Monday, October 24, 2011

Lyla's Letter

This past week, my bff Jenni had a baby. Jenni and I were roommates my senior year of college. The two of us plus two other wonderful women, my friends Lindsey and Micah, make up a foursome we nicknamed the Bumpass Belles. The story of how the Belles came to be is for another day, though.
Jenni and her husband Jonathan decided not to find out the baby’s sex, which has been no small torture to those of us who wanted to know whether we should buy pink or blue. So when the time came for the baby to be born, there was more than the usual anticipation. We waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, we received word that the baby had arrived. Jonathan stuck his head out of the delivery room and announced to those of us gathered around the door, “it’s a girl!” We. Went. Crazy!
An hour or so later, Jonathan placed little Lyla Nicole in my arms for the first time. As I looked into her sweet face, I came unglued! Through my tears, I held her and praised God for this tiny miracle.
The next day I bought Lyla a copy of the book “On the Night You Were Born,” a beautiful children’s story written/illustrated by Nancy Tillman. The book’s final stanza reads: “Heaven blew every trumpet/and played every horn/on the wonderful, marvelous/night you were born.” The last page of the book reads: “You are loved.”
In the back of the book, I wrote Lyla a note telling her about the day she came into the world (including an Arkansas State Red Wolves win!).  I told her that there has never been a moment when she has not been loved, that there has never been a day when she has not been prayed for. I also told her that my prayer for her life is that she would grow up to love and serve the Lord like her parents do. I want Lyla to know that she is loved by the people in her life. But above all else I want her to know that she is loved by our Heavenly Father, her Creator and the One who loves her best, and I want her to love Him back.
It means the world to me to be able to speak these words over Lyla’s life. It is my hope that her parents will read it to her, and then once she is able to read my note on her own, that it will encourage her in her walk with the Lord. I want her to know that the love of family and friends is precious but incomparable to the love of God. This is a lesson that I am still learning in my own life, and while it is not an easy one to learn, it has the power to change everything about the way we live.
Can we speak these truths to our little sisters? Can we take them by the hand and tell them about the all-surpassing love of Christ? That is what I want my life to be about. I want to leave this world knowing that I have nothing left to give, that I have left all of my human love and affection behind, still living in the hearts of those who needed the encouragement. I want my life’s message to be, “it may not have been easy, but it was worth it.” And I want to proclaim that message with my arms around those girls with damaged hearts. Because let’s face it, who among us is not damaged in some way?
May we be on the lookout for our sisters who need a reminder that they are loved, and may we always point them to the love of Christ.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A New Coat of Paint

About a month ago, I moved into a new apartment. I was SO excited about decorating my bedroom because for several months now, I’ve had a vision of a very feminine, very fancy purple and white bedroom. Part of the preparation for moving meant that I would need to re-paint my antique iron bed. I woke up one Saturday feeling ambitious, so I got out in the backyard with my bed, some sandpaper, and a can of white spray paint.
Have you ever sanded anything? It’s not fun. It’s hard work, for one. Second, the little sand granules come off and get stuck between your toes, because you are wearing flip-flops because you didn’t know how dirty your feet were going to get. Because unlike Jesus, you are not a carpenter.  So, I’m sanding. I’m sweating (because it’s August in Arkansas) and I’m sanding. And as I sanded away at the spots where the previous coat of paint had chipped away, the Holy Spirit began showing me something. In order to put a new coat of paint on this old, rusty bed, I have to make the rough places smooth. If I don’t, the new paint won’t stick. And I can’t just sand the big spots, I have to hit every crevice and curve of this piece of furniture to ensure that it is ready for the white paint.
As I rubbed the sandpaper into even the unnoticeable corners, I thought—this reminds me of what God does with our hearts. He takes us as we are—chipped, beat up, flaky, and having seen better days. And then He begins His restorative work in our hearts. And it is painful. If my iron bed could talk (which would probably mean I’m having some sort of spray-paint fume-induced hallucination) I’m sure it would have given voice to some painful moments as I scrubbed away with the sandpaper. But that was the only way to make smooth the rough places. I knew how great my bed was going to look once I finished my work on it. I did it to improve the overall appearance and value of this piece of furniture. But I first had to expose the weak spots so that I could repair them.
Doesn’t God have this way of doing that to us? I don’t know about you, but my weak spots seem to get a lot of scrubbing with sandpaper. Part of me thinks that getting a rubdown with actual sandpaper might be less painful than the figurative scrubbing that I sometimes receive. Broken relationships. Feelings that are hurt too easily. Insecurity. Fear of rejection. And all of that, sometimes, before lunch.
So where is the hope for those of us with chipped paint? Our hope comes from knowing that we have a Master who wants us, who values us even when we are rusty, old and flaky. He can see past our problems to our potential. Though we can’t see past our circumstances, He can see the end result of his vigorous restoration of our lives, and He won’t give up until His vision is accomplished. It’s scary. No one likes to have our wounds rubbed raw. But if we belong to Christ, we must trust in our Master’s vision for our lives.  It is not easy. But it is worth it.