Category Archives: Seeing yourself through the lens of God’s grace

The Important Thing

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The Important Thing

What is important? I find myself examining my life with deeper scrutiny and that question begs an answer. Time is running out. While I would love to have decades more of health and life, I realize there is no assurance of tomorrow.

Last week, my granddaughter read “The Important Book” by Margaret Wise Brown. Little Miss P wrote a short response to the book. It was thought provoking; I loved her choice of subjects and the important thing about each.

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Although I am familiar with some of Brown’s work…I’ve read “Goodnight Moon” many times to my grandchildren…I had not read this one.

I ordered The Important Book from the library. (I hope you can also order online and have books delivered to your doorstep…it’s the most fun ever to find a book resting against the door, just waiting for me to arrive home!).

Today as I passed by the door, I noticed the telltale envelope. It’s always an adventure since I typically forget which titles I’ve requested as soon as I close the browser on my laptop.

It was a quick read. One after another I read the important thing about a spoon, rain, snow and others. The last important thing gave me pause.

The important thing about you is that you are you.
It is true that you were a baby and you grew,
and now you are a child and you will grow,
into a man, or into a woman.

But the important thing about you is that you are you.[i]

Earlier I had read these words from the book of Ephesians:

“You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world… God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God… For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
Ephesians 2:2,8,10 NLT

As I read Brown’s words, written fifty years ago, I was inspired to write from my perspective; a woman seasoned by years of life and inspired by the Word of God and his grace in my life.

I am bombarded with messages every day; if I’m not careful, the noise is constant, relentless. Social media, television, radio, podcasts…there are so many voices and each of them is challenging, accusing, taunting or teaching and I am overwhelmed.

I cannot possibly do it all, know it all, absorb and retain it all. I try to filter it by relevance and importance and my brain hurts but the ache in my chest is even greater.

But I return to what He has said. The most important thing about me; the one thing I need to remember, to make my focus.

The important thing about me is that God saved me.
It is true that I used to live in sin, and
I am his masterpiece,
a new creature in Christ and
I will do good things that he planned for me.

But the important thing about me is that God saved me.

 

His by grace alone,

lorraine

[i] The Important Book, by Margaret Wise Brown, Copyright 1949

Grace for the Guilty Girl

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Grace for the Guilty Girl

My friend recently revealed a picture of Jesus that hangs in her home; a picture that she stole from the YMCA. She might not have been so forthcoming, but the picture held great significance to her first book and to her journey into grace.

There are no pictures of Jesus hanging in my home. When I met my husband and we began visiting some of his relatives, it was odd to see Jesus’ portrait on the wall along with all the family photos. I assumed it was a “southern protestant” thing.

I grew up in a Catholic home. There was at least one crucifix in every room. When we went to mass, there was a huge cross behind the altar. Jesus hung there quite gracefully despite the nails and the crown of thorns that pierced his skin.

I had a hard time reconciling all of these icons to a living Savior. At times I felt like a kid who just wanted to meet the “real” Santa Claus.

I met real Jesus in 1972. At seventeen years old I finally saw Jesus in the Gospel of John. Real Jesus. The Word. There was no way I could turn anywhere but toward him with everything I had.

As I look back at my relationship with him, I must admit that it took time for me to sort out all the influences of various representations of Jesus. When my sweet friend shared her book, Stolen Jesus with me, I followed her journey to discovering real Jesus and found myself nodding my head, laughing at her crazy stories and crying when the truth hit close to home.

Like Jami, I experienced the tension of reconciling actual life to the expectations of various religious practices and people. And like Jami, I thought it was Jesus making the demands. Every week I would listen to a sermon telling me what my life should look like. I tried so hard to keep the rules.

  • I felt guilty when I worked full time. Good moms, Godly Moms, stayed at home and raised their babies. But I knew in my gut that my babies needed health insurance.
  • I “prayed hard” for people with beer in their fridge while I struggled to reconcile how it was not sinful to overeat.
  • I dragged my children to church every time the doors opened while secretly resenting the stress of constantly running and the sacrifices our family was making.

I was a steaming cauldron of Catholic guilt and protestant legalism. Always compliant, I just wanted to please everyone, especially God. Despite my relationship with Jesus, I constantly doubted and mostly denied his grace.

