Best Friends

IMG_5780

I bought this frame from a thrift store months ago. It just sits in the top of my closet because I couldn’t think of who I’d want to put in there. My face alongside another, smiling so bright. Who is my friend… the one who knows me completely? Inside and out. The one who knew me then and knows me now and still wants to be by my side.

Before I moved back home six years ago, there was no question. There were two women I considered my best friends. The only issue would have been which one? Because they were both so close to me. Closer than any sister could be. And we’d spend hours (HOURS) on the phone. No particular reason. Just chatting because that’s what best friends do. Just to hear each other’s voices. To feel close.

But that doesn’t happen anymore. For some reason, the two I considered to be my “best” are no more. Phone calls few and far in between. Oh, they’re still in my life but something’s shifted. Busyness, perhaps? Or life just leading us along different paths.

Whatever the reason, it makes me sad. And sometimes a bit lonely.

And the frame? It just sits. Because I don’t know “the friend” I should put in there with me…

A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

I was never one to have lots of friends. I always had one or two that were special, though, Jennifer being my first. And what a joy it is to see her face at my son’s school… the very school I attended. Yep, when I registered him for kindergarten, there she was bouncing down the hallway as if she’d never left. She happens to work there and even though we’re not close anymore, shared memories warm my heart.

Fourth grade brought me Hannah. Amy and Cindy in the ninth. And later, it was Sarah. We were so close, spending all our free time together. She was just like a sister.

Next came Shannon and we joined the Air Force together. A miracle that we attended the same tech school. And when I felt lonely at my first assignment, I’d just pick up the phone and call. My phone bills astronomical because we talked several times a week. For hours (HOURS). And when we ran out of things to say, we just sang to each other. Even if it was the theme song to an old TV show like “Alice.”

“I used to be sad. (da-da). I used to be shy. (da-da). Funniest thing, the saddest part is I never knew why…”

The Air Force brought me new friends. Carmen and Cheyenne. Nicole and Stacy. And then, before I knew it, I was married. Alas, old friends were left behind as life moved me in other directions.

And here I am now. Uncertain as to who my “best friend” is. And then I am overcome with guilt for even having such a thought. Because there’s so much happening in the world that trumps loneliness, right?

“If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be complete. This is My command: love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. This is what I command you: love one another.” John 15:10-14, 17

Oh, it’s true I no longer pick up the phone and talk for hours with someone I consider my best friend. But you know, that’s allowed something wonderful to transpire over the past six years.

See, I no longer spend countless hours in chit-chat with a gal-pal. Instead, I’ve been moved to pick up my Bible and spend countless hours with Him. Yes, feeling lonely drove me to seek a new Friend. And He is the One who is truly closer than a brother (or sister).

Along the way, I’ve developed such a friendship with God that I cannot go long without seeking His voice. I just can’t. When I don’t hear from Him, I begin to wither inside…

And so, I consider those occasional bouts of loneliness blessings, really. Because if I continued to spend hours calling my best friends as I did when I was younger, would I have ever called on Him? Would I have made time for both? I really can’t say.

 

But what I can say is I know Him. Personally. And He calls me His friend.

Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Today I had one of those God moments. I felt compelled to look up 1 Peter 4 because I was tracking something, however, the above verse stood out instead. Lo and behold, not an hour later I saw the same verse on my calendar for March 22.

God spoke right there in “love one another.” He means our friends. Our companions. But also, our fellow man. Other people. For Jesus said we are to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. The greatest commands.

Unconditional love. And that’s so hard to do.

But you know, a particular friend comes to mind when I read about this kind of love. We met when I was five and she’s one of my oldest and dearest friends. Last week happened to be her birthday and I missed it.

But it came to me this morning… honor our friendship. Honor my friend for her birthday.

15078775_1336093879770281_3529081896686025785_n - Copy

See, Carolyn is truly one of the sweetest women I know. She shows interest in everyone she meets and doesn’t know a stranger. She can talk to anyone. ANYONE. But also, she listens. She genuinely cares about people and how they feel and this is a gift.

She used that gift on me when I was in kindergarten. I was crushed and she could sense it. She sat by my side and petted my shoulder. When she looked up at the teacher, she said, “Isn’t she precious?” And I was comforted. She loved me when I felt unlovable.

Later in life, when I was in my early twenties, she said something that struck me. She probably doesn’t even remember. We’d been talking about a mutual friend and I disagreed with his lifestyle. So I spoke meanly. I judged and criticized. I then said, “He was so nice.” Carolyn’s response. “He’s still nice.” That hushed me right up.

The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive. Proverbs 27:6

We never discussed it, but my friend’s comment chastened me. I felt embarrassed because her words pointed to my very conditional ways. I was being harsh and unkind and who am I to judge my neighbor (James 4:12)?

Carolyn? She just loved our mutual friend. And it’s an example I’ll always remember.

And so, I want my friend (and others) to know this about her. That she’s not only beautiful but she’s also kind. She does not judge, she loves. And she’s who came to mind this morning when I contemplated love.

I thought about how she loves me.

IMG_5534

Oil and incense bring joy to the heart. And the sweetness of a friend is better than self-counsel. Proverbs 17:17

My friend, Carolyn, brought me these flowers for my birthday. I was so pleased. She showered me with her love.

