when cuteness ends…

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This morning I can’t help but wonder when cuteness ends. Because though I chuckled, the behavior displayed by my 13 month old was borderline not cute. She had been too quiet so I took a look. That’s when I discovered she’d pushed my son’s bedroom door open a few inches (a no-no because there’s just too much temptation). However, she didn’t propel herself inward till she saw me looking at her.

When our eyes locked, she took off. She turned from me and crawled away at lightning speed.

I couldn’t help but smile because she’s just too darn cute. I said, “No, no,” as I picked her up. But then, the ugliness appeared. A tantrum from hell. Yes, I said hell because hell hath no fury like a baby scorned.

Annabelle’s head went backward as she arched her back. And she growled. She shrieked. All I could do was lay her down on my living room floor where she proceeded to thrash about like a little animal caught in a trap. And I chuckled.

But then, laughter fell from my lips. And I wondered… cute? Or unacceptable.

Because really, when does a child’s bad behavior become un-cute.

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Look at my boy. Most definitely, cute. God, how I love him. But you know… we’re going through a tough time right now. We seem to have words every, single day. Heated words. I rise thinking this day will be different and I’m going to remain calm. And yet something sets me off. Always.

The other night it happened at bedtime. We got through the whole day unscathed so it was with a sigh of relief I lay down beside him. However, as I read from his book, I could tell he wasn’t paying attention. No, utterly distracted as he rubbed his eyeball raw. He rubbed and rubbed and rubbed making a statement without saying a word. So I tried to engage him.

“Do you know the song they’re talking about? Blueberry Hill?”

Silence and blank stare on my son’s part accompanied by more rubbing.

“Do you know it? It’s an old one… “I found my thrill, dum, dum, dum, dum-dum-dum, on Blueberry Hill.”

More silence. More blankness. More rubbing.

So I lost it. I told my boy (loudly) I was not reading him a story and how dare he ignore me. How dare he completely disregard my words and sit there without answering me. And there were other words. Choice words. Too many to remember, really.

But my demeanor was most telling. Chilling. Ice-cold. See, I made the decision to withhold myself from my little boy. At least for the night. Because I decided I was not going to lay by his side after lights out, which is what we normally do. No, I wanted to punish him in that instant by keeping something important from him.

So I withheld the only thing I could in that moment. I removed myself from his presence and left him in a dark room.

And I can assure you, I didn’t think Levi’s behavior resembled cuteness in the slightest as I stomped out of his room. Not. One. Bit. So clearly, a change takes place sometime between infancy and childhood. Somewhere along the line, cuteness most definitely ends. A time when chuckles turns to huffs and sighs and stomps.

And looking back on my son’s life, I can’t remember when that moment occurred.

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Look at that woman (me). I guess I’m kind of cute. At least my husband thinks so. And surely God does because He made me. But you know what… we’ve been going through a hard time, God and me. Because He’s been trying to teach me something. For years and years and years.

And yet, I’ve resisted. I’ve been as stubborn as a mule. He speaks and like Levi, a blank stare covers my face. I lay mutely as I rub my eyes in a dumb-founded way. And worse, my actions imply I’ve been ignoring Him. My heavenly Father. Because by not taking what He tells me to heart, I reject what He says.

Does He feel as I do? Was there a point in time in which He chuckled because He thought, “She’s just too cute.” But when my tantrums escalated as Annabelle’s did this morning, did He see me differently? And later, when my cold silences settled, did He want to stomp out of my room?

Did my heavenly Father get to a point in which He decided my cuteness ended. Like I did with Levi. And like what’s happening with Annabelle.

In looking back, I’d have to say yes. I’m sure He must have.

Because something happens as you grow. You reach the age of enlightenment. Understanding dawns. And when comprehension settles in your soul, knowing right from wrong, and you pitch a fit anyway… I believe your time is up. When you know what you should or shouldn’t do and decide to do the opposite… that’s when cuteness ends.

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.  Luke 15:11-16

I’ve been thinking about the prodigal son lately. And honestly, I didn’t know what prodigal meant until today. One of the definitions means wastefully extravagant. That’s what the prodigal did… he squandered away all his father gave him on frivolous living.

You know, that’s me. Today I realize I squandered away God’s words. Precious words specific to what I needed to hear in a time of need. And though I heard what He said, I didn’t really listen. My thick heart wasn’t penetrated. Staring blankly, rubbing my eyes, I ignored what He said.

It was, “I love you.” It happened a year ago. As I delighted over my baby girl, I squealed, “I love you, I love you, I love you!” And I stopped in my tracks. I thought, “This is how God feels about me?” Notice the question mark. Almost immediately I received a message from a man who hardly knows me. He confirmed exactly what I had been thinking. A virtual stranger told me that God said He is a daddy to me… that He loved me as I love my own children.

And yet, eight months later I dared to disbelieve. I was reckless in my actions. Totally ignoring what God gave me.

Unbelievable.

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You know, my little boy is such a parrot. He mimics me in countless ways. In fact, I must be the same age he is. Spiritually, I can’t be any more than nine years old because that’s how I behave so often. Acting out when things don’t go my way. Like Levi does.

And honestly, I don’t handle his antics well. Adult-like. Because I clam up when I feel frustrated, withholding myself from those I love the most. Oh so cool and reserved. But you know, that’s not right. My behavior is totally un-cute. And today I wonder if Levi has just been mimicking me in this manner…

Like what happened the other night. See, he wasn’t happy at bed time. He wanted to watch another five minutes of TV rather than have a story. Instead, I wanted to have my own way. I said so… No, I want to read a chapter of your book.

So Levi huffed as he brushed his teeth and flopped down in bed. And he was aloof. Rubbing that eye and withholding his words from me when I tried to engage him…

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. Luke 15:17-20

Oh, my boy. He follows me. Walks just as I do and parrots me in every way. Not a week ago Levi brought me ten dollar bills. He said He wanted to give it to Daddy because he takes care of us. Sweet, yes. But why would he think to do that? Have I inadvertently shaped him into thinking he should pay his way? That he has to bring something to the table in order to receive our love? My love?

Fortunately, Jason’s a good father. He hugged Levi when he tried to offer his gift. He said, “Son, I don’t want your money. I take care of you because I love you.”

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Luke 15:20-24

It’s true, Levi’s time is up. Cuteness ended long ago. When he behaves badly, there will be consequences. The lesson for me, though, is how I dispense those consequences. Seems as though discipline has been doled out by a nine year old woman (me) long enough. My reactions on par with a fourth grade maturity level.

And it’s apparent Annabelle’s time is almost up, too. Almost. Because she’s still so darn cute she can get away with it.

And as for me, the jig is most definitely up. Cuteness ended long ago. But fortunately, Abba is a good Father. He’s kind and generous. And oh, so loving. Like the one we see in the prodigal son story. When his son returned to his senses, he opened his arms wide.

And that’s good news for me. Because like the prodigal, I’ve come to my senses. Oh, it may have taken some time. But eventually I turned.

And finally, I’m moving the right way…

toward my Father’s open arms.

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Turns out I’m not as bad a mom as I think I am. It goes back to that night with Levi. Blueberry Hill and the eye rubbing.

See, I may have stomped out but I didn’t stay out. I just couldn’t. As I thought about my little boy in that room all by himself, my compassion broke through the coldness. I didn’t want Levi to go to sleep feeling bad. So I returned to him.

Without words, I lay down and put my arm over his chest. Protectively. I kissed his forehead and loved him with my presence. And gave him what he desired most in his moment of need. I gave him his mama.

That doesn’t mean I handled the night perfectly. Or that there won’t be more nights like it. But what it does mean is I love him. Forever. My love is constant. Lesson being that though his cuteness ran out long ago, my love never did.

And that goes for me, too. My antics and theatrics no longer fly. Not with God, they don’t. But despite my cuteness ending, His love remains. Constant.

A Father to me forever. No matter how I act. Or act out. Cute or un-cute… nine or forty-two, I’ll always be His daughter.

That’ll never change.

Place Cards

Daddy made an observation this morning about Annabelle. And though his remark was casual, it resounded in my heart. He spoke a deep truth and didn’t even realize it…

“Now! Annabelle’s at the table. That’s better than her high chair.”

Huh, I thought. This is it. Within Daddy’s simple statement, I find the heart of my struggle. But also, therein lies the key to moving forward. For my battle has everything to do with placement. Fighting for my place in life… in the worldly realm and in His. Let me explain.

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Earlier this morning, Annabelle cried out. Seems she found herself in a precarious position for she managed to pull herself up to a high place. Problem was she couldn’t get down on her own. No, I had to rescue her. Fortunately, though, she realized she’d fall flat on her face if she tried to. My wise little one year old sensed danger and had the foresight to call for reinforcement. She needed the strong arms of her mama.

