Get your feet wet!

IMG_0991 (2)Verb. get one’s feet wet. To begin gaining experience; to tentatively try something new. 

I took my little girl to her grandma’s house today. It was raining. As I scooped her out of the carseat and deposited her onto the ground, I said, “Stay on the gravel. Stay on the walkway. Don’t get your feet wet!”

And as those words exited my mouth, I sensed God speaking to me. It was about how I talk to my daughter and what she hears. Because the message that goes forth is one of caution. It says stop! Stay on the beaten path. And for God’s sake, stay out of the water.

And why?

First, Annabelle would get her feet dirty. Muddy. And I want to avoid the mess. But also, if she keeps her feet dry, there’s less chance of sickness. And deep down, I feel the beaten path is the safe way to go. Guided paths are tested and tried. Less chance of tripping up.

So I tell her to stay on the sidewalk. To stay out of the wet grass. All to keep her feet dry. But on this 31st day of December, the last day of the year, I wonder if I’m sending her the wrong message.

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Today, Annabelle knew I was talking about the sidewalk. But you know, this message of caution is one that escapes my lips all too often. It always has…

When my son, Levi, was small and we walked down the driveway after school, I’d cry out, “Don’t run!” See, there’s a steep part and I worried about his falling and skinning knees or busting his mouth. And when we walked through our wooded path, I’d say, “Slow down.” That’s because Levi usually carried a stick and I didn’t want him to fall and poke his eyes out. And now there’s Annabelle.

Go slow, I say. Hold the rail. Don’t fall. And most recently, stay off the grass! So as to keep her feet dry.

But I realize this message can run deep. To the soul, even. Perhaps even stunt her growth and keep her bound. In a box, so to say. All in the name of safety. And caution. And if I’m not careful with my words, I may stop her altogether. Fear imbedded to the core by words uttered every single day…

Stop. Slow down. Don’t…

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But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”  “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. Matthew 14:27-31

I had to get my feet wet several years back. I felt as if God called me by name for a specific task. Something new. And though there was fear, I stepped out of the box (my boat) and walked on water for just a bit. And it felt good. There’s that phrase about walking on air. I think they have it wrong. Surely that heady feeling is more like walking on water.

Like Jesus did.

And like Peter. Like the disciple, though, I began to sink. I’d say within a year of stepping out of that boat, I was up to my ears in water. Drowning in a sea of old feelings that threatened to take me under completely.

But Jesus extended His hand. He pulled me to safety and an extended period of rest. Thus, I’ve been sitting on the banks for some time now. And a thorough drying off has taken place.

Alas, I sense His call anew. A stirring of my soul. Time to get up from the sidelines and move out into the water once more. But a voice plays in my ear. It’s one of caution and it sounds like my own.

It says, “Stop! Stay on the walkway. And for God’s sake, don’t get your feet wet!”

Because when you get wet by putting yourself out there, there’s a chance of danger. There’s the chance of failing. Or getting hurt. And so the bank seems safer. And yet, He calls me out anyway…

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It’s almost 2019. Another year down. And this past year has been pretty safe. For I’ve not veered off the path and I’ve stayed close to home. I’ve not ventured too far beyond my borders nor attempted anything out of the norm.

It’s been comfortable, I’d say.

But you know, comfortable is not a good place to be. Because comfort leads to complacency. And as we all know, a body at rest stays at rest. And when one sits too long, the waters become stagnant.

And though there are times God calls one to stillness, there are also times God calls one to action. And movement. To His living waters that run so deep. This is where He calls me today…

In the year that’s coming, God calls me out of the box that’s been my comfort zone. He wants me to step out of my boat of safety. More, He tells me to jump in with both feet. Because there, within His living water, I’ll find my destiny. The catch?

It’s not the safest way to go. It’s not the well-beaten path. It’s the one less traveled and one I’m not accustomed to. And where it will lead me, I don’t really know…

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Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. Psalm 42:7

God’s telling me something. It has to do with how I speak to my little girl. It’s the words I fling forth in hope of protecting her. But deep down, I wonder if they’ll do more harm than good.