Yep, she is a true friend. She knew me then and she knows me now and she still wants to be by my side. Oh, I could definitely slide a photo of me and her in that frame I bought months back.

But you know, I have others, too. Perhaps not one I’d cast in the role of “Best Friend” like I did when I was younger but my life has changed. Busyness and responsibility does not allow me to spend countless hours on the phone as I once did. There just isn’t time.

Nevertheless, I still have friends. There’s women in my life. Ones I knew then and ones I met later on. And I feel grateful for every single one of them.

Which brings me back to that frame. Perhaps it’s not meant to be filled. Perhaps that blank spot serves to remind me of not just one special friend, but all the women I know. That at any given moment, I could place several faces in there alongside mine.

Yes, perhaps I’m not meant to have only one or two “Best Friends” like when I was young. Instead, maybe I’m supposed to love every woman who crosses my path with fervency. And unconditionally. Like I love myself.

And like He loves me…

A friend loves at all times… Proverbs 17:17

In closing, I just have to say Jesus is my Best Friend. Yes, He is the truest of all. Because He laid down His life for me. And greater love have no man, or woman, than that.

And really, He’s the only One who knows me completely. Inside and out. Better than I even know myself. He knew me then, before I first drew breath, and He knows me now, warts and all. Moreover, He knows who I’ll one day be. And yet, He still wants to be by my side. Always.

And with a Friend like that, loneliness is nothing more than a mere memory. It no longer exists. And so, that theme song from “Alice” I used to sing to Shan? Well, it becomes my own anthem. I lift my voice and sing to Him…

“I used to be sad. (da-da). I used to be shy. (da-da). Funniest thing, the saddest part is I never knew why…”

Gifted and Talented

IMG_5585 - Copy

You hear it a lot. Shine your light. Why? So men may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. This is what we hear in church and it’s what we read in the gospels (Matthew 5:13 – 16).

Because for true, we are to be salt. And light.

I dare say, though, it’s pretty easy to get off track. All to often, we may get caught up in busyness and extra curricular works. Even good works. Maybe especially good works. Because Scripture talks about that, too.

As the book of James warns, faith without works is dead, right? So we better darn well get busy doing a work. Any work will do. And the more visible the better. Because we have to shine the light of Jesus in a dark world. How? In the form of good deeds. Something that can be measured and valued and seen by all…

At least that’s where I went off the rails just over a year ago. My heart deceived me and I was led astray by busyness. I thought I wasn’t doing enough. That I had to be more showy in working for the Lord. So I did the wrong thing. I let go of the very thing God created me to do by taking hold of what I thought I should do.

It was a yoke I grabbed hold of. And I slipped it right over my neck and kept it there. It nearly strangled me. Yes, the yoke of empty works nearly snuffed the light right out of me…

But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights. James 1:14-17

Sometimes God speaks in unexpected ways and through random sources. Yesterday, His message came through someone I just met. This guy came to our home to see my husband and on his way out, wisdom fell from his lips. He said, “Leave the door open. Let the sun shine in.” And it was just like the light switched on in my soul.

I had to ask my husband if he said what I thought he did. And so I told Jason… the darkness had come back. I’d been as black as night and his words seemed big. My husband’s response?

“Shine on.”

And so God reveals truth to me through a chance encounter with someone my husband had to see. Confirmed by my beloved. Yes. Open the door. Let there be light. And most importantly, shine.

But not through empty works or passionless deeds I think I should do. Instead, may I shine in the way my Father created me to shine. Because this is the best way I can bring Him glory… simply doing what He made me to do.

Using Your Light

He also said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket or under a bed? Isn’t it to be put on a lampstand? For nothing is concealed except to be revealed, and nothing hidden except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, he should listen!” Then He said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear. By the measure you use, it will be measured and added to you. 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 421-25

I stopped blogging over a year ago. Why? Because I thought it was keeping me from doing more important things. Like ministry or mission work. And so I set out to do something grand. I tried one thing and it failed miserably. I limped away feeling injured and ashamed.

Then, I set out to do the next thing. Oh my gosh was I busy. And I just couldn’t understand why I had to do it all alone. No one really came alongside me to aide my cause. And there lies the truth… it was “my” cause. Not God’s. A work to bring me glory, not Him.

The fact is I simply accomplished an empty work hoping to prove myself. Look at me, everyone! I’m busy. I’m doing something for the kingdom. A miserable attempt at shining God’s light because it was really just a veiled attempt to shine my own.

The worst part? I put something God gave me to the side. He gifted me with a specific passion and I neglected it for well over a year. In a sense, I dug a hole and hid my talent. I hid me. And by doing so, I ended up hiding Him. Hiding God’s light by hiding my own.

How crazy is that?

And so the above passage from Mark resonates. Because it’s a warning, really. God’s telling me to use what He gave me. He’s telling me to unearth what I’d buried. And the scariest part? If I don’t start using what He dispensed, He’ll take it from me.

“Gifted and Talented”

When I was a little girl, I was part of the “Gifted and Talented” program at school. And quite rightly, they no longer call it that because we’re all gifted and talented in our own way. We all have the capacity to shine if we’re operating with the tools He provided us.

Me? I was selected because I liked to draw. That’s why I got to participate in the program and I liked it. Because it made me feel special. It brought me some attention. And dare I say a little bit of glory?