Too bad I’ve not been as smart as her…

We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God… 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

I stumbled across the above verse three years ago. And I thought, “This is exactly what I’m supposed to do.” I thought God had given me charge to pull down that which stands in opposition to Him. To Christ. And I was. And am. The problem, though, is I got off-track.

See, I thought it was abortion. In September of 2012, that’s where I found myself. Uncovering a buried up past. And the days leading up to that point, and the months following, were profound. Awe-inspiring. I stood in a place called revelation and glory. Indeed, I stood on holy ground as the presence of God surrounded me.

https://pamandersonblog.com/2013/07/02/the-weight-of-glory/   https://pamandersonblog.com/2013/10/21/a-holy-place/

Back then, there was no question in my heart. About placement, that is. My mission was clear. Tear down that which was set-up against God and His throne. Alas, I ventured on from that place much too soon. Slowly but surely, I began to seek higher ground.

And so, as time progressed, my mission changed. Though I thought I was to speak up and renounce abortion, my objective changed. For over time, I became the target.

It was me.

I became the high-thing standing in opposition to Him. My baby girl shows me how…

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Just look at her. Annabelle was trying to get off the floor even then. She used her little arms to pull up to a kneeling position. Then standing. And within months, she could climb right up onto that piece of furniture. And there, she could sit on her throne and look out.

The only issue now is she cannot get down. She’s not strong enough. Or agile enough. If she tried it, she’d fall. Hard. Thus, she needs a rescuer.

Like me…

Annabelle is a picture of me.

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Three years ago was a heady time. Oh, what a thrill to be awash in God’s glory. For He poured Himself into me and I was filled with fresh revelation again and again and again.

But for a girl like me, that can be a very dangerous place. Because there, standing on holy ground, it’s too tempting to exalt oneself.

See, my battle has been insignificance. Inferiority. Invisible for too many years. But then, He saw me. God chose to reveal great truths. To me. Surely that meant I was special. Worth something. And not just in His realm, but the worldly realm.

And so…

Just like Annabelle, I peeled myself from the prostrate pose of worship and used self-seeking arms to pull up. Before I knew it, I was kneeling. And before I realized what happened, I found myself standing up. Standing on holy ground. And unlike Moses who had the presence of mind to remove his sandals, my feet remained shod. Way to casual with a holy God.

From there, I tried to gain a foothold. I used the force of my legs to propel myself upward yet again. And finally, I sat down on the throne of my heart… without a doubt, I displaced God from His rightful place.

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?” Joseph 50:20

I dared stand in the place of God. And worse, I dared sit in His place. Casually. And rather than casting down abortion as I so thought I was supposed to do, I used my lofty position to cast down everyone else instead. Everyone but me, that is.

So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them:  “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place.  But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:7-11

In looking back, I see I’m not as wise as Annabelle. I didn’t know I was too high to get down on my own. Not a clue I needed to cry out for a rescuer. The writing conference I attended in July opened my eyes, though. Trying to find my place at a table is what did it. Seeing that I wasn’t going to cry out on my own, God gave me a nudge…

Right off my throne.

I arrived late to dinner and chose a table at the back. No less than six people sat side by side leaving five unused chairs opposite. I selected the one in the middle which left me flanked by two empty chairs. I mustered up courage and spoke to the only man there.

“Is this seat taken?”

He hesitated. Just a brief pause but enough to hurt my fragile ego. After a less than enthusiastic offer, I sat. Alone. Those at the table completely engrossed in important discussion. I took a second look at that man because he looked familiar. And as fate would have it, and by fate I mean God, he happened to be my 9:00 a.m. appointment for the next day. I was going to present him with a book idea. And I felt sick.

Because he didn’t even notice me. Not at that table. Oblivious to my existence. He was engrossed in conversation with a lady I later realized was important. In the worldly realm. Because she had status. A position with a publishing company.

And so I swallowed down the herb of bitter with my meal. In my heart, I deemed the Christian realm to be no different than the world. In truth, there are those who matter and those who don’t. At least that’s how I saw it that night. Because in my most vulnerable of places, I was wounded. And it was then, I fell off my throne.

It felt just like God was pecking me on the shoulder and telling me to take a lower seat.

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Look at my girl. This was just months ago. Mouth filled with eggs. Her place was not at the table back then. Her high chair was off to the side and I’d pull it as close to us as I could when we dined. She didn’t seem to mind.

But finding myself in the same position, I did mind. And worse, I was mad at my heavenly Father. Because I wanted Him to acknowledge me. Moreover, I wanted Him to acknowledge me in the presence of others. To honor me. I wanted Him to put me on display…

“See her. This is My girl. My beloved. My chosen.”

At that conference it felt as though God pushed me off into the corner. And perhaps He did. Because wanting to be set apart in a special way kept me removed from everything. In truth, I was sitting in the high chair of mind. The truth revealed as a speaker said, “Remember me, God?”

My heart echoed her words.

She said, “Don’t they know who I am?”

My heart whispered the same…

“Do not come closer.” He said, “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 33:4-5, 6

All these years I’ve been struggling to find my place in life. I’ve been vying for other people’s notice because for some reason, I’ve bought into the lie. That if other people think I’m worth something, then I am.

My husband knows this better than anyone. When I don’t feel enough appreciation, he’ll humor me by patting my hair and speaking softly, “Oh, praise Pam. Praise her!” Then we both laugh. I realize how silly I’m being.

But Jason’s words are telling. Because really, should it be praise Pam? Or praise God? And why isn’t it enough that God sees me. Intimately. And privately. Because He does.

Shouldn’t that be enough?

The LORD said, “Here is a place near Me.” Exodus 33:21

I can’t lie. My experience in July hurt. Trying to find my place at God’s table amongst all those more qualified than me nearly did me in. Nearly. The fact my offering was rejected struck an already raw nerve. Because what I had to offer was deemed not good enough. Thus, I wasn’t good enough.

And not only was my gift discarded by those at the table, but also by my Father. At least in my mind, it was. Today, though, I know this was a lesson. A necessary step. Truth to be applied to my heart.

It has to do with placement. Finding my place in life. But more importantly, finding my place with Him. See, God doesn’t share His glory. He doesn’t stand aside so His children can stand in His place. And that’s what I was trying to. And had been doing. I didn’t even know it.

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And as for God’s table, it’s not exclusive. Room for one and all. Whether the world deems you to be special or not.

It’s a process, walking with God. And just as Annabelle is growing up, so am I. I made a special place for her at our table recently. I realize God did the same. He made room for me. A place card etched with my name.

Only, sitting in the highchair of my mind, I didn’t see it. Sitting up too high, I overlooked it. But it was there the whole time.

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Today, I have to smile. And I let Daddy’s words tickle my ear…

He says, “Now! Pam’s at the table. That’s better than her high chair.”

And a laugh escapes my lips. Just like Annabelle. In every way.

How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Exodus 33:16-17

my enemy danced…

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the Funyun story

Know what Funyuns are? It’s an onion flavored corn snack. A treat. Salty/crunchy, so right up my alley. It’s what my two cousins had in hand as they sat outside my Mammie’s house when I was about five. They sat on a bench together with the bag nestled between them… within their reach but out of mine. They smugly munched away.

I was on the outside in every way that day. And it burned. Not a part of their group and not a partaker of their snack. I hungrily looked on as they gleefully withheld from me. And though they saw me salivating a short distance away, they didn’t offer me a one. No, I had to ask for what I wanted. Begged, really. The conversation went something like this…

“Can I have one?”

“No.”

“Please let me have one.”

“Well, we’ll let you have one but you have to eat dirt first.”

So I did. Or at least I tried to. I crammed a handful of dirt in my mouth for just a few seconds before spitting it all out. I sullied my mouth in order to gain a moment of satisfaction. A treat.

And what did I get in return for my labor? One stinking Funyun. They tossed it in the dirt beside me. That was my reward. And so I picked it up from the filth and ate.

Yep, it’s this Funyun story that’s played out in my head again and again in recent months. And I used to laugh about it. But the truth is, it hurts. Because I was reacquainted with that feeling just a month ago. Mind you, my situation was nothing at all like the sought after Funyuns. And I had no real cause to feel as I did all those years ago.

Nonetheless, that’s exactly how I felt.

Begging for crumbs and pilfering through dirt…

the explosion

Several of those closest to me have said on more than one occasion I’m too hard on myself. And in this season of my life, I’m finally coming to see things their way. I’m ready to admit the truth.

Why yes, I have been too hard on myself. And yes, I have set the bar too high. Indeed, I’ve set unrealistic goals impossible to attain through my current station… as a busy mom of a nine year old and a baby, I simply cannot do everything I want to do. Not now, at least. Understanding dawns and I’m at peace with it.

Finally.

