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Beloved Little Souls

0 In Beloved Little Souls/ Blog

To Whom Do You Belong?

Lately I have been asking myself this question, over and over: “Margaret, to whom do you belong?” Do you belong to the world? OR Do you belong to God? I get so caught up in “keeping up with the Joneses” or lessening who I am in order to please other people in an impossible attempt to fit an impossible mold in order to justify my existence and my worth. I look to others to justify my worth which only leads to heartbreak and catastrophe when I am inevitably deemed not enough or rejected for who I am (if I get the courage to reveal that woman). I cannot and will not, no matter how much I try to, be enough for a world which demands perfection.

This struggle has led me far from home and has caused me to have an identity crisis. That crisis led me to assess my situation and my heart, ultimately leading me to realize that I have been so desperately trying to belong to this broken and cruel world.

A year ago I felt a call to ministry–and during this last year I have been grappling with that call and working towards being okay with the call God has laid upon my heart. I have yet to fully surrender my life, my control and my fear. On my best days I am willing to believe that God, can, in fact, use me and that I am wired for God; on my okay days I can laugh and admit that I am going to seminary but on my worst days I let fear win and I let myself believe that God’s call is nothing more than a shackle–a burden I am required to bear. A burden that will open me up to even more rejection and ridicule from this world.

And that is where the truth seems to lie, that I would rather choose death than life. I am choosing to belong to the world rather than to belong to God. My actions suggest that I do not want to belong to God–I want to belong to a broken and cruel world. But my heart, oh my heart, it longs to go home–to the One who created it and deemed it good. My heart reminds me, even if only quietly, that I have been deemed good, that I am oh so loved, that I am enough.

Just two weeks ago we celebrated Easter. We celebrated Jesus’ triumph over death and we rejoice in the knowledge that we are saved. But I still don’t believe it, I still struggle to really think that God could ever love me. On Maundy Thursday we ended with Peter’s denial. Ever since Maundy Thursday, I have been clinging to the story of Peter and finding just how much I relate to this disciple. I cling to the fact that Jesus predicted Peter’s denial and yet still promised to show up in Galilee.

Matthew 26:31-35:

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,

‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.’ Peter said to him, ‘Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny my three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And so said all the disciples.”

I cling to this story. I cling to the Truth it reveals–that Jesus knows when I will deny him and still promises to meet me in Galilee. God will endure the pain of my denial over and over and over again to only remain faithful to me. Peter’s denial reveals Jesus’ love and faithfulness. God keeps God’s promises. God shows up even when I repeatedly deny God and continue to choose to belong to the world. God is always faithful even when I am not.

In my rereading of The Return of the Prodigal Son, I was struck by what Henri says of Jesus’ two disciples Judas and Peter:

“Judas betrayed Jesus. Peter denied him. Both were lost children. Judas, no longer able to hold onto the truth that he remained God’s child, hung himself. In terms of the prodigal son, he sold the sword of his sonship. Peter, in the midst of his despair, claimed it and returned with many tears. Judas chose death. Peter chose life. I realize that this choice is always before me. Constantly I am tempted to wallow in my own lostness and lose touch with my original goodness, my God-given humanity, my basic blessedness, and thus allow the powers of death to take charge…But when God created man and woman in his own image, he saw that ‘it was very good,’ and, despite the dark voices, no man or woman can ever change that” (Nouwen, TRTPS, pp. 50-51).

I cling to Peter’s story, I cling to the knowledge that Jesus knew he would be betrayed and denied, yet, still promised to meet them in Galilee. When he did meet them, he did not tell them “I told you so,” he greeted them saying “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36). God still claims us as the Beloved, even when we haven’t been very lovable.

So my dear friends, or rather brothers and sisters, peace be with you all. May you choose life, choose to believe that God will meet you in Galilee–no matter how far from home you have strayed. I know it is nearly impossible to believe in this type of love in this type of grace, but for the sake of our poor hearts why not let us try to trust in it together.

May the Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret

0 In Beloved Little Souls/ Blog

Beautiful and Intentional Mess

My last post ended with me asking you to envision this scene:

I want you to take a minute, just pause and let this phrase, “Beloved Little Soul” wrap around your heart and bring you peace. Take a deep breath and let this settle on your heart; imagine I am sitting with you holding both your hands (please forgive my clammy hands!) and looking you directly in the eye and I want you to hear, really hear and listen with your heart what I am about to say to you. “YOU are God’s Beloved. YOU are a Beloved Little Soul! Yes, you! Don’t give me that look–I am talking about YOU. YOU are SO VERY LOVED. Now please, I am begging you–stop believing the lies and trust–yes, I know it is so hard to do so, but trust that YOU are the Beloved–with whom God is well pleased.”

