Saturday, April 18, 2015

Wrong Notes and Imperfect Pottery

The clay sculptures sit next to my bed where I can see them every morning and night. A dinosaur, an eagle, and a fish are among my most treasured possessions.

Painstakingly shaped and painted by my own children, these pieces may never be on display in a museum, but they are displayed where their creators' mother can see and appreciate them over and over. In a fire, I'd scoop them right up over items worth thousands more.

My children made them for me, and that is what makes them perfect.

But to my children, they aren't. Sometimes when they see them, they laugh at what they made when their hands were smaller, and they see every flaw in their hands' creations. They ask me why I keep them out, why I display them like they're fine art.

So often, in my own creating, I feel like I just mess up everything, too.

In my hands and through my eyes, what I intend to be beautiful is nothing more than broken. What I mean to be a masterpiece turns into a mess.

My meager offerings to the Lord? They disappoint me. They are never enough and never as good as so and so's. When I reflect on what I do, all I see are the imperfections and flaws. The shortcomings and not-good-enoughs shout loudly for my attention, and the blood, sweat, and tears I spent on the creation are forgotten. All I see is all I'm not. All I notice is where I failed. Again.

I convince myself that all I can do is create imperfect pottery, and the imperfections cause me to recoil. They cause me to swear off creating again, and they make me feel like I can never offer anything of worth.

And I know I'm not alone.

My sister-in-law has a beautiful voice. She leads worship in our church, and people are constantly amazed at the talent she displays. But when the songs are over and she hears herself replayed, all she hears are the notes she didn't nail. The imperfections that to us are unnoticed are evidence of failure to her ears.

She is like me, and I am like you. All we notice are our own wrong notes; all we see are our imperfect pottery's flaws.

Through my eyes, yes, I am a failure. My creations, even under the best conditions and with the purest intentions, will never be just right. Regardless of how hard I work and how perfect I desire my creation to be, it will fall short. There will always be an improvement that could be made or a change that would make it better.


My eyes are not seeing all that God's are. My assessment is not the most accurate tally, and my focus on miniscule details causes me to forget that I created it for Him and not myself.

My perfection is not what He desires. He just wants me to give it my all, do it for Him, and let it glorify Him how it will. His Word reminds us, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31).

All, for the glory of God. All, even the imperfect. All, even what you wish were better.

And more importantly, for the glory of God. Not for the praise of man, not for self-satisfaction, but for glorifying the One who created you. Your creations are to praise the Creator, and when they are done with only Him in mind, they do.

Our imperfect creations are displayed on his shelves, and they are among His treasures. May we create with pure hearts and glorify with those creations, even if imperfect.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Tell Me I'm Pretty

"Josh, look at my nails."

Her eight year old fingers stretch out before her stepfather's eyes, showing off the latest manicure on her tiny bitten fingernails.

"Ooh, pretty," he replies. "I like them!"

She doesn't know it, doesn't understand what she's doing, but she's following in the footsteps of every female before her. She is wanting - needing - the affirmation of a father.

As independent and intelligent as she is, my little girl also has a need deep within her heart that is as old as time itself. She needs to feel loved and beautiful. She needs to hear the man in her life tell her she is enough as she is, she is treasured in his eyes, and there is something about her that is of value. She needs to know that she has worth. And, praise God, she hears that from her Josh. He was not in the room when she was born, is not biologically her daddy, but he loves her like she can do no wrong and openly admires her as she twirls in new dresses for him. He tells her what he tells me, that she is so pretty and she is enough.

He tells her, and I pray that she believes.

I pray that she has the confidence her mama lacked (lacks), and that she goes through life with the deep confidence that only a father's words can instill.

I myself have looked for affirmation in a million different places because it wasn't rooted in my heart. I have looked in the numbers on the scale, the sizes in my clothes, the looks in the eyes of others. I have searched in the makeup sections of drugstores, the outfits filling my closet, the pictures of myself I won't post. I have searched and not found, and oh, how I pray that she never has to search.

It's not superficial, this need to be loved. It's not wrong to want to hear you are wonderfully made, and it's not sinful for little girls to play dress up and primp. It's God's design for little girls to look to their fathers for their first feelings of love, and it's His design to use an earthly father's adoration to teach us of His own.

