Grilled Cheese Prayers

Two weeks ago, a friend asked if we could get together. So I invited her to my house for a late lunch and we scheduled it for this past weekend. In the ensuing days, my husband decided to start a project in our home that would leave dust on every single square inch of surface. The morning of our approaching lunch date, my daughter spilled a whole bowl of dry Cheerios on the floor. The ShopVac stood in the middle of the kitchen. The dirty dishes piled up higher than the dust. The drop cloths (designed to prevent the dust) was scattered abroad. But I was gone all morning and had no time to remedy the problem. I walked out the door to help my sister with her first cleaning job, and walked back in the door 4 minutes before my friend arrived. I had no makeup on– and a sightly pimple on my left cheek. I was wearing sweaty workout clothes, and I probably had a subliminal stink about me. I was self-conscious about my appearance, about my house, about my level of exhaustion. I didn’t feel like I was “mothering” well that day.

But this was my life. And I couldn’t cancel. She had been gracious enough to come an hour later, when my job with my sister ran over. She walked in, graciously fed my child and swept up the Cheerios; never commented on my unkemptness. I made us salad and grilled cheese, and although it took a while to prepare, we talked about life and the things that are bringing us joy and the things that are bringing us grief. Before she left, I asked if I could pray with her, for the burdens on her heart. For the kids, and the school, and the stressed-out husband, for the lack of direction spiritually, for a church to feel like home to her. For Jesus to come and fill in the gaps.

And when she left, she looked around at the mess one last time and said, “Your home is so…. peaceful. It feels like Jesus lives here.”  I couldn’t have been more stunned. Scripture flew to my mind, from years past. We had been newly married, and renting an 1180 square-foot house that my grandaddy had built half a century prior. It was perfect for us, but quite small compared to the majestic brand-new homes of our friends, with mountain-range roof lines, crown molding, and 30-year-mortgages. I desired to host women and Bible studies in my home, but I didn’t have a large space or what I felt to be a welcoming gathering place. Yet my desire persisted, and so we crammed in like sardines and opened our Bibles. And Jesus met us there.

One night, after Bible study, I sat down to read in 1 Kings 8-9, where Solomon dedicated the Temple to the Lord. But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place (1 Kings 8:27-29.) Tears began to form and roll down my cheeks.

And I was floored when I read verse 3: “And the LORD said to him, ‘I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you have made before me. I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time‘” (1 Kings 9:3, emphasis mine). To think that Jesus would reside in my lowly abode, and use my home as a habitation for Himself? That He would hear the worship and petitions made here? That His eyes would reside here, seeing the mess, yet seeing through to the heart? That He wouldn’t flee when the dust kicked up and the dishes embarrassed Him and the dirty diapers fumigated the place? Could He? Would He? This became the prayer of my heart for the years to come, not knowing that we would eventually purchase this house and property, make it ours, and keep it in our family for yet another generation.

And that’s when I realized… my friend wasn’t here to be wowed with magazine images of perfection, or for a chef-worthy meal, or even a well-manicured friend that she could sit across from and envy. She may have come for lunch and fellowship, but what she really came for was more of Jesus.

Isn’t that what we’re all really after? Isn’t that what we’re really searching for in all of our pursuits? We think we are after clean houses and Joanna Gaines’ new Target line and Paula Dean cookware and buy-one-get-one deals at Publix.

But deep down, we have a void that only Jesus can fill. We need someone to point us to that Someone to give us the thing our heart craves. More than a grilled cheese, we need the Bread of Life. More than good friends, we need the Friend Who sticks closer than a brother. More than clipping coupons and saving money, we need to be saved from ourselves; we need a Savior. More than beautiful homes, we long for heaven. Because, after all, home is a Person. All that we crave is simply pointing us to the only One Who can satisfy. Jesus… He is what we are really after.

 

 

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The Secret Garden

I headed out the door right before six, so eager to revisit what had been my Secret Garden. It had been nine years since I had frequented this trail, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. A friend of mine had found it, and she and I would wake up bright and early and hike it in solitude. I couldn’t wait to do it again. Thinking back, I remembered reaching the top and just basking in the breathtaking views and the awesomeness of God. We would hit it right about dawn, and the sun peeking over the mountains was a sight to be seen.

