You Need Beauty

One son is away at church camp. The other son has driver’s ed in the mornings. My husband is at work. This means I’m home alone for THREE whole hours. I honestly cannot remember the last time that happened.

Still trying to remember.

Nope. No wonder I’m so giddy.

Instead of filling this time with chores, I’ve been trying to fill it with what I actually need. This means slowing down and thinking about what it is that I actually need. I know exactly what everyone else needs. For starters, they need clean socks. They need, they need, they need.

What do I need?

I say a little prayer while driving in the car where I practically live these days.

Lord, what do I need today?

You need beauty.

Ah, yes. Beauty. I know how peaceful I feel when I’m surrounded by beauty. I know I never get enough of it. I crave it and yet…it’s not exactly on my daily to do list.

John and Stasi Eldredge explain the need for beauty in their book Captivating:

Beauty is essential to God. No–that’s not putting it strongly enough. Beauty is the essence of God. Scripture says that the created world is filled with the glory of God (Isaiah 6:3) In what way? Primarily through its beauty.

Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful. Stop for a moment and let that sink in. We’re so used to evaluating everything (and everyone) by their usefulness that this thought will take a minute or two to begin to dawn on us. Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful. Which is to say, beauty is in and of itself a great and glorious good, something we need in large and daily doses (for our God has seen fit to arrange for this).

So I decide to go home and change into my walking shoes. The dog gets very excited whenever she sees my shoes because she thinks I’ll take her for a walk. I have let her down so many times, but today she is going to get her wish.

I take the dog leash off its hook as she thumps me with her thick tail. She is beside herself. The back of the SUV lifts and she leaps into the car like a young pup.

We back out of the driveway and head toward the county park. It’s beautiful there. As we get closer I start to wonder if it will be busy. My heart starts to race and I feel fear.

The last time I took the dog to the park for a walk without my husband it ended badly. A grandpa type man yelled at me and my children. He threw the f bomb around and threatened to get a gun. Because of my dog. Because of me. Because I couldn’t control her and he thought she was going to hurt his small dog. She would never. She’s just a big dumb lab. He was out of control angry and I was afraid. He even followed me in his car out of the park. I thought he was going to follow me home.

That was five years ago.

I park the car and look around. There are only a couple of people out in the field. This shouldn’t be that big of a deal so I open the back hatch and let Mocha out. She is so excited that she can barely stand still long enough to put the leash over her head, but I am afraid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mocha wants to sniff and explore and pee and I am holding on for dear life because I am afraid.

I look around and see no one. There are no bullies here.

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I bend over to remove the leash and set her free.

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She darts ahead and sniffs her chocolate heart out.

She is free to run ahead. I allow her some distance and then test her by calling her name. She comes running back to me. This is progress.

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She’s not the same dog she was five years ago. She’s mellowed a bit and I see that even as she runs ahead of me she stops to make sure I’m not far behind. She’s looking out for me too. Suddenly I’m not afraid. I’m able to look around and take in the beauty that Jesus wants me to see.

Everything is green. The ground is soaked from the storms. Birds soar and wildflowers sway. Frogs and insects sing their song. My lungs are breathing in the sweet fragrance in the air. It’s gorgeous. We follow the bend in the trail and come to a fallen tree. I have to decide whether to turn back or keep moving forward.

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I see that it’s possible to go around and I try not to think about the ticks hitching a ride in my hair as I go off the trail. Mocha is having the time of her life while I coach myself out loud. You can do this, Nic. Going off the trail is not the end of the world. That’s big news for a girl like me. Going off the trail is not really my style.

A few moments later I make my way around the tree and I’m back on the path. Mocha is still in the thicket sniffing out deer and God knows what else. I stop and notice above my head are red, white, and purple berries. I don’t know if they’re edible and I don’t care because I don’t eat fruit that doesn’t come from the grocery store. They are lovely.

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A few steps further the path becomes swampy and my feet are soaking wet. It dawns on me why we are the only ones at the park today.

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Still, there is beauty all around me.

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We allow things to grow here in the wild that we don’t allow to grow in our yard.

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My heart is pumping harder and there is mud on my calves from tromping through the soaked ground. It’s time to follow the path toward the car. I take a deep breath and thank the One who invited me back here to this place today. I thank him for beauty. I thank him for keeping the bullies away. I thank him for helping me around the obstacles on the path and for keeping an eye on me and those I love every single day.

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I’m not the woman I was five years ago.

I needed to come back to this place today to experience this beauty from the lover of my soul. The One who knows me best loves me most. It’s good to be loved.

Jesus, thank you for loving us enough to invite us to experience the beauty all around us. Thank you for calling us back to places marked by fear and regret to redeem us and set us free. Thank you for trusting us in these wide open spaces to hear your voice and come running back to your open arms time and time again. You are beautiful, Jesus. We love you.

 

Rescue Mission Accomplished

She overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and the word of her testimony…(Revelation 12:11 NIV, emphasis mine)

This past year hasn’t been easy. Honestly, I’m not sure I know anyone who’s had it easy. I’ve been dealing with chronic pain and fatigue. Throw in some chronic disappointment and you have the recipe for chronic discouragement and depression. Yuck. You see, I really believed that all this junk would have cleared up by now…that God would have answered my prayers and taken it all away. Although I know He has heard me, He has not removed these uncomfortable circumstances from me.

