Layers

Anyone who has seen Shrek knows we, like ogres and onions, have layers. This analogy has been on my mind a lot lately as I think about how Christ loves us and molds us into who He wants us to be. As Isaiah 64:8 says “But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand” (NKJV). I’ve heard my pastor say many times “You don’t have to give up anything to come to God”. It’s true. Like a lump of clay, we don’t do anything to come to the Potter’s hand. But He slowly starts to form us. We are His masterpiece in progress (see Ephesians 2:10).

I’ve seen a common theme lately of God taking different parts of our lives, one by one, and helping us chisel away at the parts that don’t quite line up with Him. Most of us look at ourselves on a horizontal scale and say “I’m not that bad. I haven’t done anything to put me in jail or REALLY messed up.” But that’s not how God sees sin. We have to measure ourselves vertically. Then we see “There is none righteous, no not one”(Romans 3:10 NKJV). I’m currently in a Bible study called No Other Gods by Kelly Minter. We have been looking at different idols in our lives and how to rid ourselves of them. It has opened my eyes to just how much room I’ve given to silly things and strongholds. Anyone ever consider personal safety an idol? Me neither- but I was putting myself above God’s perfectly designed plan for my life. I find myself feeling so fearful. Pull back those layers to see that I’m valuing my life so much that I forget who is in control. That TV show I’ve watched for 7 years that is going absolutely NO WHERE? Not only does it fail the Philippians 4:8 test, (“Whatever things are true…noble…just…pure…lovely…of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy- meditate on these things.”(NKJV)) but it’s taking up an hour of my week that could be used for much more productive things. And I don’t even like it that much! GONE! I just finished reading Glory Hunger by JR Vassar. God ever so gently pulled away a few more layers with this one. This life is not about me. As Vassar states “In God’s estimate, to seek your own glory is to seek against His.” Could God just say “Glorify Me” because He can? Absolutely. But He also does it because He knows it’s the absolute best way to live. “The life and joy that God intends is found only in a rightly ordered love for God and a rightly ordered love for self.” I highly recommend this book. (Side note: This was my “Book shorter than 150 pages” on my 2016 Reading Challenge.)

God does not instill guilt in all of this peeling. Unlike with a real onion, I’m not crying as I expose the layers. I know that as I reshape my life to look like His, it is done in nothing but love. He didn’t ask me to follow Him and then demand I change all of this at once. Obviously, I became a Christian as a 7 year old, and here I am 21 years later, still slowly being molded. I also keep this in mind as I have different convictions than my friends. Just as God points out areas of my life, He points out others in different people at different times. That’s why it’s not my job to judge. I’m just a fellow onion.

I pray that each person that reads has an amazing week! Don’t be afraid to peel.

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Groundbreaking

In May of 2010, I sat in orientation at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. I remember a hospital staff member presenting on the children’s hosptial within the facility. He said the goal was to have a freestanding children’s hospital within 5 years. Our goal got pushed back a bit, but yesterday, we broke ground on the new site of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital. All the Radiothons, galas, thank you pictures, donations, and fundraisers have come to fruition, and the vision of the Sisters of our hospital is becoming a reality. 

At our celebration yesterday, I saw patients and families I have come to know and love. I saw hundreds of members of the Baton Rouge community coming to take part in the festivities. There were desserts for days, hor d’oeuvres that gave me good reason to skip lunch, and an impressive cake shaped like the hospital. At the end of the ceremony, we released balloons, shot confetti cannons and listened to U2 sing “It’s a Beautiful Day”. And it was. 

As always, we started with a prayer. This is possibly my favorite part about working at OLOL. Each meeting, service, lecture, and celebration is started with a prayer to God. We thank Him for opportunities to grow, we ask for His guidance as we care for patients, we ask Him to bless our food. I know this doesn’t happen everywhere. It is such a privilege. 

We still have quite a journey ahead. We’ve broken ground, but we have walls to build, windows to install, rooms to furnish, parking lots to pave. I hope prayer continues to be an integral part of each brick that is laid. 

Today we continue to celebrate the milestone. We rejoice that we can model our care after Christ’s healing ministry. As we read yesterday, “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.” ‭Matthew‬ ‭4:23-24‬ ‭NKJV‬

It’s a beautiful day! 

