Tag Archives: messy

Beauty Behind Bruises

Do you bruise easily? I do. Physically, my body responds to bumping my hip on an end table or letting a door slam on my calf with a vibrant black and blue mark. You should’ve seen me after I tried skiing for the first time this year. I couldn’t wear a skirt to a job interview because the marks were so bad – even with tights.

I may complain about my sore bruises or sigh about how rough they look, yet oddly enough I find something beautiful about bruises. I feel the same way about each of my scars, stretch marks, cuts, and burns. Unwelcome as they may be, each one boasts of a moment, a memory, a time when I was alive and living life to the full. They are like my own private memoir – reminding me of who I am, what I’ve done, and where I’ve seen the Lord at work.

Obviously marks and cuts affect our physical appearance, but there’s a reality of bruising that permeates much deeper than our skin . . .

We know we are called to love one another – verses like 1 John 4:20 are pretty clear about that:

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen1 John 4:20

Not only are we called to care for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:18-19), but we are asked to go above and beyond when it comes to doing life with the people the Lord puts around us:

And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
Matthew 5:41-44

Engaging in relationships, genuinely listening to the journey of another, caring for one another cultivates an inner beauty that reflects the image of Christ.holdon

Jesus entered into people’s lives with depth, authenticity, and sincerity. The cuts and bruises Jesus accumulated because of these relationships weren’t merely the physical ones that were part of being crucified on the cross. There were wounds inflicted by those who were Jesus’ friends that penetrated His heart.

The inner beauty gained from doing life with one another is often a result of bruises, cuts, and scars from being betrayed and mistreated, yet continuing to love anyway. Because we’re not perfect, our brokenness plays a part in how we care for one another. Sometimes engaging in relationships can feel like getting close to a fire – the closer you get the warmer and more beautiful the embers become, yet the likelihood of getting burned also increases. The deeper we allow ourselves to live out the call of loving one another, the more exposed our soul becomes and the more bruises it accumulates as a result.

Just like our physical body bears the evidence of, scrapes, bruises, and scars – because it tells the story of a life that has been utterly lived – so too our soul carries its fair share of hurts: the very things that make it beautiful.

Don’t be afraid to find the inner beauty that comes with giving yourself 100% to loving, caring for, and walking alongside those in your life. There might be additional burns and cuts as a result, but know that it is part of the process of becoming more like Christ.

you can read the full, original posting over at Maria Morgan

Tuesday Night Devotional on Community

One of the blessings (and honestly one of my favorite parts) of being a Christian Education major is the regularity with which we hear and plan class devotionals or lessons. For my Tuesday night Spiritual Theology class, I had to lead closing reflections and prayer this week. These passages from Bonhoeffer had been on my mind recently and as I prayed through them, I realized it was what I should share with the class. Wouldn’t you know, the topic of the class session was the church and Christian community. . .

“In the Christian community thankfulness is just what it is anywhere else in the Christian life. Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious. We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things? If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we under God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for all of us in Jesus Christ.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

I am all about expecting God to do big things. I have a firm belief in the power of prayer and the call of believers to intercede for things that seem impossible. I think we often forget that the one we speak with is He “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). 

That being said, Bonhoeffer is onto something here that I think is a real danger for Christians, especially those living in Christian community. Honestly, the more prominent and pervasive the community, the easier it can be to fall into. We formulate these expectations of what our community should look like and we are left disappointed and frustrated when it doesn’t happen. Or when we realize the people around us are messy, broken, sinful people that are capable of hurting us and letting us down. We start asking God to move in big ways, peering over to see what He will do like a kid on Christmas morning. But we miss what He’s doing right in front of us. In praying for the Red Seas to part, we miss the ways the Lord is loving us and moving in the midst of our everyday (whether that’s in Egypt or the Promise Land).

The people that the Lord has put around us are a blessing. They are a privilege. Christian community is not something we deserve, have earned, or are good enough for. There are hundreds of thousands of believers around the world who are lacking fellowship with brothers and sisters.

I get it – your community may not look the way you want. You may be living among broken people and in messy situations, situations where you are expecting God to move in mighty ways. God may not be bringing the relationships you want, whether that means He’s not bringing them at all or He’s bringing different ones than you wanted. Or maybe your community is amazing and you are in danger of elevating the people in your life on an unrealistic pedestal.

I’m convicted by Bonhoeffer’s words about receiving both the big and small things from God. The thing is, I often can’t see the small things with my own human vision (how often do I even miss the big things!). Which means that this growth is going to require the Lord’s grace and Spirit to open the eyes of my heart to see all that He is doing.

The good thing is, He loves to do that.

