What if?

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Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

See that guy? That’s my husband. I followed him home about eighteen years ago and for a while, I split my time between his hometown and mine. But whenever I drove away, I cried. That’s because I hated to leave him and didn’t want us to be separated. But more than that, fear of what next consumed my heart and mind. What if we grew apart while I was away? Suppose circumstances changed and I wasn’t able to come back to him? I was so scared of what the future held, I tried holding him tighter (notice the grip I have on his t-shirt). In fact, because I was so clingy and hugged him so tightly ALL THE TIME, it became a bit of a joke between the family.

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See what I mean? That’s my mother-in-law and they were laughing because she was imitating me. And I laughed, too. Because how could they possibly know the real reason for my clinginess. And in truth, I didn’t even know myself. I simply believed in the power of my arms… that if I clung to Jason tight enough, there was less chance he’d slip away from me. I thought if I kept my hands on him all the time, I wouldn’t lose him. One day, I gave voice to my anxiety. I told Jason my worries. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember his reply. Because he was angry. He said, “What if, Pam? What if?” He fussed about me being upset over something that hadn’t even happened. I was worked up over what might be. Anxious. And fretful. I was dark and moody over a what if that never came to pass.

And so, our story began. First came love. The picture below was taken seventeen years ago just before he proposed to me.

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Then came marriage…

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And here we are eighteen years later… needing another baby carriage!

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And so today, I understand I expended a lot of useless energy fretting over things that never happened. Today, I’m right where I’m supposed to be with the family I’m supposed to have. My cup runneth over. And yet, I find myself doing the same thing all over again. I’ve been anxious. I’ve been worrying. And I have a whole new set of what if’s that set up shop in my brain. Jason recently remarked on what a scary place my mind must actually be. That in reply to something irrational I either said or did. It could have been any of the following…

I lock the basement door at night because it’s beside our bedroom door. Reason being I fear my son will stumble through the house at night and open the basement door instead of walking through our door, which would obviously cause him to tumble to the concrete floor below. And for three months now, I’ve been driving my car to the end of the driveway when it’s time for the bus. And there I sit there with my baby in my arms, tensing up with each passing car. As they whir by, I wonder if this is the one that will lose control and plow right into us. If my son runs down the paved driveway, I cry out, “Slow down or you’ll fall!” If he touches my little girl’s mouth, I cringe and cry out, “Did you wash your hands?” Germs, you know. Of course, I wash my hands about twenty times a day. And let me not go into the details of the time I was convinced – CONVINCED – that my son and I had worms! We didn’t, by the way. And I could go on and on. The list is endless.

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 

So here’s the thing. I just went through this two years ago with my son. I confronted my fears and thought I’d overcome them. And I lay them down anew this past summer. But here I am again facing the same demons. I have to ask myself what’s happened? What’s changed? And it’s so obvious. I had a baby. And she’s fragile. She’s new. And you know… I’m just not a natural mother. I’m not like those women who are so good and easy with their kids. Some women are just gifted that way. Motherhood seems almost effortless on their part… they flow. Me? I’m uptight. Nervous. In fact, the only thing I seem to be a natural at is worrying.

When I first brought Annabelle home, she went through something called cluster-feeding. She ate and ate. She was on my chest for hours at a time. I’m not exaggerating. HOURS. One night I became frantic after one of her cluster feeds because she kept pulling back and arching her back. She just wouldn’t stop crying. Then I remembered skin on skin. I stripped us both down and pulled her tightly to me. I encouraged her to eat, but to no avail. Finally, I woke my husband in a panic. “I think she forgot how to suck!” He calmly took her in his arms and stretched her across the bed, and she quieted. Turns out she didn’t forget how to suck after all. She was just through eating.

Not long after bringing Annabelle home, we realized she spits up after every feeding. This just adds to my fears. She could choke. So I try to keep her upright as long as I can. The worst spitting episode came was when my son gave her a bottle. Because he held it in her mouth, the spit up went up her nose and she did choke. Once she was able to, she cried so. And me, too. An hour later, I cried again when I told my husband. Ever the voice of reason, Jason said she seems okay now. Later, though, after hearing some weird noises coming out of Annabelle, I remembered a dry-drowning article I read. So I sat there and peered at her for hours. Again, I woke my husband in the middle of the night. “She’s having trouble breathing and has little bubbles coming out of her mouth!” I actually thought she was going to dry-drown on her own spit up. Alas, we made it through the night and she was okay. My husband was right after all.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7

Reality? After eighteen years, I still cling. I still fret. I’m still anxious. I worry about things that are out of my control. I’m secure in my marriage, so now I fear losing something else. A million new what if’s have taken over my heart and mind. And it’s absolutely exhausting. I’ve been relying on my feeble arms and my human strength in an attempt to control everything. EVERYTHING. And I imagine the worst. And today, it’s as if I can hear the echo of what my husband said eighteen years ago… “What if, Pam? What if?”

So today I must contemplate what feeds the what if’s of my imagination. What compels me to lock basement doors and hold my breath as I sit at the end of the driveway. And it’s not necessarily an accident or sickness I dread, it’s what could be the end result of those things. Fear of losing the one I love. That’s what it was eighteen years ago, and it’s the same thing today. And so, I worry about it. I think up all kinds of crazy scenarios that might happen, and try to stop them before they do. And I think if I hold on to what’s most important to me, I can control what happens to them. But I can’t do that. No one can.

In light of my lack of control, I have to consider another “What if?” See, a while back I read the question, “If God were real, and He is who He says He is, what then?” It was meant to be a challenge because a lot of us say we believe in God, but do we really? I mean deep down in our soul believe. Because if God is real, and if His word really is truth, what then? The right answer… I would not fear. I would not worry about tomorrow because I know that He is in control. But for the life of me, something won’t let me let go of fear.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18

I love the picture below. It captures all I hold dearest. That’s my family. This is my town. And look at that little angel. For three months now, I’ve been clinging to her. I hold her so tightly in my arms and cover her with kisses. And that’s not a bad thing. But the danger in holding her too tightly is losing my grip on God. And thus, faith is diminished. I’ve not been leaning on those everlasting arms, rather, I’ve been trusting in the human arms that hold my daughter. I’ve been looking to me to keep my family safe, not God. And I know I can’t do that. Deep in my heart I know I can’t control anything. So why do I keep trying?