Anyway, God stitched an artistic bone into my being as He knit me together in my mama’s womb. Later in life, He awakened another passion. He gave me the desire to write and I did so with wild abandon.

In the Fall of 2011, I began to write and it consumed me for years. The problem was I got carried away by this new “gift” and a war began in my heart. Yes, my flesh began to crave the little bit of glory writing brought my way.

Just like that little girl I was when I participated in “gifted and talented.”

That’s when I decided I should put it away. I decided I couldn’t handle the compliments so I dug a hole and buried God’s gifts. I thought it better to pursue other other methods of light shining like busyness. Ministry, I called it. Because writing and painting just didn’t seem to be enough.

Fortunately, a lesson from Matthew 25:14-30 teaches me otherwise. Furthermore, it underscores the stern lesson of using your light (or losing it).

See, there were three servants and their master gave to each “talents.” It was money… the equivalent of 200 pounds of silver or 100 pounds of gold. One was given five talents, another given two, and the last received one talent – each given according to their ability.

The first two servants did well. The one who received five gained five more and the one who received two gained two. But the slave who received only one talent dug a hole and buried it. In his defense, he told his master he was afraid so he hid it. He said, “Look you have what is yours.”

His master’s words are terrifying. “You evil, lazy slave…” He took the talent away and gave it to the one who had ten. And his words reiterate the very ones from Mark 4 I find so scary…

“For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw this good for nothing slave into the outer darkness.”

And that’s where the servant ended up. Darkness. Which brings to mind what I said earlier. “The darkness came back.” My revelation being that this is where I’ll end up when I don’t use my talent, which really belongs to God anyway.

Yes, I believe my not doing what God made me to do brought on the darkness. Because when I’m not doing what I love, I feel lifeless. Purposeless. And so the hole I dug to hide me and my talent turns into a grave…

IMG_5585

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

I painted the above picture recently. It’s my dad and me. And I like that Daddy’s giving me his love. I also like that Daddy resembles Jesus here. Jesus with a headband.

Anyway, my dad gave me what he had to give. Like a hug every. And Jesus? Well, He gave what He had to give, too. Like light. And He still gives it.

As for the darkness that recently came my way, well, I don’t think I was following Him. And the promise of light is for those who follow Him. I just got side-tracked. And the further I went in my own direction, the darker it got.

But some random man woke me up yesterday. He said to leave the door open and let the sun shine in. And from here on out, I pray that I do.

I pray to uncover what was hidden. Like the words He places within… messages that burn so bright. I pray to put my “gifts and talents” on a lampstand because that’s the best way to shine His light. The purest way to bring Him glory.

And God help me if I don’t because I believe what He says. He warns that if I keep what He gives me hidden, He’ll give them to someone else. Someone who’ll use them and multiply them.

So I pray…

Yes, God, please give me the courage to shine your light in a dark place. Equip me to use what you gave. Because You made a promise… You said more will come my way.

More gifts and more talents and more light…

All for Your glory. 

Yes, this is how I can shine my light.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD shines over you. Isaiah 60:1

If the shoe fits…

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Jason says I strut. I said, “Nuh-uh!” I emphatically denied it because there is just no way I strut around. Only confident people do that. Bold ones. People who feel good in their own skin. And usually, I don’t.

Feel good in my own skin, that is. Oh, for more reasons than I want to get into right now. The point is, this woman doesn’t strut.

Impossible.

However, after contemplating the strutting issue further… I just have to wonder. Can it be possible?

Do I strut?

91011

New shoes brought up the topic. My son’s Christmas money was burning a hole in his pocket and he’s been waiting to buy new basketball shoes for weeks. So Saturday was the big day. Sprawled out on the couch, he wore them till past 10:30 pm.

He assured me he was comfortable, though.

And Monday, his new shoes heavily influenced his choice of pants. Athletic, of course, with pockets. The pockets made it easier for him to insert hands and hitch up his pants legs so he could admire the shoes as he walked.

My husband and I smiled at each other as we watched him. I made a remark about Levi’s strutting around and Jason thought it would be a good confidence builder. His reasoning: if Levi feels good in what he’s wearing, he’ll be more confident.

That’s when he said it. “You strut.”

As I previously stated, I said, “Nuh-uh!”

Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come. Proverbs 31:25

Annabelle got a new pair of shoes on Monday. Jason brought them home and she glowed. She wore them practically all day yesterday, running back and forth, giggling and preening. Definitely toddler strutting if I ever saw any.

It was plain to see. Annabelle felt so good in her shoes. Just like Levi.

And just like me.

Because unbeknownst to me, I’m the very same. Without realizing it, I strut around like my children. Wrapped in something that makes me feel better about myself, I must walk differently.

Alas, my husband was right. As usual.

I do strut.

14 - Copy

It was my growing years that caused me to agree with my husband (even though I didn’t want to). Because I’ll tell you what I know about clothes. And shoes. They for sure have power to make you feel good. Or bad.

I know because it’s the road I walked. When I was a young girl, I didn’t have what other kids had. Now don’t get me wrong, I was never in need.

Ever.

