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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Like a Lamb

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My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly, or faint when you are reproved by Him; for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and punishes every son whom He receives. No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:5-6,11

I had a dream the other night. It was as if I could hear God say, “Come out!” And I’ve been mulling over that command… come out. What could He mean? Of course writing is the first thing that comes to mind because I decided to put it aside a mere twenty-two days ago. Oh, I had good reasons. The blog became too big for me. All consuming. Everything else was taking a back-seat. Namely, my household responsibilities. And more importantly, the issue of disciplining my child. Or shall I say lack of discipline. My firstborn. That’s when I felt a bit of discipline myself at the hand of my Heavenly Father. My journal proof of the errant child I was by my jotting down, “I feel grounded.” And perhaps that’s just what He did. Grounded me. God put me in time-out. A little sit down till I could regain perspective. And so, maybe, just maybe… my time is at hand. Because I heard Him clearly the other night. My Father said, “Come out!”

Be Sober! Be on the alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Nature and timing provide the perfect backdrop to this season of my life. See, the last thing I wrote aligned with Daylight Saving Time. Afterward, I thought I was poised to spring forward along with my clock. And yet, here I sit. Stalled. Stilled. And delayed. Instead of moving forward, I find myself in a period of discipline and change. But today I know why. It has to do with the month all things. Because I’ve heard it said that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. And the imagery of March illuminates this wayward daughter’s actions.

Yes, March and all its elements come in like a roaring lion, seeking what it can devour. March is loud in its entrance of blustery winds and frigid temperatures. Ice and pelting sleet. Storms. March’s extreme weather seems to have conquered all leaving behind only bleak land. However, quiet miracles take place underneath. For overnight, yellow jonquils defy the odds jutting through frozen earth anyway. And by the time the end of the month rolls around, once bare branches are adorned with lime green and brilliant red. And oh, the blessed sound of peeping peepers and chirping birds. Before we know it, Winter has transitioned to Spring. Cold turns to warm and barren turns to flowering. Blustery winds replaced by mild and balmy. What once seemed dead comes alive with color and sound.

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And so today, I gain perspective. I see clearly for March is a picture of me. Because at the onset of this writing venture, I came in like a lion. Loud. Forceful. Unyielding and rigid. Cold and hard. And prideful. A lion’s pride… I am woman, hear me roar! Thus, my time-out. My grounding. My stillness. See, just as Spring undergoes the miracle of transformation, God expects no less of me. His child. But the change has to happen on the inside first. Before beauty and color is seen on the outside, a quiet miracle must take place deep down.

You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 1 Peter 3:4

When I came home four and a half years ago, I was a big mouth. I had an opinion about everything and was eager to share it. Because in my mind, I was right. I even developed a terrible habit of talking right over people. See, for the first time I had something to say. I thought I had something to offer. Such a change from the young girl who left at nineteen. The one who had nothing to say.

As time progressed, I became loud. Dare I say shouting? Yes, shouting. At home. When I completely lost my cool, I’d raise my voice. Time constraint is what brought on the pressure. And it was my little boy who endured the brunt of my loudness. You know what jolted me awake? Isaiah 42:2-3. It says Christ did not cry out or shout or make His voice heard in the streets. He did not break a bruised reed or put out a smoldering wick. It was this passage that helped me comprehend how utterly anti-Christ I’ve been in this manner. The total opposite of Him, who was quiet and gentle.

He was oppressed and afflicted, and yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth. Isaiah 53:7

And so, I was put in time-out. He wanted me to be still so I could see clearly. And so that inner things could happen. And in the quiet, I find my life begins to mirror the Spring that occurs outside my windows. My inside transforms alongside the outdoors. I came in like a lion. But loudness and forcefulness are transitioning to quietness. Pride is replaced by humility. And an unyielding spirit morphs to a malleable one… all this happening as Winter submits to Spring. As I submit to Him.

And God is impeccable in His timing. For today is the last day of March. Easter will be here in just a few days. And I think for the first time in my whole life, Easter will really rise in my heart this time. Because I can’t help but have this feeling I’m on the cusp of something big. Something new. For Easter will usher in a new age for me. It will be the era of the Lamb.

Behold, the lamb of God… John 1:29

Funny thing about my recent time-out. I thought it commenced on March 9 when I put this blog aside. But today, I realize it goes back further. In fact, to the very beginnings of this writing venture. It has to do with my actions just before. And something I said. I even know the date… February 10, 2013. That’s when I dared utter something so haughtily. So arrogantly. So forcefully. And loud. “I can’t just sit here for two years…” No, in my mind I had too much self-import. But today, just over two years later, I know the truth about God. And me. Only in hindsight is it crystal clear. It’s almost like He said, “Yes you will, little girl. If I say you’ll sit in time-out for two years, that’s exactly what you’ll do.” And it appears I did.

