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’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.

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

Why being a “goody goody” is a really good thing

I felt a sharp twinge of pain as her words cut into me: “You’re such a goody-goody.” 

I didn’t know how to respond.

It was the first day of eighth-grade yearbook class. It was also my first time back in public school since second grade – for most of my life, I had been home schooled.

The official class business was over, so we were all just sitting around and talking. A few of the other students grilled me: Had I ever kissed a boy? Had sex? Smoked a cigarette? Drank alcohol? Stolen?

My answer to everything was a solid “No.” I was only 13, for goodness’ sake! Sure, I dreamed of sharing a kiss with my own prince charming someday, but most of the things they asked about were things I’d never even thought about doing!

Finally, after all my “no’s,” one of the girls made the goody-goody comment.

I didn’t know why they had singled me out, and I wasn’t used to their condescending attitudes – none of my friends were that way, and my family certainly wasn’t.

It hurt. Those words cut deep.

After school, as I waited for my mom to pick me up, I saw one of my friends walking out of the building – what a relief it was to see her! We’d grown up doing church activities together, and I knew she would understand.

Angry, sad, and uncertain, I told her about the whole conversation.

I don’t remember her exact words, but I remember her overall message. She said I shouldn’t let those people get to me. And besides, wasn’t it actually a good thing to be a goody-goody? It was much better to have a reputation for living a wholesome life than to have a bad reputation for getting into trouble.

And the more I thought about it, she was right – I shouldn’t be ashamed of being “good.” Being good was, well, a good thing.

The teasing about my “goodness” continued. I even got a nickname: “Pleasantville.” But eventually, I stopped feeling offended – especially when I realized that the people in that group weren’t the kind of people I wanted for friends, anyway. These classmates didn’t understand me, but my true friends did, and they were the people who really mattered.

Fast forward to college. I went to a Christian university and was surrounded by encouraging friends with similar values. But it seems there was something about me that was just a little different.

I don’t remember who the first person was to say it, or what the situation was, but I remember being surprised to hear it: “You’re so innocent.”

I was “so innocent?” Now what was that supposed to mean?

Perhaps it was the fact that I didn’t understand the dirty double-meanings some words had, or the fact that I never used swear words. I never did quite figure it out. But whatever it was, I grew used to hearing it a lot from my circle of friends.

People used to joke about trying to “corrupt” me – or, on the other hand, would remind each other, “Don’t corrupt Kellie!”

The people saying those things were my friends: We loved and respected each other deeply, and I knew they were just teasing. There was something kind of fun about being “Kellie the Innocent.”

But other times, it irritated me. The way people said it, “so innocent,” sometimes made me feel as if I were less of a person – as if I were completely clueless about life. But that wasn’t the case at all. I had my fair share of knowledge. I just chose to talk, act, and live a certain way, that was all. And as for “corrupting me,” I appreciated the thought, but I could take care of myself.

But looking back, I can see something else beneath those phrases: a hint of admiration, as if I had something precious.

Fast forward to today, and not much has changed. When I moved to a new state after college, guess what came with me: My reputation.

My younger sister has experienced the same thing. “So sweet,” “pure,” “innocent,” “wholesome” – between the two of us, we’ve gotten all of them, and more, almost everywhere we go.

I admit, at times, it can be frustrating, because it feels like people are saying, “You don’t quite fit in with the rest of us.” 

But in those moments, we have to stop and ask ourselves: Just what are we trying to fit in with? 

And really … why should it matter?

Perhaps you’ve felt this way. Maybe you’ve had people pressure you to do things you don’t want to do. Maybe you’ve had people make fun of you because you haven’t done certain things. Maybe you just feel a little different.

But who would you rather be: The girl who has to change herself in order to fit in, or the girl who is confident enough in herself to be who she wants to be? The girl who is just one of the crowd, or the girl who is respected because she clings to her values?

To everyone who’s been called a “goody goody,” or “innocent,” or anything else like that: It’s time to embrace who you are. Embrace your innocence. Hold on to it. Cling to it. And don’t ever let anyone talk you into letting go.

When you cling to who you are, people will be drawn to you not because you’re like them, but because you are you. You’ll find other people like you – other people who share your standards, your mindset. You’ll find people like my friend in eighth grade, who reminded me that really, being called out for being good is a good thing.

It’s good, because it’s the way God has called us to be, as His beloved children:

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a good way to live to me. Won’t you join me?

P.S. In my yearbook, there’s a note from one of those girls in my yearbook class. “Hey Pleasantville! You’re sweet. Don’t ever change.”

Don’t worry, girl – I haven’t. And I won’t. And I’m glad.

If you’d like to learn more about this new blog project, you can find out more here. Thanks for visiting, and I hope you’ll come back next week!