happy halloween, to my Oklahomies and others!:) Let me just start off by saying, I'm not the biggest fan of this particular holiday, but I can't wait for Halloween when I'm a mom to make my little munchkins dress up like little, baby bears. Oh 'em gee I can't wait! But I can... you know how it goes. Anyway, it has been too stinkin' long, but life has luckily begun to slow down just a bit -- just in time for the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday season is just around the corner, and I can't freakin' wait! But for now, here are a few things that have been filling my life with so much joy and wisdom recently and just might do the same for yours...
Abba's Child by Brennan Manning
puppies -- always, duh
Dave Barnes Christmas album -- preview one of my faves here
Running with my favorites KorKor and Snat
Beautiful Exchange by Hillsong
S'mores Cookies made by the best cookie-bakers ever Amy Jo and Chris
Antibiotics for icky ear infections
Hazelnut Coffee from Panera
Salted Carmel Hot Chocolate from Stars
Your Hands by JJ Heller
Your Love Will Never Change by Dave Barnes
Life chats with precious friends whom I don't deserve
Nightly pillow talk with the best-est friend in the WWW
(whole wide world -- not to be confused with world wide web)
All that being said, the past few weeks have been filled with love, laughter, joy, tears, forgiveness, pride, humility, reconciliation, and freedom. I know I always say this, but I hardly know where to begin to share what all the Lord has been teaching me the past few weeks/months. I'm probably going to have to stretch this out into a few separate posts because otherwise this could potentially be the length of HP7 minus a great deal of excitement and adventure.
And let's be real, I could never even begin to do justice to the legacy of one of the greatest dream teams to ever walk the planet. So I'll try and spare you that one... :)
But I guess if I could share just one thing that could basically encompass all of the month of October, it would be a seemingly trite but profound word that is redefining everything about my life -- honesty.
Yep, that's it, honesty.
Of all the things that the Lord has been teaching me lately, it is to simply be honest -- real, authentic, and genuine before others, before myself, and undoubtedly before Him. I have the gross tendency to experience pain or feel hurt and want to cry or grieve, but instead I will literally speak over myself, "Get it together, Caitlyn." I tell myself that I shouldn't feel upset or hurt or weak or troubled, but that discounts for the major fact that we were created with the full spectrum of human emotions. We were created to experience all feelings -- all joys, all sorrows, all anxieties, because ultimately each one of those things always points us back to the cross.
As humans, I think we all have a tendency to live out of a false sense of who we are. Instead of being real and honest about our sinfulness and hurts and pains, we put on this 'glittering image' -- as Brennan Manning describes it -- of a false reality of who we are in attempt to mask the people we truly are. And we do this, I think, out of fear that in exposing the reality of who we are, we will find ourselves loved by no one, completely rejected, and alone.
So we look to our accomplishments and successes, our friendships, our jobs, the way in which others view us, our strength, wisdom, piety, purity, love, joy, peace, etc. and hope with every fiber in our being that those things will outshine the shadow of our darkness so powerfully, that no one will know the darkness even exists. Sometimes we can do this for so long that we ourselves even end up being deceived into believing that we really aren't that all that bad. Or we get caught up in the game of comparisons -- well maybe I am sinful, but at least I'm not as sinful as _________.
Not only that, but sometimes we even identify ourselves in the way we hope others perceive us in attempt to stifle the fear. We think, maybe if we don't admit it's real, it won't be. Or maybe it's that we don't (I don't) want to admit that I might be fearful of rejection or being alone because maybe that would reveal my weakness or my lack of trust in the Lord. Or maybe I don't want to admit that I fear rejection because it would cause me to admit that in spite of everything the Lord tells me about what my identity is in Him, I still believe that there is something completely unworthy, unloveable, or unlikeable about me.
So I spend so many days trying to pile up all of this strength, when in reality, I'm as weak as a little lamb, desperately needing to be held by her Father.
