Behold! Annabelle’s lamb!

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“Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” Luke 1:45

A year ago, I was in a completely different place. Spiritually, that is. See, December 2, 2013 was a bad night for it was the night I decorated the tree. And what should have been blissful proved to be stressful instead. However, that fateful night pointed me in a new direction. The right direction. For it was at that point, I decided to seek a true Christmas heart. And so for weeks, I paused at the Christmas story. I pondered it all… Joseph, Mary, the stable, the angels, the shepherds, the Christ child and more. So much more. The end result? I found a true Christmas heart. And then a miracle took place. For the day after Christmas, I discovered I was with child.

Mary had a little lamb…

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And so here I am one year later. And the one thing I decided I would do, I haven’t. See, I  realized the importance of Christmas cards last year. Of the myriad things we do, how wonderful it is to the take the time to send forth His message. And so, at the end of last season, I bought beautiful cards. I fully intended to mail them out to loved ones this year. But here I am at December 19, and only one card has gone forth. And chances of the rest of them being mailed out are slim. For it’s 10:09 and my aunt is coming at 11:00. And then, my son is out of school for the holidays beginning at 12:30 today. So it appears I have run out of time.

And so, rather than pick up my completely cluttered house which is what I’d normally do when I know I have company coming, I choose to do this instead. It’s my Christmas card, and I send it to whosoever chooses to read these words…

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The card says “Behold…” That means to perceive through sight or apprehension. It means to gaze upon… to observe. And in keeping with the way God speaks to me, He gave me a vivid picture of myself and Christ through my baby girl. See, she has this little lamb. And oh, she loves it so. She grabs it. She nuzzles it. She shoves it in her mouth. She turns to it. And most recently, I noticed she struggles with it. I was in another room and heard her grunting and exerting herself. When I looked in and gazed upon her, I observed that lamb had completely covered her face. She couldn’t see. And no matter how much she flailed about, the lamb stayed put. The covering remained.

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Hark the herald angels sing…

Last year, it was a Christmas clock that inspired a lot of my musings… see, I paused so I could observe the words of the carols we sing. And today, it’s Hark the herald angels sing that falls on my ear. And that word hark… it means to pay close attention. To listen. And so, I do today…

See, a week or so back a wise woman spoke words of truth. She said, “A journey in the wrong direction for an extended stay.” And those words settled in my ear. And then they burrowed deep in my heart. And I realize… I’ve done exactly that. A year ago, I sought a Christmas heart. And I found it! Then, there was a promise of new life. And not only within my womb, but within me. Spiritually… new life. And after January, I was ready to move forward. But you know, I ended up going backward instead. I began to struggle with God yet one more time. But why? Why should I struggle?

See, it’s true. Mary had a little lamb and His fleece was white as snow. And just like Annabelle has a lamb, I realize Mary’s Lamb is mine. Annabelle has her lovey, and I have one, too. And through my walk, I grab onto Him. I nuzzle Him. I shove Him in my mouth by feasting on His word. I turn to Him. And most recently, I realized I struggle with Him. But it’s an old struggle. And it’s one I should have released a year ago.

But behold! God gave me a picture. See, Annabelle struggled with her lamb. But the thing is, it didn’t go anywhere. And that’s the same thing for me. No matter how much I struggle, the covering of the Lamb won’t budge. It covers me from head to toe. Annabelle tried to get that lamb off, but she couldn’t. And how comforting that it’s the same with me… My Lovey is going nowhere. Try as I might, the Lamb stays put.

