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After the Steam

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I woke up earlier than usual this morning, determined to get a head start on the day. Didn’t expect to start my day with this. And what is it? At first glance, it is the obvious, a fogged up mirror where steam has revealed all the smudges and writings left by little hands writing messages after their shower on the perfect canvas they saw. But this foggy, smudged up mirror reminded me this morning of a verse from 1 Corinthians: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

Sometimes our actions in “steamy” moments write messages that we don’t even realize we are writing. Our raw emotions cause us to act so far off from the person God created us and knows us to be. In those moments, this Christ-like image that we are supposed to have, it becomes foggy, messy… Marked. Those who are around us lose sight of Christ in us, and to get down to the heart of it, so do we. It’s hard to look yourself in the mirror after you know you acted out or spoke out in ways so far from who you truly are. You lose sight of yourself. You start to just see steam, messiness… Marks. But friend, this morning as I looked closely at that mirror I saw clearly one message circled by a little hand, “A+.” It had been written over yesterday’s message, “God’s love.”

(Those little hands had no idea how God was going to use these markings to touch my heart. Friends, you have no idea how the little things you do can touch a person’s heart.)

Looking in that mirror, I could not see myself. In the steam all I could see was God and “A+.” That is what God’s love does. When we smudge our image and the image of Christ, Jesus takes his hands, the same hands that were nailed to a cross for moments just like these… Jesus hears that heart cry for forgiveness, and he answers it. In our brokenness and in the aftermath of the steam, Jesus writes two words over top our image: “God’s love.” And then, incredibly, he writes “A+.” That is forgiveness.

One day we will see God in his fullness. We will see ourselves in our fullness. But for know I pray we can catch an image of how God sees us and others after the steamy moments have passed and our hearts are made clean by confession. And I share this picture because something tells me that image looks a whole lot like a fogged up, smudge up mirror with the words “God’s love” and “A+.”

Confess. Repent. Ask and receive forgiveness. See that you aren’t a smudged up, steamy mess. You are a son or daughter of God, loved, forgiven and atoned for. God’s love writes your grade. He gives to you the full credit that Jesus, the perfect canvas, earned. Child, your grade is his grade. And that grade, incredibly, after all the steam and smudges, was written as “A+.” May you know that today should you be struggling with the image in the mirror.

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“Can We Start Over?”

This week started with me in a nasty mood, subtle and yet constant attitudes toward my husband. I am not proud of that or saying it is ok… It wasn’t. But I wanted to share this because I wanted to share a decision that my husband and I made that greatly blessed our marriage: We decided to start over.

We didn’t hash out every offense and mistake. I didn’t even say “I’m sorry” again. Why? Because it was more than that. Yes, I was sorry and I needed forgiveness but there was more. I needed a “re-do,” a slate wiped clean, a chance to try again.

Ever need one of those?

So I asked my hubby if we could start over and incredibly he said yes and just like that- all was so well again. And it still is.

And I share all this because I realized just how much we all at times need a “start over” pass. And that is in fact what God did through us through Christ Jesus. He wiped the slate clean and gave us the freedom to start over, fully restored in the eyes of God- as if we had never sinned at all. With open arms and a smile, our Lord said, and continues to say “Yes, let’s start over.”

And so it is that we, too, also desperately need to be able to say that to each other- to offer that mercy, that love and grace.

Who might you need to start over with today? Maybe your spouse, your child, a friend, a family member, a co-worker, maybe even God?

May the same power that raised Jesus from the dead rise up in our marred hearts and relationships. Because all can be made wonderfully new.

 

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He Restores

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Last year, my husband bought our daughter a live, little Christmas tree for her bedroom. To make a long story short: I killed it. I tried to revive the thing, but it never did “come back.” She was heartbroken, truly heart broken- I mean big tears and everything, but she forgave me.

This past Saturday my mom took our older kids to a Christmas party. Toward the end of the party, door prize tickets were drawn and our daughter was able to pick from a table of door prizes. One little, live Christmas tree was there amidst the other prizes.

She of course, picked that little, live Christmas tree. It is now sitting in her room.

Sure, it could just be a coincidence. But I truly believe that it is more than just that. As I look at that little tree sitting all beautifully lit in her room, I am sure of this: God restores our losses. He sees. He knows. He restores. He makes all things new- in His perfect timing.

Am I nervous that I am going to kill this tree, too? You betcha. But at least we can have faith in this: Even should I kill it again, God can restore what is lost. He not only sees and restores the big things. He sees and restores the little things.

That is great, great news.

Thank you Jesus for this little Christmas tree, this little reminder that your love and your mercy and your forgiveness is so big. Thank you for your willingness to restore all that is lost.

 

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“You Killed it!”

