Saturday, May 19, 2007

Blessed Family

Our blessed family last Spring...

Friday, May 18, 2007

I Will Give You Rest...

My husband is going to Boston tomorrow. His brother is receiving his doctorate from Boston College on Monday (congratulations Kevin!) and Charlie and his parents are making the trek for the celebration. When we first discussed his going on the trip, I was excited for him. I've never been to Boston but I know it will be a great trip for him and will give him some much needed R&R. But, as time went on, it started to bug me every time we talked about it or every time I talked to his mom about the details of the trip. I was still rejoicing that my husband will be able to get away and enjoy himself but I was also starting to feel envious of those five days. The more it festered in my head, the more irritated I got. Then, I started hearing about other people making plans to go on vacation or get away for a few days and the irritation grew into anger.

Okay, God, I'm happy for Charlie, but what about me? I'm tired, too, and I need a break. I'm going to be all alone for five days with no help, no family, no husband, and no vacation in sight. I'm the one who loves to travel and see new things. I'm the one who enjoys living out of a suitcase and wandering around strange cities and towns. Don't you see how hard I'm working and how much work there is to do?! When do I get a break?

I kept trying to push those thoughts and feelings down deeper and deeper but they kept bubbling up and manifesting themselves in ugly ways. I was embarrassed to admit my jealousy to anyone, including God. Finally, after praying with Charlie one night this week about something totally unrelated, we said "Amen," and then I started to cry. I confessed to him that I was jealous of his trip and struggling to understand why God wasn't answering my need for a break. I knew I could handle the kids for a few days alone, but I wanted to have my own "Jen Time" to look forward to. He hugged me and encouraged me to pray about it. I sniffled an apology and told him I knew I should.

As I started to talk to the Lord about it, He began by reminding me that He is in control:

"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding." Job 38:4

"I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted." Job 42:2

I had been prideful to question God's provision in my life. I assumed that I had a legitimate argument and was demanding an answer. Not only that, but I was actually questioning whether or not God was paying attention to the details of my life. I had allowed my emotions and my sin of jealousy to drag me into a pit of selfishness and despair. So, lovingly, God reminded me that He is sovereign and He has purposes that will not disappoint.

Then, my Jesus reminded me of His tender words:

"Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden 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

Those words pierced my heart and mind. "I will give you rest." The rest isn't found in a vacation or "Jen Time." Rest is given to me by Jesus. He promises that He will give me rest if I simply come. Beautiful but forgotten by my wayward heart. I was so focused on what others were receiving that I had forgotten the true treasure of these words. It was also convicting. If I am so tired and worn out, was I really spending time with the Lord? If He promises rest, why am I so weary? Could it be that my spiritual gas tank is running on fumes? How did I let things get this way? Why didn't I notice sooner?

I know all the answers to those questions and I know the solutions, too. I'm not so new to my faith that I am without the necessary tools to fix this problem. I know I need to be in the Word daily--more than the five minutes I've been putting in as I referee the girls' breakfast. I know I need to truly worship the Lord--and not just when I hear my new favorite worship song on the radio as I wait in line at the bank drive-thru. I know I need to be in my prayer closet--not just praying as I search through my closets. I know I need to be giving and serving and really looking for ways to use the gifts He has given me--not just waiting for someone to ask for help. Somehow, someway, I had gotten off course and the Lord had used this opportunity to show me how far away I truly was. (Thank You, Lord!) My next few posts are going to be on those issues of Bible study, worship, prayer, and serving. Mostly as a tool for me to articulate what God is renewing in my heart so I can be refreshed. Maybe they will help someone else, too. Praise God that He sees His children for afar off and runs to greet them and bring them home!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Praying For Poop

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Philippians 4:6

It's been a big part of my life since the day our first child was born. Poop. First, we were overwhelmed by how much one tiny baby could produce. Then, we worried if we had a day without it. We would study with curiosity the color, consistency and size of it and then realize only a parent would spend so much time doing so! At one point, we had two super poopers in diapers. Our first two daughters are only nineteen months apart so we were on double diaper duty for almost eight months. Then we reached the age of potty training, and had to teach each of them to put the poop somewhere other than their diapers or training pants. It took a little more convincing with daughter number two, but we successfully taught them both to do the deed in the "big girl" potty amidst celebratory cheering that rivaled the Super Bowl.