When I began to follow Jami’s blog, I recognized a familiar pattern. We fail to keep all the rules; it’s impossible. Our faith wavers; we doubt. We beat ourselves up, give up and promise we will start new tomorrow or better yet, next week. When anything bad happened, I assumed it was God punishing us.

  • Car broke down? We didn’t tithe last week because the baby needed medicine. God strikes!
  • Owe taxes this year? I knew we should have given more to missions instead of taking a week of vacation. God strikes again!

If I had a picture of Jesus in my house those days, I would have turned his face toward the wall to escape his tender, yet disappointed gaze. I was on a performance track that was wearing me out and proving over and again that I just couldn’t measure up.

The truth of the Bible finally brought me to this realization:

There is nothing more to be done. I cannot add nor subtract anything from the truth that in Jesus I am righteous and God is good. My righteousness is in Him alone.

“Under the new covenant I am righteous. The work is completed. I am obedient to callings on my life not out of terror but out of love that seeps from me, because God is good.”[1]

I am so thankful that Jami has written this book, sharing her journey with so much candor and wit. I readily admit that I’m biased. She’s a generous person who has lifted my chin again and again. She was the first “for real” writer to notice me and I am forever grateful.

Aside from all of that, I would still recommend her book to you. While the subject matter is serious, she weaves humor and story into every chapter. I pray that if you relate to these words, you will read to the very end:

“For years I had professed an adoration for Jesus Christ, but in my poor state on that night, I knew it was more habit than relationship, more culture than worship and more clan than companionship.”[2]

Follow Jami to Jesus, friend. You’ll find grace and peace in his presence.

By his grace alone,

lorraine

Purchase your copy of Stolen Jesus from any of the following online retailers:

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Order your copy here:

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[1] Jami Amerine, Stolen Jesus, Harvest House Publishers

[2] Jami Amerine, Stolen Jesus, Harvest House Publishers

Irma is Coming – Are You Ready?

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Irma is Coming – Are You Ready?

I approached the parking lot and cruised a couple of rows before easing into a space at the very end. There were people nearly running toward the grocery store at eleven o’clock on a Tuesday morning. I approached the store and realized that the aisles were jammed with people. I passed a woman who was announcing to no one in particular, as she loaded her cart with bottle after bottle of wine, “I’m prepping for the hurricane”.

I grabbed a box of protein bars and rounded toward a few other essentials that I hoped to collect at this discount grocer. I came to an abrupt stop when I noticed all the checkout lanes were backed up fifteen feet. I backtracked, returning my few items to the shelves and walked next door to the office supply store.

Earlier that morning my phone began to buzz with text alerts from our daughter. She suggested the office supply as a good source of bottled water and I knew she was right. I walked into the normally calm and quite store, quickly realizing that the idea was not original with us. Not a cart was to be found, but there was water on a pallet near the door. I grabbed a couple of cases, dragging them across the store to the checkout area, where a line had formed.

With each step, I dragged my burden until I noticed the gentleman in front of me with a full-size cart containing a few cases of water. I asked if I might put my water in his cart and he agreed. After paying for the purchase, I turned to him and he asked if he might deliver the water to my car. I was touched by his kindness as we walked and discussed the frantic activity we’d just witnessed.

There is a big storm headed our way. Thanks to technology, we know a lot about the size and can even reasonably predict the timing of its arrival. While many around us are fleeing the storm, we’ve assessed our risk and have decided the best and most practical approach for our family is to ride it out.

It is no surprise that I woke this morning thinking about storms. I often consider how it must have been for the early settlers in Florida when a few clouds gathered, the wind picked up and rain began to fall. They could not have known the magnitude of what was to come.

I have faced a few significant hurricanes in over sixty years of life in Central Florida. I’m a veteran and though I’m not prone to panic, I prepare. During the preparations and throughout the storm, our family, friends and community huddle up and support one another.

All of this was on my mind as God reminded me the greatest storms I have faced had nothing to do with the weather. His voice was clear:

This, dear one. This is the reason that I have placed you in a spiritual family. When the storms come, don’t try to carry the burden alone. I flashed back to the office supply store, and saw myself dragging my burden, bent over and struggling.