But see, I have hope. For today is March 31. The month is pretty much over. Oh, it came in like a lion. Just like me. But it proves to be going out like a lamb. And me? Well, I’m pretty sure I heard my Father say, “Come out!” I think my chastening is over. At least for now. The real test, though, will be how I exit my time-out. Will I leave the same way I entered, like a lion? Or will I come out changed? Like a lamb…

Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop crying. Look! The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has been victorious so that He may open the scroll or even to look at it.” Then I saw one like a slaughtered lamb… Revelation 5:5-6

Springing Forward

Therefore we do not give up; even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

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Annabelle has already reached some major milestones in her short life. From the very start, she began moving forward. Progressing. Developing. It began when she first latched on taking in the nourishment of my milk. Soon after, her little eyes caught mine and followed me as I crossed the room. Her gaze fixed upon me. Within a couple of months, she started to use her little hands, grabbing hold to whatever was placed before her. Delighting in her newfound ability. Now, she can sit up a little. And before long, she’ll be able to stand.

See, Annabelle has been exercising her legs… applying pressure to them. Testing her chunky little stumps. She slowly sways back and forth in her Johnny Jump Up only to quickly spring into action by jumping up and down as the spirit moves her. And right now, it’s easy for her. For she has the support of something. It holds her upright. But before long, it’ll be time for her to try standing on her own. Within a matter of months, Annabelle will have to move from the security of her apparatus in favor of her own shaky legs. No doubt, she’ll stumble and fall many, many times. But I know she’ll get right back up. She’ll try and try again until she gets that walking thing right. And in no time, she’ll be ready to spring forward.

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Annabelle just had her six month appointment. Coincidentally, it fell on the two year anniversary of this blog. And as always, I could not help but notice the correlation of Annabelle’s development with mine. Her progression a picture of my own. Hers depicted by a chart, mine by this blog. And though growth will continue for both of us, I believe my progress chart (the blog) has served its purpose. At least for now. Because just over a week ago, it became clear I was to put this aside. For I have work to do. It has to do with raising my kids. And my sitting here in front of this computer screen conflicts with that responsibility. So I chose the better part. My offspring. But I did mourn the loss of this blog Saturday. There were some tears. Because this blog has been a big part of me. But as for today, I give one final performance. I close with my swan song.

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We love because He first loved us… 1 John 4:19

The truth about God & me… it wasn’t love at first sight. Love did not come first. Instead, it began with a taste of His glory. I dared utter a prayer, “Please show me your glory.” And He did. He placed me in the cleft of a rock. He covered me with His hand. He walked by me. God in my midst. Or me in His. And I was astounded that the God of all creation would reveal Himself to me. And so, I wanted to share. I wanted other women to delight in His presence as I did. Thus, the formation of the blog.

And through the progression of blogging, more and more of me diminished. More and more of Him swelled. However, a piece of me remained. Held fast in the deepest recesses of my soul, the little girl I always was stood her ground. In truth, she wanted to share in God’s glory. She wanted a piece of shine for herself. And so, the purity of the writing became tarnished. And because the little girl in me stood fast on the foundation of her pride, she fell. I fell. My wobbly legs unable to sustain my weight. I crumbled under the strain of affliction.

Look, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. Isaiah 43:10

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This is where I’ve been for months now. Affliction. Minimal it may be, but affliction nonetheless. See that little girl up there? Oh, she brings me delight. Such joy. But also, there’s been some pain. Because babies are hard work. The biggest struggle? Sleepless nights. I have been sleep deprived for months and months now. She gets up more times than I can count. She wants to eat but she doesn’t need to. See, I was told at Annabelle’s six month check-up that her weight is average for a seventeen or eighteen month old. And so, in steps the hard part. I have to cut her off…

Trying to wean my baby girl from nighttime feedings is exhausting. It makes for even longer nights. I lose count of my waking moments because I’m up and down so often. They’re so frequent, I’ve been sleeping on the couch. It’s just easier to stumble into the nursery from there. Yes, sleep has been minimal. And under the strain, the clay jar that I am has begun to crack. In steps my most recent revelation. Clay.

You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. Isaiah 43:2

You know, before clay can be serviceable it has to be fired. In a kiln. And today I know that’s where I’ve been. For a year now, I’ve been under fire. The furnace of affliction. It’s been a trial. A test. And for the most part, I’ve failed. But today, I see light at the end of the tunnel. I find a glimmer of hope through the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They underwent fire, too.

There was a king who made this big gold stature. Of himself. You could say he was a bit of a glory hound. And he wanted everyone to bow down to it. To pay homage to him. For he was a king. But there were these three guys who refused. Reason being, it would not honor God. Despite the threat of being thrown into fire, they stood firm on their faith in God. “If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” The king was blazing hot. He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter. 

And so they fell, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire. Three men in the raging flames. But then, a miracle happened. The king yelled out, “Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” And then the king said it… “Come out!” The three men who stood firm on their faith in God came out of the fire. Unharmed. Not a hair on their heads was singed, their robes were unaffected, and there was no smell of fire on them. And God received the glory for it.

