What is good?

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“You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” Job 2:10

What is good? The question plagues me today as I watch my daughter painstakingly pick crumbs from the floor. Despite my setting an array of delicacies before her, bits of fried egg and small squares of buttered toast, she swipes it all away. No, it’s the floor she wants. And as she crawls along, she searches out bits and pieces. For she seems to favor the scraps and crumbs she discovers underneath the table. Or behind the chair leg. And silently I pray… Oh, dear God, may it really be teeny tiny bits of food she gums and not something else.

And so, I muse over her eating habits. How she seems to prefer trash from the floor to the good things I place before her. And it becomes clear. What I think is good and what she thinks is good are two different things. Mind-boggling to say the least.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

I’ve given a lot of thought to this. What is good? And after contemplating my baby girl’s eating habits, the answer I come up with is full. To be full is good. Because at life’s basest, isn’t that what we hunger for? Fullness. We want and need to be filled with something. And so it’s that something we seek. It becomes our focus. Our aim. When I have ____, I will be full. I will be happy. Life will be good. And if we don’t have the thing we crave, we deem life is not so good.

At least this is the way I’ve operated most of my life. I want what I do not have and thus, I miss all that I do have. The goodness and fullness of life, and God, passes me by…

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A year or so back, I felt something was lacking. So I audaciously prayed. Boldly, I made my petition, “Now, withhold no good thing from me.” And I fully expected to get the good I wanted. Though my words were vague, the request was specific. It was something I yearned for. And I was 100% positive God would answer me favorably. That He would reward me with what I sought. Because I was being good (in my mind). So very good. And isn’t good for good a promise of His… He doesn’t withhold good from those who walk uprightly? Psalm 84:11.

Alas, what I thought would happen didn’t come to pass. And so, I confess, I became bitter. Cynical, even. Filled with doubt as my hope and expectation waned. Simply because I did not get my way. Hollowness presented. I was empty and hungered all the more. Hangry best described me. Because I was most assuredly not full and I was not happy about it. In essence, I remained hungry for the thing I deemed to be good.

And so I’m brought back to my daughter. Annabelle. She gets hangry quite often. A delightful (not) mixture of hunger and anger. I contemplate how she and I see good so differently. But me being mom, I know what she needs. Not crumbs from the floor, she needs sustenance from my hand.

And so I get it. My a-ha moment of the day. I’m just like my daughter. And my heavenly Father being Dad knows exactly what I need. Not crumbs from the floor. No, I need the food from His hand. The goodness He sets before me.

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good… Genesis 1:3

God created light and He deemed it to be good. So He gives me light. He created the land and sea and deemed them to be good. So He gives me earth. He created vegetation and it is good. So He gives me the fruit of the tree. He created the sun and the moon and stars and every creeping, crawling, flying, swimming thing. He deemed it all to be good. So this is what He gives me. And He created man. In His image He made them male and female. And these He deemed to be not only good, but very good. So He gives me fellow man. All this is good. And this is all I need…

Fellowship with God

Relationship with man

Sustenance

And light… the Light

God gives good things like His light. And as I bask in the glory of His illumination, I see truth. That God gives and gives. It’s exactly as His word proclaims: For God so loved, He gave. And just because it appears He’s holding out on me by withholding something I desire, it does not mean He isn’t good. Or that He’s being mean. Or that He’s punishing me. Because how could I ever forget what He ultimately gave… His Son. Or what His Son did. He gave His life. Proof of love.

Oh, but I do forget! Again and again. Forgetting what took place over 2000 years ago, I look to future greener grass beyond the fence line. Just as my daughter does when she peers out over the edge of her high chair. No different than her, I continue to seek out what I don’t have. But what if? Suppose the one thing I think is good may just be a crumb. Nothing more than scraps from the floor.

And so, in light of that, I’m able to take my eyes off what I don’t have so that I can gaze upon what I do have. All the things God has stretched out His hand to give me…

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I notice the dappling sunlight upon my dewy grass. And there are sunflowers to rest my eyes upon. And a chicken coop at the edge of our trees.

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There are seeds to harvest,

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and vibrancy of color…

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A comfortable bed to lay my weary head at night,

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 and hot coffee to stir my senses in the morn.

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The coolness of fall hovers on the edge of the horizon as leaves cover the ground,

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and there are stars. A million, nighttime stars.

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I have children… nine and one.

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Annabelle’s Pa-Paw drops by regularly along with other family members.

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And last, but for sure not least, I have the love of a good man…

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8

Yep, this morning, I mused over eating habits. Annabelle’s and mine. And as I take all this inside me, I wonder how I could ever prefer scraps from the floor when God places His goodness before me. And so I ingest clarity. For a table has been set in my honor. And as it slowly comes into focus, I know this is but a small handful of God’s gifts. Comprehension dawns in my soul and hunger abates. Because I realize… I am full. But not of scraps. No, God didn’t allow me, His daughter, to fill up with bits and pieces from the floor. Instead, He gave me the very best. His best. In His omnipotence, my Father filled me up better than I ever could have.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever. Psalm 23:5-6

No, my life may not be filled with everything I’d like to have. But it’s full of other stuff. The good stuff. My cup runneth over indeed, for my heavenly Father stretched out His arm and fed me. Thus, I find the answer to my original question. When I wonder what is good, I say God. God is good. And how well my soul knows it.

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God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for our food.

The Good Life

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The king asked me, “Why do you seem sad? Since you aren’t sick, you must have a broken heart! I was very afraid. Nehemiah 2:2

I ran into a lady yesterday who battles cancer. But she wasn’t downcast. On the contrary, she was all smiles. Positive. Hopeful. I’ve also noted several postings on Facebook recently requesting prayer. Yes, the “C” word again. Cancer. Amazingly, though, the common thread amongst these posts is hope. Expectation. And the good to come.

And then, of course, there’s someone special to me. A woman I’ve known for almost twenty years now. Her battle is the same. Cancer. That’s her fight. I think about her often. Just about every time I post a blog, in fact. Because like her, my focus is on internal medicine. And healing. But there’s one major difference… my illness is sickness of heart whereas hers is a disease that threatens to overtake her body. We both need to heal. Just differently. And so with every post, I think about how greatly she suffers. And how my trivial matters pale in comparison to what she endures daily.

Her difficulty is marked in my journal. July 21. “She suffers greatly.” Funny thing is you’d never, ever know it though. Because two days after this entry I visited her in the hospital and thought she seemed to be faring well. However when the nurse asked, her pain scale number proved otherwise. But I hadn’t a clue. Other than a number indicator, there was no evidence.  Which puts me in mind of the lady I saw yesterday and her smiles. Her positive demeanor. Hopeful expectation of better days to come…

There is an occasion for everything and a time for every activity under heaven… a time to be silent and a time to speak. Ecclesiastes 3:1,7

I’ll tell you the truth, I suffer from foot in mouth disease. If there’s a pause in the conversation, I feel compelled to fill the lull with words. And unfortunately, anything will do. Whatever comes to mind usually makes its to my mouth. Utterance before I can bite my tongue. But you know, I’m coming to understand that sometimes silence is preferable to sound. And there are moments when I should simply bite my tongue. Perhaps until it bleeds if necessary. Because truth is words are not always the best course of action.

