Chosen and Not Rejected

PrintI took a personality test, and one of its findings shows that I have a need to fit in. I’m not the person who blazes the path – I like to be in the middle. I’m a doer and a world changer and hard charger, but I want to be safely arm and arm with other people as I do it.

Being an outsider is really hard for me. Rejection is hard.

It makes this verse that much sweeter to me. I am chosen. I am not alone – God is with me. On my hard days, I’m not alone. I don’t have to be scared. I don’t have to push through as one who has been rejected. God has promised to strengthen me, to help me, and to uphold me with his righteous right hand.

Friend… you, too are chosen. You are not alone. You aren’t rejected. You don’t have to figure this out by yourself. No matter who has rejected you, criticized you, forgotten you, left you behind… the Great I AM is with you. You aren’t alone… you are the daughter of the King.

Find comfort in that, and hold your head high, dear chosen one!

We are filled with joy: A Thanksgiving reflection

Great things

To compare this year to last year is to simply laugh. Last year was the worst year of my life. This year, one of the best. Not because nothing bad happened – we experienced our share of heartbreak and stress – we lost a baby, we lost our dog (just last week), my sister’s baby spent weeks in the NICU, our close friends moved several states away. Life was still hard, but it was also so sweet.

And the hard came one at a time, not like the waterfall of hard things that almost drowned us last year. Between the hard this year were long stretches of peace. Of easy, and fun, and adventures and health and laughter. So much laughter. And rest, and friends, and more time together as a little family of three than we have ever gotten to spend before. Time to write, and create, and play on the floor and spend hours outside working in our garden.

I am thankful for the hard, because it makes years like this seem that much sweeter. This year has been filled with wonder that can only be seen through the eyes of a two-year-old.

I am thankful for holidays and dedicated times to look back and reflect on God’s goodness. His goodness on the peaceful days, and his goodness during my times of sorrow. His goodness during times of healing, and times of serving, and times of just being.

He is so faithful.

The Lord has done great things for {me}, and {I am} filled with joy. (Psalm 126:3)

A solution for bad days: Remembering I’m BELOVED

Do you ever have a bad day? One of those days where you feel completely worthless, unlovable, unworthy. A day where you feel fat, and wretched, and insecure, and like you have so many secrets that if others found out, they would be horrified?

(You know, those big secrets like {gasp} sometimes you fight with your spouse, or you haven’t meal planned since 2012, or something deep and dark that brings you shame.)

At my conference last week, Louie Giglio may have spoken to an arena with 12,000 people, but he was really speaking directly to me. He didn’t know it, but God did. There were so many things he said that pierced me, but my favorite part was when he talked about how important it is to see ourselves through God’s eyes. To view ourselves the way God views us. I see my limitations, my sins, my screw-ups, my SHAME, the many times I dropped the ball. But how does He see me?

Texas Lovely {beloved}

God sees me as:

righteous :: redeemed :: WORTH DYING FOR :: forgiven :: treasured :: wanted :: chosen :: worth singing over :: WORTHY :: beautiful :: someone worth giving good gifts to :: provided for :: protected :: having the light of life :: strong because of Him :: saved :: full of JOY :: worth rejoicing over :: full of faith :: fearfully and wonderfully made :: confident :: worthy of grace. 

LOVED.

If I could see myself the way God sees me, you know what I would feel?

joy :: gratitude :: rejoicing :: like telling everybody

The song I have had on repeat in my car for the past 10 months (well, when I’m not listening to Serial podcasts) has been this one. Friends, may we remember to start each morning reminding ourselves of who God says we are.

God is telling me to go small

grace upon grace

Last week I was in Atlanta live tweeting and Instagramming the Catalyst Leadership Conference for work. I got to hear from the gals at If: Gathering, Louie and Shelley Giglio, Andy Stanley, Brene Brown, the guy who founded Warby Parker, the guy who founded Charity Water, one of the leading photographers of our era,  and David Crowder played a few songs. And somehow I got paid to do it. Not a bad way to spend a week.