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Eighteen years ago, Jason said “What if, Pam?” He was the voice of reason. And he was right because the things I feared never came to pass. And in looking at the picture above, I see the worst did not happen. I didn’t lose Jason after all. Instead, God gave me even more than I could have hoped for. The scared young woman I was had no clue what God had in store for me. For us. And so today, I pray I can remember the truth about what if. That most of the time, what if doesn’t even come to pass. That the terrible things I scare myself with are all in my head. And no matter how hard I try, or no matter how hard I cling to someone or something, some circumstances are simply out of my control.

You know, what if could happen. It could. And if it does, I just need to remember the other “what if.” Because what if God is real and He is who He says He is? Well, then… He’ll see me through it. Whatever “if” turns out to be.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=jesus+take+the+wheel&qpvt=jesus+take+the+wheel&FORM=VDRE#view=detail&mid=86FD62D60E54555D130F86FD62D60E54555D130F

 

What choosing life looks like…

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The above is similar to something I saw on Facebook recently. And there was a challenge… repost if you’re against abortion. And I thought about it. But I hesitated. And then I just scrolled on. Because honestly, I wasn’t up for it. See, I’ve been in a funk. My new baby is here and I’ve been pretty busy. Sleep has been interrupted and my hormones are all over the place. ALL OVER THE PLACE. I have crying and laughing episodes within minutes of each other. In fact, this  past weekend I just sat on the couch and cried and cried. Tears streamed as my husband and son sat near me. But they weren’t alarmed. No, there was no cause for real concern because this is just the norm for me. At least for now it is. My son even says, “Mom, you’re so sensitive.” And so, I am. Sensitive. Ultra-sensitive.

You know, there’s no real reason for my funk. On Saturday, after a very trying car ride into town, I tried to use hormones as an excuse. But my husband called me on it. And rightfully so because what in the world do I have to complain about? I have been blessed. Incredibly so.

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See what I mean. Look at who rests in my arms. And gaze upon the boy who sits by my side. They’re my children and the joy they bring is evident upon my face. At least it was that day. Truth is, I’ve strapped on those inward goggles. I’ve been a bit homebound lately, and so, me and my little corner of the world is all I’ve seen. And despite blessings beyond compare, I’ve felt some sadness. Perhaps a bit of post-partum depression. But this morning, I seemed to have woken up. And it seems I am to revisit a subject I prefer to remain closed. But every now and then, He prompts me. And so, here I go again…

Choose life.

Choose life. I’m sure you’ve seen this phrase displayed upon yellow license plates along with children’s cartoon faces. Here, I’ll show you…

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It’s the Pro-Life movement’s cry. Choose life! And though on this plate, the faces are cartoons… in real life, they’re flesh and blood. Real live children. But I won’t enter the debate of when life begins. That’s for another rainy day because in truth, we believe what we believe. Some say life begins at conception while others say a specific number of weeks. Me? I dare say life begins before time began. Life began the moment God thought you into existence. But that’s not the issue I want to probe today. It’s this catchy phrase – choose life – that captures my attention. See, it comes from Deuteronomy 30:19 and the rest of that phrase says, “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.” And you know, because of my past I can testify to that statement. Because I chose not to. Choose life, that is. Rather, I chose what the world says is okay. And the end result was death. In more ways than one.

Nineteen years ago, I made a choice. I was in another country and felt pretty much alone. And because I decided to do what’s deemed legal, I made another choice. The choice not to research what was going on inside my body. I had no clue what was taking place inside my womb. And so, I chose to remain ignorant. Because ignorance is bliss, right? I’m not sure if I was offered a sonogram or not. If I was, oh, that I had chosen to see. Oh, that I had taken a closer look. But instead, I made an appointment that forever changed my life. The doctor placed his hand on my belly and said, “Go to sleep, Pam…” And so I did. And it seems as if for the past nineteen years, I’ve been dozing on and off. Hitting the snooze button more times than I ought to have. But this morning, God woke me up. He said, “Get up!”

And so, here I am. Getting out of bed. And using what He gave me… my voice. Because it’s my right. Freedom of speech. And because I’ve lived through my choices, I feel I should say what needs to be said about abortion. In a non-condemning and non-self-righteous kind of way. Because I’ve heard it from others folks… those who perhaps haven’t walked through it. Well, sometimes they come across in a way I hope not to. But I walked that way. I know firsthand what it does to a woman. That it brings death and curses with it. And though I’ve come very far with it, rising above the ashes of my past, there’s a bit more to process. A nugget remains buried deep. But for today, I’ll do what I can. I’ll encourage others to go another route. The route that brings blessing. The path of life. May they choose it. For this is what choosing life looks like…

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I was brought to tears this morning. Of course, that’s not surprising. As I said, my hormones are ALL OVER THE PLACE. However, these were tears of joy for a dear friend of mine. Today is a big day as she’s adopting a baby. And while praying for her, and the mother who decided to give her child away to another, I remembered. That poster I chose not to display on my Facebook wall came to mind. And I remembered something else… that November is adoption awareness month. And I saw something beautiful. For there is a selfless woman who’s making the right choice. She decided not to abort her baby, but placed her little girl up for adoption instead. And today, I celebrate the life she chose. And not just a newborn baby’s life, but also my friend’s. For new life has been breathed into her longing heart. It’s what she wanted most… a baby of her own. A little one to call her “Mama.” And so, her dream comes true today. All because a woman made a choice. She chose life. And because she did, both she and her descendants shall live.

One man was there who had been sick for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the sick man answered, “I don’t have a man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, someone goes down ahead of me.” “Get up,” Jesus told him, “pick up your bedroll and walk!” Instantly the man got well, picked up his bedroll, and started to walk. John 5:8-9

This morning, it was as if I awoke from a deep slumber. See, I’ve been in a funk. Tears and hormones and darkness. I’ve been sleeping. But today I hear God anew. He asked me if I want to be well. And I do. Oh, I’m sick alright, but mostly… I’m sick of me. Because I am blessed. Despite terrible choices I made long ago, God has blessed my path. And now, He expects me to get up, pick up my bedroll and walk. Because what’s past is past. And just because I made bad choices a long time ago doesn’t mean I have to dwell there. In the dark. Sleeping. Oh, that doctor may have said go to sleep, but God says wake up. He shows me I can celebrate the other choices I made. The right ones. Their names are Levi and Annabelle. And they make my life beautiful everyday. I just have to be awake to see that.