Because here it is. I believe one of the worst things we can do to someone who suffers is offer careless words. Empty or false ones. Or worse yet, hopeless ones. Or how about walking on eggshells? Treating someone as if they may break. As if they’re fragile. Speaking to them in a manner that’s condescending. Patting them down like they’re children. And today, after viewing a video of a random woman who fights cancer daily, I worry I’ve been guilty of this very thing. Spouting out something to fill a void. The uncomfortable silence that can sometimes surround the “C” word. Perhaps a voiced encouragement was actually discouragement instead.

Then Job answered: I have heard many things like these. You are all miserable comforters. Is there no end to your empty words? What provokes you that you continue testifying? If you were in my place I could also talk like you. I could string words together against you and shake my head at you, but I wouldn’t. I would encourage you with my mouth, and the consolation from my lips would bring relief. Job 16:2-5

People who suffer greatly have a lot to teach people like me. Like the woman I encountered yesterday morning. So inspiring. She talked of celebrating life. And dancing at a wedding. And a dear friend of mine who lost both her parents way too soon, and who was once at death’s door herself, speaks of this often. She wants to enjoy the life she’s been given. She said someone who has it too good doesn’t appreciate what they have. They can’t even recognize the good life when it’s staring them in the face.

And then there’s my loved one. She’s the one I thought of this morning after watching a video about cancer. See, she told me in July she’s up for the fight. And I believe she really is. Because I swear she’s the strongest woman I know. She’s thankful for each new day. And she’s hopeful for the days to come. Yes, this woman knows better than anyone what the good life really is. I think that’s what “C” word taught her. Cancer.

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So my thought today is… what can I possibly say to this woman? My loved one. In light of what life has taught her already, what wisdom can I possibly provide? What feeble words can I offer? In truth, I should just hold my tongue. Because I should be the one listening. To her. To what she says out loud and to what she keeps inside. Because her very life speaks loudly. Yes, it’s true the road she’s traveled has been marked with suffering. But it’s made her wise. So wise. See, she knows very well what the good life is. And most importantly, she embraces it with both arms. It’s those fighting arms of hers. They don’t release their grip. She holds on and looks to better days. To the good life.

This is what my loved one teaches me. Today, she inspires me to close my mouth and open my eyes instead. Because in the silence, I see the truth that stares me in the face. And I recognize it’s the good life I’m looking at. It’s what I choose to embrace today.

Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. Job 2:12-13

https://www.facebook.com/HolleyKitchenCancerLifer/videos

If it ain’t broke…

The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick – who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

I saw a random video last week and it startled me. A clip from an HBO show in which three parties took turns responding to college students’ questions. A pretty girl stepped up… “Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?” There were a few fluffy answers such as diversity and opportunity and freedom. But one guy shocked everyone in the room. He said America is not the greatest country.

The man used statistics and facts to backup his reasoning. He continued by saying he didn’t know what in the f*** people were talking about when they say America is the greatest country. He had my unswerving attention by that point, I can tell you. Thus, his summation was loud and clear, practically reverberating in my ear. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. Without a doubt, I knew God wanted me to take note of that statement.

On the heels of this video, a question arose in my mind. “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” I learned it’s a philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and knowledge of reality (according to Wikipedia). Basically, can something exist without being perceived? For instance, is sound only sound if it’s heard?

An interesting concept in light of the recent America speech I absorbed, so it’s a direction I’m willing to travel this morning. Because I wonder… if a problem isn’t perceived, is there one? Or better yet, rather than contemplating the state of our country and the trees outside my backyard, how about focusing inward instead. To matters of the heart. Because therein I find a new question… If a woman doesn’t perceive her own heart is broken, is it broken at all? And if the bearer of said heart never heard the clanging of it’s shattering pieces, did it make a sound at all?

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I was fine a month ago. Ready to take on the world. Confident, expectant, and excited. I had just finished all my preparation for a writing conference… a book proposal and a one sheet. It was all consuming, but a necessary step. See, I think there’s a book inside me. One that will help other women who need healing. Women who battle feelings of inferiority and insignificance. Because that’s my story. And one month ago, I thought I’d overcome it all.

But after meeting with an editor, my confidence waned. And by the time mid-afternoon rolled around, I felt like the air had been let out of my tire. Most assuredly, I was not looking forward to dinner and the evening session. Alas, I’d already dropped a big chunk of change on the trip so I had to go. I was late to dinner so every table was pretty full and I had to find a place amidst a sea of strangers. I asked if anyone was sitting in a seat and though the person seemed reluctant, it was offered.

Minutes later, a pretty, thin woman sat next to me and I realized she’d been saving my seat for someone else. But she was gracious. And as we chatted, I couldn’t help but notice how incredibly laid back and utterly relaxed she was. Ultra cool and nerves didn’t seem to touch her. In contrast to my publisher’s meeting, hers went well. Very well. In fact, she planned to blow off the evening session so she could polish off her book proposal. Yes, her editor wanted to see hers. Not only that, the conference was kind of an afterthought. She decided to check it out while she was home for a visit. Not so with me. I put a great deal of thought into it… should I or shouldn’t I?

As we shared our tales, she made a remark about certain type of women with their large jewelry and loud ways. And there I sat, from the very same region, with my very large earrings dangling. Her ears and wrists were bare and she donned a simple necklace. In contrast, I felt like a big oaf. Frumpy. Old. Foolish. And as she slid away from me to interact with another person at our table, I felt it all. Sharply. My heart was pierced. I was rejected in favor of another. Unwanted. Not chosen. And this was the point I regressed to a ten year old. Smiling when I felt like crying. Trying to look like it didn’t matter when it mattered more than anything else.

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Finally the infernal dinner was over and it was time for the evening session. And can you believe it? They opened with “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cindi Lauper. This being a hit from my fifth grade year. I swear it was 1983 all over again. Only this time, I wasn’t in the cafeteria surrounded by cooler kids. I was sitting in a nice banquet room surrounded by women way more competent than me. More appealing. That’s when tears singed my eyes. My lashes concealed them and the smile faded from my face. I stood there, stone faced, while 800 women danced and sang and laughed.

