Monday, March 31, 2014

the most important question: a lesson from the Dollhouse family

Everything is going to be okay. Really.

I sat on the shaggy brown rug of my daughter's room playing dollhouse with her.

"You set up the bedrooms and I'll do the bathrooms," she instructed me. Five year old girls are very organized and a little bossy to boot.

We made up all kinds of stories. Brother Johnny Dollhouse broke his leg and had to be rushed to Little People Princess Castle Hospital for a cast. Then Daddy Dollhouse pushed him around in a stroller while whipping up a batch of blueberry pancakes.

Mommy Dollhouse put Baby Isabella on the swing. She fell off and wouldn't stop crying, but thankfully she was okay. That was a close one, though!

The whole family took a boat trip to Paris, which is also conveniently right next to Hawaii. Mommy and Daddy Dollhouse kissed under the Eiffel Tower.

That kiss energized Daddy Dollhouse so much by that he decided to ski off the roof of the house back home, resulting in two broken legs of his own. Poor Daddy Dollhouse, now who will coach Johnny's basketball games?

It's hard to be the Dollhouse family.

After the playing was done, I made some real nonburnt toast in my own real kitchen. I pushed aside a little of last week's lingering sadness while I spread the butter.

Like the Dollhouse family, I'm nursing some broken things.

When what you feel is difficult to process, you have to ask yourself the most important question:
"What do I know?"

Because this is what I feel:

I feel offended.

I feel weary.

I feel inadequate.

I feel misunderstood.

I feel like my needs are endless and my supply is short.

But I know differently. Unless I let what I know do battle against what I feel, I will never overcome my fear, my insecurity, or my sadness.

Broken Dollhouse legs don't worry me too much, because they're not true things. But when the story is unfolding, they are very true to my daughter. It will be okay, though. She knows Little People Princesses can fix a broken Dollhouse boy, and then everyone goes on a grand vacation.

Spit spot, isn't Dollhouse life grand?

I'm not going to tell her how many cynical hearts would scoff at how we play.

This make-believe world my daughter loves has the answer to the most important question.

She's mastered what we need to know in that dollhouse of hers: Everything is going to be okay.

The mean email from an old friend, the judgmental tone of a coworker, the cold response of a spouse, the newest mistake of a wayward child, they all feel so very true. In technicolor brilliance, our sorrows are all true here in the Fallen Kingdom, where sin and evil have access to our lives.

But if we close our eyes, and focus on what we know, we can find refuge in a place much like Little People Princess Hospital. The gates to the Upside Down Kingdom open wide to all who have eyes of faith and hearts of flesh.

Upside Down Kingdom is the place that all the sad things become ways the King makes you new. The King is perfectly able to fix Fallen People like us, and then we go on a grand adventure to show others the way to to the King.

Don't you see? What we feel doesn't have to define our day, our life, or the world. What we know can bind the wounds and soothes the pain.

The King's forgiveness is our joy.

His joy is our strength.

His grace make us enough.

He knows everything about us, understands us, and still loves us.

He never leaves us in the ashes.

We are raised. We are transformed. WE ARE LOVED.

Spit spot, isn't life in Upside Down Kingdom grand?

I take a bite of golden, buttery toast, savoring the beautiful truth that I know. The sadness flees as love saves the day once again in my heart.

Yes, it's grand here. So very, very grand.

Friday, March 28, 2014

marriage is a safe harbor and a giant chocolate cake

“It is God to whom and with whom we travel, and while He is the end of our journey, He is also at every stopping place.” - Elisabeth Elliot

With my head on the pillow, and all the lights out, my mind sifted my soul before I fell asleep last night.

It has been a week full of emotions, happenings, complications, frustrations, joys, and some very sad things. I thought of two faithful sons of God who went on to meet Jesus this week. Rolling around in my head was the week's drama in the news, drama with my kids, drama with our house, and drama that really only existed in my own mind.

