Wednesday, February 18, 2015

He Knows Your Name

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The sharp stare.

The brisk and blatant walk in the opposite direction.

The refusal to make conversation.

A short answer with a jabbing comment.

The "un-friending."

The only one without an invitation.

The plan that fell through, again.

Being written off.

The status you were left out of.

These things happen to me. By different people, for different reasons, but it hurts none-the-less.


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My daughter was at a birthday party a few years ago. This would be her first one. She was so excited to be invited she didn't even care who it was. However, what made her the most excited was that it was her very best friend of her class. She picked out a gift and by herself decided that she didn't want to buy a card. She wanted to make a card. On top of it, she wanted to spell, all by herself because they learned how to spell names that week in her class.

When she showed me her card, in her 4-k coloring talent, it was clear she had spelled her friend's name wrong. It was a long name, with two of some of the letters. She missed those, and added some, and other letters were written backwards. I was about to correct her, but the sparkle in her eyes was so immense. She was so proud of herself so I grinned at the cuteness, felt proud that she tried, and kept silent.



The party went well in the beginning. She played with her friends and was having lots of fun. The party went on and we gradually worked our way in to eat and do gifts. When we got to gift opening, it was very apparent that there were three girls who were going to "control the situation." My mom mode clicked on after a while of them pushing girls back, controlling the gifts, and mean attitudes, and I finally told the girls they were the ones who needed to move back and leave the kids alone. Her gift came up and she was so excited. There isn't a font that could describe her glee for her friend to get her gift and card. The girl opened the card and she smiled wide. She said, "Thanks Gracie!" Then it happened.

By it, I mean them. By them I mean, the three mean girls happened.

"That's not coloring. It's just scribbles."
*Gracie's face fell.*
"Yeah, you didn't even spell her name right."
*Gracie looked at her friends card, sadly.*
"Why did you draw the nose so big?"
*Gracie's excitement faded as she took her card and slid it away in the trash pile.*
Her friend chimed in, "Well, I don't care, I like it."
*Gracie smiled, a little.*

My heart... oh, my mommy heart. There was a sob stuck in my throat. It felt like when you swallow bread and it gets lodged halfway down and your milk is gone. My anger was rage. My face was red and eyes were salty. But my heart was broken for her.

As I sat chewing on my angry words and her friend opened the gift (and she loved it, by the way), I watched Gracie. She bounded back with joy. She laughed with glee for her friend. She was making plans for playdates, talking about school, and let the whole incident slide. Needless to say, however, we left shortly thereafter.

We got in the car and my tears came. I had so many things that I wanted to say. It consisted of:

"I am so stinking proud of you for not lashing back. I wouldn't have been upset if you punched their throats."

No,

"Honey, you handled that so well. I pick you. I always pick you. You can spell my name wrong, you can scribble my pictures with noses too big and colors too bold. You can pick out my gift and I will love it. I don't care what it is you are mine and you are my magnificent creation from my womb. I love you. More than my own breath. I'm sorry life is mean. I am sorry that people are mean. I am so sorry that mean people were mean to you. I won't be. You can trust your mom. I love you so much that I would die for you."

Yes. Surely my toddler would understand that.

Instead, when she asked what was wrong, I took a big breath and said, "I am just so stinkin' proud of you."

-----

Fast forward two years later. My daughter still comes home from school with stories about being left out because of her "brown skin, eyes, or hair." She tells me of all the ways she gets left out, or lied to, or made fun of. Then she waits, she stares at me waiting for an answer. She wants me to tell her not to worry. That when she "gets big" like mom then that stuff won't happen anymore.

One thing I cherish with my children is honesty. And I always tell the truth. "Yes, your shot will hurt, but it will make you big and strong. I won't leave you, I will be right here and I will hold you tight." "Yes, you will be scared, but you will overcome it. I will help you." And the one time she asked why she couldn't play with some of her friends anymore I told her. "Their mom doesn't want to be my friend anymore. So, that means making play dates will be extremely difficult and I am sorry for that. But I promise, in life, you will make new friends."

When she looks to me in honesty to ask if people will stop being mean, or leaving her out, or not being nice, I cannot honestly tell her that will ever end. Not until Jesus comes back.

I share with her about how a girl didn't shake my hand in church. On purpose.

About how I was avoided at the store. Like, see me and turn and run. Or the "I will just pretend I don't see her. Maybe she will go past."

How I was not invited to an event that every other mom with young kids was invited to.

How people promise to "hang out sometime," but you know you will never get the call.