Because when will they stop? When does my message of slow down and be careful end? And when will they sink into the core of her being?  Will they hinder her progress toward the One who walks on water? When He calls her out, will I let her go? Or will I cry, “Stop!”

A little caution is good. It really is. But I’m hearing God today. And He’s telling me to let go. To stop trying to control everything. To stop trying to avoid all the hurts in life. For my kids and for myself…

And if I hear Him correctly, He’s saying a little water on the feet is not such a bad thing. Not for Annabelle.

And most assuredly, not for me.

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“Stop your fighting—and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

Oh, I’m quick to caution my little one. I just want her to stay well. Healthy. Happy. Whole. I want the best for her. So, I tell her to not get her feet wet. You know, the mud and the mess. But also, wet feet can lead to sickness. And sickness, well, it can lead to more. And me telling my little one to stay dry is really an attempt to control circumstances.

And here we are on the cusp of 2019. And I hear God urging me to do the opposite of what I urge her to do. Thus, I will do my best to do the same…

I’ll try to encourage Annabelle just as my heavenly Father does me. And my hope for the New Year is that the words He whispers in my ear will make it to my lips. That I’ll say, “Go into the grass, my child, and feel the blades. Go off the beaten path and try new roads. Get out of the boat. Jump into the water and experience all life has to offer…”

And more than anything, I hope I tell her, “Get your feet wet!”

Because in truth, if your feet ain’t wet, then you’re not really living. Not fully.

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.

my enemy danced…

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the Funyun story

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

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

“Can I have one?”

“No.”

“Please let me have one.”

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

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

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

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

Nonetheless, that’s exactly how I felt.

Begging for crumbs and pilfering through dirt…

the explosion

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

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

Finally.

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

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

“You better be careful,” he said.

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

dancing with the devil

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

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

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

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

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

One, two, three, four.

One, two, three.

One, two.

And, one.

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

I quit

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

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

“What do you mean, you quit?”

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

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

I don’t believe

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

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

“I don’t believe You love me!”

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

His answer was no, though.

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

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

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

the end of me

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

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

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

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

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

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

grace

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

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

Him and only Him. And so I’m ready.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instead, I found grace.

In the most unexpected place.

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

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

It’s sufficient for me.

Deep Thoughts

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“A lot of people want intact hearts these days.” Dr. Deborah Nucatola

Years and years (and years) ago, I used to watch Saturday Night Live. And I just loved the deep thoughts portion of the show. Dry, funny quotes written by someone named Jack Handy. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I rolled with laughter. And the crazy thing is, several of those sayings have stuck with me for over two decades now. The one I’ve been pondering lately, though, goes like this…

To me, it’s a good idea to always carry two sacks of something when you walk around. That way, if anybody says, “Hey, can you give me a hand?” You can say, “Sorry, got these sacks.”  Jack Handy

At nineteen, I found this to be incredibly funny. But today, I find it a deep thought indeed. In essence, “Sorry, man… got these two sacks. So no, I can’t help you. I’m too busy helping myself.” Yep, this deep thought came to mind at the bus stop the other evening when Levi told me about a fight at school. He said it was scary when the seventh grader hit a sixth grader. Teachers intervened.

But Levi, for future reference, wanted to know what to do in situations like this if an adult isn’t around. He thought he should go and help the one being hit. And shamefully, before I could stop myself, I said you go get someone else to help. Basically, don’t involve yourself, my son. You walk away and find another. I quickly withdrew my rash words but the truth is, I’m really uncertain as to what would be right in that situation. Should my little boy step up and try to stop a fight potentially getting hurt himself? Or run away and find someone better equipped to handle the problem? It’s a thought worth exploring… a deep thought, indeed.

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Ironically, the above is in the front of my journal. I jotted it down on July the 15th. Guard your heart… the irony being my heart was ripped in two one short week later. Not just once, but twice. See, that was the week I watched some abortion videos that had surfaced. Oh, the video caught my eye the previous week; however, I simply didn’t have time to watch. I was too darn busy. I was in the midst of planning for a big writing conference, chasing my dream, keeping house and children, working from home, and preparing for a week long road trip. No, there was no time for keeping up with current affairs in early July. So in essence, I was carrying some sacks. My own sacks. And my load seemed heavy enough.