This is my first post in three months. Not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I stopped trusting that I had anything worthwhile to say. I like to offer encouraging, hopeful, hang in there, don’t give up words. Those words are hard to offer when doubt, shame, anger, resentment, self-pity, and disgust are the words most readily available.

Last weekend I got to spend some time at a Captivating Advanced retreat in the beautiful Rocky Mountains in Colorado with John and Stasi Eldredge along with several members of the Ransomed Heart team. It wasn’t just a retreat, it was a rescue. If you have never been to one of their events, I strongly encourage you to do whatever it takes to get to one. I’m telling you, GO!!!

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So much healing took place in those mountains, but before sending us on our merry little way John Eldredge spent some time teaching about the reality of pain and suffering this side of heaven. He challenged us to let suffering expose and access our deepest wounds because they expose where our hopes are primarily set. Ouch. Personally, I’m not a big fan of being exposed in any way, but God would not send me home without giving me a chance to allow Him to deal with this area in my life. Too much is at stake.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 2 Corinthians 1:5 NIV

John warned us…”Don’t reject the comfort because you’re mad that it’s not the answer you want.”

Busted.

Near the end of the session I spent some time quietly reflecting with a pen in one hand and Kleenex in the other…

I heard Jesus asking me:

“What if the current physical affliction you’ve been experiencing doesn’t go away? What will you do? How does that affect how you feel about Me?

You must choose.

Choose the idea of a pain free life without Me and the lie that you can make it happen. Or you can choose to trust Me and let Me love you and comfort you as much as you need. Your need is great.

You’ve been believing a lie that you can’t be effective in your calling while you’re suffering. It’s a lie. It’s not true. It’s not even biblical.

You have to choose.

Fight through the pain and follow Me on this path that I have chosen for you right now. You won’t always have this pain or be tired. No. One day we will be face to face and it will all melt away. I’ll wipe away every single tear and you will be free.

You have to let go of trying to understand why and just trust that My love is enough. My grace is enough to carry you. I’ll give you what you need to flourish and produce rich fruit to be refreshing to many thirsty souls. There’s a world that needs you. Don’t sit out any longer. They’re playing your favorite song and I’m asking you to dance with Me. Let Me guide you and lead you. Let Me hold you. Let Me teach you new steps. Let go of the way you thought the plan should work out. Let it go. Release your fear, doubt, and pain to Me. Open your hands and your heart to Me. Let Me fill you. This is where your healing begins.”

And so today I choose to re-engage here in this space. Too much is at stake.

Thanks for stopping by.

It’s Harder Than It Looks

Tonight one of my favorite television shows is back!! Dancing With The Stars: All Stars and I cannot wait!

If I had a bucket list, learning to dance like the contestants on DWTS would be near the top. Dancing has always been something I’ve admired from a distance. You see, dancing was taboo in my church when I was a kid. There are no memories of ballet shoes or fluffy tutus for this girl. But no matter how ‘bad’ dancing was, I couldn’t watch enough of it. My favorite movies were musicals with lots of dancing. Grease, Sound of Music, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Footloose, just to name a few.

Several years ago I went to a Captivating retreat out in Colorado. Everything about the weekend was breathtaking. However, I was completely caught off guard when one of our speakers started incorporating ‘dance’ themes into her talk about how we relate to God. The whole ‘letting him lead’ thing really messed me up. We watched clips from different movies about dance. I didn’t have enough Kleenex to sop up the mess. She hit a nerve that I didn’t even know existed. The pain was too much to deal with after a lifetime of watching from the sidelines, secretly wanting to be the beautiful girl being led around the ballroom by a handsome man. The desire to be swept up in the dance was too strong to ignore that day.

The Lord did a powerful work in my heart in the Rockies that day. He cut through the legalism. He asked me to dance. He dared me to take his hand and allow him to lead even when I don’t know the steps.

The truth is, I thought it would be easier. It isn’t.

My husband listened to me tell him about my ‘dance’ encounter with Jesus in Colorado. He watched ‘Shall We Dance?’ with me trying to understand what had got me so worked up. A few months later, he offered to take a beginning ballroom dance class with me. I had our class scheduled so fast we both had whiplash. I couldn’t wait!!

The truth is, I thought it would be easier. It wasn’t.

It was dang hard. Turns out I like to lead a lot more than follow. Allowing my husband to lead me around an elementary school gym floor was excruciating. We left many a class barely speaking to one another. So much for my romantic fantasy.

Too much of life feels like those dance classes right now. Jesus has asked me to trust him with our home, my children and their education, my job, vacations…the list goes on. He wants to lead.

It’s hard to follow even though I know it’s harder when I don’t.

Maybe you can relate.

My favorite dances to watch are the ones where there are a lot of stunts. You know, the dips, the flips, the crazy stuff. Watching from the sidelines is so much safer than participating. It’s also filled with regret, envy, and a whole lot of “I wonder if I could ever…”

These verses are reminding me that participating in the dance is the only way I’ll ever truly be safe:

“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God, “I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party. I’ll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!”–Psalm 91:14-16 The Message

The God who is willing to rescue us and then throw a party (which would definitely include dancing!) extends his mighty hand and is asking

“May I have this dance for the rest of your life?”

He waits for our response. He wants to lead. We want to follow. Deep down, we really do. We just need a lot more practice. It’s harder than it looks, but it’s OK. He’ll teach us the steps.

Have you taken dance lessons? Have you wanted to? Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear your story.

 

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