Friday, February 20, 2009


Very recently, I listened as a friend was admonished to approach a certain situation/ conflict in their life "in humility." Afterwards my friend turned to me and asked me, "What does humility look like?"

Good question. My first visual was of a dog who'd been reprimanded, head low, tail between his legs, but I knew immediately that wasn't what humility should look like. I didn't really have an answer for my friend. Today, however, I know I experienced what humility does not look like.

Disclaimer to men, I'm about to gently touch on a girly thing here, so if you're not the kind of guy who can go to the store and buy feminine products for your wife, be warned you may be a little uncomfortable, but I think the story is valid, so I am going to try to be as delicate as possible. I hope you can bear with me, but you have been warned.

So today was my annual "female" appointment to the gynecologist. It's an obligation, and all women need to go, but I sincerely doubt a single one of us looks forward to it. Men, you know that exam where they tell you to turn your head and cough? It's like that, only at least ten times worse, and we are supposed to experience ours like an anniversary. A very unhappy anniversary.

So I got to my appointment early, as is typical for me, and found the new office location, which to my displeasure now requires paid parking. I signed in a good 10 minutes before I was scheduled, found a old magazine to peruse and began the wait. I hate the wait. I waited a good hour, and watched several ladies who came in after me go before me before I was finally called.

For me the actual worst part of the whole appointment comes even before I have to go through the whole disrobing process, it's at the scale. You knw, the scale that often reads out a number a good ten pounds higher than the scale at home (and you thought that scale wasn't your friend.) I am a "big girl." In this case I mean that in the "fat" sense, not the "maturity" sense, but anyway. I'm not proud of my wight, and I could give you the whole laundry list of medical circumstances that make it hard for me to do anything about it, but the fact of the matter is, I know I am overweight.

For some reason in this new office they have chosen to station their (evil) scale in a corner, which makes for even more uncomfortable quarters. (I suppose it could be worse, I went to one doctor where they kept it in the lobby, but I digress.) Now, as an overweight woman, the only slight silver lining I can say I can choose to find is that I am in fact, large chested (breasted?). And "the girls" often camoflouge nicely my rounded middle, at least from my viewpoint, when I'm not actually standing in front of a mirror. Honestly, I often think to myself, if I still can't see it (my belly) when I look down, there remains hope.

Well apparently my "girls" were a bit in the way for the nurse as I stood on the scale in the corner today because she couldn't see past them to read the measurement. She said to me, "What are you trying to do, hide it from me?" in this really snide and snotty tone. And then she laughed. Suddenly I felt a little like that puppy who had been reprimanded, my head down, and my proverbial tail between my legs. It wasn't humility I felt, it was humiliation.

Immediately following this, I had to follow this nurse into an exam room where she barks orders me to disrobe and how to put on the garments she's given me, and which switch to flip when I'm ready, etc. After I did what she asked I was left sitting alone in the room, now completely vulnerable, humiliation taunting me. I suddenly became overwhelmingly aware of every single excess ounce of fat on my body. I lost all comfort in my own skin, and I felt ashamed.

For some reason it took me back to my friend's question. What does humility look like? My answer, it does not look like humiliation.

Humiliation is being put in your place. Humiliation is being devalued or degraded. Humiliation is the sense of being shamed, or belittled. Humiliation makes you feel like the butt of the joke, or being laughed at and not being "in on" the joke. Humiliation brings discouragement, hopelessness, embarrassment.

I only experienced a tinge of humiliation in the grand scheme of things, but you don't need more than a taste of it to know it's a poison to your soul.

Humility, however, is something entirely different. Humility is knowing your place, and not with resolve, but with confidence.

In John chapter 1:26-27 says, "John answered them, saying, 'I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.'” This is John the Baptist speaking about Jesus. John the Baptist was a humble man. There is no "woe is me" martyr syndrome in what he's speaking here. He just simply knows what his purpose is, who he has been called to glorify, and he's at peace with it.

That's what humility looks like, confidence without arrogance. It's a peace in one's own skin, without thinking too highly of one's self. There is a humility in acknowledging one's shortcomings and struggles, as well as knowing one's giftings and strengths. Humility is the balance of that. Humility is open and real, humiliation tries to put on a show, and keeps secrets.

I remember a few years ago Jake was briefly under the principalship of a woman in grade school. I went to a chapel service at the school where she spoke to the children there for the first time. My heart sank as I listened to her speak to the kids and she proclaimed to them that they could be "anything they wanted" if they "just put their minds to it." It's my personal opinion that is a lie from the very pit of hell. People get so caught up these days in political correctness that they are lying to kids.

Later I took my son aside and had a talk with him. I wanted him to know what had been spoken to him wasn't true. God has given each of us gifts, strengths and talents, and they are to be used for His glory. No matter how hard they try and work at it, there are just some kids (like my Jake) who will never be able to be the next Derek Jeter (Yankee's shortstop.) But Derek Jeter will probably not ever write the next great American novel, or sing the song that becomes the anthem of a generation. Humility is knowing where your strengths, gifts and talents are, and working to be the best you can and do the most you can with what God has given you. And humility is knowing God has indeed given those tools to you.

