10 lbs of pressure

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

Do you think it’s odd that older (wiser) women are given the charge to teach younger generations to love their husbands and children? Years ago, I would have thought so. Because at a glance, it seems like the statement isn’t necessary. You get married for love and out of that love, children often follow.

And so, they’re yours. Your husband and your babies. Of course, you love them. Why would you need encouragement to do something that comes as naturally as loving your loved ones, right?

But see, those were the fleeting thoughts of a younger woman. The more naive version of myself. For in those days, I was content to simply scratch the surface of God’s treasury. A brief glance at a verse and I thought I knew it. And that I’d retain it. Love my family, check. To use my 10-year old son’s most oft used phrase, my clouded spirit must have whispered to God, “I know, I know.”

Because at twenty-four, I thought I knew how to love my husband. And I thought I’d know how to love my babies when they arrived. But then, I walked through it. I walked through nearly nineteen years of marriage.

And you know what? Turns out, loving didn’t come so naturally to me. At least not the way I should love my husband and children. Not in the way older (wiser) women encourage the younger ones to…

Not sacrificially, I haven’t.

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16

Next week, Jason and I celebrate our anniversary. For so long, it was just me and him. Oh, how young we were…

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Eight years in, though, we had a beautiful baby boy named Levi.

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Another eight years and we received another gift… our precious infant daughter, Annabelle.

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And so now, after close to nineteen years of marriage, I think I’ve gained a touch of insight. At least a tad. Thus, with an itty bit of wisdom and a tiny dash of revelation, I’m quite sure I know exactly why that verse is tucked away in the pages of the New Testament. Because the devastating truth is, some of us younger (and not so younger) women need to hear it.

Some of us need to comprehend what sacrificial love is. And some of us need to catch a glimpse of what really loving your husband and children looks like in the modern world. I’m talking about me here…

Yep, thanks to the stench of my own vehicle on Monday, I got the picture. That’s when this verse, among others, utterly came alive to me. After all these years, my dulled senses tingled. As if a nerve was hit.

It may have been the smell that jarred me fully awake.

Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes; instead it should consist of the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes. For in the past, the holy women who hoped in God also beautified themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. 1 Peter 3:3-5

Last week, I emphatically told Jason, “I am not a Proverbs 31” woman! Verse 28 in particular stood out. Because in the chaotic and hurried state I found myself, most assuredly, my children wouldn’t arise and call me blessed (which means happy) and my husband had no reason to praise me. Not last week he didn’t.

Because I’ve been busy. Busy doing a lot of extra-curricular activities. Which is good. All good stuff. However, all the extra happens to be outside my home. Which leaves my home neglected.

Naturally, along with the extra, my calendar constricts causing my stress level to increase. At times like this, there’s not enough blank spaces and every minute counts. And just about every day feels like a race.

Really.

I hurry my children and rush to the car, strapping in my toddler crying, “Hurry, we gotta go! We’re going to be late….”

And in the hustle, someone gets hurt. Emotionally. I get impatient with their speed and snap. I lash out and speak cutting words. Things I can’t take back. And so the hypocrisy is not lost on me. I make all this effort to go and do something worthy – a good cause – and yet, my most worthy causes get the shaft.

Because my husband and children, the ones I’m supposed to sacrificially love, get my leftovers. Or worse, they witness me when I reach my breaking point.

This is the state my husband finds me in at the end of the day. This is the legacy I’m leaving my children. And if I don’t change my ways, I’ll be remembered as a hurried and frazzled woman who lost her temper all the time.

The question I had to recently ask myself is why. Why do I behave the way I do? What drives me to take on more than I can chew? And the answer has been right in front of me all along. It’s in one of those verses I’ve skimmed and thought I’d retain. “I know, I know… beauty is on the inside.” Got it. Check.

But within this passage, there’s so much more. A treasure trove of wisdom. Especially in the phrase “the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable to God.”

And this is what’s been driving me…

Trying to showcase my value.

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This is me. I’m a wife and mother and I work from home. I spend a lot of time in my house so much of what I do is unseen. And deep down, I think there’s this insecure part of me that’s trying to prove her worth. For some reason, I don’t think being wife and mom is enough. I feel as if I should be doing more.

So that’s what I do.

Deep down, I believe my contributions give me value. Thus, I want them to be visible. I want credit for what I do. See me and acknowledge me so what I’m doing is validated. And more importantly, you’ll know I have value.

So, I base my worth on my actions. And appearances. All the outward. And in taking on more than I can chew, I’m not gentle. I’m not quiet. Instead, I’m loud.

So very loud.

But God values the quiet and gentle. This means being peaceable and tranquil. Still and undisturbed. Mildness of disposition. It’s being humble.

Oh, I’ve tried to beautify myself in this manner. I’ve tried to be meek and mild. I’ve tried to let go of all the extra and take on the yoke of Jesus. But inevitably, the old me resurfaces. And she drives me to do more and more.

And to be more.

Always.

Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. Matthew 11:28-29

 

So, how does a smelly vehicle tie into all this? It was Monday when I first noticed the stench. I even asked Levi, “What stinks in here?” Turns out, it was spilled pinto bean juice that had baked onto the floorboard. It sloshed out on Sunday and I didn’t even notice. Not even when I picked up the sticky bowl.

