The Forgotten Art of Being Yourself

If you have been around a four-year old for any length of time, you soon come to realize their expertise in question asking…endless, relentless questions.  As an introvert, I am amazed at my extrovert daughter’s capacity to ask a barrage of questions over such a long period of time, only stopping for minutes at a time to “reload”.

Here are a few of the questions that stick out in my mind:

  • Why did my pet ants decide to go to heaven instead of making their tunnels?
  • How did I watch Ipad when I was in your tummy?
  • When is the cheeseball I planted outside going to grow into a cheeseball tree?

I can’t say I’m always attentive to these questions, with my answers often ranging from “I don’t know” to “why don’t you ask Daddy.”

However, there’s one question that would stop me in my tracks…

Can you imagine your child asking you “Mommy, am I enough…Am I smart enough?  Am I good enough?  Am I pretty enough?”  What would your answer be?

No doubt, you would stop what you are doing to reassure her she is more than enough – that you love her just the way she is and more than she can possibly imagine.

Now imagine how God would feel if we asked him the same question – “Am I enough?” 

Now, let’s stop and think about this for a minute.  If you are a parent, think how much you love your child and try to grasp the fact that God loves you exponentially more than that.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John3:1).”  

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When you look in the mirror in the morning what do you see?  Do you see a woman who isn’t ___(fill in the blank)___enough or do you see a woman with tremendous value because she is loved and cherished by her Creator.

God loves us more than we can possibly fathom, no matter how many times we yell at our kids or make snarky political comments on Facebook.  God is not waiting to love some future version of ourselves.  He is absolutely thrilled with you in this very minute.  He loves you just as you are –  fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139) and cheers you on daily.

Often social media is a barricade we can hide behind so the true world can’t see how unhinged we really are. The window we peer though into each other’s personas is rose-tinted.   No one shares their insecurity and fears about not being enough and the God-given peculiarities that make them uniquely them.  So we offer a cleaned up, whitewashed version of ourselves….at the very cost of being ourselves.

When we give a false impression of who we really are, we are saying that what we have to offer is not good enough.  “How God made me is not good enough.” 

However, authentic engagement means lowering your guard, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and attune to the fact that God loves you as you already are.

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God designed us in His image (Gen. 1) and God promises to abide in us.  To abide means “to remain, he to or follow.”  We are also called to abide in Him which means keeping his commandments which encompasses loving the Lord with our hearts, soul and minds and to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22).

 “For anyone who hears the word but does not carry it out is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror, and after observing himself goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like (John 1:24,25).  We are never more ourselves than we are abiding in Him by obeying His commandments and loving others.  When we withhold our true self from others, we limit what God wants to show others about who we really are – and how He works through us.

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To “be yourself” means you submit control to be who God created you to be by abiding in Him.  By abiding in Him we allow His light to shine in us to empower us to be whom He created us to be.  Just like a prism, the colors of the rainbow cannot be defused without a source of light directed into in.   We gleam hope from the one who infused hope into us.

Below are some of the mirrors in my home that I see everyday.  When you look in a mirror, who do you see?  I pray you see a woman dearly loved by her God.

‘Til Next Time,

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God’s Reaction When We “Just Show Up”

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Hardly Pinterest-worthy is the picture above.  In my meager attempts to live a shiny, compartmentalized, ‘I’ve got it under control’ kind of life, I often forget what’s most important.

This post was going to include a recipe for Stove-top Potpourri and explain ways to get to know your neighbors during the holiday season, and it still is…sort of.   When trying out the recipe, God showed me in greater depths how he wants me to engage with Him and others.

After realizing I cut the orange “wrong”, and that my lemons were too moldy to use, I noticed a sad, crusty French fry from last night’s gourmet dinner on the stove.   Although some might see this picture as a Pinterest-fail, I was reminded that this is still a beautiful picture in God’s eyes.

In 1 John, the apostle starts out by saying, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest and we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.”

The word manifest means “clear, obvious.”  With every sense, God wanted us to recognize the truth of who He is – that He sent His son out of His great love from us to deliver us from sin.  God made clear the truth of Christ by engaging us on every level.  He made his truth evident by sight, sound and even touch. 

When the disciples saw that Jesus filled their nets with fish, when the woman was healed after touching His robe and when a little girl was brought back from death upon Jesus only hearing her story, Jesus made it clear that He wants to engage with us on every level possible.  Notice that He didn’t wait until these people had their act together or got well, He engaged with them at the time of their greatest need.  God wants us to come to Him as we are.  He doesn’t care that we don’t have it all together (and no one does), He just wants us to show up and to seek to engage with Him.

The picture of my Stovetop Potpourri will never make it on the pages of a magazine, but it still counts.  I still “showed up.”  It brings glory to God in that He knows my heart’s intent to build relationships with my neighbors to hopefully be a vehicle for His love.   He doesn’t care that the process wasn’t perfect.  Your Heavenly Father doesn’t want you “clean yourself up” before presenting your requests to Him.  He wants to engage you in your greatest time of need and come as you are.  He is delighted when His children “just show up”!

The same can be said in how we engage with others.  A couple months ago, I didn’t take a rare opportunity to talk to my neighbor because my hair wasn’t done and I wasn’t wearing makeup.  Ironically, sometimes the things that we try to hide from others are the things that can form a bridge to connect on an interpersonal level.  Often when others see that we care more about them instead of maintaining appearances, it makes us more approachable and so much more real.  In making an effort to be transparent, perhaps our next conversation won’t be just be a quick exchange of pleasantries, but an opportunity to engage in real conversation.

