house painter’s daughter

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Does the clay say to the potter,
    ‘What are you making?’
Does your work say,
    ‘The potter has no hands’?
Woe to the one who says to a father,
    ‘What have you begotten?’
or to a mother,
    ‘What have you brought to birth? Isaiah 45:9-10

It all comes to this. My heritage. 42 years old and I see the truth of what I’ve been doing. Fighting God on my very existence. The core of who I am. Forever trying to rise above my station in life… and what He created me to be. For I was born a servant. And that’s what He bids me to be today. Servant.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. However, I’ve not wanted that. Resisted my destiny. I denied my heritage and hoped to be something more.

So I quarreled with my Maker. I bucked under His yoke.

But today I stop. Instead of struggling, I accept. And embrace. For I am a servant…

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
    We are the clay, you are the potter;
    we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8

Daddy painted houses and until my mom went back to school, she was a waitress. And my grandma was a house cleaner at the hospital while the other, Mammie, was a housewife who tended to a large brood of children. One grandfather was a house painter and the other a farmer. This is my stock. My roots.

My heritage is blue-collar all the way.

But the truth is, I’ve fought my birthright all my life. Because from the get-go, I understood the difference between us and them. Those who don’t matter and those who do. At least according to the world’s set of scales. The one I adopted as my own.

And I’m sad to say, this made me ashamed of who I was. And am. Because when I looked to the rock from which I was hewn, I always wished it had been different. That my family’s station was more than it was.

Deep down, I felt it all. 2nd class. Inferior. Servant. The Help. Low. Thus, I felt respect was unattainable. Ultimately, that I had a name not even worth mentioning. Likely stemming from a time I accompanied Daddy to work. I must have been five or so. We lived on the backside of a store and the big brick plantation home across the highway was our destination.

It was exciting to walk across that road. Mine and Sonny’s feet working to keep up with Daddy’s longer strides. The feel of the gravel driveway crunching underfoot till we came upon the sidewalk. The smell of boxwoods overpowering and synonymous with money even to this day. Again, in my mind.

Oh, the thrill of a hundred cats swirling about my shins as the dame of the house was a cat lover. These outside kitties within reach, but those of the kitchen untouchable. Majestic on their high perches. One atop a refrigerator and the other on the counter. Imposing animals as they reigned over the cool, darkness of a room at least a hundred years old.

After entrance to the grand house, Daddy would leave us to our own devices as he got to work. And my brother and I had the whole of the estate. This became our playground. Up and down, in and out, we roamed. One day, a visitor to the house noticed us and asked. The mistress answered, ‘Oh, that’s just the painter’s children.”

And it stuck. Just. The painter’s children. Lowly in station. And not worthy of a name.

So I spent most of my life trying to be more than that.

Fighting my destiny and God’s plans for me. Hoping to make a name for myself.

“Set up road signs;
    put up guideposts.
Take note of the highway,
    the road that you take.
Return, Virgin Israel,
    return to your towns.
How long will you wander,
    unfaithful Daughter Israel?
The Lord will create a new thing on earth—
    the woman will return to the man.”. Jeremiah 31:21-22

At eighteen, I left my hometown. There was a short stint in Florida with my best friend but it didn’t work out. I returned within 2 months. I left home a second time one year later when I joined the U.S. Air Force. There was no quick return that time as a four year tour turned to nineteen years away.

And though I never thought I’d want to upon my departure, eventually I longed to return. I ached for my family and the soil of my homeland. With all my heart, I wanted to put down lasting roots amidst my people. And when least expected, God gave me what I desired most. It was exactly five years ago when He returned me home for good.

“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. “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.’ Luke 15:17-24

Amazingly, I discovered the truth about God & me right here in my hometown. Because I realized I was the same girl I always was. Though I came home at thirty-eight believing myself to be someone different, and something more, a new creation… I was still a house painter’s daughter at heart. And all that implied.

Truth remained far off throughout the years because God’s word was distant. Unknown. Not desirable to me…

Made no difference that my aunt Shirley gave me a Bible when I was eighteen. No, I never cracked the cover. And even though my friend Celeste gifted me with a Gideon’s Bible from the airport just months later, God’s word was afar. While in Korea, a mere acquaintance left a Bible on my doorstep. Oh, I must have been twenty-two. That one stayed in its plastic cover for a long, long time.

