To Every Season…

I am a woman of many words. Perhaps too many. And so often I wish I could retract something spoken in haste… It’s one of my faults, really. Because I’m an open book. I can’t hide a thing. And what I feel is usually splashed across my face, and bubbles forth from the depths of my heart right out of my mouth for whosoever is in the vicinity to hear. I think all, and I tell all. And so, I’m quite perplexed by this week. For I have no words. And so today, the words penned by King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3 hold greater meaning for me… There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven… a time to be silent and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3). Yes, it’s very apparent that words fail me… I am silenced.

And so, for now, that’s what I shall be… silent. I hear not, so I speak not. For how long, I cannot say. But, in case there is someone out there who may wonder why, I felt an explanation was necessary. Simply, I have no words. But I’ve heard it said that silence is golden. When I return, I’ll let you know if I find the saying to be true.

Until then, I will leave you with words from, Thomas Carlyle, a poet who lived long ago…

“Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together; that at length they may emerge, full-formed and majestic, into the daylight of Life, which they are thenceforth to rule. Not William the Silent only, but all the considerable men I have known, and the most undiplomatic and unstrategic of these, forbore to babble of what they were creating and projecting. Nay, in thy own mean perplexities, do thou thyself but hold thy tongue for one day: on the morrow, how much clearer are thy purposes and duties; what wreck and rubbish have those mute workmen within thee swept away, when intrusive noises were shut out! Speech is too often not, as the Frenchman defined it, the art of concealing Thought; but of quite stifling and suspending Thought, so that there is none to conceal. Speech too is great, but not the greatest. As the Swiss Inscription says: Sprecfien ist silbern, Schweigen ist golden (Speech is silvern, Silence is golden); or as I might rather express it: Speech is of Time, Silence is of Eternity.”

Child sized holes… for Cathy

I’ve been blessed in that I can work from home… it’s been almost seven years now. However, that can be good, and that can be bad. Because when you stay at home, you can become isolated and separated from the world and current affairs. Especially when you quit cable and satellite and have nothing but internet for news and Netflix for entertainment. And so, it was last year when a couple of my family members died that I purposed in my heart to see more of my family. And here I am a year later, but not much has changed. Oh, I’ve reached out a little bit more this past month, and have tried to do better with loving on my family, but not nearly enough. And so, it was last week when I was praying that I had to stop mid-request. Because it was my aunt Cathy that I thought of. And what came to me was clear… “She’s next.” It was her that I wanted to love on next… but here I am a week later, and I’ve not moved from my hermit’s quarters.

It was earlier this week that a devastating tornado ripped through Oklahoma. I didn’t even know it till late that evening. As I said, I’m isolated here… I work from home, I check the web for news sporadically, and I don’t leave the house much. And when I finally realized what took place so many miles away… I was moved, and yet, I had nothing. Writing-wise, that is. I fancy myself a writer, and here was this catastrophic event that took place, lives lost, and I had nothing to offer by way of words. Until today that is. It was not till this morning that my heart was heavy, and that my eyes were weepy, and that I pondered what really took place. It was not till this morning that I fully comprehended that the worst had happened for so many people. Because what really happened is that some peoples’ biggest fear was realized in that they lost what mattered most to them. They lost their children. And what’s left are child sized holes in their hearts… holes that can never be filled. And that’s when I remembered… I remembered my aunt Cathy.

people sized holes

Honestly, I can’t tell you how many years ago it was when my cousin Barbie died. It has to have been at least eleven or twelve years. But what I do remember is the time of year… May. I remember because I was at the beach with my husband’s family. It was near Memorial Day, and we were having a blast. But there was a message on my phone… Barbie had died in a tragic accident. She was a young woman and it was so unexpected, and when I called my brother, he could barely choke out the words. It seemed so surreal to me… how could this happen? And when I heard the news, I was young, myself. And I had no children… and no thoughts of trying to. Not really. And so, this sad and tragic event affected me… but not as it would today. Because now, I am a mom. And now, I know how I feel about my own. And if I want to be truthful, this is my deepest fear… that I’ll lose my darling boy. And I know that if he were to be taken from me, he would leave a hole in my heart that no one could fill. Because there is no other him. And I’m sure this is exactly how my aunt feels. And I’m pretty sure that what took place in Oklahoma earlier this week serves as a reminder of her own loss… and of her own broken heart. I’m sure she sadly remembers her own child that was ripped from her arms way too soon, leaving a hole that can never be filled.

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” Matthew 2:18

Today there are so many broken hearts. Today, so many mourn the loss of their precious babies, and comfort seems far off. For some families, like in Oklahoma, the wounds are fresh… but for some, it’s old wounds that have never quite healed. And age matters not. Because I don’t care how old the soul is that moves on from this earth, the fact is, she’s still someone’s baby. And I wish I could tell Cathy this… that I think I have an idea of what she may feel. I wish I could go back to that time so I could really empathize with her and let my heart break alongside her own as it happened. Because then, I could not…. not like today. I wish I could go back to that time so I could offer her words of hope… words of wisdom. But you know, it’s never too late. And it’s no accident that God brought my aunt to mind last week. Because He knew what was going to happen this week… He knew just how she would feel. Remember, “Cathy’s next…” See, her daughter died sometime in May. There’s no doubt… she is remembering. There’s no doubt… she still feels it. And there’s no doubt, the child sized hole remains.

It’s Memorial Day weekend. And too often, we forget what really matters… see, mostly we think about beaches and pools and hot dogs and lakes and cook-outs and fun. But it’s so much more. It’s a time to remember those who have gone on before us. And may we not forget those who were left behind. And this weekend, may we not just remember those left behind, but come alongside them. May we offer them hope and surround them with prayers… especially the mothers.

