Play It Again: Love Transforms

This post originally went live in the spring of 2013, but it’s a message that plays over and over again in my mind.  Living Loved in relationship with the Father instead of living by expectations and rules…

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I realize this so-called series on reigning in life may now have morphed into a general theme for the blog rather than just a series.  But then again, Pentecost Sunday isn’t until May 19th, so I guess technically speaking, in a church calendar sort of way, we’re still celebrating the Resurrection.  Shouldn’t we be doing that anyway???

I made the shocking revelation in my last post that Elf is one of my favorite movies (right up there with Steel Magnolias and Mr. Holland’s Opus) and that I believe it has some great parallels to abundant life.  I ended that post with a thought to ponder:

Love transforms us from the inside out, while the law conforms us from the outside in.

We all know there are several forms of love and in the Bible specifically, there are three.  So just for the sake of clarity let’s focus on the unconditional kind.  The kind that God has for us, agape.  Not only does God have this type of love for us, but according to 1 John 4:8, God is Love.  God is unconditional Love and through Jesus Christ we have direct access to that Love.

Not only do we have direct access to Love, but the living God, who is Love, then comes and takes up residence in us.  At salvation we are united with Christ.  It is no longer we who live, but Christ in us the hope of glory.  (Sorry for the huge leap, but I am making the assumption that we all ‘get’ the idea of the Trinity…if not, well apparently WordPress will allow me to write and post as many things as I would like and we can discuss it another day.).

So let’s just talk about the impact of that Love, the God of unconditional Love, that comes to dwell in us.

I think the Bible records the transforming power of Love most beautifully through the lives of three amazing men:  Peter, John the Beloved (as opposed to John the Baptist) and Paul.  These men were so changed by their encounters with Love and the life Love lived through them that their names were actually changed.  Simon became known as Peter;  John, a son of thunder, became John the Beloved; and Saul became Paul.  By the time Love was finished with them, they were completely different men.

Love transformed an uneducated fisherman into a pillar of the new church.  It took a man who wanted fire to come down from heaven and kill people who didn’t believe Jesus and transformed him into a man whose major theme in writing is Love.  It also took a man who followed the law to the nth degree, even killing under its authority, and transformed him into a man who wrote most of the New Testament.  And what was one of his primary messages?  That we are no longer under the law and we are to live free from the law.  We are to live by Love, Jesus’ new commandment.

What was so wrong with living by the law?  What is wrong with it now?  According to the New Testament it kills.  It brings death.  There is no life in the law.  The only life is found in Jesus who is The Way, The Truth and The Life.  By definition the law does not transform it conforms to pre-determined specifications.  It is limiting, confining.  And the truth is we can NEVER live up to the law’s expectations.

So, why do we go back to something that is going to kill us, hem us in and keep us from experiencing the unfathomable depths, heights and widths of the Love of God?  I am not necessarily talking about the over 600+ Jewish laws.  What about all the rules we put on ourselves to be closer to God, that we use to define a “good” relationship with God?

I am talking about “good” things like, a quiet time with God at 5:00 am every single morning, an hour reading the Bible every day, or being at church at least twice a week, or feeding and clothing the homeless every week.

Have you ever started the New Year with one of these goals in mind because you want a closer relationship with the Lord?  Then of course by the second week, unless you are highly self-disciplined, you have already missed a few quiet times or Bible readings because you got up late or your kids were sick or…fill in the blank.   So what happens then?  The condemnation comes.  Why?  Because that is what laws do (even the ones we place on ourselves), show us where we fail.

The problem with developing our own system (you could substitute the word law for system) for a closer walk with God is that it becomes all about us instead of Jesus.  It becomes about what we do instead of who we are.  Life in Jesus isn’t about a system or a formula, it’s about a relationship.

I am not saying there is anything inherently wrong with any of the things above, but when they become a set of rules they become death for us instead of life.  They become one more way for the enemy to tell us we don’t measure up.

