Dear Norah: Father’s Day

Dear Norah,
You don’t know this yet, but you have the very best dad ever. You know this to the extent that you can know as a (nearly) 6 month old. You know enough to smile brightly when he walks through the door. You understand enough to follow him with your big brown eyes every where he goes. You get it to the extent that you laugh and squeal when he lies down on the floor and plays and tickles you. Even to the extent that you smile and close your eyes and snuggle into his chest when he sings you to sleep, you understand that he is something special.
As you grow older, you will learn to appreciate these moments all the more. You will also grow in thankfulness of your dad’s amazing character. His wisdom will counsel you through many years of decisions. His kindness will be your constant safe place of love and warmth. His readily available hugs will be your comfort through scraped knees and broken hearts. By following his leadership, you will always be able to trust that you are headed in the right direction. His grace will always be there to wipe away your tears of shame and guilt. His discipline, though unpleasant in the moment, will be for your good. And believe it or not, one day, you will thank him for it.
Your dad is a good man, yes. He is strong and kind and moral and loving. But he is more than that because he is a man who knows that the end of himself is actually the beginning. He knows that in his weakness, God is strong. He knows that his prayers for you are more powerful than any advice he could give. He believes that his failures and limitations are opportunities for him to teach you that though he is imperfect, you have a Father in heaven who is perfect. He knows and believes that his love for you, though so deep and rich and great, is no match for your heavenly Father’s love for you. This is what transforms him from good to great.
Your dad learned these things from his dad. Your Grandad is also an amazing man. And boy, does he love you! He loves it when you visit. He holds you and snuggles you and prays for you and shows you all the fun lights at the lake house. He rocks you and tells you about all the fun things you will do together on the lake when you are older. He is a man of few words, but words you don’t want to miss. He is a man of wisdom and excellence. He is hard-working and generous. He is a man who loves fully. He is a man who has the kind of character and relationship with Jesus that enabled him to be able to tell his sons – Imitate me as I imitate Christ. And now, because of this, your dad can tell you to imitate him as he imitates Christ. This legacy of discipleship is rare and God has chosen you to be the recipient of this beautiful gift.
I pray a lot for your relationship with your dad. It’s uniquely important to me because of the relationship I had with my dad. Your Paw-Paw passed away before you could meet him, but I will tell you lots of stories about your Paw-Paw…how funny he was, how kind he was, how he loved to read, how he loved a good party with homemade ice cream, and most of all, how much he loved Jesus and told every one he met that Jesus loved them too. He was a man who banked on the promises of God. He was faithful and steadfast and humble. He was one of the greats. Your Paw-Paw and I had a very special relationship. Our relationship taught me so much about God. It taught me that just like I can’t earn God’s love or saving grace, I can’t and don’t have to work for his love. He loved me when I was good and when i was bad and he loved me when I obeyed and when I disobeyed. His love for me was steady, secure, and unconditional. I pray for you to have a relationship with your dad like I had with my dad.
Your dad loves you through and through. You don’t have to work for his love, you had it before you were even born. He knows how to love you like this, because this is how his Father loves him. And every thing he does is to show you and teach you more about who God is.
I am excited to see how your relationship with your dad develops and changes over time. I look forward to the day you can tell him how much you love him in your own words. Always remember this – your dad loves you very much and he wants to give you the very best. But think about this – if your dad, who is flawed, wants to give you good gifts, how much more does your Father in heaven, who is the definition of love, want to give you good things? I pray your relationship with your dad will be unique and special and will always point you to an even better, all-satisfying, redeeming relationship with your Father in heaven.
Love,
Momma
 Kyle and Norah faces Kyle and Norah sleeping IMG_7251Lents089 Russian Baby
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Crossfit vs. Comfort Idol. Game On. (Part 3)

My comfort idol was taking a beating. With each workout, I was slowly peeling his hands, one finger joint at a time off of absolute control in my life.

Keller says that idols are “anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. [It is] anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.”

This quote hit me like a ton of bricks. It begged me to stop and scour my heart for the answers to these questions. And I was dreading it. I knew the minute I acknowledged these questions, I would be in for some pain, some discipline, some idol crushing.