Take away the dross from the silver and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer. Proverbs 25:4

And there I am… back at glory. You know, something monumental occurred on January 31, 2014. You could say it was a major milestone day. That was the day Jesus met me right where I was. In the sanctuary of my bedroom. That was the day I heard Annabelle’s heartbeat for the first time… hers beating right alongside my own revived spiritual heart. And I lost a bracelet. It was a thin silver band I had worn for the better part of twenty years. At the time, it seemed significant in that my past was over and done with. Gone just like the bracelet that disappeared from my arm. But today, the removal of that bracelet says so much more.

For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things, like silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 1 Peter 1:18

You see, as a young girl I didn’t have jewelry. Silver and gold was something I didn’t possess. I can count the number of pieces I received on one hand. My friend was another story, though. See, she had tons of silver. And I wanted it. I coveted her full closet and dresser strewn with perfumes and expensive make up. I wanted to adorn myself just as she… rings on my fingers and bells on my toes. But I couldn’t. And then one day, I left home. Within a year I made a new friend and she gave me the slim, silver band. A piece of shine all my own. But it was more than a bracelet to me. It stood for everything I ever wanted in life. Material possessions. Yes, I wanted silver. Glitz. Shine. I wanted glory.

When I lost that bracelet a year ago, I thought I was poised to walk forward in love. His love. But here I am. Still writing. Still staring at this computer screen. But today I know why. See, He’s been refining me. I’ve been doing time in the furnace of affliction… dross being burned from my soul. No different than the purification of silver, He’s been purifying me. Me. But see, the time has come. I faintly hear Him calling. Just as the king called to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, my King calls me. He yells, “Come out!” And miraculously, I find I can. I’m ready. My glory becomes a passing fancy. Because it’s no longer silver and gold I desire. For you see, I find that as long as I remain in His hand, I am the silver. A band of shine. But not for my glory. No. In His hands, the jewelry that I am shines and shimmers. But this time around, I shine for Him.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD shines over you. For look, darkness covers the earth, and total darkness the peoples; but the LORD will shine over you, and His glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your radiance. Isaiah 60:1-3

Yep, Annabelle’s reached some major milestones in her short life. And the truth is, so have I. See, from the very start I began moving forward. Progressing. Developing. It began when I first latched on to His word, taking in the nourishment I so desperately needed. Soon after, my eyes caught sight of Him. His glory captivated me and my gaze stayed fixed on Him as He moved. I’m now discovering how to make use of my hands. I grab hold of what He places before me. Today, it’s my children. And I delight in this newfound ability. I am awash with thanksgiving. And before long, I’ll be able to stand.

See, I’ve been exercising my legs. Pressure’s been applied here and there and they’ve proven to be a bit wobbly. In truth, I’ve stumbled more times than I can count. But I get back up again. And with each rise, I gain more strength. I find I’m able to stand not by my own strength, but by His. And before long, He bids me to come forward. He holds His hands out to me like any other Daddy does with His little girl. He beckons me. And I find that I can. I spring forward, lunging toward Him. And He catches me in His embrace.

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Therefore, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12

You know, I started to write here two years ago. Simply, I wanted to help women stand. Like I thought I was. But before long, I fell. Once. Twice. Again and again. But through the writing, it all became so clear. It’s as if my heavenly Father said to me, “Little girl, if you want to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.” But the thing is, you have to stand before you can walk. That’s step one right there. Standing on His foundation. Standing on His truth. And then, before you know it, you’ll be ready to spring forward. Walking in love. His love. At least that’s the way it happened for me. Right here at Daylight Savings Time. Springing forward along with the clocks in my home.

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And so today, as I move forward on shaky legs, I walk for them. I begin with my kids. See. Levi just said he wished I were a cook. That I knew recipes and would make desserts. And there I find my first act of love. Perhaps I’ll surprise him with a little something this afternoon. That’s what I have on my agenda today…

And so, with much adieu, I sign off for now. I leave you with my swan song. See, the blog has served its purpose and the time has come. For He said, “Come out!” And so, this venture comes to an end. And all this, the writing and thousands of words spanning two years time, well… it’s been the truth about God & me. My hope was to encourage others to stand. And walk. In His love. Instead, I find that I’m able to. I hope you can, too.

But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, stand up and walk!.” Acts 3:6

Set Up

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It’s about Levi. Right now, it’s all about him. Let me explain. See that toilet paper roll? This is a pretty common sight in my home. But not because of the men in my life. No, this is something I’ve done on more than one occasion in recent days. It’s because I’m so preoccupied. I think, I’ll get to it later. But I rush from one task to another and forget about it. And so, I set someone up. At least that’s the term used by the usual fall guy. Jason will tell me I set him up. And I just love him. One reason being his great sense of humor. Like the morning I went to the potty and found his precise handwriting in red on the cardboard roll. His message, “Thank you!” My husband made his point very well.