The Bible doesn’t record any system Peter, John and Paul followed to be closer to God.  It records some of their relationship with God, and some of the things God LED them to do, and then the eternal fruit that came from that relationship.  They had Christ IN them and as believers we do too.  Honestly, we can’t be any closer to the Lord than Christ IN us.

As Paul told Timothy, the law is for the unrighteous.  The law, even our own moral codes and formulas, only have the power to tell us what we do wrong.  They don’t change us.  God’s Love IN us has unlimited ability to transform us, if we let it.  If we can lay down our own expectations and definitions of successful Christian living, then God can make us unrecognizable too.

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What If?

What If?

“…love by its nature seeks union.  With the grace of recognition comes the awesome and alarming awareness that Jesus, the incarnation of the furious longing of God, wants more than a close relationship with you and me; He seeks nothing less than union.” ~ Brennan Manning, “The Furious Longing of God,” p. 68.

What if we lived like this statement is true?

What if the whole point of our creation is to be loved by Love Himself, to be one with Him?

What if we embraced the Truth of Song of Solomon 7:10 (NASB):

“I am my beloved’s,
And his desire is for me.”

What if we truly believed we are the beloved of God and He doesn’t just want to meet us and have a casual friendship, He truly DESIRES us?

What if we lived naked and unashamed?  No hiding, no covering up, no fig leaves.

What if we lived in deep, abiding, restful union with Christ?

What if this is abundant, reigning life?

What if this is what it means to be Fully Alive?

I’ve Lost It

So in late 2012 I asked the Lord to give me a word for 2013.  He didn’t.  He gave me three words: Engage, Embrace, and Enjoy.  The same thing happened the year before, at the end of 2011.  I asked for a word for the coming year and he gave me four words:  BE More, DO Less.

In 2013 those three words (Engage, Embrace and Enjoy) echoed everywhere for me, all the way to the very end.  I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the Lord meant by those three words, but in the end I realized it wasn’t my job to figure it out, it was His job to REVEAL it.  And He did, ALL YEAR LONG.

So as the year began to close down and the season of Advent arrived, it became apparent that those three words were an invitation to live in each moment with the Lord regardless of my circumstances.  To engage, embrace, and enjoy each and every moment with whomever I was with and in whatever was happening.  Even the ugly moments.  Instead of hiding from the unpleasant and the ugly things to lean in to them with the Lord and allow Him to speak and heal.

For me, the Christmas season has historically been a time I feel the intense and overwhelming need to put on my armor and hide.  For many, many reasons:  the shopping, the expectations of others to get the perfect gift, the pressure for everyone to behave and perform and get along because it’s such a wonderful time of year.  And it is a wonderful time of year, but the pressure and the expectations that it be perfect and that everyone smile and be happy make me want to crawl in a hole and come out with the groundhogs sometime in February.

But this year was different for me.  The revelation of Engage, Embrace and Enjoy really started to take hold in my heart, partly through 31 Days of Advent in October. 

This year I also felt a real sense of release to Engage, Embrace and Enjoy from Popey (even though he didn’t know it).  Early one morning in December I called him at work and this is how the conversation went down:

Popey:  “What do you have today?”

Kimmie:   “Pam’s Christmas party (side bar: my FAVORITE EVENT AT CHRISTMAS EVERY SINGLE YEAR because the only expectation is to have FUN!) and then more shopping.”

Popey:  “Have fun.”

Kimmie:  [Heavy sarcasm] “Well, you know how much I ENJOY shopping.”

Popey:  “Well, you need to enjoy your life.”

Then I promptly hung up and burst into tears because in his simple reply I heard a precious invitation from the Father, yet again, to enter into each moment and enjoy it for whatever it is and whatever it brings.

So I called Popey back:

Kimmie:  “Thanks for telling me to enjoy my life.” [Sniff.  Sniff.]

Popey:  “You are welcome.  I have to work now.”