How is a girl to sort through it and know what to do with it all?

Lying beside me in the stillness is my best friend, the one who loves me most of all. He is the calm in my storm, and the drama usually ends when I lean into the sound of his voice. He is wise, he is true, he is a gift in my life.

It is possible that I am the luckiest girl in the world. Do other people feel like their marriage is a safe harbor? Does the love of their best friend seem like a room full of balloons and a chocolate cake big enough for the whole world?

I don't know for sure. But I hope everyone finds this kind of love in life.

Because a faithful friend makes all the wacky junk of life seem less important. When he laughs at my story from Target, it doesn't matter who was a jerk in the check-out line or what I wanted to say but didn't have the guts to utter aloud. As he tells me his thoughts on pressing social issues, analyzes insignificant family problems, and catalogs the reasons homemade ice cream is fantabulous, everything just makes more sense. I savor the miracle that this man understands that it's perfectly normal for me to want a Coke and a bubble bath in the middle of a hard homeschool day. He's just the best ever.

If love on earth is this beautiful, I'm pretty sure that means life is good, and heaven will be even better. 

All the drama is worth sludging through, knee-deep in the garbage of life on earth, because this man is beside me, laughing at my jokes, holding my hands, rolling his eyes at my own drama, and cheering me on.

Happy weekend to all my friends, near and far. I hope you have someone to share your drama with today, and if you don't, I pray God comes nearer to you and cheers you on as you wait for love to grow and bloom.

Truly, we are the luckiest people in the world. God offers us a safe harbor in Himself, full of love, laughing at our stories, rolling his eyes at our silly jokes, and knowing us perfectly.

At the end of the day, may we lay our heads on our pillows and remember, we are loved.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

love is like a can of white paint

The kitchen walls just needed a little touch up paint.

Some holes had been patched after moving art around, and for weeks little blotches of white patiently waited for me to go buy a quart of paint and make them disappear.

We had people over several times, and I hoped no one would notice the blemishes on the walls. Not a negative word was ever said, of course, but I'm sure someone wondered about the strange, blotchy white plaster faux finish we had chosen.

In the end it all comes down to this: There are times in life you need to cover the past so you can just move on, already.

But then Home Depot discontinued our paint, and what we ended up with was a real mess.

That's when we decided what we really needed was a clean slate.

So I grabbed some left-over white paint out of the garage. It's straight-up grace in a can. I rolled it over the wall and everything seemed new. 

The mistakes, the flaws, and the whoopsie-daisies were gone forever. White paint somehow became a spiritual rebirth in my heart. Every brush stroke spread hope over life itself.

Once we were done, it was as if I could breathe for the first time in months. I hadn't realized how much the walls had closed in on me, slowly but surely. But now white paint has tamed them and pushed them back where they belong.

It's strange to stand in this room and realize how happy a coat of new paint can make me. Somehow the sight of white walls causes love to glow and grow deep in my soul.

I decided to write it out. First in pencil and then in black paint, I wrote words that have come to carry deep meaning for me the last few months. They are French, and they say that the most important thing in life is love, to live it and do it and make it real for all the world to see.

It's there now, to remind us all. Everything may not always work out, the paint may not match, difficult people may frustrate us, hard things may come our way, and for goodness sake, we will probably make more mistakes than we would like.

Love, though, like a can of fresh white paint, covers a multitude of sins. And for that we can all say thanks and amen.

Monday, March 24, 2014

how a pastor's wife talked about heaven with her children

On an ordinary afternoon last week, I was driving my kiddos home from Target and one of them asked a question about heaven.

"Mom, do you think we will get bored in heaven, if we're just singing and praising God forever?"

I began to explain that our home beyond this world would be more than that. Eternity will be different than our world here, and we will be different too. It's hard to imagine what this means, but there will be no sorrow, no sadness, and no lull in the thrill of joy and glory.

