Self-love and Esteem of Christ.

you make me new

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As believers in Christ, our highest aim, goal, value and joy is: Christ, and Him glorified.

Our culture esteems beauty and sex appeal as one of the highest values. We may say that all people are valuable, or that being smart or kind is more important (and maybe we actually kind of believe that), but most of our actions point to physical appearance as one of our very highest values. (What do we spend our money on? What really bothers us? Who do we idolize? All these things point to our obsession with worldly beauty.)

And, even as a Christian, my flesh + the devil + the pull of our culture is on display in my life when I spend precious minutes and even hours in despair over my own insecurities and failures. My heart proves to me that I have a competing value: my self. 

My heart is heavy when I see and hear my sisters in Christ struggling with heavy hearts and thoughts of despair because of 5 extra pounds around their middle that, in their mind, defines them. I know how it can feel like life isn’t worth living if you don’t feel beautiful. I know how debilitating that can be – and how guilt for caring about such a ‘surface’ issue heaps up on top of already heavy and bitter emotions and threatens to steal all joy away.

I also know the joy that comes with self-forgetfulness. 

Mostly, we all want to live happy, fulfilled lives. We tend to believe, deep down, that to be happy we have to feel beautiful, and we really want to be worshipped by a lover who finds us attractive, and celebrated by others too. Don’t we sometimes believe that if we could have our ideal face, body, personality – then we would have true, rich happiness?

We have an adversary who seeks to destroy us. If he can divert your attention off the Son of God and onto yourself – either to glory OR despair in yourself – he is delighted to be rendering you ineffective as a soldier for the Lord, and he is delighted to be stealing away your joy in Christ. If we want to live a joyful, fulfilled life we must exalt Jesus in our hearts.

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Jesus said that where our treasure is, there is our heart. If our treasure is our bodies, a sweet haircut, a sassy pout or a thigh-gap, our treasure is in great danger of “moth and rust destroying, thieves breaking in to steal,” (Matthew 6) – or it’s all prone to fickle changing fashions, slowing metabolism, an acne breakout, etc. Basically, it’s downhill from here.

But. If our treasure is Jesus. 

If our treasure is Jesus! If He is our highest value, our greatest joy, our life’s true passion, then our treasure is Him. Our hope is secure. If our heart truly desires Christ, it is protected from being devastated by our own physical imperfections or personal failures, and it is set on the only truly satisfying, fitting treasure: Christ alone.

In light of JESUS as highest value, how then do we consider our physical bodies, or our personal accomplishments be it in the realm of home, school, weight loss or any other thing?

We should never allow our perception of our beauty or lack thereof to control us. There is no room for despair if Jesus is our highest value, and there is no room for pride, because “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4). Anything good in us has been given to us for the glory of God.

Sisters, let us day by day knock physical beauty off the throne. 

Only Jesus has the right to reign in our lives.

TK

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May Jesus be your treasure today and always.

And here’s the beautiful thing – as we fix our eyes on Him, glorifying Him and celebrating Him, we are becoming more and more like Him.

<3

jordan

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16)

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another…” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

* Check out this great article on Self-love from Desiring God.

here’s to August…

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August is fast becoming one of my favorite months.

I almost feel like I am betraying my younger self when I say this, but – I think the fall is absolutely my favorite season.

It used to be summer, what with being a student and those being the blissful free-from-school months, the camp and pool and afternoon-drive months.

But, now that summer no longer has that advantage over me (though it does bring garden season — woop woop!), I whole-heartedly prefer the autumn.

Summer isn’t gone yet and I’m in no rush for it to make an exit – but August brings schedule and structure and anticipation of autumn – which is almost better than the thing itself. It’s birthday month for several beloved people…and one little guy that I am partial to is celebrating his very first birthday!

So here’s to August! And wringing every last and best ounce of joy out of summer…<3

a few interesting links & other fun things for your enjoyment:

Shepherding Like Jesus – sermon from the Village Church!

Who isn’t a sucker for adorable bows & headbands on little girls? I am eyeing a few from this shop for Kaya. Adorable, right?!

Ever made kombucha? Local friends, hit me up for a scoby to get you started! Free to a good home. ;-) My most recent batch (Jasmine Green tea with MO plums!) is in its 2nd ferment and I can’t wait to try it!

