Beloved… wrapping up the theme of 2014

Around Thanksgiving every year I become rather contemplative… maybe it’s the change of the weather.  Maybe it’s the grateful pondering that truly settles in ahead of Thanksgiving.  Whatever it is, I welcome it.  It sounds cliché, but I truly do contemplate the meaning of life.  I reflect on the year … the ups and downs, the gifts (temporal and spiritual), the progress made, accomplishments and failures, dreams not yet met, and those things I keep praying to come to fruition.

And the inward reflection eventually turns to the “theme” for the year… that theme that I felt was meant to be, this time last year when I was doing this same thing.  I reflect on what I learned from it, if I’m ready to move on from it, if I’ve truly grasped the theme … and if I have, what is the theme for this next year.  (But that’s jumping ahead a bit.)

The theme for 2014 (which stemmed from overwhelming doubts about myself and a strong sense of inadequacy) was BELOVED.

beloved2

To touch on this thought from earlier this year, check out this post.  I am Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

The journey this theme has taken me on has been spectacular!

I mean SPECTACULAR!  The highs of this theme were very HIGH, and the lows were OH-SO-LOW!!!  There truly are no words …

I am just ever so grateful for the promises in Psalm 139 … our Heavenly Father knows all and is always present.  (And is greater than the highs and lows, by the way!)

He created us just the way we are, and we were created in HIS IMAGE!  I am beyond grateful for the reminder that my identity lies in Him… and not my own meager attempts.

Because I am messy.  I am imperfect.  I am full of faults.  Existence is messy.  And yet He is IN the chaos.  He is IN the mess.  He works through ME!  Despite my chaos and mess and internal turmoil.

Afterall, He made it.  Me and my mess and all.  He made it.  And to borrow lyrics from a song (which I literally just heard THIS week, for the first time) “All praises to the one who made it all, who made it all.  All praises to the one who made it all, and finds it beautiful.” (Gungor, Crags and Clay)

Did you catch that?  He made it all.  He made me and my messy existence.  And He finds it beautiful.

::: exhale :::

Tears streaming at this reality… deep breath of gratitude… acceptance of His love fortifies my soul.  I am His Beloved.  And now, 12 months later… I am ready to move to the theme for 2015.  But first let me share a song or two with you…  YouTube:  Crags and Clay 


Crags And Clay

Standing up from crags and clay

The peaks of earth

In full display

They break the lines

That break the sky

That’s full of life

Full of life

 

The chaos of creation’s dance

A tapestry, a symphony

Of life himself

Of love herself

It’s written in our very skin

 

All praises to the one who made it all

Who made it all

All praises to the one who made it all

And finds it beautiful

 

Soil is spilling life to life

Stars are born

To fill the night

The ocean’s score

The majesty

Of sculpted shore

Mystery

 

All praises…

Fearfully and wonderfully and beautifully made

 

And AS IF I needed something else to drive it home… Gungor has another song that hits it out of the ballpark when it comes to this topic.  I’ve included the lyrics below, but click here for the YouTube link:  Beautiful Things

 

 Beautiful Things

All this pain

I wonder if I’ll ever find my way

I wonder if my life could really change at all

All this earth

Could all that is lost ever be found

Could a garden come up from this ground at all

 

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

 

All around

Hope is springing up from this old ground

Out of chaos life is being found in You

 

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

 

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

 

You make me new, You are making me new

You make me new, You are making me new

 

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

 

So, I leave you with you with this.  If this is a struggle for you… read and contemplate the depths of Psalm 139.