"We won't get bored," I told them. "And when I get to heaven, I'm going to dance."

As the word "dance" floated from my lips, my heart spontaneously broke open, releasing a floodgate of longing. I found tears rolling down my cheeks and my breath was pressed out of my chest.

This all surprised me at first, but then in an instant it made perfect sense. All my faith and hope is bound up in this singular dream.

Yes, I will dance in heaven. I will dance on the grave of death and stomp out the last flame of pain's memory. I will leap for joy and spin in glorious praise of my eternal, victorious Savior.

I will dance because all the sad things will be proven false, all the burdens of sin will dissolve into a hazy dream of the past, and every cell of my being will know the true Love that has sewn us all together for eternity.

I will be transformed into my truest self, because when I see Him I will be just like Him. I will be the dancing queen, a daughter of the King in heavenly places. I will dance the steps I was created to dance. It's my destiny, my purpose, and all these tedious earthly miles are leading me to the day I live at last in His presence.

He has saved all the tears I have cried, and I will pour them out to wash His feet. I have wept for children who should have lived, for lovers who should have been true, for time that healed no real wounds but graciously carried us closer and closer to the Healer of all our broken days.

He will wash away the days of horror this crooked world offered us with the oil of grace that runs from His hands and feet. We will know beauty and love and truth the way we were meant to know them.

At long last, our light will shine unhindered for a thousand, million days and more. Eternity will be everything we have ever longed for, and not one moment will be boring.

In the meantime, He hums the tune of new mercies, and we learn the steps of His dance of love. This is where we practice, where humility and diligence strengthen us, and it is in the darkness that our faith lights the way for others to hear God's faithful song calling them home.

He is worthy of our praise and waiting to see us leap for joy despite our weary bones and uncomfortable earthly shoes. Don't miss your chance, don't cling to the wall and watch others dance without you.

You, too, were made for this dance, sweet son of mine. So dance on, dear children, and watch what God will do.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

the kind of girls you need

Every Tuesday night I sit at a table in a little restaurant and bear witness to a miracle.

Every-week-miracles aren't easy to come by in this cynical world, which makes the holy ground on Tuesdays at La Madeleine even more spectacular.

There we sit, ordinary women, flawed and fabulous, accepting one another, cheering each other on, and praying for God to move in each other's lives. No mean girls. No keeping up with the Joneses. No flippant fakeness keeping reality at arm's length.

There is nothing more beautiful in all the world than that table of women.

Maybe it's the fireplace and the mugs of cocoa overflowing with whipped cream. Perhaps it's because we all drag in there, burdened from crazy people, loud kids, and flying monkeys chasing us through the day. It's possible that it is our prayers, our deep need for God, and our genuine willingness to let it all hang out that makes the time between 7:30 and 9:30 pm holy and magical with Jesus rainbows.

I don't know how it happens, exactly. But I know these are the kind of girls you need in life.

We are the truth-tellers, the encouragers, the wayward hearts, the wise counsel, the broken hearted, and the faithful. All of us are all of these things to each other.

We are Marthas turned into Marys, and we gather together at the feet of our Lord to pour out our best for Him.

I hope this lasts forever. I hope I always have girls around me who will hold me up and hem me in, who will listen to my heart and point me to God.

Here's to all the girls out there who love Jesus more than the pretty things, more than the perfect facade, more than a good drink, a great man, and a gorgeous face. You are all miracles. 

Go ahead and dazzle us with your love for God. You are just the kind of girl the world needs.

And if you're ever in Austin on a Tuesday night? Well, there's always more room at our table.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

5 ways to keep your baby from growing up

My baby turned five last November, and I really thought I was done being sad about it. I thought I had embraced the fun of painting toes on bathroom floors during big girl "spa days". I felt so accepting of her new role as "little mama", organizing pantry items and scolding boys for muddy shoes. I was so proud that I no longer choked on the words "She's five." when asked her age by a stranger.