Listening to leaders speak for three days straight is enough to make my type-A head explode. Do more of this… you could be GREAT if only you would sacrifice more… think bigger… be more… do less… let God…

How do all of these things apply to little old me? Doing MORE is never much of a struggle for me. I can do, do, do around the clock until I wind myself up into a ball of stress, unable to sit because there is one more thing to do. One more thing to create. One more task at hand. One more item to check off my list. One more obligation. One more good thing. One more… one more… one more…

So what is the next great thing God has for me? Does He want me to do something GREAT by the world’s standards? Does he want me to be famous, standing on a stage someday using my gifts for His glory? The crazy thing is, right now I feel like He is telling me that it’s not about being great – it’s about being a great servant. That He doesn’t care one bit if I’m famous – that it’s okay to be behind the scenes. That He can use my gifts at my job and in the one-on-one interactions I have on a daily basis.

I feel like lately God has been teaching me that when I do less – when I create more margin in my life – then I am available to love others better. When I have a stack of frozen casseroles in my freezer, I am better able to help someone out in a pinch who needs to experience God’s love. When I have free time built into my schedule, I can drop everything and help out in a crisis. When I have a free night in my calendar, I can host people in our home for dinner and show them love – just regular, old-fashioned LOVE with no agenda and no strings attached.

God is teaching me hospitality. And rest. The two go hand-in-hand for me, because when I’m rested, when I have MARGIN, when I have a free moment, I’m better able to give love – and my time – to others.

So while my head is spinning as I think through all the ways I could use my gifts for BIG THINGS for the Kingdom, between you and me, right now God is telling me to go small. Really small. And loose, and free, and quiet. To go behind the scenes and just love and make people feel safe and encouraged and welcomed.

 

Peace and a Toddler’s Prayer

 

Peace1

I prayed 2 Thessalonians 3:16 the whole time my nephew Sawyer was in the NICU.  Here is a prayer from my journal written on June 3:

You promised to give us peace at ALL times and in EVERY way. God, we need your peace now. Give it to us in abundance. Help us to trust you when we’re weak, scared, tired, hopeless. Give us more hope. More trust. More faith. More peace.

While life seemed like a roller coaster, God promised he would give us peace at all times and in every way. And he dd. He sustained my sister and brother-in-law and the rest of the family.  And I am confident that he always will. Because God keeps his promises.

Isn’t it wonderful to have a God who keeps his promises?

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Sweet Sawyer came home from the NICU on Tuesday, June 16, and I think he has been held every single minute since. I know everybody rejoices over a new baby – because life is a MIRACLE – but with this baby… THIS BABY… well, we just can’t put him down. I want to smother him with kisses and keep him forever, but as his Aunt B I will settle for a lifetime of loving on him and spoiling him whenever possible. And a lifetime of thanking God for creating such a miracle. May I remember God’s goodness every single time I see him.

Speaking of goodness… you guys, my little Wrenn did something the other day that made my heart just explode with joy. We pray often with Wrenn – before meals and each night before bed – it’s a part of our routine. She and I had sat down for dinner (Mr. Right was at a church meeting), and did our regular meal prayer and then started eating. A few minutes later she stopped me, reached over the table to grab my hand, and said, “Pray. Pray!”

I asked her who she wanted to pray for. We pray for family members and friends as well as choo choo trains and puppies and bugs. She told me she wanted to pray for “Yuke” (her cousin Luke, Sawyer’s big brother). So, I held her hand and bowed my head and started to pray, and then she stopped me and said, “BABY! Yuke and baby!”

It was my child’s way of saying she wanted to pray for Baby Sawyer. Oh, what a sweet, innocent heart who has no idea what is going on, and yet she has heard us pray for Baby Sawyer over and over these past few weeks. And she felt compelled to pray for him, in that moment. She has such a limited understanding and yet she wants to pray.

God, bless all of these little children in our family!