And the only reason I noticed two days later is because I had to gather up some loose books I’d promised to someone. Several were covered with brown crust…

That’s when I knew I had a mess to clean. When I could get to it. For sure not yesterday, though. There were no white spaces on my calendar. Because I had the food pantry and then work emails to tend to and then a pot of soup to fix before dropping Annabelle before hurrying off once more for a 5 pm commitment. An extra-curricular activity but something good.

Really.

Here’s the thing, though. I lost it yesterday. I blew my top early on because I knew what lay before me. And so I rushed not just me but my children. Oh, I was so impatient with their slower speeds.

And so, inevitably, guilt assailed me. It happened as I quietly drove to the pantry. Because my son has seen this side of me one too many times. But you know what? I think he understood. Thanks to my husband showing him how to put air in his basketball, I had a picture I could offer my boy. 

I asked him if he remembered how many pounds of air his ball held. He did, 7 to 9. I told him that the ball could only hold so much air and if you tried to put too much in, it could pop. That’s when I told him life was just like that…

You can only add so much in.

And though it was no excuse, I told him I’d added too much and it caused me stress. And that loudness usually accompanied my stress. In truth, I felt as if I was trying to put 10 lbs of pressure in a 9 lb ball.

Yep, that’s what yesterday was like.

Do not work for the food that is perishing, but for the food that enduring unto eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you… John 6:27

 

I started at the food pantry back in April. There was a need and I thought I should fill it. But within days of working there, I stumbled across the above verse. Now, I don’t know that God was (or is) telling me I shouldn’t be there, but I can assure you it caused me to question my motives…

Were my intentions pure? Or was it simply me trying to do more, visibly, so I could feel more valuable via my contribution outside the home? Whatever my motives, I think the most important word to focus on is “perishing.” Because it leads me back to 1 Peter 3 and what really holds value…

The imperishable.

It’s that gentle and quiet spirit that’s so valuable to God. And in working for the perishable, I’ve hindered the imperishable. In taking on too much extra, I’ve become the opposite.

But thankfully, there were the beans. The juice spilled all over my back floorboard. And funnily, some soup I took to my mom yesterday spilled all over my front floorboard. Yep, as of this morning, my car was a mess from front to back.

And this leads me right back to where I started. With my husband. The man I promised to love and cherish all the days of my life nearly nineteen years ago.

And the state of my car showed me how much I haven’t done what I’m supposed to.

They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, pure, good homemakers, and submissive to their husbands, so God’s message will not be slandered. Titus 2:3-5

You know, women today want to do it all. Not only that, it seems that they’re expected to do it all. Kind of like that Enjoli commercial from 1980, “I can bring home the bacon, Fry it up in the pan…”

Basically, the woman doesn’t have to stay home simply frying bacon anymore, she can go out and get it, too. The underlying message is staying home to cook isn’t enough. Being a good homemaker not sufficient. Not for the modern woman.

No, she has to go outside her walls to make a difference. In order for her to hold value, her contributions must go beyond her husband and children. And yet, according to God’s word, older women are supposed to encourage the younger to be good homemakers and to love their husbands and children. And now I know why they’re charged to do so…

Because loving sacrificially doesn’t come naturally. Dying to self is not easy. At least it isn’t to me. Moreover, being submissive to my husband’s wants and needs over my own doesn’t always sit right. Not if it keeps me behind closed doors hiding my value.

Or what I perceive as my value.

Thus, I’ve resisted submission. I’ve not fully submitted to my role as wife and mom. Because even if I don’t intend for my family to take a backseat to the extra-curricular, outside stuff, they do. It just seems to happen without my meaning for it to.

But I have to tell you, my husband is a good man. So good. So supportive. He rarely complains. And because I’m usually having quiet time with the Lord when Annabelle wakes, he’s the one who gets her situated in the morning. And he’s given her more baths than I have because I’m usually washing the pans (after frying up that bacon I went out to get).

No, Jason never asks for much. Occasionally I’ll hear, “Pam, this is the last clean pair of underwear I have in the drawer.” Or he’ll ask me to make a phone call like the one he mentioned a month ago that I forgot about! The only reason I remembered to call today is my Dad remembered and asked what the outcome was.

Here’s what I’m coming to…

My husband likes a clean car. He’s meticulous about his. Me? Not so much. I could care less when there’s dust an inch thick in my vehicle. But my hand was forced today. Because there was no getting over that smell. And in the midst of my task, I remembered what Jason told me weeks ago. He told me to get the car washed the next time I went to town.

But I didn’t.

I just couldn’t seem to find the time despite my numerous trips. Reason being I had other stuff I wanted to get to. Car cleaning took a backseat to my agenda. Outward, important, extra-curricular, ministry over-rode my husband’s desire. The things that make me feel significant trumped his request.

I forgot about that till today. But God has his ways. He gives me a breadcrumb to sample which leads to another and another. Before I know it, feasting on the bread of life takes me to where I need to be.