And I was not wrong. I began the painful process of asking myself these questions…

What are the things that absorb my heart and imagination?
Matthew 6:21 says “wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. For me to figure out where my heart was, I needed to see where I was spending my money. I started thinking through where I spent the majority of money. It didn’t take me long to see that the majority of my money was spent on food, drink, entertainment, and house stuff. I spent shameful amounts of time and money making sure I was completely comfortable at all times.

It forced me to ask the question – if I were to fast from food, drink and entertainment, how much would that effect me? The question alone severely aggravated me. Why would I want to fast from those things? Why would I need to? They are not inherently bad. I didn’t even need to fast from them to know that they were a source of idolatry in my life. The intense emotional response to merely the idea of not getting to eat, drink or do what I wanted when I wanted was enough to prove their hold on me.

Where do I turn when I am in need?
I know that Jesus is my everything. I know that He is my source for truth, for hope, for counsel, for comfort, for sustaining me through whatever comes my way. I know this. I know that He gives better advice than people. I know He is more comfortable than a better than average dinner paired perfectly with hoppy brews. I know that He is my anchor of hope. I know that the faith He increases in me from His word will sustain me through trials.
I know these things.

Yet, the sad truth I was forced to face during this process was that if someone was looking from the outside in, they wouldn’t see me turning to Jesus, they would see me curled up in front an endless parade of TV shows with food and drink all around me. They would see me distracting myself and comforting myself with people and parties. They would see me turning to sub-par gods. They would see me turning to created things for comfort instead of the Creator.

What would undo me if it were lost? What would make me feel as if life were not worth living?
Kyle and I consistently keep a few things on the table for our lives: one being, starting a family. I know my world will be upended the minute we bring a baby into our home. I know my days of comfort will be officially over. Our nights of spontaneous dates are over. Our days of easily traveling are over.

In that moment I realized that just the thought of losing the option of comfort paralyzed me. I was undoubtedly choosing not to start a family or even pray about it because I knew it would cost me my comfort. Making a decision to be perpetually uncomfortable was incredibly daunting.

This final question was the one that pushed me over the edge. I was choosing not to have a family, something I truly longed for, because I hated the idea of being uncomfortable.

7in7: Day Two

[One story. 7 parts. This is another part.]

“Right.
Thanks.
What’s going on with you?”

“Oh, you know. Worked this morning making coffees for all of the lovelies who had to work in freezing weather. That was a joy. Took a nap, came here. You?”

“Nothing. I just read today.”

“Oh yeah? Another romantic inspiration of one man dominating thousands of men and his name going down in history?”

“Something like that. I don’t know, Elle. I just don’t think this is it. Or maybe I’m just scared that this is it.”

“What’s it?”

But before I could answer, the door opened timidly and that familiar brown hat peeked in. He looked at me through his fleshy wrinkles around his little brown eyes.

“Yeah, hey Frank, sure. Come on in.”

Frank had become a consistent visitor on these particularly cold nights. He didn’t say much. We had tried to get his story out of him, but he preferred to keep his past the past. All he wanted was to survive the night. He poked through the magazine rack until he found something that would keep him interested. He wouldn’t last long though. He never made it past the first few pages before he fell asleep. He must have been exhausted. The freezing cold howling wind wasn’t exactly a lullaby.

I pulled my peacoat from the coat rack and laid it over his shoulder. He glanced through the side of his eyes at me and I looked away. I took a long pull from my beer and walked back over to my chair. I pushed myself back in my chair until my head could rest and the ceiling was in full view.

“I don’t know, Elle. I want something more than coloring on people’s bodies. I want something more than the same ole walk to work every afternoon. I want to be a warrior. I don’t want to just read about warriors, I want to be one. I feel like I was born in the wrong time or I took a wrong turn somewhere in life and ended up here instead of where I am supposed to be.”

“Oh, but this isn’t so bad. You have your freedom. You make a good living. I mean, look at you, you own your own tattoo shop. You get to be an artist every day.”

