Monday, December 15, 2014

You Have an Asymmetrical Face; Merry Christmas

I was at the dermatologist over the weekend. There was a pharmaceutical rep in the lobby selling some kind of anti-aging product. She asked me a few questions about my beauty regime. I asked about her product.

She began pointing out the wrinkles around my eyes, the ones on my forehead (which, by the way, she also described as "big"), and the vast amount of fine lines I have on one side of my face due, apparently, to my "asymmetrical nature."

This was one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen in real life (her product must work!), and here she was examining me while nodding with what I can only assume was sympathy, "It's okay, lots of people have big foreheads and asymmetrical faces. Have you ever considered preventative treatments or fillers?"

Well NOW I have.

I'm not gonna lie and act like I'm above the fray.

I'm well below it. I've considered my face in obsessive  meticulous detail since that day, and I can't pretend like I don't want to race back to that office and purchase every product in her line, maybe even becoming a sales rep myself. (In this way, shame can be a very powerful sales pitch.)

But it does have me wondering this Advent season--what is true beauty?

On Sunday, our pastor asked us about the shepherds in our lives. Who is leading us? Who is guiding us through the valleys?

Is it the lady at the dermatologist office? Is it a pursuit of beauty or some other kind? Is it shame? Is it someone whose acceptance you are desperate to win?

Or is it the creator and embodiment of ultimate beauty? Is it the one who leads us by still waters? Is it the one whose loveliness has no match; whose spirit radiates from within us, so that we become bearers of his likeness, no matter our age or the bend of our faces?

I know it's an odd thing to consider this Advent, but could it be that as we wait, we are also in part waiting for Jesus to redefine our understanding of beauty by his standards?

I can't promise I'll never give in to the pressure, but for now, I know this:

Jesus, who had "no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him," in an act of unrivaled beauty took up our pain, bore our suffering, was pierced for our transgressions, and was crushed for our sins.

By his wounds, we are healed. Praise Emmanuel, God with us.

Because of his with-ness even wounds caused by the lady at the dermatologist office, even the wounds of identity and shame; yes, even those wounds are made beautiful time and time again.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Them Bones, Them Bones

Ezekiel chapter thirty-seven contains that famous story about dry bones coming to life. 

The Lord showed the prophet Ezekiel a vision of a valley of dry bones...signifying God's people. Their bones were dry. Their hope was gone. They felt cut off from God's favor.  

Through this vision, God was restoring hope to his people-- He was saying He would breathe life into the dead places. His Spirit would settle in them and they would live like they had never lived before. Most importantly, they would once again know the Lord's love, glory, and power.  

If you haven't heard, Kevin and I are in a season of training with Mission Church in order to launch a brand new church in the West Chicagoland area next fall. 

There are two-out-of-three people in the 15 minutes around us who don't know Christ. It is our passion to join hands with other churches in the area in order to bring hope to those who have not yet experienced the renewing love of God. We want to see our entire community find true life in Jesus.  

The coolest thing is this: statistics on church plants show that when a new church comes to town, it not only reaches about twenty percent of previously unchurched people--the existing churches also grow by about twenty percent. In other words, it's a win for everyone! We're so thankful for the other churches around us who have welcomed us to the neighborhood and encouraged us in our ministry.  

But before we find a location or begin holding services, the first thing we’re doing as a church is praying about and facing the dry bones in our own lives—those broken emotions, relationships, attitudes, situations, failures, regrets, or sins—those places that need to be touched by the restoring hand of God. 

We're asking God to bring renewal to us, so that He might bring it through us--to others. 

As my husband says, "Renewal is a work of God; only He can do it. The incredible thing is that God also wants to bring renewal." 

This advent, as we are waiting for our church to launch, I know you also are in a season of waiting. My prayer is that we will wait as people who have hope. 

For God has come--wrapped in the very flesh He restores and empowered with the very Spirit He gives to us--Jesus has come to nourish the arid places of our lives with His living water and to breathe new life into what seems dead.   

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to live my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people and I will be your God." --Ezekiel 36: 20-27

What about you? What dry bones are you facing this holiday season? Are you in a time of waiting? 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

DIY hell (with a little bit of heaven thrown in)

I have succumbed.

I fought it for so long.

I can't any longer.

I am officially a DIYer.

It began with a little (or a lot, actually, I got obsessive) spray paint here and there....

...and turned into a table project....which before I show you pictures, has actually turned into redoing my entire kitchen. Those pics will come soon.

I don't like DIY very much (I prefer no fuss and super fast projects), so this was a real test of my sanity.

What I have learned to enjoy is the process of remaking something--not restoring it to its former glory--but repurposing it into a brand new and more beautiful version of itself.

I believe that is what God does in our lives. He makes us new in Jesus--not just just cleaned up--but brand new, beautiful radiant beings-- the ones we were always designed to be.