And so, this Christmas, I exclaim… Behold! Annabelle’s lamb! For it’s a picture of our own Lamb. It’s the reason for Christmas. He came as a baby… the Lamb of God… for us. God and sinners reconciled. Born to give us second birth. Hark, for that’s what the angels sing…

And so today, this Christmas, we have a gift. We have that covering. See, the Lamb of God is spotless… fleece as white as snow. And because of Him, we can be, too. Cleansed… as white as snow. And so, I echo Peter’s words this morning… I say, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well! (John 13:9) I say, cover me, Lord! And He does. It’s His gift. To us. And not just as Christmas, but every day thereafter. And the miracle is… it stays put. His covering doesn’t budge. Even if we struggle…

…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,  but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

1 Peter 1:18-19

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The Prodigal Daughter

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10846156_10205084650657371_1107540708525779365_nAnd in those moments when it seems I have nothing, there’s always a light to lead me home. Lauren Eline, Facebook

I know what He wants for Christmas. I’ve discovered the perfect gift for the One who already gave perfection. And it’s so simple. It was something on Facebook that clued me in. See, He leaves breadcrumbs for His children all the time. Little drops of light to lead us to where He desires us to go. And that’s how I know what He wants for I followed His breadcrumbs. I’ve been leaping from one ray of light to the next and so now, I see. They’ve been leading me home. To my Father’s house. And that’s it. All He wants for Christmas is me, and all His children, to come home. That’s what He’s been trying to tell me. And isn’t this what every parent desires? To have their kids home for the holidays?

Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. James 1:17

I am slow. So slow. Because it appears God has to show me something again and again before I get it (and again). Because we just went through something a year ago. It’s this fear thing. But His word is clear… perfect love casts out fear because fear involves punishment. And so, if I believe God loves me as His word says, should I fear? Should I expect punishment from God? And yet, I find myself going back there again and again. Just waiting for God to drop the ax. Like an errant child, I await my punishment. Most recently, the birth of my new baby set me down this path. It goes back to guilt I hold. I feel guilty for being discontent. And because I don’t think I fully appreciate what God has given, I agonize. Namely, over my children. Because if I can’t appreciate them as much as I should, then perhaps God will decide to just take them away. This irrational thought came to me a few years back…

For to the one who has, it will be given, and from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. Mark 4:25 

For a long time I thought that verse referred to things we have. Possessions. Like my kids. All that God has given. And it caused me to fear the worst. And isn’t that a crazy thought? Why should I think God wants to take away what He’s given. Why would the One who gave everything desire to take away? But thankfully, I finally realized what the writer is talking about for the passage of Scripture refers to using your light. And my life gives evidence as to how one can lose her light. See, I’m a worrier. And the more I worry, the dimmer the light becomes. And the more anxious I am, the more that light ebbs away. And when I fear, the light is nearly extinguished. Before I know it, I live in the shadow lands. I dwell in darkness because I can barely see the light. But then, I find a breadcrumb. There’s a beam of light and it beckons. Like the one I saw on Facebook last night.

The people who live in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those living in the shadowland of death,
light has dawned. Matthew 4:16

This morning I realized I am just like the prodigal son I read about in Luke 15. He asked his father for his share of the estate and his father gave it. Me? I ask my Father for His love and He gives it. And like the son who went off and spent all his father gave him, I do the same. God assures me He loves me (again and again), but I squander away His precious words. For some reason, I remain insecure despite His very clear words to me. Oh, so clear. In fact, in early November God couldn’t have spoken more directly. He was personal and intimate. And He used someone who barely knows me to convey His message. It was quite remarkable. But rather than rest in those words, I remain the prodigal daughter. I still roam blindly in the dark.

But thankfully, I have the prodigal son to look to. Oh, how surprised he must have been for He lost everything. He had nothing and dwelled with the pigs he fed. He was starving.  But finally, he came to his senses. Finally. He thought he’d return to his father and confess. He decided he’d ask to be made a hired hand… he would work for his father in order to live. But when he came to his home country, his father saw him from afar and came running. Running with open arms to greet his lost son. Dad fell upon his neck and kissed him again and again. All his son could get out was, “I’m not worthy to be called your son.” He didn’t even get out the part about working before a robe and a ring and sandals were placed upon him. He was warmly welcomed into his father’s house with a great feast… music and dancing. His father was just so happy. For his lost son had been found. His son who was dead was now alive.