And he’s bringing me to a place called gentle and quiet. He’s showing me how to sacrificially love by His Son’s example. And the only way I can do that is utter submission. To not just His will, but my husband’s.

So what does submission to your husband look like in the 21st century?

Well, for me, it means I get the darn car washed. One, because Jason told me to but secondly (and more importantly), because it matters to him. See, my husband likes a clean car. And if that matters to him, it should matter to me.

Yeah, I believe that’s where God would have me start. Because you know what? I love my husband and children. I really, really do. And loving them properly means putting their wants and needs before my own agenda.

And my agenda is faulty, anyway. It’s not based on truth. But when I fully accept God’s word- that my value and worth have nothing to do with all the outward – my family will be the better for it. Because then, and only then, will I cease from my endless activities hoping to cram 10 lbs of pressure in a space that won’t hold it. Then and only then will my loudness be displaced by a spirit of gentle and quiet…

That imperishable quality that God values,

the one that will cause my children to rise and call me blessed,

and elicit praise from my husband’s lips.

Who can find a capable wife? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will not lack anything good. Proverbs 31:10-11

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If the shoe fits…

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

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

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

Impossible.

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

Do I strut?

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

He assured me he was comfortable, though.

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

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

That’s when he said it. “You strut.”

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

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

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

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

And just like me.

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

Alas, my husband was right. As usual.

I do strut.

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

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

Ever.

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

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

And my memories.

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

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

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

I wanted what I did not have.

I wanted what wasn’t mine…

Always.

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

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

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

Their way is not my way.

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

Custom made and a perfect fit.

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Here comes that dreamer! Genesis 37:19

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

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

My dreams remain.

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

Because He made them just for me.

A perfect fit.

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

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

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

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

That’s what clothing can do.

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

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

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

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

Or memories.

Or maybe it was a dream undone.

Joseph remembered his dreams. Genesis 42:9 

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

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

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

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

I cried because they’re cold.

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

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

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

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

Waiting for me to act on them.

To walk in them.

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

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

Like saying I strut, of all things.

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

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

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

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

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

They’ve been simmering on low all this time.

Waiting for me to turn the heat up.

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

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

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

And there are those who have needs. Real needs.

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

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

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

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

But more importantly, I say you walk in it.

You walk forward in the shoes God designs for you.

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

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

What remains?

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

And through it, I remembered my dreams.

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

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

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

Just like my son.

And my daughter.

Just like Jason says I do…

Once more, my husband is right.

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

Shooting Star

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Mom brought by a few books yesterday for Annabelle. And my mind must have been a million light years away as Mom sat at my kitchen table, Annabelle upon her lap. Because I didn’t hear any of the story. Not one word penetrated my ear.

No, I was somewhere in outer space. Day dreaming as I chased the thoughts and dreams around the corners of my heart while simultaneously swiping away crumbs from the corners of my kitchen counter.

Uninterested in a child’s story, I simply didn’t listen. I was lost in thought. And space. Thus, completely losing my way…

Traveling in the wrong direction.

Shining morning star, how you have fallen from the heavens! Isaiah 14:12

Interestingly, we talked about the listening ear just a few days ago at church. Or the non-listening one. And a question was posed… When was the last time you heard from God? And not in a vague “I picked up the Bible, read a verse, and went on my merry way” kind of way.

Rather, when was the last time you heard something from God that was earth shattering. Life altering. And direction changing.

Our Bible teacher quoted Jesus who said, “He who has an ear, let him hear,” and the verse stuck out. Because though I have an ear, it doesn’t always hear. Or simply, I choose not to listen. Like when Mom read to Annabelle.

No, all too often I sweep away unwanted words along with the crumbs from my countertop. And alarmingly, I dismiss what God has to say in favor of my own ramblings. I chase the words that flutter about in my head, which leaves me scattered as I follow unmet dreams…

seeking out star dust.

But you know, I heard Him this morning. My Father’s voice fell on a listening ear for His words resonated deep within my soul. And of all things, He used a child’s book to speak to me.

It was the very story Mom read to Annabelle. The one I chose not to hear yesterday spoke volumes today as the words fell from my lips. My voice tickling my little girl’s ear as she perched atop my lap.

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I thought it was odd that Psalm 51:17 was at the very front of a child’s board book. “The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.” Because it seemed beyond a child’s rationale.

Afterward, though, the verse made complete sense. At least it did to the forty-two year old little girl that I am. Because my Father’s voice went deep today, penetrating my heart as I sat perched atop His lap.

“The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands says: I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not and you have found them to be liars. You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you: you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place-unless you repent. Anyone who has an ear should listen…” Revelation 2:1-5, 7

It all has to do with the stars in my eyes. See, star gazing has turned into star seeking. Or me seeking. And a child’s story painted the picture…

See, Baby was in a boat that sailed through the night. And amidst the blanket of darkness, bright spots of light dotted the sky. The stars floated by as baby fished for her dream. And her bait?

It was a silver star.

And this is how she caught her dream. A star. And baby is encouraged to go her way and chase her dream. However, she’s prompted to remember. A voice calls out, “Only don’t forget to sail, Back again to me.”