“I wouldn’t consider what I do on the norm artistry. There are only so many butterflies and Chinese symbols I can do before I’m ready to stick the needle in my eye. I do like the ones with a story, though. I like it when a person wants something that means something to them. You remember the guy I tatted on his ribcage the seven tick marks? He said he wanted to keep up with the times he wanted to die and something kept him from doing it. He said they were there to remind him that there was always hope around the corner. I’ve never forgotten that guy. I wonder if he has any more tick marks? Or if he gave up and died?”

7in7: Day One

[7in7 is a community of artists who commit to making and completing 7 works of art in 7 days. I rarely do this, but I’m going to try my hand at fiction. I recently went to a conference on the life and works of CS Lewis. He was a writer of conviction, of creativity, of vulnerability. He was a man who wrote in the middle of his processes – theologically, philosophically, creatively. He even wrote through the raw pain of suffering and grief. He was a likener. He was a writer who “shed light on what was not in order to show what was”.

For these 7 days, I will try my hand at being a likener.

I missed my first day of 7in7 for reasons unnecessary to explain. So here are days 1 & 2…]

My eyes passed over a stack of books about Native American warriors, Spartans, Vikings and Samurais. Folders of research filled with the ideologies of Hitler, Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill. I lied on my bed and looked up at my mobile of compasses. The sunlight flickering through the collection of brass, gold, and glass, all of the needles shakily pointing North. My walls were papered with ancient pictures of significant people who took the road less traveled in science and thought: Marx, Darwin, Mohammed and Jesus and those who literally opened the world for physical travel: Cortes, Columbus and deSoto.

I looked in the mirror at the eyes facing back at me. Even they were dressed for battle, dark liquid line shooting out of the corners of my eyes to make me look like an animal huntress. But instead of hunger and power, they were flat and disappointed. They were civilian eyes. Nobody eyes. They were the eyes that would die and make a one line memorial in a 2-page city newspaper. They were eyes that didn’t match the ferocity that I knew I was meant to embody.

I couldn’t do anything about it now though, it was nearly 4pm. I slipped my locket over my head, pulled my beanie down over my ears, slid into my wool peacoat, stomped into my boots, grabbed my bag, kissed my fingers and slapped a bit of superstitious love on the paper mache head of Joan of Arc.

The walk was a bit long, but in truth, I welcomed it. I pulled the collar of my coat up around my ears and dug my fingerless mittens out of the pockets. It was my favorite time of year. Cold, grey, quiet. The streets were nearly empty. The salt truck was doing its vain work of spreading out salt on the streets – as if anyone was actually going to get out and drive.

The coffee cart wouldn’t be out today. Dammit. I should have made coffee before I left. Tonight was going to be long and slow. No one would be coming in after their stupid nights of drunken debauchery. It was too cold for stupidity tonight. Fine by me though. It would just leave more time for me and Elle.

Ten minutes later, I reached the corner of my shop. I grabbed the cold railing and swung myself around to the stairs leading down to the wooden door. The door was my favorite part of my shop. It belonged to the old couple who rented the place before me. He was a cobbler and she was a seamstress. They had brought the door over from their home in Germany to remind them from where they came. The door was solid and green with a small rectangle of stained glass. The glass had been cut, stained and fitted into the shape of a man’s face. The work was a bit shoddy, but it just made the man’s face more interesting. His eyes were an un-human bright blue, his cheek bones pink and his beard an orangey-yellow. The rest of the glass around his face was a muted grey making the rest of the pieces even more unrealistic.

I never got a chance to ask who the man in the picture was, but when my chair was emptied of night owls aiming to make their body a piece of art, I could crawl up in my chair and dream about who this man was.

I pushed open the door and threw my bag on the floor next to my chair.

“Elle! Elle, you here?”

“Yeah, yeah. Stop yelling. I’m in the back. Be there in a sec.”

I pulled off my jacket leaving my mittens and hat on and hung it on the coat rack. I flipped the switch and heard the neon light buzz. I grabbed my bag, pulled out my appointment book, and stuck it in the cabinet next to my chair. I had one appointment at 9:30pm, but I doubt she’ll show. It’s too cold to get a tattoo. No one wants to deal with dropped trou in 30 degree weather. And no doubt, by the giggly call I got yesterday, it would be some sorority girl who wanted to stamp her identity somewhere that would require clothing removal for show and tell.

