Can I Shine for Jesus When my Dog Poops on the Floor? {-My Messy Beautiful}

 

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My dogs pooped in the hall. Both of them.

My cat puked in the laundry room.

I argued with my daughter.

I used bad words in said argument.

I didn’t wash my face last night.

I let my kids eat pop tarts.

I ate two desserts after dinner.

I’m having a hard time forgiving someone.

I fear I’m losing a friend and I’m not losing weight.

In fact I think I gained weight last week.

I’m a little fearful of what the future holds.

I let insecurity get the best of me.

I’ve said the word stupid about 40 times today (remember the dogs?).

I’ve already ranted and it’s not yet noon.

Since early this morning, I’ve worked on the same sentence over and again in my head and it’s just beginning to make sense:

Let your your light shine bright before men,

not so that they can better see you,

but so that they can better see the Light 

that cannot dim in storm or shadow or sorrow or

even in the fog of mediocrity,

that others may see the right path for their steps to follow

because you were beside them…shining a little light.

My society dictates that I should be able to use butter in my cooking like Paula Deen but have abs like Jillian Michaels.

I should, if I choose to stay at home rather than pursue a career, have plenty of time to organize my pantry, plan dates with my husband, read to my children, grow my own food, raise my own chickens, bake from scratch, never buy anything with high fructose corn syrup, learn photography and consistently present my picture-perfect life in amber-tinted tones on Instagram.

As a Christian I should know my purpose, never become discouraged, enjoy Hillsong worship music, write hand-written thank-yous, never sin when I argue, show up on time with the answers completed for Bible Study.

I will always be an utter failure.

Especially in regards to Jillian’s abs and Hillsong Pandora radio. Never. Gonna. Happen.

But I will keep turning toward the Light of God’s word because I really don’t want to conform to anyone else’s idea of perfect.

He tells me I am complete, lacking in nothing. {James 1:4}

He tells me I am qualified. {Colossians 1:12}

He tells me I am a gift and an important part of future. {John 17:2-24}

He tells me I can praise him and look for him and cry to him. {Psalm 116}

So when I burn the cookies, scream at the dogs, wail over the sixteenth load of laundry, He knows what I really want

to be accepted

to be enough

to be useful

to be loved.

Jesus knows me at my best and my worst and really neither extreme fazes him, impresses him or turns him off. He forgets my sin and knows my name.

He smiles when I come to him covered and disheveled in the rubbish of this world. He rubs my face gently, removes the grit and reveals the glow.

Because when I turn to Jesus, look full in his face and allow his grace to touch me, then I shine His light.

In the same way, let your light shine before others,

that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:16  

Don’t forget this:

Jesus has done the work for you!

Stop trying so hard.

Let yourself be.

Let yourself be loved by Jesus.

Let his truth be invested in your spirit and give you joy

where there once was a mess of anger,

peace in the places where confusion reigned,

hope in his salvation,

and grace to get through the day–

victoriously.

Friends,
Life is messy.
And I’m so over resisting it!
Anytime we craft or create art or cook dinner, we make a mess! Anything worthwhile is messy. A friend (one who doesn’t like cooking, nor is she a foodie) mentioned to me that the reason she doesn’t cook is that it messes up her kitchen! Now anyone who knows me, knows I love food, cooking and all that’s involved in eating and that includes messing up the kitchen, so when she said that, my internal rebutter screamed “That’s what kitchens are for!”
And guess what? God’s been whispering to me “Hey Alyssa, this life is your kitchen! It’s supposed to get messy! Because it’s in the mess that the magic happens.” Then he says something like, “Chill out, will ya?”
I’ll confess something right here, if you’ve read far enough to get to this point: I feel guilty.
I’m almost three years from the day we were struck down on the highway by a drunk driver. Nearly three years from when I lay sipping tiny bits of oxygen and giving my life completely into the sovereign hand of Jesus. Nearly three years from waking up, days later, in ICU and given the prognosis: You’ve got a long journey ahead, a big recovery, but you’re going to be fine. Normal again.
And the thing that makes me feel guilty is this. As much as my life changed, as much as I breathe gratitude every single day that I get to be here a little longer with my kiddos and my sweet husband, I am still so flawed, so much the same, so prone to self-criticism and frustration and pettiness. My life is back to normal, for the most part, and sometimes that makes me angry. I want to always feel the ethereal glow of gratitude that framed those months when the pain was unreal but life was cherished.
I am the same me.
And that’s what God intended.
Have you heard of Glennon Melton? Have you heard of her book, Carry on, Warrior? Have you heard her TED talk or her unique story of learning to embrace messy?
I am connecting with other mess-makers and bad-hair-wonders and want you to know, there’s lots of us sharing our stories and our “brutiful” tales of redemption over at her blog. Take a few minutes if you like and be encouraged!