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,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.  Isaiah 61:1-3

 

The Lesson of Rocky Raccoon

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“Rocky Raccoon, Rocky Raccoon, he was a fool unto himself. And he would not swallow his foolish pride…” Paul McCartney

I’ve been thinking about something quite a bit lately. Or more accurately, I’ve been thinking about someone. And through ruminations of her, the tune of Rocky Raccoon came to mind. This morning, though, I realized I didn’t even know the lyrics. So I googled it. And after watching a video of the Beatles, I just about fell over. Well, I would have fallen over if I hadn’t already been down. See, I’ve been feeling pretty low. And therein lies the significance of this song. At least to me. In my eyes, the lesson of Rocky Raccoon is how he fell down… pride going before his fall. But more importantly, it’s how Rocky would manage to get back on his feet. See, there was a man named Dan, who stole Rocky’s woman. But rather than swallow his pride by letting things go, Rocky planned to shoot his rival. However, he’s the one who ended up on the floor. Rocky collapsed. And the thing that could restore his life? Why, it was a Bible left by Gideon. The Bible would help with Rocky’s revival.

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Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

I actually have a Gideon’s Bible. And though I didn’t open the cover of a Bible for years, eventually I did. And as time wore on, I began to love the words inside. The above verse is one of my favorites, comforting in that God’s word is a lamp and a light for my feet. And ironically, I just wrote about my son finding his feet. But not long after, I discovered it’s not my son’s feet I need to worry about after all. In reality, it’s my own feet that need help. For Levi’s not the one who stumbled, I have. I’ve fallen down and it seems I can’t get up. And though it may be true God’s word lights my path, the thing is I have to choose to go the way He directs. But for some time now, I’ve refused. As always, pride took precedence and preceded my fall. Like Rocky, I just didn’t want to swallow it down. I even voiced aloud, “I don’t want to take the high road.” And so, belligerently, I didn’t.

Pride is surely one of my pitfalls. And when I think back to the shy girl I once was, I’m amazed I can be that way now. So arrogant. So self-righteous. And that’s how I felt Monday. See, after writing, I always feel good. Purposeful. And after meeting with a ladies group Tuesday evening, I felt even higher. However, my demeanor changed within hours of returning home. And by Wednesday morning, darkness fully set in. One, my writing didn’t elicit the response I expected. In fact, someone quite close to me called to advise me. Or shall I say counsel me. And later, I was led to Hagar of the Old Testament. Her story so much like mine in that she was prideful for she looked down on someone. And when she ran away from home, the Angel of the LORD asked her two questions as she journeyed through the desert… Where have you come from and Where are you going? I felt God asked the same of me. My reply? Pride. As always, coming from pride, and more importantly… I wasn’t going anywhere. Because pride tripped me up, I was stalled in my journey.

Oh, there’s more to Hagar’s story. See, she trod the desert once more. The second time with her son, only he was in trouble. Ishmael lay dying under a tree but Hagar had nothing to offer him. She herself was low. At her most desperate hour, God appeared to her. He said, “Get up, help the boy up, and sustain him…” And so yesterday, I heard God loudly. Clearly. And He was firm. He told me to get up! Because as long as I remained down, I couldn’t help myself. Much less anyone else. And my medicine? The thing that would restore my health? Pride was my pill. Unless I choked it down, I would never be able to stand. And if I couldn’t stand, how in the world could I help another to?

Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. James 5:16

You know, I call this blog the Truth about God & me. And I hope to do just that… be truthful. And though I write hoping to lift up others, most of the time I think the words are for my own benefit. For I see the truth through writing. But today, I can’t help but wonder if there can be too much truth. Because I’m going to write about that someone I’ve been thinking about. She’s someone I love. Fact is, I just love women. I want to be around them and I want to help them. Honestly, I fancy God will use me in women’s ministry someday. I believe He’s the One who placed the desire within me. In fact, it’s why I felt so good Tuesday night. Because I’m leading a women’s Bible study, I felt like I was finally moving forward with God… that someday was in reach. And yet within hours of returning home, darkness blinded me. Today I know why. See, it’s that woman I love. Because despite our building up a rock solid friendship through the course of many years, it seems the foundation has been shaken. And though we shared everything for so long, now, we hardly speak at all. The weird thing is, neither of us has said anything or acknowledged a conflict. And yet, it’s there. I feel it… tension. Is it real? Or is the wall that separates us imaginary and constructed only in my mind? So, for me – a woman who desires to be used by God in women’s ministry –  this just doesn’t make sense. Even more so, it makes me hypocritical. Because if I have such love for women, why not her? Why can’t I just pick up the phone…

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:22-24

Fact is, I’ve refused to budge. In fact, I’ve closed my heart to her over something silly. I feel justified in something I did even though I’m pretty sure it hurt her feelings. But is that ever okay? And rather than acknowledge it and talk about it, a wall was erected. That’s why I said… I don’t want to take the high road. No, instead, I chose pride. I trod the dark path. And so, I fell. But there is a lamp. God’s light seeps through and I see what I’ve done. I tried to serve Him Monday and Tuesday, but today I know that I can’t do that. I can’t offer Him a gift when there’s something between me and my friend. And so, the verses above light my path. He shows me the way I have to travel if I want to move forward. It’s my choice. I can take the high road, which leads to life. Or the low road, which leads to death. For that’s exactly what my prideful path is leading to… the death of a friendship. Something, or someone, has got to change… And today I know that’s me. Today the hardness of my heart has been breached and light spills in. And I so I swallow my pill. And more than anything, I want to be reconciled to my sister. I long for harmony in our friendship once more.

For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. Ephesians 2:14

Illumination began this week. It started with my son. And consistent with how God teaches me, He led me through my children. First, Levi’s little feet led to my own stumbling size nines. And then, there’s my baby girl… Annabelle. Today I thought how happy she is when she spends time on the back side of the house. See, that’s where the morning light streams in. Oh, how she loves to lay on our bed or on her changing table cooing and smiling in the bright sun. But on the front half of the house, where we spend most of our time, it’s dark. So much so, there’s always a lamp or two on. In fact, Levi so loves lamplight, he’ll turn on three or four when he’s home. And finally, between the dark and the light of my home is a wall… a load bearing wall. And this particular wall seemed a revelation to me this morning. It leads me back to Rocky Raccoon.

You know, the woman I’ve written about likes Rocky Raccoon. Years ago, she picked it for us to sing at karaoke. Back then, we stood side by side. Arm in arm. We were best of friends. But recently, it feels as if there’s a wall between us. And all this? Well, it’s my attempt to knock it down. I want to replace a wall of hostility with another kind of wall… a load bearing wall. One we can construct around the two of us as we stand side by side once more. A wall we can build together strong enough to bear the heavy weight of life. And a wall that will keep her and I in the light of God’s word, while keeping darkness at bay.