Life Lately

Life has been hard lately. It’s hard to watch your sister and best friend go through something traumatic, like having a sick baby in the NICU. But you know what? Even during stressful times, kids bring so much joy. I am constantly reminded of what a gift children are. Mine. My nieces and nephews. Other peoples’ kids. It doesn’t matter – each one is a unique blessing given to us from the Lord.

seesaw

Speaking of blessings… Wrenn is now 23 months and such a JOY. Like, I can’t even describe the joy she brings to Mr. Right and me. Whether it’s hearing her say a new word (like “air conditioner” or “love you”) or learning to say her ABCs (she can repeat all of them after me), or simply saying, “HUG!” and giving me a giant hug over and over and over… this child reminds me every day that I am blessed. She is God’s gift to me.

horse

3

6

cup

backpack

library

Mr. Right is also such a gift. Yesterday (a Sunday), after a particularly hard week, he told me to go get into bed for my Sunday afternoon nap and he would bring me lunch in bed. Who brings their wife lunch in BED? My husband, that’s who. There is nobody I would rather do life with, day in and day out. He is so much better than I deserve, and yet I will gladly take him.

wedding wedding2

Life happens in seasons. Last year was a tough season. Up until a few weeks ago, 2015 was such a peaceful season. Nothing lasts forever, but each season seems to point me toward my need for a Savior. Through the peaceful days and the stressful days, I will choose to praise Him for who He is and what He has done for me.

When you hear “We’ll have your test results tomorrow” and you forget all that scripture you used to know

bad news

Twice in the past six months we’ve heard a doctor say, “We’ll have the test results tomorrow,” and known that those results could potentially change our lives. Forever.

First was last fall, when Mr. Right had an MRI to rule out cancer and M.S. as the cause of his facial pain and swelling, which was mimicking shingles but turned out not to be shingles. We spent a long night looking at each other nervously, wondering if the next day we would hear the dreaded words, “cancer.” Or, “M.S.”

I’d like to say that I was calm and quoted scripture and had total faith that God was in control. But I’d be lying. Instead, I did a lot of crying and fretting and begging God to not let it be either of those horrible things. To let my husband be okay. I knew in my gut that I trusted God, that he was a good God and that he was in control, but I wish that that truth had translated into calmness on the outside.

It didn’t. And I stayed up all night worrying.

The next day we got the results… all clear. Some of the most beautiful words we’ve ever heard.

And then we heard those words again last week. “We’ll have the test results first thing in the morning.” This time those words were for my daughter, who was on week three of a mysterious fever that just wouldn’t go away. The doctor was concerned she might have Kawasaki Disease, something that can cause major heart damage in young children. The doctor was so concerned that he ran a STAT (rushed) blood test and told us if the results came back positive the following morning, our baby girl would be immediately admitted to the hospital for treatment. He used words like “heart cath” and “serious.”

As a mama, well, my heart stopped. While we were in the waiting room, waiting to get little Wrenn’s blood drawn, Mr. Right told me we’d be okay, that he was confident that the results would be fine. Our baby girl looked healthy. And I had to tell him that I couldn’t speak, because I might break down in tears right there in the waiting room.

And then I went home and cried and held my precious child and prayed over her. I knew our Sunday School class and family were praying for us, specifically that we would be calm and get some sleep, and we actually did. All three of us had an amazing night of sleep, which was a miracle. And the next morning God woke me up early and he and I spent some great time together, me handing my child over to him in my prayers, telling God that I knew he could sustain us through anything, even a hospital stay. That I knew that God loved my child even more than I did.

It wasn’t pretty. There were tears, but there was me clinging to God’s promise that he wouldn’t leave or forsake me. That his peace would be with me.

And about 9:30 that morning, we got the news that the tests came back clear. It wasn’t Kawasaki Disease. And we celebrated.

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We finally found out today that it was simply a UTI. That, along with a long bout of croup at the beginning, and what I think may have been teething, and possibly a bout of Hand Foot Mouth has caused little Wrenn’s body to have a fever for 22 days in a row. But through it all, he has protected my little girl, from asthma complications, from Kawasaki Disease, from many other things I don’t even know about. He has been good to us. And we are thankful.