Elliana walked through the back door with two beers in hand.

“Here. It’s not like we’ll be working tonight anyway.”

Crossfit vs. Comfort Idol. Game On. (Part Two)

Crossfit Day One:
The anxiety started as soon as I woke up. My stomach felt sick. My heart was racing. In just a few short hours, I would be miserable. Please. I was already miserable. Didn’t this anxiety count as a calorie burner? My heart was racing like I had just run a mile.

I shelved all of my excuses that were flooding my mind to get out of this upcoming awfulness and drove the very long 3 miles to “the box”.

I was right, it was awful. It was hard. I’m not coordinated. Nothing in my body or mind was prepared for that kind of difficulty. I was sweating profusely. And then he said those awful words – alright guys, let’s get started. Wait, we’re not done? That wasn’t the work out? Nope. Just the warm up.

I looked around me in panic thinking I would find the rest of the crew collapsed over with pain in their sides. Surely they feel as awful as I do. No one else was sweating. No one else was breathing hard. Nope, just me.

For the next hour, everything in my body hated me. It was stretched and pulled and asked to lift heavy things (well, okay, it was just a PVC pipe, but still). My heart was about to explode in my body, my sides were screaming in pain. I nearly threw up during the cool down. This is no cool down. This is extended torture. How is this supposed to feel good?

I collapsed when I got home. I was dreading climbing the stairs to take a shower, dreading having to stand up in the shower, dreading having to pull my arms over my head, dreading even laying here. Nothing could hurt more.

Until it did…

Crossfit Day Two:
I woke myself up with a painful groan. What in the world? Oh, I was just trying to roll over, no big deal. Except that it was a big deal. My insides were tearing. I put my feet down on the ground and used every bit of furniture around me to help me get out of bed.

No way will I be able to work out again. Here comes the anxiety…

I spent all day at work complaining to anyone who would listen. You would have thought that I had been tortured against my will instead of the reality that I went on my own volition. Typing has never been so grueling in all of my life.

I brought my bag of workout clothes with me so I could leave straight from the office. I didn’t trust myself to make any stops.

The coach took us through several movements. All of which I thought would kill me. But I didn’t die. I didn’t fall down. My skin didn’t tear and my “muscles” didn’t fall out.

I made it. I couldn’t believe it. I worked out two days in a row. I was feeling great about myself. I was feeling like I had really accomplished something…

Crossfit Day Three:
Until I tried to get out of bed. Oh my heavens. I couldn’t do it. I had to have assistance to get up today. Kyle helped pull me up and I grunted with every move I made.

In all of these negatives, I found a positive: I planned and thought a whole lot more than I normally do. I drank less coffee because I didn’t want to have to walk to the restroom that many times. I thought through everything I needed before I got up. It masqueraded as efficiency, but it was really just fear. Fear of how awful I would feel when I had to use any muscle in my body.

This is me…

Image

Just to clarify – this is PRE-workout. I am entirely too prideful to post a post-workout pic.

I actually had fun this night.
I know. I can’t believe I just typed that either.

But I did. Because it was true. It was also true that I was getting excited that my body didn’t own me. (Let’s be real, I was also feeling pretty grateful that I was still alive.)

It had been a really long time since I had worked that hard. It had been forever since I had pushed myself past what felt at least okay, or not that bad. I looked around me at the end of the workout, fist bumped my new crossfit friends, and shakily walked back to my car.

What in the world was happening? Where did I find the energy to smile at the end of this awful session? How did I just enjoy that?

And then it hit me. I knew what was happening.

Crossfit vs. Comfort Idol. Game On.

{I have entirely too many thoughts on this subject for one post…so here come a few!}

I love this definition of an idol: a mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom.

This is my comfort idol. Incredibly real, yet unseen.

My comfort idol is ginormous, happy buddha ginormous. Merry when appeased, vicious when denied. I have spent a good portion of my life making sure this guy is content. You want more food? Sure. You want more drink? No problem? You want to be lazy? You deserve it. You want to be angry, sad, mean, selfish, rude? You can’t help how you feel. You want to quit? I get it. Do it. It wasn’t meant for you to do.