Finally, though, I received a Bible from someone who meant a great deal to me. God’s word became important to me when it was a gift from my husband. We were dating at the time. December of 1996. Jason’s words grace the front…

The keys to life, and beyond, can be found in this book. With love, Jason

This is the Bible I first opened. And though sporadic at best, I began to read it. Short bursts of God’s words. Over time, they began to spring to life. I just couldn’t get enough of Scripture as it leapt off the pages into my hard heart. I was voracious.

His first specific word to me was about my hometown. A promise. He said He’d bring me back and I believed Him. Sure enough, months later I was home. It was then that God led me to my past. He said uncover it. So His words led me step by step and layer by layer till I dug deep enough to hit roots. Further still till I hit the rock bed of my heritage. My inheritance.

I sifted through all my belongings. Yearbooks and letters. Pictures and sentiments. And eventually, I found that first Bible. The one from my Aunt Shirley. Therein lie a note from her. She encouraged me to read Luke 15… the story of the prodigal.

The thing is, I never did. I didn’t even remember the note. Likely, I’d never read it. And even if I had at eighteen, or nineteen, or twenty-two, or thirty-eight, it wouldn’t have meant much. But today, as a forty-two year old woman, her note means the world to me. The story of the prodigal most hopeful.

Because that’s what I am.

In every way imaginable. I’m returning to Daddy and his foundation. And I’m returning to my heavenly Father and His foundation. After running in the other direction for so long, I find myself turning…

Inside and out,

steps leading me backward,

to him, Daddy.

And to Him, Abba Father.

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15

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I was wrong for so long. Deep down I felt God kept the good life from me through an upbringing that denied me silver spoons and golden coins. But finally, I realize He gave me everything.

EVERYTHING.

My God and my Father denied me nothing but instead, gave me all He had. His most prized possession. His Son.

And yet, I wasted years by feeling less than because I had less than others. What a farce. But oh, I swallowed it down. I bought the lie that respect was only due the person of status. Renown. Someone with a four year degree and a title. Letters after a name.

Someone who had a name…

You ignored the Rock who gave you birth; You forgot the God who brought you forth. Deuteronomy 32:18

God has been lavish with me. Luxurious, even. But so focused on attaining a name for myself and status, I easily overlooked His blessings. Never noticed that He’s given me more than I could ever hope for. No, I chose to fixate on the fact He seemed to be withholding the one thing that would bring me what I so desired.

See, a name in lights would bring respect. And honor. At least in the worldly realm, it would. So leaving God behind, I tried to make a name for myself. Self-seeking instead of God-seeking. Sacrifice to self instead of pure offerings to Him. I left Him in the dust…

Forgetting all He did. For me.

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness,
Who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were hewn
And to the quarry from which you were dug.” Isaiah 51:1

God showed me something huge this Summer. It has to do with name-seeking and my father. See, my daddy was nameless, too. For a while. Seems his family called him boy. And though the nick-name came about because he was surrounded by so many sisters, it occurred to me to ask in July… did it bother you?

Today, though, the epiphany is deepened. I think about the lady of that great house and her remark. Just the house painter’s children. And my heart feels a pang. See, the selfish girl I was saw only what it meant to me. However, to the woman God is making me, I see it in another light. I see it with regard to Daddy.

Turns out it wasn’t just me who’s walked through life feeling nameless. Or invisible. Because perhaps Daddy did, too. This is his legacy… my heritage. It’s what’s been passed down. Namelessness.

The good news, though, is this doesn’t have to be my inheritance any longer. Or Daddy’s.

Because the truth is if the One who really matters knows our name, nothing else matters. Not at all. Oh, we may fall through the cracks of the world and its value system, but we won’t escape His notice. He sees us right where we are. And just as we are.

And He calls us by name…

I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. Isaiah 45:3

I allow this truth to settle in my bones today.

It allows me to embrace my destiny as servant… my heritage as a blue collar worker. A stay at home mom whose works go unnoticed by the world. Nameless in a sea of people, but noticed by the One who calls me by name. And for this, I am thankful. And I rejoice. For my God has been lavish with me. Luxurious, even.

Oh yes, I am a house painter’s daughter. But more than that, I am daughter of a King.

Child of God, that’s who I am.

It’s who He’s making me to be.

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