Just rest

I split the mound of dough in two, then read the next step in the directions:

“Cover; let rest for 10 minutes.”

Yes, in the midst of all that rising, even bread dough needs to rest.

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You are more than your grades

My cheeks turned bright red, and my stomach churned as I stared at the test.

This couldn’t be right! I was an “A” student. I had never gotten an “F” on anything in my life!

But there was my score, staring back at me on the top of my math test.

I had failed.

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You’re already “enough”

“I just try so hard to be good enough,” I sobbed.

For months, the stress had been building. The to-do list, the exhaustion, the expectations, the self-doubt . . . they kept piling up, until finally, I collapsed under their weight.

My mother took me in her arms, comforting me. I don’t remember her exact words, but they went something like this: You don’t have to be “good enough,” because Christ has already done the work.

And suddenly, all the other stuff didn’t matter so much.

It was a Martha moment.

When Jesus went to visit Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42), each of the two sisters responded in totally different ways. Mary sat at His feet, listening to His every word. Meanwhile, Martha was stressing. She was trying to be the perfect hostess, and her sister wasn’t even helping! How could she just sit there like that?!

Finally, Martha could handle it no more: “Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.'”

I don’t know exactly what was going through her head, but I imagine she expected affirmation from Jesus — maybe, “Thanks for all the hard work you’re doing, Martha,” or even, “Mary, why can’t you be more like her?”

Imagine how she felt when she heard Jesus’ answer: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is only need of one thing…”

Perhaps her face turned bright red, as her pride turned to shame. Maybe she turned her eyes, blazing just moments earlier, down to the newly swept floor as she let his words sink in. Imagine how her heart softened as she realized the truth in Jesus’ words: “Mary has chosen the better part.”

In Jesus’ eyes, it was more important for them to sit and listen to His words, to be with Him, than to worry about all the serving.

“There is need of only one thing,” He said. And that one thing is a person: Him.

There are moments in life when we need a little bit of Martha. We need to take care of our responsibilities and work hard. We want to practice hospitality, and we are called to serve others. But the completion of tasks should never push our precious time with God out of the way.

And we need to remember something very important: Our value does not come from the way our friends see us. It doesn’t come from the way teachers or supervisors see us. It doesn’t come from being a brilliant student, a star athlete, or a talented artist.

Although the physical person of Jesus doesn’t come through our front doors to visit us the way He did Mary and Martha, He does come to us in another way. We have God’s precious words in Scripture, and he responds to us there.

When we say, “I’m exhausted,” God says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

When we say, “I’m weak,” God says, “They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength . . .” (Isaiah 40:31).

When we say, “I’m afraid,” God says,”Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (John 14:24).

When we say, “I’m not good enough,” God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to be the best. We don’t have to be “good enough.” And we should stop working ourselves up over it. Because in His eyes, we are worth dying for. 

And you know what else? He is more than enough for us.

Why I’m glad to have three kidneys and a heart condition

You are beautiful. You are precious. And you were created with a purpose.

Yes, you with the back problem that keeps you from doing the activities you love.

Yes, you with the injury that won’t stop bothering you, even though you had surgery weeks ago.

Yes, you with the hearing issue. You with the diabetes. You with the asthma.

Yes, you with the dyslexia, and you with the depression.

Yes, you—the girl who doesn’t feel “normal” because you don’t function the same way everyone else does. You are precious.

I’m convinced that everyone has some kind of struggle to overcome. Some of our challenges are more visible than others, but we’ve all got something. And it’s up to each of us to decide how to live.

I’ve got three kidneys and a heart condition.

Madeline shows off her new scar to her schoolmates. This image is from the book "Madeline," by Ludwig Bemelmans. Find more about Madeline at madeline.com.

Madeline shows off her new scar to her schoolmates. This image is from the book “Madeline,” by Ludwig Bemelmans. Find more about Madeline at madeline.com.

Yes, you read that right: three kidneys. I was born with duplicated kidneys—four small ones, with each pair fused together, instead of two large ones. When I was a toddler, one of my kidneys and the ureter that went with it weren’t working right, so I had surgery to have them removed. I’ve got a scar that stretches 5 1/2 inches across my middle, just below my ribs.