On and on. It gets anything and everything it wants. I keep it happy, it keeps me happy.

Or does it?

There are so many things in life I want to do, but don’t because it feels awful. I hate to feel awful. I hate to eat healthy, because let’s face it, that is not the Southern way. I hate to get up early and read, because I don’t like to feel tired the rest of the day. I hate to do things I am not good at, because I hate to feel incompetent.
But the truth is, I want to be healthy, I want to be a reader, I want to try new things. But with my hungry, hungry hippo comfort idol, I will never be or do these things. Something has to go. I can’t have both.

But how will I ever be these things I so desperately want to be? How will I ever face my fears of doing anything uncomfortable or new? How will I ever grow if I am not willing to face pain? I can’t spend the rest of my life dodging anything and everything that feels the slightest bit awful.

Even right now. I am feeling uncomfortable about writing these things. Did I mention that it’s a little too cold in here and my eyes are getting a little tired, my stomach is rumbling a little bit and I can’t figure out what word is next? Ugh. I want to quit this right now.

This guy needs a serious stab in the gut.

So, I joined Crossfit. If you know me, you know this is the most insane thing you have read today. I don’t work out. I definitely don’t work out with actual weights. I don’t spend money on a class that someone else has full control and tells me when it begins and ends and what kind of movements to do and how much harder I need to push myself.

This is how I feel when I work out: click here. Because this is shamefully true (and embarrassingly accurate), I knew it was exactly what I needed.

Delight!

For months, I looked forward to this day. I told everyone who cared and many who didn’t that I was going to see whales. We boarded the boat and headed 30 miles out into the Atlantic ocean. I searched and searched, my eyes darting back and forth over the expanse of blue in front of me. All of a sudden, this giant beast emerges from the water with such great power – and I jumped! I squealed! I grabbed Kyle’s arm and squeezed it as tight as I could. I danced around never once taking my eyes from this impressive showing of one of the largest mammals in existence.

Delight. Absolute delight.

There are many things I delight in.

I delight in new things; new clothes, new pieces of furniture, new kitchen canisters.
I delight in a clean house. I delight in every piece of laundry in the house being clean at the exact same time.
I delight in a cup of hot Folgers in the morning.
I delight in a porch swing on a cool night.
I delight in great conversations that make my mind buzz with questions and challenges and wakefulness.
I delight in all things Kyle. I delight in his music. I delight in our conversations. I delight in his wisdom. I delight in his kisses. (I’ll stop there and keep this G-rated.)

I know I delight in these things because I think about them – all.the.time.
I think about our house an embarrassing amount of time. I think about how I could design my mantle, I think about how I could keep the house cleaner on a daily basis. I have been shopping for the perfect porch swing for about five months. I plan parties and invite people over in hopes that a conversation will strike a chord and energize my imagination.

I think about Kyle all the time. I think about how he’s feeling and what he’s thinking about. I get excited about the moment he texts me when he’s leaving the studio and headed home to me. I carve out time in my schedule to see him, hang with him, be with him.

And I tell him these things. I tell him how much I love him. I tell him how I think he is the most talented man I know. I tell him how thankful I am for his wisdom. I thank him for leading our family with the gospel. I tell him how beautiful he is and how much I love his giant beard.

C.S. Lewis said:
“We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”

In Psalm One, David compares a person who delights in and meditates on the law of the Lord with a tree planted by streams of water, yielding fruit. And then again, in the longest chapter in the Bible, David spends 176 verses expressing his absolute delight in the word of God.

The imagery of this is beautiful. As trees by the river are the most healthy, full of life and blooms and fruit, so I will be full of life as I delight in the law of the Lord. As I meditate on Scripture, I will become a person of love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.

Yet, when I sit down to read my Bible, I must admit it is not often that I delight in these moments. Understanding scripture is often hard-won. Fighting distraction is exhausting. Feeling dry and bored and uninspired makes me feel weary and guilty. I do not often delight in the instructions of God.