Yes, this is one of my shortcomings lately. I forget to do things. Little things, but important nonetheless. Even yesterday. I thought to myself, put toilet paper in Levi’s bathroom! But I had already walked out the door. I thought, do it when you get home! But time was rushed. And by the end of the night, there was still none in my son’s bathroom. And only a smidge in ours. After feeding my baby at 3:00 a.m. this morning, I hurriedly scrawled a note for my hubby. I left it by the coffee maker “there’s no toilet paper in the bathroom, I didn’t want to set you up.” I guess I could have stumbled downstairs to grab a roll, but the note just seemed easier in my groggy state…

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And so, there’s Levi. I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me to find a little something from him a month or so back. A precious thank you note from my boy. An imitation of his father. Right down to the red ink.

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I couldn’t help but laugh. But today, I wonder if it’s a laughing matter. See, Levi’s a little bit of Jason and a little bit of me. He learns from us. And my sobering realization last week was that I’m not doing so great. In fact, I don’t think I’ve poured myself into my little boy as I should. Because I’ve been so preoccupied.

In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Daniel 5:5

Yep, the handwriting’s on the wall. Or on the cardboard roll. And the message is clear. I’ve been weighed in the balances and found wanting. As usual, my pride lies at the heart of it. And dream chasing. And a faulty foundation laid at childhood, cemented in place over years and years. Problem is, I’ve been using the world’s set of scales, not God’s. And by the world’s standards, I’d say my worth is pretty low. And so my entire life I’ve fought this feeling of unworthiness. Shame of who I was and am… a house painter’s daughter. Shame of things I’d done. All along, I’ve been trying to be more than. I wanted to prove I was worthy.

And so, I chased a dream. Because if it came true, I’d then be able to prove to the world I’m really somebody. The dream realized would validate me. It would mean I have value.

…for they loved human praise more than praise from God. John 12:43

In plain speak, this is what chasing the dream looks like in my house. It looks like an empty roll of toilet paper. It looks like me emptying a milk carton yesterday that went out of date on January 27! It looks like me finally getting rid of kale and brussels sprouts that have sat in my fridge for a month! It looks like my husband asking for clean underwear and me looking incredulously in his drawer. I was sure there were more. But no, the drawer was empty. It looks like me telling my son that we can’t play a game because I have work emails to answer. Reason being because I was chasing the dream when I could have worked. It looks like me carving out slots of time for me when I could be carving out slots of time my family. And why? Because I chase a dream that would prove I have a purpose and place in this world. That I have value. Basically, chasing a dream has kept me preoccupied.

And then there’s Levi. See, his foundation is being laid now. And my actions will cement into place feelings he will carry with him the rest of his life. What I do now, and how I interact with him is crucial. And me telling him I have other things to do sends the message that he’s not as important as my work. Or as my writing. Or whatever else it is I’m doing. Me saying I’m too tired to read a story tells him I don’t care enough… Me putting everything else first tells him he’s second. Less than. And without even knowing I’m doing it, I’m minimizing his worth. Devaluing him by my careless actions. Before I know it, he’s absorbed what I don’t want him to. Evidenced by a cardboard roll. Evidenced by sucking in his tummy as much as he can while staring in the mirror. “I want to be this skinny,” he said. Yes, a little bit of Jason. A little bit of me. Well, quite a bit of me. But the little bit I’ve poured into him seems to be faulty. The foundation shaky. For he’s using the wrong set of scales… the world’s.

Good news is, God opened my eyes. It was Saturday at 4:00 a.m. when Levi began vomiting. It was pretty bad. All he wanted to do was lay on the bathroom floor. I asked if he wanted me to lay beside him. And so, amidst blankets and pillows and a cold tile floor, I lay by my son’s side. I held him. And it was there I found my purpose. My value. For I. Am. A. Mother. No greater responsibility do I hold.

God’s blessed me with children. They’re not a chore, they’re a gift. A privilege.  And if I simply do what I’m supposed to by training up my child, by teaching him to love the Lord God with all his heart and soul, by teaching Him to be like Christ, then I am doing everything I need to. This is my place in the world. This. See, it’s not about me, it’s about Levi. My children. And I have the opportunity to give them the right foundation. Valued because they are God’s. Not because the world says so.

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Yep, it’s about Levi. See, I fear I’ve set him up. Because as I said, he’s a little bit of me and a little bit of Jason. And my foundation has been unstable. And inadvertently, I’ve been pouring the wrong foundation into my boy. Funny thing, though. Several times this year I’ve had a thought. There are moments I feel like God set me up for a fall. That sounds terrible, I know, but He knows my heart. He knows where I’m coming from. And that’s the point. Where I’m coming from. My humble beginnings. It’s because of where I began. In my eyes, from a low station. It’s a place I feel I should rise above. And so, pride set up in my heart. And so goes the story… a fall.