With that in mind, I wanted to share my first big DIY project with you. Warning: unlike God, it was much more of a happy accident than a divine plan. I don't like unfinished projects, so I rush, screw up, and then have to start all over...and I generally have a nervous breakdown in the middle of it all. (I'm sure there's another life lesson in that, but I don't want to learn it right now.)

Exhibit A: The Oak Table. A pretty little dining table given to us by my fabulous in-laws, but the oak was staring at me, daring me to attack it. I shopped around at first, but every table I looked at was SO EXPENSIVE...I knew the only option was to paint it.

Exhibit A

Day One: This is where I entered into DIY hell. I thought, naively, "Oh, this will only take me the afternoon." I had no clue redoing a table is actually a 3-5 day project. I began by sanding it all down, which was fine, but then I had the brilliant idea of spray painting the entire thing.

The spray paint is a lovely shade of gray called, Slate Gray, but why, oh why I thought spray painting a dining room table was a decent option, I'll never know. Well, I do know--it's cause I thought it'd be fast. Again, this is where I got into trouble. It WAS fast, but it looked lumpy, goopy, and just plain cheap.

The saving grace is that the table legs are somewhat ornate, so they actually looked pretty decent. The bad news is that I had to redo the top.

DAY TWO: Due to all the lumps and goops, I stripped the entire tabletop and started over from scratch. Remember, I hate unfinished while this would not have been a big deal to the average Pinterest DIYer. This was KILLING ME.

Stripping the stupid spray paint off the top.
I might have been crying when I took this picture.

The heroic table legs.

Day Three: Once that nightmare was over (with the help of my very patient husband), I decided a stain was a better option that hand painting (Lord knows I wouldn't dare spray paint ever again.) I grabbed a weathered gray stain, and it magically transformed the oak table into this two-toned cutie. 

Day Four: PHEW! It was finally over. Varnish on, everything dry, it now sits in our dining room--with my itty bitty Christmas tree atop. I love it! 

My little helper. Don't look too closely at my dirty carpet. 

(this is my girly tree, filled with sparkly pink and purple ornaments.
I'm surrounded by testosterone and our humongous Vegas tree in the other room,
so I wanted something of my own.

What about you? Any DIY projects that have wrecked your soul or saved your life this holiday season?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Overcoming Shame in the Locker Room and Black Friday High

You know that awkward moment when you're in the gym locker room- bra over your towel- cause you're too embarrassed of your body? Just happened to me the other day. ("Do I overshare?" she wondered as she typed.)

Here's the amazing thing about God and overcoming shame....mid-bra over towel, I recognized another gal who had just finished up her workout. We started chatting and she told me all the things God was doing in her life. She had done some things in the past for the wrong reasons--now she was making healthy choices--for herself!

I don't want this blog to be about weight all the time because that can bring up its own shame. But body image issues and shame are so connected for women. I just had to share how this locker room lady encouraged me. God knew I needed to hear her story that day in the middle of my own struggle.

I know we may never love our bodies every single second of the day. I do wonder, though, what would happen if we could develop a wry affection for them; an approach of kindness and dignity, rather than disdain. That, combined with sharing our stories--I truly believe shame will be forced out the locker room door.


Also, this has absolutely nothing to do with overcoming shame....I did the Black Friday thing last night at Target for the very first time. I was always such a skeptic and not at all excited about the crowds. But...


I got all my shopping done, bought more than I probably needed, and found so many amazing deals, I somehow convinced myself I was tricking the store--which I am sure is all a part of their Evil Lord Business plan in the first place.


Happy Day After Thanksgiving, ya'll.

May you shop til you too are an addict and may you fight shame with some body-kindness.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thankful, Grateful, Celebrate-ful (Is that a word?)

Things I'm Thankful For:

1) I just turned in the first draft of my manuscript for Overcomer: Kicking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding Your Soul. If you love the Mandisa song, then you'll have it stuck in your head like I do...I am praising God for this dream come true (and the break I'll get, at least until the edits come rolling in.)

2) Book covers. Zondervan asked what books covers I like, which made me thankful for the amazing artists who come up with these concepts, and the fact that I'll actually have a cover on my book! It's so surreal. I sent these (plus six others) as examples of covers I you have a favorite book cover?


2) This commercial. I saw this yesterday at the gym--I've seen it before--but I seriously teared up (while jogging next to a teenage boy who was on the treadmill beside mine.) You are more than a number, ooh. gets me every time.

3) You! Thank you for being patient as I've taken some time away from blogging to finish up my first draft. Now, you'll probably hear from me more than you ever wanted to.