See, a mother is connected to her child in a way that no one else could be. At first, the baby is knit together in her womb… inside her. The baby is encompassed, surrounded by protective fluid. And she receives life sustaining oxygen and nutrients from her mother through the umbilical cord. And then, when she finally leaves the safety nest of her mother’s womb, she exits by way of the birth canal and is placed directly into her new safety nest… her mother’s arms. And most mothers will testify today, that if we could, we would keep our children right there… in our arms forever. But that’s not the way of life.

So this Memorial Day, may we remember, and may we pray for those left behind…

Dear Lord, may they know! Please God, may all those left behind with child sized holes realize that yes, it’s true their sweet children were indeed carried away from the safety of their arms. However, may they receive some sense of peace when they comprehend that their little ones were carried away by the arms of Your angels. And although they cannot physically hold their precious babies here on earth, just maybe, God, just maybe… they will find some comfort in knowing that those little ones are now with You, in Your everlasting arms. May they realize that there’s no safer place to be…  in His name I pray, Amen.

No, I don’t think those child sized holes will ever be filled here on earth. But one day, the holes will disappear, when we ourselves are ushered into His arms… alongside our children. And so this Memorial Day, I choose to remember. I will remember those families out west, and their hurts. And my heart will break alongside theirs. But also, this Memorial Day, I will remember Cathy and her own child sized hole. Today, my heart breaks for her. And because God brought her to mind, I just have to think today’s writing is specifically for her… this one’s for Cathy.

Feels like home to me

“I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” Jeremiah 29:14

The above verse is so very personal to me. Because it embodies what was most important to me just about three years ago. Within this verse, I see my two most pressing prayer concerns at that time… One, I wanted to find God, with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind. And the other was like it, with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind, I wanted to return to my homeland. I wanted these two things desperately, and now that God has answered both prayers, I believe I know why I sought them so frantically. Because on a deeper level, it wasn’t just my home or the LORD that I was seeking. It was safety. And so naturally, I longed to return to the place in which I first felt safe. A child first feels safe in the arms of her mother or at her daddy’s knees. And so, it was that nest of security that I sought… the nest from which I jumped eighteen years earlier in an effort to spread my wings. And after so long away, it was my homeland I wanted. Because absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? And because there, I would find those I loved, and who loved me back unconditionally. It was security of a homeland I was eager to find.

My mother-in-law made a remark just a week or so ago, and I find it to be true. She said that God has plans for me, but He put me where I would feel secure. And there’s no place like home, right? Wasn’t it Dorothy who sought what was beyond the rainbow, and in the end, she just wanted to go back home. And isn’t it said, “Home is where your heart is.” Don’t we see that cross-stitched on pillows adorning comfy couches in homes across our land? Yes, when you leave your home searching for the rainbow, and end up finding not gold as promised, but an empty pot, you tend to want to go back to where you started. Familiarity beckons, and what’s known calls, and comfort draws you… back to the place from which you were carried away captive… back from the world that didn’t fulfill as you so hoped.

Since coming home, I’ve learned a lot about God. More so than I have in my entire life. And the biggest lesson I have learned is that there’s a hole in your heart that can never be filled on this side of eternity. Some refer to it as a God-sized hole, that only He can fill. And it’s from experience that I believe that. Because it was only by my spending so many years away from home, and my longing for it desperately, that I learned of its inadequacy. If God brought me back too soon, I wouldn’t have realized it. And if He never brought me back at all, why, my homeland would still be that elusive promised land to me. It would still be a plot of soil that I set my every hope and dream upon… it would still be Virginia that I considered my real home today. And not Him, who is my ultimate home and my final destination.

But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:16

I’ve been home for just over two and a half years now. And the crazy thing is… home no longer feels like home to me. The oddest thing is that what I placed all my hopes on didn’t produce what I expected. And so, that spurned on my search for God all the more… here in my hometown. And it’s here that I found God… where I least expected to find Him. And what He’s revealing to me is that here will never be enough. And it doesn’t matter where here happens to be. Because it’s not there… with Him. He is the only thing that can fulfill and satisfy the deep unrest of my soul. The truth is, I don’t think I’ll ever feel fully satisfied until that Day, when I am in fact somewhere over the rainbow and in His very presence. Because what I know now is that He is home. It’s not here, in Virginia, but it’s there… with Him.

I was searching for security. I wanted a refuge. And so, I thought home. But Virginia can’t help me with that. Because it’s only Him… the eternal God is my refuge. It’s His arms that are everlasting (Deuteronomy 33:27). And so now, it’s Him that I seek… because He feels like home to me.

One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life… Psalm 27:4

A Full Closet

Coincidentally, or not so coincidentally, I listened to a Mother’s Day message today in which the speaker addressed some of the very things I have been thinking about recently. Namely… insecurity. (I’ve included the link to Lysa TerKeurst’s message at the end of this blog). And the funny thing is, she mentioned her past (as a little girl), the fickle opinions of others, and the fragile choices our children make. And I found her message to be illuminating in that she helped me identify the problem with my insecurity. And it isn’t what I would have thought. See, my line of thinking was that if you’re insecure, you’re not confident. And so logically, low confidence means that you’re not lofty and high up, right? Because if you’re insecure, you’re staying low, right? Doesn’t insecurity then, in essence, mean that you’re humble and meek? And if so, isn’t God pleased by that?