I hope we never have to hear the words, “We’ll have the test results in the morning” again, but if I do, I hope that each time, I will be a little stronger as I cling to God’s promises of comfort and peace and strength.

I am all He says I am

I am all

Does anybody else have that still, small voice that tends to tell you lies? You know the kind: you’re not good enough, you’re not pretty enough, you’re not thin enough. You’re not as good of a homemaker as you should be, you’re not the mother you should be, you’re not a good enough friend, daughter, sister, employee, person. If only did more this… if only you were more like that… but you’ll never get there.

My friend, I have to battle every single day against this awful little voice that pushes me toward perfectionism. It’s a lie, it’s unhealthy, and it’s not of God. But take heart – God has overcome the world, and the God of the universe has chosen YOU. He defines you. He has called you beloved, he sings over you, he knows your name. He has called you daughter, heir, friend, his bride.

I heard a speaker this week who said that Jesus calls us his bride. If you think about a groom and the way he looks at his bride as she walks down the aisle… he doesn’t see her imperfections, her insecurities, her shortcomings. He sees her as his beloved.

My friend, you are defined by who GOD SAYS YOU ARE. Be blessed by these lyrics to my new favorite song (source at the bottom).

He whispers in my ear
Tells me that I’m fearless
He shares a melody
Tells me to repeat it
And it makes me whole
It reminds my soul

I am all He says I am
I am all He says I am
I am all He says I am
And He says I am His own

I was blinded by scales upon my eyes
Then He came like a light
And burned up all the lies
He set me free
He reminded me

I am all He says I am
I am all He says I am
I am all He says I am
And He says I am His own

Chains are broken
Scales are on the floor
Truth is spoken
I’m no orphan anymore

I am loved
I am new again
I am free
I’m no slave to sin
I’m saint
I am righteousness
I’m alive> 

{Source: Gateway Worship – All He Says I Am}

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How God spoke to me

I always love to hear stories about how God speaks to people, because as with everything else he does, he is so creative when it comes to speaking to his children. I remember as a small child waiting for an audible voice to tell me something – anything – and I would never hear it, and be disappointed.

And then I realized that God can speak much more loudly than an audible voice. In fact, his words can be unmistakable.

2014 year was one of the worst years of my life. It just stunk. It was stressful, we all had some pretty big health problems, and it just felt like we couldn’t catch a break. I’ll admit – I got a little mad at God for awhile. Not like a “I’m never talking to you again” kind of mad… more like I sulked about how he wasn’t intervening in all of our troubles and making them all go away.

But I look back at 2014, and realize that God chose to speak to me so very clearly, so many times. As cliche as it sounds, during my hardest year, I heard him the loudest.

July 9 – We were in the midst of all of our health struggles, with more around the corner (like Mr. Right’s cancer scare and some super scary asthma attacks for Wrenn). We were tired, we were haggard, we were surviving on fumes. And during one of my quiet times, I came to this verse:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

And it was on this day, with this verse, I heard God speak so clearly in my soul, saying “Baby girl, I’ve got you. Do you think your stress is more than I can handle?”

And again I heard: “Just rest in my presence.”

I immediately wrote this down – because when you feel like God is speaking to you, you ALWAYS WRITE IT DOWN. And I clung to that promise during the roller coaster that followed over the next few months – of not sleeping, of medical test after medical test, ER visits, of holding my baby girl in the floor of our bathroom as I prayed that the steam from the shower would open up her lungs – during what turned out to be very dark months for me, I kept reminding myself, “God told me that he has me. He’s not surprised by this. He can handle ALL of my stress. Just rest in his presence.”

Nov. 22 – My birthday. Our stressful season was in full swing – we still didn’t have a good diagnosis for what Mr. Right was struggling with, and he was only a week away from leaving for India. Our baby girl had been horribly sick with asthma, and on the nights when I wasn’t up all night holding her as she had asthma attacks, I was lying in bed awake, waiting for the next asthma attack to hit. On Nov. 21 before I went to bed, I prayed that God would speak to me, to remind me that he was still there and that he loved me. Because sometimes I need that reassurance, and that’s okay. It’s okay to ask God to speak loudly to you. Because sometimes, that’s exactly what he wants to do.

