Green Is Not Your Color

A sound heart is the life of the flesh_ but envy the rottenness of the bones.-2.png

Guys, you’re welcome to read today’s devotion, but since we’ve just passed Mother’s Day, I’d like to direct some thoughts toward my female readers.

Okay, ladies, by a show of hands, how many of you heard some reference to the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 this weekend?  Yes, I see those hands.  And how many of you cringed a bit as the passage was read?  Yeah, me too.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love God’s Word, and I know it is perfect, holy, and right in every way.  It is full of encouragement and strength, but there’s just something about Proverbs 31 that tends to make me feel inferior and even downright lazy.  Can I get an “Amen”?

Of course, it doesn’t help any that when I read it, I immediately think of a real-life example that seems to fit the virtuous woman in every way.  I’m speaking of Joanna Gaines.  For those who don’t recognize the name, she (along with her husband, Chip) is the star of the popular show, Fixer Upper. In addition to being a star, she is a mom of five who owns multiple businesses and seems to excel at anything she sets her hands to.

In her “spare time,” Joanna grows her own vegetables and herbs, helps out on the family farm, and bakes delicious treats for friends and family alike.  Not only is she talented, but she’s beautiful too — the perfect hair, teeth, skin tone, and figure.  To be honest, as much I as enjoy watching Fixer Upper, I tend to come away feeling a bit green. . .with envy.

Why do we ladies do that?  Why do we insist on comparing ourselves to others?  Don’t we realize that God made us who we are for a reason?  Why is it so difficult for us to understand that we’re unique in our own way?

I wish I had answers to those questions, but I’m afraid I don’t.  The truth is, I fall into the pit of envy more often than I can count, especially now that my health is holding me back in so many ways.  I look at those around me who keep immaculate homes, cook gourmet meals, and raise their families, all while holding down a grueling job, and think What’s wrong with me?  Why can’t I be a better wife, housekeeper, cook, etc.?  Then, I start to feel sorry for my dear husband, and before long, I conclude that if I feel like I’m letting him down as a helpmeet, he must believe the same about me (even though he has NEVER said or done anything to make me think that.)

It’s not Jason that causes the chaos in my thoughts and turns my self-pity into self-loathing.  It’s envy.  Envy is dangerous, and it is a powerful weapon in Satan’s arsenal. . .especially when dealing with us, ladies.  Many, many verses in the Bible address envy, but this one grabs my attention every time:

For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
— James 3:16

Ouch!  Envy doesn’t stop at making me feel like a loser.  It progresses into bitterness, resentment, and so much more.  It is the seed from which confusion and evil works grow.  Envy leads people to do stupid things and to cause great havoc not just in their own lives, but in the lives of all those around them.  It causes strife, heartache, and in the end, despite the progression, envy remains.  Never satisfied.  Never quenched.  Instead, it grows bigger and bigger until we, too, are never satisfied.  We want more.  We want something different.  We become so blinded to our strengths and blessings that all we can focus on is how we feel we’re lacking.  And we carry that sense of “not enough” with us into all our relationships, creating a burden for those we love.

I’ll be the first to admit that stopping envy in its tracks is laborious.  It’s so easy to allow those thoughts to creep in and take root, but we must be on guard and catch those nasty weeds before they take over the garden of our heart.  One verse that helps me do that is found in my favorite book of the Bible.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
— Psalm 139:14

Speaking this truth aloud sends the enemy and his weapon of envy fleeing in the opposite direction.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  That is what God has to say about me, and God is never wrong.  His works are marvelous, and I am one of His works; therefore, I must be marvelous.  

Now, here comes the tricky part:  my soul knows it.  I struggle with that a bit, but repetition aids learning.  So, I keep telling myself this truth as many times as it takes until it sinks in:  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  God doesn’t make junk.  He doesn’t make worthless individuals.  I am not lazy.  I have a health condition, and that’s a different story entirely.  I may not be able to do what others can do, but they have no idea how to be me either.  Besides, I can only see what others want me to see.  I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.  Sure, their home may be immaculate, but is it full of joy?  Which is more important?  I have nothing to prove to anyone, even myself.  God’s work is marvelous, and I am privileged to be His work.  And He’s also promised He’s not done with me yet, so I can take comfort in knowing I’m a marvelous work in progress.