Baby Girl #3 is a different story all together. With her food allergies, her poop is...well, we'll just call it interesting to spare you the intimate details only her father and I can discuss over dinner without gagging or losing our appetites. For eight months now, we've dealt with her "blow-outs," as we call them, on a regular (sometimes daily) basis. Specifically, for the past two weeks, I've had to get the other two dressed and started on breakfast before retrieving Olivia from her bed. I always know what I'm in for by the stench, or lack thereof, from the hallway. If my nose goes on high alert, I get the shower started and then bathe her from head to toe. It's not a great way to start the day for either of us, but when you're totally in love with your child, you adjust.

Last night, I was tired. I mean, physically tired, but also tired of cleaning up poop. I don't mind diapers and potty chairs, but on the bed? The sheets? The carpet? The walls? That I mind! So, I prayed. And, the prayer went something like this: Father, thank You for the gift of Olivia. Thank You for the way You have made her. I know You made her this way to glorify You. I'm not going to beg You to heal her because I know You will in Your own time. I am asking You for something that seems hard to talk to You about, although I know You see all and know all and You know this, too. Father, could You please keep the poop in the diaper? It can't be healthy for her to wake up like this every morning and, it isn't fun to clean it up, either. Whether Your answer is "yes" or "no," I trust You and know that You want me to come to You with ALL things. Thanks for letting me come to You with this. Amen.

It wasn't a fancy prayer but it was heartfelt. I wasn't desperate but ready to let God take over. I had done all I could think of to make the situation better and was out of ideas and energy. Guess what? The poop was in the diaper this morning, praise the Lord! We had a regular diaper change. I didn't have to don a hazmat suit to pick her up. No bath, no change of clothing, no extra linens to wash this morning. It was a miracle right there in our home! Praise God!

Now, some of you are giggling and cracking up that I just spent all this time writing about poop and it's place in my life. But, that's where the real miracle happened for me. God has been whispering to me all day about little things that He wants me to turn over to Him. Things that seem too mundane or common place to bother Him with. Things that are almost embarrassing to admit are hindering my walk. Things that should be called sin but I call them something else. He wants it all. Every thought, every feeling, every poopy diaper or stinky situation. He wants me to talk to Him about all of it and then wait for His answer. He wants me to pray for poop...and running out of milk, and trying not to eat so much chocolate, and not rolling my eyes in disrespect, and all the other little things that I so easily sweep under the rug. So, I'm going to try. But, I'll always remember it started with poop.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Why Do I Write?

When I started this blog, it was partly to create a way of capturing the precious things happening with my children and husband. Mostly, though, it was (and still is!) an exercise in obedience. The Lord had been urging me to write for awhile and I was avoiding His leading. I wanted to experience a fuller, deeper relationship with God so I took a deep breath and started a blog. I'm not a web-surfer--who has time with three little ones?--so my only real exposure to other blogs were the ones a few friends were also writing. I loved reading their adventures in mommy-hood, too, and thought it was a great way to chronicle my own adventures.

Since I started blogging, a whole new world has been revealed to me. There are literally thousands of other bloggers out there, writing on a whole host of topics. I steer clear of anything that doesn't have clear Christian content so that narrows it down to a few thousand. There are so many other Christian women out there, writing about their walks and talks with Jesus. It's inspiring! It's also intimidating. I look at their sites and see their cool graphics and links. I also see how thousands of other people have read what they have written or the number of people who leave comments on their posts. I see their sites listed as "must reads" on other blogs. One blog I was reading today had over 6,000 different people subscribing to it! Wow. As of this evening, I've had about 90. Satan wants me to think that my writing has no impact; that I have no influence for Christ. But here's the thing: If I choose to obey Christ, I make an impact. Obedience leaves a deep impression when I obey the Lord.