And that’s when I heard my Father. And when Psalm 51:17 made sense. Because it’s a story of turning back. A story of repentance. It’s my story for today.

And as Annabelle sat on my lap, it was as if I were on His own. And words meant for my baby girl resounded in my ear instead. Because my Father cautioned me to remember. To turn back.

He called out, “Return to me.”

Humble yourselves before the LORD, and He will exalt you. James 4:10

My Father says to repent. And it’s a hard word to choke down. One I’m tempted to sweep under the rug or into the dustbin along with the lint from my floor. Because repenting is not easily accomplished.

Know why? Because it’s a change of mind. It’s turning from your old pattern of thinking to a new way. To the mind of Christ. And this is incredibly hard to do. Because Christ and the world are at odds with each other. God’s kingdom doesn’t mesh with earth’s. But the thing is they both have a way that lead upward.

The world says work harder. Put yourself first. And eventually, it’ll all pay off. However, once you work your way to the top, only status will support you. Or money. Or power. Or beauty. Or talent. Or whatever it is that got you there in the first place. And before you know it, you fall right off your pedestal.

But God says there’s another way. He says the way up is down. To clothe yourself in humility, and He’ll lift you up. And when He’s your support, you won’t easily fall.

shooting star: a visual meteor appearing as a temporary streak of light in the night sky

I have to be honest. A part of me still hungers what the world has to offer. I gaze upon those silvery lights that sparkle amidst a backdrop of darkness and I chase them. Dream seeking morphed to self-seeking as I long to be like one of those shining stars.

And oh, I’ve hungered for the world’s approval. More so in the past four months than in my entire life. But you know, I realize that’s made me nothing more than a shooting star. Just a temporary flash of light before I burned out. And fell to the ground with a thud.

An so God’s words ring clear today. I hear His warning…

“Lose your pride, daughter! It’ll be the death of you. You cannot keep looking to the world for validation. And affirmation. And value. Likes and follows will not support your frail sense of security. They will not hold you up as high as you long to be. And eventually, they’ll run out.”

I find that to be so true.  That which I’ve hungered for has dried up. And so it’s with a smile that I think of God’s chosen people, the Israelites. Their story depicts my own…

In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. Exodus 16:2

See, God was devoted to the Israelites. He chose them and loved them. Not because they were more numerous, though. Rather, it was because they were the fewest. He brought them out of the land of Egypt with a strong arm and led them through the wilderness.

That’s where they were thirsty. Hungry. And that’s where they complained.

After their trek, Moses reminded the people how God led them forty years so that He might humble them and to test them to know what was in their heart.

God humbled His people by letting them go hungry…

And I see that like me, God’s chosen people hungered. And I, like them, complained.

Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation among whom you shine like stars in the world. Philippians 2:14

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God spoke to me this morning. Here in this chair. I climbed up on His lap and He caused me to remember. Through a child’s book, of all things.

He reminded me of how He brought me through the wilderness and caused me to enter a good land full of milk and honey. But I forgot Him when I’d eaten my fill… when the world sated my voracious appetite.

When I began to seek me and my own name rather than Him and His name, likes and follows bolstered my pride. They preceded my fall. And when the world’s affirmations dwindled, I grumbled. I compared. I doubted. And my light burned out…

But God is so good. My Father tenderly reminded me of how He chose me and devoted Himself to me. Not because I was more than, though. Rather, because I was less than. He loved me. And loves me still.

So, I fondly reminisce on how good it was in the beginning. Before my dream led me from Him. When my heart and motives were pure. When I sought nothing more than God. My first love.

It becomes clear. How far I’ve fallen. And I comprehend that just as there are two ways leading up, there are also two ways leading down. One way is like that of a shooting star. Nothing more than a streak of light.

But the other is when you lower yourself. When you choose to step down off your pedestal on your own. It’s called humility. And ultimately, it’s the only real way up.

And so, I find that God has indeed spoken. She who has an ear, let her hear. For the earth has shaken and my life has altered. Today I change my direction. And I do what my Father tells me to do.

I repent.

Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light. Micah 7:8

the English assignment

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But I protested, “Oh no, Lord God! Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am only a youth.” Jeremiah 1:6

Maybe it was two years ago when I stumbled across the question, “What’s undone?” And it seemed to be a charge to me. From God, no less. So I pondered and I meditated. I studied and I scoured my journals and memories. I sought to find the one thing that remained incomplete in my life.

I came to the conclusion it was me. I was the undone thing. Totally unfinished.

However, today I think it’s something else entirely. And it goes back. Way back to my sophomore year in high school. For in  1989, there was an English assignment I half way completed. An oral report. But words weren’t my strongpoint. Speaking caused me immense discomfort.

If I found myself with an audience, I clammed up. And if I were forced to open my mouth, I’d stutter and stammer. There was the time in Geometry where I repeated “um, um” no less than twenty times. I felt put on the spot as I stood up front, all eyes on me. And the more the teacher quizzed, the emptier my brain became.

Oh, and there was Art class. Teams of four were to make a presentation. And though underserved, I received an “A.”  This due to an oversight, luck, or the mercy of my teacher. See, the first three spoke articulately and intelligently but I just stood there nodding along. And when a question was directed to me, I answered “Ditto.” That was all I had to offer.