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If I’m Lucky To Be Alive, Well, I’m Screwed

Is it luck?

People tell me I’m lucky. I hear it regularly.

I’m lucky to be here, lucky to be alive, lucky to be walking.

www.alyssasantos.com

And it sort of makes me chuckle, because they never say I’m lucky to have my insides squashed and rearranged, or that I’m lucky to have had a titanium rod drilled through my leg bone, removed and another, bigger rod rammed through the same place. They never tell me that I’m lucky to have lost four days of my life while my family wondered and prayed and hoped for my survival. They never tell me that I’m lucky my kids faced the real possibility of losing their mom. They never tell me I’m lucky I was in desperate pain for months and unable to perform any normal tasks in my role as mom and wife.

But yeah, I get all the lucky breaks.

Others may see the results, me walking and living and enjoying life, and praise the unseen good-luck fairy.

I know the process of my pain, and therefore praise God. Tweet this!

Sometimes people don’t want to credit God for a dramatic rescue. They say things like, “It wasn’t God who stopped on the highway and saved you – it was men and women – people. If it weren’t for those people—”

Others can’t finish the sentence. But I can: If it weren’t for those people, I’d be dead.

And if it weren’t for another person (who happened to get behind the wheel of a vehicle while inebriated) we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all.

And if it weren’t for this decision or that bit of timing or … where do we end?

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Photo taken on our 20th wedding anniversary, the day after I arrived home from the hospital. We both have broken legs.

The truth is, I believed in a sovereign God before we were struck down on Highway 395.

Am I lucky because I believe in a God who answers prayer?

Am I lucky that I believed in him before the crisis? Or, crazy, perhaps? Only crazy people believe in an unseen force that creates and controls the universe, right? Better be sane and chalk it up as luck.

Men and women did save me – dozens of them. From the first responders to the helicopter rescue team to the surgeon who quickly and efficiently fixed my organs, to the team of nurses who served me, to the inventors of all the medical gadgets and those who invented surgical processes. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel gratitude for the people who rescued me and cared for my family.

Their presence in my life, the fact that their lives and mine intersected in the dramatic fashion that it did, only reinforces my faith in an all-powerful, all-knowing God.

It also opened my eyes to an aspect of God’s personality that I hadn’t seen before: he’s an all-people God, too.

I caught a glimpse of God’s, all-peopleness when I visited Ethiopia in 2009.

You see, my experience in life had been defined only by what I knew, and I knew little outside of the USA. When I went to Africa, I did it with my eyes open. I didn’t want to miss a thing. I wanted to see God at work there. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I’d hoped to recognize it.

What I saw were people. Faces and faces of various shades of brown to inky black. I saw smiles and songs and grief and hunger and weariness and joy and love and pain and hope in the faces and on the skin of Ethiopia.

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I saw our commonness. And I recognized myself as I looked at them. I heard my own songs when I heard them sing. And I cried in a coffee processing plant under the gaze of the sun because of it.

I could not live in Ethiopia, but I could love Ethiopia. I could not fix Ethiopia, but I could hold hands with her people. I found God in the people of Ethiopia as they loved and hoped and walked to work and roasted coffee and slung their babies or racks of firewood upon their backs. I caught a glimpse of the all-peopleness of God in Africa.

Because no one with half a heart would call a rural Ethiopian who lives in a stick and mud hut with dirt floors and only owns the dirty clothes on her back lucky.

But we can call her saved, graced, valuable, important, vital. And her hands might very well be the life-saving, life-giving hands that a neighbor might need; her words might be the soothing hope, the sustaining truth, the bit of courage that another hut-dweller may need to wake to the next day and face it standing up tall.

And I know that as I pray for Ethiopia, so does she. And so does nurse Sophie who has given her life to meeting the physical needs of the neediest in that land, the poor rural-dwelling pregnant mommies and their fragile newborn babies. And so do the doctors who gave up lucrative careers here in the west in order to teach Africans medicine. We are connected in our humanity and in our faith in a God who sees, and cares, and hears our prayers.

www.alyssasantos.com

Our family prayed on a sweet August night a single word: help. Help came. Help came in the flesh and in the spirit. Medically trained people and everyday people stopped and physically met us in the depth of our need.

God of Ethiopia and God of Alyssa Santos are one-in-the-same. And this makes luck look even dumber.

Here is my take on the sovereignty of God, his all-knowing, all-powerful nature:

God is sovereign over all statistical improbabilities. He works his divine grace into all possible situations as he moves his creation toward that perfect, ordained moment when redemption will rush full and complete.

But, but!

We could debate and you might protest. But the truth is, if I cannot say that statement—and mean it—then why worship God at all? Why not call it luck and just move on?

Luck keeps us looking down, for the four-leaf clover or the random penny; luck keeps us looking back as we try to make sense of situations.

Praising God? Well, that keeps us facing the future with a song in our souls and endless possibilities before us.