I’ve never been ashamed of that scar. It’s a scar of honor. It shows that I’ve overcome something.

It helps that Madeline, one of my favorite children’s book characters, also has a scar to be proud of. She had her appendix taken out. She even has a song about it! (Pssst—there’s more to read after the video.)

Thank you, Madeline.

But that’s not all. My siblings and I all have a genetic heart condition, passed down from our mom’s side of the family. It’s called Long QT Syndrome. It takes our hearts an extra long time to “recharge” after each beat. Because of that, a sudden change in heart rate could cause cardiac arrest. In other words, if my heart rate changes to quickly, my heart could stop working right, and I could faint—or worse.

It’s not something I like to think about. But with a little medication and some lifestyle adjustments, it’s manageable. We’ve all known about it since we were little, so we’re used to it.

It’s become part of who we are. And I can’t imagine life without it.

I clearly remember a comment one of my classmates made after high school graduation rehearsal: “I’ve never told you this, but I’m sorry about your heart.”

It surprised me. Sorry? What was there to be sorry about? I don’t remember exactly what I said back, but it was something like, “Thanks, but there’s no reason to be sorry about it.”

That doesn’t mean life has always been easy. One of my high school teachers was so precautious, we had a class drill over what to do if I fainted during class.

In dance class, my teachers knew that if I felt like I was dancing too hard, I might need to rest. They never pressured me to push myself beyond my abilities, and there was enough balance between fast and slow that I never needed to sit out. Dance was the perfect sport for me.

I dreaded P.E. class. I struggled through, not only physically, but emotionally. Despite being in great physical shape, I couldn’t run the timed mile in the required amount of time. It was too much for me. I had two other friends with health issues in my class, and we felt out of place as we walk-jogged behind the other students because we physically couldn’t push ourselves to run the way they could. I don’t know about my friends’ grades, but my grades suffered because of it. I got a “D” on a semester final because I wasn’t fast enough.

There were other challenges in P.E., too. But thanks to support from my parents and from others at the school, those challenges led to big changes in the school’s P.E. program. Future students wouldn’t have to struggle the way I did. (You can read the full story here, if you’d like. I wrote about it when I was still a teen.)

Yes, the things that challenge us really can make us stronger.

I’ve often asked myself if I would trade my kidneys and heart for new, “perfect” organs. The answer is always, “No!”

If I didn’t have three kidneys, I wouldn’t have a crazy fact to share during “Two Truths and a Lie.”

As for my heart, it’s helped me see the value in every day. It’s helped me realize that life shouldn’t be taken for granted. It’s helped me take better care of myself. It’s helped me relate to the challenges others face.

The challenges I’ve had because of it have helped shape me. If I had a normal heart, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.

Your physical abnormalities, or whatever you want to call them, do not define you. The fact that your body does not work like everyone else’s does not make you any less valuable than anyone else. You challenges are just one small part of you, and the influence they have on your life is up to you.

You can let your challenges hold you back, or you can face them, embrace them, and learn to live with them.

You might have unique struggles, but you also have unique joys. You have the opportunity to grow in ways that no one else can. You can live a life that no one else will live.

You are beautiful.

You are precious.

And you were created with a purpose.

Don’t let the challenges keep you from becoming the person you were meant to be.

“For it was You who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.” – Psalm 139:14-15

Broken

God’s taught me a lot through broken things.

In high school, it was the family nativity set. It crashed to the floor when my little brother accidentally overturned the table.

Life was already shattered enough – Mom was in the hospital, and Christmas was just a few days away. Broken pieces of porcelain lay scattered on the rug.

Broken.

But the shepherd piece didn’t break, didn’t chip, didn’t have a scratch. As I held that porcelain shepherd in my hands, the Good Shepherd held me in His.

The Good Shepherd held us together. He spoke to my heart, “Trust me.” And Mom came home for Christmas – our own Christmas miracle.