It made me ask myself, "Why do I write?" Some days, I write to relieve stress. Other days, I feel compelled to capture some sweet but fleeting moment in my children's world. Many days, I sense the Lord urging me to share what He is doing. What I hope God is doing in my heart is answering my prayer to be obedient in this area of my life. It isn't for me to concern myself with who will read this or share this or be moved closer to Christ. I need only concern myself with the condition of my own heart: yielded and pliable or stubborn and rigid? Am I really allowing myself to be poured out, a broken vessel, a grafted branch? Am I willing to let God use what He is doing in my life for His glory, whatever that may be?

So, if you read my blog faithfully, thank you! If you have shared this with a friend, praise God! And, if not another soul ever reads what I write, I will still be blessed because "to obey God's voice is to be God's special treasure." (Exodus 19:5)

Thanks, God, for helping me obey You. Thank You for giving me Your words. Thank You for letting me see just a glimpse of what you are doing in my life. I love what I see of You! Amen.

The Fence

We have a fenced in back yard. It wasn't that way when we purchased our home seven years ago. A privacy fence ran the length of the southern edge of our yard and the rest of the yard was open. Our poor pooch, Elvis, had to be tethered to a runner that ran from our tulip tree to the garage so he wouldn't escape, or worse yet, attack anyone who dared walk down the alley separating our house from our neighbors. After we started having children, we wanted to install a fence for them and for our dog. I wanted a nice, tall, white privacy fence. It isn't that I don't like people but we live on a noisy, busy street and I liked the idea of creating a more intimate, private space. In the meantime, my father-in-law was able to salvage the chain linking from his neighbor's fence, free of charge. My in-laws offered to purchase the gates and poles and other miscellaneous hardware necessary to fence off our yard. So, we could spend several hundred dollars on the pretty, white, private fence I wanted or we could have a shorter, non-private but free fence. We took the free fence and I consoled myself with the fact that at least part of our yard was enclosed by the neighbor's privacy fence. We thanked God for the gift of the fence that kept our children (and dog!) safe.

That was three years ago. We have different neighbors, now. They are a nice family and I feel like we have a good relationship with them. A few weeks ago, Jay, the father in the family next door, casually mentioned to my husband that they are planning to remove their privacy fence. It's in disrepair and is beginning to show signs of rot around the posts. He knows that we rely on the existence of their fence to keep our dog and children enclosed in our yard and wanted to find out when we would be able to install our own fencing so they can remove theirs. It so happens that we have enough leftover chain link to run the length of the southern portion of our yard. We just need to purchase a bit of concrete and a few more poles. Charlie came home from his talk with Jay feeling pretty good about the conversation and the project.

I listened to the news and tried to stay upbeat about it. I kept reminding myself that the Lord had already provided almost everything we needed for the project and what a blessing it was to have kind neighbors. After all, they could have simply removed the fence without any warning. But, in my heart, I was upset. I like the privacy fence. I like knowing that when I'm playing in the yard with my kids, no one is watching me or them. I like that I can let the baby run around in her diaper or that the girls can strip down to their birthday suits after playing in the pool or sprinkler and their modesty isn't compromised. I like sitting in a lawn chair in the shade, Bible in lap, feet propped up, knowing that I can pray aloud and no one is listening or watching me spend time with my Lord. I guess I felt like something was being stolen from me and my family. A sense of solitude or something.

It's been bugging me for a couple of weeks. Off and on, I would think about it and stew about it. Then, yesterday, Ashley, our neighbors' eleven-year-old daughter, came by to play with the girls. She was a welcome sight because I needed to finish up dinner and I knew she could keep an extra eye on the girls while I ducked into the kitchen to get things ready. She came into the kitchen for a drink of water and said, "It's going to be cool when we put the new fence up. Then, I can see you guys all the time instead of having to come all the way around the house to see what you are doing." In my head, I thought, "Oh great, here we go. Thanks for the reminder, Ashley." She continued, "It's really fun over here, not like at my house. You guys are always talking about Jesus and stuff and you guys really, really like Him."