This week God reminded me of a verse that I’ve heard so often used in wedding ceremonies, referring to the relationship between a husband and wife. In context, the wisdom teacher points out the advantages of companionship:

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person fails, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.
~ Ecclesiastes 5:9-10 NLT ~

Too often we drag our burdens in solitude; sometimes out of shame or guilt. Other times we believe the lie that no one cares. And yet he tells us to carry them for one another.

Carry each other’s burdens….
~ Galatians 6:2 NIV ~

What about the kind stranger in the office supply store? I don’t know if he would have noticed my burden as he talked on his phone. Perhaps he thought to offer, but feared I would misunderstand his kindness as being too forward.

I asked for help.

I know that Jesus is with us in the storm, but I believe that we are implored to walk the storms together. The wise writer went on to say this:

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated,
but two can stand back to back and conquer.
Three are even better… for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
~ Ecclesiastes 5:12 NLT ~

Ideally, we would be sensitive to one another’s burdens despite distractions, but life happens. What if we looked around and noticed the person with capacity to help bear our burden and we asked for help?

Praying for grace amid every storm,

lorraine

 

 

 

 

Like a Child

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Like a Child

I’ve just spent three days at Walt Disney World. In fact, I’m writing on my phone in a restaurant at  Hollywood Studios while sitting with a napping grandchild.

My granddaughters are obsessed with princesses. I love seeing my sweet girls twirl in their sparkly gowns. You may question the wisdom of it, but I want them to be comfortable with celebrating the beauty that He longs to set free in their hearts.

The King’s daughter is all glorious within;
Her clothing is interwoven with gold.

~ Psalm 45:13

Reality has a way of interrupting the magic, even at the happiest place on earth. As we waited for a royal meeting the phone buzzed with a text that jerked my adult self to attention.

Now alone with my thoughts my stomach churns, my jaw tightens and I am tempted to run down a familiar path that leads to worry and despair. A glance at the sleeping toddler makes me pause.

Early this morning, way before dawn, I woke as my bedroom door opened. Her little princess feet pattered the well-known path to me, her arms filled with princess dolls and her blanket. She lifted her burden toward me and spoke one word.

Grandma.

I unloaded her arms and pulled her into my bed; I wrapped my arms around her and she settled into the curve of my embrace. Her breathing  slowed and sleep came.

Anxiety, fear and fatigue will steal my joy in a skinny minute if I’m not paying attention. Instead, what if I choose the path that leads to  him? What if I choose to speak his name rather than reciting the woes that are sure to come?

Jesus.

I come to him, my arms filled with the worries, burdens and hurt that will steal my joy. He takes my heavy load and he pulls me close and I settle into his embrace. The weight of burdens lifts and he sings over me.

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing. ~ Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

I love that sweet little girl, but I know that my love for her pales in comparison to his love for me. He never sends us away; he pulls us close and sings songs over us. Whatever you are dealing with today, come to him…hand it to him and let him take the burden and pull you close.

Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child,
you’ll never get in. ~ Luke 18:18 The Message

Resting in his grace,

lorraine

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Asking God the Wrong Question?

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Are You Asking God the Wrong Question?

This afternoon I heard a quote that stopped me in my tracks.

“God isn’t after productivity; He’s after your heart.”

I was slain and relieved all at once.

It’s not been my most productive week. I haven’t felt well so I’m mostly going through the motions. I’m showing up where expected, but I don’t have much to show for the time spent. I can feel guilty pretty fast over that because I’m sort of driven.

The dictionary defines driven: Motivated by or having a compulsive quality or need.

I admit that I tend to measure my success and even my worth by how much I produce and how happy I’m making the people I’m producing for (craving approval is another story for later this month).

I’m my harshest critic. I should be more productive, I should be working harder, I should take a shower….

That familiar thief, comparison, is poised to snatch away my joy. I find myself discouraged over nothing in particular and everything in general. I’m frustrated over my inability to get things done even as I take careful note of all that everyone else is accomplishing (thanks, social media).

And then this afternoon some guy I’ve never heard of pops up on my radar and I decide to listen to him.

He talks about walking into every day, into every meeting, into every circumstance as a child of God.