My dear lady friend, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.  You are beautiful, marvelous, and unique.  Don’t let envy steal your joy, strength, or peace.  Don’t allow it to cause strife and division in your home and relationships.  Stop it in its tracks by speaking God’s truth aloud.  Use the Scripture above or find your own and take it to heart until your soul knows the truth—You are amazing!

I Am Who I Am

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Over the Christmas holidays, my brother-in-law was telling how he bought my sister the entire series of the old show, Little House on the Prairie.  “Oh, I love that show,” I confided, “but I can’t watch it anymore because every episode makes me cry like a baby.” He laughed.  I laughed, but inwardly I cringed a little, thinking ‘So what?  Who cares if I cry?’  Then, I realized I do.

This year, for me, is about getting real, about accepting who I am and who God made me to be.  So, here’s the truth of the matter:  I am the biggest cry baby on the face of the earth, and believe it or not, most of my tears aren’t those shed in sadness over my own circumstances.  No, most of them are either shed for others or tears of joy.  This is why I sob like a baby when I watch the touching episodes (which they’re all touching to me) of Little House on the Prairie, When Calls the Heart, Doctor Quinn Medicine Woman and the like.  I have even, on occasion, sat and cried over a commercial or a cartoon.  Don’t laugh; I’m serious.

But, get this.  I do everything in my power not to cry, or at the very least, not to let others see how choked up I’m getting.  It’s embarrassing.  I don’t want people to think I’ve lost my mind (after all, enough people already think that about me).  I want to be “normal,” and normal people don’t cry over cartoon characters, right?  Can I get an “Amen”?

The more I’ve thought about it, though, the more I’ve wondered, ‘What is normal?’  We are all different.  We were created to be unique individuals, not multiple copies of a single template.  We have different personalities, characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, quirks and more.  There is no normal or abnormal.  There is only who and what God made us to be.

As for me, God gave me a tender heart, and when I say “tender,” I mean TENDER.  If you cry, I’ll cry with you.  If you hurt, I feel your pain.  When I can’t empathize, I sympathize. It’s just the way I am.  It doesn’t matter if the subject of my attention is a person, an animal or a character portrayed on television.  My heart breaks for the brokenhearted and rejoices with the joyful.  And the more I think about it, the more I realize that’s not a bad thing.  Yes, it makes me more emotional than most.  Yes, it means others may ridicule me for crying over a commercial.  But that’s okay because it also means I relate to people.  It shows that I truly care and that God’s love is blossoming forth in my heart.  So, if that makes me weird or abnormal, I’m okay with that.

What about you?  Do you have a characteristic or quality about yourself that you’re embarrassed about?  Do you hide your true self because you fear what others may say?  If so, I urge you to take a closer look at that quality and see if there isn’t a “good side” to it as well.  In fact, you may find–as I did–that the good of it certainly outweighs the bad.  God made you to be you, not someone else.  After all, there’s only one of you in this entire universe.  If you don’t be you, who will?

As for me, I’m taking my motto of  “Get Real” to its fullest extent.  I’m ready to be “me” instead of being the person I want everyone else to see.  I want to be the Dana that God intended for me to be.  So, if we’re at an event together, and you’re wondering which person is me, look for the redhead with splotchy cheeks, a red nose, and watery eyes.  That’s me. . . the real me!

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
— Psalm 139:14
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The Camera Doesn't Lie. . .Or Does It?

This weekend, while browsing through Facebook, I came across a picture of a dear friend.  She was out and about, having a good time with other friends and family.  This is not unusual, for unlike me, she's a social butterfly.  What was unusual were the feelings that overcame me as I looked at the picture.  My friend, who suffers from many health issues just as I do, looked so happy, vibrant and healthy. She was thin with well-proportioned curves in all the right places.  Her skin was perfectly tanned, and her straight teeth gleamed white.  Despite the activity taking place around her, every hair was in place.  She looked perfect.  She looked so alive and youthful.  And it made my heart ache with envy.