I prayed that prayer on Friday night, and on Saturday morning, when I woke up, I had an email from a friend who said she felt compelled to encourage me. Turns out, she had walked a very similar path to the one I had walked, and not only did she bravely share her story, but then she shared the scripture and the truth that she clung to during that hard season. She wanted to share the things in God’s word that had gotten her through her hard season, so that I could get through mine.

You guys – that was God talking to me through her. When someone tells you they feel compelled to share something from scripture with you – and they would have had no real idea of how important it would be in that moment – there’s a very good chance that it’s a God thing.

This was a God thing. Not only did he answer my prayer before I woke up the following morning (on my birthday, no less) but I started thinking, and I realized that I had had several people contact me over the past few months sharing scripture that had helped them walk through difficult seasons. And I realized that GOD HAD ANSWERED MY PRAYER BEFORE I HAD EVEN PRAYED IT.

Yep. God blows my mind. Isn’t he so gracious?

Nov. 29 – Mr. Right was 48 hours from leaving for India, and I still hadn’t felt a peace about him going. My husband had felt a definite call from God that he was supposed to travel to India to teach local pastors, and after coming a little closer to begging him not to go than I’d like to admit, I finally just said, “I don’t have a peace about it, but if God has told you to go, then you need to go.” I’ve read the story of Jonah enough times to know that if God says go, you always go.

In the meantime, we were also praying that God would provide the funds to cover the trip. It was expensive, money was tight, not to mention that when a small business owner misses 2.5 weeks of work, it means you’re not going to make any money during that time. We prayed and prayed, and the money came in, but we still lacked $800, with two days to go before his trip.

That Saturday, Mr. Right couldn’t find his malaria medicine (a must when you go to India), and tore apart our bathroom searching for it. He found a stack of cards I had written him, and out fell an envelope with our name in it. Inside were 10 $100 bills. Exactly enough to cover the cost of the rest of the trip, plus $200 in travel money (which is the identical amount I had set aside for him to use in airports/emergencies).

Y’all… God provided the exact amount of money we needed, PLUS the exact amount of money we had set aside, with 48 hours to go before the trip. It was kind of like God lit up a neon sign that said, “BETHE, I TOLD YOU I WANTED HIM TO GO TO INDIA.”

Yes, God. I hear you loud and clear.

It was the sweetest gift he could have given me, because for the 16 days that Mr. Right was on the opposite side of the planet, I felt the greatest peace I have ever felt in my entire life. I had confidence that he was supposed to be in India. That we were following God’s will. And that’s exactly where I want to be – smack dab in the middle of God’s will, all the time. It was a GIFT.

Not only that, but God decided to just WOW me during Mr. Right’s trip to India. I have told people that I think my husband had to travel to the other side of the globe, so that God could do a work in my heart back here at home. On the second day he was gone, after I talked to him and he was still en route (it took 48 hours and three flights to get there), sick and exhausted, I reached into my jacket pocket – the jacket I wear every single day in the winter time – the jacket I have worn 50 times since last year – and there was a brochure for India. My church had hosted a luncheon more than a year before to promote trips to India, and I must have grabbed a brochure and stuck it in my pocket. The brochure featured all of the cities Mr. Right would travel to, with photos of the very people he would get to love on, and there it was in my jacket pocket. I hadn’t noticed it the other 50 times I had worn that jacket, because God wanted me to find that brochure at that divine moment, when I needed reminding that GOD WANTED MR. RIGHT IN INDIA.

I told everybody I could.

And then, one more cool thing – because our God, the God of the universe, likes to do things BIG. It wasn’t enough to provide the money, or provide pictures in my pocket of the people my husband was going to see. No, he decided to send me another love letter, in the form of scripture. You see, God has always used other people quoting his word to speak to me. It has happened more times than I could count.

