It’s my birthday this month! But when you reach your 60s, birthdays often become an event you would rather ignore. Allowing the day to come and go without the fanfare and celebrations of younger years.
I’ve talked with others reaching these milestone events and they agree, let them slip silently away.
But this year, I am approaching my birthday with a different attitude.
You see, the year leading to this celebration was a difficult journey of refinement. Gentle revelations from God that my thoughts and behavior harbored unrecognized, unconfessed disobedience and selfishness. I’ve been prideful and controlling, not wanting to listen to God’s prompting and ignoring His direction.
There were times, flat on my back, when God had my undivided attention, reminding me of His sovereignty, His mercy, and the amazing grace He offers unconditionally.
He literally rerouted my heart by His loving care.
So this year, the celebration will be introspective – no parties or trips of a lifetime. I need to take time to reflect on all that has happened these past 365 days. Because, I am gradually, daily recognizing God’s hand in the orchestration of my life.
I see it.
I feel it.
And it is a little overwhelming to experience the depth of our Savior’s love.
I am grateful for another year, for family and friends, and the gift of a future altering salvation that blows me away daily.
The year leading to this birthday was life-changing, filled with demands, and stretched me beyond my comfort. Yet, there was a sweetness that wove its way through the days.
It was a year of rebirth.
An amazing gift.
Colossians 3:10 tells us,
“Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”
New Living Translation (NLT)
BeLOVED, each year is a precious gift that God hands us. As we unwrap each day, every minute, look for the learning; seek ways to grow closer to God. And, if the time includes the demanding, the life-changing, some uncomfortable stretching, be confident that the gift remains perfectly selected for you.
Yesterday, I walked our dog, Titus, through the neighborhood golf course. A hilly course allowing him some needed running space and me a cardio challenge.
The snow was melting, the rain dissolving all the wonderful white stuff. But as we reached the backside of the course, some snow lingered in the shadows of the large pine trees and in the shaded areas where the sun had not reached.
We made our way up the last rise and to our delight found a beautiful blanket of snow covering the backside of the slope.
Titus loves snow!
So as we crested the top of the hill he saw the snow, ran directly towards the frozen sheet, and dove in.
The recent rain caused a thin film of ice to collect on the surface. Making it a slick crunchy combination. Yet, he wiggled and rolled, jumping to his feet and then diving again.
It was pure joy spilled over snow, grass, and icy glaze.
Standing at the edge of the slope, he took a plunge but this time he caught the edge of a patch of ice and slid down slowly to the bottom. Jumping up, with large brown eyes staring at me, he stood motionless for a few seconds. You could tell he was thinking and then almost like a light being flipped on; he ran to the top of the slop and tried it again.
Pure joy had shifted to exhilaration!
I spent several more minutes standing at the top of the hill. Watching the scene unfold – run to the top of the ridge, lay on your side, back leg gives a push and a slow slide to the bottom.
On the walk home, his stride had a little prance. He would look back at me occasionally, tongue hanging from his mouth and the faintest twinkle in his eyes.
He was satisfied, joyously filled.
Our culture would like to keep us distracted, longing for more, perhaps even envious of others’ lives. We don’t necessarily want to admit that we have fallen prey to this trap but the feelings are there lingering just at the edge of our consciousness.
But what if there was a way to be deeply satisfied, joyously filled every day?
And I’m not talking about being filled only in the good times. The times when life is easy, working out just the way we planned.
No, I’m talking about being filled with joy in the midst of the devastation that occasionally rocks our lives.
Isaiah 26:3-4 tells us,
(3) You (Lord) will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (4) Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.
New International Version (NIV)
The Lord offers a solution, perfect peace, deep satisfaction, and indescribable joy. All the results of our willingness to be obedient to His will and to trust Him. This will require us to evade the distractions the world places in front of us and to forego our personal agendas.
We will be challenged to find the courage to surrender our wills to His authority, allowing our hearts and lives to be transformed into His image.
And when we have taken the steps to let go we will wake one morning and find in the place of our longing, deep satisfaction. In the place of our heartache, joy, unexplainable, perfect joy.
It won’t happen all at once, refinement takes time.
But as we grow closer, peace will fall over our lives, a steadiness that brings confidence – regardless of our circumstances, regardless of our brokenness, God is near.
BeLOVED, you can have a life of satisfaction, filled to the brim and overflowing.
Samantha sat crossed-legged in the middle of the bedroom floor. The closet doors open and everything that had occupied the shelves and clothes racks piled onto the bed, the adjacent chair, and the floor.
The image she had worked so hard to create now encircled her.
Samantha pushed her way up the corporate ladder. At 38 she made partner – she had arrived professionally.
And with the prestige of the position, she felt the pressure to look the part. To keep pace with the corporate culture. She lived for work, no time for life.
She had made it!
Yet, I watched as she arranged and rearranged the piles. The sorting and shifting were more than just a task to determine what would stay and what would be given away.
The process allowed Samantha to wrestle with her internal struggle. How do you define true value? How do you reconcile what the world tells you is valuable when you can’t maintain the standards and expectations? How do you embrace a criteria based on looks, status, power, and possessions? Because with time looks fade, status falters, power weakens, and possessions – they break or become obsolete.
