I Gather a Prayer for Ruby

IMG_3622

This baby.  Even minutes after delivery, she was perfect and beautiful, round and healthy (as you can see).  God only knows how many prayers were prayed for her during the last nine months…. and now she is here, making everyone giddy with joy and excitement.

A few months ago, when I began to pray for direction for my prayer for Ruby, I felt directed to the life and ministry of Samuel.  As I began to study and write the prayer, I felt the Holy Spirit moving right here at my computer.  I love the Massingale family dearly and believe in their ministry and role in the Kingdom of God.  I already know that Ruby is going to be a tremendous blessing to their family, an asset to their ministry team, and a force in the Kingdom of God.

This is my prayer for little Ruby.  I love you already.

_____________________________________________________

Dear Ruby,

May the prayers prayed for you be answered (I Samuel 1:20)

May you dwell in the presence of the Lord forever (I Samuel 1:22)

May you be on lend to the Lord as long as you live (I Samuel 1:28)

May you minister before the Lord from a young age  (I Samuel 2:18)

May you grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and also with man (I Samuel 2:26)

May the Lord call to you until you answer (I Samuel 3)

May you dwell in the right place, waiting on the Lord to speak (I Samuel 3:9)

May you hear when the Lord speaks (I Samuel 3:10)

May none of your words fall to the ground (I Samuel 3:19)

May you be established as a prophetess of the Lord (I Samuel 3:20)

May the Lord reveal himself to you by his word (I Samuel 3:21)

May your life and words lead people to return to the Lord will all their hearts, put away foreign gods, direct their hearts to the Lord, and serve him only. (I Samuel 7:3)

May you never cease to cry out to God for others (I Samuel 7:8)

May the Lord answer when you cry out (I Samuel 7:9)

May you set up memorials when the Lord helps you (I Samuel 7:12)

May you always build an altar to the Lord (I Samuel 7:17)

May you see clearly with spiritual eyes (I Samuel 9:19)

May the hearts of people be changed after an encounter with you (I Samuel 10:9)

May you never defraud, oppress or take anything from those you are sent to serve (I Samuel 12:5)

May your words and your life say to people, “Do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself.  Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and right way.  Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart.  For consider what great things he has done for you.” (I Samuel 12:20-24)

May you not judge on appearance, but see the heart as God sees the heart (I Samuel 16:7)

May you, through faith, conquer kingdoms, enforce justice, obtain promises, stop the mouths of lions, quench the power of fire, escape the edge of the sword, be made strong in weakness, be mighty in war, and put foreign armies to flight. (Hebrews 11:33-34)

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

A Gathering Under the Trees

IMG_0753
I have this character flaw that sometimes can be a blessing.  I am a perfectionist, at least in some areas of my life.  In college, I had panic attacks frequently and wouldn’t settle for anything less than an A.  This characteristic turns from being useful to being a flaw when I simply don’t do something because I can’t do it perfectly.

Every year I want to have a picnic on or around June 21st to celebrate the longest days of the year.  Every year we don’t do it because in my mind, our picnic must be perfect.  I need a beautiful tablecloth, my Longaberger picnic basket filled with cloth napkins, beautifully packaged gourmet food, real silverware, candles and perfectly dressed attendees.  Sound ridiculous?

Sadly, this kind of perfectionism keeps me from doing so many things in my life.  Some days I leave my house messy because I don’t have three hours to make it perfect.  I don’t start a book if I know I won’t finish it within a few days.  I want to learn more about photography, but don’t consider myself artistic enough to ever be a professional.  I don’t cook a meal because I know it won’t be as good as the meals Jimmie makes.  On and on it goes.

Last Thursday I came face to face with this character flaw.  Ava was leaving the following morning for a 9-day trip with my mom.  I told her we would go on a picnic that night so we could spend some quality time together.  As usual, life happened and I didn’t get to pack the perfect picnic basket.  So, instead of postponing like I normally would have, we went to Marsh, picked up a bunch of random food, and headed to Forest Park with an old blanket, grocery sacks, and paper plates.

It was divine.