The Facebook statuses you never get tagged in. Or the vague one they won't privately email you about, instead making everyone comment on how to deal with "someone of whom you won't name names."

The conversation I was a part of, as a subject, not a converser.

What I cannot be is her standard of perfection. I cannot be her healing. I cannot lie and tell her that people will change when they "get big." But what I can do is point her to the perfector. I can tell her he is the healer. I can tell her the truth that he does heal the "big people with broken hearts."

We all have bullies in our lives. For different reasons. There is one truth I can say. Is that God is the redeemer. He can redeem me, who feels the wounds of others' actions. He can heal others' who have dealt with wounds from me. He can redeem the person who bullies.

Despite our messes, God calls us friend. John 15:13 says, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friend." (Emphasis mine.) Jesus died for us, not only is He our true love, but He calls us friend. And not one is left out.

He calls us "child." John 1:12 says that if we receive Him, He adopts us as His children. Can you see the beautiful parody of an "unwanted" child becoming chosen and included by adoption into God's family as His child?

He calls us beloved, he calls us His bride, his chosen people...

You see, with God, no one is left out.


I began to get in this trap of thinking that maybe if I was different THEN people would want to include me. I began to think if I got famous and my writing would get published, people would be nice to me. I would be validated. Successful. People would know my name, not just my story.

And the truth is, yes, yes they would. But for all the wrong reasons.

But the beauty in all of it, is that God doesn't just know me by the lies I identify with sometimes. .

Sinner.

Left out.

Written off.

Ignored.

Not good enough.

He knows me by "beloved." Child. Bride. Forgiven. Chosen one.

I am Kirsten. He knows my  name.

He doesn't wait for me to be his standard before he reaches out, he loves me now. People are not perfect. We all have stories. And you know what, God loves our enemies too. He calls us to love them on top of it. They have stories, hurts, and insecurities and it comes out in how they treat people. I will get published one day, but now I want it to be so everyone knows His name.

So hold your head high, sister, because God knows your name too. Look to him for your comfort and you will surely find it there, in Him.




Friday, February 6, 2015

Grace From Our Father

Friday, February 6, 2015

John 1:16 "And from his fullness we have received grace upon grace."
 
 
My husband's birthday is really close to Christmas. This means, that a lot of the time, his birthday is often overlooked due to other festivities. A few years ago, I worked with our small group men to set him up a random surprise birthday. They would meet early at a restaurant and get a table. I would pretend to "take John on a date," but instead, leave him there for a guy's night. My husband works hard; he deserved a break.
 

----------
 

Flash back a few years with me. My dad, is what we call a "blue collar, hard working type of  man." He is an electrician by trade and hunter by hobby. As a young girl, I remember him waking at 4:30 A.M. to brew his coffee and head out the door. The sound of his broken in leather laces being tied up his steel toe boots was like a rhythm to me. "Wisp, wisp, tighten. Wisp, wisp, tighten." I would listen to him pour his coffee into his steel thermos as I would bound up the stairs for a firm, coffee flavored kiss goodbye.

Growing up with my dad had made not so happy memories, too. Since I don't have permission to share his story yet, I will simply share a small portion that is involved with mine.

My dad was angry. A lot. His temper would rage for hours some nights. Sometimes, even if I was in bed at night, I would feel as though hiding in a closet were a better idea. He has a lot he carries on his shoulders, and I see that now as an adult. As a kid, morning was my time with him. I was excited to be all by myself with him in the quiet house as he was getting ready.

He has always sacrificed his wants and desires so that his family of 7 children could have shoes, food, and a house heated through the winter. He has never complained about his worn down boots, his distressed pants, or his well broken in Carhartt coat. If his family had what they needed, he was content.

It wasn't until two years ago my dad finally got himself a newer used truck. A GMC, four doors, leather seats, Bose speakers. It was a salvage title (you'd never tell) so he got a deal on it. Honestly, all of us kids were beyond excited for him and I cried when my sister texted me the photo of it.

You see, now my dad is a grandpa. Watching him with my girls melts me. He is so, so good with them. The rage from my childhood is nowhere in this man. This is because "Papa" met head on with the grace of his Father.

Back to my husband's birthday party.
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I arranged for my siblings to come babysit so my "operation take John out to eat" was a go. Everything went wrong from the beginning. John was "hangry," my siblings showed up too early, and I knew that the small group guys usually run behind (they have families, too). My husband began to get really irritated that we were not leaving yet. When we got in the car, I continually kept "forgetting things" so I could run in the house and stall. By the time I got out to the car, John was livid, hungry, and ready to go. The guys wouldn't show up yet for another half hour. I explained we would return a movie before we ate and proceeded to get a grumpy response. Agitated, I whipped the car into reverse, hit the gas, and backed out of the garage briskly...