Samantha continued to sort until all the piles were neatly organized. The piles on the floor given away and the collection on the bed neatly folded and hung on hangers – all placed back in the closet.
Yet, her struggle continued. How would she find her way forward?
I lived in this world, defining my importance by what I did, how much I could accomplish, my ability to perform. Work consumed me, giving me a false sense of worth. It gave me a footing in the world, and allowed me to make sense of my life experiences – it gave me purpose.
But life happens, I grew older and the pace of work, the stress of travel, and the pressure to take on more forced me to make a change. The thing that had defined me was gone. I was left raw and undefined, forced to look at what was left and given the opportunity to reimagine, redefining my future from a past that in retrospect did not fulfill or satisfy.
As women, we find ourselves facing these types of dilemmas several times throughout the course of our lives. For some, it’s when our children grow up and leave, when we find the first wrinkle, the first age spot, the first…
For others it’s when the career is replaced with retirement; when our ministry, volunteer work, a second career ends and we find ourselves wondering, seeking, and questioning our importance and purpose.
True value is not found in what we do.
It is not found in our possessions, our bank statements, a perfectly decorated home, or a professionally couture wardrobe.
True value is found in whose we are.
We find an interesting story about a woman’s worth in John, chapter 4. In this story, Jesus has an encounter with a rejected and outcast Samaritan woman. Samaritans at that time were a people to be avoided in fact many good Jews would go out of their way to avoid this region.
But Jesus intentionally ventured into this land. He had a critical encounter with a woman that other villagers avoided. She had multiple husbands and the man she currently lived with was not her husband. She was an outcast and knew her place in this society – drawing water from the well at midday to avoid the interaction with others from her community.
This woman had a reputation. Some would say she was unworthy yet, Jesus was determined to meet her, challenge her way of thinking, and offer transformation.
Jesus does the same for each of us. He goes out of His way to have an encounter with us, defining us as important, worthy, and useful. The Samaritan woman went on to evangelize her community – fulfilling her unique purpose from a renewed life.
Her value was found in a relationship with Jesus, not her status in her community.
And He desires the same for us, purpose grown from a relationship with Him, enhanced by our experiences and talents.
Value is not what we do; it is not what we have, or how the world defines importance.
True value comes from a relationship with a risen savior, a transformed life, the acceptance of a new definition that tells us we are valuable in Him.
The Oxford dictionary defines value as
The worth of something compared to the price paid or asked for it.
Jesus paid the ultimate price for you and for me – His life.
The text message came across my phone, baby Jana had arrived. She came one day late and it took 13 hours for her to make her journey from the safety of her mother’s womb to the world.
I texted mom and grandma and was off to the hospital to meet this precious little one.
They say all babies are beautiful but Jana is B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. She has the perfect shaped head, rosy red cheeks, and this amazing mohawk – curled just right at the top. Her hands are bigger than you would expect. Mom says they are a feature Jana shares with grandma. She will need to grow into those hands.
I held Jana as she napped, sucked her fist, and cooed. The moment couldn’t be any better, a precious blessing nestled in my arms.
After about an hour, I handed Jana back to her mom, hugged them both, and walked out the door. Such a sweet visit, a tiny glimpse of heaven. The peaceful presence of God wrapped in a blanket.
I unlocked the car and sat down – a single tear ran down my cheek, then another, and then more. Such a surprise, my heart ached and sadness filled the interior of the car. I thought I was way beyond the emotional impact my infertility had on my life. No babies from my womb but I know God had a plan.
It was OK because God had a plan.
I am OK because God had a plan.
But the tears continued and the sadness spilled over – creeping outside the boundaries of the car, following me into the house and relentlessly chasing me for days. I prayed, I shared the experience with my husband and close friend. I walked, listened to my favorite worship music, and held back the tears. Even as I write this, I hold back the tears.
It is an interesting dilemma. I know God really does have a purpose for my childlessness. I have seen Him use the sadness and pain to minister to others. I have witnessed His amazing restoration and deliverance in the midst of the circumstance. I know He heals, I’ve lived it. And way down, in the depths of my heart – that place where my brain, heart, and spirit connect to Him, I am at peace. So, why the tears? Why the sadness?
I am human, and my humanness desires my will, my way, my timing, my plan. This is a battle for my faithfulness.
In God’s paradigm, our hearts, our connectedness with Him is more important than our comfort or fulfilling our desires. In His economy – we triumph over evil, live with Him for eternity, and He will use everything, all our things, those things that break us to align us with Him.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11 New International Version (NIV)
Jana, that beautiful little girl, was such an amazing reminder that God remains in control. He is still on His throne and He loves me more than I can ever understand.
Steffany Gretzinger and Brandon Lake sing a song titled Communion. It is one of the songs I played and repeated so many times after my visit. It reminded me of God’s goodness. The chorus says,
You are closer, closer than my skin. You are in the air I’m breathing in.
Here’s where the dead things come back to living. I feel my heart beating again. It feels so good to know you are my friend.
Tears offer cleansing and once you are washed clean – hope, perspective, courage return.
Dear Sisters, it is ok to cry, to let your fears, frustrations, and pain flow out. It is cleansing. And God waits, to bring life to all that is dead in your life. He gives you another chance, a new chance.