I left my purse in the car and grabbed my keys and my phone. I knew I would want pictures. (I may have also been a little concerned that I would lose my way.) It had been almost a decade, after all. The trail was grown up, which wasn’t a total surprise to me. It had been grown up when we first discovered it, as well. But this time, I had to dig through deep foliage, meander around weeds and spider webs, and avoid chiggers and my worst nightmare, poison ivy. If it hadn’t been already 80 degrees at 6 a.m., I would have worn jogging pants. I then remembered why hiking this in the fall was a good idea.

I came to a fork in the path and hesitated. I tried to see in my mind’s eye which way we had followed. I just prayed that I wouldn’t get lost and headed to the right. It kept circling up and up the mountain, or what surely felt like a mountain. I was out of breath and yet exhilaration was flowing through my veins. I couldn’t believe I was finally able to revisit the location that held such sweet and amazing memories for me. I knew the top would not disappoint.

As I came out into a clearing, I looked around in all directions. There was surely a path I was overlooking. This couldn’t be the top. There were no views. I walked to the edge of all the sides, hoping to glimpse the city below. I was befuddled. This could not be the place that I have dreamed about for nine years. Maybe I had taken a wrong turn.

And yet, there was no other place to go higher. This was it. I had expectations of being so wrapped up in God’s creation and love and spending a few minutes up there in prayer and meditation. I knew I would be out of range for my Bible app to work, but I had allowed myself some time to just soak in His beauty.

As it was, I snapped a few pictures (of what, I wasn’t sure) and headed back down the trail, confused, disappointed, and sad. I kept my eyes peeled, not only trying not to get lost, but hoping that maybe I would see something on the way down that would right my confused memories.

I realized something that day. My position in life had affected the view at the top. That previous year had been a tough one. I had been rejected and betrayed that year at college by some dear friends of mine. I had spent the majority of my last semester in the vending room, crying out to Jesus and trying to find my identity and worth again. I had gone to camp as a counselor that summer, hoping to find meaning and value there, hoping to find healing from my pain and invest in new people. In fact, one of the friends who had caused me hurt would also be there, but I had fresh hope that we could reconnect in the absence of some other influences. But, as it turned out, she found another friend who was funnier, lovelier, and more attractive than I, and so had begun a heartbreaking summer of realizing that I would never be enough. I had graduated from college only to find myself back at home, with no husband, no friends, and what seemed like no future.

I had always struggled with food, but four years at college had magnified this. I often skipped the hefty dinner lines on Sunday night after church to eat Ramen in my room and study. I hated Sundays. I knew I was missing out on the grilled chicken sandwiches with cheese, and Ramen was no substitute. The real issue was that someone rarely invited me to go with them, and I didn’t want to eat alone. At camp, I had found my weight issues come to a peak as I faced anew the rejection and sadness that comes from dashed hopes. I wallowed in moon pie sundaes and Bosco sticks that summer, hoping to mask the pain I felt. Moving back home didn’t help this at all. It suddenly seemed like food was my best friend, and the cure to all the sorrow I felt for what was my life.

But this trail represented self-discipline. During this time, I also went through a Bible study called A Call to Die, and had chosen to give up dinner throughout the week in order to spend time in God’s Word. This turned out to be such a sweet time for me, but something I never thought I could do. Willingly, of course. I used to pine for the people who had lives and friends to go to dinner with. But now, I was perfectly content to spend time with my best Friend and eat a pack of crackers. My stomach growled a whole lot, but I was more spiritually full than I’d ever been. Between that sacrifice of supper and the sacrifice of sleep to hike this trail in the mornings, I felt renewed like I never had before. Maybe there was hope that I could knock this food issue out of the park once and for all.

This trail represented new friendships. I had decided to stop seeking the popular crowd, and instead seek the crowd who wanted to go deeper with Christ. They weren’t the friends that I had expected to hang out with in that season of life. They were new friends that God knew I needed to lead me back to the place I needed to be with Him.

This trail represented severing my worth from people and anchoring my identity in Christ. I had finally emerged from hiding and decided to make my own path. My life wasn’t what I expected, but moping about it wasn’t going to make anything better. I was tired of caring what other people thought of me. I was tired of letting others dictate my life. I was exhausted from my identity being attached to other people. It was a roller coaster of emotions, being whipped every which way as I attempted to prove my worth. I was done with that way of life.

This trail represented solitude. Drowning out the noises of the world in order to focus squarely on Jesus. To leave those things below and go higher with Him.