 

 

so, i stumbled across THIS today…

In my morning search for a song my hero-of-a-hubby mentioned to me I happened upon a song by Matthew West that speaks to my focus theme for the year.  And, oh how I love that I found it!  But even more so I love the story behind the song…

Click here to listen to the song.  And if you’d like to read up on the story behind the song…  read here.  And because I love you, here are the lyrics…

“Wonderfully Made”

Once upon a time
Life was so innocent
Somewhere along the line
You’re smile came and went
They made you feel like
You just don’t measure up
They try to steal your light
But you are a treasure of
The maker of the stars, the stars

You don’t have to wonder
You are wonderfully made
Perfectly beautiful in every way
Wonderfully, wonderfully made
You’re anything but typical it’s true
They ain’t seen anybody quite like you
God never makes a mistake
You are wonderfully, wonderfully made

See, once upon a time
There was a secret place
Where heaven’s hand designed
Even those freckles on your face
Some things you’d rather trade
Some things you try to fix
Love has one thing to say
It’s perfect just the way it is, just the way it is

You are wonderfully made
Perfectly beautiful in every way
Wonderfully, wonderfully made
You’re anything but typical it’s true
They ain’t seen anybody quite like you
God never makes a mistake

So the world could see the works of God on display
So let your doubts and your fears and your questions fade away
Just let ‘em fade away

Once upon a time life was so innocent
I think it’s time that smile found its way back home again

I am loving that God continues to show me just how much He loves me.  He has given me exactly what I need to be aware of His grace (for instance, the line in the song about the freckles on my face – yeah, I wanted to change those at one point in my life), and His love and His care for my personal being.  But even more so He is showing me (again, and again… because I needed the reminder apparently) that His precious gift of love is free for the taking!

I don’t have to DO anything.  I don’t have to be better.  I don’t have to be more focused.  I don’t have to accomplish more.  I don’t have to try harder.  I just get to accept Him, His love, His gift, His Son.

Accept His GIFT… that’s all.  What an amazing, gracious gift…

Beloved

Beloved
mylifeaslori.wordpress.com

As I continue to ponder what my Heavenly Father is saying to my heart for 2014… I continue to focus on Psalm 139:13-16 and more specifically the words “I am FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY made” … those words continue to speak to my soul.

But I ask, why is this such an important topic for me this year?  What am I to glean from this chapter I’ve read at least 100 times?  Is there a more specific lesson to learn through these words?  What am I to have accomplished at the end of the year by focusing on this verse?  Why is this resonating like it is?  Is there a specific topic or word I should be praying about?

And I keep coming back to this  … those negative, self-rejecting “tape recordings” that continue to fire off in my brain.  The damaging thoughts that tell me things like you’re not good enough, yeah – start another project that you’ll never finish, you think you can accomplish THAT, you’re just like (insert name here), you can’t put yourself first – that’s selfish, you obviously have no self-control, and why can’t you be more analytical / technical / intellectual / relaxed / like so-and-so?  

Plain and simple… I recognize that these tape recordings are bad.  And I know that my spiritual enemy is using them to gain a foothold over my mind and soul.  When I succumb to the thoughts in those tape recordings I have succumbed to a spiritual attack.  I get that.  But for some reason, I continue to allow them to win the battle in my mind.

I recognize that I already have the tools to fight off those tactics … to ultimately change the recordings from self-rejection to victory, from self-deprecating words to gracious thoughts (for myself, and ultimately for others) and so much more!

So, why am I stuck here?

To dig further on this topic I’ve been immersing myself in scripture, with soul-searching, by doing word studies, etc… and as I searched out the word/focus I was really trying to get to, it helped to rule out what words were NOT my focus.  Then I did some more soul-searching, word studies, etc… and some more reading and thinking and praying.