And so, may I apply the lesson of Rocky Raccoon. It’s true he fell, but he had Gideon’s Bible. God’s word would bring about his revival. And there’s hope in that word. For revive means to come back to life. To live again. To be quickened. To be restored to health. And though my pride knocked me down for a time, I won’t stay there. And though I’ve been clinging to the dark, light beckons me forward. Because today, I want to live. I want to be healthy. And in order for that to happen, our friendship must be restored. It must be revived. It has to! And so, I choose life and swallow my pill… I choke down pride. And that’s when it happens. I’m able to rise to my feet. That’s when I ask for her forgiveness. Because I want healing. And you know what? I think she does, too.

Oh, the ways of God. And oh, how He illuminates what He wants me to see. From my children. To His word. And yes, even through Rocky Raccoon… that man who was a fool unto himself. But see, Rocky had hope. For he had Gideon’s Bible.

My son, pay attention to my words;
listen closely to my sayings.
Don’t lose sight of them;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and health to one’s whole body.
Guard your heart above all else,
for it is the source of life. Proverbs 4:20-23

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Finding His Feet

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He lifted me out of the watery pit, out of the slimy mud. He placed my feet on a rock and gave me secure footing. Psalm 40:2

At 2:00 a.m. this morning, my mind whirred. After feeding my infant daughter, I couldn’t go back to sleep. I laid down, closed my eyes, and yet my brain stayed alert. Sentences formed and paragraphs emerged, but only in thought. Because I just couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed. Not in the middle of the night. For sleep is too precious when you have a new baby. And so after some time, I willed myself back to sleep. And my last waking thought… murky waters.

Last night when I should have been sleeping, I couldn’t stop thinking about yesterday. See, it should have been fun. I took my son to a birthday party at an indoor pool. And I think I was looking forward to it more than he was. Because believe it or not, after a woman spends eight weeks at home with a newborn, even a child’s birthday party can feel like an event. And so both son and I eagerly set out to enjoy a few hours of social interaction. But for me, expectancy dampened quicker than my son’s swimming trunks for more than one reason.

First being my son’s clinginess. After arrival, he stayed close by my side and that concerned me. When asked, he said a lot of the kids were fourth graders. And this is where I caught a glimpse of his insecurity. To encourage him, I offered to walk him to the water slide to see if he measured up. Because my friend told me, I knew he’d used that slide once before but he seemed reluctant yesterday. Sure enough, he made it just to the penguin’s wing. Just over four feet tall. Tall enough to stand in the 3’6″ water the slide would shoot him into. The lifeguard spoke to me… as long as he can find his feet in the water, she said. He’ll be fine. And I think I needed the assurance more than Levi. Because I’m the one who fears water. I’m the one who needed to see he was big enough. I’m the one who had to know… can he find his footing?

Pushing aside my fear of the waterslide, we joined the birthday crowd. And that’s when I observed my boy. I took in that he was a full head shorter than most of the others. But that’s not a big deal as my son has always been short… like his Paw-Paw. No, other than being tall enough to use the water slide, height was not, and is not, an issue with me or my son. It wasn’t the physical attributes that pierced my heart as I sat poolside. Rather, it was how my boy conducted himself in the group. And what I witnessed cut me to the core… see, he wasn’t comfortable. He seemed so young. So incredibly insecure. And maybe just a bit awkward in comparison to the others’ ease. No, my son didn’t appear to be the social butterfly in that group setting. And more than that, I could tell he wasn’t the one. You know, the one others wanted to be with. In fact, as one hour turned to two, it seemed he was on the outskirts of the party just a little. And my heart sank. Because I knew the truth… my son was turning out just like me. And though this has given me and my husband occasion to smile in past, this time I felt overcome by sadness.

See, yesterday, I saw another side of Levi. It was the side of me I’ve tried to put behind me most of my adult life. And so, I finally knew the truth. My boy really is a little me. More so than I ever comprehended. And so it’s much deeper than what I initially thought. Because yesterday became much more than Levi finding his feet in over three feet of water. At least in my eyes. I realized the time has come for my boy to navigate the murky waters of life. That’s really where he needs to find his feet. It’s there he’ll have to find a firm place to stand. And I fear for him. Because he’s a little me. And I know what I did. And I wonder what he’ll do.

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So it begins. School is where a child really has to find their footing. And the truth is, sometimes they don’t. I know because I never did. Because in school, I came to believe I didn’t quite measure up to the other girls. But height had nothing to do with it. I was painfully shy and awkward and didn’t know how to conduct myself in a group. And though I liked to share stories and participate early on (so says my kindergarten report card), that wasn’t the case by the time third grade rolled around. Somehow in three short years, my openness closed tight and my words lessened. My light diminished. When did that happen?

I think it was second grade. I had a best friend and I loved her so. But in her shadow, I felt the pangs of being less than. Perhaps the first cut came when a little boy pointed out I wouldn’t be able to do something that she could. And so by third grade, I was painfully aware of what I wasn’t. And what she was. She was the pretty one. The fun one. And everyone liked her and wanted to be with her. Why she picked me as a friend, I’ll never know. And so the years continued. By the fifth grade, my placement was firmly established. A classmate pointed out that just because my two friends were popular, it didn’t mean that I was. As if I didn’t already know.

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And so I consider Levi on the cusp of these formative years. Because I remember how I felt, I fret over his own feelings. Does he feel less than? Has he suffered those pangs? Has he been rejected? Because he’s a miniature me… And so, I compare our pictures. And I have hope for my boy. See, my face is more guarded at the same age. My smile not so bright. But Levi still has a look of confidence about him. He still looks shiny and bright. Still open and willing to share. And I feel a bit of relief. He’s not been awakened to the world’s set of scales yet. He doesn’t feel the hurt of not being the one. Chosen. Popular. For now, he’s safe. He’s still free to be himself.

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I know, I know. This is small. This is not a tragedy. This is simply school. But I ache for my son. I want so much for him. I want it to be different. And I fear for him because he’s a mini-me. I know what I did. How I shut down. And then how I put on a mask. I pretended to be things I wasn’t. And then later, I used substances as a crutch to get me through. Whatever it took to maneuver in a crowd. And so, I went with the flow. I was easily led. A follower to the core. And so, I didn’t navigate the murky waters of school successfully. I never found my footing and thus, left home at nineteen not really knowing who the heck I was. What will it be like for him?

Truth is, peer pressure is hard. And the reality is I’m just now getting over it. Finally, at forty-one, I’m comfortable in my own skin. Just now finding my footing… And though I’ve made great strides, every now and then I slip. Something will present that awakens me once again to the world’s set of scales. And what took years to press down bubbles forth to the surface. Like raging water. It was a word find I saw on Facebook that did it last week…

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The first three words you see is the game. And people saw lovely things such as love and freedom. But me?