But now she has a loose tooth (and she is unacceptably excited about it). The mama gloves are coming off. My baby's whole face is about to change and I may not make it through this.

Babies. Don't. Lose. Teeth.

I have devised a plan to slow the aging process. I realize she won't stay little forever, but I also refuse to remain powerless. Here are 5 ways I plan to keep her little for a little longer.

5. Deal gently with loose teeth. None of this "Wiggle it all day, and it will come out in no time!" advice will be coming from me. If she leaves it alone, it should take at least twice as long to fall out. I won't lie to her, of course. I'll just distract her with puzzles and a new pony when she starts yanking on her baby teeth.

4. Sew all her clothes by hand. My daughter is no longer wearing "toddler" sizes. Unfortunately, she wants to dress like a tween and can now fit into those kinds of clothes, too. Obviously, we will have to avoid the stores altogether. I will have to learn to make flouncy things and convince her to wear embroidered teddy bear dresses. Should be easy, right?

3. Do some good branding work on the term "my baby". Foolishly, I have encouraged her to be "big" and not to be a "baby". This kind of propaganda was super helpful with potty training, ending fussy fits, and kicking the sippy cup habit. But I see the error of my ways now. Time to remind her that "my baby" gets special presents, rides on shoulders at parks, and extra dessert. (Of course, babies in our house have never had these privileges before, but I have the power to make it happen. So it's happening.)

2. Discourage her rapidly accelerating progress at reading. While the boys do their schoolwork, I keep my daughter busy with workbooks and reading games. She is reading all kinds of words, and seems to have a natural knack for spelling. Clearly, I will need to intervene. From now on, she may only color Winnie the Pooh coloring pages and then take a three hour nap. If she objects, I will remind her that she's my baby (see #3).

1. Take P.A.R.T. as a parent to slow time down. P.A.R.T. is an acronym that stands for Play, Adore, Read, and Talk. (Yes, I made this up.) I realize that time actually ticks on whether like it or not, and the best way to have more time with my daughter while she is little is to make the most of every moment. I need to Play princesses and UNO with her more. When I tuck her in bed I need to spend an extra five or ten minutes holding her little self in my arms and telling her how much I Adore her. In the middle of an ordinary Wednesday, I need to put my list of things-to-do aside and sit in a big chair with twenty books and Read until the stack is finished. When we drive here and there, when we eat dinner as a family, when she is sitting near me on the sofa, I need to Talk to her. The more I hear her heart's ponderings about unicorns and silly words, applesauce and swimming pools, loose teeth and sparkly shoes, the more I will love who she is, remember who she was, and be excited about who she is becoming.

Because at the end of the day, my baby is growing up and she is very excited about it. I need to admit the truth- that all this motherhood business is the most horrible, wonderful thing that ever happened to me. I positively cherish everything about it- even the wiggly teeth.

Monday, March 17, 2014

how not to be disillusioned in your dreams

I know it's almost Easter, and not anywhere close to Christmas, but I've got Wise Men on the brain.

It could be the big ol' star I'm chasing (AKA "write that book God keeps whispering about in my ear"). I keep finding myself wandering in the desert, with all the action happening way off in the distance.

Moments like this make me wonder if I got the signs all mixed up along the way. The wise men sought a king, followed a star, and ended up at the door of a carpenter's son.

When the star hangs above the most common thing in the world, disillusionment beckons.

Of course, on the AD side of history, the commonness seems like just part of a larger, more amazing story named "Jesus", I wonder if the Wise Men felt a little disappointed when they stared at Mary standing there with little Jesus on her hip.

Am I willing to chase a dream and end up handing my treasure over to a powerless baby? Deep in my sinful heart, my answer is "No."

Frankly, that scares me.

Because that answer speaks of deeper things, it hisses with my own agenda. Apparently, I don't want to be the person who accepted God's call to do His "thing" unless it brings me to a perfect fairy tale ending.