Whoa. I had totally missed what God was doing. It hit me right between my eyes like a big, fat, spiritual two-by-four. God wasn't taking away my privacy. He never wanted my life to be private at all. He is removing a wall that is keeping others from seeing how He works in our family. He is giving our neighbors a front row seat to see the most amazing show on earth: our family poured out for Jesus. Oh sure, He still expects modesty and decorum from us, but we should be living in such a way that it doesn't matter whether we're in plain view or hidden--He is still glorified. The thing is, I wanted that privacy so badly. I wanted a break from the world and from it's inquisitive stares and questions. I wanted a place we could retreat to as a family. But, God wants me to invite others into our home and our backyard. He wants to put His people on display and say, "Look, world! This is how I take care of My people. This is how I show my love. This is how you, too, can walk through this life in peace and truth." In Acts 1:8 Jesus commands us, when we receive the Holy Spirit, to be His witnesses throughout the earth. It isn't an option. We are compelled by His love for us and our love for Him and as an act of worship to be His witnesses. So, when He gives us a wide open door or a torn down fence, it's our privilege to be the arms and feet and hands and face and heart of Christ to whoever is on the other side. We can't keep Christ private! We can't keep what He is doing behind closed doors and tall walls and shadowy fences because those things make us feel safe and secure. Our world and our country and our city and even our neighbors are literally dying to know the character of the One who can save.

So, later this month, we'll be tearing down a fence. Pray for us as we walk out our life in the sight of others. May it glorify our sweet Savior. And, may it give us the courage to tear down other "fences" that might be keeping others from knowing Him.

Thank You, God, for tearing down this fence. I pray that You will be glorified. Help me to remember why You want our lives to be laid bare for others to see. Give me a heart that wants what You want. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

When Mommy Is Sick...Part Two

When Mommy is sick...

My children tenderly comb my hair and fetch me Kleenexes for my boogies.
My husband takes a two hour lunch to help me with the children.
My doctor listens sympathetically and understands how hard it is to even be in his office as a mother of three.
My children seem to understand that I can't do everything I usually do and settle happily for less.
My husband washes dishes and cleans up toys, mows the grass and makes dinner, folds laundry and runs the vacuum...without having to be asked or told how to do it.
My doctor orders me to bed for 24 hours and mercifully orders meds that will help me get well.
My children think it's fun to stay in jammies all day long and eat cereal for dinner.
My husband still tells me I'm wonderful even though I'm still wearing last night's PJ's and haven't combed my hair.
My doctor tells me that it's okay to take care of myself and ask someone else to take care of the children...and it makes me want to cry with relief.

My Saviour picks me up and holds me close, whispering His promises of salvation and healing and restoration to my heart.
My God is strong and a Mighty Physician.
My Comforter wraps me in grace and truth and shields me from the world so I can truly rest.
My God brings to mind other mothers who have no help and I ask God to help them.
My God reminds me of my sisters in Christ who I know are praying for me.

My God tells me He loves me and this too, shall pass...but not before He shows Himself strong on my behalf.

Thanks You, God for being so strong right now. Thank You for taking care of my children today, for giving them a place to go so I could rest physically, mentally and spiritually. Thank You for my husband, who went to his boss and demanded time to take care of me. Thank You for giving him a heart to love me like You do. Thank You for showing me all that You are doing in and through others. I love You. Amen.

Friday, May 11, 2007

When Mommy Is Sick...

When Mommy is sick...

