How a smile grows.


Self-reflection has been as much a part of my life as breathing. In the past two months I've had to dig down deep to find out what was at the core of this person that I perceive to be me, but suddenly wasn't so sure about.

Life does this to us. We can never know what tomorrow holds. (Maybe why Jesus told us not to try to wrap our minds around it.) But we do have this moment. And my moment, the one I'm living now as I type out an unfiltered post is full of confidence.

In the past (and by "past" I'm thinking everyday before yesterday) I felt a little ashamed for being confident. When I take personality assessments they describe  me "type A", "high D", "extrovert", "otter". When stuff like this rolls out I wrestle with the results because I feel very opposite of these things a lot of the time and I wonder if the results are what I have adapted to be or what I really am.

Regardless, I'm waiting for the day when I take one of these assessments and it gets me right.
Congratulations, you really aren't sure about yourself, and either are we. Good job. You're just like everyone else who has taken this test.

Words on my most recent DISC insight tell me that I can be "driving", "daring",  "determined", "Persuasive", "inspiring", "Poised", "Outgoing", "Active", "Independent. Not so bad.

But words like "self-involved", "restless" "careless",  aren't really happy words or words I wish to become incarnate. Some thoughts surrounding these "possibilities" mess with my head.  They cause me to doubt. They make me miss the person who used to be and resent the person I am becoming.

Enter life. The layers of our life in the last few weeks have been so complex. The opportunity for relational investment and potential for change has been so thick that I started to feel paralyzed under twenty mattresses.

Every where I turned I was faced with identity questions. When I asked God for answers. His only answer was "look at me." When I plead, tell me how to handle this, tell me how to love, show me what I should be doing, give me a sign. I heard nothing but "look at me." So I kept looking. Reading. Praying. Wandering around outside. Singing songs. Cleaning out closets. Finishing stuff. Having difficult conversations. Facing my giants. Asking for help. Looking literally anywhere and everywhere for a burning bush moment when I would see and understand who I am and what I'm to be. Still waiting.

Here's what's happening. As I was looking for answers. God was revealing his nature. As I was hard pressed and feeling suffocated. He was relieving my burdens. When I felt misunderstood and broken, I saw him as misunderstood and broken. When I felt the fire of a revolutionary burning in me. I saw the fire that was first in our Lord, the greatest revolutionary of us all.

Replacement. It's what's happening to me.
In 2007, when my first daughter was born, my first book was also born. It was a banner year when I felt like I was flying, all of my dreams coming true all at once. It was overwhelming to think that I could be blessed with double miracles. Just days after her birth, pain set in, circumstances that fought to steal my joy and completely break me.

What would I have done without a surrogate family who took us in, tended to us, passed our new little girl around, fed us guacamole and let us cry over their dinner table? What would I have done as the reality of my pain sunk deep into the shifting sands of my thoughts about our future? It was at that time when I knew for certain that I had no power in my own strength. There was none.

The irony is nestled in the first book I wrote to teenage girls--on the joy of replacement. When we take the lies of the world and replace them with the truth of the Word. I have shared about this process and about how it has the power to transform us.

Was I listening? Maybe I believed it. But living it is something else altogether. It's like talking about how good it is to exercise. But deep down I realize that it I believe it's better to eat ice cream.

Here I am six years after writing the words I need to hear and speaking them just about everywhere I get invited, I'm finally hearing them.What I didn't know was how uncomfortable it is to replace things. When my soul seems opened and bare it's more than vulnerable. It's pure nakedness.

We've all been in a restroom and the door doesn't have a lock. Someone unknowingly comes in as you're taking care of business. The shock that comes next is too hard to write about. You blush. You shriek. The person opening the door is just as mortified.

And this is what happens when we ask to be changed. God changes us. And it starts with taking an inventory with what's inside. Ughhhhhhh. It's my turn. Except there's no surprise on God's face. Only do we in our ashamedness (thanks Adam. thanks Eve.) want to run and hide under a rock.

To put flesh on this idea of someone loving us deeply and unconditionally I believe God gave us each other. Beautiful human people who are all being changed. I recently went through a rough spot with a friend where I had to face some of my fears, ask hard questions, listen and try to understand. It was a situation where it would have been easier to just get out, call it a day, and move on. But it's not how it's supposed to be. That's not how love works. Love is patient, it is kind, it forgives, it sees you naked and doesn't shriek and run away (although it may laugh with you about it later).

Scalpel please. I am opened.

What's inside is a mix of all of the good and the bad and the messy and disgusting things that make me who I am. As I am opened and letting God take out the trash. The trash fights back and grabs onto anything it can in an attempt to stick around longer. Like that smelly cat who just won't go away because you've been feeding it way to long. When we try to catch one and take it to the SPCA to get some love from a real family it lashes at you with razor sharp claws and ruins your new dress. Stupid cat, why did I let you keep coming around here anyway?

As I've worked through some things these last few weeks I've let some of the cats loose. I got rid of the food and decided to not be a cat lady anymore. I want to be whole.

I want my relationships to be beautifully messy and awkward and just as open as I am. Because we need each other. I want God's sweet spirit to be my greatest assessment that trumps all of the labels that become mine when I live and breathe and speak.

I read something last night in a book I'm reading called, Bloom. I immediately stopped reading at a paragraph about confidence. This was it. This is why I feel so broken in my confidence. Why I feel like a fraud most of the time. Why I am still wondering how the heck I got to be the way that I am.

"Confidence doesn't always come in surges. Sometimes--lots of times--it brews unbeknownst to us, building during the times we feel least confident--through the tears, the questioning, the self-doubt, the begging God to make it better. Confidence, like contentment, is earned, paved stone by stone until you finally turn back and realize it has all be pieced together to creative something strong. Confidence is a process."

When people ask me how I can be so confident, they must know, that it has come to me this way--in my questioning, in my crying out for help, in quiet tears and broken pieces. Stone by stone a path is forming and I am excited about it.

I smile as I write this knowing that an influx of confidence is mine today, not because I'm so incredible but because I've learned through some not-so-incredible moments that I am ok. I am defined by another measure--the measure of Christ. Perfection.

Ah, what a relief as I love and am loved by my kids. What a relief as I love and am loved by my husband. What a relief as I love and am loved by my friends. What a relief as I love and am loved by our ministry leaders. It's liberating to know the deep and encompassing love of Christ as it give us confidence to smile--even when the cats try to creep back in.

I hope to write more in the coming months. But from the very beginning. Instead of tip-toeing around things that made me want to throw forks at people (I'm a sissy, knives would never be an option), or things that shattered my heart into a million pieces, or things that I saw in others that I just couldn't bare to accept because I felt responsible somehow. I want to share about how I grew up and how I got messed up. How I found hope and what hope leads me now. I feel like I've sort of been doing this--but guardedly as if some big green monster was going to get me if I got too close to the truth.

But just as I know Santa isn't real, I know that the defeat that pushes me from being open is also a lie. And I don't have to listen to lies anymore.

Here I am. Smiling. Confident. And thankful for all of the moments, from simple to profound, that have made me this way.

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