stop talking, or pretending I don’t notice a disfigurement, an ugly wound or the dirty hand gripping mine. But I know that I know this is what God has given me to do—and He’s given me a passion for it as well.

Additionally, God has opened doors wider than I ever thought imaginable to speak hope and healing into the lives of several girls pinned down under the weighty lies of an eating disorder. This is brings me joy, challenges me and affects my heart. This too keeps me on my knees asking God for wisdom, words and grace.

Summation? Jen’s book is going to cost me some sleep. She’s awaking my heart to a deeper level of need that I’ve either been unaware of or not wanted to acknowledge. However, her clarion call will press me deeper into my own calling to serve the least of these, dig my hands deeper into the soil of my own mission field and follow the Servant-Savior wherever He leads.

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Feel the Sunrise

shrimp-boat-sunrise-1445726-mSun rose, bold and brash,
Flaming bronze across the sky.
Horizontal in its peeking,
Not yet determined to push away the night.

I sat still as stone,
My feet grown useless,
A part of the splintered floor beneath them.
I sat still as stone, paralyzed by anticipation,
Awaiting glory.

The air is clear.
Not devoid of color, warmth or sound,
Indeed full of bird song,
Tenderness and blushes, tints, pops of pigment.
Waiting…

It is clear of confusion—
That slept away.
Clear of fear and timidity,
Not yet risen for the day.

Sun bold, streaks upward,
Advancing on the night.
But as I listen and feel for glory,
Eyes close to restrain my sight.

Have I felt the sunrise before?
This so remarkable, could I forget?

First a small toe, then five
As heat seeps up my ankle.
Goosebumps swell, pop and fade
As radiance explores me.

Glory.
I feel it stealing over me, slowly,
Awakening each pore.
Devours knee, thigh, waist,
Shoulder, neck, cheek…
And I am Glory.

Melded one and melted into
Divine joy, newness, declaration.
Life Lives! It calls:
Awaken.

The Morning After

Thankfulness:

For noticing in the oddest of places.

Finding a measure of wonder, transfixed by unseemly, simply because it is you.

I watch and remark at the sway of trees, but if I peer closely,
Hundred of thousands of chlorophyl tissues greet the sunrise.

Welcome in the morning sun.
Even as heat bears down, sinks into asphalt,
As puppy paws seek grass and shade.
Thanks even there for grand design.
My skin deepens, bronzes, adopts a lustrous hue.

Even as humidity climbs and the air thickens,
As sticky syrup, yet sweet as too.
The faintest breeze bearing honeysuckle, fresh mowed lawn and tiny clover.
I’m glad even for these “weeds”.

After a move,
I am swollen with thanks for quick work and few things.
For empty boxes and mounds of paper and unbroken treasures.

Thank you for pillows and sheets aplenty.
For dog bowls, spoons and laundry soap.
Thank you for the waiting,
And my soldier’s patience,
Who coaxed me this far,
To wait past reason, hush and wait some more.

Thank you for the soft body curled peaceful on my lap.
For perky, black-brown ears and bright eyes.
And thank you for just enough space for the two of us
On this chair, in this ray of sunlight.

I wrote this the day after we unpacked all our “stuff” after we moved from Columbus, GA to Clarksville, TN. I’m finding attentiveness to the Holy Spirit in intentional thanks.

Welcome to Clarksville!

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Hello Lovlies!

Welcome to Clarksville! It’s my plan to be more spontaneous with our posts again here very soon, now that life is settling into its new, “normal”.

As I peeled my heart away from Columbus, GA and the friends I’ve made there and reacquainted with, the hobbies I’ve begun, my chair at church, the park that I frequented on sunny days and the one more conducive to rainy ones–as I gently wiggled my heart like a well-stuck sticker and tried to loosen it’s adhesive, I realized something. I mean no offense to friends, but I think I grieved the loss of routine more than anything. Does that make sense?

Of course, that routine included dear ones. I am sad for the end of weekly coffee visits with Johanna, for true-southern hospitality at Nanny and Katherine’s house. I am sad for Tuesday/Thursday visits on regular floors at TMC–for smiles with Mailey, Shanna, Nancy, Barbara, Megan, Penny, Daisy, Alex and Amy and others.

But here’s what I’m learning:

God has recently been speaking to me of exposure. My favorite therapist of all time (how many people can say that?) once told me that recovery would become easier with time, that walking in freedom would become my “new normal”. Stacy explained, “When water flows down one side of a hill over and over it creates a channel and nothing will divert it, unless the water is forced down the other side of the hill enough times. Then, it will create a deeper, more compelling channel on the other side. Over time, the water will naturally flow down that opposite side.”

Stacy was right about recovery. Today, healthy feels normal and right to me. But her lesson applies to so many other aspects of life, too.

The day after we arrived in Clarksville, Brave and I ventured to the Upland Trail, their version of a riverwalk. My heart sank. The trail is less than two miles long. Our home is lovely, but it’s situated in a neighborhood with no safe places to walk the dog. There’s more traffic than I expected, no Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods or farmer’s market.

When our furniture didn’t arrive as early as I hoped, I felt my mood slipping and along with it a half dozen tears down my grimy cheeks. (Did I mention that it’s every bit as humid as Georgia? That leads to grimy cheeks quickly!)

Quietly, my Father started speaking to me about exposure. 

Lord, what can that possibly have to do with me, here, now and this achy sense of loss. I have no routine here, no way to plan or expect what happens next. I have no friends to call for coffee or familiar parks to stroll. What does exposure have to do with it?

One week later, from Thursday, May 29 to Thursday, June 5, I understand. You see, in one week I’ve been exposed to spectacular Tennessee thunder storms, friendly neighbors, a new state park with a few miles of trails that emulate a rain forest. I’ve been exposed to new patterns of streets and today found my way home without the GPS. I’ve been exposed to “camping” with my husband for (too many) nights and the welcome hug of a comfy bed again. I’ve been exposed to
wide—–open—spaces that remind me of Oklahoma–ranches, farms and fields of wildflowers between every building, bridge or street. I’ve been exposed to new accents and a different version of southern hospitality. I’ve been exposed to a new side of the hill.

The course of my life has been redirected. In only seven days I’ve begun to wallow out a different bed for my stream. My life is bubbling over new stones, around mysterious curves and tumbling down unexpected bluffs.

Are you getting this?

Exposure is what makes normal. Exposure is what makes familiar and acceptable and good. How does a child know that the neighbor’s mom can’t make chocolate chip cookies? Because they don’t taste “right” like the ones that Grandma makes.

So, I’m discovering our new town, our new home and forming new habits. They will feel deliciously comfortable and right, until it’s time to move again. Then, with a gentle nudge, God will redirect the course of my life again, expose me to what only He foresees and I’ll fall in love all over again.