And then there was that English Assignment I mentioned. Of all things, I chose abortion as my topic. At sixteen, I stood in front of my peers and argued in favor of abortion. And quite poorly, I might add. Because I didn’t really prepare for it. No, procrastination was my game plan back then so I don’t think much research was involved.

I stood up, opened my mouth, and simply regurgitated something I’d been spoon-fed. I said it wasn’t really a baby. Nothing more than a blob of tissue. And my argument? An acorn. I said just as an acorn wasn’t really a tree, same thing went for pregnancy. That’s all I can recall about that assignment.

My totally inadequate argument. 100% incomplete. And thus, it remains undone to this day.

Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the technique of deceit. Ephesians 4:14

I tell you, I never had a mind of my own. I was a sponge and soaked up the mindsets of those surrounding me. And so my young life confirms it… you are indeed who your friends are. Or at least I tried to be. Thus, I was unstable. And naïve. Tossed about by every wind of teaching. Fickle for sure.

But one day, I grew up. I think that might have been yesterday. Or sometime within the past couple of years. Because finally, I began to develop a mind of my own. And the timing of it all doesn’t escape me. See, I began to form my own opinions and passions and convictions about the same time I began seeking God with my whole heart.

That’s when God’s wind filled me rather than the wind of every teaching. It blew out all the false notions I’d adopted as my own and miraculously, I found my voice. Oh, it was lovely. To have my own mind. Moreover, to be able to speak it.

But you know, growing up and speaking your mind can be a hard thing. Because truth is not everyone’s going to like you for what you have to say. In fact, you may find rejection instead of acceptance. Backsides instead of faces. And for a girl like me, that hurts. A lot.

Alas, this is part of growing up. For the fact is the closer you walk with God, the harder things will be. Wind no longer at your back like when you went along with the flow… rather, you find the winds of change battering against you (Mark 6:48). Thus, the hardest part of walking with God, for me, has to be going against the grain. And the wind. At least with regard to the winds of every human teaching…

I am young in years while you are old; therefore I was timid and afraid to tell you what I know. Job 32:6

Part of growing up is doing the right thing. Speaking out against injustice. And for me, I think my part has to do with babies. Because last night, they were all over me in my sleep. I dreamt about sonograms and the unborn. Problems within the womb. The dreams likely due to a video I saw on Facebook just before bedtime.

A woman discovered she was pregnant with conjoined twins at twenty weeks. However, the doctor advised she should abort. He didn’t think it would be possible to separate the girls. And yet, now they are two years old. For the mother could feel her children kicking when she heard unwanted words. And thankfully, she said no to the doctor. And abortion. She said yes to her children, instead. Now, they play at her feet…

So I find myself back at abortion one more time. It’s where I was twenty years ago. Two times in the Summer of 1995, to be precise. And I think about that oral report I flubbed in 1989. So today I can’t help but wonder if I’d properly prepared back then, would I have done what I did six years later.

Perhaps if I’d fully prepared for my English assignment at sixteen, I wouldn’t have done it at twenty-two.

Just maybe I’d have made another choice.

“Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work.” Jeremiah 1:5a

God doesn’t make accidents and he doesn’t make junk. As such, He knew what He was doing when He made me. And in my book, the fact I share a birthday with Roe v. Wade is fraught with significance. Abortion made legal the very day I was born. It seems we’re conjoined, abortion and I. And it seems to be part of my life. Part of God’s plan for me…

To use my past and speak out today…

And share what I know.

But even deeper, I think God wants me to complete the English assignment. Though I didn’t complete the task in 1989, I can for sure do it now. And perhaps I was created for this very thing. The English assignment becomes my “for such a time as this” moment. For in finishing my homework twenty-six years later, I believe I’ll find some closure on this matter. The subject of abortion.

And in the writing, perhaps like the twins I watched last night, I’ll find we can be finally part ways. Abortion and I no longer conjoined.

No longer one.

I too will answer; yes, I will tell you what I know. For I am full of words, and my spirit compels me [to speak]. Job 32:17-18

In my day, the cost of abortion was around three hundred dollars. Now, it’s considerably more. According to Planned Parenthood’s site, you can have one for approximately fifteen hundred dollars if it’s during the first trimester. Of course, the second trimester (months four through six) increases the number.

And from what I understand, you can have an abortion up to 26 weeks. Per Planned Parenthood’s website, though, you may have difficulty finding someone who will do so. Of course, they will help you find a doctor who will:

It can be difficult to find a health care provider who performs abortions after the first trimester. To find one of these providers, call The National Abortion Federation at 1-877-257-0012. Please keep in mind that after about 24 weeks of pregnancy, abortions are usually performed only for serious health reasons.

Their site is oh, so helpful regarding the feelings a woman may experience afterward. Anger, regret, guilt, sadness… for a little while. And serious, long-term emotional problems are rare (according to the site) and could be attributed to several factors. Number one being you had emotional problems before the abortion.

