More than Gold

I was asked to join a planning meeting about the women’s conference that our church was going to put on this Spring, and because the timing was SO tight (yes, we’re the crazies who planned a full day conference in about 10 weeks), I just thought of it as another thing adding things to my to-do list. But the topic was announced, and my head was spinning with ideas and takeaways that I wanted the women who gathered to believe. That I wanted to believe.

In the end, it was a day of women of incredible talent and wisdom coming together to share and it was special. For me, the best part was that I’d gotten the courage to ask for a spot in the day to talk from my heart, and I did. I wanted to share it with you too, and on this Good Friday because it’s why Christ died for us. Because, we are worth that much. We started with reading from Psalms 139, because so much about believing our worth is found there.

shirt design 1Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

 

When we believe this, we know that we’re worth more than gold. Because a God who knows us so well, who formed us and planned our days, who guides us with His hand wherever we are, would only do all that if our worth is beyond our understanding. Why else would He care so much?

So to believe those words in Psalms means that we know we are worth more than gold. And most of us do believe those words, right? I’m going to be honest and vulnerable with you, and the first part of that is saying- I believe it in my head, I do. But when it comes to my heart, I question it too often. And maybe you do too. But I tell others how valuable they are, and mean it. So I’m going to hold a magnifying glass up to my own life and a few people I love, because maybe you’ll see some similarities, and maybe it can help you.

My friend who is just 28, mom to a cutie pie 5 year old, newly engaged, in training to be a retail manager. Diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer last year, put into a trial for a new drug since traditional treatments were having no impact, and had new scans this week to confirm the belief that her tumors continue to grow. Does God not value her? Of course he does, and though I struggle with the right words through this for her, I do know that she is precious to Him.

The sweet woman I know who was cooking her son’s 23rd birthday dinner, waiting on him to arrive home from work 15 years ago, who still has no answers on his devastating disappearance. Who is raising her severely autistic grandson in place of her daighter. Who can’t speak about her missing son without being overcome with emotion and believes it means she is weak. I’ve seen her incredible strength and the way she quietly comforts others in similar situations. I know God uses her and values her, even in the midst of her pain.

The itty bitty 16 week old, cute as can be, smiling at everyone she meets, and learning to roll over. Whose biological grandmother overdosed and died, whose biological uncle died as a child of complications from drug related birth defects, whose mom hasn’t yet changed the cycle of brokenness, but is trying. I know God has a plan for her, and even for her mom, who I know he loves.

 

You wouldn’t disagree with me on the fact that they are worth so much, even in their pain and their brokenness. We know that God loves them, that He created them with a purpose, and that He will use them for His glory.I truly believe that.

But me? Worth more than Gold? I’m not as sure if I’m honest. I’m a mess. Most people only see a fraction of the mess, because like most of you, I put a cleaned up version of myself out there. I love God, truly and wholeheartedly. I serve because of that love. But I am broken. I suffer from anxiety that comes out in odd ways, including obsessive-compulsive behaviors that are strange. I’ve battled eating issues for much of my life, and struggle more than I ever admit with the image in the mirror. I fell in love with a guy that was a mess too, and has a chronic illness that impacts every area of our life, and man does it make him question his worth. Then, after having our first baby boy and settling into life somewhat, managing it all okay it seemed, one of our biggest life changing moments happened. My brother went missing. We’ve now spent almost 8 years without answers on where he is, 8 years of searching and praying for just confirmation of his death. 8 years of telling people, and meaning it, that God knows where he is, and for now that has to be enough. And you’d think I’d be an emotional mess sometimes. But I’m not, because I just don’t deal with it. I talk about it when necessary, participate in events and interviews when it might help. But avoid it as much as possible. We have two boys that keep me so busy that it’s easy to avoid. So I keep plugging along, working full time, volunteering here, sharing our story some, and I keep waiting. Waiting for some resolution on the circumstances in our lives. Because THEN I’ll be able to really share how God worked through it all, how he brought us out on the other side. That’s the moment where I can say that God was doing a big work in our lives. Because until then, I believe it, I know it, but sometimes my heart questions if we’ve been forgotten. I wonder if we did more or prayed more or believed more if just one of these huge things in our lives would have some resolution.

And then, instead of bringing an ending to any part of our story, 3 months ago He brought another middle to struggle through in the form on that tiny baby I mentioned before. For 9 weeks, she’s been with us more than she’s been with her mom, and we don’t know the long term plan. But if I’m going to look her in her eyes as she grows, and tell her how worthy she is, how loved by God she is, despite the circumstances of her life, even when the path isn’t clear, then I have to fully believe it myself about myself.

