Layer by Layer

We get to know a person better over time, because we see their layers. Like an onion before you, they peel back layer by layer. How they act when they’re mad, sad, happy, scared, lonely and what gets them that way….We learn what they prioritize, what they don’t, what they’ve been through, what they’ve learned, and what they struggle with. All layers.

When we are born, we have only the layers applied by our genetic DNA. These layers may predisposition us towards certain behaviors, but circumstances haven’t happened yet. Brand new, clean slate, fully loved, and fully open to our Creator. The One who loved us and knitted us together in our mother’s womb (Psalms 139:13). Then, life starts. Bumps, bruises, brokenness, betrayals. Layers are added one by one. Individual and personal like our unique fingerprints, these layers are added to our cores. Our innocence, openness, and view of the world around us changes.

The way I see it, the world adds layers and the Lord longs to remove and replace them with His blessed layers of grace, love, and peace. The devil wants us weighed down and covered in fear, anger, and hurt over the layers added by ourselves and others. Ask God daily to remove what needs to go and replace what He wants us to have.

I also think that the layers that bring the most tears and are the hardest to pull back, bring the sweetest relief and relationship with our Savior. Only God can turn our most bitter onion layer into our dark chocolate or raspberry layer. A layer we wouldn’t trade because it drew us to Him and keeps pointing us back to Him. Our hardest layers become our sweetest layers. Because we bring it to the Light and let God in, our relationship deepens. He wants us aware that we are just as fully loved with our layers as we were fresh from the wombs. Then, His replacement work starts…

Like the prodigal son’s return, each layer that we ask God to remove brings Him enormous pleasure because we are that much closer to Him. The relief and joy it brings us pales in comparison to His excitement for asking Him in. He already knows each layer, it’s up to us to come before Him, allow Him in, and ask for His help. He wants us at our cores before Him. That was His plan since the Garden of Eden. It wasn’t until sin entered in, that Adam and Eve felt any need to cover themselves with leaves…layers.

When someone gets to know me, may my layers of pain and shame be a testimony to God’s redemptive power. May He get the glory for replacing those layers with His own. And, may God continue to peel away what is keeping me from being as close to Him as I can be. Bosom to bosom, heart to heart.

 

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My Teeth!

I have some strange physical ailments. My family and I laugh about it and wonder why?? Inevitably, when the next one pops up, I get a response something along the lines of “Oh, that makes sense, because it’s you.” And, I agree. It’s very strange stuff.

For one, I was diagnosed with degenerative discs in college. No injury, no rhyme or reason, just debilitating back pain that led to MRI after MRI and pain to the point of assuming the fetal position many weekends and crawling to the bathroom. Not pretty. Not conducive to working, wife(ing), or mommy(ing). After many physical therapy regimens, consistent muscle relaxers, and multiple epidural pain injections, I opted for a laser discectomy to relieve an impinged nerve. Since then, my pain has subsided. I occasionally have an issue, but for the most part, it doesn’t affect me much anymore.

I have a cluster of lipomas behind my right knee. No idea why. No rhyme or reason. I get asked what they are and I wish I had some great answer, like a vicious dog bite or 3rd degree burn scar, but no. Just, fatty tumors right there. I’m just thankful they aren’t malignant and chose to form behind my knee and not on my face. But, still, odd.

I could go on and on…

The enamel on my teeth is thinning. So much so, that I’ve had dentists ask me if I’m bulimic or a competitive swimmer because of it. Nope. Once again no rhyme or reason. Currently, my dentist is putting together his case (for the third time) to request medically necessary veneers from my insurance company. Veneers are rarely covered by insurance because they are considered cosmetic. But, he says, for MY teeth, veneers would just get them back to “normal thickness”. The enamel is too thin and nothing else is helping. My teeth are so sensitive, that even air affects them. I’m known for my beautiful (Julia Roberts) smile. I value it. I share it. I’m thankful my teeth look good. But, they don’t feel good.

This morning, while my hygienist was cleaning my teeth with the aid of my usual nitrous oxide, a tear slid down my cheek. Once again, I wondered why? Why do I have this strange disorder too? And, then I was reminded, that the way someone looks on the outside may cover many imperfections. Are we willing to own them? Are we willing to let someone know so they can love us, imperfections and all? Can we look beyond looks?

