This month’s Guest Post contributor faced the limitations of comparison and inadequacy to write this post. And it’s a good one! I know you’ll be blessed by Gayle’s words as she speaks into your heart regarding her own determination for freedom.
Seasons change in life. Things change and shift, reflecting different pictures.
For a season of my life The Star Spangled Banner was one of my most favorite songs to sing. Today, I don’t do too much singing publicly, but I still sing. God bless my children and my hubby for all my singing they listen to around the house and in the car!
I remember singing this song for the first time in 8th grade choir. And then, my sophomore year of high school I was asked to sing this song at a basketball game.
Like I always did, I showed up with my accompaniment track, on a cassette tape in those days, and I sang the National Anthem at my first high school basketball game. Afterward, a coach encouraged me to do it next time without the music!
I could never sing without the music! That felt so naked!
The next few times I still brought my accompaniment, but then one random time I put on my big girl panties, pun totally intended, and I belted it out acapella.
I sang this song so often that one particular time I got finished, walked over to the student section where I planned to eat the hot dog waiting for me that I purchased right before I sang, and my friends said, “What happened? “ I had no idea what they were getting at. I mean, I would remember for sure if I cracked or flubbed. I’ve done that more times than I can count. But this instance I felt it went rather smoothly. Then one of them said, “You skipped straight to the bombs!” How funny! I didn’t even realize until that point that I had missed an entire stanza!
Time has changed very much. In the video you’ll notice my sweet Ruby Sue on the floor behind me and the kids’ cats moseying around, but as different as the picture looks, this is still one of my most favorites.
There is something about “the fight.” Something about a “perilous fight” and “our flag” still there that stirs my heart and my spirit.
We all face fights. We face unimaginable moments of hardship and difficulty, but we come from a people who are fighters.
I am so proud to be an American. Not just today on Independence Day. I am grateful I was born in this United States of America and have inherited the history of this country and my family.
We are a young country. We have many flaws in our past and our present. Something I can relate to and identify with personally.
But we are fighters. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Brave is a word that has more definition, meaning and value to me than I can expand on in this post which I intended to be short and sweet.
But brave is something I connect with.
Brave is what the nurses called me in the burn unit during bandage changes.
Brave is what I tell myself when I’m standing on the brink of what I feel like I most certainly will fail at in my own ability.
Brave is what I tap into when I write posts, write this book in the making, show up to take care of NICU babies, step out on a limb to pray with someone I don’t know, parent my children each day, because honestly people, sometimes they scare me, and to record this song to share with you. Gracious that took lots of brave for me.
But just as we come from fighters. We come from so much more. Brave fighters.
I Timothy 6:12 NLT Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.
Psalm 27:14 NLT Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
Happy 4th of July, Brave Fighter!
I pray this post spoke to you. Did you know I’m writing a book?! Would you join me in supporting these endeavors by subscribing to our blog and sharing with your friends and family? We can’t grow with out you.
Let’s talk about comfort zones. Or risk zones. Or danger zones. I feel like there are signs regarding all three just sitting here composing this post. The thing is, I’m willing to stretch myself to share my experiences, feelings and thoughts to encourage others as the Lord directs me, (see that comma? It’s the contingency mark to this situation), I’m willing to stretch myself as long as it’s not too far outside the comfort zone and as long as I don’t merge over the line into any risk or danger. Let’s keep it relatively safe and dignified.
Well, I’m nearly one hundred words into this and there’s a photo attached, therefore, I’m already very much outside the comfort zone.
Over the last fourteen days my requests for the Lord to speak the next post into my heart have returned quite silent. I wanted to set this particular one on the back burner and share it another day. Okay. Possibly never. It wouldn’t be the first post I’ve written that I never published. But above my dignity is my desire for Him to use this blog to encourage and inspire others when they need it most. In order to receive the next one, I must be obedient to share this one. This post is my abandonment of self for His glory. This post is my David-moment, dancing with all my might.
2 Samuel 6:14-15, 20-22 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”
For most of my life I dreamed of the day when medical advancements would remove my scars. In nearly three decades, that day hasn’t come.