Oh, blessed relief when we sat down for business. And the speaker was good. Inspiring. And incredibly, she brought a smile to my face. A laugh from deep within. But then she got serious. She recounted a story of a friend’s heartfelt prayer. The woman cried out, “God, remember me?” And that’s when my insides fissured. That was the moment I knew my heart was broken indeed. Moreover, it had been broken for a long, long time. Ever since 1983. In reality, I wasn’t fine like I thought I was. Never had been. I was not the woman I depicted in my one sheet. And rather than being in a position to help women heal, I found myself in need of healing.

Sticks and stones…

We’ve all heard it, right? Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt me. What a lie that is. For sure sticks and stones break bones but words are so powerful. Because they break your insides. And careless words from another can haunt you for the rest of your life. At least if you allow them to. It appears that’s what I did.

You know, my husband is so good to me. He’s always trying to build me up and pays me compliments pretty often. But the thing is I never believe him. I always shrug them off. No, you’re just saying that. No I’m not, I look awful. This is what comes out of my mouth because it’s how I think. Self-worth eroded by years of derogatory statements.

The first fell in the fifth grade. And another negative comment was layered on that one, and then another and another. Things like, “Why’d you say that, Pam, that was stupid?” And “Is that what you’re wearing to dinner?” And there’s the one who changed the lyrics of a song to, “Pam’s a loser, baby…” And the one who said, “I’m not going to blow smoke up your rear,” when I said I’d lost weight. And when I shared the news of my engagement, a loved one said, “We didn’t think he’d take you!” All these piled up, one by one, till they simply covered me. I was buried under a mountain of criticisms. And underneath them all, I felt like a big nothing. A loser. Insignificant and small. Invisible in a sea of lovely ladies.

That’s how I felt the night I discovered my broken heart. Invisible to everyone. And then, a speaker voiced my inner cry. She said, “Remember me, God?” I came undone as my shattered heart was revealed. And I was stunned.

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I bought the above book the day after my heart split wide open. Just this morning I read, “Honey, sometimes God lets you remember for a reason.” It spoke to me. Because He let me remember my pain. Why? Perhaps so I’d remember the power of words and their effect on me. And so I’d use them to build up the women surrounding me rather than tearing them down. Or perhaps it was so I’d know truth. That my heart was broken and I didn’t even know it.

But how could I know my heart was broken? See, it didn’t happen all at once. No huge traumatic event to tip me off. It simply happened over the course of many years. Gradually worn down. No, it wasn’t violence or tragedy or death that broke my heart. Just one sharp jab after another.

So today I see clearly. And though the bulk of those belittling comments are from the past, quite obviously they’re part of my present. Because after all these years, harsh words still have the power to diminish me. Rather than listening to God’s voice, I’ve been listening to the voices of years gone by. Words that broke my heart. I’ve been deceived. And in a sense, my heart is the victim of fraud. Conned into believing I’m worthless.

So, I’m brought back to my initial question. If a woman doesn’t perceive her own heart is broken, is it really broken? Yes. YES. Just as I couldn’t perceive my own reality, it didn’t make it any less realCould this be another woman’s reality? Yes. YES. Because like me, she may not know. Camouflaged by numbness or a melancholy demeanor, the heart may appear to be intact. See, the slow process of erosion blinds a woman to what’s taking place inside her. There’s no huge clanging sound as it happens. Nothing to alert her. No, sometimes a breaking heart doesn’t make a sound. Not to us.

However, imperceptible to human ears, the crack of a human heart resounds in God’s own. He hears it and acts. Because one day, He jars the woman loose. That’s what He did for me a month ago. He cut through layers of numbness so I’d remember my pain. And when I perceived it, I knew I had a problem. That’s step one. Because the first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. See, if it ain’t broke, you can’t fix it. But when you know it’s broke, you have no choice but to do something about it. And when you realize you don’t have the power to fix it on your own, you find yourself turning in a new direction. Inevitably, your broken heart points you to the One who can fix it. To the One who can fix you.

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted.” Isaiah 61:1

Deep Thoughts

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“A lot of people want intact hearts these days.” Dr. Deborah Nucatola

Years and years (and years) ago, I used to watch Saturday Night Live. And I just loved the deep thoughts portion of the show. Dry, funny quotes written by someone named Jack Handy. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I rolled with laughter. And the crazy thing is, several of those sayings have stuck with me for over two decades now. The one I’ve been pondering lately, though, goes like this…

To me, it’s a good idea to always carry two sacks of something when you walk around. That way, if anybody says, “Hey, can you give me a hand?” You can say, “Sorry, got these sacks.”  Jack Handy

At nineteen, I found this to be incredibly funny. But today, I find it a deep thought indeed. In essence, “Sorry, man… got these two sacks. So no, I can’t help you. I’m too busy helping myself.” Yep, this deep thought came to mind at the bus stop the other evening when Levi told me about a fight at school. He said it was scary when the seventh grader hit a sixth grader. Teachers intervened.

But Levi, for future reference, wanted to know what to do in situations like this if an adult isn’t around. He thought he should go and help the one being hit. And shamefully, before I could stop myself, I said you go get someone else to help. Basically, don’t involve yourself, my son. You walk away and find another. I quickly withdrew my rash words but the truth is, I’m really uncertain as to what would be right in that situation. Should my little boy step up and try to stop a fight potentially getting hurt himself? Or run away and find someone better equipped to handle the problem? It’s a thought worth exploring… a deep thought, indeed.

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Ironically, the above is in the front of my journal. I jotted it down on July the 15th. Guard your heart… the irony being my heart was ripped in two one short week later. Not just once, but twice. See, that was the week I watched some abortion videos that had surfaced. Oh, the video caught my eye the previous week; however, I simply didn’t have time to watch. I was too darn busy. I was in the midst of planning for a big writing conference, chasing my dream, keeping house and children, working from home, and preparing for a week long road trip. No, there was no time for keeping up with current affairs in early July. So in essence, I was carrying some sacks. My own sacks. And my load seemed heavy enough.

But finally, everything was complete. As I spent the week with my in-laws, time was in my hands instead of baggage. So I finally watched the videos. The thing that hit me hardest was a comment made by Dr. Deborah Nucatola. She said a lot of people want hearts intact these days. And you know, I find that to be a deep thought indeed. I’d have to agree with her statement. Because in my opinion, people want just that today. Intact hearts. Not altered, broken, or impaired. A heart should be uninjured, sound and whole. Untouched and unblemished. Because really, who wants to endure a broken heart? But you know… there’s a tragic end to pursuing an intact heart. We run the risk of becoming unfeeling. Cold and aloof. In trying to keep our heart by keeping it from the world, it can become hard. And callused. Like stone.