You know, I have been praying for godly wisdom for a little while now. In order to know how to please God, I need His wisdom… because His is so different from the world’s. And, fortunately, the speaker pointed to Scripture that points directly to godly wisdom. And it’s through Proverbs 11:2 that I see just what my insecurity really is: “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.” Illuminating, huh? And so, I find that insecurity is not lowly and humble at all, but in fact, the opposite is quite true. The mere fact that I have been feeling insecure, and shameful, highlights the hidden pride in my life. And if I want God’s wisdom, as I have been so praying… then it’s in my humility that I’ll find it. And so I see, the issue is not at all insecurity… but pride. Because it’s pride that cares what other people think. It’s pride that feels shame in not measuring up to other people’s standards. And it’s pride that produces those feelings of inferiority. It’s the pride of life…

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. 1 John 2:15-16

So in a nutshell… God has answered my prayer. I’ve been seeking godly wisdom, and praying for God’s wisdom, and so James 1:5 has been played out in my life: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally…” Because through a message I watched at random today, God has shown me where to find His wisdom… and it’s not in my insecurity. If I want God’s wisdom, then I must be humble. And so, I have a choice to make. We all do. We must decide where we will find our true identity… and where we will find our true security. Because if we place too much importance on this world via its opinions and its measuring stick, then we will never, ever feel secure. Because the world is passing away, and the lust of it… but he who does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:17). See, our security can only be found in Him.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, God never ceases to amaze me. I am forever awed by how God fits together the pieces of my life… how He strategically plants me in places, and in circumstances, and with people, and how He opens the eyes of my understanding, enlightening me, that I may know what is the hope of His calling for me. See, I’ve been feeling less than. But He is opening my eyes, and I am beginning to see what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance. And I’ve been feeling inadequate, but He is showing me what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward me, who believes. He is showing me that I am complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. I lack nothing… because I am complete. But it’s Him who completes me. I will never, ever measure up to man’s expectations… but with God, because I am covered by the blood of His Son, I am complete. That’s my security.

You know, everyone wants to fit in. Everyone wants to be liked (well, most people do – I have run across those who actually take delight in offending other people). But the truth is, Christians will never, ever fit in with the world. Because the world and God see things in stark contrast to each other. God’s kingdom is flip-flopped from the worldly kingdom. God’s wisdom does not mesh with the world’s. And if we hold too tightly to the world, and the things of the world, then pride creeps in and wisdom walks out. And shame always follows.

Shame has always been with me… it’s always been part of my make-up. It first took root when I was a small girl. When young, because of things I did not have and my not-so-full closet. When older, because of things I did and a much fuller closet… only the closet happened to be filled with skeletons. And older still, disgrace follows because of the things I do, or don’t do, that may or may not measure up to mere man’s expectation of me. And so, shame cloaks me. But the cloak of shame comes directly out of the closet of pride. And that garment of insecurity was not selected for me by God. And so, I have a choice to make. I can gain the whole world today, packing my closet full with robes of shame in trying to keep up with the Jones, or… I can choose Him. And with Him, my closet need not be so full. Because with Him, I will be clothed in robes of righteousness. And with Him, I will be clothed in glory. And in order to be so clothed, there is only one item needed… Him.

And so, the choice… a full closet, or an empty one? Here or there? Or, this world or that one? The choice is mine to make. And it shouldn’t be that hard of a decision.

“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what advantage is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:24-26

Fitting In

I have been inundated with school here lately. It began last week when I was taken back to my past… when I remembered who I was and how I felt so long ago. And so, I wrote about it late Wednesday night. And then, I was there. Whereas earlier in the week, the roaming of halls took place only in my mind, it was Thursday and Friday that my size nines actually made contact with real cement and real tile and real hallways. I was physically there… within the walls of where my insecurity first took root. See, there was a field trip and Dare Day, and I didn’t want to miss a thing. But… a funny thing happened. It was in going to face my present (outings with my son), that I ran straight into my past. And the new me was confused when confronted by the old me that showed up through a connection with old acquaintances.

You know, I’m figuring out that the very things I face at forty are the same things I faced as a young girl. Although shaded differently, they’re the same circumstances nonetheless. And I believe there’s a part of the old me that God wants me to meet head-on. Because somehow, I’ve carried that part of me deep inside all these years. And I am just now fully realizing how deeply ingrained it is. And it took coming face to face with some old friends for me to see it. See, I was so surprised at how I felt last week… so shocked at my uncomfortable feelings. And the truth is… I felt plain scared. And worried. The truth is… I cared about what someone else would think about me. And so, the truth is… I have not changed one bit from when I was young and wished desperately to fit in. The truth is, I still care way too much about what people think about me. And that should not be so for a child of God.

It was my last couple of years in high school that I went through some drastic changes. I didn’t know who I was, and so, I tried out another group to see if I fit. And because that group was a bit odd, it didn’t really matter who I was with them. Because they didn’t seem to care about status or popularity or clothing. They were the artists, the intellects, the deep thinkers, the musicians… you know, the unusual crowd. And so, I tried to find my place among them when I was seventeen or so. Eventually, I left town at nineteen (trying out another group – the United States Air Force), to see if I fit in there. It was my last year in the service that I met my husband, and it was through Him that I met the Lord. Because of my husband, I finally found my true fit. But it was last week that I found out the truth about me… and about my true fit. And what I realized is that if I’m not careful, I can be no different than the elite cliques I encountered in high school. Here’s what happened…

I saw a girl who looked familiar. She has beautiful eyes and a pretty smile, and although I had seen her several times before this past year, it was only last week that I decided to take a closer look. And sure enough, I knew her. Not well… just an acquaintance… but enough so that I felt the urge to speak to her. But I was hesitant… I held back. Because, well, she looks nothing like me. She is covered with tattoos from head to toe. And she dresses completely different than I do. But alas, I plunged ahead and spoke to her anyway. And it was nice. However, she remembers me… the old me. And the truth is, she doesn’t really know the new me. And so, as we stood there talking, I was thinking, “How do I do this?” I wondered why it should be so hard to talk to someone I once had a link to. But I knew. I knew it’s because I am different than who I once was. And I didn’t want someone to see the new me talking to someone that knew the old me. I didn’t want someone to think that I was still the same. And the ugly part of that is, I was judging someone based on appearance. And the really ugly part of that is, I thought that someone would judge me and who I was with because I have felt compelled to do the same. How quick I have been to form opinions of those I encounter simply by the clothes they wear or the placement of a piercing.