So the views that I thought this mountain top had? They were the views, not of sunrises and lush meadows, of countryside cottages and Amish farmlands, but of accomplishment, discipline, and new spiritual heights with Christ. They were the views of the homeland, heaven, where I would be able to see nothing but my Lord. It was on the mountain top where I was able to carry up my burdens and walk down without them. It was a feeling of being made into the image of God, not only as my physical body changed, but as my spiritual heart changed. It was the decision to stop trying to manipulate and shuffle around the pain but to rest in Him. IMG_7850

I realized on the way down that the way I remembered it was certainly very different that reality. But actually? It was entirely accurate. It was a beautiful piece of heaven-on-earth.

Lessons from a Zookeeper

My daughter and I rounded the corner into the shade. It was a perfect day for the zoo… a beautiful 72 degrees in August, with a gorgeous breeze that was almost a bit chilly. We had already seen camels, albino kangaroos, flamingos, and we were headed to the giraffes. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a creature with lots of hair walking around the cages of monkeys, parakeets, and lemurs. An older lady with a stretchy band of keys on her wrist was picking up fallen tree limbs and hosing off the cages from the outside. I noticed that she wasn’t smiling. The parakeet was making loud noises and the monkeys were swinging like acrobats around their cage. The giraffes were stretching their necks to see what all the raucous was about. Eden was enthralled with the monkeys, their beards and their chatter. I was admiring their upper arm strength, wondering how many reps I would have to do to be able to swing around like that.

 

I noticed that the zookeeper wasn’t smiling. How odd, I thought. She had the opportunity to be just feet away from some of the most amazing animals, and it didn’t appear that she even noticed them. Perhaps she was having a bad day, or had a lot on her mind. But I began thinking of what amazing privileges I take advantage of in my own life. That I have a job and can significantly contribute to my family’s needs while staying at home with my daughter this summer? That I’m surrounded by Cheerios and feel like a human Hoover and forget that I have a precious toddler at home that God has given me to take care of? That I get wrapped up in the busyness of life and fail to take notice of the Presence of Jesus? How often do I read His Word out of duty, instead of relishing His love for me? I wonder how often I walk through this life, ungrateful for my one-and-only job description on this earth: to love and know Jesus more. How have I gotten over this privilege??

 

A crowd assembled, watching the hyperactive animals respond to the water and the up-close-and-personal human. The lady didn’t speak to the animals. She didn’t make eye contact with them as she targeted the poop on the cage floor and aimed her hose at it. How often am I, too, focused on the crap in my own life… the failures, the opportunities missed, the inconvenient interruptions, the sticky countertops…that I forget to notice the people around me that I love? Matt Chandler speaks of husbands and wives who bring their phones to bed at night, frustrated with life, creeping on old classmates’ present-day careers and scrolling through social media, seemingly without thought to their beloved lying in bed next to them. This is so often me.

 

The lady filled up the water basin and added new food, but I noticed that the monkeys were still picking at the old banana peels that she was trying to hose away. How ridiculous, I thought to myself. Do they not see the amazing treasure trove of fresh fruit right over there? How silly to desire the leftover peels. But how often am I content with the leftovers? How often do I scrounge around for food that is half-eaten, picked at, and non-sustaining? Do I really think this is the best there is? I settle for what Billy Graham says about God, what that devotional tells me God is like, what that podcast tells me the Bible says. But do I feast on the riches of God’s Word myself? Or do I simply roam around the cages of the men and women of God who have sat at Jesus’ feet for years, and pick up bits and pieces of what they’ve learned and take what they say as truth? Hearing from pastors and wise leaders is an important privilege, but it should never take the place of seeking God for myself. When I do this, I am missing out on so much. I am trading communion with Christ for allowing someone else to attend the feast and tell me what it tastes like. I wonder how often I am content with the crumbs instead of dining on steak at the Master’s table.

 

Just as we decided to go on our way, I heard the zookeeper say something to the monkey. I expected something like: Hello there, handsome! Nice moves! This sure is a pretty day for swinging! But instead, I heard, “Are you going to help me?” Ouch. Does Jesus feel this way? How many times have been blinded to His beauty because I am only there to ask Him for help? How often am I unable to see the miracle of God-in-flesh, the God Who gave up all of His heavenly glory, and became the most vulnerable of all humans- a baby. Instead of bringing gold, frankincense, and myrrh, I come empty-handed, expecting to leave with my arms full.

 

As I pushed the stroller towards the zebras, I prayed that I would gain a renewed sense of my privilege as a daughter of Christ. I asked the Lord to make me more aware of His Presence, and to never let it get stale. I prayed to be like the Psalmist who begged to be a doorkeeper in God’s house than to be separated from Him (Psalm 84:10.)  His majesty and glory is paralleled to none.