  1. SUCCESS
  2. POPULAR
  3. BEAUTY

And so, I wonder… am I, a full grown woman, really over it after all? Does this word game mean the above is what’s important to me subconsciously? Am I still held under the sway of success being measured by popularity and beauty? Or is it that now the peer pressure I felt for myself has been projected onto my son. I want him to excel. And in school, that means success is measured by popularity. By beauty. By materialism. And by physical attributes. And so, I ache. This time, it’s not for me. It’s for him. I want him to stay shiny and bright. I don’t want him to be tarnished by the harsh reality of school. I don’t want him to hurt. I don’t want him to feel that first cut of rejection. To feel less than. Because to me, he is chosen. Valuable. Worthy. Beautiful.

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Isaiah 52:2-3

As trivial and petty as all this may seem, I was in tears by the end of yesterday. And because Levi has not been awakened to the world’s value system yet, and I have been, I cried for him. And at 2:00 a.m. this morning, this is all I could think about. Levi and what the future will bring. And I pray it doesn’t take him forty-one years to find his footing… like me. And that he’s more successful in navigating the murky waters of school than I was. And because he has a more solid foundation than I did at his age, I have every hope that it’ll be different for him. Because just look at him. In my eyes, he’s a success. He’s popular. Beautiful and chosen. And more importantly, this is how God sees him. All others may reject him, yet He won’t. And in truth, that’s all that really matters.

With God on his side, Levi’s footing will be sure. God’s security to replace his insecurity. And like with the waterslide, perhaps I need to know that more than Levi does. As his mother, I need to know he’ll find his feet. I have to hear he’ll be just fine. And God’s word assures me he will.

IMG_0563For He will conceal me in His shelter in the day of adversity; He will hide me under the cover of His tent; He will set me high on a rock.  Psalm 27:5

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Who’s the bad guy?

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I feel heavy. This morning when I woke, my head ached and my legs were leaden. No wonder as I’m heavy with child, this coming Monday to be 40 weeks. That is if she hangs in there till then. But with the progression of morning, rather than sleepy aches and pains diminishing, I found the heaviness to escalate. So much so, it eventually made its way to my heart. Thus, I find today I’m not only heavy with child, but also heavy of heart. And when I tried to pray, I could do nothing but weep…

They said to me, “The survivors in the province, who returned from the exile, are in great trouble and disgrace. Jerusalem’s wall has been broken down, and its gates have been burned down.” When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned… Nehemiah 1:3-4

Nehemiah wept, too, when he finally heard the news. See, he was the King’s cupbearer and must have been somewhat isolated from everything that was happening in his homeland. He had to have been in a bit of a protective bubble from the outside world as he resided with the King of Persia. For he had a pretty cushy job in comfortable surroundings. But in the course of time, his brother arrived and Nehemiah asked. How’s it going? And when he heard of the broken down state of his homeland, he cried. Nehemiah was heavy of heart. So much so, his face reflected it. The king even asked, “Why are you sad, when you aren’t sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.” That’s when Nehemiah found the courage to speak up. He said, “Why should I not be sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” He was braver still when he made a request, “Send me to Judah and to the city where my ancestors are buried, so that I may rebuild it.”

And here, I see the similarity between me and Nehemiah. Because we cry for the same reason. When I finally heard the news of my homeland, I could do nothing but weep. See, I’ve been in a protective bubble. I have a cushy job as I work from home. My contact with the outside world has been minimal. And I’ve been so busy. And so preoccupied preparing for my joyful arrival, who is imminent any day. I’ve been living in my own world… until this past week, that is. Finally, I was caught up, all preparations complete. And finally, I was laid up as I reached maximum physical capacity, all energy sapped. So this week, I rested. There’s been a lot of couch time. And with what’s happening in our country today, in addition to what’s going on globally, naturally the news has become the focus of my attention this past week. I couldn’t tear my eyes away.

Last night, I dreamt of protests. No wonder as Ferguson is flooding the news. I’ve been feasting on what the networks feed me, and I found that I made up my mind. I made a decision based on the media. I decided who the good guy is. I judged who the bad guy is. This past week, I’ve become so upset and stirred up and self-righteous that I lost sight of the most important thing. There is a mother. And there was a son. I saw her picture on the internet first thing today, and my heart broke. For her. She lost her son. And no matter what happens in Ferguson, she will live with the loss of the boy she loved. And so, I was halted. By her tears. And mine.

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Oh, this week I’ve been full of tirades and speeches. I’ve ranted about what’s just and fair. I’ve been full of what’s right and wrong. For I thought I knew. This one’s the bad guy and this one’s the good guy. And isn’t that the basic question? Isn’t that the reason for the protest. The world has already decided. This one’s good and this one’s bad. This one’s right and this one’s wrong. And it doesn’t stop with only the two persons involved. It’s ever more far reaching than that. More questions arise. And so, lines are drawn. Anger is fueled. Love is taken out of the equation and hate is perpetuated. And the whole world focuses on this. Ferguson, Missouri. The whole world forms an opinion. Each person is right in his own mind. Each one knows what is just. And fair. Every single one of us knows. We all think we know who the good guy is. And who the bad guy is. And we draw our lines, form our opinions and walk in the way we think is right.

The way of Cain…

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On August 15, I penned in my journal the following question, “Who’s the Bad Guy?” And I contemplated all the following: Jihad and Hamas, ISIS and Israel, and of course, Michael Brown and Darren Wilson. And so, I went to my frame of reference. My guiding light. My moral compass. I sought God’s word. Through Hebrews I meditated on pursue peace with everyone and let brotherly love continue. And there, I realized God gives warning about two particular souls… He gives us examples of who not to follow. For in reading about brotherly love, the words of Cain echoed in the chambers of my heart, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And so, I pause at Cain… the firstborn murderer. The first bad guy.

1 John 3:12 says, “We should love one another, unlike Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil…” Cain murdered because he was angry. Furious. And it was there, right where fury originated, that God cautioned Cain. Sin is crouching at the door and its desire is for you, but you must master it. But Cain didn’t. He must have fed on that fury. He must have fueled that fire for he led his brother into the field. He attacked him. And then, he then killed him. 

“What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground!” Genesis 4:10

God called out to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” though He already knew. Abel’s blood had already cried foul and God heard it. So I’m not sure why God asked where Abel was. Perhaps He posed the question in order to prick Cain’s conscience. Maybe He simply wanted Cain to realize the gravity of what he had done. Where is he… the one you killed? Or, was God giving Cain the opportunity to take responsibility for his actions? But I don’t think Cain did. Because I find his response to be kind of flippant. “I don’t know… Am I my brother’s keeper? Am I his guardian?”