Oh, it begins innocently enough. And early on. A heart break. My first was in the fifth grade. There was a boy I liked so much but it was clear. I was not chosen. Another came in eighth grade. And ninth. And eleventh. And twelfth. And at twenty. And twenty-two. And twenty-two. And twenty-two. No, that’s not a typo… sometimes your heart can break many times a year. For various reasons as many things can pierce a heart. And so, in an attempt to protect our hearts, we remove it – and ourselves – from life. Because if we’re reserved, just maybe our hearts will remain intact. Whole. But before we know it, a heart can become a boulder. Immovable. Surrounded by thick walls. Nothing can penetrate the protective barriers…

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

I’ve been thinking about that saying… “You can’t get blood from a stone.” It means you can’t extract what isn’t there to begin with. And so I think about the heart of stone. The intact one. And I’d have to agree. No, you can’t get blood from a stone. Not even from a heart of stone. But a true miracle can take place… if only. If only we allow ourselves to reenter life, we’ll find our heart can change. Because what we thought was sound may not be so sound after all. A heart that has the appearance of being whole may actually be shattered. And unexpectedly, what was hard and unmoving comes to life. Real flesh and blood. And when the heart gets cut, it bleeds. I know this to be true because it happened to me.

It was July 24. I thought I was prepared for a writing conference. I thought I was sound. What I didn’t know is I had become callus. Hard. Removed from life. But in reentering the world, my heart became softened. And that night my heart broke right in two. I had to choke back sobs at the dinner table. Afterward, I hurried off to my hotel room and cried like a baby. Just like a newborn. And I couldn’t stop. Tears rolled down my cheeks. And I felt just like I did at twenty-two. And at twenty. I regressed all the way back to that first heartbreak. The time I was not chosen. Unloved. Honestly, I felt just like a little girl. (http://pamandersonblog.com/?s=just+like+a+little+girl )  And before I knew it, two pieces became thousands. A heart splinted. Most definitely not intact.

So here’s what I’m thinking today. What’s the state of our hearts? Are they intact? And if they are, now this is just a thought, maybe they shouldn’t be.  The deep thought for today is perhaps a whole heart should be broken. Because how can it not be? If we allow ourselves to venture beyond our boundary lines and immerse ourselves into the world at large, we’ll begin to see such heartache. And suffering. And inevitably, our hearts begin to hurt alongside the hurting.

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God will not despise a broken and humble heart. Psalm 51:17

You know, my son coined a deep thought yesterday and he didn’t even know it. It’s what he said about his baby sister. See, she’s almost one and she’s been reaching up. She pulls herself up and holds on to something for stability. But she’s fallen so many times. So many boo-boos, tears rolling down her cheeks. But the thing is, the hurts don’t stop her. She continues to pull herself up. And yesterday morning, the most amazing thing happened.

Annabelle had been holding to the coffee table but she let go. There she stood for a total of five seconds without holding on and without falling. That’s because she grabbed hold of something else she wanted. And because all her attention was focused on a phone, she was able to let go of the other thing. Levi said, “She just had to let go of what she was holding to.” And I thought, yes! So simple but so deep. A deep thought, indeed.

Instantly, I thought of the originator of deep thoughts, Jack Handy. And what he said about sacks. See, Annabelle couldn’t have held that phone with both hands if she continued to hold on to a table. The same thing goes for me. I can’t hold onto something else, or someone else, if I continue holding my own sacks… a/k/a baggage. And that’s just not acceptable. I can’t use the following excuse… “Sorry, my friend, I got these sacks here. I can’t help you.” So today I take Levi’s deep thought to heart. I make a choice. And I let go of what I’ve been holding to. My stuff. And in releasing my load, I find I’m able to take hold of something else. Something better.

The LORD is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Truth is I have to take my hands – and eyes – off of me and my junk if I want to look to someone else. Because only when I’m not so focused on me will I really notice those around me. The one who suffers. She who is in pain. The griever. Oh, no doubt there’s risk involved. I will likely ache with them. Or I could get hurt in the process. For sure there will be tears. Rolling down my cheeks. And quite possibly, my heart will break. But you know, I think that’s exactly where God wants me. My heart not intact. Broken alongside my neighbors. Broken alongside His.

But when I find myself there, brokenhearted, that’s when I’ll be most useful to Him. Because I’ll be able to connect with the hurting world that surrounds me. And miraculously, that’s when I’ll be closest to God. Because His word assures me… no doubt when I feel like my heart is breaking into a million pieces, He’ll be right there beside me. And that, my friend, is a deep thought worth pondering.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

 

catching my breath

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord. Hallelujah! Psalm 150:6

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This is me four years ago. It was the end of August. My son’s fifth birthday. And I was full. Full of praise and fully expectant. Fully alive. I was happy. That’s because I had an awakening of sorts. My dim spirit was revived as God lifted me from the mire and the muck and made me new. Formed from the dust of the ground, He breathed the breath of life in my nostrils and I became a living being (Genesis 1:7). And a seed was planted in my heart. A calling. A prompt to write coincided with the fresh wind that filled my lungs.

August of 2011 is when I first felt it. And in the following months, I typed up endless words that surged from my heart and soul. Day and night. My energy was boundless. I wrote and wrote for no less than two years. Then I formed a blog. I wrote and wrote two years more. When He inspired me, I moved. Because it was a dream He gave me. And ultimately, that dream – and God – moved me to a huge writing conference last month. I felt assured I was supposed to be there. And yet, my heart felt dulled. My spirit suppressed. When the other women praised God with wild abandon, I stood there with hands to my side. I mumbled the words of the songs till eventually, my lips stilled altogether. I became lifeless. Breathless. And inexplicably, my heart broke right in two.

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The hand of the LORD was on me, and He brought me out by His Spirit and sat me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them. There were a great many of them on the surface of the valley, and they were very dry. Then He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel 37:1-3

I began chasing God four years ago. He was my goal. And the wonder is I found Him. And when I did, I came to life. And when His breath entered my dry bones, He awakened me to my purpose. A calling. Writing was a passion buried deep within but I’d forgotten about it. Didn’t know it lie in wait. And so for the very first time in my life, I was full of conviction. I knew the direction I was headed. However, I kind of put God to the backburner as I began chasing the dream instead.

It was the dream that led me to Concord, NC. And it was there, four years after implantation, I thought I should pluck the dream from my life. Because I quit. The writing conference tripped me up. The message I heard was come away and rest. Be alone. Quiet myself. So I thought I should put writing away altogether. You know, take a year off. Perhaps I just needed to catch my breath.

But then I came to this week. I saw something like this on Facebook…

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Truth is life will always be busy. There will always be storms of some sort. Some misty, some torrential. The art of life, though, is balance. And nimble feet… learning to dance through the puddles when you encounter them along life’s highway. And so I realize my thinking was faulty. Because putting away the very thing God placed inside me to do is not the answer. I will always have moments in which I need to catch my breath. But the wonder is, He is always there ready to give me air. When I am weak, I become strong. Because He is my strength. My source of life. My renewal.