And I kept coming back to two words… precious and beloved.  And during one of these quiet times I was reminded of a song that I have listened to (on “repeat”) at least 1,000 times since the album hit the shelves.  And I woke up this morning and put it on “repeat” again and have been immersed in it for hours now.   Kari Jobe’s My Beloved is the song of my heart these days…

If you’d like to listen to it, click on this link to the YouTube video (also, the lyrics are listed below):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqr-Q1U87fY&feature=kp
“My Beloved”

You’re my beloved, you’re my bride

To sing over you is my delight

Come away with me my love

Under my mercy come and wait

Till we are standing face to face

I see no stain on you my child

You’re beautiful to me

So beautiful to me

I sing over you my song of peace

Cast all your care down at my feet

Come and find your rest in me

I’ll breathe my life inside of you

I’ll bear you up on eagle’s wings

And hide you in the shadow of my strength

I’ll take you to my quiet waters

I’ll restore your soul

Come rest in me and be made whole

You’re my beloved, you’re my bride

To sing over you is my delight

Come away with me my love

As part of my word study process I visit thesaurus.com for further insight… and these words were listed for beloved:  admired, cherished, dear, esteemed, favorite, hallowed, loved, popular, prized, respected, revered, treasured, venerated, well-liked, darling, dearest, pleasing, sweet, cared for, doted on, endeared, highly regarded, highly valued, near to one’s heart, precious.

Wow… powerful words.  Compelling.  

I immediately felt unworthy of these words. And then I remembered the sacrifices made for me by my Heavenly Father.  To show me how much He loved me He sacrificed His life … for me!  His sacrifice was a gift of grace.   Besides, I was created by the creator… to be an image bearer of Christ.  Therefore, I was fearfully and wonderfully made…

He must hurt for my soul when I inwardly insult myself like I do… this must stop.  

I vow (to myself and my Heavenly Father) to replace the negative personal messages with the love of Christ.  I vow to call myself cherished, loved and treasured… will you join me in this challenge?  When those self-deprecating messages boom in our ears let’s instead turn our focus on Christ’s love and grace.  It’s so much more forgiving…

beloved2
mylifeaslori.wordpress.com

challenging lyrics

On the way to work this morning I was reminded of this song… it couldn’t be more appropriate for the topic at hand, struggling with the voices of inadequacy and learning to hush those voices.

So, I share with you another great reminder…

 

Matthew West brings to us Hello, My Name is <— click here to access YouTube video

 

 

 

Not even a day goes by, and my 2014 focus has been tested…

As if to say “neener-neener” I believe the enemy is testing my desire to focus on my theme for 2014:  Psalm 139.

And so it goes…

For a quick synopsis:  after much prayer and petition of our loving Heavenly Father, it has been decided that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” is my focus verse of the year.  In an effort to move past the feelings of inadequacy, the self doubts and second guessing of my decisions, motivations, etc…  in 2014 I am focusing on the fact that I was created in God’s image.  Genesis 1:27 tells us “God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him.”

Needless to say, when we turn our focus to God the enemy is not happy about it.  Not one bit.

Over the past 18 hours I’ve been aware of the following events that might hinder my focus on Psalm 139 (some of them trivial, some a little more important).  But it’s not so much the actual event, but how I react to these events.  I look at these as ‘tests’.  Ready for these?

  • A bad hair day.  (I mean, come on!)

  • Forgetting to do something I do every day, in my morning routine.  (Yes, I remembered to brush my teeth.)

  • The desire to meet up to someone else’s expectations.  (Instead of God’s expectations.)

  • A nightmare in the form of a DREAM:   a friend of my husband’s knocked on our door to deliver condolences for my husband’s son’s death.  News flash – in REAL LIFE my husband does not have a son.  (Oh, the distrust the enemy is trying to plant in my heart towards my husband.)

  • The want to compare myself to someone else, intellectually.

  • The longing to point out someone else’s imperfections.  (Maybe I’ll feel better about my imperfections?)

I admit these things for a number of reasons.  First of all, I’m an open book.  Secondly, fessing up to this stuff help me moved past them.  Thirdly, I’m hoping my struggle will help someone else.

How did I respond?

  • I fretted over the bad hair day (a couple of times).  In fact, I gasped when I looked in the mirror at work.   I audibly said “Lookin’ good, Lori.  Lookin’ good!’  <—- enter sarcastic tone here
  • I shook my head when I remembered a very important step of the morning routine (especially in the winter):  lathering up with lotion.  I remember hearing one of the “hey dummy” tape recordings go off in my head.
  • I pondered how I could do something to meet this person’s expectations.
  • oh, the list goes on…

I admit it.  I reacted to each of those ‘tests’ in the wrong way, initially.