There was always a roof over my head and food in my belly. And there was always clothing on my back. Just, it was usually second-hand (before second-hand was cool). And I can recall my clothing from kindergarten on with such clarity. So many of my tales begin with, “I was wearing” or “You were wearing…”

My girlfriend thinks it’s a photographic memory but I know the truth.  I remember so well because pain was involved. Or shame. I was embarrassed of my circumstances or my appearance and it totally colored my world.

And my memories.

The flawed white blouse that had to be fastened with a safety pin. The corduroy dress with big red buttons up and down the back. The green jumper with hideous mustard tights. The red, white and blue ensemble that would make a “monkey out of me,” so I was told.

And fifth grade brought me powder blue tennis shoes with three stripes (peach, pink and white). Mom was so happy to give them so I hid my frown. I knew they weren’t right. Not compared to what my friends had.

And so I was weighed and measured by my own standards (or the world’s). And I was found wanting.

I wanted what I did not have.

I wanted what wasn’t mine…

Always.

I got a kick out of Annabelle yesterday. Despite being tickled with her new shoes, she wanted what wasn’t hers. She wanted Levi’s. And she did her best to walk around in his shoes. Alas, his shoes were just too big for her to fill.

When Annabelle tried to walk in her older brother’s shoes, she’d easily get tripped up.

And today, I realize the same thing goes for me. It’s dawned on me that I’ve been trying to slip my feet into other people’s shoes for some time now. I wanted to fill their roles and trod their path. But finally, I understand.

Their way is not my way.

And really, their shoes are not my size. Perhaps too big for me to fill right now. And more importantly, God has a pair of shoes just for me.

Custom made and a perfect fit.

6

Here comes that dreamer! Genesis 37:19

I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing lately. Along with the New Year, I’ve been going through some recent journals. Out with the old, in with the new kind of stuff. What goes and what remains…

Just after the New Year, that’s the question I asked myself. “What remains?” Know what I found out? Through scouring thousands of words, I discovered my dreams remain. Because that’s what I wrote a year and a half ago.

My dreams remain.

My dreams were undone then and they’re undone now. Unfulfilled. And so, they’re still with me. My new thought? These remaining dreams are custom made for me. They’re the way I should walk. For there are shoes out there only I can fill.

Because He made them just for me.

A perfect fit.

For dreams result from much work and a fool’s voice from many words. Ecclesiastes 5:3

It’s the road you’ve already walked. That’s God’s dream for His children. Whatever brought the most pain will be how God uses you from this moment forward. I believe to my soul He’ll use your biggest struggle in ministry to Him.

And though my struggle was a trivial one, I had to overcome it nonetheless. The memories are just too vivid.

Yes, it has to do with clothes. And shoes. Totally superficial but supremely powerful. Because these material items can cause not only a toddler and a nine year old to strut, but also a full grown, forty-two year old woman.

That’s what clothing can do.

Oh, slipping into my friend’s acid washed Guess jeans at 15 was a heady feeling. Someone even commented, “What’s up with her today, she’s full of herself!” And I was. They hadn’t a clue it was wearing another person’s clothes that made me feel so luxurious. Couldn’t comprehend that a name brand was cause for my strutting.

Other times, though, I wanted to shrink away because of my apparel. At 22, I was ashamed when I slipped on my thin denim jacket after a party. The host was so concerned. “You can’t walk home in that! You’ll freeze! Here, wear my coat…” No, no, I told her. I assured her I’d be fine.

And I was. Only embarrassed that I didn’t own a proper coat.

Which brings me to today. And my utter surprise at the flood of tears that came out of nowhere. Darn near sobbing while driving down the highway. Brought on by the cold…

Or memories.

Or maybe it was a dream undone.

Joseph remembered his dreams. Genesis 42:9 

It’s been so cold here lately but my child is fortunate. Not only does he have new shoes, he also has a nice warm coat to keep him snug. So he’s just fine. But what about other children?

In facing these frigid temperatures, I wondered about them today. Little ones who may not be as fortunate as my own. Perhaps there’s a little girl out there who shrugs on a thin, denim jacket because that’s all she has. And when someone exclaims over it, she assures them, “No, no! I’ll be fine!”

But it’s her pride that causes her to say she’s fine.

And in contemplating her pride, and mine, I was overcome by emotion. Tears assailed me for the kids who don’t have what my son has. Children who have less than him.

I cried because they’re cold.

But also, I cried for their shame. Because that’s what I’m familiar with. The shame.

But today, something changed inside me. I burn. A long forgotten passion was reignited by the embers of childhood memories.

And I remembered my dreams. The ones He gave me…

Dreams no more than a few years old have been relegated to paper. They’ve become nothing more than empty words in a composition book, copied from one journal to the next.

Waiting for me to act on them.

To walk in them.

A person who promises a gift but doesn’t give it is like clouds and wind that bring no rain. Proverbs 25:14

My husband is a speaker of truth and usually, I get mad at him for it. That’s because he’ll tell me the truth even if it’s something I don’t want to hear.

Like saying I strut, of all things.

But recently, he said something else that hit a raw nerve. He called me on my words. Or rather, the empty ones. My endless words that say one thing but are proved otherwise by my actions. It was just an observation on his part. He noticed I did something I said I wasn’t going to do anymore.

And I was grieved to my soul over this. Not because he said it but because it’s true.