Earthly father, tell your little girl as often as you can that she is beautiful and amazing in your eyes. Treasure the papers she colors for you, and make it a point to take her out for special dates. Kiss her mother in front of her, and let her see you love her mommy well. Buy her the ice cream flavor she likes best just to let her know that you know. Buy her some new pajamas and tell her that you thought of her when you saw them. Love her, earthly father, in deeds and not just words. Treasure her and teach her that she herself is the treasure. Instill in her while she's still a child that she can be confident in a father's love, and when she is older there will be a fighting chance that she won't search for it in the wrong places. Love her, father, (stepfather, man in her life), with the love of the Father. Teach her that He's good. You will mean more in her life than you can possibly imagine.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Inchworm

“The grand design of God in all the afflictions that befall his people is to bring them nearer and closer to himself.” 
Thomas Brooks


Of all the posts I have ever written, this is one of the most personal and one of my favorites. This weekend, I saw my first inchworm of this spring, and I felt the need to share this post again. I wrote it about one of the most difficult seasons of my life and how God showed that He hears every cry His children make, even when we're not sure He does.


It’s as if there are two brains operating simultaneously inside my skull. One is the brain with a brain, thinking about the logistics of my new life – finances, schedules, grocery lists, the reality of living as a single mom. 

The other is the brain with the heart, thinking about the pain of being alone.

These two brains war against each other, the winning brain at any moment anyone’s guess. My thoughts shift moment by moment, like a radio dial that jumps between frequencies. This is an unanticipated difficulty – never knowing which brain will take control, and feeling powerless when the wrong one is in charge. Thoughts are the most powerful force I face, and they are as inconsistent and fickle as my four year old.

The brain with a brain is also the one that houses the truth of my faith. It knows that God is good, that He provides for the birds and will provide for me, that He will never leave me or forsake me. It knows that Creator could simply speak and light would illuminate this darkness. It trusts that Satan has already been defeated and though it feels as if he is winning, his fate has been sealed. 

The brain knows, but the heart – oh, the heart.

The heart questions. The heart grieves, mourns, wails. 

Doesn't trust. Has difficulty believing. Becomes like Job, cursing day of birth and demanding answers. The heart overpowers the brain and convinces self that it will be alone forever, unable to trust again.

Faith-brain and heart-brain take turns at the helm, moving me abruptly, my spirit like a bumper car. I want to be like Job, believing God for good, but Job’s friends take up residence in my head, demanding I search self for fault. 

Clarity, Jesus. I need clarity, truth, peace. Give me a respite from the dueling brains. Both head and heart ache.

I determine from day one that I want – no, need – to remain present in this trial. There are lessons to be learned, God-whispers directed to my ear that I will miss if I hide. “The testing of your faith produces endurance . . .” (James 1:3). The building of endurance requires the cooperation of the tested. I can suffer through this, merely surviving it, or I can be built stronger – choose to see faith grow.

God honors this desire. He speaks.

One of the first days back at preschool, Son becomes attached to a green inchworm on the playground. Upset by teacher’s news that Wormy must live outside, Son insists that we search for him after school. We do, but to no avail. Because his emotions are so close to the surface, Son bursts into tears and cries all the way home. 

I know the inchworm is not the real issue.

And because the inchworm is not the real issue, I am angry. I lash out at God – “Why, Lord, do even the small things in our lives have to upset so greatly right now? You who number hair on heads and sand on shores, who know thoughts from afar, why would you not let us find a simple inchworm at a time like this? Do you not care?”

I vent my anger over the insignificant, but I know that this, too, is not really about the insignificant. 

Nothing is coming easily, and I am weary.

I park minivan, unbuckle car seats, unload children, unzip jackets . . . and freeze. 

There, crawling on Daughter’s purple jacket is a tiny green inchworm.

The tears flow freely. They flow freely as I laugh and cry and cradle Wormy #2 and praise God in my garage for caring – for speaking His love through inchworms, for reminding me that He is sovereign over every detail. “For God does speak – now one way, now another – though man may not perceive it” (Job 33:14).

The inchworm reminds me, once again and in spite of my spiritual amnesia, that my God is personal. 

He hears, He listens, He knows. 

He will reveal Himself if I will only ask.

Isaiah told the Israelites then and tells me now that "the Lord longs to be gracious to you..." (30:18). 

This trial is not my desire, yet in the midst of the terrible, my God longs to grace my life with him. Oh, that I would see it and take with outstretched hands. "Shall we take good from the Lord and not trouble?" (2:10). 

I will take it Lord - I will take it all, if you will only continue to be gracious.