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“Mothers should cultivate their souls, that in turn they may cultivate the souls of their children.” – Billy Graham

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“Passion makes every detail important; there is no realism like the insatiable realism of love.” – GK Chesterton

What is your favorite season (or month)? Why?

Happy August, friends.

 

<3 jc

P.S. I updated the “Best of…” the blog page – check it out! :)

roots.

God has blessed me in a lot of ways since moving to Morgantown, even though when people ask “How do you like it?” or “How are you doing?” I usually sigh and scramble for words to somehow express that it’s been really hard, without sounding all whine-y and self-centered (which I actually am, but – by God’s grace – am seeking to change!), because how can one complain when serving such a faithful God? But it truly is difficult at a gut-wrenching level and I don’t have thick enough skin to pretend otherwise…;-)

But this afternoon I feel full to “popping”. My soul, my inner person, is happy and nourished, feeling nurtured and seen. This morning I was out for a walk and stopped by my cutting garden to pick bright calendula, zinnias, and sunflowers. Each of their bright petals happily beam, conveying health, vitality – evidence of rain, sunshine, roots sinking deep into healthy soil.

And roots, thats what I haven’t had lately. We ripped up out of Kansas City, following the call of our Father. We were ripped out of our life there, ripped away from a community I love. Away from the friends, family, church, city we belong(ed) to.

I miss my life there. I miss being seen and known and loved, feeling a sense of pride and “belonging” – (even though I was unaware of the feeling! Now I know it in it’s absence.). And we haven’t been around here long enough to feel any sort of rooted. Not that we can’t or won’t, just that in general I have felt like the dried out, stunted and struggling garden transplant – my “home” roots have been torn away, and my “here” roots haven’t really been established yet. It’s a dry and vulnerable existence. ;-) I’ve wondered if my health and vitality and fruitfulness will ever recover (a whole 5 months in, right?!…overdramatic/emotional much?! lol).

But today, there was rain. :) And I am thankful.

Thankful for friends who see, and care to know, opening their hearts to someone new, sharing coffee and time and their story.

For women with more experience and wisdom than me, who are willing to share and point out the way.

For old friends and family, staying in touch.

For a happier spirit, refreshed by kindness and love.

For the joy of having fellowship in Christ.

For El Roi, the God who sees me.

For baby-tender roots starting to form here.

For a new understanding of what it means to be a pilgrim on the earth…and that it is okay to not truly feel “at home” and to long for heaven, where we will see God face to face, knowing Him fully and being known by Him, enjoying perfect community with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Thats what I really, deeply long for.
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Because really we’re all transplants and pilgrims, souls alive and growing, but still waiting and longing for our true home, where we’ll burst into bloom before the LORD – our souls’ true desire.

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. ” Colossians 2:7

<3 jc

Broken Hearts & the Faithfulness of God

I used to think “brokenhearted” would never happen to me. I had enough high school breakups (only a few, but still enough!) and dramatic fall outs with “friends” growing up to know that one ought to be rather particular about the sort of people you allow yourself to become very close with. “Brokenhearted” only happens to the extremely boy-crazy or ultra-sensitive, right? Ehhh…wrong.

Care about any human being in the world (yourself included!), and you are liable to become brokenhearted at some point or another. What’s more, the Lord calls us to love one another, which leaves us wide open to heart injuries of the deepest, most painful variety.

But – there is sacred balm for this heartache, healing ointment for this crushing discouragement.

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Psalm 34:18: “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

We know the Lord is always with us, but in some magnificent and mysterious way, he is near to us in a special way when our hearts are broken. When a close friend betrays you. When your child is living in grievous sin and rebellion. When your spouse is distant, aloof, absent. When a lifelong dream slips away. When the heaviness of your heart distracts, exhausts you. When you can’t remember what joy, community, and hope feel like. When your grief overwhelms you and it seems not a soul could care.

Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “Broken hearts think God far away, when he is really most near them…” When you most need him, he is near (Merriam-Webster: “in close or intimate manner”). If you are brokenhearted or crushed in spirit, our tender-hearted Savior is especially sensitive to you. He is close. Don’t believe the lie that He is absent, or unconcerned. He is in tune with your heart, and when you are brokenhearted, know that He is near to you.