The thing is, I’ve always been a big talker. Going all the way back. I was going to move to Florida and attend college there. My time in the Air Force was going to be cultural and full of excitement. I was going to sell greeting cards and open a coffee shop. I was going to visit Guam or Japan or Thailand when I lived in Korea. And after the military, I was going on a grand European trip. I was going to use the GI Bill for a degree… nursing or teaching or physical therapy (WHAT?).

Oh, I was going to do a lot of things. But not one of them happened.  And sadly, the pattern continues. This time, though, it’s not my stuff that’s not getting done. It’s His stuff.

The God given dreams and visions placed in my heart long ago were placed on the back burner.

They’ve been simmering on low all this time.

Waiting for me to turn the heat up.

She opens her hand to the poor
    and reaches out her hands to the needy.
 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
    for all her household are clothed in scarlet. Proverbs 31:20-21

God speaks when you listen. Sometimes, it’s through a string of words from your loved one at just the right time. Like with Jason.

He reminded me of my empty words which brought to mind unrealized dreams. He next told me I strut. It’s clothing that does it. Or shoes. And gosh it’s cold outside. Which brought forth an unbidden memory of a denim jacket from long ago. Because it was cold then. As it is now.

And there are those who have needs. Real needs.

And so words and recollections were strung together, creating pearls of wisdom. Understanding. And purpose. And that’s what God awakens me to today. My purpose. In Him.

He nudges me… Wake up, sleeper! Rise and shine for the day has come!

And I see truth. It’s not too late. For it’s a new dawn and a new day and my dreams await. They’ve never gone away. My dreams, or His, remain within me. Custom made for me. A perfect fit.

So I slip them on and they feel right. My dreams are just my size. Like a comfortable pair of shoes. And you know what they say… if the shoe fits, wear it.

But more importantly, I say you walk in it.

You walk forward in the shoes God designs for you.

13 - Copy

In closing, I write this as a challenge to myself. Because my husband was right. I often say one thing and do another. And the blog is huge part of that.

One year ago, I was positive I needed to back off and I did. However, I jumped back in too soon. A few months later, I again felt I should stop. But I didn’t. And haven’t. And so, in contemplating the out with the old and in with the new kind of stuff, I ask again…

What remains?

No doubt, my dreams remain for they’re part of me. It’s the direction in which God points me. But the blog? I think uh-uh. No, that door is closing. Because it’s served its purpose. The truth about God and me has been uncovered.

And through it, I remembered my dreams.

That’s the way I go now. For another door awaits.

Thus, it’s with great anticipation I slip on my shoes. And I boldly walk into my future. The one God has waiting for me.

I better be careful, though. Donning this new pair of shoes feels pretty good. And if I don’t watch myself, I may end up strutting.

Just like my son.

And my daughter.

Just like Jason says I do…

Once more, my husband is right.

The one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked. 1 John 2:6

The Strongest Woman I’ve Known (a tribute to Cissy)

FullSizeRender

This past week didn’t go as planned. We were supposed to visit Cissy today. Jason’s step-mom. We had Christmas presents for her. There was a fluffy robe, flannel pj’s, and a calendar chock full of our kids’ photos as well as a few of her…

At least that’s what we planned to do. Instead, we received a call Tuesday afternoon. Jason’s sister said Cissy was not expected to last the day. So we threw our things in a bag and left town as fast as we could.

We hoped we’d get there in time. We wanted to say good-bye. That didn’t happen, though, for she left this earth much too soon.

And so our week was not what we thought it would be. And instead of dropping off gifts, we ended up bringing home more than we took. Items tucked into a box…

FullSizeRender13

This is what we have left of her now. Memories of our time with Cissy. And it’s what I’ve pilfered through this evening. As the photos sifted through my finger tips, scene after scene played out in my mind…

FullSizeRender4

I thought about Cissy most of our drive home today, too. Between bathroom stops and calming my toddler, I did. And along with tears, there were smiles. When I thought of all those cozy things that brought her image to mind, the ends of my mouth curved upward…

Tissues and magazines and newspapers and reading glasses. Smile. And pajamas and slippers and lotion. There’s warmth. This is how I remember her best. Cissy sitting in her comfy chair with a kitty nearby.

And I grin when I think of our first meeting. See, she wasn’t home when Jason introduced me to his dad and I was downright terrified. That’s because Dwight wasn’t a man of many words. At least not at first, he wasn’t. And at our introduction, I didn’t have any of my own.

No, flanked by two non-speaking men, I sat trembling in my brown corduroy jumper staring blankly at the TV screen. I searched the far recesses of my brain for something interesting to say but found nothing to offer. I don’t think I could have been more uncomfortable.

But then, Cissy.

Thank the Lord she came home. Totally outgoing and filled to the brim with questions, she had an abundance of words. A friend to everyone, I don’t think she knew a stranger. And God bless her, she even sat sideways on our way to dinner so there wouldn’t be a pause in the conversation.

Yep, Cissy kept the banter going and she made everything alright from that moment on. And in light of Cissy, Dwight wasn’t so scary to me anymore. And over time, my love for him pushed that unfounded fear right out the door anyway.

FullSizeRender12

Yeah, those are all good memories. So much to smile about. But there are other things, too. Sadness and tragedy. Utter heartbreak. For Cissy had it rough. Unbearable, really.