You never know what someone may be too embarrassed or fearful to share about themselves. Emotionally, physically, or mentally. We all have stuff.

A pretty smile doesn’t mean perfection. Actually, it never does. But, to smile, knowing we are flawed and loved in spite of it is as close to perfect as it gets to me.

…But I won’t do that.

There are many things I would compromise on, but feeling loved is not one of them. My experiences have brought me to the point and realization that words fall short. If I don’t feel loved by a person, their words are just that, words.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  1 Corinthians 13:1-2 (NIV)

Looking back, It’s the same with my relationship with Jesus, it wasn’t until I felt His love for myself, that I could believe it. Once I believed it, I built my life around it. This is where transformation comes in. When His love washes over us and we realize He’s been waiting and pursuing us all along, our hearts are drawn to Him. It’s in these moments, that we worship in tears and awe, sometimes even speechless.

So, when it comes to my future husband, I will compromise. But, I will not settle. To settle would be to commit my life to a man that I’m not sure loves me. To quote Meat Loaf, “I would do anything for love…but I won’t do that.”

I questioned my ex-husband’s love for the 10 years we were together. I will not do that again. One thing I ask the Lord to provide most of all, is a deep sense of assurance. A love I can rest in. A love I can be myself with. A love I can be emotional with. A love I can be honest with. A love I don’t ever question. A love like His. Everything else comes and goes. If we find this kind of love on this earth, romantic or otherwise, cling to it and thank God for it. It’s a love from Him.

The Gift of Forgiveness

For anyone who has blown it and felt the grace of forgiveness, to anyone who has known a forgiver, to anyone boggled by someone else’s forgiveness, we know it’s a supernatural gift and can only come from above. It’s the exact opposite of what the devil wants for our lives.

Do you realize the gift forgiveness is for ourselves? Not just to receive, but to grant. When Jesus tells us to forgive, it’s because He knows it’s the only way we can live the abundant life He died to give us. Forgiveness is a choice. Refusing to do so adds more pain, heaviness, bitterness, anger. It poisons us and affects the people around us.

When we choose to forgive, it’s not natural. For me, the process started with “Lord, I want to forgive. I have that desire. Will you help me?” And, every day, sometimes every twenty minutes, I’d ask Him…”Help me forgive”. The alternative hurts too much. Take this pain and burden. It’s not immediate, but over time, if we humble ourselves and ask for His help, He will show us how and start clearing out the pain and bitterness, making room for more of Him. The forgiver will start to feel relief like never before. This is a gift Jesus wants to help us receive through His strength alone. For our own good on this earth.

Through this process, He opened my eyes to my own sinfulness. To what He’s forgiven in me. To how we all fall short. To how the person who wronged me may be completely unaware to the amount of pain they have caused. “Jesus forgive them, they know not what they do”. To the fact that I’m sure I have harmed others without knowing the extent. To the fact that forgiveness frees us. To how sweet it is to be forgiven. Ask and you shall receive. Give and it will be given to you.

This entry is to let you know that forgiving someone else is as much a gift as being forgiven. The deeper the pain or betrayal, the harder it is to do so, but the sweeter the reward. I don’t wish pain, loss, or betrayal on anyone, but the gift of forgiveness after the fact is something you can’t learn or experience without it. When you feel the kind of pain that can alter the trajectory of your life and make the decision to forgive instead, you will be moving in God’s will for your story rather than the devil’s. He has a path he wants you to take as well and that’s as far away from God as possible. He wants us to follow our pain, Jesus wants us to give it to Him through forgiveness.

Jesus knew what He was doing. He knows that without offering forgiveness for the wrongs others do to us, we carry more pain than He died to remove. When you can honestly love them in Christ and wish them the best, you know you’re on your way.

Forgiving is not condoning. Forgiving is loving and forgiving as Jesus loves and forgives us. It’s not easy, but it’s a gift waiting to be unwrapped. Ask Him for the scissors today.

 

Water to Wine

This is not a post about whether or not the water Jesus turned into wine was fermented or not. This is not about whether drinking wine is right or wrong. This is about how Jesus still turns water to wine in our lives. Bland to fully flavored. Clear to richly colored. Tasteless to sweet.

