Humbling. Different. Good. Enough.

After the dishwasher was loaded, the gifts put away and crumbs swept up, I felt overwhelmed. Not so much in an exhausted sense, but in a super-crazy blown-away blessed overwhelmedness. Fifteen guests, 1400 miles on their cars, gifts, late night driving and nine excited kids came together to celebrate cousin birthdays. It's different to be the recipient of the gift.
I wonder if that's how Jesus' disciples felt. They followed Jesus to desolate places and the crowds came as well. When Jesus saw the physical need for food, He provided that need and used the hands and feet of the disciples. Just imagine the disciples serving, as part of Jesus' miracle, distributing the seven loaves of bread and two fish that fed over 4000 people (with left-overs besides). You feel blessed to be part of God's work, to love and give to others what God's provided. Hours later, the disciples find themselves on the boat and have little food to spare amongst themselves. Jesus wasn't surprised. Again, He knew the need and He would supply more than enough for their physical needs.
"Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” Mark 8:18-21
Jesus was able to supply all their needs; they wouldn't be left hungry. But wouldn't it feel different to be the recipient? To be served instead of serving? Passing bread and fish to the 4000, they were part of God's miracle; at this point, they'd just be like the crowd sitting on the hillside receiving His provision. Humbling. Different. Good. Enough.
It's natural, "no big deal" to me to give, love and serve others. Sometimes it stretches me past my comfort zone, but it's something I'm compelled to do and something God provides for me to share or give. But to receive and just have to sit with open hands, that's different, humbling, good, enough. This God's provision too.
I can't believe the effort given on my behalf, because they love me and God provided these family members with time and resources to give to me. What can I do but sit with open hands and accept the gift of God?
Right now, place your hands together, with the palms up and keep them open. Sit in the presence of your Savior acknowledging and accepting the gifts He's giving you right now.

Who am I

"I can't walk. I always have to share. My legs hurt. I can't bend my knee. Sisters are always mean to me. She called me a baby…." On and on and on the saga continues and I want to scream. God, help me know what to do. This is when I am most attentively listening for His answer and truly expect His reply in direction. In my reading this week, I realized I need the answer to a much bigger, important question, God, help me understand who I am. This prayer is far less frequent that the prior almost daily prayer. Since I don't usually ask God to reveal this to me, without invitation, the world provides a multitude of answers: Your skin is dull; eat this super food for radiant skin. You need to lose weight; crossfit will shed the pounds. You're angry; take a time out. You're overworked; have a glass of wine. You are better than this; give Mr. Difficult an ultimatum. You deserve it; buy it. Answers that don't satisfy, frustrate and are at times unrealistic. The prophet Jeremiah says this is a curse and is in fact turning our hearts from God or plugging our ears to God's answer.
This is what the LORD says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength
and turn their hearts away from the LORD.
They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited salty land." Jeremiah 17:5-6
In contrast, when we ask God to answer the question and listen, Jeremiah says this man is blessed who trusts in God's answer and is living by a stream like a tree with deep roots and constantly bears fruit.
[This is what the LORD says:]"But blessed are those who trust in the LORD
and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8
In order to be confident in or trust God's answer implies that I'm listening to His answer. Listening to the world may sometimes seemingly bear fruit or benefits for a while, but the world's answer is planting our life tree in the desert and the water will run out and the benefits burn up with the sun. This is why we are seldom satisfied. We lose weight or face conflict at work and feel so happy and proud of ourselves. But it is seldom enough. We determine to lose more weight. To change our hair color. To have surgery. Get a new job. To join a new club…
Who am I? We don't ask God and so we inadvertently listen to lies: you are a wife, a mom, a teaching director, overweight, addicted to food, inconsistent, not good enough. All these things are temporary. And while some may be true as far as status goes, because they are not eternal, they are not fixing our eyes and establishing lives based on what is eternal; and therefore I don't believe it's God's answer.
Only God knows who I am. He understands my heart. Listening to God's answer to who am I is planting myself next to the fountain of living water and setting my thoughts on eternity. Eternally, I am beautiful, His child, forgiven, accepted, with Christ, living with purpose, never alone, made new, in eternal relationship with Him, significant.
The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
and desperately wicked.
Who really knows how bad it is?
[This is what the LORD says:]"But I, the LORD, search all hearts
and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
according to what their actions deserve." Jeremiah 17:9-10
God understands my heart in this battle. He knows my heart is sly, slippery, easily deceived and sick beyond healing. I can not comprehend or am conscious of the vile, ill ways of my heart, but He does. And though it may be covered with dark, gooey muck, He can clean off the mire. He answers with eternal perspective if I choose to listen.
If I listen to the lies of the world, I may temporarily experience gain and delight, but it will not last and will soon become pain and curse. If I listen to God's answer, I can experience joyful, rich, meaningful life.
My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:20-23
How often do you stop to analyze your heart? What are you thinking, feeling, believing right now? Does it align with God's Word? Listen to Him and literally destroy the lies of Satan.