It was Friday morning that I ran into yet another old friend. And this one, too, has some tattoos and piercings and looks slightly different than my current fit. And then up walks the other acquaintance who is covered with tattoos, and there we stood having a conversation. Please don’t misunderstand me… I am not saying there’s anything wrong with tattoos. I have a small one myself… it’s just that, well, frankly, I tend to hang out with people who look similar to me. And so, I was very aware of how I looked (denim capris and mom top with Teva flip-flops), alongside two very alternative looking women. Honestly, they looked cool with their hair swept back in scarves and bandanas, and I looked so plain in comparison. And that’s when it happened… a woman from my church walked by. And I cringed inside. I worried about what she was thinking. I wondered what she thought about me speaking with two women who look so different from myself… and from her. And today, well, I am ashamed at that line of thinking. Because it’s today that I realize… I’m part of a clique, right? If I am so concerned that I should not stray away from the ones who look just like me then I am just like the ones from my high school days, right? You know, the ones who belonged to the elite group. The ones who didn’t allow just anyone in. The ones who believed themselves to be perfect… and that everyone else was so far beneath them. That’s me, right? And so, I am astounded at this newfound knowledge. I have become what I so longed to be a part of, and yet, I so disdained in high school. I have become rigid in my thinking. And so, I just have to ask myself, “What would Jesus do?”

After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.  Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Luke 5:27-32

Jesus would have dined with those who didn’t look like Him. He would have had conversations with those that didn’t quite fit in. And more importantly, Jesus wouldn’t have cared to fit in with the in-crowd. See, the popular ones of His day were the scribes and the Pharisees. They were the cool kids (so to speak), and they called the shots. They did things to get noticed and took seats in high places. And don’t even think about trying to sit with them at their table. If you managed to get close enough, they probably would sentenced you to stoning before even knowing your name. Because, well, you just wouldn’t have cut it. Because you wouldn’t have fit into their mold. Condemnation, and not mercy, was the rule of their day.

And so, the answer is… Jesus simply wouldn’t have fit in. And He didn’t. And He stood out because of it. And as for me? Well, I’m working on that. Perhaps in the near future, I won’t fit in either. And perhaps I’ll finally just not care what other people think. Because the truth is, if you’re simply trying to appease everyone else… and if you’re trying really hard to fit in… well, there’s a very good chance that you’re not pleasing God. And as far is fitting in… well, His opinion is the only one that matters. The question to ask is, do you fit in with Him?

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

… just like a little girl

Sad girl 2

My roots are showing. No, I’m not talking about my hair… I’m talking about my make-up. And no, I’m not talking about the liquid foundation that goes on my face, I’m talking about my foundation, my beginnings, my roots… what’s formed me, what’s made me and what moves me. Meaning, my inner being. And music is part of my make-up. It’s been a part of my life as long as I remember. In fact, one of my earliest memories is of my babbling while “Take it to the Limit” by the Eagles played in the background. This has to be one of my all time favorite songs. And without a doubt, if I hear Seals & Crofts “Summer Breeze” from 1972, there will be tears. It reminds me of being young, and of my brother, and of playing, and of innocence.

Yes, I just love music… because it moves me in a way that nothing else can.  And it’s not just Christian or gospel or hymns that move me… it’s all kinds of music. When I clean the house, you can bet classic country will be playing… loudly. And I will be singing along at the top of my voice. And depending on my mood, you may hear anything from seventies to oldies to eighties to classic rock to Christmas in my house. It just depends. And here’s what I think… that no matter the genre, you can find God in it. If you listen with your heart. And it’s one of Bob Dylan’s songs that moves me. It’s one of his that makes me think about being God’s little girl. Perhaps you’re familiar with the lines…

And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl.

Funny that no matter how old a woman may be, at heart, she’s really just a little girl. And no matter how strong she thinks she is, there are just going to be those times that she falters. There will be those times that she breaks…  And you know, it doesn’t even have to be a big thing that causes her to break. No, usually it’s something small and subtle that sneaks up on her. Like what recently took place with me. Something silly, really, and yet… I felt just like I did all those years ago. I felt just as vulnerable at forty as I did when I was growing up. And so, I find those lyrics true and stirring… she may be a woman, but truly, she breaks just like a little girl.

sad girl 3

You know, when I grew up I felt less than. Some of you will know what I mean by that. For example, the first sixteen years of my life I lived in an apartment that was on the backside of a store situated right beside a highway. My backyard was sandwiched between our small porch and a cow field. When I was young, I loved the sensation of running through the cow fields and the freedom to roam. However, as innocence waned, I began to feel embarrassment about where I lived. It was, well, less than what other people had. My bedroom didn’t even have a door. At sixteen, we moved into a regular house. Finally, shame abated because I no longer lived in less than adequate quarters.

