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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It’s both

I have never had a relationship based on feeling alone.

There is something more to it. There is an element of stubbornness. There is a deep connectedness that holds on when the feelings don’t match the situation.

There is also a putting the interest of others above your own. (Certainly, not all of the time, but I would say equal parts or a little more.) There is an interest in the person. There is an interest in his or her story. There is an interest in the things that he or she knows about.

There is an expertise that one gets about that person. Of course, knowledge alone does not determine my relationship with him or her, but I cannot know nothing of him or her either.

I am in love with WK… in the giddy school girl way. I am in love with him in the melt your insides and rip your clothes off way. I am in love with him in the get all dressed up to look my best for him on special nights kind of way. I am in love with him in the hold hands in public and sit on the same side of the table kind of way.

But that’s not it. If it was, it would be shallow. If it was, it would be tiring to keep up. If it was, I would question my love for him when I got a headache or was distracted with a challenge.

I am also in love with him in the grow old with him kind of way. I am in love with him in the do laundry, do dishes, and bear children for him kind of way. I am love with him in the I will pay attention (more than hearing or listening) to stories about cars and computers kind of way. I am in love with him in the making his life my life kind of way.

It’s both. It’s a marriage of both the feeling of love and the constitution of it.

Sometimes I feel the feelings. Sometimes I do the work of them.

A deep abiding love will both make your heart soar and your muscles ache. It will make you feel amazing and it will wear you out. It is both an emotion and an institution.

Culturally we like to apply the shallow kind of love to God as well as people. But it’s both…

I am in love with my Savior… In a giddy school girl kind of way, and a lay down my life for Him kind of way. I am in love in the heart soaring, and the read Leviticus kind of way. I am in love in a follow him when things look nice and when things look awful kind of way. I am in love with Him in a sing hallelujah, and in a memorize His word kind of way.

It’s both. It’s a marriage of both the relationship and the regulations.

If I would give this kind of love to my husband why would I give anything less to my Lord?

I hope that we learn a deeper love each day… one that causes us to cheer and to sacrifice.

It’s the only kind of love worth having.

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Fear is not your friend

“God has not given us a spirit of fear.” These were the words I said to my son when he asked why I would not likely ever allow him to go to a “fright fest.”

We make ourselves too comfortable with fear these days. I’m not really talking about haunted houses or scary movies. Although, I’m sure there is a conversation that could be had abut those as well.

After all, We can’t be a good mother without it, you know?

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Fluff doesn’t sharpen

We’re floundering most of us. The mamas raising our young ones. We’re terrified of getting it wrong. We’re helpless to get it right. We don’t even know who to go to when we have questions.

I used to have a wise sounding board. She was full of life, but she was also filled with God’s word.

Mama was the perfect place for me to take my questions, ideas, and fears to. She almost always had the perfect answer, even when it was “I don’t know.”

Having her was a treasure, and I soaked up her wisdom like a sponge.

But when I no longer had Marilyn I realized that others around me didn’t have anyone like her either.

So we all floundered together. Until one day God laid it on my heart to be a sounding board for others around me.

If I didn’t have my Mama and they didn’t have that sound counsel either, why couldn’t we be that to each other?

So we gather at my dining room table each week to sort out the good, the bad, and the poopy.

I keep asking why we are so weak in this area and what we can do about it.

We find this wisdom in organic conversation and real life. We pray that God uses it to breathe life back into our weary souls.

But finding it?

That’s the big problem. We have no idea where to look for it.

Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

This is not an excuse to sit around with people who are exactly like you on the surface. This is a call to find others who are like you at the core.

The girls that meet at my dining room table started when the Jesus in Marj and the Jesus in me sharpened each other.

It grew even stronger when a different surface but an iron core joined us. Jill wasn’t the same, but she was a sharpener.

Why are we not finding these healthy places?

If we’re honest it is because much of what we find on social media can be fluff, or let’s just say it, poop. Neither of these elements sharpen, nor do they create a protective and steadfast place for us to become better than we were yesterday.

Iron is most often found face to face. It is why we still mostly find it in churches, in school pick-up lines, and in the break room. It is also why we feel more lonely when we don’t find it in these spaces than when we don’t find it online.

Proverbs 2:3-5 also tells us that it will not fall into our laps, “If you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” While this is talking about the fear of the Lord and the knowledge of God, I believe those are often found in the small conversations with iron relationships.

The physical element of iron itself is mined for. Rarely is iron found on the surface and if so it is only a trace of all that is hiding below the surface.

I have iron ladies. They are soft on the outside, but the are tough as nails inside. They sharpen me in ways I would never

May we quit looking for iron on the surface, and dig deeper to find the iron that our souls long to be strengthened by. I pray you quit looking for strength in fluff, ignore surface minerals, and search for what will make you stronger, friends.

It is there, but it must be mined.

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Disciplines in the light are for songs in the dark

It’s another season that is difficult. It’s not that it’s going to break me, but I am worn slick.

But I have come to learn that I am not thankful for the disciplines when I need their benefits most. In fact, the last thing I want to do when life gets too heavy is the things that require more of me.

During a funeral is the last time we expect to start being more faithful at anything.

Illness doesn’t help us hold our heads up to look at a memory verse.

A broken heart is the hardest to get to sing praises.

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