But for years and years, I didn’t. And I tried. I strived for the one thing I wanted. Perhaps ever since the day I ate from the dirt. For over thirty years I’ve struggled to attain the one thing denied me. Until last month, that is. See, it all came to a head. There was a climax of sorts. An explosion as the truth erupted from my fissured heart.

And when I dared voice what lie within, I trembled. I quaked in terror. And when I told my husband, he asked me incredulously, “Is that what’s in your heart?” He shook his head…

“You better be careful,” he said.

His words lay heavy on me. As did my own.

dancing with the devil

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat. Luke 22:31

My enemy danced on the dark night of my soul. It’s true. And likely, he’d been dancing for months. Because I let him deceive me. I entertained the accusations he whispered in my ear. “Now Pam, does God really care about you? Look at what’s happening… you’re trying to do all this stuff for him – cramming an already tight schedule – and yet, he won’t even give you a good night’s sleep? Surely, if he loved you he’d give you what you wanted.”

And so, he led and I followed. The devil’s such a good dancer, I couldn’t help myself.

One, two, three, four, twirl…. why isn’t Annabelle sleeping through the night? She had been before! Why now when it’s most inconvenient?

One, two, three, four, dip… what in the world! Doesn’t God know I have to do so much tomorrow… why is she up from 1 to 3 a.m.

One, two, three, four.

One, two, three.

One, two.

And, one.

My enemy had me. I was dancing along with him. His whispered words became my own vocal ones. And worse, they filled my heart. A heart deceived. Falling for the one who told lies. Believing the lies he told.

I quit

Truth is, I quit God this past Summer. I petered out. It began in June. That’s when my time diminished. And yet, that’s when I had the most to do. A deadline. Self-imposed, of course.

Naturally, this is when Annabelle began waking through the night. The pressure was on. I did my best to stay even-keeled but failed miserably. There was late-night cussing. An exploded diaper as it hit my kitchen floor. Hard. When Jason roused, I yelled out “I quit!”

“What do you mean, you quit?”

A logical question. I shrugged or said I didn’t know. But I did know. Because that was the night I quit God. In my heart, I did. Because I thought I was doing all this stuff for Him. I thought the deadlines were for Him. I thought I was knocking myself out for Him.

And so the fact He didn’t give me a full night’s sleep for weeks on end pushed me to my limits. I was angry. Worse yet, I was angry at my God. Because I felt He was denying me the one good thing I wanted. And needed. Sleep. I needed the sleep to do the things I wanted to do. For Him.

I don’t believe

The dark night of my soul came the end of July. That’s the night I told God I didn’t believe He loved me. I know, I know. This is shocking. And terrible. And so ridiculous. A flat out lie.

But this is truth. This is what I said. It’s what I meant. I believed it as I lay on the couch in the midst of darkness and Annabelle’s cries. My insides boiled. I said it more than once, too. Loudly. Vehemently.

“I don’t believe You love me!”

I accused God. All because God didn’t give me the one thing I wanted. He said no to my requests. I repeatedly asked for Him to quiet Annabelle. To soothe her. To let her sleep so I could sleep.

His answer was no, though.

And it caused me to stumble in the most grievous of ways.

Ultimately, I denied Him. I denied Christ. For Romans 5:8 tells me that God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. For me.

And the realization that I denied Him caused me to weep bitterly.

the end of me

What happened this Summer was inevitable. All of it. It had to happen because it led to the end of me. The end of striving and overachieving. Because I was forced to ask a question, “Who am I really doing all this for?”

Is it really just for Him? And His glory? Or is it for me and mine?

Thanks to this Summer, though, I have a clear understanding of why I do what I do and what makes me tick. Or what makes me go tick-tick-tick-boom. It goes back to the Funyuns. The incident that was part of my foundation. And my make-up.

See, the world’s upbringing shaped me into a woman scrounging around in the dirt begging for a scrap of something I deemed to be good. My one aim.

As a child, it was Funyuns. As a young girl, I craved love and notice. And now, as a forty-two year old woman, I just wanted a little recognition. Some appreciation for all the stuff I do. And to get that, I kept a full calendar. Thus, sleep seemed to be a necessity.

But God denied my request for the one thing I desired. My journey became more difficult. The road wasn’t paved with ease. And so I faltered. And doubted Him.

grace

I have to be honest. I worried for a while after the things I said. Because what in the world?? Today, though, I’m thankful. It all had to happen. The Funyuns, the explosion, sleeping with the enemy, the doubt and despair, and yes, even the end of me. Because finally, finally, He has me just where He wants me.

I’m done. Nothing left of me. Stripped of all I’ve been striving for. And all I’ve been longing for. Because after saying what I did, I was scared He was done with me. DONE. And that’s when I realized just how much I need Him.

Him and only Him. And so I’m ready.

Finally, finally, I let His grace wash over me. Because I need it. I need Him.

Oh, how I need Him. More than I need me. More than I need a Funyun coated in dirt. More than recognition. And yes, even more than sleep.

Because I can’t do this thing called life without Him. I just can’t.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

I can’t help but think of the Apostle Paul. What might his affliction have been? Three times he pleaded with God to remove it but the answer was no.

And I think of me. What a weakling I am to get so bent out of shape over lost sleep. However, I’m thankful I did. Because it led to my meltdown. To my explosion. And for me to say what I was really thinking. The ugly truth.

However, I didn’t find God’s wrath or punishment. Or condemnation.

Instead, I found grace.

In the most unexpected place.

In a little tan house on a small back road, a sleepy, forty-two year old woman finally accepted the gift of God’s grace. Finally. Because for the first time she stopped depending on herself and began to depend on Him. Because she needed to. She needed Him.

And finally she realized it’s true. Finally. His grace is sufficient for thee.

It’s sufficient for me.

Unfaithful

The fact I polished off a family size bag of Cheetos this week almost deterred me from working out last night. Because I thought, what’s the point? I already screwed up royally. I cheated again on my diet. Forever unfaithful to the healthy lifestyle I seek to nurture. Forever cheating with Cheetos… or whatever other salty/crunchy snack lies in wait on my pantry shelves.

Sigh.

Alas, I exercised anyway. I worked out and was drenched in sweat by the time I finished. And it felt good.

But then, I went home. And unavoidably, the hours of temptation arose. From nine p.m. on marks the hours of my downfall. Because when temptation beckons after dark, and everyone else is asleep, there’s no one to stop me. Or see me. And I just can’t seem to exercise self-control. Chester the cat (this week’s love) is just too darn cool. And too hard to resist. So I don’t.

I run to him…

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After binging, I always feel upset. Guilty. And hypocritical. Because I’m trying to teach my son what is good and healthy and what’s not. I tell him what to eat and not eat. And yet, I don’t follow my own advice. This is 100% do as I say and not as I do. And though I try to sneak things in at night, sometimes I leave clues behind. They’re discovered the next morning.

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The above picture is from last week. Before entrance of aforementioned family sized Cheetos. We buy my son those big bags of smaller bags for lunch. Levi says he prefers the soft cheese curls to the hard ones so that gave me license to dig through his lunch supplies seeking out Chester.

But don’t let that little bag fool you. This was the first of several. I started with one but my voracious appetite for snacks wasn’t satiated. So as I tossed away the trash, I grabbed another. Then repeated the process. Laid out on the couch, I devoured these little bags of chips.

I got chip-faced.

But afterward, I felt shame.

Sigh.

Yesterday my husband noticed a look on my face. “What’s wrong?” I confessed later when I emailed him a small grocery list. I told him I ate the whole bag of family sized Cheetos (the one he specifically said, “these are not for you.”)

cheese, milk, cat litter, gain dish soap

And the reason I looked the way I did this a.m. is I’m ashamed. Past three nights I’ve been chowing down on family sized cheetos, which are all gone now, by the way.

I keep feeling sick but no wonder.

Jason’s reply is priceless…

So just one bag of family sized Cheetos then?  Or 2?

Oh, I love him. Funny guy. And how well my boys know me. Both of them. For my own son has told me, “Don’t eat the whole bag.” Or “Save some for me!” Or “I got some first because I know if you get them there won’t be any left.”

Despite my trying to stealthily eat at night, I’m found out.

Moses saw that the people were out of control, for Aaron had let them get out of control, so that they would be vulnerable to their enemies. Exodus 32:25

So I had this interesting conversation with a friend yesterday. She’s been fasting one day a week and she told me that when hunger comes, she focuses on a situation she’s going through. And she says she finds clarity. She also told me when she eats something unhealthy, like cake, she feels so lethargic. It spoke to me.

See, I’ve been so tired lately. More so than usual. Three cups of coffee have turned to four or five a day. And that’s not good. So I realize I’ve been caught up in a vicious cycle. I eat too much. Carb overload. To compensate, I depend on caffeine. And around and around I go.

Basically, because my eating is out of control… I am out of control. And you know what… that makes me vulnerable.