All these dark bubbles of fear and selfishness are proof that God is a genius at loving girls with broken souls. He calls me out of darkness by hanging the star over the door to my own will, and His light leads me out of myself and deeper into Him.

Whose dream is it, after all? For whose glory is this "thing" done? For whose pleasure do we live?

The piercing truth is simple: God's dreams involve more dying than I may like.

Maybe the Wise Men were confused. Maybe Mary told them her story so they would understand better. But maybe she didn't. Maybe they just looked up, saw that the star did, indeed, hang above that house, and maybe that was enough for them.

In the end, they accepted the purpose of their journey was to find this baby. We know that because they gave him their gifts. They poured out riches meant for a King at the feet of a carpenter's son.

The imperfect ending to my dream might be one small piece God's majestic plan. 

We all have dreams God has given us. We all have gifts God has written into our stories. We are meant to pour our gifts into our dreams and then watch God do as He pleases with all of it. 

We are made to love and obey God with no strings attached.

It's confusing here in the desert.

It's hard to keep walking when we don't really know where we are going.

It's strange to think I am supposed to write a book that may crash and burn. But I would rather go down in a blaze of glory for Christ than never muster the faith to light a tiny match.

Look up, and see God's star hanging overhead. We stand wonderfully close to the King of all things.

The disillusionment dissolves in the light of His glorious star. We are right where we are meant to be, and the happiest of all endings is just over the horizon....

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

how to be healed

Jesus once asked a crippled man, who had been sick for thirty-eight years and was lying beside healing waters this question:

God says some crazy stuff to us sometimes.

Then the man gives all the reasons he can't possibly be healed. And Jesus answers with a simple command:

Again, crazy stuff. Go ahead, pick up your comfort, do the thing you have longed to be able to do for almost four decades, and move on with your life. 

Is it really that simple? Can a person just want to be made whole in the presence of Almighty God and have all the weary troubles of yesterday lifted in an instant?

Apparently the answer to that question can be yes.

Because you want healing. Because God has commanded healing. Because you have laid there long enough, blaming your circumstances, and now it's time to do other things.

What if, no matter how difficult our circumstances, we could live for God right here today?

What if we found that standing and walking took us right where we always wanted to be in the first place? 

What if our sadness was washed away, our fears were quenched, and our rebellious hearts were pierced? 

What if our lack of self-control, discipline, and endurance could evaporate in His presence? 

What if our bodies could be healed and our souls made whole- today?

If we can serve God in the midst of these troubles, I bet we could serve God anytime, anywhere.

That would be some crazy stuff to believe and ask and hope for, wouldn't it? But maybe that's the point. Maybe Jesus is so radical that He isn't simply satisfied with making us comfortable until we get to heaven.

Maybe He wants to do something miraculous and crazy for us

I've decided. I would rather be crazy and healed than lie here and tell you why it's too hard to make it happen.

So today, I am praying for the courage to pick up my mat and walk, to hook my heart of the joy of my salvation and leave yesterday's crippling circumstances behind me. 

You can call me crazy if you'd like. I won't mind. I'll just keep walking on.

Monday, March 10, 2014

how to stay married and happy

Today Mr. Fantastic and I celebrate 13 years of marital bliss/hard-won reconciliation/ lessons in selfishness and humility.

Marriage is one long commitment to work it out made by two people who like each other enough to legally unite their lives in front of a bunch of friends and relatives. I realize that my definition of marriage doesn't sound romantic. But, marriage doesn't always feel romantic, either. That doesn't make it any less amazing.

In fact, romantic love is easy to do. It's loving the person you want to smack that's hard.

In the best-case scenario world, you never regret the decision to be together forever. In the worst-case scenario, the whole crazy thing falls to pieces. Most of us live somewhere between those two extremes. 