I will cause breath to enter you, and you will live. Ezekiel 37:5

A loved one said something so dismal yesterday. He said he was discussing life with another family member and they don’t believe the golden years exist. In aging, everyone seems to be either sick or tired or depressed. And that makes me so sad. Because this is my family! And where is their hope? Where is their drive to live? Without God, and His life force, is there purpose at all? Are they really living or simply existing?

See, I believe life is a choice. You have to choose how you’re going to live it. And a piece of me knows just where my loved one is coming from. Because at times I feel sad and depressed, too. Like recent days. Just last week, my husband wanted to know when his wife was coming back. That’s because my demeanor has been reminiscent of my “animated corpse” days. This is how I was described two years ago. ( http://pamandersonblog.com/2015/03/04/a-corpse-bride-2/ ) Back then, I wasn’t living – I purely existed. Just a dry bag of bones. Seems the dryness returned…

This Summer, though, I think I just veered off course. I put away that which makes me feel most alive. And writing makes me alive. Because in this season of my soul, it’s one of my purposes. It’s what God places before me. And denying the thing He has for me to do sucks the life right out of me. And for those times when I feel I just don’t have the time to do the thing… He makes the time. If only I put Him first, He seems to pave the way. Puddles and all.

“I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them, My people, and lead you… You will know that I am the LORD, My people, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put My Spirit in you and you will live…”  Ezekiel 37:12-13

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You know, when I attended that writing conference last month, I was beat. Absolutely worn out. Dry. My time with God all but withered away so busy was I chasing my dream. And when I found myself surrounded by 800 women, singing and praising God, I just couldn’t bring myself to join in. It felt false to me. Like I was a fraud or something. After that conference, there was a retreat to plan for. Then a three day family vacation to the lake. By the time the above picture was snapped, I was utterly exhausted. And time with God was severely lacking.

But this week, I renewed my focus. And my aim. My direction became more clear when a certain Scripture captured my full attention yesterday morning. It was Psalm 42. As a deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for you. The words of a Psalmist. Deeply distressed. Disturbed. Downright depressed. However, in the midst of his trouble – or puddle – he said he would yet praise God. In other words, he would praise God anyway. No matter the circumstances.

This is my lesson. No matter the storm, or how deep the puddle, I should do the same. Oh, I may have a bad day or two. But you know, I will praise Him yet. It’s my purpose. It’s what I’m supposed to do. And if I don’t do it, His word assures me even the stones will cry out. That which doesn’t have breath will sing His praises. And here I am, full of breath but at times silent. Hands and arms stilled. But today I know the truth. I am breathing. And that in itself is worth praising. It’s just as Psalm 150 says… “Let everything that has breath praise His name.” And so, in writing, that’s what I aim to do. I praise His name. Hallelujah!

More than these.

IMG_1798Give her of the fruit of her hands… Proverbs 31:31

I thought I’d get a chance to watch TV last night. At least that was my plan. And in truth, I relish those precious moments at night. I savor sweet moments of quietude when the whole household is asleep. Not a soul stirring. Not even a mouse. No, it’s just me. My time to veg out. And read a book. Or perhaps watch a mindless sitcom. Life on pause as I catch my breath. Yes. As a busy mom, I long for moments of respite. They usually come at night. And despite what looked to be a promising evening of solitude, my plan was thwarted early on.

My son was in bed just after 9:00 pm. I read a chapter of Levi’s book, said a prayer over his head, turned on the fan and lava lamp for white noise and comfort, and gave him a peck on the cheek. And then, out the door I went. A bag of 220 calorie popcorn beckoned me. I eagerly split the cellophane and punched in one minute fifty seconds on the microwave. And in the ensuing minutes, I went to the potty, fed my cat and checked our doors to make sure we were secure. And then, after the beep, beep, beep, I sat down to a steaming bag of bliss and my eyes became glued to Law & Order. Finally, I rested. The breath I’d been holding came out. I exhaled. And an hour of me time stretched out before me…

By 9:20, I was completely engrossed in SVU and popped corn. However, within minutes a rustling from my son’s room vied for my attention. Yes, sure enough Levi was up by 9:25. He said he couldn’t sleep. After I vehemently told him to go back to bed no less than four times, I employed more threatening measures. My voice escalated as I asked, “Should I go get Daddy?” All to no avail, though, because Levi simply wouldn’t budge. His size three’s firmly cemented to the center of my living room. Finally, he told me the truth. My son was scared. His tears were real. Still holding tightly to my plan, though, I tried to up Levi’s comfort level. I placed a red t-shirt over his lamp in order to create warm glow and hurried back to the couch. Alas, extra light didn’t work.

By 9:30, my son cried out… Mama, will you please come lay with me. And so, my evening plans slipped through tightly clenched fists. And I did the only thing I knew to do. I turned off my program and threw out the popcorn bag. Instead of indulging in me time, I rose to the occasion and fulfilled my duty. As mom, nurturing and comforting fall to me. So I unfurled curled fingers and lay my hand over my son’s trembling body. There I went to sleep. Holding my son.

… do you love Me more than these? John 21:15

The words of Jesus came to me as I roused from sleep this morning. Do you love Me more than these? He posed His question to Peter, but He inquired the same of me just before daylight. Do you love Me more than these? Instantly, I thought of my children. It’s because of what my son said. As we lay in bed last night he said my life would be easier without him. Because he’s too much trouble. And he echoed his insecurity this morning just before boarding the bus… Your dream is coming true, Daddy’s going to work and I’m going to school. What???? Let me repeat that. WHAT???????

Before you think too harshly, let me explain. My son and I had words yesterday. More than once. And I was stern. He got in trouble. And this was on his mind last night. Nevertheless, his remarks make me sad today. I am his mother and yet somehow I’ve conveyed to my child I want other stuff more than him. Like preferring to snuggle up with popcorn and the couch instead of with him. I believe this is what Jesus wanted me to take note of this morning. Being alone a few minutes at night, or food, or TV are things I want. And come morning, it’s sleep I crave. The sleep that holds me. And I cling tightly to all these. I love these me things. But Jesus says, “Do you love Me more than these?” I have to say yes. Sure I choose Jesus over popcorn. But the real question before me today is, what about my kids? Do I choose them over popcorn, too?

After saying this, He told him, “Follow Me!” John 21:19

I dreamt about my hand last night. It was wrinkled and looked so old with my shiny ring upon it. It caused me to stir. And before drifting back off, I thought of how they’ve changed thousands of diapers. And how they’ve wiped little noses countless times. I thought of all the meals and games and projects and baths and sports and washing I’ve done. I thought about this season of my life and what it really means to be mom. Because it means sacrifice. It means laying down my wants and desires in order to put the little ones first. That’s what momdom looks like. It means loving my children more than these whatever these may be.