I still get out of bed, though not at my usual 6:15 AM.
I still make breakfast, even if it is sugared cereal, grape juice or Pop-Tarts.
Everyone still gets dressed, but they usually get to wear anything they want--including last year's ballet tights and their favorite Christmas sweater.
I still do the dishes, but with my head resting on the counter above the sink.
I still do the laundry. But, no ironing.
I still read books, but they can't be too long and my eyes close in between pages.
We still play outside, but I sit in a lawn chair, wrapped in a blanket in the shade of our tree.
I still braid my girls' hair, though it isn't very neat or pretty.
I still make lunch. Spagettio's. Sigh...
I still put everyone down for a nap. And then I take one, too--Hallelujah!
I still answer the phone, though my voice is unrecognizable.
I still make a "To-Do" list, but it's much, much shorter.
I still referee arguments, but my patience is very thin.
I still hold crying children, but I want to cry, too.
I still remember vitamins, but not until later in the day.

We still pray before each meal, but I'm silently begging God for healing.
We still read Bible lessons, but I cringe when it's about enduring.
I still listen to my children's questions about God, and know that I have some big ones today, too.
We still pray for Daddy, but today I know he is praying me through.

We still praise the Lord for the wonderful day, and I praise Him for His grace that is wonderfully, mercifully carrying me through...

Because He still loves me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Things I Want You To Know: How to Share Christ

I don't have the gift of evangelism. At least, the Lord has not revealed that this is one of my gifts. My heart's desire is for everyone to know Christ and respond to His open invitation of salvation and transformation. But, I begin to sweat just thinking about trying to share the gospel with someone. It isn't the message. It's the delivery. I know how important it is to share Jesus in a way that glorifies and honors Him and I've always had a fear that I wouldn't have the words or would say something wrong or not have the answers to another person's questions.

But, Jesus commands us to share the gift of salvation:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations." Matthew 28:19a

So, girls, I started thinking that I need to tell you how to share Christ with other people. I don't know who God will put in your path or life but I know He will ask you each to share the gift of salvation with others. Here is one way...

We're All Sinners
We are born into sin. This is a fallen world. Given the choice, the outcome would have been the same if you and I had been in the Garden of Eden. We, too, would have eaten the apple and disobeyed God. We, too, would have had to hide our sin and shame from the glory and perfect goodness of God.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23

It's true. Not one of us living here on earth is perfect. It isn't about being a "good person" or "doing all the right things." None of us are good. God sees us all the same: Sinners. Wrong-doers. Destined for wrath and destruction. And, so...

Because we are all sinners, because none of us can reach the standard of perfection God requires, because we are covered in guilt and shame, the consequence of sin is death. That's a hard thing to swallow. How can a loving God demand perfection from imperfect people? Good question.

"What fellowship has light with darkness?" 2 Corinthians 2:14c

In other words, how can perfection make room for imperfection and still remain perfect? It cannot. The same is true of God. He is completely without sin. Since we are all sinners, we cannot have fellowship with Him. Because He is eternal life, we cannot live eternally because of our sin.

"For the wages of sin is death..." Romans 6:23a

But, our God is also LOVE. And so...

Jesus Died For Us All
God, in His merciful and infinite love for us, saw that we were steeped in sin, headed for death, and made a choice. He sent Jesus--fully God and yet fully man--to walk this earth. Jesus came to show God's love for us. He came to be the hands and feet and voice of God--in the flesh. And then he paid the debt of our sin.

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

He willingly sacrificed His life for me. For you. He took my place and your place on that cross. He chose to die for us so that we could be free. Free from sin. Free from death. Free indeed! He died so that we could be with God forever.

In laying down His life for you and me, he conquered death and then rose again. His death and resurrection create a bridge that spans the wide canyon of sin separating us from God.

"...but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23b

Sin and death no longer have any hold on us. We are free! When God looks at us, He sees the shed blood of Jesus, the sacrifice of love He made and our debt paid in full. Jesus, because He was fully God and perfect, took my place, your place, in death and, in doing so, gave us the gift of eternal life. Life with God forever. What a gift! Instead of the judgment and punishment we deserve, God offers us forgiveness and mercy and grace. Now, that it LOVE!

