Please Be Yourself

One of the thoughts consuming a lot of space in the three-ring circus of my brain lately is what it means to fully be ourselves.  In Christ, what it means for me to be myself and you to be yourself, ALL THE TIME.

I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while.  We are all created unique.  There are no two people exactly alike.  Even identical twins aren’t identical in EVERY respect, and they come from exactly the same sperm and the same egg.  There is something unique and different about every single human being.

According to WorldOMeters, Real Time World Statistics, there are now over 7 billion people currently living on the earth.  According to the same website, it is estimated that 106 billion people total have lived on the earth in all of history.  While 106 billion is not 100% accurate, let’s just say that anything over 7 billion is a really big number.

What I find fascinating is that over 7 billion times the Creator of the Universe, our Heavenly Father, the Infinite God, Love Himself, our Daddy, did not repeat a single human design.  We are all unique.  Why?

One of the infinite ways we are all unique is in our personalities.  Last week a friend of mine posted an interesting twist on the Myers Briggs Personality Type Chart to my Facebook page.  It’s based on the characters from The Lord of the Rings.  For the record The Lord of the Rings is right up there with Steel Magnolias on my list of all-time favorite movies – all three of them.  And the book itself is on my all-time top 10 reading list.  Thank you J. R. R. Tolkein!

Just to cut to the chase, when I took the assessment I was an INTJ (Introvert, I(N)tuitive, Thinking, Judging) or you can just call me Elrond.  What I realized though is that for many, many years I didn’t realize I was an introvert and tried to live as an extrovert.  In fact, in many ways I viewed being an introvert as less important than being an extrovert.  I mean aren’t extroverts the leaders?  Aren’t they the ones who are constantly out there getting things done?  In the context of Christianity, aren’t they the ones on the front lines serving God?  Aren’t they moving and shaking the Kingdom?  Don’t I want to be like one of them?

By living as a closet introvert (and a fraudulent extrovert, I might add), I robbed myself and others of the unique expression of Christ in me to the world.  I was not fully living as myself.  I was holding back something of myself that God intended to give to the world when He created me.   In the unique ways I am created by God, and in the unique ways you are created by God, we bring things to the world that absolutely no one else can.

The world needs us to be who God created us to be; to live from our union with Christ and allow Love to express Himself to the world in a way that absolutely no one else who has ever lived, or will live, can.  To bring it down to a more personal level, I need all those people the Father brings into my life to be fully themselves and to be unique image bearers of Love to me.  I need the Gandalf’s, the Aragorn’s, the Frodo’s and the other Elrond’s in my life to be themselves.

Our brief journey on this earth is too hard to walk alone.  J. R. R. Tolkien had C. S. Lewis to encourage him in the monumental effort to write The Lord of the Rings.  He almost gave up many times, but Lewis wouldn’t let him.  (It took over twelve years to write.  Portions of it were written during WWII – one of the darkest periods of modern history.)

Tolkien's Cover Designs for the First Edition ...

And Lewis was led to Christ by Tolkien.  Can you imagine a world without either of these men living in the fullness of who they were?  The echoes of their lives reverberate throughout eternity, but they didn’t do it alone.

And neither can we.  Please, be yourself.  Don’t conform to the expectations of others.  Give up your own expectations of what life should be like.  I need you, we need you, the world needs you, exactly how God created you, right where you are in your journey.  You are no accident and your circumstances are not coincidence.  As an image bearer of God, you have something of Him, of great value and worth, to express to the world that no one else can.

Matthew 5: 14-16 (NASB) “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

31 Days of Advent in October :: Day 5

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The Greatest Gift
Reading Selection for December 3rd
“Where Are You?”

Genesis 3:8-9 (NLT)“So they hid from the Lord God among the trees.  Then the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?”

In my last post I mentioned how as a little girl in Sunday School my big take away from The-Gospel-As-Behavior-Management presentation of the Creation Story helped launch me into life simply trying not to make mistakes because it makes God mad.