God wants us to be transparent about the depths from which He has saved us.  Thankfully, He doesn’t want us to engage with him as a sterile, June Cleaver, ‘my lipstick is always on’ version of ourselves and neither do our neighbors.

God longs to engage your every sense in such a way that we are no longer focused on how we are perceived but only on how HE is perceived by others through us.  God does not require us to be perfect but He simply wants us to be presence.  He wants us to be real with others about the difficult and pain that life brings, knowing that God can heal our every wound and alleviate every fear.

As in 2 Corinthians 2:15, may we be the “pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”  The reality of ourselves might not always be pretty but there is an opportunity for others to see His love when the abundance of His all-sufficient love meets our insufficiency.  Don’t forget the power in just showing up.

 

Stove Top Potpourri Recipe

  • 1 orange
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 T. whole cloves
  • ¼ c. cranberries

Use this download to make your own labels for your neighbors.  I tied them with baker’s twine and my daughter and I had fun putting them in each neighbor’s mailbox!

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Coffee Table Reveal and a Word About Transparency

corner viewMany have asked about how we built our turned-leg coffee table and we did it by combining two great tutorials.  Jeremy and I first started with Ana White’s turned leg coffee table plans here.

We followed everything in her plans for the top except we had a hard time getting each plank the exact length as the others.  So, we added 4 inches to the cut length of each plank.  Once we had the table top assembled with our mini Kreg jig, we simply cut 2 inches off each end of the constructed table top with a circular saw.  This was so that our planks would all be exactly the same length.   If we had this project to do over again, we would have used the Kreg Rip Cut, which can be used as a guide to get precise and straight cuts with a circular saw.

We followed Ana White’s tutorial for the entire table top.  Then we used these legs in pine from Osborne wood.  A bottom shelf was a must-have for additional toy storage, so we then adapted the shelf instructions from the Corona coffee table tutorial to our dimensions.   Before you knew it, we had a rectangular turned-leg coffee table with a shelf for storage!

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To refinish the coffee table, I decided to do a dark faux stain.   We used low-grade pine in order to cut costs and I didn’t want any knot holes showing through.  So, I used Elmer’s Wood filler and a lot of it.  I pretty much glopped it on since it shrinks a little and I didn’t want to have to reapply.  After letting it dry 48 hours, I then sanded with my mouse sander and a 60 grit sanding pad.  Once the former knot holes were level, I sanded it really smooth with a 220 grit pad.  (The lower the number, the rougher the sandpaper.)

The problem with knot holes and painting something white is that they will eventually show through over time. That is why I first primed the entire table with Zinsser BIN, which can be purchased at most specialty paint stores.  Use it in a well-ventilated area and use a mask or respirator.  It’s pretty potent stuff.  If I do another project with knot holes, I would have just primed the knot holes instead of the whole table.

Once I primed the table, I painted the bottom in Behr Premium Plus in Satin White.  For the faux stain on the top, I painted the top in a color that resembled the shade of peanut butter (Behr Warm Muffin). You want a peanut butter shade to mimic the look of wood coming through the stain.  Very little will show through the gel-stain but you want what does show through to look wood, not primer.  After letting the paint dry 24 hours, you paint on gel stain.  I used Minwax Gel Stain in Hickory which you can buy from Home Depot.   Often times, high-end furniture retailers like Pottery Barn actually use a gel-stain to refinish their pieces because often times different components of wood will have varying shades and the gel stain makes everything consistent.

Gel Stain is amazing.  It is a dark stain that is not very transparent so it easily hides any flaws and imperfections.  You basically paint it on and then with a dry brush, brush the table top lengthwise to get more of a wood-grain look. Gel stain also takes a while to dry so you have some time to play and get the top looking like you want.  Here is a good tutorial on a faux stain to help you with the process.  Basically, the gel stain is very forgiving and will hide imperfections, even making low grade pine pass as a high-grade hardwood with a dark stain.

I then let the gel stain dry 48 hours and then did 5 (yes, 5) coats of polyurethane with an hour between each coat.  You can set glass on our coffee table for an eternity and it will not leave a ring!


 

On the topic of transparency, I felt I should show you how my living room looks on a regular day when I am not taking pics for the blog.  I actually had to stand in a pile of clean clothes on the floor to take the picture.  I feel like the first coffee table picture didn’t represent how we live and who we really are.  Unlike gel stain, I hope I can be as transparent as possible with my many flaws that allow God’s light to shine through.

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Sara Groves once said, “One of the reasons we are not free is because we are trying to be good for Jesus.  We are trying to be good PR for God.  I think my best PR moments are when I am weak, and He is strong in me.”  I have learned that there is nothing I can do to make God look good…He’s God and He doesn’t need me or anyone to accomplish that.  However, in seeking Him and submitting my life to Him, others can see Him through me even when I’m at my worst.  That’s what the world needs – not false advertising for a brand of Christianity that is plastic and manufactured, but raw honesty about who God is and how He meets your every need in times of hardship.

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Growing up, our pastor would end every sermon by saying, “You might be the only Jesus someone sees this week so make sure they get the right story.”  I want others to see God in me, not a pharisaical rendition of piety.   John 15 entails the importance of abiding in Christ and by surrendering to Him for help, guidance and strength, He actually works through us.  That’s the best way for others to see Christ in you.

It’s vital to be transparent and honest with how you struggle because we are not called to do good things “for” God but to allow God to work through us.  So much freedom comes in admitting to God that you are too weak, but through Him you are strong.  This is the essence of the Christian life – God never called us to perfection, but the very reason Christ died on the cross was to make an offering of perfection on our behalf.  Now, we have freedom, not to sin, but to enjoy the fullness of allowing Him to live in us, even through our flaws and shortcomings.  When I am weak, He is strong.

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