The LORD then said to Joshua, “Stand up! Why are you on the ground?” Israel has sinned. They have violated My covenant that I appointed for them. They have taken some of what was set apart (for destruction). They have stolen, deceived, and put the things with their own belongings. This is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies. Joshua 7:10-12

I just love the Old Testament. And though it’s about God’s chosen people, the Israelites, so much speaks to me today. I look at Joshua, Moses’ successor. How God appeared to Him. He said to be courageous. That He was with Him. And Joshua led the people to take the city of Jericho. The walls came tumbling down…

But you know what. On the heels of victory, Joshua and the people suffered defeat. Failure. A set-back. But it boils down to one thing. The people were unfaithful to God. They made other gods. In Exodus 32, they fashioned a golden calf. In Joshua 7, it was the spoils of war… items set apart to be destroyed were secreted away instead.

And really, this is what I’ve done. Eating is one of my gods. I bow down to it. I adore it. I allow it to control me. Rather than mastering my eating habits, I’ve allowed them to master me. A slave to carbohydrates. And Cheetos Chester. And to King Utz and Lord Lays.

When my household goes down, I go up. To the high place of my pantry. And I sacrifice my health to the god of overeating.

God help me.

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This is one of my battles. Always has been. Ever since my youth. I love salty/crunchy. My mid-section always an issue. Up and down. In the 9th grade, a boy actually commented on my tummy. “If you could get that under control, you’d have a really good body.” In the 11th grade I added about 10 pounds. That’s when an old acquaintance said, “Pam, you’re fat!” It hurt.

Ever since then, it was one failed attempt after another. Diet pills and exercise spurts. The above was taken one year after the birth of my son. I had some baby weight. I decided to do Body for Life. My husband helped me with before pictures…

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I dropped 12 pounds in a couple of months. I felt so good. Healthy. Energetic. Alas, the pounds came back with ten more. And so I’d try something else. Atkins diet. Hydroxycut. Jillian Michaels DVD’s. Up and down. Back and forth…

Up till now. Oh, I’ve lost ground by gaining pounds. More than ever. Most definitely, I’ve been unfaithful to God… choosing another lover. Cheetos. And I almost didn’t work out last night. But I did it.

Regardless of my failure, I took a small step forward. Afterward, I had the courage to say no to Chester. Or whatever other salty/crunchy snack tempted me.

And I find a small victory. Because the sluggishness of my carb coma seems to be wearing off today. And I find clarity. Awareness. I’ve been trapped in that cycle far too long. That vicious cycle. Going in circles.

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I choose to move forward today. Onward in my journey with new resolve. Because I don’t want to go down this way. I don’t want food to trip me up any more. Food the cause of my sluggishness. Excess calories weighing me down in every way.

I just get so tired. So very tired. Lethargic. Till I’m immobile and on the ground. But today I hear my one true God. His voice cuts through the din of other false voices… my tempters.

He says, “What are you doing on the ground? Stand up!”

And in His strength, and only by His strength, I shall… I have to.

And not just for my sake. And for His sake. It’s for theirs… I have to stand up so I can be there for them. My babies.

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This won’t be easy. For it’s been a battle. My weight and me. Most of my life, really. But the choice is an easy one to make… it’s them or Chester.

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So this day, instead of Chester, I run to God. I peel myself off the ground and run to my children. Onward in my journey.

Eight is Enough

I try to stay out of the political arena and tend to steer clear of current affairs. Because deep down, I’m a big coward. I want to keep everyone’s approval so I avoid hot topics.

Moreover, when it comes to verbal debate, I usually lose. If an argument presents and I disagree, I keep quiet. Because my mouth never seems to have my back. Though words tumble around in my brain, they rarely make it to my mouth. So I remain voiceless on the most important issues of the day.

However, this morning I saw something as I worked. And feel I cannot keep silent. Take a look…

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These are my file labels. There’s a thin blue line on them and that’s a term I hadn’t heard before this week. The Thin Blue Line. It refers to the police force. According to Wikipedia, the blue is used to symbolize law enforcement as the protectors of civilians from criminals. The blue, which separates the black lines of public and criminals, represents the police force.

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Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy. Proverbs 31:9

Thanks to the world wide web, I learned the idea behind this graphic. Basically, law enforcement is what stands between regular citizens and the violence and victimization by criminals. In essence, they’re our shield. Our defenders. They’re who we call if we find ourselves in trouble.

And yet, the police finds itself in an unusual predicament today. Our defenders are under attack. Shot by the very people they serve and protect. And what I find absolutely incredible is our President remains silent on this matter. And his silence is deafening. It says… I don’t have your back.

It appears that those who cover the backs of American citizens don’t have the support of our nation’s leader. If I’m wrong about this, please, correct me. If our president has voiced concern over this issue, enlighten me. I’d really like to know his stance on these police shootings.

Because unless I’m mistaken, he’s not given any indication that he stands with the men and women who comprise the thin blue line. Not even in the wake of EIGHT shootings within one month’s time. And I find this astounding.

Then many will take offense, betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold. Matthew 24:10-12

On September 1, I jotted down, “Eight is enough.” I was thinking of the old TV show. A lot of siblings. But then my thoughts morphed to friendship. Would eight be enough to satisfy my needs. To fill the void I sometimes feel. Would eight women be enough to support me… and cover my back.

But today, God led me down another rabbit hole altogether. It’s a hole called offense. Because truth is when I wrote down eight is enough, I was offended. I felt slighted by something silly and it caused me to want to inflict pain. And my method of harm is called withholding. I shut down and close up within myself.

Thus, I stumble. And my friends stumble. Because I no longer have their back.

But today, I hear God loud and clear. He says, “Eight is enough!” He says it to me and He says it to our nation. Eight lost lives is more than enough.

And why were these innocents shot? Slaughtered in cold blood? Because someone chose to be offended. Someone was filled with so much hate and violence, they lashed out by doling out evil. They murdered living souls. And in the name of offense, they feel justified by their evil deeds.

But this is outrageous. It jars me loose from my inward reveries. And it causes my blood to boil.

I wonder, what can be done? God help us all.

Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another, but instead decide not to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way. Romans 14:13

I looked up offended in the concordance today and was surprised by what I found. Among other definitions, it means to put a stumbling block in the way, upon which another may trip and fall; to entice sin; or to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey. This was a holy moly moment for me.

Because this is taking place on American soil. Right now. People no longer trust policeman. Our protectors have become the bad guys. And this ought not to be! No doubt, there are bad cops out there. Just as there’s corrupt personnel in every other field. But does that give us the right to take our guns and snuff out God-given life? Or eradicate an entire career field? Just because we’re offended by something that happened to someone else.

No.

No it doesn’t.

And yet, I’m not seeing much support on this issue from the POTUS. I reiterate, please correct me if I’m wrong. If President Obama has taken the stance that he is in full support of our law enforcement, that he has their backs, then I must retract my words. It’s just that if he has, I’ve missed it…

So  then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. Romans 14:19

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Look at my boy here… oh, he melts my heart. And he enrages me. But in the end, I’m like butter in his hands. I love him so. And I ache for him. Because he is so much like me. He’s easily offended. He doesn’t handle teasing well. Oh, he can dish it out but if you jab back, he gets so bent out of shape.

No doubt, he’s an easy mark. Because when you wear your heart on your sleeve, more teasing follows. I should know.

It happened to him yesterday. After Mom and I teased him, he stomped off to a corner and sat down… head in his lap. He advised us we were bullying him. And though I don’t think that’s what we were doing, his remark gives me pause today.

Bullying is what he said. And in my humble estimation, I’d have to say that’s what’s occurring in our country today. Our police force is being bullied. By threatening calls such as the one to Aurora Colorado’s 911:

“It is time that you guys know we are no longer playing around with the police departments,” the anonymous caller said. “Aurora and Denver, we are about to start striking fear shooting down all cops that we see by their selves. This will go for the sheriff’s department. You guys are evicting innocent people. Let us catch you by yourself and it’s shots fired.”

But unlike what our kids hear at school, leadership doesn’t seem to practice what’s taught. Or preached.

And so I just have to wonder, what is happening? Has the whole world gone mad?

If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And we have this command from Him: the one who loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:20-21

God speaks in such diverse ways. He prepares my heart long before I know where He’s leading me. Like last week when He whispered, “Eight is enough.” It began as a mere thought but as the week progressed, layers were added. And then, I heard a newscaster last night. The report made mention that eight police officers have lost their lives within a month.

That’s when I understood God’s deeper meaning.

He says eight lives are too many. Furthermore, God says enough.

More alarmingly, though, I understand God’s meaning to me. Personally. Because I can be just the same as those who are at the other end of my pointing fingers. No different than the offended who fired shots. I do the same. Just in the reverse.

