Free, at last.

free, at last

This all begins and ends in 2nd Timothy.

The Word of God is not imprisoned.

2 Timothy 2:9

We let our culture and our own finite understanding capture the Word of God, keeping it in chains. But, the Word is FREE and it brings FREEDOM to all who hear.

We let our sin habits shackle God’s truth. Our repeated offenses trap us in harmful patterns, when Scripture offers a lovely tapestry of truths to set our hearts free.

I think of my body image issues – how I’ve let culture complicate my relationship with my body, how I’ve let the world define my beauty and value, how I’ve let my physical appearance become an idol that distracts me from the Creator.

I have bound and gagged the Word of God that says I am (we are all) fearfully and wonderfully made.

There is sweet release when we really live out the truth that God’s works are wonderful – including us! God’s word gives us permission to love what He has created, to love our bodies, our features, our uniquenesses, because they reflect God as a Father and an artist.

The worth of a person is not bound up in their physical appearance. I believe that about others; why has it taken 27 years for me to believe this about myself?

God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face, God looks at the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7

Dwelling on the implications of that truth has been one of the most life giving gifts of freedom I’ve experienced lately. When I let go of fitting into a certain physical mold, I am free.

I am free from the pressure to be pretty because my value comes from my Creator, not the created.

I am free to be cherished right now, not just when I’m finally that size or photogenic or wearing that top.

I am free to enjoy a bowl of ice cream in the evening without worrying about it going straight to my bum.

I am free to feel good about myself even if I don’t wear the same pant size I did in high school.

I am free to not fit into some of my pre-preggo clothes.

I am even free to give away some of those pre-preggo clothes that I may not ever fit into again.

I am free to be healthy and strong and build muscle.

I am free to not count calories.

I am free to like my body even if I don’t have a flat stomach or a model physique.

I am free to buy clothes that fit and flatter regardless of the size.

I am free to have seasons of feasting and seasons of fasting.

I am free to not be the “prettiest,” blondest girl in every room.

I am free to be me and not to be her.

I am free to enjoy life without focusing on what I look like.

I am free to be God’s fearfully and wonderfully made creation.


Small shifts in thinking can lead to major transformation. And, when you aren’t always cognitive of those shifts taking place (or dismiss them as insignificant because they are so small), you wake up one morning and marvel at the new outlook you seem to have adopted overnight.

Start with one small shift towards accepting the freedom we have in Christ. One morning you may find yourself marveling at the transformation God made in your heart.

I know I have.

The Word of God is not imprisoned. Let it set you free.

photo credit: greekadman via photopin cc

camping and the god who goes before us

We were a camping family. Most Summer vacations would find us packed in the mini van, gear and luggage tied to the top, driving to the Redwoods, the Snake River, Yellowstone, or the like.

We were a tent camping family. I was too young to really be involved in the nitty gritty planning involved – kudos to The Parentals for organizing and wrangling us on these adventures – but I wasn’t too young to help set up camp. Campsites needed to be chosen and cleared. Tents needed to be assembled. Firewood needed to be gathered. It was a family affair.

Those things – the deciding, the clearing, the assembling, the gathering – are tedious and, often, tensive. To this day, the anticipation of those tasks remains a hurdle between me and the great outdoors.

I would love to arrive at a campsite where my sleeping bag was already nestled into a constructed tent, my evening coffee was percolating over a crackling fire, and my water containers were full.

the God who goes before usThe Israelites were also a camping family. In fact, they were basically professional nomads. I marvel at families who go on extended road trips across the country or around the world, but the Israelites have us all beat. They went on a rather epic forty-year camping trip through the desert. That is a lot of clearing and assembling and gathering and organizing and tearing down and moving. No thanks.

I can imagine the arguments that erupted from so much camping.

“I don’t want to move those rocks. Why can’t we pitch our tent over there…”

“Mattias, you need to find two more bundles of wood before you go play.”

“We’ve been walking for-ev-ver. Are we THERE yet?”

The sad thing is, the Israelites could have avoided that decades long camp fest.

See, the Lord your God has placed the land before you; go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear or be dismayed…It is a good land which the Lord our God is about to give us.

Deuteronomy 1:21 & 25

God had already prepared a campsite for them – He had done the hard work of picking the perfect place, clearing it of obstructions, and making sure there was plenty of food and water. But, what God picked wasn’t what the Israelites had imagined. Instead of seeing the bounty and beauty of the land God had prepared, their trust in God’s provision was blinded by the potential threat of giants.

Along with the whole setting up tents thing, the idea of bears invading camp is enough to make me balk at going camping. My husband is an old-hand at camping. I’ve heard about his past experiences and I’ve seen his expertise first hand. If he says our campsite is not at risk, I should have full confidence in his decision.