As we cry out to God, we know He is able to heal our broken relationships and remedy any problem we face, but even if he chooses not to, there is great comfort in him. In the Psalms, we also hear proclaimed, “How good it is to be near God!” (Psalm 73:28) It is good to be near God! In a great, mysterious and miraculous way, the Lord works good for us out of our brokenness as it draws us near to Him. C.S. Lewis says that in the Psalms (and to David), God is the “all-satisfying Object.” He himself, his nearness, his presence, is balm for broken hearts.

Celebrate the presence today of the dearest, most intimate Friend of your Soul. When your heart is broken, when your spirit utterly crushed, in that moment when you need him most – He is near.

Psalm 145:18 “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him; to all who call upon Him in truth.”

put ‘em in their place.

Sometimes I forget the place my children really ought to have in my life.

At times, they’re an accessory. Something pretty and charming, meant to make me look better. Are they doing well, being obedient, excelling in something? Ahh, good…maybe I’m “okay”…

At times, they’re an inconvenience, a chore, a difficult reality keeping me from some better life I’ve imagined that is less sweatpants-and-“I answered that question 13 times already” and more flattering to my ego or something.

But what are they really? How ought I really be thinking about these little ones entrusted to my care?

They’re not an idol. They’re not an obstacle.

They are a gift from the Lord. They are a blessing. {Psalm 127}

God forbid I consider them any other way.

In the midst of the mess, the expense, the exhaustion, the stretching-in-every-way, the setting-aside of other dreams…Oh, Lord! Renew my mind to truly consider them, from my heart, as a gift and a blessing, and to treasure them as You do.

<3 jc

Consider One Another

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. 

{Hebrews 10:23-25 NASB} 

Recently I’ve been reading Hebrews, and repeatedly these words have caught my attention: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”

Usually our thoughts focus around ourselves. It’s a reality of our self-centered human nature. But here, the Lord is calling us to consider our brothers and sisters. To know them, understand them, study them to discern the way the Lord made them. As we begin to comprehend, through the Spirit’s revealing, the essence of their person, we can find ways to “provoke” (KJV), “stimulate” (NASB) or “motivate” (ESV) them to love and good deeds for the body of Christ and the good of the world. To do any of this with and for our believing family, we must be connected to one another through assembling together, “all the more as you see the day drawing near.” – and it is, amen?! :)

Have you studied your spouse in this way? What makes him tick? Who has God called him to love, and how? Is there anything keeping him from that? What good deeds has the Lord given your husband to do? Do you understand what he is called to do and know how to effectively encourage him in that? Proverbs 10:11 says “the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” Are your words motivating and life-giving for your husband?

What about your children? Consider them. What moves them? How might you nudge your daughter to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted?” (Ephesians 4:32) Do your sons open their mouths for the rights of all the unfortunate? Do they defend the rights of the afflicted and needy? (Proverbs 31:8-9) We need to exhort them every day, that none of them may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). Let us be always seeking “to do good to one another and to everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:15) In this way, we are the true salt of the earth.

Perhaps our own example of righteous living is the best way to provoke, stimulate or motivate one another to love and good deeds, as Matthew Henry says “A good example given to others is the best and most effectual provocation to love and good works.”

Of this passage in Hebrews, Henry also says: Christians ought to have a tender consideration and concern for one another; they should affectionately consider what their several wants, weaknesses, and temptations are; and they should do this, not to reproach one another, to provoke one another not to anger, but to love and good works, calling upon themselves and one another to love God and Christ more, to love duty and holiness more, to love their brethren in Christ more, and to do all the good offices of Christian affection both to the bodies and the souls of each other.” (Matthew Henry)

This is no hopeless endeavor, for we trust in One who is Faithful.

Consider one another.

 

sufficiency for a weekend-workday

Dimness falls on my weekend-workday. After kissing 3 baby faces, praying sweet dreams over each, I gather strewn socks and cups. Order occurs only after dark in this season of our family’s life. I’m tired, and have to pray for grace and strength to do each of the next tasks. The temptation of discouragement flickers through me. I sigh, grabbing broom, sweeping flour, raisins, cinnamon. But there in that growing pile of kitchen mess, I see memories represented. Chubby hands spreading raisins over dough and stuffing many more into chatty little-boy mouth. His blue eyes are bright with joy and jokes and mischief. My right hand girl is beside me; fine-and-bright haired, perched on her chair. She thoughtfully paints butter across dough, asking “Can I help roll it up?” Suggesting we make cinnamon rolls every day (!).