In that time I’ve given much effort to covering my body and hiding my scars. No matter how many years and how much I’ve grown I’ve never got used to people staring. For the most part, when people see me they don’t notice my scars too terribly much because of my clothing. Actually, some don’t realize the extent of my injury. Until…..
Until I wear a swimsuit.
My backyard is a safe place surrounded by people who know me and love me, and while yes, they do obviously see my scars, they see me first. A public place is just the opposite. People don’t know me, therefore, they see the scars first. The looks could be categorized as curious or puzzled, but the expression I receive is negative and uncomfortable.
I’ve even experienced a couple individuals sharing those very thoughts with me. One random lady came up to me in the grocery store asking if she could pray with me for the Lord to take my scars away. Another was a man who went to our church attributing my scars to a lack of faith. I think Taylor Swift could have also been inspired by the super-spiritually-detached when she sang Shake It Off. In those situations there’s nothing else to do. Just go your separate ways picturing Olaf in your mind when he said, “he’s crazy.” (You should totally click here and watch the short clip.)
These instances explain why a baggage of inhibition accompanies me every time I put on a swimsuit, including recent events when our beach-loving family went to Hawaii for this year’s vacation. But as if it wasn’t enough to merely go in my swim shorts and tankini, the Lord challenged me with my very own David-moment….take pictures in a TWO PIECE!!!
And that’s only one part of the story (as you know, there’s always more than one part).
The other is that it is October. It’s been a couple months since this body has seen sun, especially my torso! So there I was, out on the beach for the first four days of our vacation, for the very first time in my entire life wearing a two-piece in public! While there was never any strolling along the beach, I was jumping hurdles of insecurities just sitting there in my lounge chair.
The third part of the two-piece swimsuit challenge was the day we actually took the photos. We got to the location and snapped a few photos in my dress. Nice, peaceful, no-people-around place. No. Not a soul. God honoring my obedience, right? Well, maybe Him challenging me more. It’s the only reason I can conclude as to why the moment that I was just pulling my dress off here came a wedding party! A WEDDING PARTY!!!! You’ve got to be kidding me! Talk about a test of commitment. I nearly bailed. And nearly vomited.
So why do it?
While I was incredibly inhibited I envisioned the image as a very powerful illustration of not only survival, but of overcoming. The Lord put it in my heart to share these scars for the power they portray. His power. There is a story in them. A story not about me but all about the evidence of His faithfulness.
This location the photographer chose with the black rocks and crashing waves made me feel brave. Brave enough to stand there and share my vulnerability, the imperfections I prefer to hide believing there are others who relate to doing the same thing. Believing that God truly can place some beauty in what’s damaged.
We have so many things about ourselves that we don’t like, but that we can change. It gives us ambition, hope and joy pursuing self-improvement. But what about the things we can’t change?
I’m not happy with my body, but I’m happy with me. Growing up damaged on the outside motivated my development of who I am on the inside. My goal was for people to see me, not my scars. When we’re standing in an elevator, or the grocery line, or even at the pool, people merely see our shell. And we know, the pretty shells are the ones we search for on the beach. No, I’m not happy to have scars. I don’t love my body. But I am happy and love who God has made, and is still making, me to be. It is possible to be happy, even in what we can’t change.
This was one of the most uncomfortable and yet most meaningful things I’ve ever done. It felt serene. It felt sacred. It felt liberating.
It’s my hope this speaks a message to your heart, like what it spoke to another girl on the beach. Brooklyn was quite aware of the unwanted attention during my time tanning. One afternoon she came to walk the short distance with me from the chair to the water. I noticed her effort in blocking my view walking into the ocean. I said, “Thanks Brook. You’re amazing.” She replied, “I think you’re amazing.” Is it because I am, and have been, amazing? No. She of all people knows that’s not true. I think it had more to do with the courage to be seen when I really wanted to hide. That's a message I'm honored to live out before my kids.
For fellow burn survivors, those with psoriasis, vitiligo, rosacea, surgery scars, breast reconstruction, varicose veins, stretch marks, and any other imperfection, take it from my daughter, you’re amazing! And you feel nothing less in your own David-moment glorifying the God who brings you through it! This photo is for you.