IMG_0780 IMG_0766 IMG_0757 IMG_0752 IMG_0770
We had Pringles, stuffed peppers and garlic mushrooms from the Olive bar, summer sausage with cheese and crackers, baked potato salad from the deli, and iced tea and coconut water. Weird? Yes. But we ate to our heart’s content.

Ava talked about what she was looking forward to most on her trip. She played at the playground while I read under the giant evergreen. In those moments, it didn’t matter that I didn’t have my beautiful tablecloth or gourmet food. All that mattered was that we were with our little girl.

As I snapped a few photos, I realized that I have learned something from my new camera. I used to think there were certain moments that were photo-worthy…. birthdays, special outings, holidays and momentous occasions. My camera has taught me that special moments take place in the mundane events of my everyday life. It didn’t matter to me that the picnic wasn’t something that wasn’t magazine worthy. I wanted to capture it anyway. My standards of perfection too frequently limit me from embracing each and every moment as a gift from God. Instead of waiting for perfection, I instead want to find the beauty in my everyday life. I want to be quick to say, “YES!” when an opportunity comes my way, not worrying about living up to some unrealistic standard that no-one holds me to except for myself.

I will be quick to see the beauty when sitting under a tree, leaned against my husband, reading a book. I will relish in the joyous laughter of my daughter on the monkey bars. I will pause and notice the way the evening light streams through the trees. I will see God in it all and I will be thankful.

_____________________________________________________________________

Do you struggle with the need to be perfect?  Does it keep you from living your life to the fullest?  What are some of the most mundane details of your life that you find inspiring or beautiful?

sig Missed any posts? Check out the most recent:
A Gathering of Links XIV

What I Gather About Friends Without Fathers

Gathering for a Shabby Chic Baby Shower

And you can get e-mail updates to Rachael Gathers by subscribing HERE!

 

What I Gather About…. After

 

Five Minute Friday

I have been reading Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday posts for several weeks now, and just this week got the guts to participate.  Basically, she gives you a word, you write for five minutes, then link up on her website.  Today’s word is AFTER.  Feel free to check out her site here and participate with me!

(START)

My mind instantly races to the “after” of all the bad moments of my life.

After he died.

After the mess my marriage was in.

After I made that huge mistake.

On and on.  I wonder now why my mind goes there.  I think I have always had an easier time with the guilt-part of my faith.  The self-reflection while looking in the mirror of the Word of God, as says the book of James.

I have had a much harder time with the joy-part of my faith.  My celebrations are few and far between, always interrupted by recognizing my flaws and wanting God to CHANGE ME, PLEASE.

Yet I know there is are so many joyful afters.  I just have to make my mind work harder to see them.

After I met Jesus.

After I healed.

After my wedding.

After my bundle of Ava.

After my sweet Isabel.

After I learned to live in community.

After I took that step of faith.

After God gave me the answers I was searching for.

After I gave up  trying to reach perfection.

Wow.  Writing out the positive afters was actually easier than writing out the negative ones.  Maybe that’s a clue for us all…. we can find the joy and reason to celebrate if we simply LOOK.

(STOP)

What I Gather About Comparison

quote-roosevelt-comparison-joyImage Source

I have heard this quote numerous times throughout my life and hadn’t really considered it until fairly recently.  During a trip to Cuba, my husband preached a message about comparing ourselves with one another based on 2 Corinthians 10.  It was such an eye-opening sermon.  I realize now that this is an area of weakness for me.

I am competitive, goal-oriented and persistent.  I tell myself that I have a realistic perception of my strengths and weaknesses (doesn’t everybody?).  Basically, I want to be the best, and I know when I’m not.  I find myself comparing Rachael to the kind of people who I am sure you would find amusing.  Let me just give you some examples.

Funny Rachael

I am not funny and I know this.  Yet, somehow I have this idea in the back of my head that buried somewhere deep down is a comedian, that I SHOULD be funny.I have a handful of friends who should be comedians by profession.  On that rare occasion when I make any of those friends laugh, I am caught so off guard that I literally have to take a moment, rewind, and figure out WHAT IN THE WORLD JUST HAPPENED?  I am no comedian, but there are times I want to be like those people who are.