Speaking from experience, my long-term emotional issues didn’t present till later. Much later. Not till after I married and decided to have children. And amazingly, what I once considered to be nothing more than an acorn, or a blob of tissue, or a group of cells, or an embryo, I considered to be a baby. From day one of my pregnancy. No, not an embryo. But my baby…

Funny that as a young woman I could easily discard what I considered to be a blob of tissue, and yet ten years later, I deemed him to be a baby. My son valuable to me before I even saw him.

My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; and my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began. Psalm 139:15-16

I think about my English assignment. That if I’d taken the time to investigate pregnancy and abortion at sixteen, I may have learned that though a baby begins as a ball of cells… the sex is determined as soon as the fertilized egg is implanted. And by the time a woman misses her menstrual cycle, the baby already has a bit of a head and tail developing. Even then, the heartbeat is visible. Just when she suspects she’s pregnant.

And that by the time a woman considers abortion, the ear canals are developing and the heart beats 80 times a minute. That at three weeks late, arms and legs are developing along with kidneys and a mouth. One month late (which is 8 weeks pregnant), there are lips, nose and eyelids. Little webbed fingers and toes. And the baby moves as his heart beats 150 times a minute.

At nine weeks pregnant, a woman can hear her baby’s heartbeat. Just one week later, bones and cartilage are present. Knees and ankles and flexing elbows and teeth. And her baby has digestive juices and urine. At thirteen weeks, he may suck his thumb and his vocal chords develop! Two weeks later, he practices swallowing and breathing.

At sixteen weeks, his eyes work. He frowns and squints. At seventeen weeks, he has fingerprints and noises startle him. One week later, he yawns. Perhaps tired from his nervous system developing. At twenty-one weeks, he moves and he has taste buds and sleeps.

At twenty-two weeks, the little guy can see and hear.

At twenty-four weeks, his face is fully formed.

At twenty-five weeks, there’s brainwave activity… he responds to what he hears.

And yet, the wind of teaching tells us it’s okay to abort this baby. Totally acceptable to dismember his little arms and legs and pull them out of the security of his home… the womb, which should be the safest of all places. Politically correct and acceptable to our society to cast him out.

But if we speak out against it, we’re fools. Ignorant. Intolerant.

But see, he can hear the noise of the vacuum. Perhaps it startles him. And he can see the tools coming his way. In fact, one woman who previously worked at an abortion clinic walked away from it all. It was the day after she had to assist with the procedure. And when she saw a precious baby try to move away from tortuous instruments (via ultrasound), she couldn’t condone it one more day.

And today, she uses her voice to speak out against it…

She tells what she knows.

Speak up for those who have no voice,
for the justice of all who are dispossessed.
Speak up, judge righteously,
and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy. Proverbs 30:8-9

I think most people have heard or seen the Planned Parenthood videos that surfaced in July. Three months ago. I was inflamed. The remarks of Dr. Deborah Nucatola outrageous, “I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.” And why? Because people want intact hearts and livers these days. Research.

“We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part…”

Yes, as many intact livers as possible. She went on to explain lower extremities were in demand, too. But according to her, that’s simple. Easy, even. She imagines they want it for muscle.

One thing Dr. Nucatola said really stood out to me, though. “Calvarium – the head – is basically the biggest part. Most of the other stuff can come out intact. The kind of rate-limiting step of the procedure is calvarium.” I was struck when I heard it. For Calvarium (skull cap) sounds so much like Calvary. And at Calvary, there was a cross. The one Jesus died on. For the sins of the humanity…

And so, Dr. Nucatola was right in her statement. Calvary is the biggest thing.

Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). John 19:17

And because of that, I have hope today. For though I did what I did at twenty-two, my sins have been wiped away. My tears, too. And one day, every tear will be wiped away. No more crying. No more suffering. And all this heartache will fade away in the face of Jesus. Oh, what a day that will be…

No more innocent bloodshed.

No more killing.

And finally, no more throwing away babies.

But as for today, we live in a luxurious world where babies are not valued. Easily discarded. Ultra politically correct is how the wind blows these days. And if you dare face the wind head on, you run the risk of a reputation. You’ll be deemed a Bible-thumper. Intolerant. And bigoted.

Nevertheless, that’s my task today. God bids me to go straight into the wind and speak out about what I know. And really, He just wants me to finish the English assignment from my sophomore year. For in doing so, I’ll end up completing both tasks. And I believe I just did that.

What was undone has been completed.

It is finished…

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be silent and a time to speak… Ecclesiates 3:1, 7

My good friend and I talked about procrastination yesterday. It’s been a part of me for a long time now. All the way back to my school days when I used to wait until the last minute to do homework. And in recent days, it has to do with this post. See, it was mid-July when I felt impassioned to write it. And when those Planed Parenthood videos came to light, the undone English assignment surfaced. I’d forgotten all about it till then.

But I got side-tracked. Derailed, even. And here I am three months later…

There’s good news, though. See, it’s never too late to finish up what’s undone. Not with God, it’s not. For His mercies are new every day. And His patience is infinite. I know because that’s just what He’s been with me.

Oh, so patient as I’ve struggled with the winds of change. Upholding me by His right arm so I was never utterly knocked down. Going before me, shielding me from the most violent East wind.