With humility comes hope. When you are humble, you know you will fail, but there is a willingness in humility to try again, and to risk the same failure again. Humility is willing to take ownership of one's own sins and failures. Humility has a teachable spirit, it makes one realize there is always something to learn, to improve. Humility gives the respect of at least listening to those who've gone before, and who have been put in your life. Humility heeds the Word of God, and those who impart it to you.

Most of all, humility comes with selflessness, willing to not only acknowledge, but to put ahead, the best interest of someone else ahead of one's self. Humility is willing to die to ones own agenda, schedule, comfort, need, want. Humility is willing to die to self.

Philippians 2:3-8 says this, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!"

What does humility look like? It looks like Christ.

I wonder if it isn't the fear of humiliation that keeps so many of us from humility. I wonder if it isn't the fear that if we don't place value on ourselves, no one else will. But humility isn't lack of value placed, it is value understood. It's knowing that your value comes not from what you do, but from who you are.

This very same verse in Philippians alludes to the inherent value within each one of us that enables us to be humble. It was because of our great value to God that Christ even had to go to the cross. He went because to Him, we worth it.

The bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:6, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time." We are called to make a choice for humility, not to lead to humiliation, but in confidence that God will lift us to the place He's purposed for us in His time. I cannot help but wonder if it isn't our own unwillingness to heed this admonishment from Him that hinders us from being lifted up to the place He's chosen, for our good, and the good of others.

Don't let the fear of humiliation thwart God's purposes for you. Have confidence in His call to your humility.

"But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" James 4:6

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hope Deferred

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick..." Proverbs 13:12a

It is my absolute least favorite verse in the bible, to live out at least.

Every one of us has probably experienced the reality of this verse. I know I have in tenfold. For all the years we were trying to get pregnant with Jacob. My heart was so wounded and heavy. I would just weep. I remember driving in my car often and just crying out to God, begging Him to open my womb.

There was this song I used to play over and over again during that time in my life. The lyrics sang, "I will trust You Lord, when I don't know why, I will trust You Lord till the day I die, I won't lose my faith in the one I love, I will trust You Lord." I listened to and sang them out over and over again, they were my prayer.

My family and I also experienced this "hope deferred" powerfully in the 3 1/2 years that we fought and waited to finalize Ethan's adoption. Time and time again, it was two steps forward, three steps back, at times barely holding hope, begging God to move on our behalf, living with the knowledge that someone could come and take him away from us at a moment's notice. During that season of life the song I sang continually sang "I will bless the Lord forever, I will trust Him at all times, He has delivered me from all fear, He has set my feet upon a rock, I will not be moved, and I'll say of the Lord, You are my shield, my strength, my portion, deliverer, my shelter, strong tower, my very present help in time of need, Whom have I in heaven but You, There's none I desire beside You, You have made me glad..."

These songs were a part of the act of my will. I didn't feel them, they didn't even necessarily always ring true, but they were an anchor to hold to hope.

That sick heart resonates to your bones. It's that pit so deep in your stomach. It's that physical sense of anxiety that you cannot shake, it torments you. Your sleep is disrupted, your joy is hindered. You feel like you are in a dark cave and you can't find the exit, disoriented and lost.

We've all experienced it, but we each react to it in our own way. For many it stalls you at first. You don't know where to move. The birth of the hope is usually a painful thing, it comes from some form of bad news. She's sick. They're separated. The bill comes due and the money isn't there. In that moment you just stop, it's like a blow.

I remember one particular occasion I took a hit like that. We were about 2 1/2 years into the adoption process with Ethan. Something came up in his records that forced us to go back and try to track down another possible birth father. We thought we were on the downward slope and finally getting close to being finalized and then this came up and our hope for that was deferred, put off. Then when we found the young man he stated his intentions to try to take Ethan back. He wanted to take out 2 1/2 year old son, who we had been with every day for those 2 1/2 years and remove him from our family. And there was a very real possibility that he would be able to do so. Hope deferred.

That day is forever etched in my mind. I was completely stalled. I fell apart, I called Neal on the phone at work and we just cried. I called my mom and cried, I called my praying friends and cried. I was overwhelmed with fear and hopelessness.

Then something rose up in me. FAITH. I stopped and purposely turned my eyes away from my circumstance and focused them directly on my God. The same God who had answered my prayer for motherhood in Jacob, fulfilled the personal promise He's made to me about a daughter in Victoria and the same God who had given me Ethan's name before we ever knew what a battle we would face in making him a part of our family.

When the Lord gave me the name of our adopted child it came very clearly to me. His middle name was a family name, appropriate, I felt, for an adopted child, although uncharacteristic of me to do so. I had never considered the name "Ethan" until it blared across my computer screen. It jumped off at me and I knew it was his name before I even knew he was a he. When I looked up the name it said it meant, "permanent." How perfect for an adopted son, and as it turned out, it became a promise to hold to on many difficult days.

