Reflections – Part Three of Your True Selfie

Reflections

Day One

One of my favorite children’s books is The Ugly Duckling. Do you remember it? Let me briefly refresh your memory by summarizing it for you.

Once upon a time, born into a batch of adorable little ducklings, hatched a large, awkward one. Some might even go so far as to say this little duckling was ugly. Despite his mother’s attempt to protect and defend him, the young duckling endured much heckling and harassment from the other ducks until finally, he couldn’t take it anymore and he ran far, far away.

It was during this time that a beautiful flock of birds captivated his attention. He secretly wished he had been born with even a hint of the beauty these birds gracefully possessed.

The arrival of winter brought with it a cold, miserable, lonely time for the little duckling. Finally spring came and he saw these beautiful birds again and boldly decided to approach them. Anticipating the same rejection he had experienced in the past, much to his amazement, they didn’t run away from him or mock him but instead rushed to welcome him.

At that moment, he caught a glimpse of his reflection in the water. No longer was he an ugly duckling, but through the cold, dark, lonely winter, he had been transformed into a beautiful swan!

The swan was now thankful for his past experiences of pain and suffering because it enabled him to further appreciate the beauty he now enjoyed.

Who would have dreamed that such beauty could have been forged from such ugliness.1

In many ways, I can identify with this little duckling.

Perhaps you can too?

Possibly you’ve admired the beauty, poise and “put-togetherness” you’ve seen in others, but doubted you could experience it for yourself.

Maybe it’s easier for you to believe God can transform the lives of other people, but you’re skeptical He would do it for you.

Possibly, you’ve lived with your “ugliness” for so long, you’re used to it and can’t imagine anything different.

Perhaps the pain of your past is so overwhelming you feel stuck and don’t even know where to begin to experience freedom.

Let me assure you, transformation is what He does best!

As I look back and see how much change and transformation God has brought forth in my life, I am in awe. Areas of my life that I felt completely powerless to change—areas where I felt hopeless—He has lovingly transformed. It’s incredible, really.

It’s a process that God continues to work in my life day after day, year after year. It’s not always easy and it’s not always pain free. I’m not the same person that I was a year ago and, thankfully, I won’t be the same person a year from now.

Although I’m not where I eventually want to be, I thank God that I’m not the person that I used to be.

Sadly from an early age, we begin to believe lies that are subtly sown into our minds and hearts. Even in elementary school, children begin to identify people as “ugly or pretty”,”fat or skinny”, “smart or not smart”, “popular or unpopular”, and “valued or unvaluable”.

As we grow older, these labels continue to shape and mold our identity, influencing the way we see ourselves and other people.

Believing thoughts such as, “I don’t fit in”, “I’m unloved”, “No one understands me”, “No one cares about me”, or “I’ll always be a failure”, over time shape how we see ourselves and affect the way we live.

The way we live is a reflection of how we see ourselves.

Proverbs, a collection of wise sayings in the Old Testament, says it this way…

As water reflects the face, so one_s life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27_19

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27:19

How do you see yourself? What do you think about yourself? When no one’s around. No one is watching. It’s just you.

How you see yourself is a reflection of what’s going on inside your hearts.

Your heart is your true self – the real you.

How’s your heart? In the heart…that’s where the transformation begins.

 

Think about it…

Can you identify in any way with that little duckling? If so, how?

What present “ugliness” do you see in your life that you would like to change, but struggle to believe that God can transform that part of your life?

What step can you take to invite God to begin his work of transformation in that area of your life?

 

1 Hans Christen Andersen, The Ugly Duckling

Your True Selfie – The Relentless Pursuit of Who God Created You to Be

Day Three

Our move to Nashville was uncomfortable and definitely inconvenient. Then just two years later, we moved again. This time 5000 miles away to Hawaii. A beautiful, but isolated, island deep in the Pacific, more than 2000 miles from the mainland. Literally the deep, deep South, Y’all and far, far West, dude.

I left friends…again. Left family…again. Didn’t have any of my familiar “markers” to comfort me…again. Had to find and familiarize myself with new schools, new friends, new culture, new sports leagues, new grocery stores and new doctors…again.

Even more difficult, our kids left friends, schools, youth groups, and sports teams…again.

And once again, God gently began to unearth – like a shovel tilling soil – the areas in my life where I was looking to the wrong things for my security.

It’s hard to see with long-term perspective when you’re hurting and in the middle of difficult circumstances, but through the years, I’ve come to realize that God will always use the shaking, stirring, chipping, molding in my life to build something special. Something of greater worth to God that will bring him glory and be a blessing to others.

You see, God wants to do something in you so He can do something even greater through you.

And as a sculptor chips away at a marble slab to unveil something beautiful hidden within the marble, God will chip, mold, and shape your life to unveil the true beauty of who He created you to be.

Even in the pain.

Even in the loneliness.

Even in the loss.

Even in the uncertainty.

Your story is unique. Your personality and gifts are like no one else’s. In fact, the Bible says, you are God’s workmanship. His masterpiece.

In case you don’t believe me, let’s read Ephesians 2:10 and catch a glimpse of how God sees you. (This is a good one to write down and memorize.)

Paul writes,

“For we are God_s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

YOU are God’s handiwork, his workmanship. He created you for a specific purpose. All of your difficulties, all of your challenges, all of your struggles can be used for God’s greater purpose. God has an amazing ability to use average, broken people to display his love and power to the world.

