I haven't always been this way

I believe God set up life to pick up friends along the way. You too? So many of you, God has given to me in this San Francisco season and I’m so very glad you’re here. But I see you and you and you and know that our paths crossed in the town of six traffic lights, in the hills of Virginia, in college ministries in Louisiana and Alabama or in the oasis of Missouri. Perhaps you already know I haven’t always been this way…

i did not ask permission to post this photo. see. i’m a rebel now.

i did not ask permission to post this photo. see. i’m a rebel now.

I was the epitome of a goody-goody. I saw everything in two colors and lived my life that way. I was either right or wrong or made a good choice or a bad choice. I associated with people who thought like me and I smiled externally and kept my distance internally from those who didn’t.

I was a quiet girl. I got comfortable with a few friends at school, at home, and with a dozen or so kids that were at church as much as I was. My room was all things sunflowers and my bed made within a minute of when I rose every morning. I was a studious one. I let it be known. I used free time at school to get ahead and I treated study hall with the utmost respect. I carried around flash cards. (I’m pretty sure I was still doing this in high school.) I was in all the studious clubs: drama, literary, national honor society, y-club, newspaper, and yearbook staff. I tiptoed around sports as I was the “manager” for the girls’ basketball team and I think I played three or four tennis games.

 If you can’t identify with anything about me up to this point, I have you to thank for splashing color in my life!

My introverted shadow followed me to college, but I picked up some courage on the drive from Georgia to Virginia. I made a fool of myself as I sang the alphabet song backwards during freshman week before several hundred peers and that did it for me. A little color entered my world. I went on several overseas mission trips – more color. My roommates and I made regular visits to the nursing home – more color. I met Ben when we served on staff at a mission youth camp. You know he introduced me to a full color palette!

I entered marriage determined to be such a neat, tidy, and happy wife. I could do that. It was programmed in me. Smile no matter the stress inside of me. It would never get too ravenous that it would show. Besides I had Jesus when I needed Him. But marriage didn’t start like that or stay like that. My black and white thinking got paint all over it! Ben did life spontaneously. He didn’t value my bed-making…initially. I watched more sports our first month of marriage than in all my life. I let it be known that I had cooked a meal, dusted the furniture, and graded papers since I had been home from work. I was waiting for applause. He was ready to go out for Krispy Kreme at ten pm. That wasn’t tidy at all. That wasn’t on my schedule and my schedule deemed I be in bed. (Just typing this is wearing me out. I’ll get to the bottom of this soon enough.) Our good days in marriage were planned ones. And we had many good days.

Each of our three boys added a splash of color to my life as they made debuts about two years apart from one another. I loved parenting. On days I could control. The other days we stayed inside and cocooned. Life was safer that way…or so I thought. College students who we were serving pulled me out into shades of blue and red and then a deeper red and held my babies so I could eat a hot meal and have adult conversation. They thought I had something to offer on Sundays as they sat in my class and heard how I was desperate for God’s Word. They could see it in my tired eyes and thirsty soul if they couldn’t hear it eloquently from my mouth. These college girls started to teach me that I had more to offer when I wasn’t presenting perfection, but offering my truest self.  I invited them into more. Into our home. Over to play with the kids. To stroll around campus for I needed out of the house and they needed someone older to chat with. Color.

Parenting and marriage and sharing my truest self grew a dependence upon God that was beginning to change how I was seeing life. Doing life internally by keeping everything in was a dangerous way to live. I had bottled up resentment towards Ben and toddler years were proving that I was not the mom I thought I could be.

God took our family to a watering hole in the Midwest. We weren’t there long, but this oasis was a time of emptying me of a ridiculous heap of self and opening myself up to Jesus filling me with His truths and promises that had been there for my taking all along. While this process was taking place, God was forming our hearts for something that would not need my control, but my surrender. A place and a people that despises goody-goodies, but welcomes truest selves! A culture of color!

I haven’t always been this way.

These days I make a plan, but know plans change.

I write down tasks in pencil and use a green highlighter with a celebratory swipe to mark off the accomplishment when they happen, if they happen.

I’m aware when days and weeks are crowded and create a breather day.

I look at a week ahead and lower my task limit for a day or two.

I catch myself with hands clinched tight for an array of reasons and intentionally pry them open. The way they were meant to be.

I’m aware that every day isn’t supposed to be 110%. And while the 50 pictures I just scrolled through on Instagram look like pictures of the 110%, I’m going to like them and know they have regular, mediocre, sometimes crappy days too. And often those days are the most colorful!

But friends, I still make the bed every morning.

What has changed in you for the better? Who has brought some color into your world?