And then there’s me. The prodigal daughter. I’ve been living in the shadow land of death. That’s what fear will do to you. But God, my Father, my Daddy… He told me most clearly and tenderly in November that He loves me. He said He loves my children so much more than I ever could. And He chose me to raise them. He said to not fear His will. He said I’ve been distracted by the noise around me – noise from fears compounded onto fears – worries of a 1,000 what if’s. He said I should learn to quiet myself and focus on His voice… the voice of my Daddy. The God of all creation said that’s what He is to me… a Daddy. He said when I love my children, I am most like Him. When Annabelle and Levi cry for me, in pain or in joy, I should multiply that feeling by 1,000 and I’ll begin to see how He feels for me. This is what my Daddy said. Clearly. So then, why should I fear? Because the way I felt yesterday when I kissed my daughter a thousand times is exactly what He feels for me. When I exclaimed over her little smiling face, I love you, I love you, I love you, I am most like Him. So why do I squander away His precious words of assurance? And so today, I choose not to. It’s as if I have finally come to my senses. Finally. Because Daddy told me He loves me. And today, He tells me to come home for Christmas.

 Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

He leaves breadcrumbs. Drops of light. On that first Christmas long ago, He sent His Son as a light to the world. And He’s the One who knows the way to our Father’s house. We can follow Him. And we don’t have to fear if we lose sight of our big Brother. For those times we lag behind, we have another light to follow. Because God also gave us His Spirit. Just as it hovered over the watery depths at the beginning of creation, it hovers over our fickle hearts. For those times we wander… when worry draws us down a darkened path or when anxiety leads us astray or when fear blinds our eyes… there is a flame. It’s a candle that never goes out and it sits in the window of our darkened soul. It beckons us home. And as we draw near and peer inside, we see the house is fully lit. Warm light draws us to open the door and when we do, Daddy throws His arms open wide. He pulls us close and kisses our face a thousand times. He says, I love you, I love you, I love you! He’s so happy because the daughter who was lost is now found. The daughter who was dead, who trod the valley of the shadow of death, is now alive. She finally made it. And when she does, He says welcome home…. that He’d been waiting for her.

This is what God, our Father of lights, wants for Christmas. And His call is not just for me. Because He wants all his sons and daughters of light to come home. He’s placed a candle in the windows of our soul. It’s there to light our way. We just need to look for it…

Jesus answered, “The light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light.”  John 12:35-36

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Unto her…

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For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given… Isaiah 9:6

“You have to decide… do you think God is a giver or a taker?” That was a question posed to thousands of women on September 15, 2012. And on that day, if I were to have answered honestly, I would have said taker. Despite all I had ever read about God, and all I had experienced of God, in the darkest recesses of my heart I believed the worst. I believed He was a taker. I just didn’t realize that’s what I believed. And in truth, it’s what I continue to process even now. Two and a half years later. That deep down irrational thought that God, the creator of all life, could be a taker of life. And that thought brings me directly to the heart of Christmas today. I’m brought to the inner chambers of God’s heart by the above verse I’ve heard at least a hundred times before. It’s the verse that adorns Christmas cards every year. But today, it’s new to me. Because I read it as if it’s written directly to me. For unto me, a child is born. Unto me, a son is given. By God. The ultimate Christmas gift. And today I see truth… I see He’s a giver after all.

It’s December 4th and Christmas is a mere three weeks away. And for the first time I feel utterly unprepared. And furthermore, I feel uninspired. In fact, I feel downright cynical. I even told my husband this week… my heart is as black as night. See, over packed stores turn my stomach and I find holiday ads to be revolting. Especially the one that shows a gadget you can attach to your sink called a sponge bath. A $40.00 contraption adorns shelves nationwide for the one who has everything under the sun. This would be the ultimate gift, no? A device one can use to bathe their kitchen sponge. Translation… we have so much and everyone else has so much, new devices must be thought up. New gift ideas created yearly so that the uninspired shopper may be so inspired. Yes… this is what I can give. Surely my mother doesn’t have one of these! To me, this is a gift that says I have no earthly clue what to give you so I just picked up this thing. And in truth, I’d rather give nothing at all. Like I said, I feel cynical. Nasty. And surely, I’ve insulted someone by this. To the one who likes the idea of a sponge bath (for it does kill bacteria), I really am sorry. I am. Me? I’m just feeling ugly.