 

Jesus, may I never get over it!

You’ve got a friend in me

Toy Story may have been the first to make the line “you’ve got a friend in me” popular, but it’s basically been my unspoken motto for years. I have always dreamed of having that inseparable, totally amazing best friend. Every time a new friendship started, I hoped it would be THE ONE.

Sometimes, that friendship would work out… for a while. As long as I kept in touch, made plans to spend time together and talk, listen, and sympathize, gave them a birthday gift each year, and interacted with them on social media, we stayed friends. As long as I made an effort, they would typically let me. And I kept at it, hoping that they would become as interested in being my friend as I truly was in being theirs. That maybe one day, they would text me first and want to get together — and not just to tell me about their new pet, problem, or crush.

But each time, that special friendship didn’t quite work out. At all. Things would be good for a while until I finally noticed something: I was initiating almost everything. I started conversations; issued phone calls, invitations, and gifts; and committed a lot of time to these perceived friendships. I went out of my way to show interest in their lives, listen as they talked about things that were important to them, and make them feel special and loved. I didn’t have entirely selfless motives; I was hoping to get a best friend out of the deal. But I wanted to be there for them and help them as much as I could; to be the friend to them that I hoped they would be to me. Perhaps instead of being so desperate for a friend, I should have considered the type of girls I would even want to be friends with. I mean, this is what I was dealing with:

The attention-seekers ~ “It took me way too long to realize that you shouldn’t be friends with people who never ask how you’re doing.” The first group of perceived friends wanted all of the attention all the time. They gave no apology for taking up tons of my time talking only about themselves. In the name of being a good friend, I would listen to endless complaints and rants, just hoping that talking would make them feel better. I would offer them some biblical advice and attempt to encourage them in the Lord, only to be met with more complaints (usually about the same thing) the next time we spoke. If I got brave enough to interject something about a time when I had a similar experience that related to the discussion, they listened wordlessly until I was finished speaking before resuming their monologue. (“Enough about you…back to me.”) No matter what tact I tried, the attention-seekers never respected my time, advice, or kindness; they took as much as I would give them as long as I would give it.

The hit-and-miss girls ~ “I decided to put as much effort into contacting you as do with me – that’s why we don’t talk anymore.” This group just didn’t make an effort. They were generally willing to hang out if I asked and seemed content to let me make all the effort, but they didn’t express any disappointment if we never saw one another, talked, or spent time together. They just didn’t try. No amount of effort or care or concern on my part impressed them enough to invest in me the way I had invested in them.

The part-time friends ~ “I am not a contestant. I will not fight for a spot you’re entertaining others for…” The third group was much more subtle than the first two because these girls really seemed to care. They asked about my life and offered their help. They actually seemed like good friends and were fun to be around; they seemed to think I was great too – until one of two things happened. Either someone they liked better came along, or they became too busy to make time for me anymore. Suddenly the wonderful feeling of having a friend was replaced by the realization that I wasn’t nearly as important as the new girl or the newest thing in my friend’s life. Instead of trying to regain the lost attention, I would usually wait for my part-time friend to remember me or move on. No matter how good this person’s intentions were, I realized I couldn’t count on them to be the committed friend I needed.

So, can you relate? Although dealing with these people can be extremely disappointing and frustrating, I want to encourage you to do two things. First, be friendly. Proverbs 18:24 shares this seemingly obvious truth but sometimes this gets overlooked in its simplicity. Even if you’ve had tough experiences with the groups I just described, you shouldn’t stop being friendly. You won’t find good friends sitting back and waiting for them to come to you. Don’t give up on friendship; instead, become more aware and quicker to identify the people in these categories before you invest too much time and commitment to the relationship. You can be friendly without being friends. Don’t hesitate to reach out, but enter cautiously into friendships.

Secondly, keep reaching out! Even if you know people who wouldn’t be the best friends, don’t stop reaching out to them. It could be that God put them in your life for you to have a ministry to. If you go into the relationship with the mindset of serving, you can ungrudgingly be a friend to them without expecting their friendship in return. Ministering to others without return expectations frees you from bitterness and hard feelings. I’m finally starting to see what true friendship looks like and let me assure you that it looks nothing like the one-sided relationships I had convinced myself that I needed. Pray for the right kind of friends and be the right kind of friend. “Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.”

Waiting with Wonder

What do you feel like you are waiting for right now?

A friend of mine asked me this question earlier this morning and it took me hours to respond.