IMG_1797 It means toenails with polish all gummed up and eaten away by lake water because you don’t always have time to tend to your own toes.

IMG_1800 It means cracked, dry heels imbedded with the black from your Teva sandals. Because showers are faster than baths. And you just don’t have time to slough off or loofah unsightly feet.

IMG_1799 It means legs covered with bruises because you’re usually moving one hundred miles an hour.

IMG_1802 And it means you usually look like this. Because you’re doing well just to get the shower in.

This is my life. It’s where I’ve spent the past nine years. In the land of momdom. And oh, how hard it is to continually lay down my life and my wants. It’s a constant struggle for me to put my desires last. To put others first. Because I can become possessive of what I consider to be mine. Like alone time at night. And a mindless show. And a bag of popped corn. Because sometimes I just want to put me first. If only for a little while. Like say an hour… But Jesus says otherwise. He said, “Follow Me!” And so that’s what I try to do.

Yes, I did my best to comfort my boy last night. I told him my life would be empty without him. That him and Annabelle and Daddy mean the world to me. That I wouldn’t trade anything for them. And I meant what I said. I really did. Shortly thereafter, Levi drifted off.

The thought that comes to me today, though, is that last night was more than me taking care of my son. And only in looking back can I see what really took place. See, there was transformation. Because as my hand rested upon Levi’s waist, it began to take on the appearance of Jesus’ own scarred one. Because I crucified my wants. In a sense, I laid down my life as I put my son first. And all I did was turn off the TV. I chose Levi over the alone time I so desired. And you know, this is exactly what Jesus wants me to do. In this season of my life, it’s how I can follow Him. It’s how I show Him my love. Because truth is – in the land of momdom – when you love your little ones more than these, you’re really loving Him, too.

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Mammie’s Gravy

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Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver bowls, but also those of wood and earthenware, some for special use, some for ordinary. 2 Timothy 2:20

I like bowls. Ever since the early days of our marriage some seventeen years ago. My first was a set of three decorated with sage green and coral flowers. Soon after, Mom gave me a trio of earthenware glazed with creamy ivory. And one birthday, my sis-in-law surprised me with a set of four bowls from Pier One. And though I didn’t need them, I coveted them. I just liked them that much. Over the years, my collection grew. My most recent purchase sits atop my table with apples. I found it at a thrift store for only two bucks! And I thought I’d give it as a gift. Perhaps Dana whose house is filled with cobalt. Or Nicole, who recently added the stand-out blue to her own kitchen. In the end, though, I was selfish. I kept it for myself. As I said, I like bowls.

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Yes, I have lots of bowls. All shapes and sizes and each one lovely in its own way. But the thing is the oldest ones are the most endearing to me. The ones that have the most scratches bring me the most pleasure. That’s because they belonged to Mammie, my grandma. And on the rare occasion I bring them out, I think of her and how she filled the serving pieces with sumptuous treats on a daily basis. The Fireking held delicacies such as creamed squash, creamed peas and taters, or fresh garden cucumbers covered with vinegar and pepper. But the white bowls held the greatest treasure… the one sought out by all her grandkids. For it held her gravy. And in all my years, I’ve never tasted anything as good as that. Yep, her sausage gravy was second to none.

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Open your mouth wide and I will fill it with good things. Psalm 81:10

I’ve been feeling really nostalgic lately. More so than usual. A faded song or memory will evoke tears at least once a day. Especially Summer Breeze by Seals & Crofts. That’s what filled the airwaves in the early seventies. It brings to mind the freedom of my youth. Days spent roaming the cow pasture behind our small apartment; running around barefoot without a care in the world. Sometimes Mama and Daddy would go to dances. That was the best because it meant me and Sonny got to stay with Mammie. I remember her pulling back the bed covers and asking us if we needed to make water before we lay down. And then, all too soon, there’s be a peck, peck, peck on the door late at night. Mammie would remove the bar from the entryway so Daddy could enter. He’d carry me as he walked down the steps under the cover of night. Sometimes, though, we got to stay till morning.

It was cold waking up at Mammie’s. There wasn’t central heat and the stove was near the front room. If there were several of us kids, we’d snuggle together under the blankets trying to keep warm anticipating what was to come. We’d listen to Mammie rustling around in the kitchen, the smell of gravy wafting through the air. And then it was time. Eddie, my grandfather, sat down first. And Mammie always laid everything out on the table. There was a pie tin with canned biscuits and gravy filled one of the white bowls. Mammie would tear the bread up into small pieces for me when I was small. Yep, that’s what she’d do.

Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4

Here’s what I remember about Mammie and Eddie. They weren’t very demonstrative about their love. I don’t remember cuddles or kisses or tender words. No I love you’s filled the air. However, I didn’t feel unloved. And perhaps that’s because provision was their love language. When they put food in our bellies, that’s how they said I love you. The love language of food was passed on to my father. That’s what he did for his friends when I was small. He’d cook and feed them. My brother picked it up, too. I lived away from home for eighteen years and when I’d return for a visit, he’d often leave me a couple of sandwiches on the table for my trip back. The men in my life weren’t big on saying I love you, but they always wanted to fill my belly. That’s how they showed their affection.

And then, there’s me. Perhaps I’ve picked up some of those traits, too. Because I always want to stuff someone with food. As a newlywed, though, I wasn’t practiced in the art of gravy. I could never manage to make a big ole skillet full like Mammie. Once, Jason’s mom watched me as I browned the sausage only to remove it all before adding flour to the grease. She told me I didn’t have to do that and voila… the next time I made gravy, there was twice as much. And today, I’m pretty good at it. However, in all my reminiscing, I think I fall short of Mammie’s gravy.

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I gather all the right ingredients, however it seems something is missing. I brown my sausage and add the flour, stirring it about till it’s absorbed. Then I add my milk and let it cook up thick. Same as Mammie. But then, I leave it on the stovetop. In the rush of modern times, I skip the step of filling the scratched bowl. I rationalize there’s no reason to dirty another dish when I can fill our plates from the cook top. It would just be another thing for me to wash. But in all my musing this morning, it seems I’m leaving out the most important ingredient. I’m forgetting to add the love.

I am a busy woman. I live out most of my life in a heated rush. I have things to do. Thousands of things. So I hurry through everything. But Mammie was different. Because her household chores and family was the only thing she did. So she was more thorough in her work. Me? I think I’ve been skimping. But today, I feel called to do more. Because filling bowls to set on the table is becoming a lost art. Taking time to fill the vessel and lovingly set the table is a beautiful thing. It’s a way I can love my family more thoroughly. And without saying the words, my family will hear, “I love you.” Like I heard Mammie.