Since my hometown is so small, there’s no need for a middle school. Elementary grades range from kindergarten all the way through the seventh grade. And it was through those formative years that I had three different best friends. Each one was special, outgoing, funny… they were leaders. But I was painfully shy and awkward… a follower. And I always felt less than them. This inferiority complex was cemented down when my fifth grade class-mate told me that just because my best friends were popular, it didn’t mean that I was. And for a little girl, the remark was stinging. It was heartbreaking. It marked me… so much so that I remember it vividly as a forty year old woman.

The first few years of high school were okay… but money was scarce. Oh, we never went hungry, so I never endured real suffering. Just feelings… less than feelings. See, all the girls wore particular brands of clothing (just different colors). They all looked similar, but I didn’t look anything like them. And so eventually, I started to hang out with a new crowd. And with my new friends, fashion was a non-issue. But, I think I still cared deep down. Because to this day I remember a boy saying, “Pam, I really admire you… you wear things that no one else would wear and don’t even care!” He didn’t know that if I could have worn different clothes, I would have. He didn’t know that I couldn’t, because my family couldn’t afford the clothing that other girls wore.

In high school, my best friend had the best of everything… at least in my eyes. She had nice clothes, a new Subaru Justy, a CD player (before they were common place), Clinique make-up and Anais Anais perfume. Oh, and she was beautiful and outgoing and could sing. She feared nothing and I feared everything. And so, at seventeen, the feeling of less than sunk deep into my soul. This became my identity. And ironically, it was not that long ago when I talked to my girlfriend about all this. She shared with me about her own insecurities from that time period, and she was so surprised that I didn’t recognize them all those years ago. But I couldn’t have… I was so engrossed by my own feelings of insignificance, that I was blinded to her own inadequacies. I give you all of this background so that you’ll understand the following, and although seemingly insignificant occasions, they forever touched me… forever marked me…

Two particular weekends from high school were brought to the forefront of my mind last year. And I was surprised when the memories surfaced. And in hindsight, it all seems quite silly. But it didn’t feel silly then. In fact, my heart was broken. At sixteen, I had a very steady boyfriend and it was near the end of the school year. And there was a huge party… the party. And although his best friend chose to take his girlfriend, my boyfriend did not choose to take me. See, he wanted to spend time with the guys. And that evening, I felt so insecure… so insignificant… so left out… so, well, less than. I felt forsaken. Flash forward to the next year. I had my very best friend, and we did things together every single weekend. It was a given, no need to ask if we would be together… we just were. But one particular weekend, her old best friend came to town. I assumed I would spend time with them. Why would things change just because an old friend came to town, right? See, she was my best friend. But, there was no phone call. Not one time all weekend. And as the previous year, there was a big party. My best friend took her old friend, along with three other girls to that party. I was left home alone. Again. I felt so insecure… so insignificant… so left out… so less than. I felt forsaken.

And here we are today. I am forty year old woman. And, well, this will seem quite silly and so insignificant. Especially in light of current events and the real suffering that takes place in the world today. But nonetheless, I was somehow marked. My dear friend who lives out of state chose to spend time with her other out of state friend. And deep seated feelings erupted to the surface of my heart. I felt so… you know. And so what becomes clear to me today is that age does not matter. A forty year old woman can in fact feel just like a little girl. It’s becomes clear that although she aches just like a woman, she can break just like a little girl.

Sad girl

There is such irony here. You see, I just wrote about “Who I am.” I wrote about being confident and finding my identity in God. I wrote about people watching, and really feeling for those insecure adolescent girls that I see today. The irony? Well, I am no different than those young girls. In fact, I am still just a little girl myself. At least in my heart. And so, I surmise that all of us women are just that… little girls. And although we may ache like women, and break like a little girls, we do have hope. See, God is with us. He made us a promise, and He will be faithful to keep it. He said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5.

And so, little girl, remember that. Don’t ache, don’t cry, and don’t break. For you don’t ever have to feel forsaken again. Because you are not alone.

mother and child reunion

Mother and child

I think we’ve all heard it at least once in our lives. I believe we have all been cautioned by some well-meaning person with the phrase, “Don’t get your hopes up.” And perhaps in accompaniment to the words of wisdom, their heads shook back and forth, or maybe their faces displayed the most severe expression to fully demonstrate the foolhardiness of one who hopes. Because any sound person can tell you… hope surely will be dashed to the ground. And the well-meaning person… likely a loved one… was really only trying to help you when they told you what they did. But truth be known, after hearing it so many times, a person who was once full of faith may fall into the same mindset. Despite the faithful’s best intentions, she may sink down into that grim sort of outlook on life, expecting the worst out of circumstances… and of people. But then, when least expected, hope glimmers and faith renews. And those are the times, for me at least, when the words, “Get behind me, Gehazi,” come to mind. Believe it or not, this will make sense by the end of this blog. After reading this, may we all cry out, “Get behind me, Gehazi!”

It was three years ago that I had great hope. I knew that I knew that I knew that I knew that God was going to return me to my hometown in Virginia. I felt it in my bones. I had come across Scripture, and I felt assured that it was a promise to me, despite being written to the children of Israel so long ago. And so, I was fully expectant, full of faith, and full of hope that my God would bring it to pass. No one could tell me otherwise. And believe me, some tried to. You know those cautious phrases, “Don’t get your hopes up,” and “I’m just saying,” and, “I don’t want to see you get hurt.”