Trying not to make mistakes (which unbeknownst to me at the time is IMPOSSIBLE) led to a life, and I use that term loosely—closer to existence–of hiding.  Hiding from God, hiding from myself, hiding from those closest to me.  Hiding took many forms and many masks.  Let me introduce you to a few of them:

“Responsible Girl” –        She was responsible for EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING even remotely connected to her life.  Unfortunately this really made everything about her, including significant world events.

“Self-sufficient Girl”-      She never needed any help for anything even if she was dying…and she was, on the inside.  Her twin is named “NOT the Needy the Girl”.

“Good Girl”-       She couldn’t stand for anyone to ever think she did anything wrong.  If anyone ever did think she had made a mistake it completely undid her and sent her into an emotional tail spin.

“Smart Girl” –     She made me feel better when in my high school career I only had two dates.  And on the nights of my Junior and Senior Proms when I sat at home alone she told me it was going to be better in college and I needed to keep focusing on my grades because some girls were pretty and loveable and some girls were smart.

 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia.org

And on and on it goes.  Underneath it all the only thing I wanted was to be seen and to be known and to be loved for who I was, not what I did.

The truth is, I was seen, I was known and I was loved for exactly who I was, I just didn’t know it.  And just like Adam and Eve, in the midst of all my hiding, Love was asking, “Where are you, Kim?”  My fear that God was angry with me for all of my failures and mistakes kept me hiding and wearing masks for many more years…so long in fact, that I am now only beginning to know myself.

As I read those verses above in Genesis 3, though, now I don’t hear anger in God’s voice.  I hear a Loving Father searching for His children.  He’s concerned for them and He misses their presence.  He’s asking the question, “Where are you?” not because He doesn’t know where they are, but because they don’t know where they are.  “Where are you?” was an invitation to pause, take stock of their current position and run, not walk, straight back to God.  He was calling them back to Love.

And in a lifetime of hiding, I can now look back (hindsight’s always 20/20 you know) and hear the echoes of the voice of God in my life, “Where are you, Kim?”

He’s been coming for us, for you and me, since the beginning.  And He’s still coming for us, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

More Momma Grace

In my last post I shared a little bit of my struggle in this new season. However, if you read that carefully and saw that I mentioned that one of my daughters is in college then you know this season isn’t really new. In fact, I’ve been in it for probably five years, I JUST DID NOT KNOW IT! My oldest daughter, Liv Loo, knew it, but I was completely oblivious to the fact that the game had changed and I was still trying to play it the way I always had. In other words, lay down the law and expect to be obeyed at all costs, OR ELSE!

What is new however, is that I am in a reflective, nostalgic, evaluate-my-entire life place, and well, all I can say is that I am grateful for God’s unconditional love and that His mercies are new EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. for me and every member of my family.

Over the last several years though, I did miss a lot of opportunities for relationship, particularly with my oldest daughter, who has been the one to lead the way through all of these parenting transitions. I spent an awful lot of time telling her what to do, what to think, how to dress, who to hang out with, and just generally communicating all of my thoughts and expectations, but not really letting her try on some of her own.

But as transformation has occurred, albeit slowly, I’ve tried to give her the room she needs to live life as an adult, which has honestly felt like driving on the left-hand side of the road…completely unnatural. In the grand scheme of things I don’t feel like I’ve been very good at it and it only feels like I’ve been doing it for five minutes, but I’ve decided I can’t change the past I can just trust God in every moment I move forward through and trust Him to redeem the ones I’ve left behind in the wake of fear and control.

Left side driving

And in His love and mercy He gives me beautiful glimpses, Momma grace moments) into how only He can redeem all and restore all.  A couple of weeks ago Liv Loo was sharing a conversation with me that occurred between her and a friend who is also her age, almost 20 years old – an adult (I wrote that to keep reminding ME that she is an adult…it’s really hard). Without going into too many details, they were discussing an encounter her friend had with his parents and his disappointment in their response to something he wanted to try. The long and the short of it is he felt like they were treating him like a 14-year-old instead of a man.