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them… John 21:12,13

After Jesus rose again, He appeared to His followers. They were out fishing. He called them to shore so they could share a meal with Him. That’s when He asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Of course Peter said yes. So Jesus commanded him, “Feed My lambs.” And again, “Feed My sheep.” But He meant more than the act of eating a meal; more than bread alone. Because man lives on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

For the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. “I am the bread of life.” I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Matthew 6:33, 51

Jesus asks me the same thing. He asks me do I love Him. And of course my answer is yes. But He wants more than my words today. Because words are fickle. Actions are deep. So the real test of my love will be my deeds. For He wants me to act in love. Especially where my family is concerned. And for me that would mean slowing down. It would mean laying aside my overfilled schedule so I can be more purposeful about the thing it is I’m doing. It would mean transferring gravy from a cheap Teflon skillet to a scratched up, old white bowl. And actually putting it on the table alongside a pie tin of biscuits. It would mean being in the moment as I fill up smaller bowls with ladle after ladle of love. Like Mammie did. It was her act of love.

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Yes, on the surface it looks like only sausage gravy. But really, it’s so much more. Because food can be the language of love. And I believe it’s true the stomach is the way to a man’s heart. For I’ve seen it. My brother would call Mammie begging for a bowl. And my cousin Andy would offer her five dollars if she’d just fix some biscuits & gravy. Just for him. That’s how good it was. It was treasured by all her grandkids. Yep, sausage gravy was surely part of Mammie’s love language.

Thing is, that’s just how Jesus got to my heart. The love language of food. I shared a meal with Him in that I filled up on the bread of life. Just breakfast, but so much more. And now, when He asks me if I love Him, I can answer with confidence. Yes Lord, I do! In fact, I love you more than biscuits & gravy. Even more so than Mammie’s. And you know, that’s really saying something.

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 Taste and see that the Lord is good… Psalm 34:8

Jesus was a Handyman

I‘ve been working on a flyer for a ladies’ retreat my friend and I are planning. It’ll be a half day event for women. A little time for revival. Refreshment. Reflection. And rest. Maybe rest more than anything. It seems to be what my heart yearns for more than anything here lately. Peace and quiet. Anyway, inspiration for the occasion struck six months ago after watching a video. “A Day with Beth Moore.” Someone suggested I mention who she is on the flyer, though. So I did what I usually do. I went to Wikipedia. And for some reason, I was surprised to find the word evangelist. Author. Yes. Bible teacher. For sure. But evangelist? I’d just never seen Beth Moore in that light before. So I opted to leave evangelist out of the description.

If I want to be truthful, I’d have to say evangelist is a word I shy away from. And to be blunt, it can sometimes leave a bad taste in my mouth. Evangelist. Probably because I can put a face with the name. An oily one with slicked back hair. Or I can recall a Bible thumper who thumped me on the head just a little too hard. And frankly, there have been some television evangelists who’ve inspired me to turn the TV right off. So I didn’t want the word to deter any potential attendees from the event. Nope. I decided to leave off evangelist. Author and Bible teacher seemed safer.

However, the word came back to me today. More than once. Evangelist. So I wanted to find out if it’s in the Bible or if it’s a title we later created. But it’s there. Turns out it’s not such a bad word after all. Used twice in the New Testament. It means “a bringer of good tidings. the name given to heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles.” So that’s not so bad. An evangelist is simply one who brings a message. Good news. According to dictionary.com, a herald formerly referred to a royal messenger. Especially one representing a monarch in an ambassadorial capacity during wartime. And I just loved that. Because I couldn’t help but think of Jesus. Who He was. Royalty. And who He came to represent. God. And the condition of our land. War. And the words He spoke in His ambassadorship…

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted… Isaiah 61:1

Though Jesus technically wasn’t an evangelist, He evangelized nonetheless. Because He brought good news. Moreover, He was the good news. But it was another portion of Isaiah 61 that resonated most. Something I heard echoed by James Taylor today. When the familiar intro to Handyman filled my living room, I just wanted to savor the words. More so today than ever. So I told my son to hush (perhaps not so nicely – patience running thin). And in the listening, it was almost as if Jesus called out to me. He said, I fix broken hearts, I know I really can. And it connected. All the dots. Jesus being a carpenter. His coming to bind up the brokenhearted. Revelation dawned. Seems that Jesus was a Handyman. A fixer of broken things.

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I just have to say, I may be in need of a little fixing right now. I’m feeling a little broken down. Because I’m tired. I’ve been burning both ends of the candle for weeks and weeks and weeks. Staying busy till close to midnight most nights. My son out of school and awake till at least 10:30 or 11:00. My infant daughter waking through the night (again). Up by 6:15 and as soon as my feet hit the floor, I iron clothes because the basket is full and the closet is empty. So I’m missing something I used to have. Because with the end of school, routine has gone out the window. Along with peace and quiet. And I miss it. Or more specifically, I miss Him. And the time we used to have.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

I couldn’t help but notice all the moms at church this morning. Several stuck out in particular. Mainly the ones with the toddlers and babies. “Littles” as my cousin calls them. One looked exhausted, one harried, one continually on the move. And me. I spent most of the morning pushing Annabelle back and forth in her stroller. And it was a good morning because she let me do it. But it’s these mothers I think of today. I wonder if they feel broken down like me. Worn thin. Stretched tight. Pulled too many directions. Perhaps their hearts are in need of repair, too.

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. John:4:28-30

Yeah, I’m preparing for this women’s event. There’s the video. Food and drinks. Decorations. And music. So in the planning, it was “Come to the Well” by Casting Crowns that came to me last night. Or was it the night before? Honestly, I can’t say for certain. Time blurs together now. But the song put me in mind of the Samaritan woman. And Jesus’ interaction with her. See, she was broken, too. She needed some fixing. Basically, He came to her. He brought good news. And offered living water. Refreshment. A picture of evangelism.

Afterward, the woman left her jar. Her worries and her busyness. She went and said, “Come see.” And I just can’t help but think this woman had to be one of the first evangelists. Because she went to tell about a Man she met. His name was Jesus. She became a herald of good news. And because she did, many came to meet Him.

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5

I think about this event. About Beth Moore being an evangelist. And now I know that’s exactly what she is. Because basically, she brings good tidings. Seems that long ago, her heart needed mending. But there was a Man named Jesus. A Handyman who came to bind up the broken hearted. And after her heart was repaired, she told others about Him. About how He healed her. And after He’d whisper sweet truths in her ear, she’d share what she learned. And all her friends came running. To Him. It’s like the song by James Taylor. And like Jesus’ words in Isaiah. A Handyman.