The mess is contained in the dust pan, in the trash. The dishes, overflowing the sink, need containing also and I turn to them next. Again, I sigh and am tempted to settle into the heaviness of discouragement – but there, in the window above the sink, I admire the dogwood branch snipped for me by dearest friend, the one my soul loves. I study the white petals, the pink-brown corners, the staggered blossoms exclaiming ‘Spring!’ up and down fresh branch. My beloved chose me, as he chose this branch for our vase. Though there are waves of new and shifting and changing circumstances threatening to upset my life – my love, imitating our sweet Savior, is a constant presence, a consistent friend. ‘Til death do us part’ – sometimes sounds like a somber life sentence, but today it’s a promise I treasure as I ought.

I’ve been praying for God to help me “get it under control.” Maybe if I could sleep a little more? If we could go a month or so with no flu bug? Maybe if the Lord would magically give me an extra 48 hours to just “get ahead”…I’ve been asking for God to let me sleep and get caught up so I can accomplish my stuff and feel good about it. But repeatedly, it seems he says to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” And here is my turning point: to make friends with my weakness, my inability to conquer my to-do list on my own, being truly content in my weakness as an instrument and gift from the Lord – or – to continue in miserable angst and dissatisfaction with myself, my life, and all the things (people) “in the way” of me feeling awesome about myself. 

“Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12)

Christ is sufficient. 

<3 jc

“The gospel stands above and beyond all the most practical, family-friendly, or cost-effective philosophies of mothering. The good news of Jesus Christ is superior to our to-do lists and metaphorical mother-of-the-year trophies. This is because the greatest problem a mother has is not a lack of creativity, accomplishment, or skill, but her inability to love God and others as Jesus loves her (John 13:34)…..God’s irresistible grace binds our wandering heart to himself and frees us to love him back and overflow in love to our neighbors…because of Christ’s work on the cross, we can live God’s way of love in our homes and in the world even as our hands are full (Gal. 5:16-26; Eph. 4:17-6:18).” – Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full

 

that dangerous place

“You will never know the peace he will give until you put yourself where you most fear.”

Hearing that we were following God into a new place, a new ministry, a friend of mine who is a missionary in a closed SE Asian country shared a story with me about a big step their family took a few years ago. They were moving from one more populated, somewhat Westernized larger city, into a more remote area in their country where there was no health care (she has 3 young children) and some real political tensions. She had some anxieties about the potential dangers, but they saw God was leading them to reach the unreached in that place. Their leader encouraged her, “you will never know the peace he will give until you put yourself where you most fear.”

The story was encouraging to me as we moved across the country, leaving friends and family and familiarity…I did have peace. And joy. God was taking us.

But the words continued to rattle and clang in my mind – the way they do when God has something else for me to glean from them.

Today I was responding to some over-due e-mails and re-read her encouraging words (and can I just say, it’s pretty humbling to be encouraged by someone I so admire and consider the truest salt of the earth I know!). I couldn’t help but ask myself – “What do I fear that is holding me back? What do I need to give over to the Lord, in exchange for His peace?” 

I had tasted fear before, but wasn’t intimately acquainted with it until I had children. Suddenly a new world of dangers has burst into vibrant life. Mostly they are fears for my children and their physical and spiritual safety, but then there are also fears that I will never sleep again, have a rational thought in the next decade, or be able to leave the house without forgetting somebody’s something till the day I die. I fear messing my kids’ lives up. I fear I’ve already messed up mine. I fear that if I am in certain situations, I will be depressed and in despair.

But I love these words from the Savior:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid…” {Jesus, recorded in John 14

The peace Jesus gives us is “not as the world gives”…worldly peace might be a fat bank account, and safe suburb, a promise of health and security. But Jesus’ peace is different. It is over-and-above circumstances, filled with the Holy Spirit, unafraid – even in the face of “the ruler of this world” (our enemy).

What do you fear?

