Spiritual makeover challenge

I’m a sucker for before and after photos of makeovers. I love seeing the changes, recognizing how to enhance the beauty that’s already there and bring out what was formerly hidden. As I was trying to fall asleep one night last week, I thought about all the ways I want to change spiritually, and I ...

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I’m a sucker for before and after photos of makeovers. I love seeing the changes, recognizing how to enhance the beauty that’s already there and bring out what was formerly hidden. As I was trying to fall asleep one night last week, I thought about all the ways I want to change spiritually, and I prayed, “Lord, make me over in your image. I need to be transformed by you.”

Then I knew just what to do. I hopped out of bed and sat at my computer and promptly made this list of characteristics that I’m asking Him to make over for me.

That’s the key: not trying to do this ourselves, but leaving it to the Expert. I think we can safely trust that He will answer these prayers because of what the Bible says about us being made in His image:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. ~2 Corinthians 5:17

And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. ~Colossians 3:10

So, here’s my idea: Read through these scriptures with me, and pray these prayers, and download the worksheet at the bottom of the post. Then spend some time reflecting on your spiritual beauty (and imperfections), and go to God in prayer, asking Him to transform You to be more like Him.

Lord, give me Your eyes to see — let me see through eyes of compassion, not ones of judgment; let me see the beauty I might otherwise miss, let me notice the needs all around me

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. ~Psalm 119:18

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. ~1 Corinthians 13:11-12

Your ears to hear — let me hear cries for justice, pleas of the lonely, calls for help, the needs of the heart that aren’t articulated or even always understood, and let me hear Your voice over all others

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. ~John 10:27

Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. ~Isaiah 55:3

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. ~Psalm 85:8

Your arms to reach — let me help someone else who’s down, let me embrace someone who feels alone, let me be the safe place someone else needs to come to for shelter

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. ~Hebrews 13:2

Your hands to touch — let me treat people gently, competently, surely, and let my hands be instruments of healing

Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. ~Mark 1:41-42

Your words to speak let my words build people up, not tear them down; let me share Your truths with kindness and accuracy

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. ~Ephesians 4:29

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~Hebrews 4:12

Your mind to reason and solve problems help me distill problems and learn to frame them through the lens of your word, and help me formulate unexpected and perfectly appropriate solutions that could have only come from You

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ~Romans 12:2

Your legs so I can stand firmly, with stability, on a solid foundationstrengthen my faith, planting it more deeply inside me, so that I will not be toppled by strong winds or easily shaken

When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever. ~Proverbs 10:25

So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. ~1 Corinthians 15:58

The Lord’s plan stands firm forever. His thoughts stand firm in every generation. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. Blessed are the people he has chosen as his own. ~Psalm 33:11-12

Your heart to love without limit show me what love really looks like, and teach me how to say “I love you and,” not “I love you but,” because is it truly love if it comes with criticism or judgment? Open my heart to feel new depths of compassion and to love generously, mercifully, and with

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. ~Psalm 51:10-12

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh. ~Ezekiel 11:19

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. ~Matthew 5:43-45

Amen!

P.S. Don’t give up. It may take some time for God to reveal His ideas to you or to give you the chance to practice these traits. But rest assured that He does want to transform all of us to become more like Him. We just have to be willing to let Him! Click here or on the worksheet image below to download the PDF file.

Philippians 1:6 ESV: And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

A different beautiful

Today, I’m giddy about welcoming my friend Marcia Kendall to my blog. I sometimes have the privilege of reading and reviewing books for other writers, and this one came to me recently. I knew it would be really, really good, but I hadn’t found time to review it yet, so I asked Marcia. And in her ...

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Today, I’m giddy about welcoming my friend Marcia Kendall to my blog. I sometimes have the privilege of reading and reviewing books for other writers, and this one came to me recently. I knew it would be really, really good, but I hadn’t found time to review it yet, so I asked Marcia. And in her kindness and usual giving spirit, she wrote this for me. Enjoy.


I read A Different Beautiful by Courtney Westlake in less than twelve hours. These sentences from her introduction are the reasons why:

But when my husband, my son, and I welcomed our daughter into our family, our world was not turned upside down.

When something is turned upside down, it falls apart.

But not our world. Our world was shaken up. When you shake something, only the strongest pieces remain standing. The weak pieces fall to the wayside.

And through this, we came to realize how unimportant those weak pieces were that fell apart and fell off—pieces of our lives that were not priorities, that didn’t matter. 

Her honest stories brought me into her world. I realized that something as simple as painting her daughter’s nails required a safety negotiation in her mind.

This book taught me about harlequin ichthyosis and the special care it requires. Courtney’s explanation of how they lovingly serve their daughter, Brenna, reminded me of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. This made me question what in my life would remind people of that…this proved to be a very challenging question.

Her story is not an easy one as you will come to understand after you read about the crisis she experienced at Christmas shortly after her daughter’s birth, but it is a story of faith and of hope:

A few days after Brenna was born, a family member said to me and Evan, “I haven’t talked to God in years…but I’ve actually been praying for Brenna.” In that moment, I began to feel my worry transform into a faithful trust in God’s purpose for her very significant life. 