And when I found the following note the day after Cissy’s passing, written in her own hand, I decided I’d print and frame her words to keep as a reminder.

For if any woman would know about difficulty, she would.

FullSizeRender2

Cissy said we’re to learn important lessons from the things that are most difficult. And one would assume she was referring to her battle with cancer. A three year grueling ordeal.

But in truth, I believe her battle began long before that. Because I think life’s hardest blow hit when her beloved died suddenly. Without warning. A massive heart attack claimed the man she’d never get over. My husband’s father, Dwight, passed quickly in 2008.

One week beyond Jason’s birthday…

And none of us got the chance to say good-bye.

FullSizeRender6

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

I have to tell the truth. On Tuesday, I had plans. I was in the middle of a project and there was one delay after another. Namely, my daughter wouldn’t take her morning nap which pushed everything back.

I just wanted to do the thing I’d been trying to do all morning. And when I encountered resistance, I felt anger. My attitude went south way too easily.

And therein lies the lesson of Cissy. And tackling difficulty. It has to do with attitude. Her attitude. Which was a good one.

Staying positive. And hopeful.

That’s the example she left us.

FullSizeRender1

Cissy was a strong woman. Independent and driven and full of purpose. She was that way long before she met Dwight. But alas, her Prince Charming swept her off her feet and love came knocking.

And I just love the story she told. About how Dwight had a business trip that took him away for a few days. But while they were apart, she sensed a change in him. She just knew he was going to end their relationship. A good-bye before she was ready…

And so upon his return when he asked her to sit with him on the porch so they could talk, she resisted.

No, I’m tired. I want to go to bed.

She just didn’t want to hear him say it was over. But Dwight was persistent so they sat, Cissy thinking the end had come. That’s when a song started playing…

“Sha la la la la la, live for today.”

That was Dwight’s queue. “Hear that song, Cissy? Will you marry me?” And what she thought was going to be an ending turned out to be a beginning.

And along with Dwight, she gained two step-children and eventually four grandchildren.

However, happily ever after didn’t happen. Or at least it didn’t stay that way.

DSCN4132This picture was taken a month before Dwight died. And this was a month before Cissy’s heart broke right in two. And I swear, she had every reason to be bitter.

Because her husband was gone.

But see, Cissy was a strong woman before she met Dwight. Independent and driven and full of purpose. And though life knocked her down and she never got over him, she did get back up.

Cissy found the strength to stand on her feet again. And it was this strength that carried her through her three year battle with cancer. The disease kicked her down more than once, but she stood again and again and again.

She battled unlike any woman I’d ever seen. She fought harder than anyone could have. I swear, Cissy was the strongest woman I’ve ever known.

When I told her so several months back, she said that’s what Dwight used to say, too.

The strongest woman I know.

That’s what Dwight would say…

FullSizeRender9

You know, God has a way of tying things up. Of drawing loose ends together. He did so for me this past week when I found this card on Cissy’s desk. It’s what I sent for her birthday earlier this year.

And I read the words I wrote to Cissy. I told her how I’d been focusing on the struggles of life. I said, “And what I realize is if anybody knows what it’s like to struggle, you do. You have to do battle every day.” 

Funny thing is, that’s where I found myself on Tuesday. Just before I heard the news about Cissy, I was thinking about struggle and battle. Even writing about it. Because I felt some resistance in what I was trying to accomplish.

But you know what? My attitude got really bad. I felt angry and bitter over something so teeny-tiny. If there was a skirmish, I lost for sure and my mood was the source of my downfall.

_DSC2691

And then, there’s Cissy. A woman who lost her husband before he was 57 years old. A woman who was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma in 2012 at Thanksgiving when she was only 56. She went through one hardship after another with her illness.

And yet, her attitude remained positive.

Always.

She did not complain.

Never.

She hid her pain.

So well.

And she remained hopeful.

Always.

Her faith never, ever faltered. Ever. And though cancer eventually took her life, it never got the best of her. And though cancer claimed her body, Cissy never lost the battle. She fought the good fight…

She fought and fought till the very end.

The bitter end.

The strongest woman I’ve ever known never once gave up.

She never did.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12

FullSizeRender14

I wish I could be more like Cissy.

Unfortunately, I all too easily become bitter when I let myself. Over small things. Like not saying good-bye. I just felt so mad that we didn’t get that chance.

But you know, Cissy didn’t either. She didn’t get the opportunity to tell her beloved Dwight good-bye. Some time after his passing, though, the oddest thing began to happen. There were feathers.

Cissy would find feathers in the most obscure places. All over her home. And there was no reason on earth they should have been where they were. No where they could have come from.

Cissy believed they were from Dwight.

And that’s one of the things that makes me smile today. Because on Wednesday, I chose a globe with a bird in it for myself. I’d made it for Cissy’s mother a few years back and didn’t think anybody else would want it. I dusted the edges and sat it on Cissy’s counter but left it behind.

And the oddest thing happened.

When Jason’s sister brought it to me two days later, she asked if a feather had always been in it. But there hadn’t been. I would have seen it when I cleaned it up. And yet, on Friday, a feather was inside.

FullSizeRender15

Know what I think?

It’s from Cissy.