And then, after I had my coffee and completed my morning quiet time, I was reminded that my responses were bad habits.  And that those responses can be changed.  And I came back to the need for a renewed focus.  And I opened my Bible again to read Psalm 139.  And the focus quickly returned.

It’s amazing how quickly we can return to the right focus when we turn our eyes and hearts on His word, His grace, His unconditional love for us.  Nothing is more encouraging!

I’m convinced that more ‘tests’ will come before the day is over… and I may not necessarily respond the right way, initially.  But that’s why I’ve chosen to focus on Psalm 139 … in an effort to change those destructive habits.

Psalm 139:13-16 (translation:  The Message): “Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb.  I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!  Body and soul, I am marvelously made!  I worship in adoration—what a creation!  You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.  Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”  

I am “fearfully and wonderfully made”

Before you read this post, please know that I write in an effort to be an open book.   I write with hopes of inspiring others to 1) learn from my mistakes/successes, 2) be authentic, and 3) live intentionally.  I do not write from the perspective of searching out reassurance or kudos or a pat on the back – and quite frankly, that all makes me very uncomfortable.  I write because I was meant to write.  I write for the purpose of writing…

That said, please refrain from posting a comment to tell me that my feelings of inadequacy are ridiculous or that I shouldn’t feel this way or that I’m crazy.  I already know these things.  But I still feel this way.  And this year is dedicated to letting the word of God remind me that my worth is in Him, that I am valued just the way I am and that God has something greater for me to believe about myself.  Telling someone they should FEEL different from how they feel doesn’t typically go over very well… they just have to figure it out in their own time.

 

Over the past several months I’ve gone through some inward and personally trying times… where I was faced with thoughts of inadequacy (“maybe this ISN’T a strength of yours after all”), low self-esteem (“there you go again, setting yourself up for failure”) and major doubt (“did i do that right?  or did i botch it up again?”).  I’ve been questioning why I am where I am.  I’ve been questioning why I am motivated to do what I do.  I’ve been doubting my decisions.  I’ve been second-guessing my stance, on just about everything.  I’ve recently become concerned about what certain individuals are thinking about me.   And all of these emotions and doubts feel so foreign to me.

And as year-end approached I did what I always do:  I started thinking through areas of my life that could improve.  I started contemplating what internal improvements I could/should make and what to focus on in 2014.   Because there’s always a theme, or a word or a verse… in place of a New Year’s resolution.

So when I stumbled upon Psalm 139 (for about the 100th time), which tells us that God knows us better than anyone else, I felt a twinge in my heart.  The passage states that He knows my innermost being… to me that means “the good, the bad and the ugly”.  He knows my thoughts, my fears, my concerns… my Heavenly Father knows me better than I think I know myself.

He also hears what I call the “tape recorders” that play in my head …berating me with messages like (and when you’re reading these don’t forget to add the snarky tone):  “OK dummy – why did you do that AGAIN?”, or “Really, Lori?!  THOSE are the words you chose to express that thought?!”, and “Why can’t you just focus on this until you finish it?”, or “It can’t be THAT difficult, why are you struggling with this concept?!”  Yes, it’s true.  I have one of THOSE tape recorders in my head.

So, in lieu of a New Year’s Resolution (and as I do every year), I vow to focus on Psalm 139 this year… and primarily verses 13-14.

I’d also like to share this challenging thought from Henri Nouwen…

“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection.  Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

I will post a follow-up to this post at the end of 2014, or early 2015 (like I did this year).  And I am looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned through this process…

Do YOU make resolutions?  Care to share?  Or do you choose a word, or theme, or verse, or?  I’d love to know what you’re focusing on this year… leave a comment?