Embracing Vulnerable Beauty

Author: Kate Franken

“Do you have children?”

“Are you married?”

I get that these are questions most women often ask as a cordial attempt to get acquainted. Their success rate in forging a connection amongst my female counterparts is high, but their ability to alienate someone in my current stage of life is just as steep.

beauty-vulnerableMy 20-something self detested being asked such questions. With each passing year, as I became more and more the minority, my reflex to cringe upon hearing them became quicker. I hated how they made me feel vulnerable. Because once I revealed my single, childless state, the magnifying glasses seemed to emerge from in front of puzzled faces. Attempts would be made to put the pieces together as to why I fell short in growing a family my own. Suggestions would be made as to how I could fix the problem they found in me. Some would even be so bold as to ask, “What’s wrong with you?”

I sought to avert situations that might turn into an  exposé of the supposed truth of my circumstances, so I clung to the safety of masks, walls, pretenses, hermit-like living and the lie “I’m okay.” A hard heart became my shield. I thought it would protect me.

Fortunately, God grabbed a hold of me. He knew there was more for me than a hidden life. He placed His love over the clenched fists that were wrapped around my semblance of control and tenderly loosened my grip. He squeezed me tight until I could finally see He was everything I needed. He taught me to sing a new song, one of surrender. He revealed the beauty of vulnerably giving one’s life.

He led me through one story to the next and spoke to me through the printed divine wisdom locked firm and true in the pages of the Bible.

David

David confronted Goliath, the towering 9 foot something  Philistine beast, with five smooth stones and a sling. David stood before this man, known to be the strongest of warriors, without any protective covering to shield him, having previously declined the King’s armor. He relied solely on his faith in God to deliver him and he victoriously prevailed (1 Samuel 17).

Paul

Paul identified himself as the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15-16) to point to the saving grace of Christ. He remained fervent in preaching the good news of Christ, knowing it would inevitably result in violent persecution.

Jesus

Jesus came in human form, sharing in the sufferings of humanity, to pave a path for us to follow. In the years that He walked this Earth, He sacrificially gave of Himself to the needs of others. The most vulnerable moment in all of human history was His crucifixion, in which He gave of His own life so that we may have life eternal.

A theme was evident. When they chose faithfulness to God, they made themselves vulnerable and it pointed to the beauty of God’s faithfulness. Then God carried this theme from the pages, I loved, to the existence I lived.

His Disciples

The lyrics of this new song God was teaching me penetrated my heart all the more as I sat again and again across the table from godly examples both married and single. I entered into community and found my heart ministered to by the stories of others. They sat unmasked before me, drawing my eyes to Jesus. With their vulnerable words, they were His disciples and they were doing the work of the Great Commission.

God knew just how to prod me into being vulnerable myself.  He knew I was drawn to beauty.  He created me that way. And beauty is what I saw in the women across the table from me, in David, in Paul, and in Jesus.

vulnerable-beautyI now look at vulnerability with new eyes. When I see vulnerability, I see courage, unthwarted by imperfections. I see a resistance to the chains of fear and shame. I see a softened heart. I see a confident trust in what God has done. I see rest with a rightly placed hope in Jesus’ perfection and not one’s own. I see a healing agent. I see love shining through. I see an expression of who God is. I see it to be altogether beautiful.

God did not leave me the same, once He got ahold of me. He freed me. He told me I was more precious than jewels. He wrapped me in the security of Christ. He made me content with my mistakes, scars, brokenness, and the truth that “I don’t have it all together”, knowing God’s grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He has changed me into now being the woman that vulnerably shares her story of God’s saving grace to minister to hearts of others, and has given me a heart to encourage others to walk forth with a vulnerability that speaks of His goodness,inviting others to grasp its beauty.


 Readers, It is important that we seek to understand others and their experiences. There is a great treasure hidden in friendship with those that are different than ourselves. Our circumstances do not threaten our identity when our identity is rooted in Christ which empowers us all to hear the story of the other.

kate-squareKate Franken is a 4th grade teacher and a volunteer coordinator at her church in Oregon. She enjoys indulging in raw conversation whilst savoring a cup or more of coffee. Her hunt for good books and podcasts is endless. She finds refuge surrounded by trees, on hiking trails, with her two dogs in tow. She is especially fond of mountaintop views, wit, “best teacher ever” love letters, breakfast, a painted sky, and Jesus. She has a heart for connecting people to His church and encouraging others into relationship with Him.

