Named.

My own parents could not decide what to name me. I have heard many variations of the story of my birth, all of them ending with the fact that “Dana Marie” was not decided upon right away. Perhaps this was a foreboding of things to come, of my absolute inability to decide on who and what I am, my choosing to believe the many names people called me before hearing the name I am called by the One who loves and saves.

In this ever-changing and cruel culture in which we live, we are daily handed names by both known and unknown assailants. For my own story, I assumed the following identities until age 23:

– Angry

– Hateful

– Liar

– Bitch

– Ugly

– Homewrecker

– Hypocrite

– Judgmental

– Whiner

…ETC. I could go on. But I won’t. Just know that I believed all of those names and I answered to all of them in kind. Some were true and others were not, but I believed them anyway. And I apologized for all of them: I was always saying I was sorry for being me, for my own existence. For twenty-three years. That may not seem like a long time to some, but when your childhood becomes out of reach at age fourteen and you have already believed so much long before that, it is a lifetime. It WAS a lifetime.

And on my twenty-third birthday, just as the sun rose, I was given a few new names to try on for size: Beloved. Redeemed. Free. LOVED. Daughter. They were itchy at first, like a new shirt with the tags still in…but after all my wriggling and writhing, I grew accustomed to responding to those names. They were etched in my heart some eight years ago, deep in the places no one sees. But they are there. And I have learned how to answer when I am called, and I now know what my names are. I know who I am. And I make no apologies for it.

Perhaps my parents did not know quite what to call me when I was born, but my Father in heaven always knew who I was and always had a name for me. That truth makes me rest at night and fills me with joy in the early light. That truth is why I write, why I listen to my sisters’ stories, why I encourage them to be who they are and find out what the Lord calls them and challenge them to lay aside their old, bedraggled names. They are more than they believe and I ache for them to know that freedom so that they can walk alongside other sisters into that light of day, so they can listen for the One who calls them by name.

What’s more, I want all of my sisters to know not just their names, but to also know the One who has named them so that they may discover why and how they are named at all. I don’t think I could stand being named by my character, fickle as it is. I am a dreadfully absent-minded and often accidentally biting individual. Thankfully, it is not our character that names us, but His. His character…now that is a mantle I want to carry.  I see the Lord called Almighty, Savior, Redeemer, Lover, Giver, and more, in the Word. If He is so, then that makes us strong, saved, redeemed, loved, and receivers of holy gifts. At the end of our rope, in our mansions, in our huts, in our rot, when the day has worn us thin, we are all called daughters of the living God. Amen.

 

A tiny gorgeous woman.

I remember the first time I met her. It was late at night and she had just driven from the airport to visit her son. I had offered up my guest room for her stay and thought nothing of it. But, I knew as soon as she walked in the door that my life was changed forever. She radiated the Spirit of the Lord in a way that I had not been exposed to since I left Venezuela.

She was kind. Direct. Honest. A tiny gorgeous woman with a massive gorgeous heart and piercing dark eyes that looked clear through my skin. It is a little frightening to have your insides recognized and acknowledged. It is freeing, too.

That time in my life was fraught with loneliness and misunderstanding and not knowing what to do about my heart with its multiple fractures and I could just barely KEEP. IT. ALL. TOGETHER. Every day had become an adventure in seeing how much I could take.

And then she was there, seeing it all for what it was and unafraid to call me out. In one of the greater acts of grace I have received in my life, she offered me her friendship in a moment when she should have walked away from me and my rot. I can call her anytime and receive a word or prayer or a listening ear, even if it has been six months since we spoke. And I try, although feeling dreadfully inadequate to do so, to return the favor to her. I don’t think she minds that I often cannot. She just loves me and she doesn’t even have to say it. I love her, too, and am grateful.

This friendship/mentorship/spiritual motherhood relationship has been going for a few years now and my life is all the richer (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically) because of her. I am more honest and less afraid these days. I try to serve more, love more, and do more even when it feels like my heart has run out. I try to love the unlovely. To be a victor and not a victim. To pray at random and inopportune times because I am directed to do so. To offer up love and grace when I want to do anything but. To encourage my younger sisters in Christ to live lives of freedom and truth.

I have come to greater understanding of these things because she lives them out in the flesh daily and I have had the privilege to learn from her example. My favorite part is that the Lord made it so and redeemed a whole host of other things in the making. May I continue, as my spiritual mama does, to learn and be used for the kingdom in turn, to love, to be honest, to live boldly and raw. Amen.

{She Shares Truth Assignment}

GOD is (not just) love.

I have been working through the books of Psalms and Proverbs for a little over six months now. I originally started this venture as a Bible reading plan, but it quickly morphed into something else entirely.

So often, we believers read the Bible for our own gain. We seek peace, comfort, joy, and wisdom in its pages. We look for what we want and when we find it, we lay down the sacred tome and move on. I started to wonder what reading the Bible might look like if I stopped reading it to see what it says about me, and started reading it to see what it says about God. Every time a verse revealed an attribute of God, I wrote it down in the margin of the page. And you know what I found? God is not just love.

I have heard my entire life, and still hear, that God is love. Well, He is. In a way. But thinking He is ONLY love makes Him  small. Makes Him soft. God is not just love. He is Majesty. He is Righteous. He shows wrath and anger and pain. His heart is moved by the actions of His people. He is the Ruler. He is Almighty. He is the Judge. He speaks and He guides and He calls out wrongdoing. He aches over His children. He is Shepherd. He is just. He is honest. He is glorified and praiseworthy. He is wise. He is holy.

In a way, the pressure of finding my comfort and my joy was off in this design of reading. I was not reading to find out about myself. I was reading to find out about this God I profess to serve. He is much much more than love. Seeing His character piecemeal will not do. We are loved, yes, but we are also justly judged by His righteousness and His holiness. By that measure, none of us measures up. Thank God that not only is He our judge, He also provides our atoning sacrifice. The fullness of the character of God brought low so that we might know Him. That right there…that is love. Love so big and so deep and so wide that it cannot be contained by just love itself….

 

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