There are many things I am waiting for answered prayers about: things like spiritual redemption in my family and job decisions for the future and finances to expand our house and timing for when to have another baby. But, I think what shocked me the most? Is that for the first time I’m not in a season of waiting. Oh, I am waiting… for sure. But I’m not in the season of waiting for a husband or a kid or a new job or a pay raise. I honestly feel like I am—possibly, for the first time in my life– not waiting for something out there to fulfill me.

The funny thing about contentment is that you usually don’t realize when you’ve reached it. This is why it shocked me so much when I realized that overall, I wasn’t waiting for anything. Not really. If you had asked me five years ago, I would have told you a definite answer without batting an eyelash. I can’t wait until I get married. Four years ago: I can’t wait to settle into a house of our own. Three years ago: I’m can’t wait to go up north and see my family! Two years ago: I can’t wait for a kitchen reno! Last year: I’m waiting until after Christmas to have this baby. And then, after that, it only seems to get worse. I can’t wait until she sleeps through the night. I can’t wait until winter is over so I can leave this house. I can’t wait to go back to work. I can’t wait until I get off work and go home. I can’t wait until these kids grow up and leave the house. I can’t wait until I retire. And then after that? I wish I were young again. I wish my kids were babies again. What I would give to be able to go to work!

It seems that we never want to be in the season we’re in…. until it’s over.

Now don’t get me wrong… I am no saint. There have been many tears shed asking the Lord why I’m STILL asking for this request and that healing and those salvations. Why I can’t master housework or parenting and why my husband hasn’t changed those habits I hate overnight. As Christians, God commands us to wait! Not the least of which is for heaven. I literally can’t wait to get there, can you? Titus 2:13 says, “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…”

Psalm 27:4 says this: Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD.

He knows waiting is hard. He waited 33 years for His death. He has waited for decades for His people to repent and return to Him. He has waited to redeem us. He has waited for centuries to bring His bride home.

I’ve always struggled with waiting. But today I realized that I was no longer allowing my identity and joy to hinge on another person or event. All of a sudden, I realized that I was broken and the world was broken and this life was broken but that I AM OKAY WITH THIS. And I was no longer waiting for one, two, or three significant things to determine my level of contentment. I was no longer looking to the next thing to determine my hope, my amount of excitement, or my future. I was living in the now, surrounded by baby toys and a full sink of pots and a cluttered desk, realizing that this life I’ve been given is wonderful.

Baby toys means a baby to love, and a sinkful of dirty dishes means food on the table and people I love to eat it with, and a cluttered desk means I have the opportunity to work from home and provide for my family. (Disclaimer: this does NOT mean that I wouldn’t hire a nanny in a heartbeat.)

I suppose we will never stop waiting for things that we call exciting and wonderful and the desires of our hearts. We will never stop hoping for things to be better, for things to change, for things to look up. But the beauty is that in the wait, we can look up and see Jesus. And He is better than anything we have or will ever want. Wait for Him, sisters. Wait for His timing above your own. Don’t be so consumed with what you’re waiting for in the future that you forget to thank Him for your present.

And in the wait, watch with wonder at what God has wrought.

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Cara Cobble Trantham is a freelance writer whose passion is to encourage women of all ages to draw closer to the Lord. She lives in Greeneville, Tennessee, with her husband and one-year-old daughter. She loves to send cards in magazine envelopes, counsel ladies over sugar and cream (with a little bit of coffee), and read a good book at the beach. Her bucket list includes eating pizza in Chicago, staying at a bed and breakfast in Savannah, and following a recipe without leaving out an ingredient.

New Year, New Self-Control

I was introduced (online, of course) to Jen Wilkin in 2015 and have been so inspired by her writings. I am beyond thankful for the way she teaches, her passion for women and Bible literacy, and her devotion to knowing Christ intimately. Things have been a little busy around my house this year, and it hasn’t left much time for blogging here (I’ve been doing some blogging over at Kristin Schmucker’s blog.) But this article is worth reading and I know I’ll need to read it again several times this year. So I’m featuring it here for easy access! Hope you are blessed by it like I was.

New Year, New Self-Control

Author: Jen Wilkin CategoryGeneralCulture

A new year is upon us, and unless this one is much different from others, our conversations will be laden with talk of fitness goals and holiday diet missteps. The New Year is traditionally a time for resurrecting our self-control, so this is no surprise. But this New Years I have a different form of self-discipline in view—one with potentially longer-lasting impact than dropping a dress size.