Seeking Beauty

I stared at the glowing screen, eyes glazed over, darting from one item to the next. I compared products and added to the ever growing “wishlist.” Babies don’t need much, but we are foster parents and instead of 9 months of preparation, we have weeks to prepare. Car seats. Consumer reports. Carriers. Will it arrive in time? Thank God for free two day shipping.

Completely overwhelmed I ended the night gazing at the problem through tears. Wishing the pain that causes a child to need a backup plan on no one. My empathy ignited for separated families and those stuck in cycles they cannot escape. The fear of the unknown future for this tiny one, for my heart.

beauty-seekingI seek the physical necessities, but also mourn that life has not been stable and “put together”. I plan out what furniture we need to collect and find Pinterest projects to beautify spaces. I long for this child to be celebrated, welcomed, and loved if even for a short time.

But the beautiful printables didn’t calm my heart. The wish-list increased my anxiety. Grasping for control only proved how out of control I actually am.

Through tears I expressed my crazy to my husband. He pointed me back again to the only source of peace: dwelling deeply in Christ. My gaze shifted. My heart calmed.

Dwelling, Gazing, Seeking. This is what I must be about.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4 NIV

Dwelling:

I sometimes forget that I don’t need to fix all the problems, mitigate all the relationships, and control the situation. I can dwell with my God in worship. Not just someday in heaven, but moment by moment; being near to the one who made me. Abiding with the one who loves me most.

Gazing:

I can gaze upon his beauty as I marvel at his character. Mercy. Forgiveness. Overwhelming love. Love that not only believes in redemption and second chances for all, but also cares for the most vulnerable with justice and compassion. Rather than focusing on what is in front of me, I must turn my eyes to the eternal.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:2-3

dwelling-gazing-seeking-this-is-what-i-must-be-aboutAs a turn my eyes from today to the one who is truly life, I can stop striving, because God’s wisdom, his Spirit, and his love are available to me. He who named the stars of the sky, who created galaxies, and has been working out redemption throughout all of human history also knows me intimately. He is at work in the entire world and yet

You have kept count of my tossings, put my tears in your bottle.  Are they not in your book? Psalms 57:8

My heart is put at rest knowing that God is good. My anxieties ease as I stare into his power and greatness. I can leave him in control, for he loves me as well as those I fret over when midnight nears.

Seeking:

Seeking him out is the most beautiful pursuit. I don’t need to know the end of the story to know that God will be at work. He does not just take people who are doing well at life and shine them up a bit, but he transforms the worst situations possible into something beautiful.
It is not simply the “someday” resolution, wrapped up in a bow, that creates beauty in the midst of the messiness of life. Choosing to dwell with, gaze at, and seek the giver of life allows true beauty to bloom in chaos.


Readers, Whatever your cares the weight of them can be revealed by keeping your eyes on the the God who can carry it for you. May you seek and find rest as you search for His beauty today.

holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Free Anchored Printable: Loved

Dear Readers,

We want you to know that you are loved! As our galentine gift to you, Sarah Dohman has created this beautiful printable to awaken your heart to the fact that you are loved by the God of the universe. No love can match His, and He chose to lavish this great love on you through His son Jesus. May these words on your wall, desk, or wherever you like to put your printables remind you that we love Him because He first loved us.

Click here to download your Loved Printable
1-john-419

He Makes Things Beautiful

My husband and I are expecting our third child, a daughter, at the beginning of April. The state of my house indicates that clearly I have reached the third trimester. The cupboards are gutted and rearranged. Things that probably don’t need cleaning are cleaned. My seeking to add beauty to our final baby’s room has overflowed onto the rest of our apartment, as browsing through Pinterest and Instagram inspire dreams of new décor and transforming our space.

