You are beautiful

Ellie hair

My daughter needs a haircut. Her hair is LONG, but oh so beautiful, a pretty golden blonde that I want to bottle up for myself. She always wants to wear it down, but I usually put it up in a ponytail to keep it out of her face, because it tangles so easily. The other day, I surprised her and told her to bring me a headband instead of a ponytail holder. I brushed out her beautiful hair, put on the headband, and told her that’s how she was wearing it to school. She looked in the mirror, her face lit up, and she said, “I love myself mama.” Her words caught me off guard because they were so innocent and pure so I asked her to repeat them. ”I love myself.” Then she skipped out of the room beaming. I wanted to cry out of love for her.

Why is it so hard for us to love ourselves? I am not talking about a narcissistic, obsession. I mean an authentic acceptance of who we are in our own skin. Almost all of us struggle with so much insecurity, sometimes spilling over into self-loathing. I would imagine that even the most gorgeous women in the world have things they would change and even many who seem to love themselves so much are compensating for something. And yet, despite what the media tells us, or what others around us say, we are each so beautiful. I cannot tell you the joy it brought to my heart hearing my daughter say those words.

It made me think how our Father must desire that we, his sons and daughter, love ourselves. Psalm 139:6 says,

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it well.”

We see in Genesis 1:27 that we are each made in the image of God. And yet for most of my life, I have thought I am too this, or not enough of that. I look back and am saddened over the hours wasted obsessing over the things I don’t like about myself. And if I am honest those still creep in. How sad that must make the One who created me and looks on me with love.

This is not a post to pump up our egos. This is about what God Word’s says. And once again I was reminded of truth Through the eyes of a child. There is nothing wrong with taking care of ourselves, but when we allow it to contradict what Scripture says, it becomes a stronghold in our lives that steals our joy. I don’t want that for my daughter, and God doesn’t want that for me. The next time I see new wrinkles and those wiry gray hairs, I may just look in the mirror and force myself to say, “I love myself!  And then make an appointment with my hair stylist to cover up those grays 🙂 Or maybe I won’t! Either way I am thankful that God’s Word tells me my inner beauty is more important than the external, and that my King thinks that I am beautiful. Isn’t that what matters most?

Natalie

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The God who sees me

desert

Mommy are you watching? Do you see me? If you are a parent or have ever been around children, you know that this question is often on their lips. Children want to be seen by us, to know that they are important and noticed. And as adults we are not much different. Perhaps one of the most important times that we yearn to be seen is when we are hurting, when we feel as if the walls are closing in around us and pain is unbearable. And isn’t it true that in those times we can sometimes feel the most invisible?

I am going through the book of Ruth with a group of precious women, and this past week we talked about affliction or suffering. At the end of Ruth chapter one, Naomi is in a deep depression. She has lost her husband and her two sons and feels empty, alone, and even believes that God’s hand has turned against her. If we are honest, haven’t we all felt like that at one time or another? If you have read the book of Ruth, you know that God has not forgotten about Naomi and indeed has a plan for her. It is one of the reasons the book is so beloved. But before Naomi, there was a woman named Hagar, who went through her own type of affliction.

Look back to Genesis 16. God had promised Abraham a son to carry on his name and give him numerous descendants. The only problem was his wife Sarah was barren. So they took matters into their own hands, as we often do. Sarah told Abraham to sleep with her maidservant Hagar to produce an heir. The plan work and Hagar got pregnant, but soon after Sarah became jealous and mistreated her. (No surprise there!)  Hagar decided to run away from Sarah into the desert.

Hagar probably felt pretty invisible huh? She was the lowest on the totem pole. She was bullied by THE matriarch in the camp, and probably felt helpless, alone, invisible. She was about to find out that she was anything but. The Almighty God sent an angel out after Hagar in the desert. In Genesis 16:11 (ESV), the angel said to her,

Behold you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction.

This is the first time the word “affliction” is used in Scripture. Thanks a lot Sarah!!! Not a great to start off women’s relationships in Scripture ha! In all seriousness, my favorite part of this story is what happened in verse 11.

So [Hagar] called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly I have seen Him who looks after me.”

Is that not incredible?! Hagar the maidservant, gave the God of Israel a name, El Roi! And that is still one of His names today! He doesn’t change. Don’t you think if God pursued Hagar in the midst of her affliction, that He still pursues us? He sees what you are going through; you are not invisible to Him. Even if you feel as if no one else care, He does. Pour out your heart to the God who Sees and let Him comfort you with a peace you only He can provide.

Natalie

 

 

 

Stretched

gumby

Lately I have been feeling a little like Gumby. Not physically, although I really need to get to the gym; I probably can’t even touch my toes anymore. Ha!! I am talking about spiritually. It seems like the Lord just won’t let me get comfortable. Just this week, I got that familiar burning in my chest, coupled with anxiety when a thought popped in my brain that had all the characteristics of coming from the Lord. My immediate response was ABSOLUTELY NOT! No Way! Unfortunately, I am starting to learn that when that’s my knee-jerk reaction, it often means that I will absolutely be doing it. Can any of you relate?