So I second guess the flyer. Perhaps I should have left evangelist in the description. Because that’s what Beth Moore is. And what the Samaritan woman was. And really, I guess I am, too. Because though I may be going through a rough patch, stretched a little thin, I did meet a Man. My heart was broken and He fixed it. And He’ll mend it again. As often as I need it. That’s just what He does. See, He’s busy 24 hours a day. And this women’s event is really my way of sharing that good news. Seems that I’m doing the work of an evangelist after all. Telling all my friends about a Man who knew everything about me. And healed me. A man named Jesus who came to bind up the broken hearted.

Yes, I’ve been planning this 1/2 day event. And it’s the moms I watched this morning. And countless others out there. They’re who I think about. Who I hope to see. Because I can tell. They’ve been so busy. Tired. Stretched thin. And maybe their hearts need a little mending today. A few minor repairs for fixing. Like mine. Good news is, I found this great Handyman. I’ve seen His work. And He does wonders.

 

Dandelions Abound

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I can’t believe I’m doing this right now. It’s 8:30, my dad will be here in just a couple of hours and I’m not ready. Beds unmade, dishes strewn across the counter, baby toys underfoot as I walk, and me clad in pajamas. But here I sit… compelled to write. About dandelions of all things. See, I was surprised to see them yesterday.

This is what happens to the woman who works from home. And raises a baby at home. Things take her by surprise. Because she’s so wrapped up in her small world, all she sees is what’s right in front of her. Her mess. Her face in the mirror. Her unending to-do list. She easily slips into a selfish existence… because she is all she sees. Meanwhile, real life passes by on the outside as she obsesses over the unreal that takes place on the inside. Or more accurately, inside her head. Everything beyond her walls goes unnoticed. Like the appearance of dandelions.

Had bare cupboards not forced me to leave my dwelling yesterday, I wouldn’t have seen them. Dandelions everywhere. How surprised I was to discover hundreds of them alongside the road. Almost as if they popped out overnight. Of course, they could have been there for a week and I wouldn’t have noticed. And they were pretty…  little dots of yellow all along the highway. This morning, though, I see them in a different light. They seem almost competitive, interspersed among the jonquils. Oh, daffodils may tower above the dandelions as they reach upwards to the sun, but I’d say dandelions won the fight. See, there were so many of them. Taraxacum easily outnumbered the jonquil…

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Dandelions. Do you know why they’re called that? I had to look it up yesterday because for the first time I wondered why lion makes up part of its name. And according to the great world wide web, the English name, dandelion, is a corruption of the French dent de lion meaning “lion’s tooth”. It refers to the coarsely toothed leaves. Hmm… I never knew that. But in taking a closer look at the dandelion, I do see teeth. Similar to a lions…

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Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

So, here’s what I’m thinking. All these dandelions are pretty at first. But you know what? They’re really just weeds. Weeds that will take over your yard. As the lovely yellow petals fade, they become shriveled and dried. Eventually, they become this sphere of seeds that blow in the wind… spreading all over. And before you know it, your grass is filled with weeds. Big ole tufts of fully rooted, coarse leaves. Resembling the mouth of a lion, of all things.

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And you know… these dandelions seem to be a picture of what’s taking place all around me right now. Threatening in a way. Just as yellow dots overtake our yard and brush our feet, I feel as if they’re a picture of the hounds of hell popping up everywhere… nipping at my heels. Little lions roaring about seeking what they can devour. The devil’s minions blowing their seeds across my path. And in my brain. As I said earlier, too much self. Too much of my little world. Too much me. Oh, nothing big. Nothing serious. Just minor aggravations. And because I’m all I’ve been taking notice of, I’ve allowed the weeds of life to overrun my spiritual garden. Just because I let them.

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Yes, dandelions are pretty at first. Easy on the eye. But what’s left behind is ugly. And this is how the enemy works. He puts something in our path. In our mind. He takes a good thing and twists it. Something may be one thing, but in the hands of the master of deception, it appears to be something else. Especially when we interject a little too much self into the picture. We can’t see the good thing clearly anymore… taking things out of context, reality is distorted. Over analysis makes our brains foggy. At least this is what happens to me. And before I know it, bad thoughts leave me shriveled and dry. Words of life overrun by shrill complaint. And before I realize what I’ve done, I’ve blown seeds of malcontent in whatever direction my mouth faced. Spreading weeds. Resembling lions teeth. Seeking what they could devour. Killing, stealing and destroying good grass. And oh, so subtly, I become the devil’s pawn. And today, this is what really takes me by surprise. Just like the dandelions on the side of the road.

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Thankfully, I know the truth. I know that dandelions are just weeds. And as for the wiles of the devil… just weeds. I know that in the end, he loses the battle. Oh, I may allow him to gain ground in my life occasionally. But when my eyes are open, and they are, I can fight back. And the great thing is, I don’t have to do it alone. For there’s Someone who has my back. He’s a Lion, no less. The Lion of Judah fights for me. And as for the enemy, someone I care about once pointed out that he’s only like a lion. Not a real one at all. He just pretends. And schemes. And deceives. Appearance is his weapon of choice, for that’s always been of great import to him. Yes, he’s a dandy prancing about acting like a lion. He can be roaring and loud. Or subtle and smooth. Really, he’s just a dandy-lion that just needs to be pulled out of my spiritual garden. Uprooted. Or crushed underfoot…

But I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Romans 16:19-20IMG_0600

Today I have hope. Thanks to the dandelions, my eyes have been opened. To good and bad. See, I learned those weeds can actually be useful. Harvested, even. They’re edible and have healing properties. Though merely weeds, they have purpose. And so can my own weeds. My own bad, in God’s hands, have purpose. These minor aggravations can be harvested and used for the good of mankind. Somehow. Someway. He’ll use them. I just have to let Him. To begin with, I need to turn around. I need to be more aware. I need to notice what’s going on in the real world. I need to get out of my head and into reality. That way, I won’t be taken by surprise. Like I was yesterday… amazed at how many dandelions had popped up. The ones on the side of the road. And yes, even the ones inside my head.

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:20

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Put On Your Small And Walk – posted by Given Breath

Pam Anderson:

Something I read tonight… Loved this.

Originally posted on Given Breath:

I recently saw an old friend I hadn’t seen in years.

She had always been a beautiful woman in all the best ways. Nothing had dimmed, but something had definitely changed.

During the years we’d lived close, I’d known how hard she’d struggled under the weight of gaining (and not losing) fifty pounds during her two pregnancies. But in the time we’d recently been apart, the physical and emotional weight she’d carried with her all those years had vanished. She was light-hearted and calm. She seemed to be her very best self.

“Want to hear the story?” she said. Boy, did I ever.

Once upon an April morning, an overweight woman waddled (her words, not mine) into her neighborhood Target. Stopping to catch her breath, she saw a teeny, tiny, shiny, fire-engine red, 100% spandex workout outfit. She noticed that there were only two sizes left on the rack: S and XL. She bought the…

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