And then some of the most precious words I’ve ever heard (and she didn’t even know it) came out of her mouth, “They don’t treat him like you treat me, Momma. You listen to me, ask questions, make suggestions and then let me make my own decisions. They just tell him what to do and what to think.” All I could do was thank God for letting me see that He is so much bigger than my mistakes.

He truly makes all things new, even when I make a mess.

I receive that grace.  This is abundant life.  This is walking through life with my tiara on straight, not because of anything I’ve done, but because of Who He is.

Taylor Swift & Momma Grace

It’s a little hard to segue from an unintentional series on how I am only now starting to know myself and how I really don’t know what to do with my emotions, but here’s giving it a shot.

I am in a bit of a nostalgic season. Since school is back in session (O summer where have you gone????) and I now have one in college, a high school junior and an eighth grader, it has put me in a reflective frame of mind. All of this reflection has made it more and more apparent that my role as a mom is changing, it’s a new season, and it is hard for me.

I don’t mean it’s hard in the something-is-terribly-wrong-and-I-don’t-know-what-to-do way. It’s hard because I don’t do change well, in fact I don’t like it.  I REALLY liked it when my kids were little. Even though I was completely clueless back then, I at least felt like it was a good Momma day if everyone got to and from school, ate three times, wore clean clothes, bathed, brushed their teeth at least once, and squealed with laughter while rubbing their bare feet on Popey’s bald head at bed time. In other words, I was pretty much in charge of everything in their lives, including their fun.

The hard part for me is transitioning from being the hygiene-police to whatever it is I am supposed to do now. My inner Momma wants to daily insert myself in every area of their lives. It’s hard to watch them struggle and find their own way, whether it’s in relationships or work or school or just trying to understand who they are and where they fit in the world. And let’s face it, it’s really, really hard to not tell them how to drive. Every time one of them backs out of the driveway I have to take a deep breath and push back tears. It’s not that I want things to always stay the same, I just miss my little girls.

We are in that season when, even though they all technically live here and put our address down as their legal residence, for the most part they are never home. They are either at school, at work, at church or hunkered down in their respective rooms doing homework. Or hunkered down in their respective rooms avoiding homework. I have learned that if I park myself in my bedroom at the top of stairs (I work on my bed a lot and have a direct line of sight to whoever is coming up or going down) or on the corner of our big red couch then I can catch a momentary glimpse of them as they are coming or going or grabbing a snack. It’s not much, but I will take what I can get. I miss my girls.

So last week one of our daughters had the chance to go see Taylor Swift’s concert in Greensboro, NC. She had the tickets for months, but the excitement really mounted around here as her iPhone counted down the final days to the concert. The afternoon she left with a friend and her parents to go to the concert I walked with her out to their car. When she got into the car I just asked if she would text when they got there and then again when they were on the way home. What I wanted to ask was that she text me every five minutes so that I would know she was alive, but I restrained myself. You may think I am joking, but God really has done a work in me.

English: Taylor Swift performing live on Speak...

As they pulled out of the cul-de-sac I felt a twinge of regret that I had not bought a ticket and was going with them. But at that exact moment I realized I could really use a nap and there was no way I would have made it through a concert and the drive home (much to my family’s dismay I am often in my PJ’s by 7:00 pm and I am usually in the bed by 8:30 every night reading or watching TV).

A couple of hours later I got a text that they were there. I breathed deep and grateful relief. Then I got a text and photo of my daughter and her friend in their seats. Then I got a text about the first act. And then I got a text about the next act. And another text and another text. And then more texts when they got in the car to come home, written in ALL CAPS TO COMMUNICATE HER JOY AND EXCITEMENT.

My 16-year old daughter was having the best night of her life and she texted me through the whole thing. I receive that grace.

In this season of the struggles, the miscommunications, the misunderstandings, the stretching of wings, the venturing out, the trying on of new ideas and the shirking of old ones, the wrestlings of faith, and the pushing against the goad, I will gladly receive what they choose to share. I will celebrate who they are becoming. I will wait for them to reach out and embrace them when they do. I will be grateful that in all the moving forward and out they still reach back sometimes just to touch home base, just to share familiar love even just for a moment.

I receive that grace.

