I met this lady nearly 18 months ago and when I say I met her, I simply found her writing space through a favorite blogger of ours. She’d left a comment over at The Run A Muck and I followed her little gravatar to the place called Draw Near. I read post after post after post and then invited her words into my email account. She makes me smile and laugh and cry. And she always leaves me feeling soft around the edges, soft enough to look to Jesus in the middle of the mundane. I think you’ll find yourself in her words and I’m quite certain you’ll find Jesus.
You can thank me later.
About a year ago I wrote a few lines on a small piece of paper and taped it to the side of our refrigerator. Nothing special about the wording. It’s plain, really, and even though the little white rectangle lives among the visual clutter of inspirational reminders, coupons, postage stamps and family photos, my eyes find it at least once a day. And I pray:
Please work through our children to help this hurting world. Make them brave world changers who know they are loved and enough in you.
As my coffee brewed this morning, I prayed the refrigerator prayer again for my three daughters and realized the simple words resonate because they represent a shorthand summary of my dreams for these dear children and this family — and for me, this woman called wife and mama.
I desire that our hearts and lives walk with and provide help to the hurting.
I desire that God work through us his mighty ways, yet unfolding.
But I can’t stop there because, though I find it easier at times to focus on the “doing” parts of my little prayer — the helping and world changing parts, in order to do the work of God, we must know our place within the folds of this call.
We must know that this God who holds plans for us holds us. This God who sees every hidden place in this hurting world sees us, and this God who came down as love calls us beloved.
In my everyday life, it often comes down to the practical now. As I exist in the midst of my right here mothering mundane, discontentment and frustration setting in, as I become painfully aware of all I’m not that I wish I were, or all they’re not that I wish they were, do I believe we are loved and enough (even in our not-enoughness) as children of God?
Through much of my life, I wanted to be the good girl who made everyone proud. To be seen as smart and kind and capable, loving and generous. I knew God was real and that he loved me, but I believed God must love me more when I got my act, and kept my act, together.
Only after years of (mostly hidden) depression, obsessive thinking and anxiety did I begin to see that God didn’t want me once I broke free of my mess, but that he actually wanted me to invite him right into the middle of it. I stood stunned as he shone strength in the midst of my weakness, light flooding right through cracks. I heard fresh the voice of love that sometimes obliterated layers of gunk and other times echoed back to me from within them.
These days, my daily struggles continue to morph from a quest for perfection to a journey of remembering love. And this love then becomes an offering unto others — not from a place of performance to earn approval, but from one who gives more joyfully that which she knows she’s received.
If God is real, then we can trust his invitation to come to him, to have God live with us right in the muck of this real life. (It’s the one we’re in, after all.)
If God is real and is in fact the one who came down to be with us for love’s sake, then we can trust that he loves us, all of us.
Friends, perhaps like me you need to remind yourself again that we are God’s workmanship, his art, his earthly hands and feet, complete with heel cracks and nails in need of trimming. You are made for a purpose that is etched, drawn and carved out from Love by Love, you who are dearly beloved.
Ashley Larkin is a story collector, wife to Michael and mother to three shining daughters, ages 12, 8 and 5. Ashley longs to be a place of welcome and seeks hard after the hope and beauty found in broken things. She is passionate about justice, sisterhood and encouraging people to walk in the truth of God’s love for them. You can find her blogging a few times a week from her very old house in Portland, Oregon on her blog Draw Near and on Twitter @AshleyMLarkin.