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I Live a Messy Life

Here’s a glimpse into some of the things that I call my life:

  • There’s a big difference between the energy I’m exerting when I say I’m “going for a run” and when the METRA train pulls into the College Avenue station and I’m a block away from the platform.
  • The only points I got marked off on my driving test (despite not having actually taken a real driver’s ed course) were for not following directions. Evidently I “left the course” when I was trying to back up next to the parallel parking cones. I didn’t even know that was something you could do.
  • I’m pretty much perpetually cold. So naturally I decided to go to college in Chicago. Two years later and I still never remember to keep an extra pair of gloves in my backpack.
  • Speaking of being cold, I’m currently in one of my dad’s old sweatshirts that I found in the basement. Don’t tell him I’m wearing it. I’m just freezing and despite having carried 140 lbs of clothes home (literally one of my bags was 57 lbs. The lady at the airport made me take some of the clothes out and wear them – no joke, I walked through the airport with 4 shirts on,) I didn’t think to pack long sleeves.
  • I recently ran through the Target parking lot in the pouring rain and without shoes on to pull the car up for my sister and her friend. Except I couldn’t remember where I parked so I ended up running across the whole parking lot. Apparently the crowd of people waiting in the doorway was thoroughly amused.
  • I blasted country music on my way home from babysitting tonight because my siblings don’t let me listen to it when they are in the car. No shame.
  • I’ve learned that with my terrible sense of direction and ability to sing incredibly off key and the way I always seem to end up in the most random situations, that I have to laugh at myself. Life’s too short to take myself to seriously. But I’m constantly reminding myself of that because I think it’s profound but unfortunately it’s incredibly easy for me to slip back into patterns of overthinking and living in a lull of apathetic monotony. . .

“Ride the roaring wave of providence with eager expectation. To search for the stories all around me. To see Christ in every pair of eyes. To write a past I won’t regret. To reach the dregs of the life I’ve been given and then to lick the bottom of my mug. To live hard and die grateful. And to enjoy it.” N.D. Wilson

Maybe you don’t care about those details of my life. They really aren’t anything spectacular. Hopefully they at least made you chuckle. But what I really hope they did is got you thinking about some of the simple moments of your life. Moments you brushed by. Things that seemed insignificant. I want to press pause and just take in this crazy thing we call life.

Life is worth living in light of eternity because I’m not simply living for myself or tomorrow.

I get it. Relationships are strained. People are frustrating. The world is broken. Evil is present. But I think we buy into a lie when we believe that we can’t be fully present and emotionally honest at the same time. Enjoying the abundant life Christ draws us into doesn’t mean that we run from pain or live behind a facade of happiness. It means we are fully embracing every moment, with it’s tears and laughter and heartache and humor.

My life is messy. Sometimes it feels like a hot mess. Sometimes it’s like the mess on my dorm room floor that should be cleaned but I just haven’t gotten around to it, partly because the very fact that it’s messy asserts my independence and partly because no one is bothered by it. Sometimes my life feels like the mess my smoothie has made all over the kitchen when I’ve forgotten to put the lid on the blender, with the emotional tension of “this is hilarious” and “I might break something (or, more likely, break down) in frustration.” Life is messy. But I take comfort in the fact that Jesus didn’t run from the mess but towards it. It’s the very thing he stepped into when He took on flesh. It’s story after story of life that happened in between the parables, teachings, and climactic moments we read about in Scripture.

As my mom likes to say, “this is my circus and these are my monkeys.” Might as well own them and get a good laugh out of it.

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So I challenge you to embrace your story today. It’s not the grand, spectacular moments that make up your life. It is every time your Sunday School class makes you laugh. It is every time you get more of a sunburn than you bargained for because you forgot sunscreen, again. It is every time a child looks at you with their big, wondering eyes . . . and then precedes to throw up on your shirt. It is every time your blood gets hot in anger or your eyes get wet in sadness or you have to look at those darn texting ellipses on your phone waiting for someone to respond. It is every time sweat drips from your forehead onto the bicycle machine because it’s the only one that doesn’t completely intimidate you. It is every ache you feel when reading of the unimaginable suffering of our brothers and sisters overseas or the joy that wells up when there’s an answered prayer within the Body of Christ. It is every time your heart beats, slowly when you are lounging on the couch during a Netflix marathon or faster when someone catches your eye. It’s the sound of every prayer on your lips, every echo of silence in your ears calling your heart to listen to Him, and every stroke of the pen on your journal page that almost always runs out of ink as soon as you sit down.

Take a breath. Look over your shoulder and laugh a little at the mess that is your life. See Jesus in it. It doesn’t mean you’ll always feel it. It isn’t permission to stop sitting with our brothers and sisters in grief and pain. But the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness endures from generation to generation. And that is reason to be grateful and living physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually present today.

Enjoy your…what even is today…..Wednesday, July 22, 2015. You only get one of them. And the Maker of it has already gone before you.