You see, I immediately thought of the last picture that I had taken with my friend.  In that picture, she looked just as she did in this recent photo--absolutely perfect.  I, on the other hand, looked like something the dog had just dug up in the yard.  My clothes were bunched, giving me an overweight, frumpy appearance.  My hair, while decently arranged, was much in need of a good coloring. (Yes, I dye my hair.  Otherwise, it is white!)  My skin was pale and pasty.  My eyes had dark circles and droopy bags under them.  My smile seemed forced.  The contrast between the two of us was unmistakable.  Once again, my friend looked alive and vibrant.  As for me, I looked like I had died several days before (maybe a bit like Lazarus).  It's a horrible picture (of me anyway), and I can't bear to look at it.

Unfortunately, other recent photos of me reveal the same corpse-like appearance.  I look tired when I face the mirror each morning, but these pictures go far beyond tired.  I look downright exhausted and a good bit overweight!  In fact, it's time for me to get some new photos made for my author page and marketing materials, but I can't seem to talk myself into it.  I know three very talented photographers who would do the photo shoot for free, but I don't know if I could bear to look at the pictures.  I can't stand seeing myself looking like the living dead.  Not only does it stir up self-pity, but it fills my heart and mind with envy.  "Why can't I look like my friend?  Why can't I look so happy and alive?  Why do I look like death warmed over?  It's not fair!"

Interestingly enough, after my weekend feelings of envy (for which I have already repented to the Lord), my morning devotions today were on the topic of. . . guess what. . . .yup, envy!  During that time, the Lord helped me to realize that envy was just a form of disappointment, but it was disappointment that was being mishandled.   Basically, my envy this weekend was my way of saying, "God, you messed up.  Why didn't you make me better?  You did it for my friend.  What about me?  I'm so disappointed in you, and I'm going to pout about it and feel sorry for myself."  Spiritually mature, huh?

The thing is that I didn't want to be envious of my friend.  I'm happy that she's happy.  I'm glad she can still smile and go like crazy despite her physical ailments.  I'm thrilled to see that she's just as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside.  I didn't mean to envy her.  It just sort of happened, but the problem came about when I realized what was happening and didn't stop myself.  I allowed the feelings to linger and brew.  And before long, I felt as weary and worn as I looked in that picture with my friend.  I was allowing my envy over someone's outer beauty to destroy my own inner beauty.  It was being tainted by my own jealousy, disappointment and bitterness.

After reading through my devotions this morning and asking the Lord to forgive me for my sin and bad attitude, I made myself stare into the bathroom mirror.  I examined my reflection, forcing myself to focus on the areas that I found the most pleasing to my own sight (for example, my green eyes).  Then I repeated over and over again, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made."  But I didn't just say it with my mouth.  I allowed the words to sink down into my soul.  I needed to feel it, and before long, I was able to walk away from the mirror, leaving both pride and envy behind.

Do you realize that you are also fearfully and wonderfully made?  Every part of you has been perfectly designed by God.  If you are saved, then you are His child, and He loves you just as you are.  Sure, He wants us to improve where we can.  He longs for us to be more like Him.  He urges us to do what we can to maintain good health so that we can serve Him better.  But then, when we've done all we can do, it's time to be still and watch Him work the miracle.

When I saw that picture of my friend, my thoughts were of envy and anger toward God that He had messed up. In the midst of that reaction, I failed to realize that perhaps my friend looks more alive and vibrant than I do because she's doing more to take care of herself than I am.  I wasn't willing to take the blame, so I shifted it elsewhere.  And the cycle began!

Do me a favor.  Don't let it begin again with you.  Do what God has asked you to do.  Do your best, and leave the rest up to Him.  And while you're working, keep in mind that God is more interested in inner beauty than outer appearances.  If you have both, good for you.  But if you can only work on one, focus on the inner.  It may not show up in photographs, but I guarantee you, it's noticeable in God's eyes.  What else matters?

Okay, everyone, say "cheese!"

A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones. - Proverbs 14:30