Are You Worth It?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

This is a Love Note from Bailey of Big House in the Little Woods.
Six years ago a group of middle school-aged males walked out the door of Pizza Hut. They shoved the door open, laughing and punching each other. One looked back before he let the door slam shut—in my face.
It is not an unforgiving heart that retains the wounds of that six-year-old memory. It’s just that my ego was crushed for all eternity. Actually, I’ve got a whole Book of Grudges about Young Men Who Do Not Hold the Door Open. The teens back at our old church who would let doors slam all over the place while mothers struggled with babies and bags. The guys at the library who wouldn’t even look back to see if there was a lady coming. The public schooled sampling who graciously let me prop the door open for them while my hands were full—and then complained under their breath that I was in the way. (Or perhaps not. That part gets more colorful as time progresses and recollection fades.)

Deep, deep down, I’ve got dignity. A dignity that’s easily crawled over and stamped on and shoved away. But it’s strong. In my private opinion, I’m worth something—at least I ought to be. Every girl, in her own way, expresses the same sense of worth—from the girl who feels insecure because no one will look her way to the drama queen who needs to meet a daily quota of attention to the little lady who keeps tabs on who and who does not hold the door open for her.

We need to be wanted. Loved. More than that—cherished. And as I tried to explain to a male friend, we do odd things to articulate that—like picking on someone to subtly remind them to be kind to us—or else.  And it’s a drive so strong that some girls sacrifice their worth in order to satisfy it. Good little Christian girls are warned not to dress like, act like or think like the girls of the world—the girls who bring a guy down, who are all available and flaunt that, whose chief goal is to snag a date for the weekend.

We’d never be like them. But that little cover-up—the thinking that we could never allow ourselves to fall so far—oftentimes brings us to the line. If we don’t admit that, we’ll stumble. A quiet but true fact: Good little Christian girls are sinful enough to share the same secret desires as the floozy down the road and smart enough not to mention the fact that they do.  We’d never wear a shirt that tight or a skirt that short—but we might be very conscious that our not-too-tight shirt complements our figures just beautifully or that our modest skirt looks as mod as the next girl’s.

We’d never cake on a ton of make-up like her—but we might spend an inordinate amount of time in front of the mirror, pinching our cheeks and practicing smiles. We’d never, ever, ever sit in the lap of anyone of the opposite sex—but we might kind of giggle at all his jokes and blush a little when he looks at us and perhaps (just maybe) send secret smiles and thoughts his way.

 We’d never date a guy before eighteen—but we might fantasize (in private) about a particular gentleman until our appetites waste away and our sleep is crowded with happy daydreams.

 Some girls just struggle with keeping their hearts pure, with not letting their fancy sweep them off their feet before Prince Charming does—and they, if they’re not careful, can get themselves into a lot of trouble innocently. But others aren’t as giddy and senseless, and struggle not because they’re ignorant but because they’re very conscious about how different they are—and how little attention it rakes in.

    Fun fact: It’s not easy being different.

It’s not easy seeing girls have a boy on each arm and one trailing her because she dresses a certain way and acts a certain way—while you do and have the exact opposite. It’s hard to have standards that don’t openly encourage little glances and grins. It leaves one feeling a bit left out to be just as pretty, just as smart, just as capable and not have anyone—anyone—interested in you. We like attention—even the best little Christian girl.    We’re pure-hearted, modest, decent, hardworking, affectionate girls—all good and godly things—and nobody notices. (Nobody except mothers married thirty years and perhaps a caring grandfatherly figure. Nobody like the boy we’re ESPing to fall in love with us.)

So we think that our standards may be wrong—that our parents may be slightly misguided—that there’s something seriously abnormal and crazy about us. We bend and we crack to compromise without actually compromising—doing whatever we can to look pretty and confident and beloved by all. And some standards get shoved aside entirely.

What we should be questioning—and what we often aren’t—is the response we’re not getting. Boys aren’t drooling all over you? You’d never have to choose between three suitors and a secret admirer who serenades you at midnight?

Wrong question.

If the same boys who are hanging on the arm of just any ol’ regular gal aren’t flocking to you—that says something about your worth.

If the young gentleman who sends chills up your spine doesn’t declare his passionate (and perceived) love to you—as a friend of mine encouraged me, that means he respects you too much to mess around with your heart.

If you aren’t being watched and talked about and asked out every other day—that says something about how you’re special enough to warrant one whole heart instead of a dozen little pieces from half-men.

It’s so easy to compromise when our goal is merely attention and romance. But that’s not our goal. It’s so easy to feel lonely and unlovely because no one’s ever shown an interest in you. But that’s not where our worth lies.

Being gentle and discreet, modest and pure, lovely and feminine—we do it because we are loved by and are expressing love for a great heavenly Father, who holds us so precious in His eyes and so gently in His hands. When we rest secure in that, our differences become a wall of protection and not a barricade—a testimony to our pricelessness and not a prison to our unworthiness. That is a gem not all girls can claim—and it is to be guarded above all else. Don’t be fooled by the world’s standard of beauty, of worth, of feminine charm—if you are a daughter of God, you are worth something.