So off I went engaging, embracing, enjoying.  I had a blast through the rest of the Christmas season.  The Saturday before Christmas I even ventured out one last time for some last minute shopping and enjoyed every minute of it (for those of you who know me in the 3D world, this is nothing short of miraculous).  I rode around town with my sunroof open (that’s what winter in NC is like – very schizophrenic) listening to my satellite radio and just enjoyed being out, in public, with people.

I was so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for all the good things God has blessed me with that I just sang and wept.  I cried like a little girl.  One of the things I was most grateful for is a husband who loves me, wants God’s best for me and gives me the space to figure it out (mostly because he’s not sure what to do with me or for me, but also because he loves me).

So I finally figured it out, right?  Well, I thought so.  But in the interest of keeping it real and honest and not hiding my version of crazy…here’s the rest of the story…

The Sunday after Christmas Popey and I were enjoying a quiet, delicious meal at home, alone.  He grilled the most fabulous steak I have had in a LONG time (he is known in certain circles as THE GRILL MASTER…which is the other main reason I love him, besides his money and his body (wink)).  We had a little wine.  We were both enjoying the evening, when I burst into tears.  And the truth is I am not entirely sure why.  I was just all of a sudden overwhelmed with an intense sense of loneliness, sadness, fear, and regret.

I didn’t just cry for a minute.  I cried the ugly cry…all night…and most of the next day.  And I am still not sure exactly why.

The bottom line?  Even in the confusing, ugly and less pleasant place I found myself in at the end of the year, I still hear the whisper of the Father inviting me to Engage, Embrace and Enjoy.  To lay down the right to understand everything, figure it out and fix it.  I hear Him saying, “Just lean into it with Me.  Don’t hide from it.  I’ve got you.”

I asked Him for a word for 2014.  He didn’t give me one.  He gave me two:  Fully Alive.  I think He’s showing me this week, even in the middle of the ugly cry, what it’s like to be Fully Alive.  Fully Alive doesn’t necessarily mean everything will be fixed and neatly tied in a bow.  Fully Alive may be ugly and painful, but the operative word is ALIVE.

As opposed to DEAD.

Dead people don’t feel.

Alive people do, even when they don’t understand what they’re feeling.

So here’s to being Fully Alive in 2014 – the good, the bad and the ugly!  I admit that I have no idea what that means at this moment, but I am ready to see what the Lord wants to show me.  And I am willing to Engage, Embrace and Enjoy the process, no matter how dazed and confused I feel along the way.

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.

Happy 70th!

Party Streamers

Party Streamers (Photo credit: imedagoze)

I don’t know why this seems significant to me, but it does. This marks my 70th post in this space since I started blogging back in January of this year.

Seventy seems like a lot in certain contexts. For instance, 70 seems like a lot of birthdays and it really seems like a lot of wedding anniversaries. Seventy miles per hour seems like a high rate of speed. Seventy dollars seems like a lot of money for a pair of shoes or a sweater. Seventy cats or dogs would seem to be a lot of pets and 70 acres seems like a lot of land. And if there were 70 states in the USA, well that’s a lot more than 50.

But in other contexts seventy seems low or small. A 70 on a test seems like a low number. Seventy dollars also seems low for a car payment or better yet a mortgage payment. Seventy cents isn’t even enough to buy a candy bar.  Seventy square feet would seem like a very small amount of space for a house.

I am not sure what 70 means in terms of blog posts, but I will tell you what it means to me. It means that 70 times I sat down to a blank screen and words came. And enough words came to form a thought and communicate a message. Sometimes that message was more clear than others. Sometimes it was like giving birth and sometimes it flowed out like water from a fountain. Sometimes it happened at 3:45 a.m. (like this one) and sometimes it happened at 3:45 p.m. just as everyone walked in the door from school. Sometimes it came one single, solitary word at a time and sometimes it was like a flood and I couldn’t write fast enough. Sometimes I was the only one who “got it” and sometimes people “got” things I didn’t even intend.