For me and Mr. Fantastic, thirteen seems to be our lucky number. We are really, sincerely happy together these days. The golden lasso around our hearts is a life-defining respect for one another that has grown over the years. We have individually sucked it up for the team many times, and the grinding of our wills has made us shiny and new in love.

Any cynical onlooker would probably think it's disgusting, but I find my husband positively dreamy and he thinks I am the cat's pajamas. Go ahead and be nauseated, we can't get enough of each other.

Our life is still peppered with struggles and conflict, but the work we have put into our relationship the last few years has bullet-proofed us against those nasty fiery darts. I may feel like a failure in other areas, or be discouraged and confused about my career and projects, but after the day is done, I am loved and I love in return. 

So, after thirteen years of marriage, my best advice is to do the hard labor it takes to make your marriage a refuge. Curl up on the sofa and talk about the hardest and best parts of the day. Play a game of dominoes in front of a roaring fire. Pick up a tiramisu on the way home and eat it with two forks while laughing at a stupid movie that only the two of you think is funny. Send suggestive texts to each other. Tell the kids to stay away from Dad's favorite cheddar and sour cream potato chips. Make the bed to make her happy, then immediately mess it up together that same night while you make each other happy. Laugh a lot, be transparent with each other, pray together, and use kind words. We are all wonderful, flawed people who married other wonderful, flawed people, and we need our spouses so much

Thirteen years is only the beginning of the happiness for me and my Mr. Fantastic.

Morgan, I love you for real, for true, and for always. Our best things are just over the horizon....

Friday, March 7, 2014

the miracle that is in our children

My dear friend Megan had her first baby this week. The story of her road to motherhood is miraculous and amazing and so beautiful that thinking about it makes my heart explode sparkles and rainbows.

I get to go meet her little lovely girl today, and I am beyond excited. I went to the bookstore yesterday and found the sweetest picture book, You Are My Miracle to give her:

The last line of the book is, "I am your peace on earth, you are my miracle." I can't think of a better description of the beautiful part of motherhood, when your heart somehow manages to find the sweet spot of your child's and you both just... know.

Of course, I also know that the days are long. I have wanted to punch my fist through walls when poop is places it simply shouldn't be. I have wished I could send children to their rooms for about 72 bazillion minutes of time out to think about why you never throw scissors at your sibling. I have looked for magic rocket ships with massage chairs and chocolate cake machines that could carry me off to mars for a break from the messiness of mothering. This business of raising children is hard.

But I have laughed with more joy as my children delighted me with their stories than I ever expected. The way they hug me and their bodies melt into mine at ages 5, 7, 9, and 10 has changed who I am. I can't really explain how their love for me has transformed the fiber of my identity. These children have chosen to love me despite my failings, probably because I never got on that rocket ship or sent them to their rooms for 72 bazillion minutes, and when my anger has risen, my repentance has quickly followed.

We really do reap what we sow.

I pray we will all find new ways to be the safe place for our children, to offer them a little hideaway of peace on earth. I am asking God to fill you with the miracle of life and love that He has placed in your life by giving you His children. 

Have a wonderful weekend, friends. And if you are about to hit spring break next week like we are, well, Happy Spring Break! It's going to be a week full of movie nights and games of Sorry and hours at the library and painting projects and day trips and friends galore. I can't wait!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

when your birthday is on Ash Wednesday

Thirty-eight years ago today in Tustin, California, my mama gifted me into the world with strength and breath. She was a brave one, birthing babies drug free and naturally. I am forever grateful for her love.

I was named after two amazing women, my mama's favorite Aunt Carrie and my daddy's amazing mama Lorraine.

Carrie means "song of joy" and I have spent thirty-eight years trying to learn that song. Some days the melody rises from my lips effortlessly. On others I sing the song in faith, trusting that joy will come in the morning.

Here it is, March 5, 2014, Ash Wednesday and my birthday, too. It seems completely appropriate to mix these two days into one. Mourning and birthing, sorrow and joy, sin and victory, they are both necessary to understand this world of burnt toast.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, a day to remember our need for a Savior. But when Christians mourn our sinfulness, we also rejoice in God's gift in Christ. God the Son, born to a brave mama, destined to give life to all of us trapped in death.