No matter how many times a door slams in your face. 

Bailey is a sixteen-year-old homeschooler in love with anything literary or theological. The second oldest of nine children, she finds joy in romping with her younger siblings, scribbling in her ever-expanding notebook and trying her hand at the home arts. While her talents naturally tend toward academic junky, her deepest wish is to serve the Lord in the home. Catch up with all her thoughts at Big House in the Little Woods.

The 'no rush' Family...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The breeze bounced happily around our hair today as we drove home from having Pizza together at a small Pizzaria.  Just me and my three.  Gleeful at the glorious sunshine on this spring day, we were on our way to the park for a leisurely walk and play in the sand pit.  Bliss.

I was noticing the buds.  Buds everywhere - on EVERYTHING!  It's finally really Spring.  Out of nowhere, this little voice squeaks from the backseat of the van.  "Mama, we don't ever gotta be rushin'."  

My heart warmed instantly. I knew just what was being said.  We had just watched the crazy bustle of the street, the attitude of a few high school students as they pushed in line, the countless miserable Moms who always seem to be in such a hurry to get somewhere - do they even know where they're headed?  And our daughter noticed - "...we don't ever gotta to be rushin'."

I didn't ruin the moment by adding my often (to me) necessary commentary (who knew, eh?).  I just breathed it in.  All I said was, "You're right honey, we don't ever have to be rushing."  She already said all there was to say.  And today, I feel elated.  Elated at the sunshine.  At the blooming Spring everywhere.  Elated at the two little boys carefully constructing a seesaw out of a plank and bricks out the window.  Elated at the little girl who constantly comes inside saying, "Mama?" this, and "Mama?" that.  I'm just... elated. 

And no, we don't ever have to be rushing.  And this is a blessing beyond words.  Thank you Jesus!  We can enjoy the moments.  Every moment.  Even the crazy ones where two small kids are hiding (and almost knocking over) the wrack of Green Bags at the grocery store whilst the other one simultaneously loses Mama's $20 bill.  *sigh*  Even then, can I live elated?

Elated that as I type, my only 15 minutes I take in a day, to have a tea and watch little ones play... they are toting pillows into the backyard.   Oh, and blankets.  And... they're mucky.  And they're laying in the sun on the grass (the squishy grass), pretending to snuggle up and sleep.  And I can do nothing but smile.  Why do things like this bother some and yet, render me blissful on a day like today?  Life's too short to rush.  Too short to yell and scream at your kids, to shove them along... to not let them stop and smell the flowers... because we "Have to get dinner on the table".  Forget about dinner.  SMELL THE DANG FLOWERS. (And I've had to say this to myself far too often).

I say it to myself in the midst of writing this very post and go outside to join our kids in this once-in-a-lifetime moment of backyard afternoon bedtime.

The kids fix me my own 'bed'.

<pause>  What a moment of rest - how did I almost miss this?


(I'm back - husband is home... how blessed I am to have a man who comes home and sees all his living room pillows on the grass and exclaims, "COOL!"  *smirk*)

But why?  Why have I not tuned in to this level of bliss before.  Why, oh WHY, has it taken me six years.  SIX YEARS of being a 'Mama' and only now am I truly, fully, seeing the ultimate ELATION the everyday brings.  Because every day is the only day we can savor, right now.  And that's what I love about educating our kids at home.  There's no bustle.  No hurry.  No getting here on time, going there on time.  It's just - us.  And we do as we please.  And it's our life.  Imagine that.

I'm not perfect.  Our kids get crazy.  I get crazy.  We all lose it sometimes.  But the good... the good so far outweighs the bad. And I cherish more and more... but I've cherished far too little.

Tears well up.  They're tears of joy and of sorrow.  Sorrow for the lost years where I ate but never fully TASTED.  Joy that God is revealing it to me now.  Joy that I've decided and firmly committed to living life tasting all that is around me, all the gifts I've been given.  Looking at each moment as the only one like it - as the only chance I'll ever get, in that very heartbeat, to taste, chew, pause, enjoy, revel. 

Lord, let me never miss a second of it.  Not a second. 

How can we live?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lately, I feel like I have too much on my mind, and the sea of thoughts and emotions hits me like a hurricane.  Causing me to cry uncontrollably in Church after a good Word.  Causing me to weep at the sight of my children playing together in the muck.

Causing me to cry silent tears as I drive by children playing alone in the streets.  My brain never stops.  I can't even begin to process it all.  Life speeds past me as I beg it to stop.  It doesn't listen.

It's really only one question that burdens me, replaying itself inside my heart over and over until the tears well-up.  "How do I possibly live this life well?"  How?  Where do I even begin?