Side Note: This weekend I went home, and the minute my daddy gave me a hug, I wanted to burst into tears. There is something so special about being held by protective arms which you know will never leave you or forsake you and love you at all times. It always amazes me when I consider how much my earthly father loves me and know that my heavenly Father loves me even more than that. I can't wait to hug Him one day. I know they say there aren't going to be any tears in heaven, but I feel like the minute I see Him, I will burst into tears -- for finally I will be united with the One who my soul longs for every freakin' day.
But back to this whole idea of honesty.
Let's look at some scriptures... :)
"Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God and keep the vows you made to the Most High. Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you and you will give me glory."
"You do not desire a sacrifice or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God." -Psalm 51:16-17
So I've been mulling over how these two verses go together and what it looks like to offer sacrifices of thankfulness and brokenness before the Lord and what that really entails. Now I am not an expert on Scripture by any means whatsoever, but I believe that we are instructed to come before the Lord and make thankfulness our sacrifice before Him, because in giving thanks -- honest thanks -- we are required to recognize and honestly admit who we are before the Lord. We can thank and praise God for all He is and for all He has given to us, but when we are truly honest with ourselves about who we are -- that no one is good, for we are all sinful from the moment we were conceived -- there is suddenly so much more for which we can give thanks! Not only do we want to praise Him for all He has given us and done for us but because we innately understand there is nothing we did to deserve it.
Thankfulness and brokenness go hand in hand. We cannot truly understand the magnitude of the thanks and praise we owe to the Lord until we understand the magnitude of our brokenness and depravity.
But with the Gospel of grace, there is always more to the story; for with honesty, comes FREEDOM.
oh sweet freedom.
It's interesting because sometimes we can be enslaved by fears or things or thoughts or people, and we don't even know it until we're free. We don't even know the how heavy they are until they're suddenly lifted off of our shoulders -- by the power of Christ alone.
It is my prayer that we would throw off whatever it is that is inhibiting us from living freely. In Hebrews 12:1-3, Paul describes it like this, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
Sometimes we do not even know what it is that is so tightly entangling us from running freely and experiencing freedom as the Lord intends for us. If that is the case, I pray that the Lord would reveal whatever it is to us that we are allowing ourselves to become slaves to and that then we would be obedient in throwing it off and allowing the Lord to heal us. We were not created to live in chains or enslaved to sin. Satan may be the master of this world, but as followers of Christ, we serve the King of the universe who has ultimate victory, who can break every chain.
Not only does He have the power,
He already has the victory
over all things
His freedom is unlike any other. It is the freedom to readily and willingly admit my darkness, my hurts and pains, my faults and failures, to fall to your knees and weep before His throne... Because while you are there, in His rich, abundant mercy and grace He picks us up, holds us like only our Father can, kisses us on the forehead, and says, "I know, my child. I know. I know how weak you are. I know your sorrows. I've collected every one of your tears. I've wept on your behalf." Then He wipes away my tears and looks me straight in the eyes and says, "Don't you know? Don't you believe how much I love you? Don't you know how much you mean to me?" And I can't look at Him. I can't look at Him because I'm overwhelmed by my own sinfulness and shame.
And He softly says, "Though you are overwhelmed by your sins, I forgive them all."
With forgiveness, it isn't as though the Lord tells us we are forgiven but then continues to hold all of our wrongdoings over our heads. We ask for forgiveness, and because our minds have a hard time fully understanding complete forgiveness, we go back to Him and ask, "But did you really forgive me for this, God? Are you sure you can really forgive me for that?"
Rather puzzled, he looks upon us and says, "To what are you referring? I don't remember." His forgiveness is full, complete, and forever.
There is freedom in being honest with yourself and honest before the Lord. This freedom allows you to experience what your true identity is in Christ, and it also compels others to be honest with themselves. Thus a community is formed -- the community of Jesus as it was created to be: honest, broken believers whose chains have been broken by Christ alone and have been set free. And after experiencing such freedom, cannot help but want to set others free, as well. This week may we come before the Lord and one another, completely honest about our brokenness and allow our brokenness to compel us toward thanksgiving because...
"the only eyes that can see you to the bottom, love you to the skies."
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.