But finally, everything was complete. As I spent the week with my in-laws, time was in my hands instead of baggage. So I finally watched the videos. The thing that hit me hardest was a comment made by Dr. Deborah Nucatola. She said a lot of people want hearts intact these days. And you know, I find that to be a deep thought indeed. I’d have to agree with her statement. Because in my opinion, people want just that today. Intact hearts. Not altered, broken, or impaired. A heart should be uninjured, sound and whole. Untouched and unblemished. Because really, who wants to endure a broken heart? But you know… there’s a tragic end to pursuing an intact heart. We run the risk of becoming unfeeling. Cold and aloof. In trying to keep our heart by keeping it from the world, it can become hard. And callused. Like stone.

Oh, it begins innocently enough. And early on. A heart break. My first was in the fifth grade. There was a boy I liked so much but it was clear. I was not chosen. Another came in eighth grade. And ninth. And eleventh. And twelfth. And at twenty. And twenty-two. And twenty-two. And twenty-two. No, that’s not a typo… sometimes your heart can break many times a year. For various reasons as many things can pierce a heart. And so, in an attempt to protect our hearts, we remove it – and ourselves – from life. Because if we’re reserved, just maybe our hearts will remain intact. Whole. But before we know it, a heart can become a boulder. Immovable. Surrounded by thick walls. Nothing can penetrate the protective barriers…

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

I’ve been thinking about that saying… “You can’t get blood from a stone.” It means you can’t extract what isn’t there to begin with. And so I think about the heart of stone. The intact one. And I’d have to agree. No, you can’t get blood from a stone. Not even from a heart of stone. But a true miracle can take place… if only. If only we allow ourselves to reenter life, we’ll find our heart can change. Because what we thought was sound may not be so sound after all. A heart that has the appearance of being whole may actually be shattered. And unexpectedly, what was hard and unmoving comes to life. Real flesh and blood. And when the heart gets cut, it bleeds. I know this to be true because it happened to me.

It was July 24. I thought I was prepared for a writing conference. I thought I was sound. What I didn’t know is I had become callus. Hard. Removed from life. But in reentering the world, my heart became softened. And that night my heart broke right in two. I had to choke back sobs at the dinner table. Afterward, I hurried off to my hotel room and cried like a baby. Just like a newborn. And I couldn’t stop. Tears rolled down my cheeks. And I felt just like I did at twenty-two. And at twenty. I regressed all the way back to that first heartbreak. The time I was not chosen. Unloved. Honestly, I felt just like a little girl. (https://pamandersonblog.com/?s=just+like+a+little+girl )  And before I knew it, two pieces became thousands. A heart splinted. Most definitely not intact.

So here’s what I’m thinking today. What’s the state of our hearts? Are they intact? And if they are, now this is just a thought, maybe they shouldn’t be.  The deep thought for today is perhaps a whole heart should be broken. Because how can it not be? If we allow ourselves to venture beyond our boundary lines and immerse ourselves into the world at large, we’ll begin to see such heartache. And suffering. And inevitably, our hearts begin to hurt alongside the hurting.

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God will not despise a broken and humble heart. Psalm 51:17

You know, my son coined a deep thought yesterday and he didn’t even know it. It’s what he said about his baby sister. See, she’s almost one and she’s been reaching up. She pulls herself up and holds on to something for stability. But she’s fallen so many times. So many boo-boos, tears rolling down her cheeks. But the thing is, the hurts don’t stop her. She continues to pull herself up. And yesterday morning, the most amazing thing happened.

Annabelle had been holding to the coffee table but she let go. There she stood for a total of five seconds without holding on and without falling. That’s because she grabbed hold of something else she wanted. And because all her attention was focused on a phone, she was able to let go of the other thing. Levi said, “She just had to let go of what she was holding to.” And I thought, yes! So simple but so deep. A deep thought, indeed.