And so, in reflecting on those nay-sayers of days gone by, I cannot help but think about the Shumannite woman in contrast. It’s in the fourth chapter of Second Kings that we read about her, and we find that she was wealthy with no needs. She even took care of others’ needs, including Elisha the prophet. Whenever he passed by, she would urge him to eat. And so eventually, after some visits, she asked her husband if they could prepare a room for this man of God to rest in. And so it came to pass that the man of God wanted to do something for this kind woman who had no needs. When asked, she said, “I dwell among my own people…” Translation, “I’m fine, I don’t need a thing.” Elisha turned to his assistant, Gehazi. It was Gehazi who named something she didn’t have. He knew that the wealthy woman had no son, and not only that, her husband was old. Translation, chances of a child were slim to none. But see, with God all things are possible. Elisha informed the Shumannite woman that she would indeed have a child. He said, “About this time next year you shall embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my Lord. Man of God, do not lie to your maidservant!” Translation, “No way!”

Elisha told the woman who had no need that she would indeed have a son and it must have seemed impossible. Could a baby have been a long forgotten desire that had been buried deep away? Or could it be that this woman had yearned for a baby for years, the longing never extinguished… the burning ever fresh? We don’t really know, only that she in fact conceived and gave birth to a son. And as any mother today knows, this woman had to have loved him with all her heart and soul. And so, what happened next came as such a surprise to me. The child grew, but one day his head began to hurt. So, he was carried back home to his mother. And you know, that Shumannite woman held him on her knees until noon, and then, he died. He died… right there on her lap. Here is a woman who didn’t ask for a child, and yet, the man of God promised her a son. And she bore that son and loved him. But then… death? How could that be?

The woman laid her son’s body on the bed she had prepared for the man of God, and she called for a donkey and her servant. She said, “Drive, and go forward; do not slacken the pace for me unless I tell you.” Translation, “Go as fast as you can and do not stop!” And so she departed, and went to the man of God. When Elisha saw her from a distance, he sent his servant Gehazi. He told Gehazi to check on her well being. But that Shumannite woman had none of that. She answered Gehazi’s questions, but left him behind as she reached for the man of God. See, it was Elisha who made the promise. It was he who was the man of God, and it was he that she was desperate to reach. And as she grabbed hold of him, Gehazi tried to push her away. But Elisha saw her anguish, he saw her pain…

Here we see a picture of a woman… a woman who dared to hope for a son despite the odds. But then, he died… and yet, the woman seemed to have held on to hope. Because afterward, she didn’t stop moving until she reached the man of God. And when Gehazi tried to deter her, she didn’t let him slow her down. When she reached Elisha, she said, “Did I ask a son of my lord? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me’?” Translation,”I never asked for a son, and yet you told me I would have one. And so why, now, does my child lay dead on your bed?” Elisha then said to his servant, Gehazi, “Get yourself ready, and take my staff in your hand, and be on your way.” But that wasn’t good enough for this woman. See, her faith lay with the man of God, and so she clung to him and said she would not leave him. And so, He arose and followed her. And Elisha indeed performed a miracle that day. He did what Gehazi could not accomplish, and he roused the child.

I admire this woman because she never gave up hope. And it was at a ladies’ conference last fall that I first heard of the Shumannite woman and her persistence. It was Beth Moore who paralleled this woman’s trek to Elisha as our own trek to Jesus, and she said that there are just those times when no one else will do but Him. Beth said that when those “Gehazis” try to get in our way and block our path, we just need to push them aside and say, “Get behind me, Gehazi!” And essentially, that’s what the Shumannite woman did. And in addition to her unswerving hope and persistence, I also admire that she fully expected the miracle… She dared to hope against all odds. And more than once. When things looked the darkest, she didn’t lose her faith. Because she believed the man of God when he told her that she would have a son. This woman never gave up on her child… not once. And isn’t this what mother’s do today? Don’t we all hold to hope when it concerns our children?

You know, it would be way too easy to shut down. It would be pretty comfortable to keep one’s hopes low, so that hopes would not be dashed to the ground. It would be so easy to just close oneself up tight and to not hope for anything else, ever again… because that would be safe. Because when the Gehazi’s of the world tell us over and over, “Don’t get your hopes up,” we eventually start to think that way. And who wants to risk heartache, right? But that’s not biblical… at all. Because God is the God of hope! And without faith, it is impossible to please Him! And although with man it’s impossible, with God all things are possible! And let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, because He who promised is faithful! Believe Him. Just take Him at His word.

In all my life, there have only been a handful of times that I have felt assured of a promise by God. The first was that He would return me to my hometown. And upon return to my homeland, I felt sure that all of my people would one day be His people (those that are not already His). I felt confident of that when I read a particular verse in Isaiah, and I still believe that today. I claim that promise. And it was the fall of 2011 that I knew that I knew that I knew that I knew that I would have another baby. And sure enough, it was December 13, 2011 that I learned of my pregnancy. You can imagine my surprise when the sonogram showed that there was no heartbeat, and I had a miscarriage shortly thereafter. I didn’t understand… because God promised me a baby. And I did all the right things… I believed it, I hoped it, and yet, no baby. But the truth is, there is a baby. Just not here on this side of eternity… just not here where I can hold him or her on my lap.

It was a few days ago that I came across a note in my Bible placed beside Psalm 30:5. It says, “1/23/12, sonogram 1/20, no heart beat.”  When I read this portion of Scripture over a year ago, I felt assured of a promise: “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Yes, I’ll claim the promise I find here. For I’m promised God’s favor for life… And I’m told that joy comes in the morning. And so, that’s mine. I’ll believe it and I’ll hope for it.

You know, God promised me a baby. And he fulfilled that promise, for I’ll meet that baby one day in heaven. And so, for today, I have the hope of a mother and child reunion. And as of today, I will always choose hope. I shall always believe… for “blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” Luke 1:45

And to all those nay-sayers out there… to all those who wisely tell me to not get my hopes up, I forever shall say, “Get behind me, Gehazi.” For I’ll let nothing stand in the way of me and my Jesus.