He says my primary identity is not wife, mom, employee, or friend. My primary identity is God’s daughter.

I’m not an orphan who must figure it out on my own; I have a Father who loves me and who is going to take care of my needs.

I don’t have to claw and scrape out an existence today. Nothing is dependent on me and everything is dependent on Him.

Thanks, Allen Arnold. Thanks for the reminder.

I’m looking forward to feeling better and doing my part as He leads, but I’m so thankful that it isn’t up to me. He did not leave us as orphans!

I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:18

Friends, it begins when we start the day with this conversation: “Father, I can’t wait to see how you are going to work today.”

I’d love to hear how you walk in confidence, knowing that you have a faithful Father who is going to come through for you, in the most unexpected ways. Share your stories in the comments!

His daughter,

lorraine

If you would like to know more about Allen Arnold, check out his book. Yep, it’s one more on my growing list of must-reads!

 

Let it Be; On Messes and Control Freaks

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Let it Be; On Messes and Control Freaks

Hubby and I have been at the beach all week. Vacation paradise, right?

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What an office! I loved working in the warm salt air.

Actually, we are both working from the beach…he is doing some work in a friend’s condo and I’m doing what I always do, just with a much lovelier view. That is, as long as I keep my gaze to the East, toward the ocean.

You see, this condo is in total disarray. All of the furniture is pulled to the center of the rooms, covered in bed sheets and plastic. Every cupboard and closet is emptied. Their contents are piled high on every surface. Finding the coffee pot was a scavenger hunt.

Messy Condo

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As you can see, we found that coffee pot – survival ensured!

 

 

I happiest when my surroundings are in order; I’m easily rattled by confusion. This situation, my friends, is a recipe for disaster.

All of the televisions are disconnected; the internet signal is so weak that we can’t stream Netflix on our iPads. (Thankfully it’s been more than adequate during the day so I can work!)

There is no cell service.

We are both tired. We’ve had a couple of really full weeks and hubby is as put off by messes as I am.

So we spend most of our “down” time outside. As we should, it’s the beach after all!

On our first night here we walked along the beach. It was beautiful and relaxing. We’ve spent lots of time in the hot tub, as it’s my only option for soaking (there is not a bathtub in this condo…another interruption to my normal.)

I continue to work, testing new applications, with Jimmy Buffet singing in the background. It’s almost like vacation, but it’s not.

Honestly, by Tuesday evening, I was a grump. After a wonderful shrimp dinner, we returned to the mess and navigated the path to the bed. There was no TV to watch and I didn’t feel well. I flipped on my side and fell asleep fast.

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Storm clouds building down the beach – just like the ones building in my anxious heart.

After some rest, some coffee and some time with Jesus, I knew that I was at risk for missing the blessings of this week. So I began listing them:

  • I can work in close proximity to the man I love
  • We are eating every meal together; breakfast and lunch are on the balcony overlooking the ocean
  • The view…did I mention the view? I usually see only cubicle walls
  • Eating the best local burger
  • There is nothing I can or should do about this mess

That last bullet was a “Come to Jesus” moment for me. It was as if he said “Why is this bothering you? It’s not yours; don’t own anything that you have no control over.”

In that instant I knew this week was about more than the view and a messy condo. In fact, just a few days ago, I answered these questions in my quiet time:

  • Are you a control freak? My answer: Yes, I like to make sure things are orderly and neat. Somehow I think that if I can just control everything it will be ok. No wonder my chest hurts!
  • When is it hardest for you to trust God? My answer: When the present seems to be a train wreck.

This is the verse that He gave me that morning, as I confessed that I’m not always willing to wait for him to make things right, that I want to take charge and bring order and sense to everything around me.

Let your unfailing love surround me, LORD, for my hope is in you alone.
Psalm 33:22 ESV

As I write, I am also getting inspiration from the spiritual giants, The Beatles. Paul McCartney croons “Let it be”. And Jesus whispers, “Yes, that is for you. Just let it be.”

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This morning’s sunrise – right on schedule!

 

As I survey this mess, knowing that I own none of it, there is absolute freedom. I lift my gaze above the stuff and I see the ocean. I hear the constant roar as the waves return again and again to the shore. He’s got all of this; I can trust him with my life, messy as it gets.