Esther 4:14 is stirring to me. See, it’s about purpose. For such a time as this… In passing, I’d think, Yes! God has this grand plan for me. Something big in His kingdom. But now I know. The biggest thing I can do is my kids. My for such a time moment is here. In my home. And yes, on my bathroom floor. Because in truth, charity begins at home. Ministry within my walls. Church here. Building up the little people He gave me.

Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

You know, I feel I started from a low position. Humble origins. But coming full circle, I see this is right where I should be. Humility my garment and a servant’s heart instead of pride. Like Christ. Because here, from my lowly position I can see Him. I can look up to my Father. And there, in my Daddy’s eyes, I realize I am valuable. That He has great purpose for me. I fulfill it when I’m crouched down. On my knees. Bringing myself to Levi’s level. Looking him in the eye. For when I give my son all of me, I find I give him value. Worth. Importance. And in my eyes, he’ll see it.

Yes, today, I have hope for my boy. See, the cement of Levi’s foundation hasn’t been set up yet. It’s still pliable. There’s time to instill truth into him. God’s truth. This is what will set him up for success. And just because the world’s set of faulty scales has been mine, it doesn’t mean they have to be Levi’s. So that’s the job that lies before me today. Setting up my boy’s foundation. There’s my purpose.

Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:8

A Corpse Bride

Will the fast I choose be like this:
A day for a person to deny himself,
to bow his head like a reed,
and to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast
and a day acceptable to the Lord? Isaiah 58:5

I just couldn’t sell it… the thousands of words that poured forth from my heart and soul in the Fall of 2011. No, something wasn’t quite right. So I revised the whole thing in the Summer of 2012. I gave it a new title… My True Deliverance. However, the story remained the same. And the truth is the title was a lie. Because my story was a lie. For at that point in my life, I hadn’t been delivered. From anything. The words put forth were false… only what I wanted to be true.

However, my eyes were opened in September of 2012. The frank words of my husband jolted me. “Can you do me a favor? Can you go just one day without telling a lie? Because when you say you’re fine and you’re not, it’s a lie.” This came on the heels of his flowery description of me. An animated corpse. Oh, don’t think too harshly of him. He was just concerned. He wanted his wife back. The one from earlier days. And had he not spoken truth, perhaps I wouldn’t be where I am today. Perhaps I’d still be his corpse bride.

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After this lovely conversation with my husband, my eyes were opened wider within days. For I heard a Bible teacher speak. She said He wants us to have our own story. With Him. She talked of riding other people’s coattails. And though I didn’t realize it then, today I know that’s just what I had been doing. Riding the coattails of other people’s faith. Living off other people’s stories. Trying to breathe the breath of resurrected lives all around me. Having no spiritual breath of my own.

Funny thing is I just knew that book was going to get published. The untrue one. It seemed to be His will. Like the very hand of God directed me to write it. And I believe He did. However, I know it to be a stepping stone today. Because the story written over three years ago was the wrong one. It was the story of a good girl who worked hard. And because she did all the right things, something good happened. For God gave her what she desired most… her homeland. The promised land. But the reality is God didn’t bring me home as a reward. No, He brought me home to die. And that first book, my story, proved to lead to my fall.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

I’ve been pondering the story lately. For months actually and just in general. And in watching a few great movies, I realize the best part is the fall. Because if there isn’t a fall, the hero or heroine can’t rise from the ashes. And isn’t that the most hopeful part of someone’s story? Don’t we find resurrected lives to be inspirational? I do. And so, it’s with awe that I find myself on the cusp of Easter today. In this season of my life, as I ponder the story, I find we’re about to celebrate the greatest story. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In a nutshell, this is what my story lacked for so long. My life was missing Easter. My life was missing Him. Thus, my life contained no life. I was a corpse bride. Just as my husband described. And every single day, I died a little more. For I was chasing a dream. Holding to my life. My rights. My glory. I just didn’t know what was causing my death. See, when I came home I thought it to be my triumphant entry. I rode in on my high horse and came back ready to overcome the world. And when I began to write, I just knew it was going to give me the life I so desired. My passion burned within. In truth, it consumed me till there was nothing left. Life snuffed out. Thus, I walked around in sackcloth and ashes not comprehending that’s what I was doing. My demeanor was my mourning robe. A dim spirit shrouded me. Ashes on the ground.

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But Jesus? When He made His triumphant entry, He rode into town on a donkey. And He knew what He came to do. For He came to die. He came as a living sacrifice for us. But He knew the truth. That before He could be resurrected into glory, His death was required. Because only by His death, and life, can we hope for the same. This is Easter. This is the greatest story ever told. And until this becomes reality in our own hearts, we remain dead in our tracks. Lifeless. Animated corpses.

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:23-25

God never, ever ceases to amaze me. Over four years ago I thought He was rewarding me for good behavior. That He brought me home as a pat on the back. That was my story. But today I know truth. See, He brought me home to die. Here is where my self-awareness was birthed, and here is where my self-seeking must die. For self-seeking brought nothing but heartache. And spiritual death. It caused me to fall. Hard. Nothing left of me but a heap of ashes on the ground. But today, I choose sacrifice instead. I willingly give my life for the lives of my children. So they may have abundant life. And this act revives me. For I find I’m able to rise from the ashes. Because His word is true… in losing your life, you’ll find it. This is the very thing God brought me home for. Easter becomes real in my heart.