Happy Thanksgiving! (And yes, our giant tree is going up this weekend, so I might as well say it...Merry Christmas!)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

International Day of the Girl Child

Kev and I had an amazing weekend in Maryland with Grace Community Church Young Adults—seeing so many men and women stand and declare their freedom in shame from Christ—I can’t even begin to express my gratitude to God. His presence was powerful. Thank you so much for praying.  

I’ll be out of touch for a bit as I'm sprinting to my book deadline…but I wanted to leave you with this speech by our dear friend, Lawrence Temfwe, director of Jubilee Centre, Zambia. 

Kevin and I spent about a year in Zambia, Africa with Jubilee Centre and the Temfwes. We love the country dearly. Last weekend was “International Day of the Girl Child” because, yes, boy children are still favored in that nation, as in many nations. 

Pastor Lawrence delivered the following speech on the Day…and I thought it might encourage you. 

Many girls, across the globe, still live under shame…keep praying…keep fighting…keep living shamelessly.

Talk to you in November!   
photo by Megan Cody

Go Girl Child

“As we celebrate the International Day of Girl Child I would like to remind you that October 11 is not just a day; it’s a movement. The Day of the Girl is bigger than one issue and even the day itself. 

The day gives us an opportunity to reflect on what we are doing to fully achieve gender equality everywhere. Today ought to be a time of celebration because the Girl Child is living her life to the full (John 10:10). Today we must celebrate that we rescued girls from early marriages; thank families that have come forward to provide shelter for the orphaned girls; recognize individuals that are paying school fees for the vulnerable girl child. Today we should be talking about the importance of foster parenting and adoption systems. Can we really say we are improving the living standard of the girl child?

Also, let us remind ourselves that in few days our country will be commemorating 50 years of independence. It is important for you girls to understand the sacrifices made by our leaders to free us from the slavery of the British rule and that of Arabs and Portuguese. Missionary, David Livingstone the first white person to open our country to the colonialist went as far as saying that Africans, ‘would only be persuaded to accept the Christian gospel if their social conditions were improved.’

Remember this Girl Child—the entrance of the gospel and the end of the Arab-Portuguese slave trade were the major objectives that sprang from the missionaries’ Christian faith. Our chiefs did not want our people to be sold into slavery. Out of fear they sought British protection with the help of missionaries. In this agreement the colonialists also got most of our land that was fertile, mining rights, governing rights and taxes and other privileges.

Sadly though, some missionaries actively participated in the political, economic, cultural and mental exploitation of the African people. As Africans Christians who were at missions stations become more politically conscious they found themselves confronting the combination of government and missionary power. Christianity and faith was the driving force in making Zambia, shaping its destiny as a beacon of peace and friendliness to the world. Girl Child— you are the reason why our forefathers fought for independence.

Lastly, United Nations started this annual event because it saw that in many cultures the Girl Child is undervalued. I am here to tell you that God values the girl child as much as boys, women and men. I am here to tell you that before God instituted marriage, He created a girl child and boy child in His image and told both of them to subdue the earth.
Girl Child, I am here to tell you that God has blessed you with leadership gifts to help make this world better. You’re creative, you’re clever, and you’re courageous. You must never wait for life to get easier, but you must stir yourself up with that brave spirit in you and face the challenges ahead of you. 
Listen to what Malala, a Pakistan girl, said at the UN after overcoming the challenges of a system that did not want her to go to school: 
‘The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.’ 
Go Girl Child! The Lord your God is with you. He will never leave you alone or forsake you.
Girl Child, may power and courage be born in your life today. Amen and Amen.”
Speech by Lawrence Temfwe at the Commemoration of the UN International Day of Girl at Christian Bible Church Ndola 11 October 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Refuse to Do Nothing, a FREE Bible Study Resource

Just wanted to point your lovely faces to a lovely resource from IVP this week-- you can download a free bible study on fighting against injustice--and learn how to become a modern day abolitionist-- written by my dear friend, Catherine McNiel

A companion piece to the book Refuse to Do Nothing, by Shayne Moore and Kimberly McOwen Kim, here's what Catherine writes in the intro:

"How do you think of Christianity? Do you think of it as an individual gift for you--bought by Jesus, given by God--of divine blessing and eternal life? Or do you think of it as the long process of Christ's body bringing his kingdom, justice, and righteousness to earth? The truth is that Christianity is both these things--requiring and offering new life to our individual spirits as well as our communities. As followers of Christ, we have no choice but to harness the life-changing power of his love and forgiveness, letting it empower us with courage to confront injustice and build God's kingdom." 

So, along with Catherine, consider confronting injustice and fighting against shame this week by downloading this free resource. 

In other news, I'm gearing up to head to Maryland to be the keynote speaker at Grace Community Church's young adult retreat, on the topic of overcoming shame. I'd value your prayers as I finalize my preparations, and even more so, for the hearts of the attenders--that God would move powerfully in their lives. 

I can't wait to update you. 

May you live shamelessly this week!