Who has gone up to heaven and come down?
Whose hands have gathered up the wind?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is the name of his son?
Surely you know!
Every word of God is flawless;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Psalm 30:4-5 NIV

By his grace, in the midst of so many messes, taking refuge in him alone,

lorraine

P.S. – By some miracle of modern technology, a restart of the WIFI router has improved the signal strength and we got to watch Parenthood last night on the world’s smallest screen. Thank you, Jesus!

If you read last week’s post on my kitten adventure, here is the beginning of her new story…delivered safe and sound to her new momma:

Phoebe and Rose

 

If you missed her story, you can read it here. Thanks friends, and may all your days be “beachy”!

Spotlights and Hissy Fits

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Spotlights and Hissy Fits

She was perched on my lap, knees digging into my thighs, peering over and around the head of the very tall gentleman in the row in front of us. She was literally quivering with delight as she watched the lights come up on group after group of dancers. Without fail, she clapped fervently then cupped her hands around her mouth and let out a whoop as each took a bow.

Periodically she turned a bit to face me, excitement lighting her face. “That was so good!” she exclaimed over and over. She could barely contain her joy.

She celebrated every performance including her own. This afternoon it was about her and her dance company and she was loving the costumes, the makeup and the spotlight.

After the final curtain we all loaded into the fifteen passenger van. In a matter of moments, she went from celebrated performer to big sister/little sister/six-year-old girl whose sparkly costume was suddenly itchy and whose blood sugar was crashing. She was near having a hissy fit, but Mommy assured her she could in fact endure the costume for the short ride home.

Once there, she slipped into something far less itchy and was given some quiet time in her room to unwind. In a bit she rejoined her six brothers and sisters in the kitchen for pizza and it occurred to me that her moment in the spotlight was short.

I thought of how I deal with my “fifteen minutes of fame” experiences. We all have them from time to time…. a short period of time when the spotlight and the attention turns to us and we feel special, important and celebrated.

But for most, those are short-lived and we climb back into the fifteen passenger van that is our daily life. To be honest, I sometimes throw a private hissy fit when the celebration is over.

Oh friend, I’m so thankful for GRACE that assures us that no matter how short-lived our moments of fame may be, we are valued and loved. 

GRACE even when I’m out of sorts because the current circumstance, maybe even the thing that just a day or so ago was beautiful and sparkly, is now irritating and I just want out.
If you find yourself just outside of the afterglow of a great experience, give yourself some grace, friend. Recharge with food for your soul and take a break. Then come join us at the table, where we will again celebrate the goodness of our Father and what He does for us and through us.

“Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace.
It’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people
who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you.
The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God
is and by what he does for us, not by what we do for him.”
Romans 12:3  ~ The Message

 

Enjoying his grace in spite of my hissy fits,

lorraine

 

 

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My beautiful dancer, and her mother’s efforts to keep her flat on her feet when she’s not in the spotlight.

 

 

 

Losing Myself in a Selfie Culture

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Losing Myself in a Selfie Culture

treeThe sun was high, it’s beams breaking through the trees; shadows danced at my feet as the leaves and branches swayed with the gentle breeze. Though the air was cool, the jacket slipped off my shoulders, tied around my waist as I walked. It was as if the woods were drawing me in, inviting me to stay a while.

I inhaled deeply; the loam under my timid steps was damp from recent rains, rich with the scent of mud and wildflower blossoms. The river was just steps away, the color of my morning coffee and scattered with limbs downed by the weight of the past winter’s snow.

A plastic grocery bag was tucked into my pocket; it’s the season for morel mushrooms and this was a great spot to hunt. I determined to pay close attention to every detail as I wandered this plot of ground, wild and yet mere yards from a house filled with many beautiful and well-appointed rooms. Wilderness and refinement are neighbors on this Midwest homestead.

I was not alone. My cousin, a skilled hunter and woodsman, hiked ahead of me. I followed his lead as we broke the thicket and entered the deeper brush. I had slowed to take in the details. I thought he might have intentionally passed a patch of the prized morels as a test. He’s like that… a teacher and trainer at heart. It would be like him to set up an opportunity for me to succeed.