Mourning is a doorway to everlasting joy.

Mr. Fantastic has been quoting Martin Luther lately. "All of life is repentance," he says. On this happy day of presents and love, I know it is true deep in my heart.

I laugh with my parents on the phone as they swear we aren't all getting flat-out old. They gave me more second chances in the midst of my non-repentant youth than I deserved. But they don't regret it. It was joy to see me work it all out in the end.

I let my true love's arms open wide and accept me just as I am. The repentance flows afresh as I consider the weight I often add to his strong shoulders. He bears it well, and loves me more with each passing year. It's a miracle, no doubt about it.

I look at these four faces and repent that I have only a measure of time for them, that I squander too much of it worrying about the mostly meaningless details of life. They are gifts of love and grace, full of boundless lessons written by God's own hands.

God is in our midst. Repentance is the doorway to grace, and His lordship is the key.

He will never leave us nor forsake us. He will bless us with the divine birth of Christ in us, our eternal hope, our great shining glory.

Happy Ash Wednesday to all my dear friends. I hope today you mourn your weakness and sin, yet relish God's gift of victory. You are a precious gift to me. Every comment you leave, every encouraging "write on" email I receive, every retweet, like, and favorite, is grace and love in action in my life.

Thank you! May the next few weeks lead us all deeper into God's love.

Monday, March 3, 2014

prayers that can make you beautiful

Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
-2 Corinthians 14:16-18

When I was eleven years old, I frequently pressed my face up close to the mirror in the bathroom, intently examining my eyes, cheeks, nose, and chin. I was like a reverse archaeologist, searching for evidence of future beauty in my face.

Junior high came and (thank the Almighty) it ended. I passed through high school and college, and eventually married, had babies, turned thirty. Then thirty-five came and the thought of my forty-year-old self became a reality.

At some point, I stopped pressing my face up close to the mirror like I did when I was younger. Along the way, in the midst of baby weight drama, cross-country moves, bad haircuts, I began to choose to live and write that beauty is as beauty believes. 

I turn 38 this week. As you get older, your age comes to be defined by what you choose to believe about it. Americans worship youth, and it's tempting to dread the ever-increasing number attached to your life.

I choose to wear mine like a badge of glory. God's goodness has increased exponentially to me as the calendar pages flipped along. Aging is full of joy when you cling to Christ.

Looking in the mirror today, I see that in many ways I am outwardly wasting away. An abundance of fine lines are forming around my mouth. My skin is slackening ever so slightly. My face is changing with the passing of years.

Every cosmetic commercial and ad says that this is the beginning of the end of my youth and beauty- unless I buy their miracle products. But by faith, there's more for us than that.

Today I find my reflection dazzling with beauty because there is a new prayer in my heart, and every time my lips utter it, I find peace and joy in new measure.

"Fill me with Your beauty, Lord."

I don't want to look like a Hollywood star, a perfect model, or Princess Kate on the cover of People. Yes, the world is full of beautiful women. But I don't just want to look beautiful; I want to pour beauty out into the world

I really only want to be as beautiful as God chooses to make me. If this face is good enough for Him, then it's good enough for me, too.

No lotion can renew me. There is not a serum that promises that the best days are still awaiting me just beyond this life. And if there was a potion that could actually turn back the hands of time and make me twenty-five again, I would pour it right down the drain.

Because I want more than eternal youth. I want to be who God has called me to be. For now, that is a thirty-eight year old woman who reads the lines on her face and finds there is a beautiful ballad of God's faithfulness written there. 

His beauty truly outshines us all, and He gives it to all who press themselves close to Him and seek His face. And that's a miracle worth praying for.

One thing I ask from the Lord,

    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.
-Psalm 27:4