For Sophomore Year and the Rest of My Life

If I’ve heard “Mads, lighten up!” one time in my life, I’ve heard it a million times. When I was younger, my dad would get me to chant the word en-thuuu-siastic, hoping to drill the idea of excitement and energy into my brain. When people call me “pensive” or “serious” or “deep,” it’s not because they don’t want to insult me by saying I’m acting standoffish and uninterested. It’s because I am. I process things. Everything in my life is deep and meaningful – which can be both good and bad.  And generally, I’m pretty even about the whole thing. I’ve never been an emotional roller coaster. That’s why sometimes my deep thinking comes across as quiet or reserved; I’m just not going to go round up a group of people to enthusiastically proclaim my newest revelations to. I love people, but I’m an introvert by nature. Welcome to the paradox that is Maddie’s life.

And I forget the Enemy knows these things too.

I feel like I’ve been on a uncertain ship the past few weeks of this semester. I couldn’t seem to get a grip on my life or my thoughts or my emotions. I didn’t understand what I was feeling or thinking, or why. One minute things were great, and the next I wasn’t sure of anything. Excuse me, this isn’t supposed to be how sophomore year goes.

Scared and confused, I ran to what I know best – processing. Crazy emotions mean something is up in my heart, right? So I need to find what that is. So, more time with Jesus? More sleep? More people? Less people? More time alone? More journaling? More worship music? More Scripture? More memorizing Scripture? I need to identify what is going on in my heart, why I’m being so affected by external things, and then I need to fix it. . .with Jesus, of course.

And so, after several weeks of this, you can imagine my exhaustion. I don’t understand what’s wrong, why I can’t get a grip on things and myself. This isn’t me. I think deeply, but when it’s in Christ it leads me to a place of enthusiasm and renewal. There is so much in my mind. What’s up??

Here’s the funny thing about emotions – they aren’t representative of our relationship with Jesus. They aren’t rational. They often don’t line up with the truth we know and believe. And that doesn’t make them any less valid or legitimate. I’m queen of ignoring what I’m really feeling because I don’t want it to conflict with the truth of who Jesus is and what He is doing. The beauty of our security in Christ, is that it is from that place of truth that we can safely bring our emotions. We can admit to Jesus how we are really feeling in the moment because we know He already has the victory. We are free to admit how we are feeling to a Savior who felt them all – but then He takes them and replaces it with His joy. . .if we’ll let Him.

“Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God- soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God. When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you.” Psalm 42:5, The Message

The deal with life is that it is up and down. Welcome to a broken world. Someone says something encouraging and I’m refreshed. Lunch plans get cancelled and I’m thrown off. I bomb a test and I feel like a failure. I get a CPO note and I’m encouraged. I laugh with friends at dinner and I’m grateful. I catch an unflattering glimpse of myself in a window and I’m filled with insecurity. Someone ignores me and I’m frustrated. Me. Me. Me. It’s all about me. It’s all affecting me. My life revolves around me. . .and it can happen even when I’m trying to focus on Jesus and process this life with Him.

This wasn’t where I was planning on going when I started typing this, but hey, it’s real.

I know the “joy of the Lord is my strength,” but do I know it? Joy isn’t faking being ok when you aren’t. It isn’t ignoring the crappy emotions. But it’s not living in them either – because living in my emotions, sometimes over-processing my emotions, negates the sovereignty and victory and strength of Jesus for my life. He is consistent when my circumstances aren’t. And if I’m not focused on that, and I’m focused on myself, even myself with Jesus, it’s no wonder that I feel tossed about by the waves of life.

Look, the authors of the Psalms get about as real as you can. Life is hard and it’s messy and external things do affect us. I won’t deny that it bothers me when people use the prayer chapel for things other than the Lord or that I can get a little cynical when I’m tired. It makes me feel good to receive encouraging notes, when my friends make me laugh, or when people intentionally pray over me. But none of those things can be my focus. I can’t focus on how they make me feel; as soon as I do more with it than submit the very real feelings to the Lord, the Enemy has a foothold. My joy is gone and I become contingent on externalities (a term that took on new meaning after I took economics).

Obviously I wouldn’t be writing this if it hasn’t been an issue all semester. I’ve been pressing into circumstances and emotions, trying to fix them and understand them. But we aren’t called to press into things, we are called to press into Jesus. He is where consistent joy and love and peace and hope are found.

So, that’s where I am. Learning to step back and confess and release. And then press into the only One who’ll get my eyes of myself and onto Eternity. Because life is messy, but the joy of the Lord will be our strength. He’s the only one who can put a smile on our face, regardless of the storm or sunshine around us, because He’s the only One who’s above it all. He’s already won, y’all. Our sovereign God is on the throne and He is loves us with a love that is beyond the fraction of our comprehension. Let’s press into that; let’s press into Him.