Woods collageOther family members went off in various directions. I couldn’t resist stopping for pictures of flowers, or downed logs and animal burrows. I fell behind, no longer within earshot of the crackling of branches and leaves as my companions trekked through the brush.

For a moment, a tremor of panic welled up, threatening to overtake my joy. I didn’t know my way out. While I had carefully surveyed every tree and wildflower in the shady thickets and examined hollow logs and the play of light with the curiosity of a child, I paid no attention to the direction I had wandered.

He would never leave me here, I reminded myself. And almost to the moment, he called out. I responded, assuring him I was fine, moving in the direction of his voice.

There were others in our small group and we occasionally caught site of one another, always hoping for a report of a find.

Finally we regrouped back at the trucks, driving out. We hadn’t gone far when he stopped and we jumped out again, this time walking to the end of a long thicket. “This is a good spot. I’ll clear the way for you to step in.”

Skillfully he parted the thorny, twisted branches and held them back as he led the way. He continued to coach and lead as I finally entered a clearing. Again I ventured off, exploring and searching but staying within earshot of my trusted guide.

I heard creaking overhead and looked up to see a huge log perched precariously between two trees – a widow maker, I would be told later. I wondered how many eyes were peering out, watching me as I was completely unaware of them. There was some calculated risk in this place, but it was beautiful and wild. There was no need for fear, rather awareness of potential danger.

Once home, I surveyed the scratches; they were superficial. Tick checks were conducted by buddies, since they tend to hitchhike in hard to locate places.

Later, as I lay quiet in my bed before sleep came, I reviewed my wonderful day. There were glorious reunions with loved ones, the simple joy of watching a dog work like a champ for a master he adores, and the peace found in a place of worship seated between two people I love.

I remembered the hike in the woods and I was grateful, even thought we never saw even one mushroom. As I thanked God for a walk in the woods, he used it to speak to me about my often misplaced hunt for affirmation.

“I’m clearing the way for you to step in. Just follow me. You’ll get some scratches, sure…but I’ll be just ahead of you, making a way. Call out to me; I’ll be listening for your voice and I’ll respond.

I’m giving you some space to explore; I want you to experience all that I’ve created for you. There is danger, sure. You may get some wounds, but they will pale in comparison to the beauty of walking with me.”

Friends I know he is leading me toward something new. I’m scared that I’ll get hurt. And I might. This life was not intended to be easy.

He is teaching me to think less about myself in the midst of a selfie culture.

I’ve found myself returning to the empty cistern of people to get my tank filled, looking for likes and loves and affirmation that only he can give. I’ve asked friends (while not openly because that’s just weird) to fill me up, to refuel me for service and I’ve come back empty. Every. Single. Time.

It’s not his plan. He’s the one and only one who never tires of me, who calls me beautiful and beloved. He will literally leave the entire flock and come searching for me (Matthew 18:12) as I wander, trying to find my way, sometimes getting lost in the distraction of the pretty things along the way.

He never tires of you. He is waiting for you to call out; I’m convinced he’s setting up scenarios for your success. He called to Peter to step out of the boat, knowing he would not sink as long as he kept his eyes on him!

Your salvation and honor depend on God alone. He is your mighty rock; pour your heart out to him and never fear rolling eyes or impatient sighs. He is trustworthy. Go ahead, lay it all out in front of him, your REFUGE. Follow him, even if you fear a few scratches. He’s got you and he’s got something beautiful for you just beyond the thorns.

By grace alone, I’m following into this new thing,

lorraine

 

Yes, my soul, find rest in God: my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people.
Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:5-8 (NOV)

 

Never Good Enough

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Never Good Enough

I dared to dream that I would be chosen. After all, it was not a popularity contest. Everything I knew confirmed that selection was based on merit. Surely my solid 4.0 GPA, my outstanding citizenship (to this day I won’t drop a scrap of paper on the ground) and my involvement in extracurricular activities guaranteed my induction into the National Junior Honor Society. Granted, I was a band geek, but nevertheless, involved. I was sure that I was good enough.

By design. students were surprised when they spotted their parents in the room. My mom anxiously awaited the call that would summon her to the super-secret ceremony which occurred during the school day.