Oftentimes, the temptation is to desperately search for what’s missing in our lives and lose sight of what we have been given – the blessing of what’s right in front of us!

In an attempt to rekindle our zest for life and purpose, we go searching for it.

We think, “Perhaps I should get a new job or career?”

Or, “Maybe things will be different if I move to a new city or make new friends?”

Or perhaps, “Should try a new school or get a new hobby?”

And sometimes, this helps.

But most of the time, after awhile, the same problems turn up there, too.

Because the real challenge for us lays not so much in the circumstances around us as it has to do with something within us.

In those moments of confusion, discouragement, monotony and uncertainty its easy to default to looking at the wrong things, the wrong people and the wrong places for worth and value.

But what would happen if, instead of trying to fix our problems by changing our circumstances, we allowed God to change us?  

You are of great worth to God. His masterpiece. Do not doubt that. You are not “not enough”, but more than enough because of a gracious, loving and merciful God who desires to do immeasurably more in your life.

In the routine of life, God has a beautiful treasure for you. In your everyday activities, He desires for you to live fulfilled and satisfied. Through the dark and difficult times, He has made his peace and grace available to you.

God wants to rekindle your passion for life, not by necessarily changing your circumstances, surroundings or physical appearance, but by slowly, gently, graciously changing you to reveal your true selfie.

Henri Nouwen, in his book, The Life of the Beloved writes, “The spiritual life is not simply a way of being, but also a way of becoming.”1

Take a moment to consider…

  • What are some places or things you look to for your security and worth? Why?
  • What things stand in your way from seeing your life as preciously created by God for a unique and special purpose?
  • Why is it sometimes easier for us to change our circumstances than it is to allow God to change us?

 

1 Nouwen, as quoted by Staci Eldredge in Captivating: A Guided Journal(Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2005) p. viii

 

 

Your True Selfie – The Relentless Pursuit of Who God Created You to Be

Day One

Our family had just completed our cross-country move from Los Angeles, California to Nashville, Tennessee, driving through rain, sleet and snow with five children under ten years old, a packed minivan and pet bunny. Whew!

After one month on the road, eating way too much fast food and living out of various hotels, everyone in the family (including the bunny) had frazzled nerves, testy tempers and fragile emotions.

To escape the cramped quarters of our hotel room (yes, ALL seven of us were staying in ONE room), one night we thought we’d head out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants. Why we dared to venture to a semi-nice restaurant at this point of the trip, I have no idea – we were clearly borderline delirious.

Your family has probably never had this kind of experience, but at the risk of being vulnerable – my pain will now become your pain.

Our three boys conveniently chose to expend an entire month’s worth of energy during this one-hour restaurant break, making LOTS of noise, bouncing up and down in the restaurant booth, wrestling, arguing… you get the picture. As I was getting the “stink eye” from the other restaurant patrons, our one-year-old daughter conveniently chose to this moment to produce her own “stink” in the form of a toxic poopy diaper.

Yes, we were THAT family.

On the verge of tears, I ventured out to the bitter cold to scrounge the floor of our minivan hoping to find a diaper hidden amidst piles of toys, luggage, and fast-food trash. My husband, Gregg, in an exasperated tone, handed me the keys told me,

“If you don’t come back, I understand.”

We laugh about it now, but at the moment, we were second-guessing our decision to uproot our family from a comfortable house, stable job and close friends to venture into this unknown territory of big belt buckles and country music.

This wasn’t what we had signed up for. The picture didn’t look as glamorous as we thought it would. In fact, it didn’t look appealing at all.

It would have been easy to give up, turn around and go back to what was familiar.

This was difficult.

Tiring.

Painful.

Lonely.

Uncomfortable.

As a little girl, I remember having lofty aspirations and dreams of what I would someday become. I had big plans to change the world and high hopes for what God would someday use me to accomplish.

Yet, that stormy night, I unexpectedly found myself in the middle of a snowy parking lot in an unfamiliar town, searching through my incredibly messy minivan for a clean diaper while my other four kids wreaked havoc in a neighborhood restaurant.

Did God forget that I have a college education?

What happened to my plans to be different, my aspirations to make a difference? Where did the passion and determination that I could do or become anything go?” What happened to this wonderful plan God had for my life?

Perhaps you can relate. Have you ever felt sidelined, left out or overlooked by God, wondering what you have to contribute? Feeling stuck? Thinking maybe you missed your opportunity to make a difference? Or perhaps you feel your mistakes disqualified God from using you?

You’re not alone in your thoughts. In fact, throughout scriptures, we see many sincere God-followers ask the same questions. Read the love and tenderness God expresses to his children through the prophet Isaiah…

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” 15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Isaiah 49:14-16

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands... Isaiah 49_16

As God tenderly reassures the nation of Israel, God persistently affirms his love towards us, gently, continually reminding us of his care and faithfulness. Prodding us to look to him.

God has not forgotten you. He created you, knows you intimately and has a great plan for your life – one that will bring glory to his name. As you seek him and allow your life to be shaped by him in an increasingly greater way, He will lead you.

Things may not always turn out the way you expected, and you may find yourself trapped in a restaurant during a winter storm with energetic toddlers, but you can trust that He is good and He hasn’t forgotten you.

Take a moment…

  • When have you experienced a season when you felt a little empty on the inside? Feeling that you were made for more than you’re currently experiencing?
  • What does this verse say about God and your incredible value to Him? How can knowing and meditating on the fact that God loves you and never forgets you breathe hope into your weary soul?