Instantly, I thought of the originator of deep thoughts, Jack Handy. And what he said about sacks. See, Annabelle couldn’t have held that phone with both hands if she continued to hold on to a table. The same thing goes for me. I can’t hold onto something else, or someone else, if I continue holding my own sacks… a/k/a baggage. And that’s just not acceptable. I can’t use the following excuse… “Sorry, my friend, I got these sacks here. I can’t help you.” So today I take Levi’s deep thought to heart. I make a choice. And I let go of what I’ve been holding to. My stuff. And in releasing my load, I find I’m able to take hold of something else. Something better.

The LORD is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Truth is I have to take my hands – and eyes – off of me and my junk if I want to look to someone else. Because only when I’m not so focused on me will I really notice those around me. The one who suffers. She who is in pain. The griever. Oh, no doubt there’s risk involved. I will likely ache with them. Or I could get hurt in the process. For sure there will be tears. Rolling down my cheeks. And quite possibly, my heart will break. But you know, I think that’s exactly where God wants me. My heart not intact. Broken alongside my neighbors. Broken alongside His.

But when I find myself there, brokenhearted, that’s when I’ll be most useful to Him. Because I’ll be able to connect with the hurting world that surrounds me. And miraculously, that’s when I’ll be closest to God. Because His word assures me… no doubt when I feel like my heart is breaking into a million pieces, He’ll be right there beside me. And that, my friend, is a deep thought worth pondering.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

 

Riding Coattails

I watched the story of Johnny Cash recently. Walk the Line. And I was mesmerized by a conversation between Johnny (nick-named JR) and his brother, Jack, when they were children:

“Jack”

“Um-hmm?”

“How come you’re so good?”

“I ain’t”

“You pick 5 times more than me.”

“Well, I’m bigger than you.”

“You know every story in Scripture.”

“You know every song in Mama’s hymnal.”

“Songs are easy.”

“Not for me.”

“There’s more words in the Bible than Heavenly Highway Hymns.”

“Look, JR. If I’m going to be a preacher one day, I gotta know the Bible front to back. I mean, you can’t help nobody if you can’t tell em the right story.”

It was that line right there… “you can’t help nobody if you can’t tell em the right story.” And of course, that led me to thinking of my own story and what Jack said. About one being helpful. See, supposing my story is shallow… would it be worth telling anyway? Just suppose the biggest hurdle I’ve had to clear in life is simply myself. That being the case, would it even be worth the breath required to utter the tale? Because in light of the very real struggles, tragedies and pain so many undergo, my minor upheavals in life seem inconsequential. Trivial and small. So then, does my story have any redeeming value? Could it possibly be helpful? And so again, I ponder, is it worth the telling…

Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; Isaiah 51:1

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Look at that little girl. Oh, I can recall how she felt all too well. Awkward. Shy. A wall-flower that blended into the background. I was scared of my own shadow. And I just knew everyone was talking about me. Negatively, of course. And why wouldn’t they be. My clothing was usually second-hand. My home was the back-side of a store. My front yard? Mainly a cow-pasture while the back consisted of a parking lot complete with gas pumps. The grey pavement of highway stretching out beyond. This was my playground. I ran free through the fields like a wild thing. But when forced to interact with civilization, I turned inside myself.

Early on, I developed an inferiority complex. I just didn’t think I measured up. Materially, physically, or intellectually. Through the duration of my youth and early adulthood, I felt minimal. Small. And forever second best. It seemed as if I were destined to stand in the shadows cast by the bright light of my friends. Perhaps those substandard feelings I housed went all the way back to my infancy…  

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See, Mom tells of a time I slipped through the crack of the bed and the wall. Maybe it was the very bed in the photo above. I was laying there as she walked down to the mailbox. However upon her return, she found I was crying out… trapped between bed and wall. And my infant cousin? He was being bounced upon my grandma’s lap. Oh, an aunt was there trying to get me out. But just maybe it started there. The root of insignificance birthed when I literally slipped through the crack unnoticed by the one I wanted to notice me. And ultimately, that fear has chased me my whole life. Scared I’d slip through the cracks unnoticed. And those that mattered the most caring the least. In essence, me mattering naught.