Isn’t the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke? Isaiah 58:6

Last week was a week of epiphanies. One having to do with me losing my life in order to gain my life. It had to do with putting my dream on the back-burner while I tended to what’s most important… my children. My family. And I’m good with that. I really am. I realized my need to sacrifice something I greatly desire so that I could be a better mother to them. And a better wife to my husband. Because this dream of mine burns me up. When I hold to it, it causes me to die. A little bit each day. Before I know it, I’m like the walking dead. No life within me. A corpse bride. So, I release it. At least for now. I give it up…

Funny thing is, I find this act coincides with Lent. And Ash Wednesday. Though I’ve never practiced these traditions knowingly, I find I am this year. Unwittingly. This is where God has led me. Through my limited knowledge, I understand Lent to be a time when God’s people sacrifice something for a number of days. Me? I’m led to sacrifice my life. The revelation is heightened by Ash Wednesday… a time when ashes are ceremonially placed on heads of Christians usually accompanied by the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Me? From experience I’ve surely known what it’s like to have ashes in my life. But not just on my head, all over. The whole of me being burned up by overwhelming desire of something greater. But this will prove to be the best part of my story. For from the ashes, I rise. Resurrected life. Easter in my heart. A replica of the greatest story ever told. His. A corpse bride rises from the grave…

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He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair. Isaiah 61:1-3

Funny how God works. Amazing how He puts it all together. See, I began writing my story in 2011. Thing is, my words simply weren’t true. I wrote what I wanted to be. My True Deliverance. But now… deliverance is mine. He delivered me from my tomb. And most recently, He delivers me from myself. For it was my heart that held me captive. And my flesh has been my prison. But He led me to lay down my life. And thus, I find life. And as Easter rises in my heart, I find that I do, too. And in truth, this is the part of my story that’s truly great. Christ. In me. Finally, I don’t have to ride another’s coattails. For I have my own story. In Him. And to me, this is the essence of Easter. From death to life. And till death do us part. A corpse bride no more.

Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7

A Corpse Bride

Will the fast I choose be like this:
A day for a person to deny himself,
to bow his head like a reed,
and to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast
and a day acceptable to the Lord? Isaiah 58:5

I just couldn’t sell it… the thousands of words that poured forth from my heart and soul in the Fall of 2011. No, something wasn’t quite right. So I revised the whole thing in the Summer of 2012. I gave it a new title… My True Deliverance. However, the story remained the same. And the truth is the title was a lie. Because my story was a lie. For at that point in my life, I hadn’t been delivered. From anything. The words put forth were false… only what I wanted to be true.

However, my eyes were opened in September of 2012. The frank words of my husband jolted me. “Can you do me a favor? Can you go just one day without telling a lie? Because when you say you’re fine and you’re not, it’s a lie.” This came on the heels of his flowery description of me. An animated corpse. Oh, don’t think too harshly of him. He was just concerned. He wanted his wife back. The one from earlier days. And had he not spoken truth, perhaps I wouldn’t be where I am today. Perhaps I’d still be his corpse bride.

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After this lovely conversation with my husband, my eyes were opened wider within days. For I heard a Bible teacher speak. She said He wants us to have our own story. With Him. She talked of riding other people’s coattails. And though I didn’t realize it then, today I know that’s just what I had been doing. Riding the coattails of other people’s faith. Living off other people’s stories. Trying to breathe the breath of resurrected lives all around me. Having no spiritual breath of my own.

Funny thing is I just knew that book was going to get published. The untrue one. It seemed to be His will. Like the very hand of God directed me to write it. And I believe He did. However, I know it to be a stepping stone today. Because the story written over three years ago was the wrong one. It was the story of a good girl who worked hard. And because she did all the right things, something good happened. For God gave her what she desired most… her homeland. The promised land. But the reality is God didn’t bring me home as a reward. No, He brought me home to die. And that first book, my story, proved to lead to my fall.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

I’ve been pondering the story lately. For months actually and just in general. And in watching a few great movies, I realize the best part is the fall. Because if there isn’t a fall, the hero or heroine can’t rise from the ashes. And isn’t that the most hopeful part of someone’s story? Don’t we find resurrected lives to be inspirational? I do. And so, it’s with awe that I find myself on the cusp of Easter today. In this season of my life, as I ponder the story, I find we’re about to celebrate the greatest story. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In a nutshell, this is what my story lacked for so long. My life was missing Easter. My life was missing Him. Thus, my life contained no life. I was a corpse bride. Just as my husband described. And every single day, I died a little more. For I was chasing a dream. Holding to my life. My rights. My glory. I just didn’t know what was causing my death. See, when I came home I thought it to be my triumphant entry. I rode in on my high horse and came back ready to overcome the world. And when I began to write, I just knew it was going to give me the life I so desired. My passion burned within. In truth, it consumed me till there was nothing left. Life snuffed out. Thus, I walked around in sackcloth and ashes not comprehending that’s what I was doing. My demeanor was my mourning robe. A dim spirit shrouded me. Ashes on the ground.