And I was unbalanced for a long time. Easily swayed one way or the other depending on what direction the wind blew in. But one day I found my footing.  For I grew up. And as a big girl, I was able to stand on my own feet. Perhaps that was yesterday. Or sometime in the past couple of years.

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Makes no difference when it happened, really. The point is, I’m all grown up now. And I found my voice. And along with my voice, I found my stance. I chose a side called Pro-Life based on the proof of life within the womb. My womb. Not according to what the world says.

And turns out, being pregnant has nothing to do with an acorn at all. Not one thing.

Amazing, really.

the mama I want to be

I have three blank pages left in my journal. And that always excites me. There’s just something about cracking open a new notebook that fills me with expectancy. Not only that, I’m supposed to hear a well-known Bible teacher speak this weekend. And I just know I’ll hear from God. Because whenever I hear one of this lady’s messages, it’s as if the voice of God parts her lips to deposit fresh words directly into my listening ear.

Specific words…

Just for me.

And me being me, I put two and two together. The upcoming conference along with a new journal seemed to underscore my thinking. For surely I’ll soon have a new word and a new direction. BUT…

I don’t know if the weather is going to cooperate. Flash flood warnings may keep me from attending the conference.

What of that?!?

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My current journal dates back to mid-July. I cracked it open just before attending the She Speaks conference (a huge writing event). I was full of expectancy back then, too, as I lovingly wrote out a portion of Proverbs 31 on the front….

At the time, I wanted this to be true about me. All of it. I longed to be cloaked with strength and honor as laughter cascaded from upturned lips. And when I opened my mouth, I wanted wisdom and loving instruction to fall gently on those closest to me. Oh, how I wanted to shrewdly watch over my household. And for my son, Levi, to rise and call me blessed.

Yes, I wanted it to be true then.

And I want it to be true now.

Instead, I am me.

And me being me, I just have to think this Proverbs 31 woman can only be true in fairy tales. Because who can really do all that she does?

She

Who is she, the P31 woman? Well, the heart of her husband trusts in her. And because she is she, he doesn’t lack any good thing. She rewards him with good and not evil all her days. Furthermore, she rises while it’s still night and provides food for her household. And she’s sturdy. Her arms reveal strength.

Despite being super busy at home, the P31 woman finds time to reach out to the poor and extends a helping hand. And it’s true for her. All of it. Strength and honor are her clothing. She does laugh at times to come. And when she opens her mouth, wisdom is found as she sends forth loving instruction.

No, she’s never, ever idle. Her household reflects that. And when her sons rise up, they do in fact call her blessed. For she is indeed a woman to be praised.

Because that’s who she is. The P31 woman.

And I want to be her.

Instead, I am me.

And me being me, I compare myself to her…

Her

What does the P31 woman look like in modern times? Well, she’s ultra-cool and always looks trendy. No matter what. Good hair and shoes. No blemishes or bulges to hide.

Her laundry is always under control and her family has exactly what they need in closets or drawers. And amazingly, you can eat a piece of cake right off her floor. It’s that clean. How about that.

Yeah, her shopping cart is filled with all the right foods. Organic, no less. Veggies and whole wheat and fish and such. And when she makes a meal, the family sits together. Grace is always said out loud and bowls are passed. The family shares their highs and lows and she really listens. And when something is askew in her child’s life, she always has the right words to make things better.

Of course she recycles. It’s her responsibility. And of course her kids participate in all the programs and sports. It’s her duty to help her children become well-rounded and sociable. And despite keeping an overloaded calendar, she always seems to look rested. She stays calm and peaceful. Always.

And when her kids act up (if they act up), she knows exactly how to handle them. If the need arises, she surely knows how to administer discipline.

And for this reason, her children respect her.

They rise up and call the modern P31 woman blessed.

Oh, how I’d like to be her.

But instead, I am me.

And me being me, my life resembles none of the above. At all.

Me

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My shopping cart doesn’t look so good. Like tonight when we went to prepare for the potential flash floods and hurricane. Yep, all the necessities there.

And my house hasn’t been so clean lately. I do my best to keep stray things off the floor and yet, small pieces appear hourly. Just days ago, Annabelle found a tiny bit of dried leaf and tried to eat it. She then started gagging and choking. Honestly, I don’t think she could breathe.

So I fell on the floor beside her and she kept making retching motions. I patted her back and started screaming out, “Jesus!” And finally, it came up along with throw-up. Down her shirt, on my arm and pants. Afterward, she was fine. Me? A mess. Because I totally panicked.

A few weeks back, Levi had an ENT visit. And me being me, I tried to ultra-prepare. I actually charged an old cell phone so Annabelle would have something to entertain her while I tended to Levi and the doctor. Well, turns out you can still make a 911 call even if the phone doesn’t have a plan.

Annabelle delighted over the electronic device when the voice said, “911, what’s your emergency?” Of course, the doctor chose that moment to walk in. And me being me, I stood still for a second not sure of what to do first.

I grabbed the phone, “I’m so sorry, doctor, my daughter just called 911” The voice repeated… “What’s your emergency?” I explained. Of course, I’d tell my thirteen month old daughter that 911 is for emergency calls only. “Yes, yes, sorry and good-bye.”