There are many examples of individuals being stretched in Scripture. Aren’t you glad we can read their stories? One of my favorites is Moses. In Exodus 3, he is minding his own business tending sheep out in the wilderness, when he sees a random bush that is on fire but not burning up! Turns out, the bush is none other than Almighty God Himself who begins talking to him. Crazy! Moses has no idea what is ahead of him. He is about to be stretched big time. And his first response was no, nope, no way, yada, yada, yada… I don’t know about you, but I can totally relate to Moses’ response. He gave God about as many excuses as he could, but ultimately, He took on the task of being Israel’s deliverer. And the rest is history.

When I was reading over this story again, I noticed something. In Exodus 7:14, When Moses went before Pharaoh, God told Moses and his brother Aaron 8 times to stretch out their hand so they could perform miracles before Pharaoh, that would show His power ultimately leading to the Israelite’s deliverance. It was God’s power at work, but Moses physically had to stretch his hand out in faith to perform the miracles.

The more Moses stretched out his arm, the more God displayed his power and glory to the Egyptians and the Israelites. He does the same way with us. We stretch outward, but at the same time we stretch upward to Him, because He is our strength. When we step out in faith and allow him to take us out of our comfort zones, He will lead us places we could never go on our own. It’s usually scary and uncomfortable, but at the end of the day, it is always worth it.

And when all was said and done, and God had delivered the Israelites, Moses never forget that it wasn’t by his strength. I’ll leave you with his own words to the LORD after the Exodus.

Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them. Exodus 15:11-12 (ESV)

If the Lord is calling you to stretch out, do it! His power is at work in you! You just have to obey.

Natalie

 

Don’t Miss the Boat

One of my favorite traditions at Christmas is going to the Enchanted Forest with my mom. This year, my kids wanted to do the scavenger hunt, so they spent half an hour running around looking for obscure objects like 3 red scarves and a blueprint. ( I kid you not! The Enchanted Forest doesn’t play around!) Ellie and James were having a tough time finding some of the things on the list, so mom and I jumped in on the nightmare fun. I was assigned “toy boat.” Earlier I had spent ten minutes looking for firetrucks that ended up being tiny toys hidden on shelves, so I just knew the toy boat would be hidden in that section as well.  As I scanned the other toys, I didn’t see one. My mom came over and said, “Natalie, do you not see that boat?!!!” I looked to the left and saw this.

boat

A BIG, TOY,  BOAT! My mom and I laughed so hard we cried! I was so sure it would be a small one that I completely missed the big one right in my face. I missed something so obvious because it was not what I expected.

How often do we miss what God is doing in our lives because we have a preconceived notion of what it will look like? God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). If that’s true, why do we try to keep Him in a box, expecting Him to work only in ways that WE think He should?

Maybe the best example in Scripture is Jesus Christ Himself. The Jewish people had been anxiously waiting for God to send their Messiah, but they had their own idea of what he would be. They expected a magnificent, stately, political king. But Jesus “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53: 2) Jesus didn’t fit their mold of an earthly King and yet He was (and is) the King of all Kings. So many of them missed the promised One, because He didn’t line up with their expectations.

As we go into 2018, many of us will set goals and resolutions. And these aren’t bad. But if we are only focused on our own ideas of how things should work out or how this year should go, we may miss out. This year leave room for God to have His way, for Him to do some new things. Ask him to open your eyes to what is right in front you, to the unexpected ways He is working.

Don’t be like me and miss the boat 🙂

Natalie

Lessons from Standby

“Andy, I forgot my driver’s license.” This is not the sentence you want to say when you have just pulled up at the airport for your early morning flight. We were on our way to Kansas City for my dad’s graduation, and I had just thought to myself, “Wow, we are actually early! I can send some emails, get my Starbucks. This is great!” Apparently, I packed everything except the one thing that you MUST have to board the plane. After rushing all the way back to our house in the suburbs and then back to the airport, we missed our original flight to Atlanta that would take us to Kansas City. Let’s just say those moments were not my best.

As I cried at the ticket counter and listened to the options, it became apparent that our journey to Kansas City was not going to be easy. After hearing all of the possible scenarios, our best option was to get on STANDBY for the next flight to Atlanta, and then wait on STANDBY for the next flight to Kansas City. Well, that scared me to death. Even though there were a ton of seats available on the plane, I could not think of anything worse than being stuck in Atlanta!

HOME ALONE mom use this

At the end of the day, we made it to Kansas City. There were a couple close calls, and a reenactment of the Home Alone scene as we sprinted through the Atlanta airport with Ellie and James, but we made it to the graduation celebration.  And you and I both know that God made it happen.

The whole time this was going on, I couldn’t help but see the parallel to the Christian life. Once we missed that original flight, we didn’t have control. We were on standby the rest of the way. And we had to take tiny steps of faith to get to our destination. Often, the Lord calls us to do something that is scary or uncomfortable. We may be OK with it, but the real problem comes in when we can’t see the step after that. We can’t see where or when He’s booked our next ticket, and so we don’t even get on the original flight. Because, what if we have to hang out in the ATL airport for the rest of our lives????