I think this woman who was tough as steel left an imprint as soft as a feather upon this earth. Thus, I’ll think of Cissy whenever I see it. And I’ll smile. Just like I do with tissues and magazines and newspapers and reading glasses and pajamas and slippers and lotion.

And I’ll become resolute as I recall Cissy’s words. That we are meant to learn important lessons from the things that are most difficult.

And this coming year, I’ll try to follow her footsteps.

Striving to be strong just like her,

battling courageously,

fighting the good fight.

That’s what I’ll do.

If I make a New Year’s Resolution at all, it’ll be to be like her.

The strongest woman I’ve known.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Me and Cissy, October 2012

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:34

 

 

 

Unto her…

For my friend who just said, “I feel like I’m shopping to just put something in a bag.” I don’t remember writing this last year… I was trying to find something I wrote about Christmas cards and found this instead. 🙂

pamandersonblog

Nativity

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, I continue to process that thought even now. Two and a half years later. That deep down irrational notion that God, who is the creator of all life, could be a taker of life. And that thinking brings me directly to the heart of Christmas today.

Yes, I’m brought to the inner chambers of God’s heart by the above verse I’ve heard…

View original post 1,327 more words

Slowing Down

103102101

The past two weeks have been so busy. Running a hundred miles an hour while baking and decorating and working and mothering and the beat goes on. All you busy moms know what I’m talking about.

In fact, last week I almost ran someone off the road. Totally my fault. It was after my son’s holiday shop at school and I was driving us home. When I began to merge into the right lane, I heard a horn. There was a car and I didn’t see it!

Oh, I was mortified. And embarrassed. So I slowed down to let the vehicle pass. And I graciously accepted the indignant driver’s gestures and her look of scorn.

Then I apologized to my son. I told him I put us in harm’s way and I was sorry.

And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20

I would have chalked the incident up to busyness and fatigue if the rest of last week hadn’t happened. But now, I think God’s telling me something more…

First, the book I’m reading described a near collision. One driver ran a stop sign while another had to slam on her brakes and blow the horn. The offended driver was indignant as she yelled, “Didn’t she see me?!”

Then the following day, same thing happened to me. For I was overlooked. Unseen. Not just once, but twice.

I patiently waited at the photo center while the clerk threw her scissors down and exclaimed, “Damn it!” And as one minute turned to two, another customer joined me standing to my right rear. The line had formed, and I was in front.

When the clerk approached, though, she looked through  me into the eyes of the woman behind me. She made second first as she said, “Can I help you?”

I felt a bit indignant as I raised my hand. “Hello,” I called out, indicating my presence.

Funny thing is, the incident repeated an hour later when I entered the doctor’s office. I patiently stood a few feet behind the counter as the receptionist finished up a phone call. We smiled as we made eye contact and I waited some more. Then a man entered and stood to my right rear. Just like at the photo center.

However, the receptionist looked beyond me to him as she hung up. “Can I help you,” she said. I swear it was like I was invisible. Like she couldn’t even see me.

And I confess, I felt angry. Indignant. My insides cried out, “Can’t you see me?” Probably like the woman I nearly ran off the highway.

“Didn’t you see me?”

Thus, a pattern emerges. The clerk at the photo booth was so busy she couldn’t see straight. I was so busy in my thoughts I couldn’t see a car! Obviously, our lives are much too cluttered. Life full to the brim with distraction.

But today, at Christmas time, I comprehend what God’s been saying to me this past week. And it’s not just about my hectic schedule. No, it’s more about what I see.

Or don’t see.

He softly calls out…

“Pam, I’m right here. I’ve been standing here all along. Don’t you see me?” 

Sadly, I’d have to say no.

I’d have to answer my Lord that I didn’t see Him. Because truth is I’ve been much too busy and distracted by a hundred things. Baking and decorating and working and mothering. All you busy moms know what I’m talking about.

But you know what?

I’ve been put on pause. My son’s fever did that. Slowed down by sickness and I’m thankful for the speed bump. Because it’s allowed me to readjust my eyes… and my heart. And since I’ve had some time to refocus, I can see clearly now.

For I can see Him.

100

Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. Exodus 14:13

With all my soul, I wish I could say God’s only message to me this day is about busyness and slowing down. But in truth there’s an underlying issue.

It has to do with my pride… and about being first. And acknowledgement. It all came to a head last night when my true heart appeared. When I felt mad with my husband, Jason.

I’d been working so hard and doing so much and he simply made a comment about something that was undone. Oh, I was hot. I simmered and stewed as my insides cried out,

“Don’t you see all I’ve done??”

I know. A bit dramatic. But I was looking for recognition. Appreciation. And when it wasn’t forthcoming, I felt a bit put out.

In the still of the night, though, my near collision came to mind. Because truth is I felt pretty good that day. Well, before my mishap, I did. For someone paid me a compliment earlier in the day.

I was acknowledged for something I did.

Truth? I liked it. And I reveled in her words. And so, it’s fitting I almost collided with someone three short hours later. Because my near collision brought me down a peg or two. High to low in a split second.

And so (big sigh), I know my pride has been driving me. Still. And my pride causes me to drive much too fast. But God has a word for me today about my driving skills.

He tells me to slow down. Because when I drive too fast, I just can’t see. At least not what He wants me to see…

https://pamandersonblog.com/?s=the+stable

Her Song

1

This is where I spend so much of my time. I work here. I create here. I socialize here (media-wise). It’s my spot. That’s why there’s so many things on the mirror.