And so, Cain is a bad guy in my book. Obviously. He was a cold-blooded murderer and God says to not be like him. But wait. Just. One. Second. It’s there in 1 John 3. Yes, God’s warning. God’s words. “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” And so, the way of Cain is a little less clear to me. It’s not so black and white. Not so easy to discern. For God says hate is as bad as murder. And isn’t there a time to hate? Can’t hate be justified?

Bitter Stew…

Esau and Jacob

On August 15, I began in Hebrews. That’s where another bad guy was illuminated through the pages of Scripture. His name was Esau. God’s words are clear, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble by it, defiling many. And see that there isn’t any immoral and irreverent person like Esau who sold his birthright in exchange for one meal.” What made Esau so bad? He’s called godless. And honestly, I can empathize with him through his story. I felt sorry for him. It began with stew.   

He worked in the fields one day and so, when he came home he was hungry. He asked for some of his brother’s stew, but rather than just graciously serving him, Jacob wanted something in return. Give me your birthright. And Esau did. A foolish thing to do, but Jacob isn’t so innocent in this scene. And later, Jacob tricked their father into giving him Esau’s blessing, too. Jacob got Esau’s birthright and blessing. Oh, the injustice. How unfair! When I read about Esau crying to his father, I cried, too. But see, here’s the thing. Esau stewed over what was done to him. He nursed a grudge. He comforted himself thinking about the day he would murder Jacob. And though we read about the brothers later meeting and reconciling, I don’t think Esau ever let go of what Jacob did to him. It’s in Hebrews. Esau never repented. Meaning, he never changed his mind, or heart, about the way he felt when he lost his blessing. He wanted to murder Jacob. And perhaps over time, furious thoughts of murder ebbed to a slow flow of simmering, bubbling hate. But the fact is, the spark ignited the day Esau feasted on Jacob’s stew never went out. Oh, the flames may have lost their intensity over time. But time just made the coals burn hotter. Hate is what Esau passed on to his offspring. 

The proof? Obadiah’s prophecies against Edom, Esau’s line. Destruction because of the violence done to his brother, Jacob. See, Esau’s line stood aloof when Jerusalem fell. They didn’t help when strangers captured the city. God said they were just like the forces who attacked. For they gloated over Jerusalem’s calamity and fall. They rejoiced. Because in their minds, wasn’t this justice? Remember what Jacob did to Esau. He tricked and stole. And so, when Jacob’s descendants went down, Esau’s lineage felt justification. The sweetness of Jerusalem’s fall went down smoother than the bitter stew Edom feasted on. That hateful concoction… it simmered on low and never went out. That old, old issue never fully went away. The one that flooded their hearts and mind again and again through the years.

Yep, it’s clear. Just as Cain is a bad guy in God’s book, so is Esau and his lineage. There’s no denying it… we’re not to follow their ways. And so, again, I ask the question, “Who’s the bad guy?” For today, with everything that’s going on in the world, who exactly is the bad guy? Can I glean enough knowledge and insight and discernment from God’s word to judge on my own?

The way of Pam…

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Truth is, I’m the bad guy. Because I’ve smugly sat here in my comfortable home and judged the entire world by simply listening to biased reports. I hear one thing, and think one way. I hear another, and am steered the other way. All the while, my rage has been fueled. I’ve been feasting on pots of bitterness that have been simmering for way too long. I have been so irate over the unfairness of the situations I’ve seen. I’ve been angry. And yes, there has been hate in my heart. Hate. For love has been snuffed out through my self-righteous attitude. And God says if you have hate for your brother, you’re no different than a murderer. I’ve been walking in the way of Cain feasting on Esau’s stew this past week. And from a week’s worth of broadcasting, I think I know. Right and wrong. Just and fair. But I don’t.  I don’t know everything about what’s happening. And because I live in a small, secluded, safe town, there is no way I can possibly fathom the reality of what those on the outside are dealing with. I haven’t a clue.

There is a war today. It’s right here on our home soil. Our walls are broken down. And this morning, I cried as if I had lost a loved one. It was the picture of a mother. Her tears. It was a reality check. See, in the heatedness of recent activities, I lost sight of what really happened. A woman lost her son. What of her?

And so, my eyes are opened. I see the real war begins right here in my home. It begins with me. It’s the battle that rages in my heart. It’s the one of love vs. hate. And sometimes, hate wins. As it advances through the chambers of my heart, love is diminished. Until there’s none left. And the hate makes me a murderer. It makes me divisive. I draw lines and project all the things I stand against, rather than the things I really stand for. Like peace… blessed are the peacemakers. I rant about the bad guys or the enemies, but this itself makes me one of them! And what does God say, but to love your enemies and pray for those who hurt you. And so, He calls us to love. For love covers a multitude of sins. Especially the sin of hate.

Yes, this morning I felt heavy. So heavy. Now I know it was the hate. For I had been feasting on divisiveness. But it was the eyes of a mother who brought me to my senses. It was her heartache that made me realize the truth. I’m the bad guy. And so tears that began over the state of my nation turned to tears for me. And a wordless prayer for my country turned to prayer for me, the enemy. The persecutor. For in my own way, I had been murdering and pillaging. Though I had no words to offer God, He knew. And afterward, it was as if He said, “Where is your brother?” And in truth, my brother is everywhere. He is Michael Brown. And he is Darren Wilson. I am my brother’s keeper. And that means, I am to love them both. God help me.  

 When they heard these things, they were enraged in their hearts and gnashed their teeth at him. Then they screamed at the top of their voices, stopped their ears, and rushed together against him. They threw him out of the city and began to stone him. They were stoning Stephen as he called out: “Lord, do not charge them with this sin!” Acts 7

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Annabelle’s Announcement

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This flower appeared on our azalea bush a day or so ago. I didn’t pay much attention at first, assuming there were others. But last night, Jason pointed out there’s only one. He also reminded me that the bushes had already bloomed earlier this Summer. So really, it’s unusual that this one bloom came back. Thus, we wondered… is it her flower? A sign of what, or who, is coming our way. And in admiring this pale, blush colored blossom, I have to think yes. It’s hers. For this is the color that adorns her walls and bedding. It’s definitely Annabelle’s flower.