One of the most unbelievable examples of faith in the Old Testament is Abraham. His whole life was like a giant leap of faith! And although he had his moments, for the most part he trusted the Lord. In Genesis 12, God revealed himself to Abram, calling him to leave his family and everything he knew. Taking God at his word, Abram obeyed. Verse 1 always jumps out at me,

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you…”

God didn’t fill in the destination on Abraham’s ticket! He literally told him to pack up and go, and Abraham had to rely completely on the Lord. Sometimes we may think that it was easier for Abraham to obey because the Lord gave him these amazing promises in the next few verse (2-3). But I’m not sure that’s true. We have hundreds of promises in Scripture that apply to us, and yet we still have trouble stepping out in faith when we don’t have all the details planned out.

When Andy and I were at the original ticket counter trying to figure out what to do, the Delta employee could tell I was about to have an anxiety attack. She was so great and  was confident that we would make that connecting flight. As she was making the arrangements, she looked at me and said, “Just think of it as an adventure.” Y’all the Christian life is an adventure!!! And the LORD has all of our flights booked 😊

Natalie

 

A Perfectionist at Christmas

LIVING MAGAZINE PICTURE

So, last week I had a post drafted and ready to go. It was about how we are stressed during the holidays, but it never changes. I had been thinking on past years and how so much can stem from over-committing, and refusing to say no. The whole post was about how we need to say no more, stand up for ourselves, quit trying to people please, and focus on the One who really matters. And just for the record… I think it was a pretty good post!

But for whatever reason, I didn’t have confirmation from Him to post it. May sound weird to some, but I believe the Lord gives me words to say.  Anything that I write that is of worth is from Him; anything that is dung (as KJV Paul would say) is all Natalie. And I didn’t have a peace to post it.. Now I know why.

Since then, I have been going about my business and I have noticed something. Several times, and I mean SEVERAL, I have had this urge to plan numerous things. Keep in mind, that I am on my way to Kansas City at 5:00 am tomorrow for my dad’s graduation ceremony for his Doctorate of Ministry (woo hoo! Yay dad!!!) So, in reality, I have two weekends before Christmas. And yet, I have literally been a group text away from hosting three different events. I keep trying to cram in things in the days left before Christmas, when in reality, it would leave me feeling stressed, over committed, maxed out, all the things I have complained about from years past.

What’s my point?  It’s me. I don’t need to say no to other people. I need to say no to myself. I am the one who overbooks. I am the one who has to have everything Martha Stewart level. I set the bar so high, that even an Olympian couldn’t clear it.  I want my Christmas to be perfect, and perfection to me means performance.  I can’t blame anyone else for that. The perfectionist rears her head at Christmas more than any other time. And in the end, I am the one who misses out, largely because I miss out on my God.

But what’s so sweet, is that the Lord pointed out my issue. Have you ever experienced Him showing you your sin or faults?  The Creator of the world bothered to show me that I am actually the one who is causing my holiday stress. Such a small thing in life but to me it was a BIG thing, and yet He cared to listen to me, and to show me where I was falling short. The Lord is the best therapist I could ever have. Ha!! I love Him so much. He is my delight. He is my joy. And I hope He is yours too.

Natalie

Psalm 37:4

Dear Andy

2007.  It was the week before Thanksgiving. I was 24 years old, living at my parents’ house, convinced that I would never end up with anyone and would die a lonely old maid. (Always the optimist, right?!)  That night, I was getting ready to go out, and I received a text from one of my best friends. “You have a date with destiny” it read. And the rest, is history…

Christmas ornament.jpg

That was ten years ago, and today we are celebrating nine years of marriage!! We must have been crazy!!! Dating for six months, and then married six months later. For us, it really was love at first sight.

Do you remember the list I gave you on our wedding day? My senior year in high school I wrote down the top ten things I wanted in a spouse. As I read through them last night, I wanted to remind you of the number one thing on my list as we celebrate our anniversary. It was true nine years ago and it’s still just as true today.

First and foremost he must be a strong Christian man. He will love God first and me second.  Although he is not perfect, his life will testify to his close relationship with Christ.

I wrote those words on November 28, 2001 as a 17 year old girl. Little did I know that God in his sovereignty had a boy picked out for me from Kansas who would be the love of my life. 16 years later, I am praising the LORD that he gave me the desire of my heart. He gave me a man who loves him, and seeks him above all else. Even me.

Right before I met you, I was on the dating hamster wheel. Literally. Going on date after date with great guys by everyone’s standards, but in my gut I knew none of them were for me. Then I met you. And you started talking with me right off the bat about how much you loved Jesus. You even started singing along to K-Love in your car!! (Which really geeked me out if I’m being honest ha!)  I thought, OK there is something different about him. And it didn’t hurt that you were so handsome, athletic, smart, kind, and that you absolutely adored me. 😊

You loved the Lord. Like really loved Him. And you didn’t care who knew. And because you love the Lord, you have loved me well, through the good and the bad.

I love you so much, and I am so blessed to have you as my husband. Happy Anniversary!

Natalie
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