With each [blood gas] draw, there came a very slight improvement. It was so slight that it was not much to base any hope on, but that’s the thing about hope: we always reach for it no matter the circumstances. 

Faith doesn’t necessarily come from answered prayer or miracles or met expectations. No, what I have found is that faith comes from trust in God’s will and God’s greatness regardless of what the world tells us we should believe. And sometimes we must fight every day to maintain that trust as the world pushes against it. 

Boldness-1

And I think many of us who have experienced tragedy or grief can relate in part to the moment we must face the realization that we did “everything right” but things turned out differently than expected.

We did everything we knew to do to deliver a strong and healthy child, and our daughter was still one of the sickest babies in the NICU. We did everything right, and we still faced so much uncertainty about being able to take our baby home. 

When I picked up this book, I expected a memoir. What I didn’t expect was to be taught how to live in a more beautiful way. Courtney did something that is rarely seen, she taught the reader simple, concrete ways of how we can be more sensitive to visual differences. This is something that is important for all of us, and I immediately put the book down and taught my own children.

And while she is an effective teacher, she is also a humble one as she wrote of her own defensiveness, “I failed to see the real issue at hand because I chose to become defensive instead of exploring the heart of the matter.”

For our family, we now know a different beautiful, a beautiful that the world might struggle to see or understand, but those of us who know and love Brenna have gratefully been given the gift of understanding this different beautiful.

This kind of transformation comes from the personal choices we make in our lives. Every time we decide to write our story as one that is positive and good, every time we turn a setback into a comeback, every time we choose to praise and be grateful even in the hard, and every time we meet another person’s eyes with kindness, that’s when we are learning how to truly live a life of celebration.

I recently read a tweet, “Think how different we and the world would be if we approached every new situation with two goals: listen and learn.” I suggest we start with this book.

Here is my favorite line from the book, “The Lord has a narrow focus…one focus. Our hearts.” Well, Courtney Westlake, your heart is certainly beautiful.


courtney-different-beautiful-photo-smallCourtney has been writing since she was young, and she holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Writing became the way she processed a whole new frightening and beautiful world as her family learned how to care for Brenna…and learned how to truly celebrate this difficult and wonderful life. She began this blog in 2011 when Brenna was just four days old, after she had been diagnosed at birth with a very rare and severe skin disorder. Her children’s book That’s How You Know was released in 2013.

You can read more about Courtney here and more about the Westlakes’ story here. If you’re interested in having Courtney speak at your event, read more information here. And if you buy the Kindle version by August 31, it’s on sale for just $2.99!

Perfectly formed (guest post from Courtney Westlake)

When my daughter was first born, I thought they just needed to wipe her off. At first glance, she seemed to be covered with a thick coating of white, causing confusion and near-panic with the medical staff in the room. It soon became clear that the towel the nurse was using to clean her wouldn’t ...

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When my daughter was first born, I thought they just needed to wipe her off.

At first glance, she seemed to be covered with a thick coating of white, causing confusion and near-panic with the medical staff in the room. It soon became clear that the towel the nurse was using to clean her wouldn’t alleviate anyone’s concerns.

Because the white covering was her skin.

Our daughter Brenna (our second child and sister to our now five-year-old son Connor) was born in 2011 with a very severe, very rare genetic skin condition called Harlequin Ichthyosis (har-le-kwin ick-thee-oh-sis).

This severe disorder means that Brenna’s body has trouble with things like regulating her body temperature – she can’t even sweat – and keeping bacteria out, so she can get skin infections easily. It also means that her body produces skin about 10 times too fast, leaving her with very dry, peeling skin that looks like a sunburn all over her body.

Brenna’s condition affects our lives very profoundly every day and has caused the last three years to be filled with surgeries, doctor and therapy appointments, and a lot of health issues. But my husband, Evan, and I have never questioned why – we have believed from the very beginning in God’s plan for Brenna’s life.

We are often asked what is “wrong” with Brenna, with her skin or her face. But to be wrong is to be mistaken… and I don’t believe that mistakes happen with our awesome God.

When Brenna was just a few days old, critically ill in the neonatal intensive care unit, a family member came to us and said: “I haven’t talked to God in years… but I’ve been praying for Brenna.”

It was in that moment that I was assured that God had an extraordinary purpose for her life, and that he was bringing his children closer to him through our daughter and working through her to reach the hearts of others.

And, as I soon discovered, God was also working through me, by giving me the courage to stand up and say that my daughter is not wrong, she is beautiful.

God has given us the courage to find the beauty in this life, not the tragedy. We believe whole-heartedly that Brenna was given to us uniquely and beautifully created by God, not that she was given to us broken.

Within this, we are learning every day how to discover the beauty in the different and the unexpected. Where society often mocks different, we have found God’s beautiful creation in our differences and are learning to glorify his awesomeness through our distinct personalities, talents, and yes, appearances.

And yet, as we learn to appreciate and to celebrate our differences – our own and each other’s – it also serves as a great reminder that the God who created each of us with unique purpose and talents also created us with a likeness in his image.