Annabelle shrieked the whole time so I gave her my necklace. Another illicit toy, as I call them. This she managed to break so a hundred little beads went all over the floor of the exam room. And the doctor? He didn’t even acknowledge the chaos. Just examined my son and carried on a conversation with me as I hunched over the floor picking up beads…

indulged

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I’m taking this Bible study called Unglued. The last chapter mentioned the negative labels we carry and encouraged the reader to think of some. I thought of bad mama. That’s the badge I’ve worn for years now. Ever since Levi was young.

And though my house can be messy and my shopping cart could use a few more veggies, those aren’t the reasons I wear that badge. No, it has to do with discipline. Or rather, the lack of discipline. See, I just hate to say no. In every way imaginable.

It began when I was young. I never said no to my friends when I wanted to. Even when I knew something was wrong and feared the consequences, I chose to go with the flow. No just wasn’t part of my vocabulary. Not as a child, or a young woman, or even now as an older woman.

At forty-two, seems as if I still have trouble saying it. To myself when I want to indulge in a treat. Or to someone I want to please when I know I’m too tired or my calendar is too full. But most importantly, to my children. I’ve been remiss in using this most powerful word with them. No.

Like Annabelle and her illicit toys…

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I use whatever I can to buy me a few minutes. A watch or a toothbrush. Something to occupy her time so I can do the thing I need to do. Or want to do. I’ve resorted to phones and remotes if it’ll afford me five more minutes. However, I don’t always want her to have those things.

And so later, when I want to say no, she’ll be confused.

And then there’s Levi…

respect

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He’s the one. See, he’s already nine years old. And the truth is, he doesn’t seem to respect me very much. A few weeks back, I was on a rant… No, it wasn’t loving instruction that fell from my lips. Rather, shrill condemnation and fury. Because I was at my wit’s end.

“You don’t respect me, do you!” (me to Levi)

“No.”

“You don’t?” (surprise on my part he admitted it) “Why don’t you?”

“Because you say I don’t.”

That’s when my senses returned. He was simply repeating what I had said. So I asked if he knew what the word meant. No, he didn’t. I told him that if he respected me, he’d care about what I have to say. That my words would mean something to him. That I’d matter. And he assured me they do. And I do.

And yet, his actions and mannerisms seem to convey otherwise.

Unlike the P31 woman, my son does not rise up and call me blessed. But the thing is, I haven’t given him a reason to.

find out what it means to me

I’ve indulged my boy. From the beginning. As a tiny tot, too much TV when I needed more time to answer work emails. And as he grew, I let him get away with more than I should have. I had a light hand. Very few spankings. I said yes when I should have said no. And as time progressed, he started listening less and less.

So I got louder and louder. I began demanding that he respect me. I swear, I’ve even stamped my foot. Just like a child.

So unlike the P31 woman. So unlike the she and her I want to be.

But so much like me.

And me being me, I hear the voice of God. He whispers the word respect in my ear. For it’s tied to discipline. And the word no.

And the wonder of it all is, it means love.

Because when you use the word no, you’re really saying I love you.

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Do not despise the LORD’s instruction, my son, and do not loathe His discipline; for the LORD disciplines the one He loves, just as a father, the son he delights in. Proverbs 3:11-12

In perusing the pages of my journal, I found the word RESPECT no less than four times. So I decided to look it up in the Bible. I was led to Hebrews 12:9 which says, “Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them.” And so I see. Truth. But this isn’t the first time I’ve been here.

About six months ago, I was right here contemplating all this. My son and how I handle discipline. And back then I knew what to do.

However, I forgot what I learned…

See that you do not reject the One who speaks… Hebrews 12:25

Truth is the relationship I have with my son is so much like the relationship I have with my heavenly Father. A mirror image. I want my boy to listen to me. To acknowledge my words. And most importantly, to do what I say. But so does God.

And God told me then and He tells me now… discipline your child!

Say no!

Because no means I love you. When I say no to the donuts, I practice self-discipline and love myself. When I say no to overstuffing my calendar, I’m loving my family. And when I say no to my son, I’m loving him.

So I have a choice… I can indulge my children. Or discipline them.

I can’t help but think of her. The P31 woman. What would she do? Makes no difference, I guess. For I’m not her. I’m just me…

me being me

I’m disappointed about the weather. See, I really want to go to that event Saturday. Poised for a fresh word from God. A new journal at the ready. I wondered about that today, though. I thought why would God give me a new word when I still haven’t got the last one right. Because it was at least six months ago when He told me to discipline my child.

But you know… that’s what I did.

Today, I was firm with my son. And a weight was lifted. Because I know I did the right thing. The thing God bids me to do. Thus, I showed respect to my Father. And one day, my son will thank me for it. Because he’ll know he’s loved.

And if I continue the way I’m going, it might all come true after all. I may actually become the woman I read about. The mama I want to be.

Me will become she

And like her, I’ll open my mouth with wisdom. Faithful instruction will be on my tongue. And my children… for it’s all about them, anyway.

They will rise and call me blessed.

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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.

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