Singer Rachael

I’ve been singing since I was old enough to carry a microphone and carry a tune.  School concerts, college choirs, solos at church, camps, conferences, in my car, in my kitchen.  You name it.  I love it and I realize I have a decent voice.  But let me assure you, I am my own worst critic.  Instead of comparing myself to the worship leader down the road, I compare myself to Mariah Carey.  Or Kari Jobe.  Or any other professional out there who is better than me.

Mom Rachael

I frequently compare myself to those moms who get up at 5 a.m. just to prepare a hearty breakfast for their kids and have a 30 minute devotion before school.  I compare myself to crafty mom, home-school mom, patient mom, mom of 5, athletic mom, chef mom, spiritual giant mom, birthday party mom… you name the type, at times I think I should be all of those moms wrapped into one package.

Writer Rachael

I have always enjoyed writing.  I excelled in writing sociological papers in college, probably because my writing is so straight-forward and lacks flourish.  Yet when I sit down with a Barbara Kingsolver book, I want to weep at my moron-self, incapable of painting a vivid picture with the most beautiful strand of words.  When I read the poetic Sarah Bessey, I want to give up on blogging all together.  When I read David Platt, I grieve that I can’t express my passion the way he does.  Give up, I say.

Spiritual Rachael

My Dad wrote me a letter before he died.  In it, he named a few women who are spiritual giants of the faith.  He told me to be one of those women.  I know his intentions were good, and I must say that his life and ministry lit a fire in me that has never died.  Yet often I compare myself to these women… the women who travel the country speaking at conferences.  I compare myself to the missionary you hear about who prayed and saw someone raised from the dead.  I compare myself to the women who get up to pray and study every morning without fail.

Physical Rachael

I would love to report to you, dear reader, that I am above this type of comparison.  While I have improved greatly, I still find myself looking in the mirror some days, unhappy with everything I see.  Frizzy hair, freckles, 25 extra pounds, flat nose, crooked teeth, boring clothes.  I see those women who weigh nothing running down the street in their workout clothes and kick myself for not having more discipline.  I get on the scale, hoping to have lost just one more pound so I can look just a little more like the images that bombard my mind of the “perfect woman.”

IMG_2470

Even now, writing all of this so honestly, so openly, saddens me greatly.  I think Teddy Roosevelt was onto something.  What possible chance do I have at joy when I compare myself to someone who IS NOT ME?  After all, I can never be anyone other than the person God made me.  Sure, I can grow, set goals and reach them, push myself, have more discipline… but at the end of the day I am Rachael.  I’m pretty sure Rachael needs to shut up and stop listening to what Rachael says about Rachael.  Rachael needs to start listening to what God says about her.  What might that be?  I love what David had to say about God’s view of him:

You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.  How precious to me are your thoughts, O God. (From Psalms 139)

I am his creation.  He delights in me.  He saw enough value in me to pay the ultimate price…. just so I could know him.  He calls me friend.  He wants to walk with me, faults and all, in the cool of the day.  He knows my name.  He has the hairs on my head numbered.  He loves me just as I am.

And who are these people I’m comparing myself to, anyway?  Do I truly know any of them?  I guarantee that if I got to know them, I would realize that each and every one of them has struggles and shortcomings just like I do.  Do we realize that when we compare ourselves to someone, we are comparing ourselves to an idolized persona?  We are comparing ourselves to the voice, not the human.  We are comparing ourselves to the body, not that heart.  We are comparing ourselves to the works, not the soul.  We compare ourselves to some kind of facade.  We are trying to become more like someone rather than becoming more of ourselves in Christ Jesus.  He is the one we look to for the answers to who we are and who we are to become.  I want to be wrapped up, tied up and tangled up in Jesus, joyfully drawing strength and self-worth from the fact that I am loved by the King.

Do you struggle with comparison?  Does comparison rob you of your joy?  In what areas of your life do you find yourself comparing?  Please speak up so I know I’m not alone!

rg_quotes_comparison