*thank you to Anthony Calleja for his talent and heart in capturing this message *thank you to Athleta for swim wear for all women, for everyday-life women *The song I sang during these moments- You Make Me Brave
As Your love, in wave after wave Crashes over me, crashes over me For You are for us You are not against us Champion of Heaven You made a way for all to enter in.... You make me brave You make me brave You call me out beyond the shore into the waves You make me brave You make me brave No fear can hinder now the love that made a way
Mark your calendar to join me for a Women’s Night at Coweta Assembly of God on Sunday November 6th at 6pm as we dig in to the words we need to receive, repeat and those we need to rebuke in order to walk in the label the Lord has given us. All are welcome to attend. And if you know a teenage girl, bring her along too!
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My heart has been heavy approaching this day of Thanksgiving. I’m thinking of the mother facing the holidays for the first time after the tragic loss of her daughter; the family who lost their baby this week; the daughter whose holiday gatherings have been years without her mother and just recently will now be without her father; the wife waking up for her first holiday morning without her husband of over twenty-five years; the woman who lost the anticipation and excitement of her baby’s first Thanksgiving in a miscarriage; a family welcoming a precious new healthy baby but losing the young, beautiful first-time mother. One can’t help but grieve with these who are hurting.
Grief has been known in my family. We’re familiar with the breath it takes out of you, the way it changes you, how it can overwhelm you and make your body feel physically ill. And we know that it never completely goes away. Every birthday, date of death, every milestone moment, and yes, this time of year, each holiday celebrated accompanied with traces of grief.
Someone is missing. How unnatural it feels to keep living life when life no longer feels like the life we knew. How bewildering it is seeing people go about their daily business, not even aware that someone so special, and so significant, is no longer on this earth. How empty it feels sitting down to a table with all our family, except our loved one lost.
After loss, I picture grief taking up a large part of our heart. Through healing, the element of grief becomes smaller and smaller, yet remains. Why?
The Lord uses the sorrow in my heart to believe for His healing, His joy, and His peace for others. These losses grieve me so deeply because I know how I’ve grieved for those I’ve lost. It’s so painful. It hurts. It’s dark. However, my losses fuel my intercession for others who mourn. Romans 12:15 ESV says it’s one of the marks of a true Christian, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
How has my family been able to be thankful in, through and after tragedy?
It’s difficult to praise God when so much is wrong. It’s a challenge to worship with a heavy hurting heart. However, praise, worship and thanksgiving are vital to healing.
Think about Paul and Silas sitting in prison. What did they do? They began to sing. Sorrow can feel like a prison. The release comes through the worship. Worship shakes the foundation to our grief, doors are swung open and bonds are unfastened. (See Acts 16:25-26).
Worshipping the Lord in our grief is a sacrifice. God honors the sacrifice of worship. Worshipping not because we feel like it, but worshipping because He is worthy. I remember being in church two days after my Dad’s funeral. Imagining his casket at the front of the sanctuary was hindering my worship. I was so grieved. But then we began to sing “Blessed Be Your Name.” Yes, there was pain in the offering, but that is authentic worship. Hebrews 13:15 ESV “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.”
The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God—even for the bread and cup of cost, for cancer and crucifixion –this prepares the way for God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from all sin that estranges us from Him. – One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp
Thankfulness doesn’t negate our grief. Thankfulness brings joy in the grief. How? Thankfulness brings us closer to God and as we are closer to Him we receive of His glorious riches. His light, His love, His joy, His peace. This isn’t denial. This isn’t fairytale, make-believe. This isn’t lying to ourselves. This is walking, not in the natural tendency of our nature, but in His supernatural power to transform our hearts in His presence. Habakkuk 3:17-18 ““Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest of Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. – One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp
I pray for you, sweet readers to be the “change agents.” Our place is not in this world. Our place is destined to be with the Father. In the imperfections of this life we live, I pray for your heart of Thanksgiving to transcend every trial, displaying the light of His glory through your joy.
Visit the link for the song: Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redman http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTpTQ4kBLxA
*If you are waking this day with pain and loss, I invite you to read this touching post my friend shared. https://abedformyheart.com/grateful-and-grieving/ *
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