A brother, or sister, offends me by not noticing me or my effort. Or a word is spoken – too easy to misunderstand. So, I withhold myself. I withhold kindness and encouraging words, smiles and eye contact. I plain old withhold me. All of me.

But God says, eight is enough. Plain old, “Enough!”

He tells me, His daughter, “Enough of that, Pam.”

“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Proverbs 17:17

Hurting people hurt people. I’ve seen it more than once this past week. And today I realize hurting people are those highly offended. They’re the ones stumbling in the dark. And sadly, they pick up guns and shoot other people.

The hard truth is, they need someone to have their back. Just as I do. They need to be part of something bigger than themselves. Woven into the brotherhood or sisterhood of God’s people. Unity is required. Not division. It’s just our country has gotten so divisive. Splintered.

Yes, it’s true. Hurting people need a support system. And the shelter of a good friend.

This is what every person needs.

Those who are offended. And those who offend.

“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.  So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:21-24 

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I’ve been mulling over “eight is enough” for a solid week now. With regard to my friends but also, with regard to sleep. And my daughter’s pacifiers. See, she’s been having a rough time. Ear infection. Teething. Sleepless nights. So I tell myself, six is enough. Six hours of sleep should hold me.

But that’s dwindled to four or five past few nights. So as far as sleep goes, I know I need more. Six will do in a crunch, but eight would be better. A good night’s sleep.

For now, though, I resign myself to the fact I’ll have less. Because Annabelle is restless. And when she cries out, I go to her. But sometimes, her paci is no where to be found. In the darkness, I drop to my knees frantically in search of finding that which calms her. A dim nightlight to guide me. Usually, I find it under the crib. Or hidden amongst her blanket.

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We were down to only two pacifiers last week. I swear, it seemed like we never had them both at the same time. One was always missing. So Jason brought home extra. That way we’d have backup. We covered Annabelle’s back by way of five pretty pacifiers.

I’d say that’s enough. Five will do. At least with regard to pacifiers…

But then, there are my friends. My sisterhood. Though all too often I find myself in lonely places, truth is I do have them. I have my girls. And if only I’d cry out, they’d have my back in a hot minute. All I have to do is ask.

And just as I run to Annabelle under the cover of darkness, they’d do the same for me. Again, all I have to do is ask.

I just need to open my mouth. And speak up.

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Today, God sets before me a choice. I can be offended or not. But experience proves one offers only isolation. The other, shelter. One provides coldness but the other offers warmth. Harm or help. Stand or stumble. Offend or be offended. That’s my choice.

So I ask for God’s help. That I’d be wise enough to not hide away within perceived offenses. Because He told me already… eight is enough!

Help me, God, to not withhold myself when I feel let down. When expectations go unmet. Because as far as friends go, I need them. Two are better than one. And three, well, that’s even better. For I don’t want to do this thing called life alone.

Would eight be enough? Probably. But in reality, eight friends are probably more than I can handle…

I don’t want to spread myself too thin, now do I?

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


 

distressed

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dis·tress [disˈtres]

NOUN: extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain

VERB: give (furniture, leather, or clothing) simulated marks of age and wear

My love affair with distressed furniture began quite by accident. It happened when I lived in York, PA. Married not even a year. When Daddy came to visit, he bought us a table and chairs as an apartment warming gift. The problem, though, was a sticker stain on the table top (it was the display model). Stain wouldn’t hide the unsightly rectangular dark patch, so paint was the answer. Thick, creamy ivory.

After lovingly coating the furniture, paint stroke by paint stroke, I sanded down the rough finish. I gave extra attention to the corners and edges and that’s when the most lovely thing happened. Raw wood was exposed. A distressed finish appeared. And the darker hues underneath contrasted beautifully with the lighter topcoat.

Afterward, I added country checks to the chair backs and table sides. And by the time I sealed the product, I was smitten. I positively adored our first dining room set. So much so, I painted a hutch to match.

From that moment on, painting furniture became a passion of mine. I regularly sought out new pieces from junk shops and thrift stores. But whenever a treasure was unearthed, I involved paint. Rarely did I leave a piece untouched. And never did I leave a perfect finish. Distressed was the effect I desired.

Eventually, our dwelling was filled with seemingly worn pieces of furniture.

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Another acquisition early on in our marriage was kitty cats. We adopted three before we hit one year of marriage. And they seemed to complete our household. Or more aptly, complete and destroy. Namely, our bedroom set. An expensive one at that. It’s the set we still use today and amazingly, it’s retained it’s original finish. A flawed one…

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Within months of buying this set, our kitties clawed the slick surface and gnawed the corners. That’s how they’d wake us to announce their empty bellies. I’d rouse from slumber to find Molly perched atop our chest just chewing edges. A few years ago, I tried to blend in unsightly marks but to no avail. They still stand out. And so in February, this furniture finally made it to my to-do list. It will be painted. And yes, it will be distressed.

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This morning, I cannot help but contrast the two types of furniture that grace my house. I have my worn, painted pieces. Distressed. And I have our more “adult” furniture, as Jason once described it. These pieces are stained wood.

And you know what? The pieces that retain their original finish look pretty bad. Because over time,  the surfaces have become marred. And unlike with the distressed painted pieces, the flaws are incredibly noticeable. When I dust, though a rare occurrence, the marks stand out vividly. Against an otherwise perfect finish, scratches don’t look so good. In fact, the pieces just look old. Something I’d rather hide away instead of displaying in my home.

Which brings me to what God showed me this weekend…

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I felt distress. Angst over my little boy who sat playing tablet. Washed by guilt that I’ve not signed him up for some activity to keep him busy. And it being Labor Day, I decided to put him to work. I thought I’d introduce him to something I have passion for. Furniture painting.

In hope of keeping Levi interested, I let him choose the piece. I explained how we had to sand the chair really good so we could get to the raw wood. Otherwise, the paint wouldn’t stick. And as we sanded, my mind went to spiritual matters. I told my son we’re kind of like the process of painting a chair. That we need to allow God to strip down our finish so He could get to what’s underneath.

Levi said, “Oh, the shiny is like the sin?”

I said yes. But there’s more to it. So much more, I’m not sure a nine year old can grasp all the chair symbolized to me on Saturday.

Reclaimed

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An old feeling arose in my heart over the weekend. It was shame. And it burned hot. Like Adam and Eve hid in the garden, I wanted to do the same. It has to do with my recent writing… how I’m still not over something from my past. And how I should be okay by now.

But then, my son chose a chair for us to refinish. That’s when everything became clear. A precious gift from God as I gained clarity. Because I realize I am just like the chair.

See, God hand picked me. He reclaimed me. No different than me and Levi venturing down into the depths of my basement to make a selection, God did the same. It was September of 2012 and I sat in a sea of women. He reached down and chose me. Her. I’m going to refinish her…

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That’s when the process began in earnest. I acknowledged the truth of my past for the very first time. I brought two abortions to light by telling a family member. Seventeen years after the fact. Like the use of coarse sandpaper sloughing away the slick layers of veneer, God did the same with me.

He removed layers and layers of the topical religion I based all my faith in. It was all surface, anyway. But the truth of His words finally sanded away my slickness. No way around it, really, as my perfect finish had become marred. Scratches and flaws highly noticeable against a backdrop of my striving perfection.

But finally, He got down to what was underneath. My heart. And it was exposed. Like the raw wood of a reclaimed chair.

Restored

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The restoration process has been a lengthy one. Because stripping away deeply ingrained, harmful thought patterns can take time. And God works on each person specifically and individually. It can take years for Him to strip down a soul sufficiently. Enough so that when He adds in His layers, brush stroke by brush stroke, they’ll stick.

Like a woman I read of in the New Testament who suffered with a bleeding disorder for twelve years. Over a decade for her restoration. And renewal.

Mine’s three years in the making. Just six months after I acknowledged my past, I went public with it. ( https://pamandersonblog.com/2013/03/15/the-valley-of-slaughter/ ) But that was only the beginning. Ever since, God’s been drawing me deeper and deeper. Layer by layer. Bits of poison sanded away as He adds to me His goodness.

Ten months after going public, God came down and touched me. He forgave me for the past I carried. No question. No doubt. It was January 31, 2014 when He coated me with His mercy, mercy. In fact, His compassion had been there all along. Always there for the taking. God just had to get me out of the way first ( https://pamandersonblog.com/2014/05/20/the-visitation/ ).

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And yet, it seems I’ve been stalled ever since. Well over a year on pause and unable to move forward. Like a project undone, I petered out at mercy. However, my weekend project gives me renewed hope. That a second coat of paint is coming. It’s just a matter of time.

See, the color Levi and I chose was too bright. Shockingly orange. Or salmon. Thus, we decided to cover it. Levi was reluctant, but I explained how pretty the hints of lobster would be peeking out under a darker hue.