David and Lewis reminded me of something this morning, it is not merely the reading of the words, it is praising the One whom they are about. The bible is this incredible book that tells me who God is. I think I often read it like a self-help book. I open it and think – How will this help me suck less today?

I often separate his instructions from him. I turn the Bible into a list of things to do and not do. When in truth, the scriptures are a love letter of the consuming delight passed back and forth between lovers. I read his words through a lens of guilt and “shoulds” instead of a lens of love and grace. I read, forgetting that in God’s great delight he sent his Son, who perfectly fulfilled the law so that God would see the perfection of His Son instead of the imperfections of me.

I desire to delight in God. Not just obey him or do what is right, but I desire to delight in a God who cares so deeply for me that he would give me a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path so I will know exactly how to get to Him.

Ariel and Me.

(This was a guest post for one of my favorite people and writers. You can check her stuff here: http://www.fabsharford.com)

The Little Mermaid was my favorite movie when I was a kid. I loved her long red hair and curiosity. I loved her cave of pretty things. I loved her crabby best friend. I love that she was bound and determined to see another world. I would press rewind time and time again to watch Ariel flick her long scalloped tail and push her way up to the surface to take in a giant breath of salty, fresh air. She was entranced by this other world. This world of land, of feet dancing, and of course, the gorgeous man. She knew she belonged there. She had to get there.

In fact, she was so determined to make it to land and meet her man that she sold her precious voice for a pair of feet. Ariel wanted to stand on solid ground so much that she was willing to sacrifice her family, her home, her life, her mermaid-ness and eventually even her soul for a pair of legs.

It’s got me thinking…have I done the same thing? Have I traded in my voice until I am standing on solid ground? Have I put my voice on the shelf until I have more questions answered than unanswered? Have I silenced myself until I have more things to say that don’t end with a question mark?

I used to be a fearless question-asker. I questioned everything. Big things, little things; things that mattered, things that didn’t matter. I didn’t accept things at face value, I wasn’t satisfied with an empty answer. I believed that asking questions was the only way that I would grow, understand things, change.

I would question, ponder, and process out loud. I drove people nuts…Why did that man say that? What does it mean when that cat flicks his ears? What happens when you press this button? Why is this in the Bible? What did Jesus mean when he said this? Why is it hard for me to do things that come so naturally to other people? What part of this is reality? What part is non-reality?

I never questioned what other people thought of my questions.

Until I did.

At first it was just a wondering. I wonder what other people would say if I wrote about this? I wonder what people will think of me if I ask something they already have the answer to?

Wondering turned into obsessing. With every step closer to obsession, my fingers slowed down, the posts went unfinished, the processing stopped. I felt like if I didn’t have a definitive stance on something, I couldn’t talk about it. I felt this innate pressure to know what I thought about everything. I needed to know what was right. Immediately. I couldn’t question life because I felt like I needed to be the one giving the answers, not asking the questions. I couldn’t talk about the hard things in the Bible because I was afraid someone would also begin to question and I would be responsible. I couldn’t write about how belief feels slippery because I couldn’t take the looks of pity. I couldn’t handle people feeling sorry for me for not being as steady as they are.

I so badly want to feel like I am standing on solid ground. I want to dig my feet into the answers, lock my knees and root myself immoveable.

This reminds me so much of the story Jesus told about the man who built his house on sand verses the man who built his house on the rock. I so badly want to stand on my answers. I want them to make me feel secure so that I can say things out loud and not fear being wrong. I want them to make me feel like I am not an idiot, not a mess, not a little girl with big, scary questions.

I spend so much time trying to pack my sand down tighter and tighter so that I can stand on it. But the reality is, the next storm that comes is going to rip my feet out from under me all over again.

The hope is not that I will have less questions or more answers. The hope is that I will crawl up closely to the One who has the answers. The hope is that I will trust him enough that I go to Him with all my questions in tow. The hope is that I will trust Him with the things he chooses to reveal to me, with the things in queue of answering, with the things I will never know the answer to.

The hope is that I will trust that God is not afraid of my questions. The hope is that he has put every question in my heart as a way to persevere me to the very end, as a way to be my teacher, my grace, my rock, my everything.