The same goes for the Israelites. God had been nothing but faithful to His people – liberating them from Egypt, giving them victories over their enemies, supplying food to eat. If He says the land is safe and ready to be occupied, they should have full confidence in His decision.

God promises to go ahead of you and prepare the way. He may not take the route you expected. He may not pick a campsite with the view you wanted. He may not pitch the tent as fast as you had hoped. He may not rent the space for as long as you’d like. But, God goes before us.

The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.’ “But for all this, you did not trust the Lord your God, who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go.

Deuteronomy 1:30-33

Let these words of Moses encourage you. He will carry you. He will seek out what is best for you.

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The Hair Confessional

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a priest, sitting behind that grate, hearing people expose the darkness inside their souls? Well, you’re about to find out because this post is as good as me stepping behind that curtain and confessing a rather embarrassing sin. (Can you tell I’ve never actually participated in a legit confessional session?)

I’ve always had a thing about my hair. A thing I now know is pride. Aside from a misstep in seventh grade that involved uneven bangs and short layers, I’ve always had long locks. And those locks have always been a light shade of yellow.

I grew up in Southern California, where the seemingly endless Summer helped me retain my natural blonde, with a smattering of sun bleached highlights. The two things most people noted about my appearance were my height and my hair. Over the years I began to link my hair with any good vibes I felt about my physical features. In a sea of girls with blonde from a box, I also loved that my golden hue was natural.

Life post high school found me in the Midwest, where four distinct seasons meant less sun exposure and a slowly darkening mane. I still had summers in SoCal to help maintain my blonde, but it had made a distinct turn for towards the dark side. Those days were my first indication I may have put too much stock in my long, blonde locks.

As the years went by, and my geographical location changed from England to Missouri, California to Idaho, my hair has continued to change too. There were brief periods of time when I thought I could hang on to the sun bleached blonde of my youth, but our move to Idaho solidified my current honey hue.

In isolation, I don’t mind the color of my hair, but in comparison, I long for the straw instead of wheat. Tim has heard me bemoan my darkened strands more times that I’d like to admit. Multiple hairdressers have volunteered to add some highlights but I’ve always resisted the artificial solution.

Until last Friday. I got my hair colored for the first time.

The Hair Confessional

It’s been four days and I’m still not completely sold on the result, but I’m glad I did it. Why? Because the decision and process of highlighting my hair (which I realize is almost second nature to some folks, who are probably reading this thinking I’m a weirdo…) has shown a bright light into a dusty place in my heart that needs some cleaning.

Some observations:

  • I had let my hair become a source of pride. Part of the reason I resisted dying my hair was my inability to say I was a natural blonde – something I had previously worn like a badge of honor.
  • I had let my hair become part of my identity. Sure, hair color is listed on your driver’s license, but it doesn’t define your worth. I had attributed personal value to my hair color and, by association, where I grew up. I love Southern California and my hair had always been a reminder to me and others that I came from the Golden State. But my worth is not dependent on my hair or my hometown. I need to always remember that my identity is in Christ.
  • I had let my hair dictate my approval rating. This process was just further evidence that I care too much about what others think. Track with me here… I was always afraid that if I got compliments about my highlighted hair it would mean those people liked it better the that way which would mean they liked me better or thought I was prettier in an unnatural state. I didn’t want anyone’s approval to be based on something that wasn’t intrinsic to me. Convoluted, I know. And, even if they did, it shouldn’t matter. Again, my identity and value come from Christ, not my hair or getting other people’s approval.

“‘Go!’ God tells us. “Your heart has been untangled from the false distortions of love. You are no longer tied down by fears of rejection or disapproval or popular opinion. If you forget how much I love you, which you probably will, do not lose heart. Turn back to Me, and I will send you out again with a command: Love your neighbors as yourselves.”

Jennifer Dukes Lee in Love Idol

I don’t want to be tied down by a fear of rejection or disapproval or popular opinion. If highlighting my hair taught me anything, it taught me this: I don’t want a small thing like blonde hair to get in the way of experiencing the true love and acceptance of my Savior.

To learn more about “letting go of your need for approval and seeing yourself through God’s eyes,” pop over to Kindred Grace and read my full review of Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee. (There’s only two more days to enter the giveaway for your chance to win one of three copies of Love Idol!)

Rolling Pins and Learning Curves

Rolling Pins and Learning Curves

There is comfort in mastery. I love when something becomes familiar and easy, like I’ve been doing it all my life – when you can finally say, “I’ve got this. I don’t need any help.”

Using a rolling pin was one of those tasks I was pleased to master. I spent many hours in the kitchen with my mom growing up and I always (and still do) admired her skill with that wooden cylinder. It was like an extension of her arm as she smoothed out pie dough, creating a perfect round.