Like the layers of that delicious chocolate birthday cake, circumstances, scripture and creation seems to echo the word: transparent.
Studying the landscape out my window, the trees stand, completely exposed and naked. They can't hide what they are to the core. Transparent.
Driving down the road, Plumb's lyrics repeat the theme
I just let go
And I feel exposed
But its so beautiful
Cuz this is who I am
I've been such a mess
But now I can't care less 
I could bleed to death...
In Cinderella, I watched the country, slave girl look in the mirror before approaching the searching prince, in ragged clothes, dirty face, disheveled hair and say, "I have no magic to help me now." She must meet the prince just as she is. Transparent.
Studying in 2 Corinthians for Bible study, I watched the apostle Paul, expose a multitude of emotions and feelings to his readers. Transparent. And I wonder, why do we hide behind facades? Why do we pretend to have it all pulled together when in reality, it's the furthest thing from the truth?
That's when I felt compelled; the rubber meets the road here. Strip it off. Start with your make-up. I stood in front of the mirror staring for five-minutes before I decided to go to church without make-up on. I felt exposed. Quite literally. There was question in the engineer's eyes and hesitation as if to say, Are you sure you're ready for church? Did you forget something? 
Transparency is a choice that yeilds beautiful, authentic results.
Though Paul doesn't use the word, I feel it's part of his message in chapters 6 & 7 of 2 Corinthians. 
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians: our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return..widen your hearts also. 2 Corinthians 6:11-13
Then Paul launches into a discussion on not tying yourselves to unbelievers before returning to the idea of being open and transparent with him in 7:2, "Make room in your hearts of us," and bearing the emotions of his heart.
I have to assume that this isn't just a rabbit trail Paul went on about being yoked with unbelievers, but rather, it's a principle to apply. It just isn't beneficial or even recommended to be completely transparent with non-believers. Be real, not hypocritical, but guard your heart when working and living with unbelievers. 
However with God and with those who you are in covenant relationship (marriage, church, mentorships, friendships, family),  open wide your hearts! These are the people who "are in our hearts, to die together and to live together," Paul says in 7:3. He goes on to use ten descriptors of his emotions: 
boldness (v. 4)
pride (v. 4)
comfort (vv. 4, 6, 13)
affliction(4, 5)
joy (vv. 4, 7, 9, 13, 16)
fighting (v. 5)
fear (v. 5)
downcast (v. 6)
regret (v. 8)
confidence (v. 16)
Paul flings open his heart and what happens? Rejoicing! He mentions joy five times. It is embarrassing, humbling and sometimes painful to be transparent. But there must be joy found it.
My mind returns to the trees getting ready to burst out in glory and joy. They've been sitting exposed and bare for nearly seven months. Only after they've had this time of transparency are they ready to become what God created and intended them to me. This must be true in our own lives. Only after we've been transparent and bared all, can we experience joy and flourish. And it must ongoing. After five months of glory, the trees will again be exposed. Fall will come and their leaves (or make-up) will be stripped away. The seasons remind us to be continually transparent.
Will you choose to bear your true heart and emotions in covenant relationships? It's painful, hard and humbling, but you will experience joy in becoming the beauty God created you to be.