There’s phrases or Bible verses that move me…

There’s a picture of someone special who’s no longer here…

3

There’s a card from my husband that makes me happy…

4

Something from my son’s holiday shop at school…

FullSizeRender

And then, there’s this…

12

I just love the message of this. And it moves me today. It causes me to think before I open my mouth. Because really, do I have a song? Or do I just have an answer…

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3

Honestly, for so long I thought I had the answer. That’s why I opened my mouth. It’s reflected in my son here lately when I try to tell him something. He cuts me right off and says, “I know, I know.”

Amazing thing is He always knows.

Just like me. For once upon a time, I thought I knew it all. So I spoke it all.

Unfiltered…

This morning, though, I pause. And I contemplate God’s people who went before me. Like the children of Israel who were delivered from slavery. They saw God’s great power and believed. Then, they opened their mouths in song.

To God.

For Him.

About Him.

Praise.

They sang, “I will sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted.” (Exodus 15)

Then, there’s Mother Mary. She saw God’s great power when He filled her with His mercy and grace… fruit in her womb. And she was blessed for she believed. And like Israel, she opened her mouth in a hymn of praise.

To God.

For Him.

About Him.

Praise.

She sang, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

Then there’s me. For so long, I opened my mouth because I thought I knew something. But today, I pause.

I wonder… do I have an answer or a song? And if it’s simply an answer, then I think I should hush up. Because no one wants to hear a know-it-all, right?

Rather, people want to hear something lovely. Songs of redemption. And deliverance. An hymn of praise…

To God.

For Him.

About Him.

Praise.

That’s what people want to  hear. It’s what they need.

Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous ones; praise from the upright is beautiful. Praise the LORD with the lyre; make music to Him with a ten-stringed harp. Sing a new song to Him; play skillfully on the strings, with a joyful shout. Psalm 33:1-3

https://pamandersonblog.com/2013/12/14/hail-mary-full-of-grace/

Back Home

Instead, He told him, “Go back home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.” Mark 6:19

I heard the above verse at church on Sunday. It was already starred and underlined in my Bible, though, from previous readings. Probably because I was away from home for so many years.

BUT… five years ago, God saw fit to return me to my hometown. My Nativity. And this past Sunday, the last portion really stood out. Report how He has had mercy on you.

Go and tell. Family. Neighbors. Those in my hometown. My friends. And so I shall.

Two years ago, I was seeking a Christmas heart. I set my course for Jesus and found Him. Or rather, He came to me. Right in my bedroom. It was January 31, 2014.

I’d been holding something from my past for much too long. Two incidents. Something I’d done and regretted. But God directed me to Jeremiah 31:20 and I knew in my heart of hearts He’d forgiven me. That was the day I was set free from my sin…

Therefore, My inner being yearns for him; I will truly have compassion on him. 

It’s there in “truly have compassion.” I looked it up and discovered it’s the ONLY place in the Bible where mercy is squared. Twice. Mercy + Mercy. For the two things I’d been carrying.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

See it… 7355 + 7355. Mercy plus Mercy.

That was the day I knew I was forgiven for my past. No doubt about it. And later in the day, God’s mercy was underscored for the doctor confirmed my pregnancy was viable.

There was a heartbeat. 

And honestly, I thought there’d be two heartbeats. Twins. Two for two.

Point being, God had great mercy on me. A sinner. That’s what Christmas is really about. And on Sunday, I heard Him say go and tell your people how I had mercy on you.

FullSizeRender

Funny thing about Christmas this year… the above didn’t make the cut for decorating. I’d used it for years but never really saw what it said till a week ago.

“Friends are Christmas”

I was outraged when I saw it. I thought “I’m not putting this out! This is not the reason for the season!” However, after reading something I blogged two years ago, I think I’ve changed my mind. I’ve stepped down off my high horse…

Because though friends are not really Christmas, they should be part of it. Our family and friends should be important enough to share the good news with.

As we read in Mark 6, we should report to them how God had mercy on us. And mercy came down in the form of an infant. It’s what the nativity depicts. Mercy in a manger.

The most humble of beginnings…

Then her neighbors and relative heard that the Lord had shown her His great mercy, and they rejoiced with her. Luke 1:58

https://pamandersonblog.com/2013/12/12/josephs-nativity/

 

O, Little Town…

FullSizeRender

I come from a small town and the above is a familiar site. Roads like this pepper my county. And because it’s Christmas time, I can’t help but think of another small town…

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past. Micah 5:2

What wondrous things come from small towns…

https://pamandersonblog.com/2013/12/06/o-little-town-of-bethlehem/

Christmas Heart revised…

IMG_2699

Some things change and some things don’t. Read mine and Levi’s Christmas tree antics from two years ago and it saddens me. However, this year was good! Smiles inside and out. Hot chocolate and cookies and music. And, I released some control. I let Levi pick our decorations.

Last night, though, story time repeated. It was past bedtime on a school night so I said No story for you! But, as I lay in bed my heart ached. I returned to Levi ten minutes later and read him that story.

Seems I found my Christmas heart sometime in the past couple of years…

https://pamandersonblog.com/2013/12/05/a-christmas-heart/