By the way, in all of the concert-texting-excitement my daughter made an executive decision to make me her manager. I am now tasked with making her famous and planning her world tour. I am so overwhelmed with emotion I can’t decide whether to eat ice cream, make sandwiches or send her an ugly, imaginary plant. Stay tuned for all of her concert dates and locations. But first I think I need that nap.

In Which I Learned Something about Myself

And there is still another layer to the riveting drama in my Winn Dixie post earlier this week. When I sat down to write that post on Monday, I had been really thinking about it and talking to the Lord about it for the better part of a week. The revelation of God’s profound demonstration of love for me in the midst of my brokenness and how he moved heaven and earth to show me that love was very overwhelming for me. While I am prone to exaggeration for comedic effect, I do mean literally that He moved heaven and earth because Popey had just been transferred back to the US after being stationed in Egypt for a while.  In fact, his poor lips were still scarred from the middle eastern sun and he had white lines around his eyes from squinting.  And we met at exactly the right time.

Anyway, as I was processing all of the emotions that welled up over the extravagance of God’s love, I wanted to share that with the man God used so wonderfully. So when he came in from work on Friday evening (now remember, I had been thinking about this A LOT and even shed a few tears) here’s how that conversation went:

Me: “Thanks for chasing me down in the Winn Dixie all those years ago.”

Him: (smile) “You’re welcome.”

Me: (my heart was full and my mind went completely blank and nothing else came out)

I was so frustrated with myself for not being able to say what I was feeling and actually have a conversation about it. And then I couldn’t even say that I was frustrated with myself.  But then we had ice cream and it was all good.  We deal with a lot of things over ice cream.  Which by the way is a tradition that started back in my Winn Dixie days.  Popey would drive home from Fort Bragg just to see me on my 15 minute break at work and we would go to the little frozen yogurt shop around the corner from my store.

Soft ice cream

Fast forward to Saturday morning. One of my daughters shared with me a particularly painful situation she is walking through and how her heart is broken (Just know there is a future post I am developing about how hard it is to watch your kids struggle and that Jesus really is enough for them too). On the inside I had a lump in my throat and a heaviness in my own heart, but when I tried to say something my mind went completely blank, AGAIN. I felt terrible for her. She poured out her heart and I went blank.

But I realized that I actually feel this way often, when my emotions well up somehow words don’t flow from my mouth.

Later on Saturday I apologized to my daughter for not being able to articulate my feelings earlier and she said, “It’s ok Mom. I get it when you write. I cry every time I read something you write, whether it’s a blog post, a text or an email. That’s how you communicate your feelings. You write them.”

Study

And that’s what I learned about myself…I am pretty good at verbally communicating thoughts, ideas, information, even instructions, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t say what I am feeling.

So to everyone in my life who has ever shared something painful, joyful, heavy or crazy and I just stared back at you like I had no idea what you meant, I would like to offer my most sincere apologies. Please know that I heard your heart, I felt your pain, I shared your joy, I was grateful for your gift, but my emotions closed off my throat and I was literally at a loss for words. Next time I will write you a note. 🙂

And if you are asking yourself, “Does she know herself at all?”  The answer is definitely no, but I know the One who does and He’s revealing it to me every day.

Amen.

Thanks for Chasing Me Down in the Winn Dixie

Have I ever told you the story of how I met my husband? For some reason this was on my mind a lot the last several days. As I mulled it over my perspective on the story changed a little bit and it became a bit sweeter to me.

Be warned, this is probably a post written more for me than anyone else, so feel free to abandon ship at any point you have something better to do…like fold laundry, make dinner or watch TV.

When I was 18 years old and just a few months from my high school graduation, I worked at a local Winn Dixie store. And when I say I worked there, well that’s sort of an understatement. I practically lived there because I begged for all the hours I could get. At one point in my retail grocery career, two store managers split my time between their individual stores so that I could work more than 40 hours per week and they wouldn’t have to pay me over time.  I know, I was dumb.