Praising a sovereign God keeps us full even as we pass out hope to others, serving up our stories like a love-feast.

Praising God makes us rich, even as we give away forgiveness, grace, money, joy.

Praising God keeps our vision clear so that we can see the incarnate love of God not just in the person of Jesus, but in the people of Jesus! Tweet this!

Luck is chance and dice and the shuffle of cards.

Luck did not save me, never has, never will.

God, the One who knows every possible eventuality and who is powerful enough to work through all possible futures, saved me through Jesus Christ. His power was punctuated in the presence of the life-savers who came to our crash site. This love was manifested in the helping hands of the many who brought me back to health.

This was a visitation of the incarnation. Proof positive that luck is dumb and God is sovereign.

So friend, don’t discount the number of breaths you have today, or the left-turns or the standing in line at the grocery store or the words that you get to speak. God works through the minutiae of our moments and seeks opportunities to incarnate his love and his salvation through our lives. God is an all-people God: big people, little people, educated people, African people, doctors and mothers and strangers.

Look at their faces and you will see not lucky ones but a million reasons to love.

 

1 Peter 1:3 -9

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 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.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Linked up with Jennifer, Lyli and Emily today. If you click over to their sites, you’ll be blessed indeed.

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The 1 Prayer You Need To Ask When Your World Goes Dark

1 Question to Ask When Your World Goes Dark | http://www.alyssasantos.com

photo by kristy

What can man do to me?

Yeah, that.

A rhetorical question for the timid.

David asks it in the middle of a song, in the middle of describing the slanderous and wily ways his enemies had turned on him.

What can man do to me?

I whispered it in the dark, wondering if man could take away my house, my security, the place we call home, because I knew they could.

I yelled it into the open air when our pastor’s lies mounted into a pile of confusion so large that it destroyed his church, leaving his flock scattered and wounded.

I cried it alone on nighttime walks when people who loved me, didn’t anymore. They didn’t want me around. The wholesale rejection of intimate friends and relations bruised me so deeply that my breath came in jagged.

I remembered these six words in a morphine fog, as the machines that drained fluid from my lung pumped its whooshing message into my thoughts.

What can man do to me?

Turns out, a whole heckuva lot. Continue reading

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Do You Wonder Why God Made You Weird?

A number of years ago, I found myself staring at a list of things a “friend” had shared with me, about me. Tears blurred my eyes as I wrote them down on a paper.

This was a typical Matthew 18 moment. You know, where a person is offended and goes to confront the other person. I’d had a lot of experience with these in my conservative Christian college years. This one was a little different, however. I knew there had been a toxic thing at work in the circle of my friends and had seen that like all diseases, it would not be resolved without application of medicine: in this case, real truth. But the problem was, the toxicity had spread. There had been gossip and triangulating (A talks to B about C, then B and C don’t know how to hang out anymore) and misunderstandings and A LOT of hurt feelings. Truth was nowhere to be found.

I had spent hours praying over these friendships and resolved to let them go. I told these women that I loved that I would step out of the community because I couldn’t make what had gone wrong right again. Honestly, I couldn’t even see clearly what all went wrong. The confusion and frustration were affecting me, my marriage and my kids. It was time for me to step away and be God’s girl, my husband’s wife and my kid’s mom. I was devastated and sad and lonely.

It was just after this proclamation, that she decided to come to my house, with an older friend and a notebook filled with issues she had with me. We sat down and I began, “I want to say first, that I don’t know what I did wrong, what I did to hurt you, but I know I must have wounded you deeply for you to stop talking to me all those months ago and I want you to know, I am deeply, deeply sorry. Please forgive me.”

Her response? She told me that I hadn’t done anything to her, per se, nor had I offended or sinned against her. BUT, she took issue with me on about twenty items that she had listed in her notebook.

Since she hadn’t spoken with me or spent time with me in nearly a year, I was amazed and bewildered at her accusations. I couldn’t have been less wounded if she had punched me in the face for an hour. There was no spirit of reconciliation in that room. It was nearly airless by the time our conversation ended. I sat, bleary-eyed and confused and reeling, apologizing. What else could I do? I had, according to her, single-handedly destroyed my friendships and I was as good as flotsam on my own sea of destruction.

When she left, I wrote everything down that I could remember and showed it to Angelo, who, lovingly said, “Throw those lies away!” Which I did.

But first, I laid that list on the floor and joined it and asked God, “Please show me if there is any truth in these accusations – even a grain, a spot, a bit. Holy God, you alone judge sin and you can best show it to me.” I prayed Psalm 139 and begged him to reveal any reality that I may have missed in this anguished moment. “I don’t want to give anyone just cause for these misconceptions of me,” I prayed.

I needed God’s perspective. Isn’t it interesting who we listen to? Isn’t it interesting who we allow to define us?