I love how His first miracle was at a celebration, a wedding reception. He didn’t shy away from celebrating with his friends and family. He didn’t shy away from grieving with them either. He entered in, and when asked, He changed things. Sometimes over time, sometimes in an instant.

When He touches the heart of a homeless person, He turns water (hopelessness) into wine (care). When He rescues and strengthens an abused woman, He turns water (shame, worthlessness) into wine (dignity). When He comforts a grieving parent, He turns water (despair) into wine (comfort). When He provides financially, He turns water (needs) into wine (provision). When He helps us forgive, He turns our water to wine. When He dusts us off and reminds us who we are, He serves us His best and welcomes us to the table.

We all know water is the best and healthiest beverage we can drink. When we need water, we thirst for what our bodies need most. Clean drinking water is a gift from God. Many don’t have it and I thank God for it. But, when Jesus takes our stories (water) and uses them for His Glory, He miraculously makes wine. He still turns our water to wine. He is still in the business. He was and is still able. Oh, how sweet and all-powerful He is.

Our Fight Song

The pressure was mounting, the days were ticking down, the hearts were racing….and it wasn’t just my daughters feeling this way. Talent show was coming up and I was becoming increasingly frustrated. What was going on? The girls wanted to surprise me with their acts and costumes. When I’d ask if I could practice with them or if they needed me to get them anything to wear, they would quickly let me know that their stepmom had it all taken care of. “Nothing for you to worry about, Mom.”

This bothered me. I felt like she was doing my job, not only my job, but better than I was. Practicing, buying fancy dresses and props. Spending more money than I would or should on talent show attire, I might add. She was killing it as a stepmom and that was killing me. That led to “Am I doing enough? Is she better than me?” thoughts. Insecurity. Jealousy.

One of the places I know she’s better than me is in doing their hair. She fixes their hair like I’ve never been able to. She braids, she updos, she curls, she straightens. I get compliments on their hair and outfits a lot after she dresses them. I smile and usually give her the credit. It hurts either way. I can honestly say I’m hair challenged. So, I can’t help but feel less than when people ooh and ahh over their hair. We all have our gifts, right? I am left wondering, what is mine?

A few days before the talent show, I was really struggling and had a few friends praying specifically over me and this situation in my heart.

She happened to text me that day and ask if she could pick the girls up at 4:00 to do their hair for the talent show. (Of course!) Straight to the heart of my insecurity. My heart sunk. In my head, I had two choices. One would be to say “yes” and continue to feel inferior and inept. The second, being “No, I’ll do it” and bring them with hair not nearly as cute as if I’d just let her do it. Sooooo, I have no doubt God intervened and placed a third option in my heart. An option I never would have considered before. Ever.

Instead of door #1 or #2, I took #3. I asked her if she could come over to our house and show me how she does it. Maybe I could learn something? Maybe I could admit there are some things she does better than me. Just like everyone else on this planet. Maybe if I humbled myself to watch and learn, rather than resist or retreat, we could work together. And, that’s just what we did.

She came over and we did the girls hair together. We showed up at the talent show and the girls did wonderfully. As my youngest, sang “Fight Song” loud and proud in her boxing gloves, red cape, and fancy red dress, I couldn’t help but think, “Yes, baby girl, this is our fight song, take back our life song, prove we’re alright song, our power’s turned on, starting right now, we’ll be strong, we’ll play our fight song…..”

And, now you know the rest of the story. I’ll never forget her performance that day. Not only because she knocked it out of the park, but because we all did.

So to all you stepmoms out there who are doing your best and doing it well, have mercy on us mamas. It’s not easy. Put yourself in our shoes and imagine how hard it would be to watch another woman help raise your babies…and well. We don’t have kids expecting to share. It goes against every fiber in our being. But, thank you. If you love our kids, thank you. We know you don’t have to. You choose to. If they love you, bonus. The more love in my kids lives, the better.

I can’t change the fact that you’re here and somehow you keep showing me, just by loving them, that I wouldn’t want to. And, that’s hard to admit as Mama. I’m thankful he’s with a woman who cares and loves our kids. And, can do a salon quality updo.