Right into my dad's truck.

Yep. That just happened. I got out, shaking, to assess the damage. You see, in my agitation, I never even thought about how close my brother would have parked the truck to my side of the driveway. My car was fine but my dad's truck had a dent from the second driver side door all the way down to the back left tire. Panic began to set in. Guilt, stress, and frustration consumed me. I cried, I was shaking, I was beside myself. John said, "Well, there is nothing we can do about it now so lets go eat." I drove him to the restaurant, we arrived before half the guys, the gig was up. I left deflated. After decorating his office for a next day surprise, I went home to release my siblings.

A few hours later, as I was laying awake in bed my phone rang. "Your dad is calling you, wants to see what you're up to... if you wait till this song is through, you just might miss him..."

"Hello?" I said, nervously.

"Honey, (dad chuckles) are you okay?  Don't worry about the hunk of metal in my driveway. You are more important to me than a truck. It's almost Christmas, let's worry about fixing it after the Holiday is over."

I cried. I apologized. And I promised we could fix it.

I learned more from my dad's grace that day then I ever would have learned from his rage. He learned a truth in his own life; that God's grace pursues us even in our dark places.

My husband still picks on me because I refuse to back up when people park behind me. I make a complete stop at stop signs, even with no other cars there. I use blinkers and buckle up. In short, I have learned to slow down and check my surroundings. I have made the effort to change where I went wrong. If I don't learn and grow in the grace shown to me then my dad's grace was wasted(Romans 6:1-4).

I am reminded to drive better every single time I see his truck because the dent still sits there. He refused to let us fix it because our insurance would go up. That's my father's grace, a cycle he learned to pass down from Jesus' example.

 
A few days ago, my five-year-old daughter was being nasty. She was upset over some electronic device and it got taken away from her. She started to be mean to her sisters, and disrespect spewed from her little lips at me. I sent her to her room which escalated to a door slamming hard in my face. I opened the door, flung words of rage, and slammed it back shut. My husband happened to come home in the middle of my, " Your stupid attitude is going to cost you your Awana this week you snotty little toddler!" rant.
 
As God worked on my own "stupid attitude" as I sulked out on the couch for yet *another* mom fail moment, my daughter came out and climbed up next to me. This was when my husband stopped her and said, "Don't you dare get off that couch until you say sorry." So, of course she mumbles out a quick, "Sorry."
 
In my husband's defense, he wanted my daughter to be sorry for what she had done and was defending me.
 
 But he carried on. "Sorry for WHAT exactly."
 
She mumbles, "I don't know."
 
"Don't get off that couch until you know what you are sorry for!" he bluntly finished the conversation.
 
It was at that point that we engaged in my second consecutive mom fail moment. I began to tell my husband about how I would rather have an honest apology when she is ready then have a forced apology when she's not. I didn't care if she got off the couch and went on her way, I wanted an apology when she was humble and ready to offer it with the right heart condition.
 
Who was right?
 
Neither of us.
 
As much as I want to say my theory was "more right" than my husband's, mine was just as wrong. Because the root of her apology points out to one thing, we both wanted her heart condition to be our ideal before she could approach me. He wanted her to understand and I wanted her to be humble even if she didn't.
 
God's grace doesn't call for either. God's word says that it is by grace we have been saved (Eph. 2:8-9), that while we were still sinning, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8), and that his grace abounds in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
 
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That means, no matter what we have done or what we will do, God gave us something we didn't deserve before our heart conditions were "right." He sent his Son to save us even before we "understood what we did wrong." He says in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all you who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest!" We can come to him right now, just as we are, whatever "stupid attitudes" or burdens we carry and he will take them from us, no stipulations or hidden clauses somewhere in tiny font at the bottom of his agreement.
 
Do you find that refreshing? I do.
 
What is most beautiful to me about God's grace is that he doesn't tell us to wait until we stop watching porn, stop smoking, stop yelling at our kids, or to wait until we get out of debt. He doesn't tell us to come to him when we have lost the weight, after we start going to church more, or have made a few amends. He tells us to come just as we are, right now. Then he promises that through his strength and with his grace, we can become better for the glory of our Father!
 
Forgiveness is now. When we don't deserve it, because that is the promise of grace from our Father!
 
 
 
John 5:19
"Jesus gave them this answer: "Very truly I tell you,
the Son can do nothing by himself;
he can only do what he sees his Father doing,
because whatever the Father does
the son also does."

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