So that’s what we did. Or I did. Because like me, Levi petered out at the orange. At mercy. He hadn’t the stamina to keep going on Saturday. But I did. I kept going till nightfall.

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For me, that second coat of paint is when the project really gets going. There’s added interest. And depth. And afterward, the fun begins. Because you take out a finer grit of sandpaper and smooth. And remove. And what’s left is truly unique. An original. A one of a kind for the work can’t be duplicated.

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For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10

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I confess, I wanted to hide away after my last post. I felt ashamed I hadn’t made more progress. However, this weekend I was reminded of how far I’ve actually come. Because it’s only been three years. That’s when the process initially began. Because before then, my abortions were non-existent. I pretended they weren’t real. But one day, I couldn’t go further. At least not with God.

And here I am today… silent no more. And here I am today… covered in God’s mercy.

It’s that grace thing that trips me up, though. For some reason, I can’t grasp the concept. Mercy’s easier for me to accept. God withholding what I deserve. Punishment. But grace? That’s God giving me what I don’t deserve.

Both attributes stem from God’s love. Both make up His goodness. Just different shades. Or hues. One is just harder for me to grasp.

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Here’s what I do know. When I get into a painting project, I make a mess. I become the mess. I track paint from here to there. It gets in my hair and on my face. Clothing and body parts. Before I know it, I’m covered in shades or salmon. Stained with midnight blue.

But you know, that’s the best part of the process. The spiritual one, that is. Because the same thing goes. Three years in, I find I’m drenched in God’s mercy. And next? It’ll be grace. His grace.

God’s calling me to open my eyes once more. To find rest in His grace. Because it’s right there in front of me. In fact, it’s all over me. Along with drops of mercy, my hands and arms are splashed with grace…

If I can just allow Him to finish the process.

If I could just realize I’m already there…

Repurposed

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Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow- to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with Me.” Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:38-39

I am a Christian. A follower of Christ. And He says to me, “Follow Me, and I’ll make you…”

That’s the whole point of the painting project I am. He’s making me into something specific. And it’s taken three years to get this far. I’ve been reclaimed and restored. But distressing is part of the refinishing project. The sanding is the cup I must drink. And what I have drunk.

My sorrow is the thing God will use for His purposes. In reality, that which I’m tempted to hide away is not really mine to cover. Because it belongs to Him. And in His hands, it’ll be blessed. This is what makes me beautiful. And so miraculously, I find my beauty is not in spite of my flaws, but because of them.

My imperfections make me lovely. And useful. To Him.

A repurposed piece.

Like a distressed chair…

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Yep, Levi started a chair with me on Saturday. But he couldn’t stick it out. He said it was too much work. And he speaks truth. Restoring an old marked up piece of furniture takes true effort. And a great deal of time.

The good thing, though, is Levi got a lesson. He understood that people can be just like the chair. That the slick needs to come off before paint will stick. And though he didn’t complete the project, he at least started it. And I have to smile as I see drops of salmon on his knee. A smattering of mercy displayed for me to see…

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A reminder to me that God’s words are true.

Certainly, goodness and mercy will stay close to me all the days of my life… Psalm 23:6 

You know, I always loved the look of distressed furniture. And now, perhaps I know why. Because there’s beauty in the process. For me, next Tuesday marks three years.

And just as God awakened me to His mercy, He’s awakening me to His grace. That’s what He’s been doing this whole time. Reclaiming, restoring, and refinishing. Me. Speaking to me in ways I can understand…

Like with a chair.

An old, distressed chair.

Using the things I love.

letting things go

It always comes to this. Circles. Endless circles leading me back to the same thing. Again and again. It has to do with letting things go. It began in high school. That’s when I let my grades go. They started to slip when I began pursuing other things. Namely, the opposite sex. Because really, that’s the only thing that mattered to me. I simply wanted the love of a boy. Thus, school work slid to the back burner.

Next, my self-esteem went out the window. That’s what happens when you allow yourself to be taken advantage of. You feel like such a door mat, you believe you’re just as lowly. Unworthy. And seriously, if you don’t respect yourself, how can you expect respect from the people who surround you. So first, grades. Next, self-worth.

Eventually, you lose your reputation. It’s inevitable. Because one bad choice after another leads to a bad name. So you try to hide who you really are. You shove things down and pretend they never happened. You try to forget and strap on a mask. You hope that if you play the part, you’ll really be the part.

But that’s when you lose yourself.

Because after all is said and done, you don’t know who the heck you are anymore.

The girl you were is gone.

And in the end, you’ve lost all.

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I agonized over whether or not to include the above. Because the “F” word is in it. But I had to use it. The words are just too powerful to ignore. All that about openly bleeding and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. And how it’s actually the things that kill you that make you.

So I ask myself, what led to my ultimate demise? Did something specific “kill” me (metaphorically, of course)? Because if that’s true, I believe I’ll find my purpose right there. In my death. In the midst of my trouble, I’ll find the real me. The girl I was meant to be.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I’m reading a book called The Mended Heart by Suzie Eller. This morning’s chapter was about grief and experiencing loss. The testimonies she included had me in tears (not unusual); a woman who lost her eight year old daughter another who lost her husband. Both to cancer. Both losses were much too soon. And both were equally heartbreaking.

And so in light of what these women endured, it’s tempting to minimize my own loss. For more than one reason. But I am encouraged by J. Raymond’s words above. I’m emboldened to bleed openly. And to be honest. Vulnerable. For God’s sake. And for my own.

So I look back. I revisit the place where my life ultimately took a turn for the worse. It’s where I hit rock bottom. And where I let everything go. Including me.

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I’m pointed to the military. I spent four years in the Air Force. No surprise, I allowed my heart to be trampled in Oklahoma. But despite my woes, there was a bright spot. Her name was Carmen. My best friend. The very best. We shared everything and I was happy as long as she was by my side.

Next came Korea. Such an unusual experience. And as with my first station, there was bad and good. The good being my close friends. How quickly we formed our attachments. Because we were all thrown together. We shared bathrooms and refrigerators and the intimate details of our lives.

There was Cheyenne and Stacy. Then came Tina and Loree. And Nicole. And oh, I loved them all. I adored being surrounded by my friends. But it was there, really, where I started to slip. In the midst of such love and supportive friends, I lost control. Of everything.

Overall, the bad outweighed the good in Korea. The bad being unhealthy relationships culminating in two abortions. Thus, Korea became a dark blot in my memory. A time I chose to leave behind. And unfortunately, because my friends were intricately woven into that era, they didn’t make the cut.

In the end, I let them go. One by one.

Sadly, this was the pattern of my life.

Letting things go.

“If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” Kahlil Gibran

For me, letting go had everything to do with chasing love. Because that’s all I ever wanted. And so I cut away me. I fashioned myself into what I thought a particular person wanted me to be. From the very start. In high school, I liked heavy metal. In Oklahoma, it was rock climbing. I assumed another’s tastes so that I’d be appealing.

But the tragedy is, I never knew myself. I never knew my own heart before I began giving pieces of it away. And in the end, I whittled away so much of myself, there wasn’t anything left of the girl I was. Not one thing original about me.

God has given you one face, and you make yourself another. William Shakespeare

I did the same with Jason. I fell in love and I wanted him to be mine. So, I tried to take on his likes as my own. I strapped on a mask called “good girl” and never looked back. Today, though, I realize my error.

I cut away too much. Too much of me. And too many friends. Nearly all of them.

And today, I grieve their loss.

But look at Jesus. Look at what Jesus thought of His wounds: “Here, Thomas. Look at My wounds. Touch My scars. These are the proof of My resurrection. I bear the marks of death, but I am alive!” Jesus knew His wounds were beautiful. At the places where I am broken, the power of Christ is authenticated in me for others. Where I have submitted to the crucifixion, the power of the resurrection is put on display. I can say, “Look at my wounds. Touch my scars. I have death wounds, but I am alive.” I can wear my wounds without shame. They tell a resurrection story. Jennifer Kennedy Dean, Founder of The Praying Life Foundation

I had such a thought today. It was staggering. And so deep, I know it didn’t originate with me. No, with all my soul, I believe God deposited truth in my ear this day. It has to do with everything I’ve let go. From the get go. See, I lost my self-worth early on. I’d lost every ounce of self-esteem before I even considered abortion.

But a miracle took place after I lost all. I encountered my husband, a man who continually tries to build me up to this day. He affirms my self-worth. He tries to restore my brokenness and loves me unconditionally. Through him, I encountered God. And through God’s word, I find evidence of how very much I matter to Him. My life matters.

But I still don’t believe. Why? Why do I choose to stay where I am wallowing in my lowliness? And this is what He whispered today… could it be that if I dare believe He values me, that I’ll finally have to accept the truth. That all lives matter. Because if I finally take God’s words to heart and trust that I matter, then that holds true for everyone else. All lives matter.