* * * * *

After college, at the beginning of graduate school, it was my dishes – not the practical everyday ones, but the ones I treasured: mugs I’d received as gifts or bought as souvenirs, teacups passed down through my family.

Alone in my new apartment in an unfamiliar town, I wept as I unpacked the box and saw the damage. Shards of memories lay scattered on the carpet.

Broken.

Broken cups can’t hold anything, and I felt empty. But when God poured out His love, my cup overflowed.

* * * * *

This time, it was a teapot.

I’d admired that teapot in a quaint shop in Texas, and my husband noticed. He secretly ordered it and had it shipped to my grandma’s house for Christmas.

But the box was too small. The bubble wrap popped, the paper didn’t help, and the pressure broke the teapot. When my husband opened it to wrap it, he was crushed. His first Christmas gift for his wife, broken.

My heart leapt when he showed me – what a surprise! – yet sank at how he must feel, and how broken that teapot was.

IMG_1174I picked a pretty new teapot from a fancy department store. But I kept the old one, too.

The fancy one went on display.

The other one waited. It waited until this week, when I bought some glue and decided it was time to fix it.

Gently, I lifted it out of the box, out of the wrinkled brown paper and popped bubble wrap.

IMG_1132As I held that broken teapot, I recognized myself.

Broken. 

I’d cried more in the past few months than I cared to admit. Stress with work, stress with money, stress with life, stress with stress – all had brought out a surge of raw emotion.

The sun shone, the birds twittered, and the leaves rustled in the breeze, but I cried. There were precious good days and beautiful joy-filled moments. But lots of days felt dark, and I didn’t know what to do.

I wondered, “Is this where You want me to be?”

I felt sad, dry, lost.

And thanks to the teapot, I realized: broken.

I set the teapot on the table and examined it.

IMG_1146Unwrapped and out of the box, it didn’t look too terribly awful. The base wasn’t broken, so it could stand on its own. The tape meant to hold the lid on held most of the teapot together, so though a few big pieces came loose and left gaps, it didn’t fall apart completely. Some pieces hung a little, suspended by the tape.

It had the illusion of being held together, kind of. But the reality was, it was still broken. Very broken.

Before it could be fixed, it had to be taken apart, broken down all the way.

Gently, I began pulling off the tape, piece by piece. It left traces of sticky residue I had to clean off. And with each piece of tape I pulled away, the damage became more clear.

IMG_1151It was worse than I thought. I saw cracks that had been hidden before, held together by the pressure of the tape.

Now, all the pieces lay before me on the table.

And I knew I had to lay myself bare before God. I had to let Him take off the tape, let go of the illusion of “having it together.” I had to let Him clean off the residue of my stubbornness. I had to admit the truth.

I surrendered and fell to pieces.

Broken.

* * * * *

IMG_1153 One piece at a time, I started putting that teapot back together. It took longer than I thought – a few evenings, instead of one afternoon.

One piece at a time, God started putting me back together. He’s not done yet, and it’s taking longer than I’d like. But that’s God’s timing, not mine.

Jonah was in the fish for three days before that fish spat him out on the shore. Paul was blind for three days before the scales fell from his eyes. And Lazarus wasn’t healed – he died. But Jesus did something more miraculous than mere healing – He raised him from the dead.

Stubbornness guided Jonah, persecution drove Paul, and death defeated Lazarus. But what sin and death crushed, God repaired.

IMG_1182I fixed the teapot. The lines where the pieces come together still show, but I like it that way. Those lines say that this teapot was broken, but it was too precious to be thrown out.

More importantly, God is fixing me. My flaws remind me of who I’ve been and point me to who I’d like to be. They remind me that in God’s hands, I’m too precious to be thrown out, even when I’m broken.

And God knows something more about brokenness than mere observation and repair. He’s felt it for himself.

Jesus was broken for us.

His precious body was bruised, pierced, crushed, so that we could be put back together. But God doesn’t use glue. He uses Grace.

Out of our brokenness, He does His most magnificent work. All those broken pieces that make up each and every one of us – God shapes them into something beautiful. IMG_1180