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But Jesus? When He made His triumphant entry, He rode into town on a donkey. And He knew what He came to do. For He came to die. He came as a living sacrifice for us. But He knew the truth. That before He could be resurrected into glory, His death was required. Because only by His death, and life, can we hope for the same. This is Easter. This is the greatest story ever told. And until this becomes reality in our own hearts, we remain dead in our tracks. Lifeless. Animated corpses.

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:23-25

God never, ever ceases to amaze me. Over four years ago I thought He was rewarding me for good behavior. That He brought me home as a pat on the back. That was my story. But today I know truth. See, He brought me home to die. Here is where my self-awareness was birthed, and here is where my self-seeking must die. For self-seeking brought nothing but heartache. And spiritual death. It caused me to fall. Hard. Nothing left of me but a heap of ashes on the ground. But today, I choose sacrifice instead. I willingly give my life for the lives of my children. So they may have abundant life. And this act revives me. For I find I’m able to rise from the ashes. Because His word is true… in losing your life, you’ll find it. This is the very thing God brought me home for. Easter becomes real in my heart.

Isn’t the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke? Isaiah 58:6

Last week was a week of epiphanies. One having to do with me losing my life in order to gain my life. It had to do with putting my dream on the back-burner while I tended to what’s most important… my children. My family. And I’m good with that. I really am. I realized my need to sacrifice something I greatly desire so that I could be a better mother to them. And a better wife to my husband. Because this dream of mine burns me up. When I hold to it, it causes me to die. A little bit each day. Before I know it, I’m like the walking dead. No life within me. A corpse bride. So, I release it. At least for now. I give it up…

Funny thing is, I find this act coincides with Lent. And Ash Wednesday. Though I’ve never practiced these traditions knowingly, I find I am this year. Unwittingly. This is where God has led me. Through my limited knowledge, I understand Lent to be a time when God’s people sacrifice something for a number of days. Me? I’m led to sacrifice my life. The revelation is heightened by Ash Wednesday… a time when ashes are ceremonially placed on heads of Christians usually accompanied by the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Me? From experience I’ve surely known what it’s like to have ashes in my life. But not just on my head, all over. The whole of me being burned up by overwhelming desire of something greater. But this will prove to be the best part of my story. For from the ashes, I rise. Resurrected life. Easter in my heart. A replica of the greatest story ever told. His. A corpse bride rises from the grave…

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He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair. Isaiah 61:1-3

Funny how God works. Amazing how He puts it all together. See, I began writing my story in 2011. Thing is, my words simply weren’t true. I wrote what I wanted to be. My True Deliverance. But now… deliverance is mine. He delivered me from my tomb. And most recently, He delivers me from myself. For it was my heart that held me captive. And my flesh has been my prison. But He led me to lay down my life. And thus, I find life. And as Easter rises in my heart, I find that I do, too. And in truth, this is the part of my story that’s truly great. Christ. In me. Finally, I don’t have to ride another’s coattails. For I have my own story. In Him. And to me, this is the essence of Easter. From death to life. And till death do us part. A corpse bride no more.

Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7

The Wisdom of Cathy

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Sons are indeed a heritage from the LORD, children, a reward. Psalm 127:3

Is there anything more deadly than a dream? Because a dream can eat someone alive. Especially an unrealized one. And I should know since it proves to be a pattern in my life. See, I want something really bad. There are moments it totally consumes me. So much so I can’t think of anything else. I can physically be in the room with someone, but be completely absent. Because in my head, I’m just dreaming my life away. Fixating on the one thing I want but don’t have. And how I can get it. It’s exhausting.

Yes, I’m a dreamer for sure but in more ways than one. See, occasionally I dream Scripture. And when I do, it seems pertinent to my life. The most recent was a year ago. Last February, I heard God’s word fall on my ear… “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth.” And so, I was excited. I heard from God and in my mind, it had everything to do with my newest dream. The one thing I want desperately, but don’t have.

But tonight happened to be one of those nights. And I see how very wrong I was. Because I had a revelation. As a matter of fact, it was kind of like the mother of all revelations. And it had to do with that Bible verse from one year ago. See, I watched some random video on Facebook tonight … a man’s wedding vows. Levi saw and asked about my own wedding. He wanted to know if we ran under sparklers, too. I decided to show instead of tell, so I pulled out my wedding album. And the following picture stopped me in my tracks.