Including my unborn babies. The ones I got rid of. The two babies I chose to let go.

And this thought stopped me in my tracks. It brought forth a cry I didn’t know I had in me.

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:7

This is truth. I am worth more than many sparrows to my God. But by accepting this fact, I have to truly face what I did. And that means I have to grieve. I have to mourn the loss of two lives.

What’s worse, death came by my own hand.

And I don’t know if I can live with that.

So, I am halted.

I stay right where I am. Paused.

Unable to take another step forward. Not till I accept God’s truth. That I matter to Him. And so did my babies.

Mended Heart Challenge

  • Designate a specific time and place to express your grief with Jesus.

I read the above this morning. My mother-in-law has been telling me I need to participate in a post-abortion recovery retreat… when the time is right. That time may be coming. Because this keeps coming up. Endless circles lead me here. Again and again.

I had babies and they are no more.

And I haven’t grieved their loss. My loss. I don’t think I deserve to. Because I’m the reason.

But deep, down, I grieve daily.

And so, I go back to that post I saw on Facebook. About the things that kill you making you. And I reread Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s words:

“Look at my wounds. Touch my scars. I have death wounds, but I am alive.” I can wear my wounds without shame. They tell a resurrection story.

It’s abortion. This is my wound. I carry the scars of a womb that remains eternally pregnant (Jeremiah 20:17). And unless I am resurrected from this death I carry around in me, I’ll be of no use to God. People will never see the life of Christ in me. Not unless I rise from the opening of my tomb…

And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through His Spirit who lives in you. Romans 8:11

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If I could just go back to the girl I was at sixteen. To the time I first began letting things go. Like my grades. And then my self-worth. I’d caution her. I’d tell her know your heart. I’d say take time to know yourself. I’d assure her that she matters. That’s what I’d say.

Oh, little girl, be strong in who you are before you start giving pieces of yourself away. Because some things are irreversible. Some things you can never, ever get back.

Yeah, I’d tell the younger me to really think about it.

I’d say consider carefully what you keep. But more importantly, consider what you let go.

straight A’s

I am but a child. A silly, little girl. At forty-two. How can this be?? Incredibly, I find I haven’t advanced much beyond my primary school days. No. Every single thing that mattered then still matters today. Like grades. Because at forty-two, I discover I’m still striving to be a straight A student.

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Recently, I felt as I did in first grade. Our teacher, Ms. Wittle, would walk slowly around the classroom and squat by each desk to check our work, red colored pencil in hand. She peered over my paper but oh, there was an error. And then another. So no, I didn’t receive my reward. A sticker to indicate a job well done.

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Instead, I got this…

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Oh, how my insides churned as Ms. Wittle looked over Martha’s paper. Because apparently, she was a good girl. She did very well, indeed. I can still see the smile my classmate was favored with and hear the crinkling of the paper as the sticker was lifted away. Martha won the day.

It’s this memory that presses into me today. As vivid as the day it occurred some thirty-six years ago. The recollection was burned into a heart that felt as heavy as lead. Because that day I felt small. Inadequate. Insecure. And unacceptable. Basically, unlikeable. This is how the red lines etched upon my paper made me feel. And this is how I felt this week.

And how silly this is! Incredulous that in the midst of random police shootings and a loved one’s struggle to simply live comfortably, I cry over my report card. I agonize over the grades I receive in the school of life.

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Last night I had hot tears. I ached inside. It came from the pit of loneliness. As I lay next to my husband, tears spurted. He comforted me and asked me what was wrong no less than four times. Because I didn’t want to say it. I know how dumb it sounds. How trivial. And yet, it’s real. My hurt is real.

Finally, I uttered what lie in my heart. I told him I want to be first. I want to be the one who’s someone else’s first choice. And unlike my last cry fest in which he chastised me for my luxury complaints, this time he held me instead. He told me there are three people in our home who pick me first.

And though my husband’s tender words soothed my festering wound, they didn’t eliminate the poison that pollutes my soul…

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

Growing up, I always had one good friend. Kindergarten through third was Jennifer. I loved her so as she shone in my eyes. Pretty and popular. And strong. In second grade, we had the opportunity to try and lift a fireman’s oxygen container. Tony told me no way could I do it, but Jennifer could. And she did. Me? I struggled but managed to lift it a few inches off the floor.

Fourth grade was Hannah. She wore a purple Hang Ten mini skirt. Definitely a leader as all us girls flocked to her. Fifth I had two best friends. Jennifer and I were reunited and Sarah came into my life. And as time wore on, others drifted in and out of my life. But the point is, there was always one. One special friend. Or two. Really close. Like a sister.

We knew everything there was to know about each other. Colors. TV. Music. Boys. And truth is, that’s what I long for today. I want a woman who knows me from the inside out. How I take my coffee. How I feel just by the look on my face. A woman who can drop by anytime without having to call first. A woman who will choose me first. Every time.

I want. To be. First. First pick. First place. Just first.

He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything. Colossians 1:18

I picked up a book I hadn’t read for over two weeks this morning. The above verse is what I found. Mind you, I’d already logged in my journal how I wanted to be 1st choice. But lo and behold, I discovered the position is already taken. Or it should be. First place belongs to Jesus. He should be my choice.

Amazing.

So here’s the thing about life. And striving for those straight A’s. See, there is no one person who can give me a passing grade in every single category. No friend (no matter how good she may be) can give me everything I crave: approval, acknowledgement, accolades, affirmation, assurance and acceptance.

Oh, she may give me a piece of approval here and a slice of affirmation there. But she is not God. I cannot look to her or her red pencil for acceptance. Because she is not capable of affirming me like I hope she can. Or will. And like me, she may even be trying for an “A” herself.

Sigh.

“Great Expectations” keeps coming at me. The title. Charles Dickens’ book. I think God is trying to show me my expectations are too high. I am placing people too high on a pedestal. The danger there is they’re likely to fall off. Because no one can stay that high. And the first time they let me down, I’ll end up pushing them down. Off that pedestal. And when that happens, no one gets an “A”. Or the gold star. Or the smiley face.

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It’s true. I am a lonely woman. But I keep looking in the wrong places for fulfillment. It’s not one woman who will fill all my emptiness. It’s one Man. Jesus came to be first. And I’m His first choice. For Isaiah 43:10 tells me I am chosen to know Him. Exodus 33:17 assures me He knows my name. Thus, I find acknowledgement.

By 2 Timothy 2:15, I know I am His approved worker. I receive a pat on the back from my God through Matthew 25:21. Hebrews 10 assures me I have boldness to enter His presence at any time. No phone call necessary. Revelation 3:11 tells me if I hold on to what I have, my crown awaits. And if I can just persevere… if I can fight the good fight and finish this race, I’ll get that blue ribbon after all.

And so, through God’s very word, I find the acceptance I so desire. And affirmation this little girl so desperately seeks. My God squats down beside me at my desk. He takes out His red colored pencil and gives me the grade I’ve been looking for. Not only is it an A, but it’s an A+. That’s what my Teacher has done for me today. And the tears flow down my cheeks.

But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. Matthew 23:8

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Yes, I am just a child. A silly little girl. At forty-two. Inconceivable.

But despite my shortcomings, God assures me of truth. His truth. I may fall pitifully short in the school of life, but in His grade-book, I’m a straight A student.

Perfect in His eyes.

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The Good Part

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How best to describe marriage? In my humble opinion, I’d have to say the opening lines of The Tale of Two Cities sums it up best. At least it seems to paint the picture of marriage’s early days. Or perhaps it just describes ours…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…” Charles Dickens

Wow. That’s it. See, there’s a reason you vow to take your other half “for better or for worse.” Because believe me, the worst comes. And faster than you think. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOh, at first there’s bliss… all smiles as your stomach dips and dives and flutters. Like here. But see, we weren’t even engaged at this point. And bad days were few and far in between. Likely because I tried to present my good side. All the time. Oh, Jason had a glimpse of the other me. But usually he got the good part. He got the best of me. But then (queue music in the background, please), the ring was slipped on my finger. Next thing you know, this happened…

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In the midst of Cozumel, Mexico, on the tail end of our honeymoon, the other side of me made an appearance. The bad part showed up and she’s all over my face. Jason snapped this picture after one of our many heated conversations. Seems he had planned to do something the following weekend, sans newly wedded wife, and I was not about to let that happen. No way, bub.

That was the first time I got my way. Seven days into our marriage, Jason was the first to give in. Because everyone’s heard a happy wife makes for a happy life. Or something like that.