Mother was cheering for me. She had the best intentions but she always wanted each of her children to be “the best” at everything. No pressure, right? God rest her soul. I was certain that I would forever disappoint her. I didn’t realize that in her eyes I was the prettiest, the most talented and the most deserving.

I wasn’t the least bit athletic; in fact, I was skinny and clumsy.

I was terribly near-sighted and wore thick glasses.

I was an insecure introvert.

All of my doubts about my worth were confirmed everywhere I looked. Classmates were fashion and brand conscious, wearing Izod “Gator” skirts and Aigner loafers; my mom sewed my wrap around skirts and my knockoff “Keds” were from the J. M. Fields discount store.

But I believed this one accolade was possible; I was good enough. All of the boxes were ticked.

That Spring afternoon, the timid yet hopeful eighth grade version of me walked into the lunchroom\auditorium at Robinswood Junior High with the rest of her class. She looked around expectantly and her heart fell. There was no sign of her mother.

I don’t remember the ceremony. Disappointment overwhelmed me. I reported the outcome that evening at home. My mother wisely scheduled an appointment for me to speak to the guidance counselor.

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I trembled as I waited for the meeting, but I had to know. Never before had I questioned authority, but there had to be a mistake.

The counselor couldn’t disagree with my GPA and extracurricular involvement, although she inferred I could be doing more. She had no idea that band alone required a huge sacrifice. I had responsibilities at home for younger siblings. More was not an option.

The rest of the conversation was my introduction to the squiggly realm of subjective analysis of worth. “We don’t ‘feel’ you have leadership skills”. I’m sure there was more, but I heard that one loud and clear. As I look back, there was no one to help this awkward, struggling, smart and capable young girl to develop the needed skills.

I knew that to be good enough I would have to work harder. I studied to increase my intelligence and became a decent clarinet player, occupying first chair through junior high and maintaining the first section through high school. I had something to prove, if only to myself.

In January of my senior year I heard the chapters from John for the first time in my life. Every week I thought of how hard I had tried to be good enough. The good news of the Gospel brought me to tears and into a relationship with the one who said I was worthy of his life.

Even as I grew spiritually, I continued to buy the lie that I couldn’t lead. I wasn’t drawn into the inner circle of women at church; I knew the reason. It was the big “L” on my oily forehead…Lacks Leadership! Don’t choose her. There are plenty of prettier, smarter, more engaging women out there who will lead and influence women for Jesus.

I quietly served on the third floor, the place where the carpet was worn and the corners were filled with discarded stuff from below; the lower floors where women who were natural leaders sat around tables decorated with flowers as they learned Precepts of the Bible and dug far deeper into Scripture than I would ever go with those mere girls in my little corner room.

Every year I greeted a new group of girls, gangly and unsure of themselves as they ventured into high school. And every summer I marveled at the mature young women who moved on to the next room for tenth grade. I loved them; I prayed for them and I taught them as well as I knew how about loving Jesus and knowing how fiercely he loved them.

I hadn’t given any of this much thought. My eighth grade disappointment is way back in the rear view mirror.

The days that I taught ninth grade girls, often wondering if they a) thought I was the most boring woman alive or b) the meanest because I wouldn’t take them to McDonalds for breakfast during class every week, are already more than a decade ago.

Two weeks ago I got in my car and drove for twelve hours to a women’s conference. The associate women’s minister at the church had extended an invitation. The conference center was beautiful; the teaching was solid and Biblical and the worship of the 500 women in attendance was glorious. Every detail was carefully planned and executed. It was perfect.

At the end of the conference, as Jennie Allen signed books and posed for pictures with hundreds of women, I hung back. I finally took a spot at the end of line and moments later, she greeted me. I introduced myself and handed her my book. As she signed, an arm encircled me and the associate women’s minister spoke to Jennie.

“Do you know who this is?” Playfully, Jennie responded. “Her name is Lorraine…we’ve just met!’

And the response brought hot tears to my eyes, taking my breath and my voice away. “She was my mentor all through high school.”

Cass and the Ugly Cry

“She was my mentor all through high school.”

 

As it turns out, leadership was trumped by God’s grace, worked out in my life as love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I could never have stirred up and maintained even one of those over the long haul, but the one who quickened me to life in the Spirit has given them for the building up of the body of Christ.