And why should that be? It’s Christmas time. Why do I have the blues? And why do they call them the blues anyway? Because if you were to gauge by my feelings, I’d say they should be called the blacks. For that’s how I feel. As I said… my heart is black as night. And so, I evaluate. And you know what I come up with? Guilt. I am consumed with guilt because I have no earthly right to feel the way I do. Anyone will tell me I have it made. For I have so much. I am truly blessed. In fact, I’m hesitant to write this. Because I’ve been taken down a notch or two at least once before. In addressing my darkness (I am a moody girl, it’s true), I have been exhorted by others. Or reprimanded. Oh, I’ve been chastened by the well-meaning soul. Basically, open your eyes. See what you have. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. And that’s why the guilt. Oh, that God would help me to see truth. Oh that God help me to overcome the darkness. Because I know… I know I have so very much.

And so today, I write. See, despite today’s dark demeanor, I have to say this year has been one of the most wonderful yet. Just about a year ago, I found out I was pregnant. Unto me, a child was given. She lived inside me for forty weeks. Finally, she made her way into my arms.

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And God help me, despite this sweet, precious gift… I still get the blues. Or the blacks. And I know why. Oh that I could just move forward. See, it happened when I had my son eight years ago. I became homebound. Isolated. Lonely. And depression descended like a shroud. And I find myself here again. This time, I have a daughter. And so, I find myself homebound once more. Isolated. Lonely. And at those times, I’m most vulnerable. When I have too much alone time, it’s not healthy.

And so in evaluation of my black heart, I ask… “Why write?” It’s Christmas. Why write about darkness at all? And I do so because I know the truth. If I were to pose the question I heard over two years ago, Do you think God is a giver or a taker, there would be someone else. I am not the only one. So I write for her… an isolated and lonely soul. My words are for the one who deep down believes God is a taker. She’s out there and she may not even realize she thinks that way. She’s bitter and resentful and fearful. Oh, amidst the hustle and bustle of this season, may she pause and ponder. If she did, perhaps she’d realize what lie in the deep, dark chambers of her heart. Oh that she’d take just a moment to analyze her guilt. Maybe she’d find truth. Maybe she’d come to understand guilt is not from God at all.

And so my hope this year, at Christmas time, is for the woman who needs to know. May she figure it out… that fear and guilt is rooted in a lie. May she comprehend darkness does not have to be her truth for God gives light. And He gives life. He gave the ultimate Christmas gift over two thousand years ago when He gave His one and only Son. May the woman who walks in darkness realize that most amazing truth… for unto her, a child is born. Unto her, a Son is given. Unto her! God gave it all. May she grasp the gift that was given on her behalf and finally, finally, get it. No, God is not a taker. He is a giver. And because He gives, she can, too. May that woman get it. And because I write for myself, may I get it, too. Finally.

Yes, I’m hesitant to write because I feel guilty. I know in my heart of hearts I shouldn’t feel dark. Not now. Not ever. For God has given so much. And my cynicism of the season in no way reflects the truth of the season. A sponge bath cannot convey in the least what lie at the heart of Christmas… or what lie at the center of God’s heart. In truth, there’s nothing I can buy off a shelf that compares to God’s gift. Because Christmas is all about His gift. No present measures up to that. For unto us, a Son was given… and when the light of that truth sinks into a cold, dark heart, life is given. So instead of all the other pretty packages, maybe this year we can unwrap His gift. It’s the One wrapped in light.

This Christmas, may we overcome the darkness that sometimes pervades the season. May we push those blues (or blacks) right out the door. Oh, that we would overlook all the trappings and recover the heart of Christmas. May we all really get it. For God is a giver. He gives and gives… may that inspire us more than anything this Christmas. And may that be the reason we give.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2

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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

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=rocky+raccoon+the+beatles&qpvt=rocky+raccoon+the+beatles&FORM=VDRE#view=detail&mid=85F8870F11BB5489C83185F8870F11BB5489C831

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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