First, God had a coworker send me this verse on the morning my husband left for India:

“May the God of hope fill you with ALL JOY AND PEACE as you TRUST in him, so that you may OVERFLOW WITH HOPE by the POWER of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13

This verse became my mantra – my daily battle cry for the 16 days I was a single mom. You have to remember, my baby girl had battled horrible asthma attacks for months, leading up to about a week before this trip. It had been scary and exhausting. I hadn’t slept in forever. And now I was going to be a single, working mom, entirely responsible for the health and safety of my beloved child, with a husband two days away in an emergency.

I prayed this prayer and clung to it – it brought me so much peace. More peace than I had felt in all of 2014. Like, it was weird.  And God, in his pure awesomeness, put that verse in my daily Bible Study reading on the very last night before Mr. Right came home. There it was – bookending this trip. It was like, on either side, God reminding me that this promise is for me. No matter my circumstances, he wants to provide me with ALL JOY AND PEACE as I choose to TRUST in him.

And guess what… this promise is also FOR YOU.

Friend, I don’t know what you’re walking through. You may be in the midst of the worst year of your life, or you may be at a crossroads and desperately need to hear God speak. Whatever it is – don’t be afraid to flat out ASK HIM TO SPEAK TO YOU.

Note: A great book on this topic that changed my life was this one. Know that when God speaks, it is always in line with his scripture. He will never tell you something that conflicts with it. If you have questions, feel free to email me at bethe@texaslovely.com.

A perspective on the Ebola outbreak from a former hospital spokesperson

It happened. The Ebola virus finally came to the United States and ended up in Dallas of all places, right in my backyard. Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised, seeing as the DFW area is a major hub for internationals coming from all over the world, including West Africa.

It was just a matter of time.

I’m a little worried, I’ll admit. Because I’m a worrier, it’s what I do, and it’s something I have to war against every day. So yes, I don’t love that there is a patient with Ebola 30 minutes from my house.

But y’all, we all need to take a deep breath {sigh} and keep things in perspective. The first thing you need to understand:

The media’s number one job is to sell newspapers/get TV ratings so they can sell commercials. Their main job is not just to keep me informed, make me feel better, help me to keep things in perspective. They want me to watch their station instead of that old West Wing rerun on Netflix.

The other thing you need to understand:

Every hospital, government organization, and politician has a public relations person who is employed to help his or her boss get media coverage. It’s what I did for 10 years. Was there an ice storm? I pitched a story about ice-storm related baby booms. West Nile Virus? I found an infectious disease physician to conduct TV interviews. Major Texas heat wave? I pitched stories about how to recognize symptoms of a heat stroke and hosted reporters in our ER.  Ebola? PR PROFESSIONALS ARE BRAINSTORMING WAYS FOR THEIR HOSPITAL/DOCTOR/COUNTY JUDGE/GOVERNOR TO GET A PIECE OF THE PUBLICITY PIE.

This combination of reporters who are HUNGRY for Ebola stories and PR folks like me who are happy to feed them stories means that there will be STORY AFTER STORY AFTER STORY this week about Ebola. Every single angle will be covered. No stone will be left unturned. Fear will be spread and spread and SPREAD.

It is going to make people nervous wrecks because it will be all we think about. Unless you understand what (and who) is feeding this frenzy. It’s just folks who are trying to do their jobs and support their families. They’re not bad people. But with 24/7 news coverage,there will be speculation, misinformation, and missed context.  There will be people who mean well but misspeak. Know this.

Instead of getting scared, get cynical. We have had one person diagnosed with Ebola, and 23,000+ people will die from complications of influenza this year. Which one brings better ratings?

As for me, I’m going to choose to turn most of this coverage off and go back to my reruns of West Wing and my copy of Gone Girl on audio book. And take a big, deep breath.

(PS – For a great article with basic, non-scary facts from an infectious disease physician, check out this article from a fellow Fort Worth Mom Blogger).

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