I promised myself two things when I started this and I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this, but I have now written enough posts that I officially can’t remember everything I have and have not shared…and this bears repeating anyway:

  1. I promised myself that once I hit Publish on each post I wasn’t going to stress myself out and correct mistakes if I later found (or anyone graciously or even ungraciously pointed out) any spelling or grammar errors. I decided that part of this grace journey is being myself and being transparent, including my mistakes. So as long as a typo didn’t grossly alter the meaning of what I intended to say,  I have let them all stand as published. This is my little way of choosing to no longer live such a highly edited version of life in order to give the illusion of having it all together.  Of course there was the time I accidentally hit Publish and the post was literally only half-way written. I considered that more of an incomplete than a mistake, though.  Three hundred missing words is a little more than a typo!
  2. I also promised myself that I wouldn’t beat myself up over maintaining strict writing deadlines.  My 3D life and the people in it are more important than this space and there are just times when the speed of life crowds out words.  And that’s ok. I’ve done away with internal deadlines for myself. I don’t want to Publish just to hear myself talk (although on occasion it may sound that way). So while I like the rhythm of hitting Publish two or three times a week, it’s ok when that doesn’t happen. I don’t want this to be a formula. I want this to flow out of my life journey, not drive it.

I realize that people who are comfortable in their own skin and embrace the unique way God created them will ask themselves why I needed to promise myself these two things…well because for most of my life I haven’t been comfortable in my own skin and I had no clue about my uniqueness, let alone how to embrace it and live it.  So for this girl, both of these things have been a huge sign of freedom for me.

So here’s to 70! I celebrate all that you are. I am not worried about what you are not and I am not concerned about what you will be. I am grateful for this moment!  And I am grateful for those journeying with me.  To those who have read and endured all 70 posts and the continuing transformation, all I can say is that I am humbled that you would hang in there (I know some of it has been rough).  And to those who have only read one, I am also humbled that you would grace me with your time, and I invite you to join the conversation.

What are you celebrating in this season?  What are you grateful for?

Two Things I Thought I Would Never Say (or Write)

English: A Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market in Win...

English: A Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market in Winter Springs, Florida. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Continuing with the theme of enjoying things…vacationing with teenagers, trying on yellow tube top dresses, and summer in general, I would like to share two things I have discovered I enjoy, but never thought I would:

1)  I LOVE The Neighborhood Market by Walmart that opened near our home.  Close friends and family are probably picking their jaws up off the floor after reading that first one.  My husband has to practically beg me (or trick me or drug me or force me at gun point :)) to get me to cross the threshold of a Walmart.  So when this store opened in February I was skeptical to say the least, but something or Someone kept whispering in the back of my mind, “Try it.”

I ignored that little voice for five months until one Saturday afternoon I put on my big girl pants and said, “Let’s do this!”  I also told myself I was free to run straight back to my car at any point I felt overwhelmed.

This is the part I can’t believe I am saying, but I have been there probably four times in the last three weeks and each time (different days, different times of day) has been a PLEASURE!  The staff is VERY friendly, the store is clean, it is well organized, well stocked, the aisles are clear, they have a good variety of foods (I forgot to mention it is Walmart’s version of a grocery store), and the prices are amazing.  The only thing I was unable to find was alfalfa sprouts, but really, those are not something to base such a life altering decision on.

I always knew I was missing out on low food prices by not shopping at our Walmart Super Center, but I figured that I was saving money on the medication I would need to do that on a regular basis by shopping at a more expensive store closer to home.

Now I have the best of both worlds – cheap food and my sanity.  Thank you Walmart!

2)  Kale Salad is my new favorite food.  My close friends and family are again stunned because vegetables, particularly greens have never been high on my list of priorities.  But this stuff is AMAZING!  I’ve eaten every day this week.

Just think, if I hadn’t tried on the yellow tube top dress at the beginning of the summer I wouldn’t have starting thinking about all the possibilities and being open to whatever comes my way.  And I would still be spending too much money on food and not enjoying this best thing I’ve eaten in a long time.