I've known and loved God for a long time - since I was 8, to be exact.  But for so many years, I kept a comfortable distance from truly embracing the Lord's plan for me and mine.  It was the kind of Christianity that put God 'on' when needed, in emergencies, when it was convenient, and on Sundays.  Oh yes, of course on Sundays.  It was comfortable, easy, but entirely unsatisfying.

There came a day when I began to look in the mirror and ask, "Who are you?".  I mean, really, "WHO are you!?".  Maybe I didn't like the answer and maybe I partially didn't know the answer, both of which scared the life out of me.  I was 26, a grown "woman" (though I've never felt like one), a Mother of three, a Wife, and a multitude of other 'labels' I'd given myself and reluctantly (sometimes painfully) had given to me.  Hippy, Weirdo, Country Girl Wannabe, 'Homeschooler' (yes, it's a label in many cases), the Young Mom, the Girl Who Got Pregnant Before She Was Married,  the Writer, the Opinionated One, the Anti-Media One, the One with Crazy Hair, the Long Skirt Lady, the Jesus Freak.  I've heard them all.  But which was I?

The question of who I am is slowly being revealed to me as I continue to seek heartily after God's purpose in my life.  I'm finally, slowly... 'getting it'.  That it's when we allow less of 'me' that God reveals who 'me' is, in Him.  I suppose I could be all the labels I've been given, but I can wear them well.  I can wear them with humility, in remembrance of lessons learned, and graces given.  But I'd rather live free from labels, having the only sticky notes on me, the ones that glorify God.  Lofty goal, I know.  But as a wise woman says, all is grace.

I've wept countless, heavy tears for answers to the pressing question of my soul, how can I live?  I mean, truly, fully live?  When I know all that I know about the grace poured out on me through Jesus Christ and the chance He's given me at this ONE, yes, ONE life - how then shall I live?

I'm sitting in Church with my arms wrapped around a warm four-year-old. I'm listening and reveling while an infant and her parents are dedicated to living for God's glory - and everything seems to flood me all at once.  The chest heaves, the tears well, the chin quivers.  This is it.  This is life.  God gives and takes away.  "He gives and takes away... still I choose to say, Lord Blessed Be Your Name."  The song echoes in my heart.  I glance around to see if anyone is staring at me, weeping when I should be rejoicing.  No one notices.  Only my husband.  He puts a strong hand on my back.  Maybe he thinks I want more babies.  Maybe he's right.  But that's not the point...

We are born helpless, beautiful, little pink infants and then we grow too quickly.  Grow old and too quickly leave this earth. We are given one chance and one chance alone to Live. This. One. Life. Well.  For God.  For our spouses.  For our children.  For - eternity.  My mind flashes thoughts of homelessness, and child abuse, and hunger, disease, famine, poverty, child prostitutes, anger, hatred, divorce, addiction, the wasted time of millions of people (two months of every year spent watching TELEVISION!), the dire state of so many families, children left alone, pains too deep to imagine, and I'm so overwhelmed with the want, no, the NEED to do something.  To do something useful with this One Life.  I want to reach out, I want to live selflessly, I want to GIVE and give freely, I want to RUN from a love of this world, I want to cling to that which is good, and pure, and right.  I want to be wildly and insanely different.  I want to move mountains, I want God to USE me and USE me profoundly.

But I'm only me.  And me, isn't that great.  In fact, me often completely sucks.  I ponder that for a moment.  A long moment.

And here comes the GRACE.  Grace poured like warm water on a weary face.  Grace like hot coffee on a chilled, quiet morning.  Grace like ice cream dripping down a gleeful two-year-old's chin.  Grace like every. little. gift. I've. ever. been. given.  Even the ones I don't realize, as I'm sure that's most.

Oh, Lord, I don't deserve this Grace.  I don't deserve anything.  Thank you.  Thank you.  But, I still ask, How Then Shall I Live?  WHO Then Shall I Be?

And the answer comes softly, quietly...

You are my Child.  Hunger for Me; eat, drink, and never stop filling up on my divine love.  You are my daughter, find your identity in Me.  I make you whole, you are enough just as you are.  I will show you how then to live.  I will guide you.  Seek Me with your whole heart, I will reveal WHO you are.  I know you completely, I have formed you and molded you. 

I will never leave you.  Cast your burdens on me.  Find safety in my embrace.  Run for Me, find refuge in Me - for you nor anyone else can ever imagine what I have for you,  and for all those who love Me, My child.

And there it is.  Biblical truth.  God's living word.  How can we live?  With Christ as our head.  How do we cope with the overwhelming burdens and concerns of what to do with this life?  Cast our cares on Him.  How do we live differently?  By living for Him.

I will let Thankfulness be my native tongue.  I will rejoice in all things, for He is good when I am not.  He has the answers when I can't find them.  He dries my tears when salt water stains my cheeks.  He is life, truth, all, One.

Broken but being built up...

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