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I’ve been pretty busy lately as this past Summer has been a season of preparation. See, I’m preparing the way for the new life that’s about to enter our world. Her name is Annabelle and for now, she resides inside me. I keep thinking any day, but alas, my womb continues to encompass her. She is surrounded by me. And so, I find new ways to prepare every day. Her room was done a month ago, so I moved on to filling her dresser drawers and closet with clean sleepers and every adorable outfit you can imagine. When the clothes were done, I moved on to sterilizing bottles and nipples. And then packing her bag, eagerly anticipating the big day as I bustled along. My thinking the whole time was, it could be any moment. And if I were to judge by yesterday’s sonogram, I’d say she’s overdue. She should be here already. But God’s timing is perfect, and Annabelle will arrive when the time is right.

And so, perhaps Annabelle’s announcement may seem a bit premature. Isn’t it customary for birth announcements to go out after the baby arrives? But this morning, her impending arrival is all I can think about. And so, I’m ready to make the announcement. Annabelle is coming. And I want her message to go out to the world.

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As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:15

I began receiving gifts for Annabelle in January and the theme seemed to be feet. The first two cards portrayed baby feet and baby shoes, while the first two presents were wee little slippers and dainty pink sandals. Feet. And so, we wondered, would she be a missionary? What purpose did God already have for this little girl growing in my womb? And as I sit here today, her birth feels significant. That there’s something God wants to do through her… and so, I go back to feet. Her feet. And my feet.

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Lovely, aren’t they? My ankles have nearly disappeared and my feet are so fat I can barely wiggle my toes. So aesthetically, perhaps not so pretty to gaze upon. But when I think of what they represent, I’d say these are some of the most beautiful feet that trod the earth. At least for today. Because I bring good news. I announce the birth of my baby girl. She’s coming. And so despite my swollen size nines (or tens), I’ll continue to prepare the way… for her. I’ll prepare the way for new life, and this is what makes these feet of mine lovely.

The past few days, I’ve been thinking about another set of feet. They belonged to a man named John. I wondered if his feet became achy and swollen. Or if they were dirty or sandy as he prepared the way. See, upon John’s birth it was asked, “What then will this child become?” The answer… “And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways.” John was chosen to give the people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins. And when the time was right, he prepared the way for Jesus’ arrival. Though he didn’t know the exact date, he knew that the Dawn from on high was coming. He knew that Jesus would shine on those who lived in darkness and in the shadow of death… that the One to come would guide others’ feet into the way of peace. And that made his feet lovely. For John brought good news.

Funny thing, though. John’s message to the people was “Repent!” And honestly, this just doesn’t sit well today. When we hear repent, don’t we feel more like cringing than rejoicing? It doesn’t sound like good news, does it? Almost harsh. And it’s here at this point, I imagine some people may wonder what in the world repentance has to do with a birth announcement… with Annabelle’s announcement. And personally, I have to say everything. Everything. My daughter’s very name points to a message of repentance. And the thing is, I believe the name was given to her by God. Though I selected it because it means joy, I find I’ve been residing in a state of repentance instead. Ever since February, in fact. And so I deem this to be an act of God. Annabelle pointing me in another direction. 

Yes, Annabelle’s coming and her name means joy. But you know what? Through the book of James, God tells me my laughter must change to mourning and my joy to sorrow. And this doesn’t sound like good news. But you see, there’s hope. For in Psalm 30, I read that weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning. Joy is coming for it follows repentance. It comes when you really turn from something you know you need to leave behind. Because if you hold to the thing you’re not supposed to, it kills you. It’s like poison. I know this to be true. And so, I find I’m repenting. As I turn loose of what He said to, I find I am able to turn to Him. And this prepares the way for new life. And not just the new life that resides inside me named Annabelle. For I come to life alongside her. My Joy is birthed as I prepare to birth her. That’s the very reason I picked her name… for I was longing for joy. And so now, Jesus comes to me. His arrival is right on time and He ministers to me…

The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me,
because the Lord has anointed Me
to bring good news to the poor.
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

Jesus must have had lovely feet. For He brought good news to the poor. And He was sent to heal those brokenhearted souls. He came to comfort those who mourn and sorrow. This is a picture of repentance. And so I see it’s not a harsh message, after all. It is good news and it’s quite lovely. And I feel such hope. For I am poised to rise from the ashes. He will replace my mourning and sorrow with oil of joy. Joy. And that’s what her name means. And this is why Annabelle’s birth is so significant. She has great purpose. For her very name, and her birth announcement, proclaims the One to come. Her lovely, little feet that have not yet trod the world already prepares the way for Him. That’s what she’s been doing in my heart… preparing the way. Lovely feet. Good news.

Oh, I have been preparing. For months. I’ve been paving the way for my daughter’s appearance. But in addition, I’ve been turning. My heart has been changing as it aligns to the ways of Jesus. His ways are becoming my ways. And so, Scripture comes to life. In me. For repentance is simply this change of mind. It’s this change of direction. And so in preparing the way for Annabelle, I find I’ve also been preparing the way for Christ. While I’ve been making room for her in my home, I’ve been making space for Him in my heart. And ultimately, His way will guide my feet into the way of peace. The path of joy…

She’s coming. And He is, too. When the time is right.

“I assure you: You will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. When a woman is in labor she has pain because her time has come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world. So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will rob you of your joy. John 16:20-22

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Just Jesus

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Today, I contemplate words. The word of God vs. words of men. God’s way or man’s way. See, there are just too many directions to go in life. So many opinions and traditions and denominations. Choices. And as time marches on, man’s words begin to mingle with God’s word. His word is not so clear amidst the noise pollution, and so, we become confused. Which way’s the right way? Before long, we may find we’re headed in the wrong direction. At least that’s been my experience. Until recently, I think I was going the wrong way… following man’s ways instead of God’s. And so after hearing too many voices for way too long, I longed for simplicity. I decided I wanted out. I rejected the words of man in favor of the Word of God. It’s His voice, His word, I chose to follow. I looked to the Word of God… to Jesus. That’s the way I decided to go. That was about four years ago.

He wore a robe stained with blood, and His name is called the Word of God. Revelation 19:13

Suppose there were only one way like in the book of Acts. For the followers of Christ were referred to in that manner… they belonged to the Way. Jesus even said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” So then, if He is the way as He proclaimed, He’s the only direction to go. For His path leads to God. And so today, as I contemplate the Word of God, I contemplate WWJD (what would Jesus do). I realize I should never let those letters flippantly escape my lips. Not unless I’m really willing to trod His path. And not unless I’m truly willing to imitate His ways. And so I ask myself, am I willing today? Because really… WWJD? The cross, of course, is what first comes to mind. He hung on a tree, for me. And though images of the crucifixion portray Jesus wearing a loin cloth, in actuality, He probably wasn’t. He was likely naked for all to see as He was lifted up. He was vulnerable. Exposed. He wore one thing only that day… it was sin that covered His nakedness. The only piece of clothing draped across His body was a robe of blood. Tinged by a spirit of despair, its color was dark, stitched together by years of past, present and future sins. This is what my Lord wore upon that cross. My sin.

