Category Archives: Gratitude

Brow lines, broken hearts, & the truth about the marks we bear.

We all carry marks on our bodies & in our hearts from the lives we’ve lived. Some are evidence of joy. Others, of pain or regret. Whether it’s brow lines or a broken heart, read on for a live-breathing perspective on the marks we bear.I’ve become somewhat preoccupied with the lines on my face this year.

I’d like to tell you I’m incredibly self-assured, graciously embracing the changes in my skin and my body year after year.

But that would be a lie.

The truth is, I stare at myself for a shameful amount of time. Inches from the mirror, inspecting the changes in my skin, my body. Ruthlessly critiquing my appearance.

Crow’s feet… brow lines… laugh lines… migrating body parts…

Evidence of my aging skin, my aging body.

(As if I know anything about truly aging. I’m 35. I know, when I am 60, 70, 80, I will read this and smack myself.) Look, I’m not trying to be dramatic. I’m just trying to tell the truth.

For the most part, thirty-five feels much younger than I imagined in would ten years ago. It just LOOKS older than I was ready for.

But as I stare myself into a pit of irrational despair, a deeper reality beckons me back up to the light.

These marks? They aren’t merely evidence of age. They are evidence of LIFE.

Crow’s feet from smiling and squinting on a thousand sunny days. Brow lines from poring over countless books, thoughtful conversation, earnest prayer. Laugh lines from… laughing. A body that has changed shape from carrying, birthing, and feeding two babies.

Beauty, depth, laughter, new life.

How could these things not leave their mark?

Why wouldn’t I want them to?

How about you? What marks do you carry? Lines, wrinkles, stretch marks…

While we’re telling the truth, let’s acknowledge that not all the marks we carry were made in joy. We carry marks on our bodies and within our hearts that we would wish away in a minute if we could.

I know mine. You know yours.

God just told me to tell you something. I don’t know who, but one of you reading this needs to know:

Whether your marks were made from something good or something bad, heartwarming or heart wrenching… they are all evidence of LIFE.

You’ve loathed some of these marks, seeing them as evidence of your unworthiness or God’s unfaithfulness.  

But no. These marks? ALL OF THEM. They bear witness to a life LIVED and a life PRESERVED.

Because YOU’RE STILL HERE.

Whatever you’ve been through, whatever you’re going through, and whatever is yet to come: the God of the universe sustains your life. What happened may not be good. But He is good. And He loves you more than you think.

He has preserved your life, and that is no accident. You are here for a reason.

psalm 119-50

The Best Worst Day

Owen swam all morning with his buddies at our neighborhood pool today. It was the BEST day. Until he found out Molly is going to a birthday party tonight.

Suddenly, “this is the WORST DAY EVER.”

Back home, we had a heart-to-heart on his bedroom floor. “I NEVER get to do fun things!” he shouted. His eyes began tearing up at the perceived injustice of it all.

“Owen, you just spent the entire morning having fun at the pool.”

“But MOLLY is going to a PARTY. That IS NOT FAIR. She does ALL the fun things. I do NOTHING fun.”

I sat quietly for a moment, aware the words coming next were as much for me as for him.

“I bet if you took all this energy and spent it on being grateful for what you DO get to do, you wouldn’t have any left to waste on being angry about what someone else gets to do. You’re so worried about what Molly’s getting to do, you’ve already forgotten all the fun you had an hour ago.”

His face clouded with renewed anger. I bit my tongue and watched as he proceeded to furiously build a wall between us.

Not just emotionally. An actual wall of lego bins and books.

I burst out laughing. (This went over really well. Probably should’ve bit my tongue a little harder.) It was just so cute and ridiculous.

But then it was sad. He obviously knew I was still there, but he didn’t want to hear what I was saying. So he grabbed everything in reach to stack between us until he couldn’t see my face.

He would take even the illusion of shutting me out at that point, just to be left alone with his bitterness.