Okay, are you ready now? Or do you need to go back and reread and reimagine that scene? Because I really want to get this through to you, I want these words to pierce your broken, bruised and weary heart. I want them to settle into those dark and dangerous places that hold you captive and make you believe the lies that attack and break you down. So, go back, meditate on those words for a little bit longer. Let them roll around your mind, wrap around your heart and make you all fuzzy and warm–and let yourself trust them and then let yourself really believe in them. As you do this I am going to offer a prayer.

Holy Spirit come. I have heard these words lay upon my heart for so long, I have felt the healing powers they offer as they have wrapped around my bruised, broken and weary heart and I have felt the reassurance they bring when the lies become so easy to believe. I want to share them with all of your beautiful children. Give me the words to share, the words that will offer some healing, the words that will bring about the peace that surpasses all understanding and the words that will point to you. May this bring glory to you. Please give me strength and give me the words that need to be heard (well technically written). My friends, I pray for each one of you as you read these words. Much of this post has been inspired and comes from some of our beautiful brothers and sisters in our family that have offered me comfort. Some words, God willing, will come from my own heart. Most of all I just pray that you hear and feel the presence of God and begin to believe that you are so truly loved.

I have struggled with insecurities my whole life. I, like so many others, have let society and people who I love tell me I am not enough, that I must make myself smaller, be less this and more of that, I need to look like this and I need to act like that in order to be worthy of love and to be enough but not too much. I have talked about this so much, in fact nearly two years ago I wrote a post for a dear friend who needed to hear that she was God’s good creation, it is entitled Precious Ones and was published in July 2015.

Two years ago I began a journey to learn to love myself, to love who I was and to allow myself to become who God was calling me to be. Honestly, the biggest step in that direction was choosing to go to Scotland–Scotland gave me a place and a community of people who allowed me to be exactly who I was and safe space to learn who I am meant to be. I hope and pray that you find a place and a community where you can breathe. I pray that God brings people into your life who simply let you be unapologetically yourself. My journey to Scotland led me to realize so many healing things about myself. I learned who I thought I always was isn’t who I am and I learned to let go. Now, after returning to the US, I have begun to realize that I am a complex creature. Multi-dimensional and I cannot and will not perfectly mesh together like a jigsaw puzzle and that is beautiful and exactly how God intended me and YOU to be. We aren’t suppose to really make any sense. I find this summed up so well in a scene from the book, The Shack. The main character, Mack works in a garden with Sarayu (the Holy Spirit):

“‘I didn’t do that much, really,’ he said apologetically. ‘I mean, look at this mess.’ His gaze moved over the garden that surrounded them. ‘But it really is beautiful, and full of you, Sarayu. Even though it seems like lots of work still needs to be done, I feel strangely at home and comfortable here.’ The two looked at each other and grinned. Sarayu stepped toward him until she had invaded his personal space. ‘And well you should, Mackenzie, because this garden is your soul. This mess is you! Together, you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart. And it is wild and beautiful and perfectly in process. To you it seems like a mess, but I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive–a living fractal.'” (WM. Paul Young, The Shack, pp. 144-145).

I  don’t know about you but that scene sends shivers all over my body. WOW! I am a mess but a beautiful one. YOU are a mess but an incredibly BEAUTIFUL and INTENTIONAL one! I love the line, “Together, you and I, we have been been working with a purpose in your heart.” Isn’t that simply lovely? That we are working together with God for a purpose.

Lately, I have witnessed an immense amount of hurt. I have seen the fatal consequences of believing in the lies this world feeds us. Maybe that is another reason I feel so called to write about God’s love for all of God’s children (AKA all the children in world). Haven’t we heard that we aren’t enough too many times, isn’t it time that we simply hear the truth–that God loves us and accepts us exactly as we come.