After crucifying Him they divided His clothes by casting lots. Matthew 27:35

And so I again consider WWJD. Am I willing to do what He did? Will I allow myself to be naked before my fellow man? Will I be so vulnerable? So exposed? Will I strip down to my true self baring my soul in view of many while donning only my garment of sin? Can I be so bold? Because this was His way. And if I dare call myself a follower of Christ, isn’t this the direction I take? For He calls out, “Follow me…” And He is the Way. The Truth. The Life. His way is the only way that leads to God. And so, leaving the voices of others behind I hear Him. And I find the answer is yes. I’m willing. There shall be no pretense. This writing is my attempt at transparency. This is how I abandon all other ways, all of man’s ways, in order to follow His way.

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. Genesis 3:21

When Adam and Eve trod this earth, they were naked. And nothing separated them from God until that fateful day of the apple. It was this event led that led to a new thing… playing dress up. For God’s creation sought to cover up their sin. And so, Adam and Eve were the first play the game. Although placed in Eden to dress the earth, they dressed their bodies instead. Adam and Eve made a choice to travel the path of sin, and so entered their vulnerability. They felt exposed and did what was natural… they tried to cover up their deed along with their bodies. Fig leaves were used to hide their nakedness. And ever since then, that’s what the human race has been doing. Playing dress up to cover the truth. Using fig leaves, or masks, to hide our sins. And over the centuries, we’ve become masters in the art of deception. And of pretense. Of imaging. Pretending. And playing dress up.

Me? I learned to play dress up as a young thing. That’s because I wanted everyone to like me. And so I changed myself to fit in with my surroundings. Like a chameleon. I learned the art of deception early on in that I pretended to be whatever I thought someone wanted me to be. I strapped on a mask at five years old, and there it stayed till middle-age. In truth, I never knew the real me till I was forty years old. And that’s because I was always trying to be someone I’m not. But see, there’s a danger in practicing deception, or covering up, or wearing a mask. Eventually, you come to believe the lie. And what amazes me the most is that this carried on while I was in church. Perhaps even more so for church was a new venture for me. It was a new path and there were so many voices. So many opinions. And so, I tried to imitate what I saw. At first uncomfortable, I adapted. I did what came natural in that I strapped on a good-girl church mask and walked forward. Basically, I played dress up. And over time I began to feel good about me and all that church stuff I was doing. As the years progressed, I simply forgot about the old me. The real me who lie beneath the mask. And in my own mind, I came to believe I was exactly like the part I was playing. My mask portrayed a sinless, perfect, godly woman, and eventually, I believed I was just that. Sinless. And perfect. My costume was just too convincing.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

Basically, I believed a lie. I was such a good actress by the time I reached my late thirties, I fell for my own act. And the perfect, sinless, godly woman I portrayed to be had no need of change. I had succumbed to the art of deception. I thought I was just who I projected to be. And thus, I was totally blind. And thus, I was totally covered up, masked up and dressed up. Nothing about me was real. The worst was when I began to condemn others. See, I had adapted to man’s mindset… not God’s. And so, I weighed people by my own set of scales (faulty ones) and by what I could see (totally blind). I would look at someone and judge them in an instant just by appearance. But remember, in my own eyes I was sinless. And perfect. And because I felt so good about me and the things I did, others usually fell short. See, the mask I wore obstructed my view. I could no longer see what was actual because fake became my reality. And because I came to believe I was just like the part I had been playing, there was nothing for me to feel conviction over. I was so righteous (self).

But alas, after too many years of too much pretense, I knew there had to be more. Roughly four years ago, I began to long for something deeper. Something real. Something authentic. Finally, I wanted to really be who I professed to be. A follower of Christ. And after years of traveling my own way, man’s way, I decided there had to be another way. Which happens to be the Way. The Word of God. And so, as I stepped onto His path, I slowly began to tune out the voices of others. Over time, I began to hear Him. The Word of God. And ever so slowly, the way became clear…

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. Job 1:21

What did Jesus do? He was born. A naked babe birthed from his mother’s loins. And when the time came, Jesus began His ministry. He said to repent for the kingdom of God had come near. But also, He said that He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. Simply, He calls out to those who are going in the wrong direction to come and follow Him in the opposite direction. For His way is the right way. But what’s key is only sinners can hear Him when He calls. The self-righteous totally miss Him as He walks by. Because in their eyes, they’re already righteous. They’re already on the right path. Blinded by their own masks and deafened to conviction because in their minds, they’re perfect. And sinless. And up till a couple of years ago, this was me. This was the mask I wore.

But today I see. For light has been shed upon my path and I know the way to go. But before I do so, there is one requirement. Honesty. I must not pretend. To walk His way, the mask has to come off. Because His way is the way of transparency. Of authenticity. There’s no room for playing dress up when you travel the path of Jesus. And so, that’s what I do. I lift off my mask and strip off my play clothes. And what’s left behind is only me. Just Pam. And when the pretend perfect is removed, all that remains draped across my body is a dark robe tinged with the spirit of despair, woven together by years of my sin, stitched by decades of transgression. Unmasked, and naked, this is all I have left… my gown of offense. And I feel vulnerable and exposed. Naturally, I want to cover up. But He says no. Because this is my natural covering. This is what He wants me to see. Because the robe of sin that covers my own body is the very one He wore, and bore, on my behalf. This is what Jesus wore on the cross as He died. In His nakedness, He wore only my iniquity.

Naked Jesus came into this world and naked He left. And He calls me, a sinner, to do the same. He calls me to be naked. Because when I’m so bold, or so vulnerable, as to strip down to my true self in plain view of everyone, people will see me. Only me. Just Pam. And that’s what He wants. Because when all the pretense and the pretend and the masks are thrown out, I’m real. And He’s real. Finally, I am who I proclaim to be. A follower of Christ. And this act alone makes me more like Jesus than anything. My nakedness. Because when all else is stripped away, I allow Him to dress me the way He wants to. He exchanges my despair for splendid clothes as He wraps me in gowns of salvation and robes of righteousness. And the miracle is that over time, I naturally will become more and more like Him. Simply by walking His way – the Way – I’ll transform. Eventually, there won’t be much of the old me left at all. Instead, there will be only Him. And as the years progress, when people look at me, He’ll be who they really see. Not me. Just Jesus.

She was permitted to wear fine linen, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. Revelation 19:8

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