Maybe, like me, it’s discouragement and depression, or some unspeakable harm befalling your children. Maybe it’s a financial or health concern. Maybe it’s vulnerability with a loved one. Can we throw off these fears, begging God to clear our minds of the fog they bring – and ask Him for peace instead? Let us enter bravely into those places that Satan would make us fear. The Lord has ordained peace for us (Isaiah 26:12)! Is there a dangerous place that God is calling you? Can I urge you, friend – step out. There is peace. Sweet peace and freedom.

My sweet friend is experiencing the peace that passes understanding, in a dark and hostile place. Let us throw off our fears! – and every sin that hinders us, so we can “run with endurance the race that is zset before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12)

Peace to you, friend.

<3 jc

A Morning Prayer {Psalm 5}

“In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.”  Psalm 5:3, NASB

“My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” Psalm 5:3, KJV

morning kissies

Mothers of young children expect, almost invariably, to be awakened by their little ones early in the morning. Asking – “Can I get up now?”, slipping in for cuddles, crying out for a clean diaper, “staaaaaarving” for breakfast. It is routine; predictable as the sunrise and the cock’s crow. If a morning came when I didn’t hear a little voice calling for me, for help – the silence would be terribly alarming. But, by God’s grace, I do hear sweet voices every morning. They wait expectantly for me to provide them with all they need for their day – food, clothes, the days’ ‘agenda’ and love. That is the only way for them to start the day. Oh, how I love to hear their voices! The groggiest, most painfully tired morning is somehow made beautiful with the sound of their voices.

And how else could we, the children of the LORD, start our day? Do we not need all from Him, and have every reason to expect that He will generously give it? Are our voices routine and predictable, a sweet morning fragrance and aroma to our King who never sleeps? He is a king! The King of kings, but He is our Father too, and we have reason to believe he delights to satisfy our needs and desires. We tumble out of bed and tip-toe into His presence with messy heads and hearts and ravenous appetite, and believe, childlike – He will smile; anticipate – He will provide.

Are we too proud? Starting our day on our own? Making fools of ourselves and frustrations of our lives, when God delights in our morning requests?

Instead,  let us “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Our time of need is first thing in the morning.

<3 jc

“When first thy eyes unveil, give thy soul leave to do the like; our bodies but forerun the spirit’s duty: true hearts spread and heave unto their God, as flowers do to the sun; Give him thy first thoughts, then, so shalt thou keep Him company all day…” – Henry Vaughn

 

 

“When I awake, I am still with you.” – Psalm 139:18

on parenting failures and God’s abundant faithfulness

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True…” 

 

One evening last week I lay in bed late, eyes wide open, mind still busy.

It’d been a long and full and hard couple of weeks. I was exhausted and stressed and irritable. Unfortunately, my dear first born had been the one who suffered most.

I was convicted that I needed to apologize to her for hurrying her so much. For being frustrated with normal little kid antics, for sighing deeply and dramatically over innocent (or not!) messes, for responding in anger and for not spending as much time just talking and playing with her. My heart was so heavy. I wanted to tell her that, with Jesus’ help, I would try to be a better Mommy tomorrow.

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But. It was after 11. She was sound asleep. I sighed, and prayed, and opened up a book, deciding that I would try to talk with her first thing in the morning.

It was maybe 2 minutes later that I heard her call out from her room “Mommy, mommy, mommy!!!” And I smiled, knowing the Lord’s presence and gift of a special moment – the chance to make things right, even in the middle of the night. He heard me! A dream had woken my girl up, and I knew that moment was God’s “second chance” for me. My sleepy little 4 year old was practically purring like a kitten, loving every second of cuddling in mommy’s bed. She was quick with forgiveness and hugs and kisses and “It’s okay, I love you Mommy.”

In an amazingly redemptive moment, my own sin, followed by my apology and the forgiveness of God and my child gave me a fresh and powerful encounter with the Gospel, and allowed me an opportunity to share it with my first-born disciple.

I was so happy to have my conscience relieved, to share a special moment with my daughter, and to see the Lord being faithful to help me as a parent. I confessed my sin, He forgave me, and then provided me an immediate opportunity to make things right. It is such an overwhelmingly strenuous and monumental thing to be a parent! I’m so grateful that God doesn’t leave me to go it alone. He is FAITHFUL and He is TRUE.

With His help, I’ll be a better mommy tomorrow…;-)

<3 jc