Recently, I have come to really love the words messy and broken. I think that it is amongst the mess that is our lives and within the brokenness of hearts and selves that God truly shows up and does God’s best work. A few weeks ago I wrote a post entitled Saved where I talked about how God loves me back to life over and over again. Just this past week I have been loved back to life, back to myself and back to God by God–through the loving acceptance of wonderful friends and God’s grace. Last week I believed in all the lies society tells me to believe. I sobbed on the phone to my dear friend about how I didn’t believe I was worthy of love, how I truly believed I was too much for anyone to actually ever love and all those horrible thoughts made me feel so ashamed. How had I fallen so far from where I was? I am so thankful for my dear friends, and as my friend listened she offered me reassurance that I was indeed loved and I was not too much.

Community is so important. God designed us to be relational creatures. And when I forget that I am not of this world (John 15:19) I have friends to remind me of who I am and more importantly whose I am. I believe, and in fact have been told by someone dear to me, that I was created to love–I think that is my call in this world, to love, defend love and to tell of God’s love for us all. That is why I am writing. Maybe you don’t have a supportive community to reassure you that you are loved, but my loves, you have me to reassure you and to (physically or figuratively) hold your hand when it feels like the world will destroy you.

I want to leave this post with something that I think is utterly beautiful and something that you most likely need to hear. This scene comes from a book that changed my life, Hearing the Call: Stories of Young Vocation; yes, I know I say this all the time, but I really mean it! In the final pages of the book there is a beautiful interaction between an older monk, known to be able to read people’s hearts, and a young man seeking his call in life. I think we all need to let the wisdom that is shared from the older monk to the young man sink into our hearts and bring us peace.

“‘…Your problem is, you don’t know who you are. Let me tell you who you are. You are a ray of God’s own light.’ ‘Sounds a bit silly,’ the young man thought to himself. But he was intrigued, so he said, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘You say you seek God, but a ray of light doesn’t seek the sun;  it’s coming from the sun. You are a branch on the vine of God. A branch doesn’t seek the vine; it’s already part of the vine. A wave doesn’t look for the ocean; it’s already full of ocean. Because you don’t know that who you are is one with God, you believe all these labels about yourself; I’m a sinner, I’m a saint, I’m a wretch, I’m a worm and no man, I’m a monk, I’m a nurse. These are labels, clothing. They serve a purpose, but they are not who you are. To the extent that you believe these labels, you believe a lie, and you add anguish upon anguish…'” (Jonathan Lawson and Gordon Muriel, Hearing the Call: Stories of Young Vocation, p. 108).

You, my dear and lovely friend, you intentional and beautiful mess, “You are a ray of God’s own light. And please don’t ever forget it.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret

0 In Beloved Little Souls/ Blog

Beloved Little Souls

I have tried to write this post three times. I have prayed for, referred to so many gorgeous sources, looked at my life and my friends’ lives to find the words that need to be said and heard. Recently, I have written about how I am really trying to be honest to God and myself, especially as we make our way to the cross. So, I felt that I needed to introduce this series, Beloved Little Souls with honesty about my life. I struggle and have always struggled to truly believe that I am worthy of love, that I am good enough to exist and that I could ever be capable of doing anything of value. Harsh? Yes. But these are the lies that I have let seep into my heart and soul, these are the dark thoughts that have played over and over in my head, these are the lies that society has fed me and has fed you. Today I was on Pinterest and I saw this quote:

“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” (K.W.)

We have been told throughout our entire existence and are currently telling children who they should be, what they need to do to be worthy and acceptable of love and ultimately that unless they do a,b,c they will not be of value in this world. We hear these lies, every single minute of every single day. They surround us, they are shoved down our throats and they come packaged in a variety of ways. Then if we manage to wade through the lies and come to a place where we are capable of saying, “I love myself exactly how I am, I am worthy of love and I matter.” Someone somewhere will see that little light of hope and try to squish it out. They will condemn you as “Egotistical, prideful, conceited.” This attack often spurs us back into square one–back to that place where we believe we just aren’t enough.

That is why I am writing. I am writing for you and I am also writing for me. I want to do what little I can to remind you that in a world that tells you you are not enough, you are unlovable, you are not worthy–I am hear to say: Oh you, my love, you are SO LOVED, you are more than enough, you are not just lovable–you are already SO LOVED and you are worthy of all the beauty and joy that this world has to offer. I need to hear it and so do you.