The Eve of Destruction

Today, I wonder about Eve. What must she have felt like? She started off well, right? She walked in the garden not just with her mate, but also with God. And as she walked with the God of all creation, she knew no shame. Because she was innocent. But, Eve made a mistake. A big one. And it was through her mistake that sin entered the garden. And I find it ironic that Eve, whose name means “life” or “living,” also became the mother of death. Because the wages of sin is death, right? Eve, who was the mother of all living, actually became the Eve of destruction when she made her error. How in the world did this this woman feel?

Did Eve realize as soon as her teeth broke the skin of the forbidden fruit that sin just walked in? Did she feel sick as the sweetness of the fruit slid down her throat? Or did she become soul-sick after she gave it to her husband to eat? Did she feel fear when she realized she did the one thing God told her not to do? Or did she fear later, when God came calling and she hid? Did shame introduce itself before or after she ate? Or did she feel its full impact as her husband said to God, “The woman that You gave to be with me – she gave me some [some fruit] from the tree, and I ate.” Genesis 3:12. Perhaps she didn’t feel the full gravity of her error in judgment until she answered God. She said that she had been deceived by the serpent… did God surprise her by the severity of His punishment? He said, “I will intensify your labor pains; you will bear children in anguish. Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you.” Not only that, God said to Adam, “The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust.”

The Garden of Eden… that garden of delight… was no more. Because sin walked in. Because Eve did what she knew she shouldn’t, and because Adam followed her lead, it cost them dearly. Life as they knew it was changed forevermore. Eve was deceived by the serpent, and after being tempted, she found that what looked good was not. Because what looked good led to the fall of man… it led to the eve of destruction. And ever since that day, sin has abounded on the earth. Look around, and what do we see? The news is filled with story after story, one more heinous than the next. Today’s headlines shout, “Police arrest boy, 12, for stabbing his eight-year-old sister to death at home.” Sin gave birth to violence and destruction and it blazes an ever widening path. Did Eve have any idea what was to follow? Could she have known the impact of her mistake? She must have, because she gave birth to Cain and Abel. Her own son killed the other. Abel’s blood cried out to God from the ground… and it hasn’t stopped. Blood spilled upon blood. Ever deepening.

I hope that Eve knew the truth. The other truth, that is. Oh, she knew the reality of violence. But I hope Eve realized her true worth and how much God really loved her. Because although she bit into the fruit, and gave way to sin, God didn’t love her less because of it. And despite her costly mistake, He still provided for her needs. And here’s the best part… God in fact said the woman would have pain in childbirth, but there is hope in simply that. The hope of childbirth. Despite her grievous sin, Eve, the first woman, got to have babies. And with each child, there is hope. It’s the woman who experiences a baby as he grows in her womb. It’s the woman who quickly forgets the agony of delivery, when she hears her newborn’s first cry. It’s the woman who knows the closeness of a babe at her breast, drinking in what only she can offer. It’s the woman who gets to be the mother. What great mercy God showed to Eve, the very first woman, in making her what she was… a mother.

This morning, I read, “For the Lord has created a new thing in the earth— A woman shall encompass a man.” Jeremiah 31:22. This intrigued me, as I have been contemplating God’s plan for women lately. I have felt downcast, and well, quite frankly feeling less than… if you know what I mean. So, I just had to know what this “new thing” is. What exactly does God mean by saying, “A woman shall encompass a man”? “Encompass” has several meanings, and with each version of the Bible, the verse reads differently… shelter, compass, surround, protect, guard, and return to, among others. So, what? A woman will shelter a man, protect a man… what was God saying here? And as I began to see, I just have to wonder if Eve, who lived so long ago, knew the promise of this statement.

It may be true that sin entered the world through the fall of man, via the mouth of a woman.  And though this stigma may trail after woman, it doesn’t have to be that way. Because the fact is, God chose women to have babies. That’s part of His plan. And because of God’s mercy and grace, it was through a woman that salvation made entrance into the world. By the hand of God, a virgin conceived. And the baby Jesus grew inside that young woman’s body. He was protected in her womb. See… Mary, the mother of Jesus, encompassed The Man. She surrounded Him… she sheltered Him… she guarded Him. And our Savior and Lord was delivered into this world through a woman. And it’s by Him that we will can all truly be delivered. Praise God for that.

Ironically, although Eve’s name means “life” or “living,” the dictionary gives the meaning as evening, night, sundown… basically darkness. And although the world looks that way now… dark and scary… there is hope. See, the dictionary also gives the meaning of “Eve” as: the evening or day before a special day, or the period immediately preceding. See, as dark the world seems right now, we are in fact living during a period immediately preceding something special. That something special is the Day of the Lord. And so we find… in more ways than we realize… we are truly living through the Eve of destruction. But we know the other truth… the real truth. We know the hope of a Child.

He who testifies of these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20

Happy Mother’s Day

Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.” Proverbs 31:28-29

I wrote something in October… for my mother. I wanted her to know what she means to me. I wanted her to know how I feel about her. And I believe it would be appropriate to share with every mother… because what my mom did for me is what we all do for our very own. We lay down our lives for our children. Because we love them that much… to death. May you be blessed by this, and may you be blessed this Mother’s Day…

My Mother –  A Depiction of Jesus Christ

            I’ve been on a quest the past couple of years.  My mission has been to know God, my Creator, in a way I had never experienced Him before.  I wanted to understand just what it is He expects and requires of me while I roam this earth.  I have been drawing nearer to God, in a way I never had before.