Our rolling pin was of the short, sturdy variety. It had two curvy handles connected by a metal rod running through middle of the base. It actually was a rolling pin. While your hands remained static on the handles, the base rolled this way and that around the metal rod. I learned to push the edges with my thumbs while holding it hovering over flour to make the surface non-stick. I learned to start from the middle and gently arch outward to create an even thickness. I learned reposition my body as well as the pin when rolling so the dough spread from every angle.

That rolling pin has been my standard for rolling pins ever since because that’s the one I learned on. It’s the one I mastered and feel comfortable handling. But, it’s my mom’s rolling pin, so when I got married and moved out, I no longer had access to my favorite rolling pin. I was forced to use a rolling pin I had gotten as a wedding gift.

This pin was long and skinny, a professional looking rolling device I’d seen chefs use on The Food Network. I was intimidated by the narrow shaft that didn’t have handles and seemed much too lengthy. It felt awkward in my hands. I dreaded making sugar cookies or pie dough because I’d have to use what I didn’t feel comfortable using.

It’s been almost two years since I received that rolling pin. I was making calzones earlier this week and caught myself wielding that rolling pin with ease. The small lumps of pizza dough became flat discs in seconds as I maneuvered the wooden cylinder like it was an extension of my arms.

After months and months of it feeling cumbersome and foreign, I had mastered that rolling pin. And I loved this new pin just as much as the one I learned on.

I haven’t been able to escape the similarities between rolling pins and the curveballs life throws our way. When God’s plan differs from my own or my circumstances change, I want to through my hands up in protest. Everything that had felt so natural quickly becomes uncomfortable and ungainly. I avoid engaging with the new and unfamiliar. I constantly compare it to the old ways I had mastered.

But, just like that rolling pin, I need to give the unexpected a chance. Even if it takes weeks, months, or years, the new will become standard, the uncomfortable will become familiar. There may be a learning curve, but I think God allows for us to take our time adjusting. And, eventually, that new rolling pin may become your favorite.

Embracing Simplicity: #ECGsimplifies

Embrace SimplicityMotherhood has made me a little less uptight about messes, what with the pacifiers in every room, colorful toys scattered around the living room, and a bouncer seat that roves around the house and all, but I’m still happiest in a clean and clutter-free environment.

My preference for order and organization is probably the reason watching Hoarders makes my eye twitch. I just can’t hang with the piles. For whatever reason, these people stack and stuff and accumulate until their homes look more like a landfill than a habitable living environment. Possessions cover every square inch and begin to crowd out the very people who collected them.

It’s possible to do that with our lives. Hoarding is oftentimes a mental disorder, but it can also be a spiritual disorder. Our possessions, our commitments, and our leisure activities can create a hectic lifestyle, crowding out what really matters. Our hearts and our homes become so cluttered, we can’t keep our priorities in order. Sometimes it takes the absence of those things for us to realize that they have been subtracting instead of adding to our lives.

Our little family went on a staycation recently, finishing out the lease on the condo my parents rented for their Winter visit. We spent two weeks living in a smaller space with less stuff. It was glorious. When we transitioned back to our own house, I was totally overwhelmed. Though I enjoy my own decor, access to my full wardrobe, and the comfort of being home, I really enjoyed the simple lifestyle we had those two weeks. The contrast made me yearn to recreate the simplicity of our staycation in our normal environment.

I’m on a mission to embrace simplicity, to untangle and uncomplicate my life so I can focus on what really matters – being present in my relationships with God, my family, and my community.

Simplicity creates margins and spaces and openness in our lives. It honors the resources of our small planet. It offers us the leisure of tasting the present moment. Simplicity asks us to let go of the tangle of wants so we can receive the simple gifts of life that cannot be taken away.  Sleeping, eating, walking, giving and receiving love, the benefits we take for granted, are amazing gifts. Simplicity invites us into these daily pleasures that can open us to God, who is present in them all.

Adele Ahlberg Calhoun in The Spiritual Discipline Handbook

The first battlefield in my mission to embrace simplicity is my home. In considering what made our staycation so peaceful, I realized it had a lot to do with the physical environment. Everything had a place and there was little excess. I wasn’t distracted by small piles of unfinished business and the niggling knowledge of boxes that should have been unpacked months ago.

My decor style will never be minimalistic or modern, but I can make choices that will make our home a space where all who dwell and gather are filled with peace.

That starts with purging and putting together. I will systematically (because, unlike hoarders, organization is my mental disorder…) go through our possessions and release what is unused and unnecessary. I will make room for the items we love, the memories that are still covered in cardboard. As I “let go of the tangle of wants” that inhabit my home right now, I hope to create a habit of simplicity for the future.

I began this intentional effort to simplify a week ago and am finding the journey a bit draining. The work is physical, emotional, and spiritual as I take steps to free my home and my heart from excess. Sometimes the steps are small, but progress is being made one day at a time.

I’m documenting my progress on Instagram.

Follow along (and join in!) under the hashtag #ECGsimplifies.

What are some ways you embrace simplicity?