Learning to Pray like Solomon

Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people,
that I may discern between good and evil,
for who is able to govern this great people?
-Solomon (circa 970 B.C.)

I imagine Solomon to be standing in the middle of one of the great rooms of his house as he prayed this. The expanse of the room and the large stone walls throwing his voice around and echoing his prayer back to him. I imagine his heart was pounding in rapid succession, his stomach was swirling around in knots and sweat was beading on his temples despite the cold air blowing through the open windows. I imagine he looked as small as he felt in that immense room.

I imagine him to be scared to death.

Solomon had recently taken his seat upon the throne to rule Israel. He had watched his father lead a group of venomous people who would turn from a loyal son or confidant to a power hungry enemy in an instant. No doubt he had heard stories of his father running for his life from a king with a death warrant with David’s name on it. The job of a king is no walk in the park.

Yet there he stood, riddled with fear and grief, the weight of the kingdom on his shoulders and what does he ask from God?

Wisdom.

Solomon prays that God will give him wisdom, “an understanding mind to govern his people”, the ability to know what is good and what is evil.

Had it been me, I would have been begging God to make things easy for me, to help me judge the people without fear or anxiety. I would have been asking him to make the decisions feel easy to make. I would have asked him to help me to not care so much about the people so that the judgments wouldn’t feel so complicated. I would be praying that God would send someone else, anyone else to do this crazy hard job.

The thing I noticed about his prayer was that instead of asking God to give him the easy way out, he asked God to give him what he knew he needed to be able to do what God had called him to do. He knew that God had placed him in this position. He knew that ultimately it was God who put him on the throne – not Bathsheba, not Nathan, not the people – but God. And he knew that without God directing his judgments he would make a mess of things.

He prayed for wisdom so that he might be able to fulfill the calling God had placed on his life.

I want to learn to pray like Solomon. I want to be the kind of person who trusts God enough that I will pray for him to give me everything I need to be able to do everything He has called me to be and do. I want to be the kind of person who doesn’t try to get out of something because it makes me uncomfortable.

I want to be the kind of person who walks forward and trusts my shaking, quaking knees, churning stomach, and sweating brow to the One for whom it is worth shaking, quaking and sweating.

A birthday party without the birthday girl.

For my twenty-third birthday, my sweet sister threw me the most incredible surprise birthday party ever. I mean, EPIC. All of my favorite people, favorite foods, the most beautiful 7 layer chocolate birthday cake, great music, oh my! The house was decorated with streamers and balloons and buzzing with great party fun.

But I remember it best because I never actually made it to the party.

My sneaky sister did such a great job of making sure that I would be surprised, that I had no idea there was something in the works and headed out of town.

But as all true party people know, the party must go on. Birthday girl, or no, they were not missing a chance to spend a night with great people and great food. They all recorded me a video telling me how much they were loving the party and too bad I couldn’t be there.

A birthday party without the birthday girl.

I feel like I do this with God all the time. I create the perfect environment: great music, dimmed lights to a soft golden glow, super snuggly blanket, a great pen and pencil, and a hot cup of coffee. Everything is perfect. Until I realize that I spent 20 minutes getting all set up and forgot to invite the guest of honor.

I spend the majority of my time with the Lord on me. Not only do I spend ridiculous amounts of time making sure I am super comfortable, I spend an embarrassing amount of time telling God about all the things I am frustrated with, bored with, in need of, and desirous of. After I have sufficiently made a case for God to arrange my life around me so that I will feel zero pain or anxiety, I thank him, blow him a kiss and head off to work.

It’s not that I think that asking God for things is wrong. I think it’s right and good to talk to God about the details of my life and my heart. But if I’m not careful, I will begin to believe that God should be designing my world, my life, my day to look the way I want it to instead of the way He wants it to.

Matthew Henry said that prayer should look like this:

Let not self, carnal self, be the spring and centre of your prayers, but God; let the eye of the soul be fixed upon him as your highest end in all your applications to him; let this be the habitual disposition of your souls, to be to your God for a name and a praise; and let this be your design in all your desires, that God may be glorified, and by this let them all be directed, determined, sanctified, and, when need is overruled.

Lord, help the eye of my soul be fixed upon you.