I recently came across an article showing ads from the 1930s and 40s selling products to help people gain weight. The ads made claims that sounded completely comical to our modern ears: “Add 5 lb of solid flesh in a week!” “Since I gained 10 lb…I have all the dates I want!” I showed the ads to my daughters, whose response was, “Mom, I don’t think those are real. Have you checked that on Snopes?”

But they’re real all right, despite how preposterous they seem. My first reaction, I am ashamed to admit, was that I was born too late. How great would it be to live during a time when well-padded women held the glamour-girl title? (As long as I’m being honest, I had a similar reaction to learning that in South America women get implants in their bottoms to achieve their culture’s ideal shape. By some cruel twist of fate, had I been born on the wrong continent? Why couldn’t I live where hips were hip?)

But of course, to seriously entertain these thoughts is to drink a Kool-Aid that has been served up to women since the dawn of time: the belief that ideal physical beauty exists and should be pursued at all costs. For much of human history, the curvy beauty has prevailed. Statues of women from ancient Greece and Rome celebrate a body type we would call “plus-size” today, as does Renaissance art. Historically, padded women were considered beautiful because only the rich and idle could achieve such a figure, and because curviness indicated fertility. For women of past generations, curviness was extremely hard to achieve unless you had the money to eat well and work little. Thanks to trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup, this is no longer the case. Ironically, the rich and idle of today strive to look undernourished and overworked. And the rest of us rush to follow suit.

So, would it have been better to live during a time when well-fed women were hailed as beauties? I doubt it. Because the issue is not “fat versus thin”—it is “perfect versus imperfect.” There has never been a time when women have not defined themselves by (enslaved themselves to?) some ideal of physical beauty. Though its definition may change across the centuries, one element remains constant: it is always a definition of beauty that is just beyond our reach. We want what we cannot have. If curvy is hard, we want curvy. If thin is hard, we want thin.

The expectation of physical perfection hits modern females early and often. In middle school, girls cut themselves to deal with the pressures of conforming to the ideal. In middle age, women do, too—but allow the surgeon to hold the knife. We carve the record of our self-loathing into the very flesh of our bodies—a self-marring, a literal carving of an idol. Increasingly, physical perfection is the legacy of womanhood in our culture, handed down with meticulous care from mother to daughter, with more faithful instruction in word and deed than we can trouble to devote to the cultivation of kindness, peacemaking and acceptance that characterize unfading, inner beauty.

In this as in all things, there is hope and good news for the believer: one day we will be free of our self-loathings and will live in harmony with our physical appearance. We will be given new, incorruptible bodies—bodies that are no longer on a collision course with the grave. We dare not reduce this future hope to that of an eternity with thinner thighs or a smaller nose. We must celebrate it as the day when vanity itself is dealt a fatal and final blow.

But how should we live in the meantime? By all means, we should steward the gift of our physical bodies—but for the sake of wellness, not beauty. Two women can step onto two treadmills with identical fitness goals and widely different motives. Only they will know the real reason they are there.

January is typically a time when we talk a great deal about calories, workouts and weight loss. What if we didn’t? What if we didn’t talk about body sizes at all? What if we made it a point not to mention our own calorie sins or victories in front of our girlfriends and daughters? What if we started living in right relation to our bodies now, instead of at the resurrection? What if every time we looked in the mirror and were tempted to complain, we said “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” laying claim to the future hope that our bodies will one day celebrate function in right relation to form, living in the glorious truth of that future hope now?

What if this New Year we decided to fast not from food but from body talk? Sure—hit the gym, eat the Paleo diet, run six miles a day, wear Spanx from neck to knee—just stop talking about it. Stop telling your friend she looks skinny—instead tell her you love her sweet spirit. Choose compliments that spur her to pursue that which lasts instead of that which certainly does not. If someone comments on your own shape, say thanks and change the subject. Banish body talk to the same list of off-limits topics as salaries, name-dropping and colonoscopies. Apply the discipline you use to work out to controlling your tongue. Do this for your sisters, and by the grace of God, we could begin a legacy of womanhood that celebrates character over carb-avoidance, godliness over glamour.

Sister in Christ, physical perfection is not within our grasp, but, astonishingly, holiness is. Where will you devote your energy in the New Year? Go on a diet from discussing shape and size. Feast on the Word of Truth. Ask this of yourself for your sake, for the sake of your friends and daughters, for the sake of the King and His Kingdom. On earth as it is in Heaven.

“Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Matthew 15:10-11