The only thing you have to do is accept this free gift by recognizing your need for a Saviour and then asking Jesus Christ to be just that: your Saviour, your Redemption, your Key to Life Eternal. If you are willing to receive this gift of grace and forgiveness, let's pray together:

Father God, I know that I am a sinner in need of forgiveness. I confess my need for a Saviour. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I believe that he rose again from the dead. Jesus, I ask You to come into my life and my heart and be my Lord and Saviour. I thank You for this gift and ask You to help me live for You. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

If you just prayed this prayer, you can be assured that you do indeed have life eternal in Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Three's Company!

Three little girls is just too much fun! Here they are just before bedtime in their matching, blue night gowns. They call themselves "the triplets." We got several horn honks from people passing by. Guess they saw how cute my girls are, too!

A Girl and Her Dog--Part Two

Emma and Penny...the best of friends!

Monday, May 7, 2007


My brother-in-law e-mailed me a news story last week from Reuters stating that a recent study guesses that a stay-at-home-mom (sahm for short) would earn $138,095 doing the same work outside the home.

$138, 095. Wow. I think I'd settle for even 10% of that!

When Emma was born, my ideas about returning to work began warring with the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. I did return to work briefly, but I remember standing in our bedroom one morning, knowing that I was on the precipice of a dangerous decision. I could continue working and we would have a little extra money each month, or I could stay at home and give our daughter a life here. I knew that ten years down the road I would look back on our decision and either rejoice in obedience or regret my disobedience. It really only took a few seconds to make the choice. Leaving her each morning was excruciating and as much as I enjoyed my job, it wasn't my passion in life. It would be tight financially but we figured out ways to cut expenses.

At first, I felt sort of strange being home. Emma was an easy baby and we fell into a routine quickly. I started exploring cooking and home keeping and found that, despite the liberal teachings of many of my college professors, I truly enjoyed making a pleasant home for my husband and child. I had found one of God's callings in my life. I became more comfortable with my new position and gave up trying to justify why I had a college degree and wasn't pursuing a career. I loved being in step with God's plan for me and my family.

Sixteen months after answering God's call to stay home, little Ruthie was born. Money got a little...okay, a lot!...tighter. I remember wondering how we were going to afford a winter coat for Emma, praying about it and receiving not one but two winter coats for her on the same day. Another time, we had .89 to hold us until payday and had just run out of milk. Our good friend Carol happened to stop by to visit and brought us a gallon of milk because she thought we could use it. God was so faithful in meeting each and every need (and sometimes even our wants) at the exact moment we truly needed something. We never went hungry or cold or without the presence of the Holy Spirit.

And then, along came sweet Olivia 3 1/2 years after our decision for me to stay home. Somehow, the money keeps stretching and stretching. Somehow, we still make our mortgage payments and fill our pantry and put gas in the cars and clothes on our backs. Rather, I should say, the Lord does all those things for us. I have no idea how we will be able to save for college or pay for their weddings. How we will pay off our debts or even pay our bills next month. But what I know of the Lord is that He is so very faithful. I don't have to know how those things are going to be paid for. He owns cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) and has all our financial details worked out. To be certain, we must be obedient with our resources, but not slaves to them.

So, SAHM I am and I love it. I love knowing that my kids can sleep in or stay up late if we're doing something fun. I have loved learning every little detail of their lives. I love knowing we can say "yes" when someone calls in the middle of the day with a need. I love that my girls' friends can come over to play in the middle of the day. We can't afford to take them on vacations or buy a brand new van. My kids wear hand-me-downs and eat spagetti-o's once a week. We don't buy them many birthday or Christmas gifts. But, we believe that we are giving them other intrinsic gifts. Maybe the best gift: parents who want to obey the Lord, no matter the cost.

Do I think what I do is worth $138, 095? Nah...sometimes I burn dinner or don't make it at all. Charlie had to wash his own clothes today. The trash is overflowing and our showers need scrubbed. Some days I complain all day about my chores and my lack of "down time." Some days we don't read any books but watch 2-3 videos instead. I lose my temper, I can be grouchy, moody and temperamental. But, I also know no one else could do what I do. No one else could love this man and these children the way I do. God didn't give anyone else the heart and compassion to do this job. I would give all I own for the continued privilege of knowing and loving and serving them all. Thank you, Lord!