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There it is. It’s the Scripture I dreamt. Go and be fruitful. And tonight, I realize God wasn’t confirming my newest dream. Instead, he was reminding me of my old dream. The original one. The one that’s already been realized. It goes all the way back to my foundation. To the little girl I was before I even left home. At the very core, I simply wanted to be loved. And my dream came true through a boy named Jason.

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I was so happy here. Our wedding just weeks away, the dream was within my grasp. In truth, I thought no further ahead than the day of our union… the future just a fuzzy notion. Something I didn’t dwell on for at that time, I had no other dreams. Essentially, all I wanted was to be loved. And so, it came to pass…

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Two became one. And for a while, I was content. Newlyweds. A new town. A fresh start. Life seemed exciting. But before long, I said how about a baby? And so, my husband brought me a kitty. He said, here’s your baby. And again, contentment. At least for a while.

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However, it wasn’t long before I began to yearn anew. This time, I wanted to return to my hometown. But alas, that didn’t happen for at least ten years. But midway, I became pregnant. And holding to the pattern, I was content. For a while.

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When I look at that photo, I see a joyful woman. And my baby boy did make me happy. However, I wanted something. Badly. At times, it’s all I could think about. I dreamed of Virginia. Going home. That’s what I pined away for. And so, despite having the love of a man and a beautiful baby boy in my arms, I still withered away inside. Simply because I wanted what I didn’t have.

Levi was four when my dream of Virginia came true. But damage had already been done. See, he knew the difference between happy and sad by the time he was two. That’s because he learned it from me. And here we are today… four years later. Truth is, Levi’s learned more stuff from me. But not good stuff. See, another dream has set up in my heart. And just like every other dream of mine, it consumes me. Like a fire. It causes me to be impatient. Hurried. And distracted. All because of a dream. All because of wanting what I haven’t got.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth…” Genesis 1:28

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I previously mentioned February is a big month in my life. Specifically last February. A lot of it having to do with the baby girl growing inside my womb. And there was the dream. God’s words. He said to be fruitful. Multiply. Silly me thinking it had to do with my newest dream. And foolish me for not realizing the truth for an entire year. See, it has to do with something my aunt Cathy has said to me more than once. She tells me I’m blessed.

Funny thing is, there I sat last February with a group of women and opened up to them. I spoke of my struggles (shallow at best). Of knowing in my head I’m blessed, but just not feeling blessed. And there I was with a baby growing inside me. And the truth is, children are a blessing of the Lord. They are a gift. How was it that I could sit there with a baby growing inside me and not know how blessed I was? And am? How can that be?

You know, Cathy knows exactly how blessed I am. That’s because she lost one daughter much too soon. And the other won’t have any children. Not now. Cathy will never have grandchildren of her own. And so, she knows very well what a blessing babies are. Me? I’ve been coddled. Spoiled. I’ve had it too good. God’s ungrateful child never, ever relishing the day before me. God’s child forever looking to the next thing. The unfulfilled dream. The promised land around the bend. That’s been my life. Looking to one unrealized dream to the next. Not comprehending what dreams I have right before me. Around me. And in me.

Yes, this is the wisdom of Cathy. She says I’m blessed. And tonight, I’m starting to realize it…

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This is the hard truth. Children are indeed a blessing from God. And my mother of all realizations came tonight when I realized that He filled my womb before Jason was even a thought in my mind. Once and once again. Though I was making huge mistakes and living wild, He still tried to fill me. Remember? My original dream? I simply wanted to be loved. And God? He placed love inside me. He was trying to give me my heart’s desire. Someone to love me unconditionally. But both times, I threw my babies away. Forever gone. All because I was selfish. Inwardly I cried, “It’s my life, my right…”

And so here I am tonight. And I wonder what’s different? Because I have a dream. I hold tightly to it. I don’t want to let go. No different than the twenty-something girl I was, I find myself inwardly crying… “It’s my life. It’s my right.” And because my newest dream looms in front of me, I can barely see anything else. But they’re there… an eight year old and a six month old. And truth is, if I don’t release the hold on my dream, and on my life, I’ll end up snuffing the life right out of them. Just like I did with my unborn babies. Because holding to what’s mine makes me rigid. And impatient. And so much more. The ugliness inside inevitably makes its way to the surface. And my outbursts can dim their sweet spirits. Yes, I really believe I can diminish them. Just as I did my other two… only difference being Levi and Annabelle survived my womb.

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But you know what… tonight’s different. Because God reminded me of my original dream. Children. He said be fruitful. And the dream’s been realized. Right in front of me are two little dreams come true I’ve taken for granted much too long. And tonight, I think I’ll finally be released of the inward battle cry that’s held me so long. “My body. My life. My right.” Tonight, I say no more. For I’ll gladly give my life up for theirs. And laying aside the false dream I’ve been chasing, I’ll hold tight to what God has given me already. Their names are Levi and Annabelle and they’re living dreams. Through them, I’ve been blessed. This is what I believe my aunt wanted me to see. For she’s told me on more than one occasion, “You are so blessed.” And she would know… for this is the wisdom of Cathy.