Later that day I picked Jake up from school and took the kids to see Neal. It was obvious he had been crying all day long, hope deferred, fear taking grip. I brought his brood to him and let them hug him and love on him. Our shared words of fear earlier in the day were now only his, I spoke words of faith, but Neal was "heartsick."

After I brought the kids home I was in my room and when I walked out into the fall I found 10 year old Jake kneeling on the floor, weeping. I asked him what was wrong and he cried that he didn't want to lose his little brother. I remember standing him up and speaking words of faith, the gift of faith God had restored to me. I reminded him of God's promise over Ethan, I reminded him of God's fulfilled promise in Victoria, I reminded him we were not to look at our circumstance, but we were to look at our God. I watched the faith rise up in my son.

Later when Neal came home he was still heavy hearted, he decided he just wanted to get away from the house with his kids. He was in the front yard setting up the trailer for a bike ride when my mom stopped by. She was worried about us because last she had talked to me I was still in despair. As we all stood in the driveway Neal began to cry and expressed his fear of losing his little boy. Jacob was nearby and he heard him. My heart was full as I watched my young son come over and remind his father of God's faithfulness and provision with conviction.

I've really gone off on a tangent here, but this was such a profound experience in my life, it's one of those moments that I look back at and I know all the struggle was of value. The whole process of what we went through was of great value. I know to the depth of my soul that it was a time in my life that my faith grew deeper, as did Neal's, and so did Jacob's. I also know it was a time that my marriage grew stronger, we became more committed to one another and to our family, and more importantly we realized how deep God's commitment was to us. Not everyone realizes that "third cord" in their marriage. For me it made it even more real to me how important the commitment we made to each other was. It's in stressful seasons like that marriages can be made or broken.

Clearly God proved His faithfulness and commitment to our family through this experience. In April it will be five wonderful years since the day we signed the papers to finalize Ethan's adoption. What a glorious day that was. That's where the 2nd half of Proverbs 13:12 comes in...

"...But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life." Proverbs 13:12b

Have you ever waited and waited for something to come, for an answer to prayer? It's like a light comes on in your whole world. There is life and light and hope. There is a joy unspeakable. Oh that we could live our lives in that joy unspeakable, but alas the hope deferred is far more prevalent in these days, in this world.

That is perhaps the greatest of the hopes deferred, the hope of our salvation.

1 Peter 1:3-8 says...
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

As Christians, we have hope, and it is sure, our salvation is to come, but in the meantime we remain here, in a fallen world, waiting, suffering in our own trials, in watching the hurt of others, hope is deferred time and again. So we must have anchors of faith, Him to hold on to, so that as we ride out the sickness of our hearts, we remind ourselves of God's faithfulness and goodness and that the time will come not "yet again" but gloriously, eventually, once and for all time.

Jesus, come quickly now, in the grief of the various trials, in the diagnoses, the brokenness, in the hurt, and yet also, come once and for all and take us to the glorious hope that is in Your eternal presence.

Are you hurting today? Are you "heart sick" in your suffering or loss, or in your waiting? Jesus desires to have you know Him even more intimately, that His faith may rise up in you and help you to press through the difficult times. But more importantly to remember that this is but a season, that we are not home, these circumstances are not our truth, they are not final, nor even our reality, but rather it is a time to grow, to stretch and to know Him better the One who has called you and purposed You for His eternal plan. Remember, He is with you and for you, and working through you and on your behalf.

Find the anchor to hold to that reminds you of His goodness, remember the things He has done for you, hold to them, hold to Him, as your hope is deferred for when it comes it is indeed the tree of life.

Be blessed in Jesus name.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Current Events

I read this meme on another blog, and because it's been a few days since I posted anything (have to keep up with my BlogHer commitment) and I'm not feeling particularly inspired, or my inspiration may be too revealing, I decided to go with this.

Putting off...
Going through all of Victoria's drawers, she's living out of a laundry basket though, so it needs to be done.

Looking forward to...
Teaching at our church's women's conference in May.

Carefully, my new temporary crown feels tender, and my dentist friend gave me a pretty direct warning about its fragility.

Recently read...
A couple of Nicholas Sparks novels. They were OK, out of character for my reading choices, but an easy read, though a little racy in places.

Want to read...
My Bible more consistently, but need direction.

Nothing specific as of late.

The tax increases that the California legislature approved today.

We were financially solvent.

Amazing Race, it's back; Survivor, it's like a date night; the last season of ER.

We are able to come up with a positive solution to our financial woes.

Whether or not I need to try to let go of certain relationships.

BBQ Beef in the crockpot today, needed something soft to chew and easy. I need more crockpot recipes.

Listening to...
The TV playing in the other room, Family Feud just came on.

Whining about...
Finances, haven't you been listening? ;)

Getting ready to...
Head to the store, we are out of toilet paper and cat food.

How about you?