What God continues to teach me, especially now with Sophia in our lives, is that He’s often working through us in situations we’d never choose to be in, because He values us that much. He believes that we are so worthy, that we can be used. I can speak love and hope into otherwise dark places. Not just because I’ve been there, but because I am there.

Not bringing me out of those places isn’t a sign of being forgotten. He’s there with me. It’s not a sign of not mattering enough to spend a miracle on. It’s just that the miracle probably isn’t in the happy ending. And I’m listening and learning and opening up to sharing more of His light in that darkness. Because I do believe I’m worthy of being used by Him in big ways.

So there are 4 stories, three of people I love, who intertwine with my own. Full of mess, and pain and darkness. And full of being loved by the God who made us. And if He is loving us, and caring for us, then certainly you can also believe- not just in your head, but in your heart, that you too are worthy.

 

And here’s the ENTIRE POINT of all this to me. That when we believe that we’re worth more than Gold, that we act like it. That we serve and give, and use the fires that have shaped us to bring light into the darkness for others. That’s what it’s all about.

 

Shelter Safe

Our church has some amazingly talented people, especially in music.  Last week as this song was sung and the words flowed through my heart, I did stand in awe.  It is based on Psalms 46, and says:

You’ve been our home, You’ve been our shelter safe
For young and old.  For generations past.
We stand in awe, Of a God so great.
We stand in thanks, Of your faithfulness.
Oh Lord, you’ve been our dwelling place.

my aunt, JoAnn

I’ve heard it many times, but I needed the reminder that the things that I’m battling, the issues my family is dealing with and our friends are hurting over, that those are not new.  30 years ago, my grandmother had already seen heartbreak and loss greater than I’ve been able to imagine.  My God is the same God who watched over her and the same God she worships today in heaven.

He was shelter for my parents through losses that included my Mom’s sister and my Dad’s twin brother, both as teenagers. Even when they didn’t want the comfort or couldn’t see it.   

I hurt for friends who hurt today, I ache over my own tired and worn out spirit, and I can so easily get self focused on that.  But my pains and struggles are no greater than those before me, and I think to the end of my Grandmother’s life and the fact that after all of that, she still knew the true joy and peace that knowing Him brings.  God was her shelter and will be mine.

My own family legacy of losing those we love at a young age can sometimes grip my heart with fear for the future, and for what my boys’ will need shelter from.  But I read those words and know that God will protect them and be their home, just as he was for generations of our family.   

What are you facing?  I encourage you to look for comfort in the shelter of Him.  

Duplicity

We all do it to some extent…. shield portions of our lives from people, hide our feelings so we can continue on without dealing with them, compartmentalizing portions of ourselves.  It makes you wonder, if you look closely, if anyone truly knows all of who we are.  I do it a lot.  This blog is making that collapse to some extent, and though it was a conscious decision, it’s still tough to become so open and honest. 

In the days after Austin was first gone, though the world felt off balance, I still had a job to go to, a child to take care of, roles at church to fill, and a home to maintain.  I shared what was going on with those closest, but really believed we’d find him soon and didn’t want to embarrass him, or concern people more than ‘necessary’ if possible.  So I told those I had to tell, and kept most of it inside.  We started catching some media breaks and soon word was out, once our faces and his face was on the news asking for help.  But yet I downplayed it, and tried not to ask friends for help, though many stepped forward regardless.  But yet I continued to say “I’m fine” and go on about my days.  I never even took a day off from work.  My mom was also trying to work remotely, displaced from her home to be near where Austin last was.  I would come home in the evenings and she would finish whatever project she was on (often work, often search related things) and we’d start putting out fliers, drive through areas Austin frequented, or even drive to nearby towns of possible sightings.  The whole time, my husband was also working and picking up the slack with our son and home. 

As there have been less and less things we could do on a daily basis to search for Austin, my mention of him has been less and less.  What do I say?  I don’t exactly feel like I should tell random people I meet, or even people who become friends about this part of our life.  I don’t want to be pitied, I don’t want to have to share my feelings, and I most certainly would never risk someone seeing me cry. 

But wait…. isn’t that what I wish Austin would have done?  I wish he had told us, been willing to open himself up to sharing what was going on in his life.  His fears, his pains, his whole life, not just the portions that sounded nice and he thought we wanted to hear. 

I’ll probably never be the person who cries in public, or gets past the habit of answering “great” to the polite questions always asked about how we’re doing.  But I do want to be the person who can open up and share her thoughts and feelings here, getting one step closer to being real.  That’s what God challenges us, to live life together in community, to be real with each other.  I’m thankful for a relatively small group of people that I have been real with, people who sometimes push me there even when I don’t want to. 

I wish Austin had felt like he had that.