A good woman

This may come across as shocking but when I first entered marriage, I considered divorce to be an option. My thought was if it doesn’t work out, I could just leave. And the truth is when I said, “I do,” I didn’t realize the gravity of what I was doing. As a twenty-five year old, I couldn’t comprehend what marriage really was. Because the word covenant wasn’t part of my vocabulary. A spoken vow nothing more than words. I just had no clue…

Needless to say, we had some rough patches as two young kids came together as one. We both had our ways. Our idiosyncrasies. Our ideas. Thus, there were points of conflict in our merging. A couple incidents stand out vividly. Like the time I walked out without a word for an entire evening because I didn’t agree with Jason’s choice of restaurant for the next day’s outing. I went to see American Beauty and came home to find Jason fast asleep. The next morning, I stayed in my bathrobe till he gave in. I hopped in the shower when he called our friends to change the venue.

A couple years later, I decided there was something I wanted to change about my mate. I believe that was the one time he was just as stubborn as me, though. A cold silence followed for two or three days. I actually caved first and tentatively approached him at his place of work. But He was firm. No, he wasn’t going to change and if I couldn’t accept him as he was, he said I should just leave. I went back home in silence. And tears.

But here we are… seventeen years later. We persevered. We remain as one. And I have to give Jason most of the credit for it. Because truth is, he took on a lot when he took me to be his. Unfortunately, I carried a lot of excess baggage into our lives. Old stuff that would have been best left behind. Yep… when Jason said, “I do,” he didn’t really get the good woman he deserved. Instead, he got me.

Remembering the Salsa

Sunday was one of those days. Ironic in how bad it was (or I was) in light of all my recent writings on the good life. Embracing the good. I think I was just trying to talk myself into it. That if I said it out loud enough times, and read it that much more, my demeanor would change. That I would find myself in a good mood. Instead, Sunday happened.

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and there was loudness in our home. All me. Words spoken and looks given and ugly gestures. Again, all me. Finally, with a sigh we all settled into the car for church. Jason said, “Well this has been a lovely Sunday morning.” At church, I pasted on my smile. I nodded and laughed and smiled and played the part. Though my loved ones at home got the worst of me, I tried to give all the others the best. I made more of an effort.

Afterward, we heard a dedication on the radio. Some guy really talked up his mate. It was nice, I guess. But when Jason said, “Now that sounds like a good woman,” I took great offense. I was ready for a fight… “What are you saying, that I’m not a good woman?” I jabbed but he ducked. He didn’t throw a punch as expected.

The grand finale was Big Lots’ parking lot. Miscommunication. I thought he was going to meet me in the store. He thought I was to come outside when I finished. So I struggled with Annabelle who did not want to ride in the cart. I held her and pushed the cart and flung items in the basket. All the while, I was getting more and more heated.

Finally, I looked outside. And there was my husband playing a game on his phone. At ease and relaxed. That’s when it happened. To use my Daddy’s term, I flew mad. I flew right out of that store, Annabelle in arm, and lost it in front of whoever may have been passing. I forcefully jerked the door open and cried, “What are you doing??”

But Jason, he’s a good man. He didn’t get loud in return. He calmly took Annabelle into his arms (I’d plopped her onto the passenger seat), and exited the car without returning my ugly gestures. He joined me in the store. That’s what Jason did.

But later, I know my mate was thinking about me and my bad attitude. Because he called to me from where he lay as I performed my kitchen duties. He asked me if I remembered making salsa.  Of course I remembered making it. I figured it was something to add to my enormous to-do list. “Do you want me to make salsa?”

But no, that’s not what Jason meant. He reminded me that when I made salsa, it usually meant I was happy. Remember the salsa meant remember your good mood. And so that’s what I did. I remembered the salsa. What led up to it and what came afterward.

The good part

Throughout our years, Jason and I did a lot of entertaining. Enter the salsa. If I were to make salsa, you can be sure company was coming. And I loved it. I lived from one gathering to the next and I loved all the preparations that went along with it. I’d put on music and dance and sing. And I was happy.

But our lives changed when two turned to three. Then three turned to four. And what once seemed like fun turned into nothing more than a chore. Salsa became a job when kids made the scene because I had so many other things to do. This is what I ponder as I consider the salsa.

See, motherhood is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Because you give away parts of yourself 24 hours a day. As soon as your feet hit the ground, you start doling out the pieces. A sliver here and a slice there. And before you know it, you find you’re depleted with nothing left to offer. Nothing but the scowl on your face as you chop veggies at the counter. Like me this past Sunday.

But only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Luke 10:42

Problem is there’s been sickness at our house. Nighttime interruptions and extra tasks. And because my days have been full and sleep has been lacking, I’ve looked for other places to trim the fat. Seems I took out the wrong thing, though. I cut away the good part. Which reminds me of Martha and Mary.

Most of us are familiar with these sisters, I’m sure. But in reading their saga today, I cannot help but think Martha had a flying mad moment. Just like me at Big Lots. She was busy preparing for a party and her sister just sat there doing nothing. Martha even voiced her complaint to Jesus. Tell her to give me a hand! But He said Mary chose the good part. She sat still at his feet. What’s more, she listened.

This is the part I cut away. I’ve not been doing this. Busy with other stuff. Like Martha. And because I haven’t filled up on the good part, there’s not much good in me to pass out. Especially not to my family. Most assuredly, they haven’t been getting the best of me.

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A good man

A couple of weeks ago, I had an epiphany. One of those pivotal moments in time that changes how you look at everything. It has to do with my husband. And most importantly, it has to do with how I see God.

You planned evil against me; God planned it for good… Genesis 50:20 

See, Jason came into my life when I was at a real low. And it was my bad that propelled me in his direction. However, Jason became a turning point in every way imaginable. Most poignantly, I see that through the meaning of his name: one who will heal.

By the time I got to Jason, this is what I needed. Healing. Because there wasn’t much left of my heart. Simply, I’d given too much of it away. Sadly, this is what I brought to our marriage table.

And so I find it miraculous I met Jason when I did. On the heels of having my heart broken again and again. Because through him, a good man, I found another Good Man. I found God.

Jason’s the reason I met the One who came to bind up the brokenhearted. But the healing of my heart wasn’t, and isn’t, an instant fix. Because at first it wasn’t noticeable. Not to me. Not when there was just two. But then came Levi and Annabelle. And the added stress and responsibility exposed my heart’s faulty cracks.

IMG_2070Annabelle’s her name. She is a living dream. But also… she’s one of the reasons I’ve been at wit’s end lately. Strained. Because she fights every single thing I do. She resists. Clothes and diaper changes and hair brushing. All of it. Everything is a struggle. And like me, she’s loud. Oh, it’s downright exhausting. And yet, I love her through it all.

About a year ago, I thought I’d comprehend God’s love for me through my love for my daughter. But last month, I realized I was wrong. It’s not Annabelle who’ll teach me about God and his unwavering love. Instead, it’ll be the one who’s been at my side for seventeen years now. Even longer.

It’s Jason. It’s always been Jason. One who will heal. When he asked about my past, he didn’t condemn me. Rather, he opened his arms wide and embraced me. He accepted every single thing about me.

And through the years, he’s put up with a lot. Oh, he’s not perfect and has moments of his own. But all in all, he is the one who’s been the most gracious. The most merciful. He is the one who usually relents first. The one who breaks the silence. Who calms the storm. He’s loves me so much better than I love him. Because he’s unconditional.

My great epiphany is this… if I want to get an idea of what God is really like, I need to look no further than my other half. My better half. Jason shows me every day what God is like.

It’s through this good man of mine that God has so richly blessed me. And how He will teach me about Himself. Miraculous.

I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. Hosea 2:19

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Crazy thing about women. It’s in our nature to give and give. But sometimes, we end up giving it all to everyone else. By the time the day is through, our family ends up with the leftovers. Table scraps. And this ought not be! So today I try to rectify that.

With me, it’s words. I use them to build others up. But what about that good man of mine? Have I really used this platform to do the same for him? Because this is what I do. So today, I take the opportunity. And it’s timely. See, it’s Jason’s birthday month. And I always have trouble finding a gift. But not this year. My present comes early. It’s good news…

I tell my husband God is working on my heart every single day. And I know what I need to do. I have to fill up on the good part first. That way there will be more of me to give. And one day, when my heart is made whole, it will be all his. Just as the fragments already are.

The best part, though, has to do with our vows. For better or for worse. See, worse is turning to better. And the best of me is yet to come. Soon I’ll be able to reciprocate by giving all of me just as he gives all of himself. And isn’t that what marriage is, anyway? The best of times. The worst of times. And through it all, giving the best we have. But to each other first.

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If anyone else has read this far, I ask for a prayer today. For me and for wives everywhere. That we would love our husbands to the utmost of our ability. And that we would give them the best of us. All of us.

Because good men are hard to find. And they’re worth a prayer. And so much more…

Maybe even salsa.

In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine. They are to teach what is good, so they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children,  to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, kind, and submissive to their husbands, so that God’s message will not be slandered. Titus 2:3-5