We are different, and we are the same – none of us perfect, but formed purposely by a perfect Creator. And there is nothing wrong about that.

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To read more of Brenna and Courtney’s story, visit her blog at www.blessedbybrenna.com.

Wednesday’s Word: BLOOM

Sometimes we run out of words. And sometimes we have too many of them. Sometimes there’s so much to ask that we don’t even know where to begin. Which is why, on Wednesdays, we simplify to one word. Read more about the idea here. Bloom As Valentine’s Day approaches, stores are filled with red and ...

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Sometimes we run out of words. And sometimes we have too many of them. Sometimes there’s so much to ask that we don’t even know where to begin. Which is why, on Wednesdays, we simplify to one word. Read more about the idea here.


Bloom

As Valentine’s Day approaches, stores are filled with red and pink and heart-shaped boxes and flowers. Everyone’s focused on their sweethearts—but today I want to think about You, Lord. The One who loves me, adores me, even cherishes me, more than anyone else. I want to buy myself a big, gorgeous bouquet as a reminder. But I know that if I do, it will only be a matter of days before the petals litter the table around the vase. And before I’ve even really enjoyed them, the flowers’ usefulness will be worn out.

It seems like I’m always in such a hurry. I want to get to the beauty and skip the long, tedious process of getting there. But as I reflect, I realize that the bloom is just a small part of the whole life cycle. Before the flower reaches its full beauty, its seed must begin buried in the dark, deep in the dirt. Water and light and nutrients allow it to grow. Conditions must be right, temperatures in a precise range. And time must pass. Eventually, when all conditions are met, the flower finally blooms.

Thank You for waiting, for providing the necessary ingredients, for having the vision to see what I might become. And for tending to me, watching eagerly for the blossoms to burst forth—yet not discounting the long process during which I attempt to become something beautiful. Thank You for not skipping past the hard, less glamorous moments. Thank You for growing me, slowly but surely, into the glorious burst of color You’ve had in mind all along. Something that is not fleeting or precarious, but a transforming beauty that remains.

Beauty…

Beauty is the shadow of God on the universe. ~Gabriella Mistral Where do you see Him today?...

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Beauty is the shadow of God on the universe. ~Gabriella Mistral

Where do you see Him today?

Beauty in unexpected places

I don’t know about you, but I go to great lengths to avoid calling customer service departments. I’ll deal with phone or internet issues as long as I can before I am willing to invest two or more hours to call for help, listening through long messages telling me to press 1 or 2 or ...

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ImageI don’t know about you, but I go to great lengths to avoid calling customer service departments. I’ll deal with phone or internet issues as long as I can before I am willing to invest two or more hours to call for help, listening through long messages telling me to press 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 but never actually the department I really need — not to mention the 4- or 8-hour time block they insist you set aside for their representative to stop by and flick a switch and make things magically work again. It seems like there’s always so much red tape. Before the person on the phone will even talk to you, you have to tell them your mom’s maiden name. The name of your favorite elementary school teacher (or first family pet)? Make and model of your first car? Favorite singing group? Last four of your Social Security number? Birthdate? Account number? Favorite superhero? Exact count of the hair follicles on your head? And how many of those are gray? Grr.

So when my friend Tami’s gas was turned off — a mistake, not due to lack of payment — she was really upset at all the hoops she had to jump through to get it back on. Her frustration built and built, but what choice did she have? They needed heat.

When, at long last, the gas man came to re-light the pilot lights, he noticed something. Tami’s water heater was venting carbon monoxide into their basement. They never would have known about this potentially lethal problem if their gas hadn’t been turned off.

There are times when we feel that our prayers have gone unanswered. Is it that God doesn’t hear us? Or is it that He doesn’t care? Or maybe, just maybe, we wonder if He in fact caused the situations that bring frustration and anger and sadness and a whole range of other emotions. We’re quick to judge whether something is good or bad. I think we tend to forget that sometimes what seems on the surface to be bad may actually be good. A blessing in disguise, if you will.

Just like graffiti. I know I’m not supposed to like it. I realize that the act of painting on a brick wall or the side of a train is trespassing, a form of violation and destruction. I’m aware that all of that is true. The thing is, though, some of the graffiti is actually quite beautiful. It can be art. Beauty where it’s least expected, often found in run-down, decrepit areas. As I pass through those places, I look around more, my heart lightening as I see the bright colors, bold outlines, and strong strokes. The sheer exuberance found in creating something where there was nothing before. Turning it into something new.

You have every right to disagree with me and disapprove of the markings on the buildings and bridges and walls you pass. I can’t really defend my position from a legal standpoint, just from an emotional one. While I don’t want to condone the activity, I can’t help but admire the beauty in the finished product.

I’ll have to try to remember that the next time the world seems to be conspiring against me, putting up obstacle after obstacle, making my blood pressure rise. 

After a couple deep breaths, I hope I find myself looking around, like a kid on a scavenger hunt. Anticipating the thrill of discovery. Attempting to look around me with open eyes and an open mind. Trying to find beauty where I least expect to see it.

Because I’m certain it’s there somewhere.

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