There are days aren’t there? Everyone knows what kind of days I mean. Like the toilet is over-flowing and everyone’s puking kind of days. Like the car that needs to last another year breaks kind of days. Like people around you are hurting kind of day and you don’t know what to do for them. Like no one is stepping up to the plate kind of day…kind of week..kind of month. Some times there are just those days…and then there are those times where they all run into a…well…a long time. And you wonder, “Am I in the right place God?” Or maybe even, “Can I go to a different place God?”

Truth be told, I don’t usually have time for those kind of days. There’s a lot to be said for staying so involved and being so driven that you don’t have time to notice you’re muddling through one of those days now and again. But today was different. Something felt different, almost melancholy, about the day. My frustrations had been building and I’d had too much time alone running errands that I was thinking through the past few weeks. What was it about the last couple weeks that had me frustrated?

Until this moment of time by myself, I’m not sure I even noticed that I was muddling through the days. When someone said something purposeful a week ago to encourage me; I didn’t make a connection. And then again, over the weekend, a sweet package came in the mail completely out of the blue with a very kind encouraging note from a dear friend who I almost never get a chance to connect with. I was so tickled! Still, I don’t think I noticed the muddling. Then today, a friend sent a text that in itself shouldn’t have been different than any other encouraging text. But at that moment, the connection came. “God, you’re doing something here.” Three deliberate encouragements in less than a week. I was being encouraged purposefully. Why? I think I’d been “muddling” through, adding up frustrations and God knew..

The encouragement came even before I knew I needed it. “But God, why?” Now I know I should’ve just been grateful; but I actually think way too much to do that. I wondered why did God care that I was encouraged? When the text came, I was working by myself at church making dinner in the kitchen for the next night. As I worked over the sink I heard in my heart, “Because I love you.” And I cried. The emotion was crazy overwhelming. Why would I be worth the encouragement?

I immediately thought of the woman who has been stealing my thoughts lately from Genesis 34. Stuck on Dinah’s story, I’ve thought of how unworthy this woman must have felt. Here she was the daughter of Jacob, a very mighty man in all of Israel. But as she goes to visit the women of the land, a man sees her and rapes her. Can you imagine the shame she felt? The man was not an Israelite. But he sends word to Jacob that he wants her for his wife. The verses say he spoke tenderly to Dinah, and he loved her. There’d be a whole lot of “muddling” there for Dinah I would think! Shamed and feeling worthless, but wanted and loved and maybe even redemption by becoming his wife? What do you do with that? He wasn’t even circumcised and so her being married to him would be a disgrace to her prominent Israelites.

In the events that follow, her brothers use her as a pawn to inflict their revenge on the man and his people. Her brothers let the man know he could marry her if the men of their land were all circumcised. In fact, they could live, work and trade together even. So they all are circumcised.

“ Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where their sister had been defiled. They seized their flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs in the city and out in the fields. They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses. Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me obnoxious to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.” (Genesis 34:25-30)

Now what? Even though Dinah was returned to her family, what do you think happened to her worth in her mind? She’s never mentioned again. She’s just the sorry victim of a horrible act and a horrible response. Dinah didn’t just have a bad day, she had a lot of bad days! I bet she “muddled” on more than one of them. We will never know if at some point somewhere in her life, she was aware God was whispering “I love you”. We’ll never know if someone encouraged her along her path on a day when she might have been muddling.

What a reminder for me though! My worth is more than what kind of day I am having! It’s more than how I’m muddling through a day…or a week…or longer. And the encouragement of a friend whispered to me the reason why….because He loves me.


The Mark

The other day as I came in from the garage to the laundry room, I marveled at how messy the garage became over the winter. Too cold to do anything, everybody moves quickly through there and nobody picks up after themselves it seems. Combine that with two 100-lb Labradors who like to come in and wreak havoc, it looked like a small tornado had hit near the landing. I briefly remember the garage that I had so daringly cleaned last fall and garnished a frustrated look from my husband…the look that said “what did you do with my stuff?” How could so much get so messy that “clean” was just a memory?

Another memory caught my eye as I opened the door. I hadn’t noticed it in a long time. Hadn’t even thought about it really. There on the garage wall, just before you go in the house, were straight-line marks written in various pens, each with a corresponding name and date. As the kids have grown over the years, we’ve put a mark on the wall with a date and their name. It’s interesting how reality doesn’t always match up with my memory! I recall a couple of them growing so fast it seemed impossible. And yet, as I looked at the wall, while there were some remarkable growth spurts, there were a lot more slow and steady, bit by bit, marks than I remember. An inch here, an inch there.

One of the twins asked what the marks were. I explained that was how we kept track of how everyone grew in the house. But it’s something they’ve never experienced. In the constant moving of their short lives, we hadn’t taken the time or even remembered to mark their growth on the wall with everyone else.

Olivia immediately came in and asked her dad to mark how big she was. It took him a minute to realize what she was talking about. So he took them both out and marked the first mark for these identical twins on the wall.

I thought about how a daddy does that. I wondered if he looks at the lines the way I do. The year they first mowed a lawn, or played their first solo. The year they played soccer, or won a trophy, or started working. Each line by their father not only marked their height, but it set a level at a place in their life that commemorated growth in general.

The verse came to mind of Jesus in the temple, growing from a boy to man, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). The verse before even references how his mother treasured it all in her heart.

Sometimes we need a measure of our growth. We forget that we are not to just keep on doing, but we are meant to keep on growing. Marks on the wall. Marks on the heart of others. Marks the Father himself puts on a virtual wall that says “yes, they’ve grown, in wisdom and in favor” with God and man. Maybe it’d do us good to write down exactly where we are today…in our faith…in our ministries…in our families…. And maybe it’d do us good to check it in a month, in six months, in a year. Because memory of where we’ve been and where we are doesn’t always match up with reality.