Our four year-old daughter stands, over looking the once beautiful, potted “Christmas tree” her daddy brought home to her. Glossy eyed, with a frown that would break a grown man’s heart, her words begin to pour out, “You killed it! You killed my tree! I told you to plant it! Now it is dead!”

Indeed, she had told me we should plant it, but I hadn’t. I did not really know how to keep it, how to make it last, how to make it grow. So I just kept it, in its original pot, and slowly, over the course of time, it died.

Perhaps it was the “Rollie-Pollie” bugs we found in its roots when we removed it from the pot. Perhaps it was the heat, the light, the lack or abundance of water. I have no real clue as I am only learning to garden. Bottom line, I killed it. And she, at the tender age of four years-old, had a choice to make:

The choice of forgiveness.

What has someone killed in your life? Have you considered that maybe they just did not know better? Have you chosen forgiveness?

Choose it, because I can tell you one thing I have begun to understand so clearly from gardening: Bitterness will sap your energy and prevent new growth.

Will you break off the bitterness? Will you choose forgiveness? Will you allow new life to grow? That is what matters most.

 

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Facebook and Forgiveness

So I realized last night that some of my older posts are now missing from my Facebook wall. (My kids love to play on my phone so chances are they were accidentally deleted.) The bummer is that so far I have used Facebook much like my scrapbook to hold precious pictures and notes of thoughts I did not want to forget. Unfortunately once a post is deleted it seems to be forever lost. So I think I am going to start slowly transitioning my “scrapbook” of all of my precious Facebook posts to this blog. At least here I can recover a deleted post.

(For the few of you who are following- please know that this means you may see many posts from me on a given day until I get all my posts copied over here.)

All of this got me thinking:

If the inability for me to correct a mistake is enough for me to want to turn away from Facebook- how much more would others want to turn away from me if I offer no forgiveness when they make a mistake?

Forgive. Real friends are too precious to be lost forever.

 

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The Perfect Gift- A Mother’s Day Reflection

This past Sunday was Mother’s Day. Children, young and old around our nation, joined in honoring their mothers with various gifts. Yet for many, including myself, Mother’s Day was a day that rekindled old fires. I picked up a Mother’s Day card written from a daughter to her mother and read the words, “You were always there for me.” Off went a spark.

Years ago, my parents got divorced. My mother no longer wanted to be with my father. In the end, my mother was not only separated from my father, but also from me and my two brothers. I don’t think that is what she perceived the outcome would be. None the less that is what is was. She was not there for me.

I am now a mother myself. I still cannot fully understand her willingness to be separated from her children. I do not admire the choice she made. None the less I choose to admire her. I choose to dwell on the good choices she has made and on the times that she has been there. I choose to forgive her just as God through Christ forgave me. It takes a lot of prayer and my choice to forgive my mother was, and continues to be, tested. I ask God to help me see my mother as He sees her and pray that He would give me an even stronger love and appreciation for the woman she is.

Forgiveness is a continuous choice. It is the choice to extended grace indefinitely. It is, in my opinion, the greatest gift of love that one can give.

It is never too late to give the gift of forgiveness. Make the choice. If you truly desire to give the gift of forgiveness but it seems too hard to give, ask God to help you. I can assure you that He will. He forgave us and He empowers us to forgive others. Today, give the gift of forgiveness. It is the gift that matters most.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8 NIV) “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6: 14-16)

 

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The Place of Humbleness

I can remember when I was first learning to parent our first son. There were times I would lose my temper and punish too quickly. I would watch our young son run screaming and crying into his room after being sent off way too soon. In those moments, I remember feeling as if I had messed everything up.

Truth be told, I still have those moments. But there is a place where all can be made right and I have felt the Lord lead me there many times. It is a place where I must bend way down to look into two eyes that are much younger than mine, and say, “I’m sorry. I did not do that right. Can you please forgive me?”

It is the hardest place to go to and yet the easiest place to go to. Because every time I humble myself and make it to that place, I hear my child’s voice answer me in the same way saying, “Yes. I forgive you.” Even more amazing to me are the words that I have heard follow from my child, who I wronged, saying, “I love you.”

I have watched, at various times in their younger years, as each of our children have reached out to hold me, waiting in the place of their time outs, looking at me with big eyes and big smiles, asking, “Can I come back out now?” To which I have answered, “Yes.”

And every time that I have come to that place, where I bend down in humbleness before my child to say, “I’m sorry. I did not do that right. Can you please forgive me?” I am reminded of another place, a place where I bend down in humbleness before my God and say, “I’m sorry. I did not do that right. Can you please forgive me?”

In that place, I hear Him say, “Yes. I forgive you. … I love you.” In that place, I feel Him gently reach out and take hold of me, setting me free from the very place where I am.

Have you been to that place lately? Do you forgive others who come to that place with you?

That is what matters most.

Matthew 25:40
“I tell you the truth,
When you did it to one of the least of these,
My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”
 

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