One of the perks to this job was that I had to wear a RIDICULOUS polyester, Carolina blue uniform (complete with elastic waist pants and matching top with two very utilitarian pockets to hold 20 pens at once) that had absolutely no shape. The best part was I had to wear white nursing shoes with my uniform so I looked extra professional.

winn-dixie crew 1986 pleasantfamilyshopping

(The EXACT uniforms store employees wore back then…only we weren’t this happy about it!  Thanks Pleasant Family Shopping)

I was very industrious for $3.65 per hour. I took everything very seriously. When my store manager told me to stay busy and never be caught standing around talking to my friends, well I figured he meant it. And I diligently made sure that when I wasn’t checking out customers as fast as lightening or counting down tills in the office that I picked up every piece of trash in sight, swept the floors, re-stocked unwanted grocery items, and above all else I never looked like I had nothing to do. Otherwise, he might send me home and I wouldn’t get all the hours I needed.

For reasons that are better left revealed in a MUCH longer format (say a book?), I was afraid of losing my job. And just to show you I know how crazy it sounds, let me say it clearly, I WAS AFRAID OF LOSING A JOB THAT PAID $3.65 AN HOUR (and made me wear possibly the worst uniform in history).

So, one Friday night, in walked the man I have now spent almost 27 years of my life with. And he came in specifically to meet me. He was home from Fort Bragg to spend a long Easter weekend with his family. And he had a sister, a sister who worked with me. And he came to Winn Dixie that night to meet me and to ask me out on a date.

He walked up to me at the video counter (we were a cutting edge store – we rented movies before Block Buster came along and we had the first scanners I had ever seen in a store) where I was checking in videos and he started to talk to me.  He was a real, adult, grown up man, and he was talking to me.  And I almost threw up. All I could think was, “Talk without moving your lips and keep moving your arms like you are working and maybe the manager won’t notice.” I kept trying to squeeze myself into the one square foot of space behind the cigarette/video counter that could not be seen from the one-way mirrored glass in the front office where the manager kept a close watch on all of us.

And my future husband kept talking. Sadly, I can’t remember a thing he said. I am sure he asked me about myself. I am sure he told me a lot about himself. But all I heard was the voice in the back of my head screaming , “You’re gonna get fired! And then how are you going to pay for college? And if you don’t go to college, what’s going to happen to you?”

At some point I realized there was a basket of groceries that needed to be put away so I grabbed the basket and took off around the store to put the items back. And Popey (his cleverly disguised nick name – you know how vigilant I am about protecting the innocent) took off after me. That man followed me up and down those aisles, watching me put away groceries, trying to have a conversation with me. The truth is, he didn’t just follow me, he chased me. He would not be ignored. He would not be left behind. He was going to ask me out if it took him all night.  I didn’t realize he jumped out of airplanes for a living, chasing me around a grocery store to ask me out probably didn’t seem all that intimidating.

I wish I could remember what he said. I wish I could say we had some sweet conversation, but all I know after all this time is that at some point in the pursuit he asked and I said yes, and a lot of story has unfolded since that night. We went on that first date. He left the Army a couple of months later. I went off to college a couple of months after that. We dated the whole time I was in college. We’ve had three kids, a home, long term health issues, a business/several jobs/multiple careers between us. We’ve shared a lot of joy and a lot of pain (and sometimes we’ve inflicted it  😦 ), but the point is we’ve done it together.

I’ve always looked back on that story and thought about how precious and sweet he was that night, but I beat myself up for being so broken that I almost missed the opportunity to share my life with him. But what hit me the last few days is that God loved me so much and knew how broken I was that He sent someone into my life who wasn’t going to give up on me, who wasn’t going to run away even when I ignored him, and who was willing to share life with me – the good, the bad and the ugly. He sent me someone willing to chase me down when necessary, just to love me.

God knew how lonely I was. He knew I didn’t know how to fix it. He knew that I didn’t even understand how much trouble I was really in by trying to live life in all my independence and self-sufficiency. God knew me and God sent Popey.

This life is too hard to live and figure out on our own.  Popey, thanks for chasing me down in the Winn Dixie that night (and every day since).  And Father, thanks for loving me through him.