            This past year, I’ve come to realize that what God wants is quite simple.  He doesn’t ask a lot from me, but then again, He asks everything from me.  Quite a paradox.  At the basest level, God calls me to just a few things… I am to love the LORD above all else, believe what God says about His Son and be reconciled to Him through Jesus, and to love my neighbor like myself.  I am to be merciful and just, and walk humbly with God.

            Of course, I wanted to go deeper.  It wasn’t enough for me to know what He wanted… I also wanted to know just how to do these things.  And fortunately, He gave me a model to follow.  God gave me His Son, the perfect sacrifice, as an example of how I should live.  He is my road map for navigating this highway called life.  And Jesus shows me just what God expects of me… everything.

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

            This is what Jesus did.  He laid down His life for all mankind.  And in contemplating how one lays down a life today, I was startled when I realized God had given me another example years ago.  My mother.

            My mother was a broken woman when I was growing up.  She had a hard life, and for quite some time she was bitter and worn out.  I know that at one point, she felt God hated her.  That must have been because she was so weary of the pain and constant struggle of which her life consisted.  She suffered.  But you know, Jesus felt just the same.

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:34

            Jesus had to suffer for our sins upon a cross, so that we could have life.  At His darkest point, He felt that God abandoned Him.  In hindsight, I can see Jesus in my mother.  She must have felt the same… she suffered so as she laid down her life.  And she gave up hers so that my brother and I could have a life.  No greater love hath a woman than this.

            For my mother’s birthday, I want to give her the gift of this revelation. I want her to know what great purpose her life has held.  God has used her in a tremendous way.  Today, He has shown me what a great sacrifice my mother made.  She laid down her very own life, just for me.  Just like Jesus did.  I want her to know God pointedly revealed that to me today… And He wants me to do the same for my son.  I will follow her example, and lay down my life for my child.  Perhaps one day, my son will see Jesus in me, as I do in my mother.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall….

I love cartoons. And I think we’re all familiar with the infamous lines from Walt Disney’s movie, Snow White: “Mirror, mirror on the wall… who is the fairest one of all?” And as we look in our mirrors today, don’t we all want to see a pleasant face staring back at us? Don’t we all want to be the fairest one of all? Come on now… isn’t there a small vain streak in each one of us? Well, speaking as a forty year old woman, I can tell you that looking in a mirror today is not as fun as it used to be. In fact, I do not enjoy it one little bit, no, I do not. Because I don’t like what I see looking back. Frankly, age is beginning to make it’s appearance in the form of lines and sags and puffs that used to seem as far fetched as this fairy tail I’m referring to. Oh yes, mirror, mirror… it seems there’s no avoiding them. But fortunately, we can avert our eyes when we want to.

Surprisingly, however, I am finding reflections of me coming from another direction here lately. And you know, there’s no turning aside from this mirror image. No, when my little boy looks up at me, I cannot turn away. And in his small features, I’m beginning to see traces of me. And that makes me glad. BUT… I’m also seeing something else reflected back at me. And honestly, this doesn’t make me so glad. Because what I’m seeing is an ungrateful attitude and an unthankful heart. And you know, it’s not his fault. Because he’s just a child. And the sad truth is our children learn by example. The truth is our children are simply reflections of us and if we’re not careful, they may learn all the wrong things. Because no matter what you say to them, they are simply going to imitate what they see. And the ugly truth is… what I see in my son that I cannot abide by, is the very thing in me that God cannot abide by. And if I want to see changes in my son, well, it has to begin with me.

But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Colossians 3:14-15

I’ve been memorizing Scripture for months now. And periodically I go through them all, hoping to keep them fresh in my heart and mind. And without fail when I get to the above verse, I forget the ending. I cannot remember, “and be thankful,” for the life of me. And when I contemplate this, I see that it’s not just the words I’m forgetting… it’s my whole being that’s forgetting it. Not only do I forget to say, “be thankful,” but I simply forget being thankful. In cultivating my heart, thankfulness has been left out. And this shouldn’t be. Not for me… and not for my son. And so, things will be changing around here. Today is the day I am purposing in my heart to be thankful. Because in reality, that’s all that God is concerned with… the heart. He doesn’t care what image the mirror on the wall casts back, but He does care about the image our lives reflect. And our daily walk will reveal the truth about what lies deep inside us.

Rejoice Always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The truth is, I haven’t been rejoicing much and my prayers have been isolated to the morning. And I surely haven’t been giving thanks in everything. The truth is, I’ve lived most of my life in complete opposition to what I’m told to do in 1st Thessalonians. Because I’ve lived so much of my life pining away for something I didn’t possess. At one time, it was a baby… later, it was Virginia… later, status and a name… and later still, a house… and then, another house. You see, I’ve always been a glass half-empty kind of girl or the grass is always greener. And that just shouldn’t be for a child of God. And when I look at my son, I see he’s turning into a glass half-empty kind of boy. He too, is beginning to pine for things thinking the grass will be greener when he gets there. And I’m the one who’s making him that way. He’s my mirror image…  What I see in him just shouldn’t be and it won’t be. Because it’s not too late.

This day, I choose to be thankful and grateful. Because God has blessed me abundantly. This day, I choose to open my eyes to the gifts – big and small – that God has graced me with. And there’s a lot. And sure enough, when my heart begins to change from one that pines for what it doesn’t have, to one that is blown away by the goodness of God… well, I’m going to see a change in my son. Because he’s going to imitate me. His little heart will resemble mine. And when my reflection shines back at me – through him – I’ll smile at what I see.

Mirror, mirror, little boy… may your heart and my heart reflect God’s joy.