In the following years, I learned how to spend real time with God – mostly because I had far fewer friends (okay, I had two) than before and because my identity had been hung on the wrong flagpole for so long it had become tattered, shredded. I needed to spend some time with the One who made me and learn to like myself again. He showed me the truth even in her accusations and gave me the grace to allow Him to show me a better reflection of myself–to show me how He sees me.

Laurie Wallin wrote in her new book, Why Your Weirdness is Wonderful,

“What if I told you that all those things about us—the wonderful and the weirdness—are gifts! What if you could sit at lunch with God, hold those quirky, challenging tendencies about you in your hands, and say, “Oh! I love these too!” What if who you are right now is exactly who God meant you to be? What if the weirdest, most annoying things about you exist on purpose—to bring life, joy, strength, and healing to this world?” (p4)

What if?

Maybe like me, you’ve been at a place where you’ve seen your tendencies or quirks, those strong characteristics in your personality, get you into some messy situations. Maybe, like me, you don’t want to hate yourself for being yourself.

Laurie presents those things about our personalities, those parts of us that seem to get us into trouble and then make us feel guilty, those quirks and individual traits that seem weird and troublesome as, get this, God’s design. She says,

“We’ve all struggled with this ideology—focusing not on our strengths but on our weaknesses—in some form. What began as a simple desire we had as kids to understand ourselves, others and the basic truths of the world became tangled in mixed messages and experiences of loss. Then it twisted into a deep source of pain and shame when we started to assign words like wrong and bad to how we naturally relate to life and people. (p6)” But, God says we’re all created in his image and “God says our design is “supremely good (Genesis 1:31).

You and your overthinking, overplanning, worrying, quirky self were made on purpose to reveal God to the world around you in a way only you can do.

In your weirdness. Not in spite of it.

How does that work? We find the answer in Scripture, where Pual, writes the message God gave him: “ ‘My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:9). (p7)

Laurie goes on to say that the original Greek word for “weakness” here isn’t sin, but our inabilities or frailties as humans. And “perfect” doesn’t mean squeaky-clean, but complete.

Oh friend, that we might embrace our own weirdness, stand tall in the confidence that God designed us the way he did on purpose in order to bring him glory in our work, in our relationships, and even in our friendships.

Can I just tell you this? I would have loved the encouragement and clear-sightedness of Laurie’s teaching in this book when I was swimming in my own despair.

I honestly believed I needed to extricate these quirks from my life in order to be perfect enough to have a friend. I was so familiar with my weaknesses, that it took me a very long time to realize that God gave me gifts (that sometimes seem a little weird and I don’t want them, thank you very much) and he made me “supremely good”.

Yes, I sin. Yes, I brought my own brokenness to those friendships, too. But do I have to limp around in the shame of my quirks’ dark side or can I find the life-side to them, too?

Why Your Weirdness is Wonderful, by Laurie Wallin, is an incredible perspective shifter.

After reading this book, I am seeing myself, my past, my friends, my kids and husband differently. When my kids act out or we have a conflict, I can see their developing selves rejecting their weaknesses. I want to help them embrace the God-given strengths in their design. Overall, as they mature, they might not confuse their value with performance as much as I have. Perhaps this shift will help me help them to embrace their whole selves as God designed them. Perhaps the stickiness of sin and it’s confusion won’t define them, but God’s design will define them instead.

God reduces our anxiety as we trust in him. God reduces our insecurity as we learn more about who God made us, and we start to own our designer quirks. God reuses our strengths over time, building our understanding, wisdom, and endurance as we continue to engage people and situations. God recycles our quirks, refining and repurposing them into the strengths they were always meant to be.

What relief that God has made us and the situations we face completely recyclable! God doesn’t waste anything in us or our lives. not one thing. Will you believe that today, friend?” (p60) Laurie Wallin, Why Your Weirdness is Wonderful.

Why Your Weirdness is Wonderful is now available! I read a .pdf version and I’m itching to get my hands on a hard-copy that I can scribble in and highlight! Check out her website, too, because Laurie (read about her here!) speaks and works as a life coach, too! This book is handy, helpful, well-designed and practical and at the same time holds a precious lot of truth. Go order it today!

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Easter Sunday on a Monday Morning {How to Stop Trying to Follow the Rules}

Easter Sunday on a Monday Morning | www.alyssasantos.com

“Sometimes God’s rules are hard,” Nikko states as he stuffs his backpack, preparing to meet the bus.

“Yeah? What do you mean?”

I watch the coffee fill my mug.

“Well, all the things we need to do, you know, the rules.”

We forget sometimes that rules are a very big part of a nine-year-old’s life.

“You mean like being kind and not lying…stuff like that?”

“Yeah, God has a lot of rules. And I mess up. And sometimes I forget.”

Collective sigh.

Yes.

I know this well. Continue reading

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