There are some days that I have to admit that I don’t believe that I am worthy of love and that something is inherently wrong with me–but fortunately I have a wonderful community of people (some are the authors of my favorite books) who are there to remind me of the truth and physically or figuratively hold my hand till I can believe it again. I hope this series of posts will serve as a reminder to you that you are so very loved and that your presence in this world makes it a brighter place–you produce a light that cannot be replicated, so why not just let it shine?

I have chosen to entitle the series, Beloved Little Souls. This title comes from one of my favorite endearments, Beloved, and the gorgeous Hebrew word, Neshume-le, which means “Beloved Little Soul.” Back in September (2016), I discovered The Return of the Prodigal Son, by my man Henri Nouwen. Henri (I feel like he and I are kindred souls and I now consider him a dear friend, so I call him by his first name), challenges his readers, and himself to hear the verse Matthew 3:17, “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with whom I am well pleased,'” as directed toward Jesus but ourselves as well. Henri uses the phrase: “You are the Beloved, on you my favor rests [or] with whom I am well pleased” over and over again, in a couple of different books.* The first time I read this phrase and let myself hear it within my own heart I felt peace and love. I suspect you not only need to hear it but need to learn to trust and believe in it. I also know I need to be reminded of it so that maybe, just maybe I will truly let myself believe it.

So let’s begin on this journey together. Beloved Little Souls just setting out on a path of, God willing: healing, reconciliation, love, discovery, peace and joy.

I want you to take a minute, just pause and let this phrase, “Beloved Little Soul” wrap around your heart and bring you peace. Take a deep breath and let this settle on your heart; imagine I am sitting with you holding both your hands (please forgive my clammy hands!) and looking you directly in the eye and I want you to hear, really hear and listen with your heart what I am about to say to you. “YOU are God’s Beloved. YOU are a Beloved Little Soul! Yes, you! Don’t give me that look–I am talking about YOU. YOU are SO VERY LOVED. Now please, I am begging you–stop believing the lies and trust–yes, I know it is so hard to do so, but trust that YOU are the Beloved–with whom God is well pleased.”

I am so excited to enter this journey with you and with God. I hope that you will join me and simply let yourself rest in God’s loving and peaceful embrace.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret

*Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming; Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved

0 In Beloved Little Souls/ Blog

Snail Mail

“Think in Ink: While many revel in the ease and convenience of instantaneous communication, and are addicted to the instant gratification of a text or email, writing by hand focuses the mind. There is no delete button, no backspace, so words must be considered and chosen carefully before being committed to paper, making their meaning more succinct.” (This Quote is from the inner cover of a Debrett’s journal I found in Harrods).

As much as I love typing things out digitally, sending things instantly and how small the world has become–nothing will ever replace a handwritten letter sent through good ole’ snail mail. I think when we sit down with pen and paper we have no other choice but to be careful and intentional with our words.

One of my favorite things is picking out stationery, buying pretty pens and using those supplies for writing out letters or notes to those I love. There is something so satisfying in addressing an envelope and dropping it in the mail! I just bought myself a booklet of stamps today, I am quite excited that my postage stamps say love on them; so now when I send my letters I am literally sending love your way. (Super cheesy, but true!)

I write letters and send them because I know how much it means to me when I receive a handwritten note or card in the mail. But I never write with the expectation of people responding; however, it is a wonderful treat when I am surprised by a response, as I was last night.

This past year, while I was in Scotland, I realized how important it is that we utilize snail mail. One of my grandmothers does not have an iPhone or the newest technology so she would write me letters. When you can’t talk to a person everyday, you realize just how special of a gift a hand written card or note is.

Maybe it is the historian in me that loves pen and paper so much. Come to think of it, I do have friends who have sorted through countless letters for their dissertation. There is just something nice in knowing that these words, intentionally written and heartfelt could still be in existence a hundred of years from now. I love the idea that these words I physically write will not have been saved on some digital server but instead, in someone’s drawer or a shoebox. Isn’t that just a lovely thought?

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to write more letters! So far I have done fairly well with it and with the amount of postage stamps I purchased today, I have hope that I will be sending more! I am also preparing myself for Valentine’s Day! Yesterday I purchased my Valentines and I am way too excited about them. Are you planning on sending any Valentine’s?

Friends, I hope that you will be inspired to take up pen and paper and send someone you love a handwritten note telling them how much you care!

May the Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!

Peace, Joy, Blessings and So Much Love,

Margaret