After giving time and attention to these things, I sometimes find a guilty monologue echoing through my thoughts. These things don’t last. What eternal value do they have? What good will come from surrounding our lives with the material glitz of this world? Is it honoring to God to be so enamored  by all the pretty things?

he-makes-things-beautifulThen as I looked out my window at the creation whose beauty cries out praise to the creator, that it can be honoring to Him! God didn’t create a purely utilitarian world. He dressed it beautifully, adorned it for our enjoyment and to remind us that He is with us. The appreciation of something beautiful truly brings a spark of hope to the downtrodden soul.

“All that is good, all that is true and all that is beautiful brings us to God. Because God is good, God is beauty, God is truth.”~Pope Francis

How I love the stillness and purity of the outdoors after a fresh snowfall! I don’t love the cold, but I appreciate the magic of the untouched white as it gilds the bare, leafless trees. Oh, and how delighted I am to find the first cluster of tulips poking up after a hard winter. Even the Bible takes time to recognize beauty’s ability to impact living things.

Flowers appear on the earth;
    the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
    is heard in our land.” Song of Solomon 2:12 (NIV)

Instagram has a virtual corner that has set itself up as a  marketplace, full of beautifully staged photos and lovely things people have taken the time to make and sell. I do love browsing through and enjoying the diversity of gifts God has given. I’m amazed by the abilities of freehand painters, and enjoy the beauty people are choosing to share. Investments in beautiful things others have made, add to my home. They remind me that created things, though never as great as the Creator, can remind us of who He is. Every time I look at them, I feel a little thrill of happiness and hope.

beautiful-thingsWe too can offer beauty. Occasionally, I find a project that’s within my scope and I get  to engage in creating my own beautiful things. I’m so thankful God didn’t just place us in a sterile  and industrial world with no color and no “scope for imagination” as Anne of Green Gables would say. From the freshly fallen snow to the first pink buds of spring, He has brought us beauty in every season. Whether I simply appreciate the natural world, or make beautiful things with my hands, I’m loving God’s generosity in allowing me to enjoy, find inspiration, and take part in beautifying a broken world as we hope for the day when beauty will be all we know.


Readers, How can you be a steward of beauty in your places? 

sarah-c-squareSarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.

Beauty for Ashes

By: Holly Berg

Three years ago we bought our son an adorable little t-shirt:  “Big Brother Team Captain”, it said. He wore it to Grandma and Grandpa’s house that evening – he was so excited to share the big secret he had been keeping.

My husband’s parents were ecstatic – they had been waiting for a second grandchild since the day our son was born!

Then I started bleeding. Just a little spotting, at first.

Then more.  beauty-for-ashes

We spent the night in the emergency room but by the time the doctor finally got around to examining me we already knew the diagnosis.

“Your pregnancy has terminated,” he said.  So cold. So clinical.

He gave me a prescription for T3 and sent me home with a dismissive “It’s so early, everything will happen naturally. Come back if the pain gets unbearable.”

Unbearable.

The next day I couldn’t move. I laid in bed and cried.

And cried and cried and cried.

We had only found out about the baby the week before.  One week – but I already loved my little bean.

I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect the pain.

My husband had to carry me to the bathroom and then hold me while I sat there, shivering, shaking, trying not to be sick.

I’ve never seen him cry so much, or so hard.  It had only been one week, but he loved our baby too.

* * *

Two months later I found out that I was pregnant again.

I hated every moment of my relatively easy pregnancy with my son, but I cherished each moment of this much more difficult pregnancy.   It was a pregnancy filled with worry and fear and anxiety, but God replaced our mourning with joy.  

The Bible says “Those who sow with tears will reap songs of joy.  Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”  (Psalm 125:5-6, NIV)  And it reminds that the Lord will “provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3, NIV)

Ten months after my miscarriage, I gave birth to a healthy 6 lb 4 oz baby girl.  

Beauty from ashes.

At the time I clung to Scripture:  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28 (NIV))

Going through a miscarriage was horrible, it was scary and it was painful – but looking back, I can see how God revealed Himself – and His love for us – in that situation.  I can see how He worked all things – even our grief – for good.    

