Words from the closest

“Well done.”

That was all she wrote.

That moment last week was one of my highlights.

Here is why.

She knows me. I mean really knows me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m her big cousin and we are the closest thing to a sister we each have blood wise. I know that my 15 years advantage sets me up for her approval, but the point is she doesn’t have to approve at all.

She is, after all, in the stage of life to be hyper-critical. She is in her mid-twenties and she knows how everything can be done better (just like I did at her age).

So with an up close and personal look at her imperfect cousin, she could have ignored my post, but she didn’t.

And her response was, “Well done.”

My post was on the next year of milestones in my life.

I want my life to matter. I want it to be real and have an impact. But I am also realistic and very aware of my own sinfulness and shortcomings. And if there was anyone I couldn’t keep that from it would be my cousin B (not that she can keep much from me either 😉 ).

So I find her words the most refreshing and encouraging because SHE is saying it about ME.

Not the Instagram me, the blogging me, or the church me (though thank God that gap is smaller every day), but the real warts and all ME. She said those encouraging words to the real me.

Those words were more valuable than those further away because they couldn’t see what she sees.

Those who get reports on the news or the posts on social media will not understand a marathon run like the ones running beside each other or cheering from the sidelines.

B runs with me in this life. She sees the trips. She sees the injuries to myself and those I cause others. She runs beside me. She sees the sweat up close and the B.O. that is impossible to mask.

So when she says, “Well done.” It isn’t trite. It isn’t a guess. It is praise of the hard work that is laid at the foot of the cross to become holy.

The words from those closest to us hold more weight than those who are further away. It is real, and it is weighty.

In what way can we leave those around us with invaluable words that can only come from those running the race with us? How can we who see both the sweat and the finish line cheer on those next to us? Why are we reluctant to let those words fall from our lips or our fingertips?

Guys, words from the closest are probably the most important of all.

I challenge you to share a weighty word today. Give someone a smile or a tear. Give someone the strength to keep running their race. It might not cost you much, but it is priceless to the recipient.

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Be still and know

She is two and has never had the capacity to be still. Even when she wants to snuggle she is moving. Maybe she is rolling over the top of me or rubbing her hand up and down the inside of my arm (sometimes she pinches me there, and HEAVEN HELP ME).

The place where it also very noticeable is when I am trying to put her coat on her. I almost always start by saying something like, “Let’s put your coat on.”

She is very independent and it will not be long before she will no longer need my help. But for right now, I just want her to BE STILL.

It is only when she stills her will and her “help,” that I am able to get the coat on her tiny frame.

I don’t want her to stop getting ready. I don’t want her to go limp and go back to the days it was like trying to dress spaghetti. I just want her to trust me. I want her to rest in my hands.

I don’t her to stop. I want her to be.

She very often makes some little surprised “huh” sigh as her arm finally gets into their respective holes, and when the zipper finally comes to the close at the top. I’m not sure why she forgets. It happens over and over every week in winter time, and it’s like she finally sees what I can do. She finally knows. Mama is trying to get her coat on.

Sometimes I have read the verse “be still and know that I am God” as a command to stop, or even a command to go limp spiritually. But I honestly have started reading it more like my scenarios with Snickle.

It’s usually pretty obvious when God is trying to do something in me. More often than not the event begins with Him announcing or promising what He is about to do.

I am very independent, and He just wants me to be still.

God doesn’t want me to stop obeying or lose control of the position He is holding me in. He wants me to trust Him. He wants me to rest in His most capable hands.

He doesn’t want me to stop. He wants me to be.

And so many times when God comes through for me, I give a little surprised internal sigh that He actually accomplished what He promised he would do. I’m not sure why I forget how often His faithfulness comes through. But in that moment I look around and I see all that God can do. I finally KNOW that He can do and has done the work for me.

What would it look like, if every time God announced something He wanted to do in, for, or through me, I was just still? What if I didn’t “help,” but just was being the thing He wanted? How quickly could we get to the part where I was able to KNOW He was God?

I pray that each day I would be closer to being still and just letting God work. I pray that I won’t think of it as quitting, but as being.

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A banner of love on a foundation of friendship

It wasn’t love at first sight. His pants were hiked up and he had a foreign style mullet. It wasn’t your red neck variety. It was your other-cultural variety.

I remember riding to our associate pastor’s house. We were going to meet the family that my parents would start teaching Sunday School.

They each seemed so timid. They were very respectful. The most adventurous of them was the four-year-old who kept being put back in his “good little boy” poses.

This began several years of watching this family grow. This began several years of mutual respect and love for each other. Though it was many years before I fell in love with their oldest boy, that love had a firm foundation of friendship.

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My Ebenezer year

The Israelites stood before another body of water this one led to a fulfillment of the promise God gave them generations before they crossed the Red Sea. Now those grown children were seeing a promise they may have barely believed was real anymore.

This time their leader Joshua was instructed to have the priests carry the presence of God into the Jordan before the waters were stopped. It then dried under the feet standing in it.

After all the people had crossed dry and safe, Joshua did something different. He called 12 men from each tribe back to where the priests stood. Following God’s instruction, He told them to each gather a stone of remembrance.

They placed the stones one on top of the other and left them at Gilgal. They were to remind their children that God had stopped and dried the water for them.

Earlier in their history, God protected the Israelites from an attack from the Philistines. After God responded with their deliverance Samuel set up a stone of remembrance. It was called an Ebenezer meaning “stone of help.”

This year I will have several milestones, and I would be remiss to not pile my own stones of the faithfulness of God.

In the next year (from July 2017 to June 2018) I will set up the following stones:

A stone of covenant

In August, I will celebrate 15 years of covenant with my spouse. I cannot tell you how good God is to have given me such a man to walk alongside in this life. About the time I could really complain, God does something in him or in me that brings life back into the promise we made on the cranberry carpeted steps of our church. God has been our help.

A stone of testing

In September, I will turn 40. I’m really not stressing it since age has never been a big thing for me. (Plus I was 40 when I was five.) The number 40 has represented a time of testing in the Bible. I feel that there is a very real sense of having accomplished something by now. Some very hard tests have come in the first 40 years of my life.

Stones of generations

The number 40 also represents the coming of a new generation. This will not surprise me as I place the next stones. In December and May respectively, I will place two very similar stones. A “parenting a teenager” stone will be followed by an “I don’t have any grade schoolers” stone (don’t worry I’ll have a few years and Snickle will knock this one over for a while).

A stone of anguish

In April, I will place perhaps one of the heaviest and hardest earned stones. My mother will have been in heaven for 10 years. The number ten represents completion in scripture. And while grief never truly leaves you, nothing shows you how complete God is like the loss of one you hold dear.

As I stack them one by one, I cannot begin to tell you how much my heart resounds with Samuel’s words as he set up the Ebenezer. “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

Thus far the Lord has helped me, friends.

I pray you’ll let him be your help, too.

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You won’t ever be as good as her

You’ll never be as good as her…

She can do it better than you…

Why help, teach, serve, give, or love when they already have her…

The lie is trapped there in your head. It reduces more than who you are. It diminishes what God has called you to do or the Spirit has prompted.

Go back with me to my little girl days.

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