What happened to her?

I don't remember the first time I realized that I looked different from everyone else. My parents never coddled me or spoiled me because of my birthmark. In fact, they never let me use it as an excuse to feel sorry for myself or expect special attention. So, I don't remember how I figured out that I looked different than my parents or brother or friends. But, at some point, early on, I did. I think most of my awareness stemmed from the way strangers responded to me. Adults were usually very polite, trying to avert their pitying gaze or forcing a smile when I caught their eye. Other children were another story. When I was a child myself, it seemed so hurtful to receive their stares and questions. I know now that they were just being children and that children have no filter to help them process what they are seeing or what they say in response to what they are seeing. My own children are filter-less. The most common question was usually phrased something like, "What happened to her?" Then, that child's parents would usually yank the child off in another direction or scold them loud enough for me to hear.

As I grew into an adult and became a Christian, I learned to deal with the questions and looks in a more positive way. I try to smile and show kindness to others when they stop and look. If a child asks, I try to bend down and look directly in his or her eyes and answer the question, "You know how people are born with different colored eyes and different colored hair? Well, God decided to give me a different colored face. Does it look strange to you? It looks strange to me, too, sometimes, but it's really okay." Usually, I can see the child's parents sigh in relief and sometimes the child relaxes, too. Sometimes they ask again, "But, what happened to you?" It's so hard for them to understand that nothing "happened" to me. This is just God's unique design for me.

Sometimes, it's hard for me, too. Some days, I don't greet others' questions and stares with kindness. Sometimes, I just want to blend in, unnoticed. Many days I crave privacy and solitude. I want to be free to see myself through the lens my Creator used to fashion me. I know that He doesn't make mistakes and that He sees me as beautiful and beloved. Sometimes, though, when I cave under the pressures of this superficial world, I don't feel beautiful. I feel like I live under the lens of a microscope and all my flaws, both external and internal, are on display for all the world to see. Sometimes, I feel an ugliness in my heart because I don't want to love the very people who make me feel unlovable. Sometimes, I want God to give me special attention or excuse me from being Christ-like. I want to be defensive and build walls around my heart to shelter me from others.

But that is not the life God has called me to. I think God has been walking and talking to me since I was a very little girl; holding me up, giving me courage and wisdom to know how to travel through this life. He has been whispering in my ear that my face and my heart are made in His image and that I can trust Him completely. I had the opportunity to have my birthmark removed when I was eleven. But, God clearly and firmly impressed on me, "No, child. This is not my way." Since then, He has lovingly guided me and protected me as He has unfolded His plans for my life.

I'm having trouble putting this all into words. Here's what I want to say: When people look at me and ask, either aloud or in their own minds, "What happened to her?" I want the answer to that question to be, "JESUS happened to me!" I want my life to be a life poured out for His name's sake. I want people to see Jesus in the way I walk and talk and live and breathe. I want them to see joy exuding from my heart and overflowing into my husband and children and friends. I want them to wonder, "How can she be so joyful? How can she live with a face that looks like that and still be so happy?" I want God to use what He has made in me to bring Him glory and honor. I want other people to come to know Jesus because He made me this way. I want what the Lord wants and I'm willing to do whatever He asks.

Having said all that, I know I will always crave privacy. I know I won't always choose to reflect kindness when faced with someone who is rude or insensitive. I know the enemy knows exactly how to direct his arrows at my weak self-image. But, this is what I cling to:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11
I love that the Lord planned my life in advance to glorify Him and bring others to Himself. I pray that it would always be so!

Thank you, Jesus, for saving me from what could have been a life of self-pity and destruction. Thank you for giving me the hope of heaven and eternity with You. I praise You, God, because I know You made me wonderfully and in Your image. I confess that my confidence in Your creation fails. Forgive me and help me to trust You completely. I ask that You pour me out for Your glory and according to Your will. I love you...