The tragedy we experienced strengthened my relationship with my husband. I remember the night after our trip to the hospital, lying in bed, sobbing, with a Kleenex box between us.  We were connected in love and grief.  We went through every moment of my third pregnancy together – my husband was much more attentive and much more involved than he had been the first time around!  We both learned that nothing in this life is a given – we need to depend on God for every single breath.  My husband was there for every doctor’s appointment, every ER visit, and every ultrasound – holding my hand, praying with me, calming my fears.  

ashes-and-beautyI also learned not to take the children I do have for granted.  Even on challenging days, when I’m exhausted and none of us are at our best, I see my children as blessings.  I realize my time with them may be fleeting so I try to make the most of each and every day with them. 

* * *

Maybe it’s just me, but in my experience beauty goes hand in hand with pain.  You can’t have one without the other.  

One of my favourite passages in Scripture says that we may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, but “these have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  (1 Peter 1:6-7, NIV)

Being refined hurts.  Weaknesses and impurities are stripped away, leaving us with only what is genuine and true.  But the end result is something more worthy and much more beautiful than gold.  


Readers, Sometimes our deepest sorrows shine light on the richest beauty, but it is not always easy to see through the pain. It is our prayer that today you would have eyes to see that even in the midst of trouble God’s promises still stand true.

43483-2016headshotHolly Berg is a wife, mama, writer and horse nut who wrangles children by day and words by night. She writes to challenge, encourage and inspire others to see beauty in the everyday, minister in the mundane, and share their stories along the way. Read more of her writing at Scattered Words.

Beauty in the Gathering

75+ ladies joined one another around circular tables, ate tasty food, and shared their stories as we gathered at the local church. Our pastor’s wife prompted us with questions about social media, and how easy, how often, the comparison game takes place. Simply open up Facebook, or my personal fave, Instagram, and the scrolling begins. Swiping downward through apps can be mindless, but can also prompt me to look at other people’s pictures and wonder, “Am I missing something?”

gathering-beautyMy particular table included women ranging from teenagers to women in their forties. Some were college students, some were college graduates. Three married with children, five single. The initial questions I asked as table hostess included basic information, but soon deepened into less explored, hard conversations. Vulnerability. Honesty. Beauty. Sentences strung together with meaning and transparency began to harmonize as we took turns listening and speaking.

We sat there, eating appetizers and desserts, sipping on various beverages, and I took a moment to soak in this precious glimpse of beauty. Here sat women, in varying life stages, talking about dreams and reality. Sharing about the goodness of God, and His character. Words of encouragement spurred on truth being spoken into one another’s lives. The women who gathered were heard, and loved on. They left that evening feeling connected, and craving more face-to-face encounters. I witnessed numbers being swapped, prayers being prayed. Other table leaders shared that those at their table felt hand-picked by God and placed there with purpose.


And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47


beauty-gatheringThe beauty of a gathering is that it is a God ordained practice, and we who love Him have been called to embrace its richness. When we gather in His name and eat, walls built around weary hearts can come crumbling down. Words of affirmation offer truth and love. Frequent gatherings, such as those in the book of Acts, stir up the hearts of the attendees and build relationship. Sitting elbow-to-elbow with another person,  breaking bread, tangibly hearing and seeing a person, reveals their needs. There is divine beauty in knowing another person’s heart’s desires. Jesus himself purposefully broke bread and drank wine during his last meal on earth with the disciples. He wanted them to remember him, and prompted them to meet together often.

Dear friends, gather together frequently. Break bread with one another, quench both physical and spiritual thirst, and honor God by encouraging each other. Find the beauty locked in the folds of gathering, and be reminded of God’s goodness and grace that stands firm in all circumstances.


Readers, Who could you encourage, listen to, or gather with to grab hold of the beauty that can be found as God works amongst the relationships He has given you?

sarah-dohman-squareSarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globe trotter, adorer of friends and family. She has a weakness for donuts, runs in 5k races, and cannot get enough tea and books. She loves writing more than talking (and she talks a lot), can be seen at Target frequently, and is loving life in her thirties. She believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog or on Twitter.