He’s actually still in his room as I write this. I left him to stay there and hopefully fall asleep. (And wake up miraculously delightful.) (Fingers crossed.)

How do we teach our kids to deal with life not being fair? Or not even that. Today wasn’t about FAIR. Owen thought it was, but fair wasn’t the issue. Today was about things not being the SAME. My friend Betty said she tries to not dwell on “fair,” but instead teaches her kids life’s not EVEN.  That has really stuck with me.

Someone will always have something DIFFERENT. It may not actually be better – or better for ME – but I’ll convince myself it is and become ungrateful for the thing I already have.

Is it wrong for Owen to wish he could go to a birthday party? No, of course not. I don’t think that’s the problem.

The problem is when his desire (not a bad thing) couples with ENTITLEMENT (straight up poison).  It’s this mindset: “I DESERVE what he/she has, and I’m not getting it! How dare you deny me this!” Then the heart grows bitter and ungrateful.

The antidote to bitterness is GRATITUDE. And as my pastor often says, “Gratitude begins where my sense of entitlement ends.”

cell

Furiously putting up walls to insulate myself – from others or from God – only provides fertile ground for seeds of bitterness to take root and grow.

Keep the walls down. Celebrate the blessings others receive. (GENUINELY be happy for people – not passive-aggressive crappy-happy.) (You know what I’m talking about.) And remain actively, present-tense grateful for anything and everything you’ve got.

If you’re reading this, I think you woke up alive today, so there’s a start. Also, you can read. And you have a computer or a phone. There – I just gave you three freebies! Now take fifteen  seconds and leave a comment about what else you’re grateful for!

Sometimes gratitude feels like hard work. But it’s the good kind of work.

As for ME, I need to go help my son take down a wall.

I needed this reminder. I bet you do too. (Also, sometimes it’s good to talk to strangers.)

I don't know why the man started talking to me, but I sure needed the reminder he gave. I bet you do too. (P.S. Sometimes it's good to talk to strangers.)I don’t know why the man started talking to me.

The kids had just opened their Chick-fil-a meals when I noticed the elderly man at the table next to us. He sat alone.

He leaned over and said hello. We exchanged pleasantries, which turned to small talk, and before long he was telling me where he grew up.

He mentioned he’s a WWII vet. “So was my grandfather,” I said. He picked up his ice cream and joined us at our table.

In the span of just a few minutes, I learned his name is John. He has two sons. And he’d been married to the love of his life for 65 years.

She had passed away just eight months ago.

His eyes welled up with tears as he described what a wonderful woman she was, what a special love they shared, and how lonely it is without her.

This man of 90-something-years, who’d gone to war at 18… who’d seen things he couldn’t speak of… who’d loved – and been loved by – a good woman his whole life… and who’d just buried that woman only months ago… Do you know what this man said to me?

“The Lord has been so kind to me.”

Kind.

The kindness of God is the part of His character that continually gives me pause. He is huge. He is powerful. He is mighty.  And still, He is kind. It doesn’t mean He makes everything in my life easy. It means when the brokenness of this world invades my life and things get decidedly NOT EASY — He is THERE.

I find myself encouraging my kids to be KIND to one another. Not just nice. Right or wrong, the word “nice” sounds shallow to me. I don’t really care to be a nice person. I want to be a kind person. Kindness, to me, implies a depth of heart, a sense of compassion.

The Lord says, “How can I give you up?… My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.” (Hosea 11:8)

Take a few minutes to watch this video. It’s a song from our church. Not surprisingly, my favorite line is, “Your kindness makes me stronger.”

I realize I’m writing about the kindness of God – our Heavenly Father. And, while I also have an amazing earthly father, I must acknowledge I don’t know what kind of father you’ve had. I don’t know if he’s been kind to you.

I really hope he has been.

Here’s what I do know: your Heavenly Father says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

Have you experienced the Lord’s kindness?

I certainly have. It does my heart good to remember.

I don’t know why that old man started talking to me. But gosh, I’m so glad he did.