  
  
  

Hartley Day

This February 12 is certainly different than last year. Last February was a month I dreaded. I had filled my planner with Scriptures of hope, comfort, and assurance that God was with me. I cried “because it’s February”. We went on a trip to Nashville “because it’s February”. Our sweet baby, Hartley Nathan, was due February 12, 2015. While we knew from September on that day would not be a birthday, it was definitely a milestone I had to cross to continue the healing process. Daniel and I knew there was no “should have been”. Losing Hartley was what happened, and “what ifs” weren’t going to change it. Still, I dove deep into the Word and distracted myself for 28 days. And you know what? I made it. I was finally able to see that spring was coming. I needed the stillness in God’s Word to recover. I needed each and every Bible verse that was written on the pages of my planner. Because HE is the only way I can share my story today with a smile on my face. Would I want to do it over again? Never. But I cherish the moments God used to deepen my faith and comfort me in the darkest days. I spoke with a friend recently who is grieving a miscarriage, and she was amazed at how close she felt to God because of it. It’s a phenomenon I have exprienced and understand, even though it doesn’t make complete earthly sense.

So this February, where are we? We decided to continue our tradition of going out of town in February. It ended up lining up with Linger Conference in Dallas, TX. Our friends have been for the past two years, and after hearing amazing things, we decided to come along. I’m so ready for a weekend of worship and God’s Word. I can’t pretend that I’m past the healing process. I know that will take a lifetime. We learn to grieve in different ways, continuing to rely on God to bring us through. Our relationship may change, but it should always be growing, strengthening, moving. I’m hoping for more of that this weekend.

Some of the Scriptures that I meditated on:

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NKJV Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look to the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Psalm 34:8 NKJV Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who trusts in Him.

Psalm 46:10 NKJV Be still and know that I am God.

Happy Hartley Day, friends.

 

 

 

A Book That’s Guaranteed to Bring You Joy

I began a reading challenge last month unlike any I’ve done before. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve done any reading challenges before. It includes 40 assignments, ranging from “a book with a blue cover” to “a political memoir”. I’ve gone through and decided on books to match certain criteria, but the last line was “a book that’s guaranteed to bring you joy”. My mind immediately went to something funny. Something written by a comedian or a celebrity. I’ve read a few of those already for different pieces of the challenge, and while I laughed at them, I can’t say they brought me joy. I finished some of the books wondering if I really wanted anyone to know I read them. 

Enter The Fitting Room by Kelly Minter. If you’re not familiar with Kelly, like I wasn’t until about a year and a half ago, she is mainly known as a Bible study author, but she’s also a talented singer/songwriter. I like to think we are BFF’s because we are Instagram friends, and she complimented my hair once. She has a knack for pointing out details of the Bible and making connections I never would have noticed. I heard her speak on the subject of The Fitting Room last summer, so I was glad to finally read the book. Plus I found it on Amazon for 79 cents. (Can we say JOY?!) If you know me at all, you know I’m not a shopper. A real life fitting room is NOT where I find joy. (Except in Target- their mirrors are dangerously flattering.) Anyway, the premise of the book is Colossians 3:12-14, which says “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” (NKJV) The idea of the fitting room comes from the concept that we are “putting on” these virtues- wearing them and embodying them to live as Christ did. But my favorite part is that Paul (the author of Colossians) tells us that we can wear these virtues BECAUSE we are chosen, holy, and beloved. We aren’t chosen, holy, and beloved because we have perfected the virtues. See what he did there? 

She concludes the book with a chapter titled “The Crowning Virtue: Joy”.  Kelly says “We see joy blossoming from the believers’ fellowship, the spread of the gospel, and the growth of the church. We find it tethered to God’s blessings. It is the crown of obedience. The word joy is sprinkled all over the New Testament, not as something topping the cupcakes of worldly lusts or entertainment but falling upon the hearts of men and women whose lives are caught up in who God is and what He is doing.” So this is my book that’s guaranteed to bring me joy. It was one that left me feeling challenged to go deeper in my walk with Christ and truly put on the virtues of tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and forgiveness. (Notice he spent a lot longer on forgiveness than any other virtue. Not a coincidence. I need to spend a lot more time on that one myself.) Following Christ and living my life as He would have me live is the only thing that can truly bring me joy. If you’re looking for a good, biblical, inspiring read, give this one a try.  I would love to let you borrow it.

Just in case you’re wondering, my next item on board is “a book you haven’t read since high school”. I’ve decided to go with Wuthering Heights. I have a hunch I’ll like it a lot better when my grade isn’t on the line, and I don’t have to identify a theme. I’m with Lorelei Gilmore- “it’s always man’s inhumanity to man”… Or something like that. Happy Monday, friends.