In that moment, he gave me a sweet glimpse into all that He had been up to on the third floor. His grace had accomplished what my striving could not.

By his grace alone,

lorraine

Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around
so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help.
That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get  all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time.
Oh, yes!
1 Peter4:10-11 ~ The Message

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I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be part of this beautiful woman’s journey. Cass is leading women at Shades Mountain Baptist Church. The lady in the middle? She’s pretty cool too – meet Jennie Allen!

 

 

 

I Want What I Want

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I Want What I Want

 

As I stepped into the salon, Kate looked up from her client and smiled, her dark lashes fluttering as she flashed a bright smile. “Hi Lorraine! I’ll be finished up here soon, okay?”

I sat on the lumpy parson’s chair next to the bay window and selected a worn magazine from the stack. Flipping through the pages, I focused on her client. They chatted about styling tools and I silently admired her cute outfit. “Love those thongs”, I thought. I almost asked her about them and then noticed the Tory Burch signature hardware on the strap.

They finished up and I caught sight of the exquisite setting of her diamond ring as she pulled her Louis Vuitton tote from the shelf behind me. Kate excused herself as they walked toward her Lexus, cheerfully chatting.

As we began the process of highlighting my hair to hide some of the evidence of my age, I mentioned the previous client. “She’s beautiful; and she has lovely taste in accessories and cars!” Kate agreed and we went on to catch up on one another’s lives.

A day later I sent my sweet stylist a text with a selfie, thanking her for my new look. She responded with an innocent comment that made me stop and think.

“You look stunning! You look like you drive a Lexus and wear Tory Burch.” She was humoring me based on my comments the previous day. I admired the woman’s sense of style and her impeccable taste, but that was really all that I knew about her. Was it that obvious that I might have wanted her stuff, if only for a moment?

I hesitated and then responded to her text from a place where God is working overtime to transform my heart. “I hope I look like I care about people; that I would drive my Passat to wherever you are when you need something.”

Lest you think this is a rant about designer handbags, it’s not. I own some; but I don’t want to be defined by the clothes I wear, the bag on my shoulder or the car that I drive.

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Image is powerful. I’ve wrestled with wanting a certain look and with not looking my age while not looking like a fool who’s in denial about her age. I want to be a Godly woman with great taste, who loves people. I want what I want.

Last night I sat in the quiet of my living room. It was early evening and the sun was streaming in the window as it crept lower toward the horizon, landing on the pages of a book I am reading. A phrase jumped off the page and I was arrested by it.

The author, Jennie Allen, was sharing a conversation she had with her friend, Jessica. Jessica spoke these words: “Jennie, I think most of us live thinking there is a medium. A place where we can live regular lives and serve God too.”

The truth is that when we finally surrender our lives, there is no medium. There is no contentment in living in the middle. I’ve spent most of my life precisely in the middle. Medium seemed safe and moderate, you know?

Your surrendered life won’t look like mine. For some, a surrendered life is a fifteen passenger van filled with car seats and kids who may or may not bear resemblance to you. For others it’s a hut in Africa or a shanty in Haiti. For some young adults it’s contentment in singleness and for others it’s contentment in a marriage that needs healing. There are moms who are worn out and worn down by a rebellious child they continue to love unconditionally.

Jennie went on to say that the only way to live is to die. It’s backwards and counterintuitive, isn’t it friend? And yet, there it is:

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—
Romans 6:6 NIV

 I want what I want. But in Christ, when my heart is truly his, when I am fully surrendered, I will want what he wants. Every day he’s opening my eyes to the reality that my pilgrimage is short compared to eternity. He’s realigning my priorities.

This is certain. When we approach Mt. Zion in the heavenly Jerusalem, as countless thousands of angels sing and God’s firstborn are assembled in a joyful gathering to welcome us, it won’t matter who we wore or what we drove. Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant will greet us, speaking forgiveness.

On that day, my only adornment will be his grace. I think it looks really good on me.

Stunning, in fact.

Grace to you,

lorraine

I referenced Jennie Allen’s book,
Anything – the Prayer that Unlocked my God and My Soul.
I highly recommend it and you can get it here.

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