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I wanted to be noticed. And so, early on it was the material that mattered to me. The tangible. The outer. In my eyes, things would make me special and image was of utmost importance. Like in the photo above. I was pleased and it’s obvious. For I felt pretty here. Can’t you see it on my face? Mama (that’s what I called her then) had fixed my hair. And because I liked the way my hair looked, I liked me. If only for a day. As I said, image mattered. And in truth, I thought clothing would fix me right up. If I just had nicer clothes. New clothes. And perhaps a new coat?

And therein lies my foundation. I was a little girl who felt ugly most of the time. And small. Plain and dumb. And unimportant. And what happens when this type of foundation gets laid, is a girl begins to ride coattails without even knowing that’s what she’s doing. Like me. See, my thoughts just weren’t that important. So I began to absorb my friends’ thoughts. Their mindsets became my mindset. And what they liked was better than what I liked. And what they wore was better than what I wore. And so, I tried to be like them. Before I knew it, I didn’t have an original thought. Or idea. Or opinion. And while they stood in the spotlight, I hid in the shadows. Trying my best to be just like them. Living vicariously through them.

And when a girl feels less than, if she discovers there’s something she’s actually good at, she clings to it. She tries to excel in the one thing that makes her feel the tiniest bit special. And she begins to crave the words of affirmation it can bring her. This one area is where she finds her value. And she feasts on the praise it brings her way.

Naturally, I became one who strives. I’d say since the fourth grade. I think that’s when I decided deep down that I wanted to be the best. The greatest. I know for certain that’s when I wanted to be famous because of a little notebook I saved all these years. My name scribbled all over it where I practiced my autograph. That little lime green memo pad is quite telling in that it’s also filled with pictures of women drawn by me. Complete with notes and poems of what I wanted to look like when I was all grown up.

And these were my beginnings. Like I said, my story is shallow. For I was shallow. Because image ruled and appearances mattered the most. The outside was all I cared about. And so, I became an adult. At least that’s what my age indicated. And because I had no ambition of my own other than to be pretty, to be known, and to be liked, I ended up doing what my friend’s mother suggested we do. I joined the U.S. Air Force. And I was excited. Hopeful even. For I thought in leaving my hometown behind, I’d leave the little girl I was behind, too. I thought in leaving, I’d actually become someone new. And exciting. And worthwhile. Maybe for once, I’d be able to grab a little light of my own… And so I tied on my Air Force Blue Raincoat and hoped for the best.

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But as for you, do you seek great things for yourself? Stop seeking! Jeremiah 45:5

At nineteen, I left home. And in four short years, I made some of the biggest mistakes of my life. I tried to be everything I thought I always wanted to be. I thought I’d be happy. I shed riding others’ coattails in favor of trying on my own coat. And while donning my new attire, I worked at being pretty. I tried my best to be likeable. And popular. And fun. It was exhausting. And truth is, trying to have a coat of my own led to my demise. Because I’ll tell you, if a young woman sets out to get known, she will be noticed. And when she hears someone call out her name followed by “You’re famous!” Well, that’s really not such a good thing. Oh, I at last found myself in the spotlight I always sought. It’s just that once I was there, I found it wasn’t such a nice place to be after all. And ironically, once I was there, I really just wanted to be elsewhere. I wanted to be seen in a different light.

Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. Daniel 12:3

Today, I think about JR and Jack and their conversation about stories. You know, had Jack lived and I ran into him, I think he would have used the story of Joseph with me. That’s because of his coat of many colors. See, I think it’s quite possible that Joseph wanted to be the best, too. See, he was one of the youngest and I think he wanted to prove himself to his big brothers. For whenever he had a God given dream, he’d tell it. And he was a tattle-tale, eager to cast himself in a better light. And because Daddy gave him this great colorful coat, he’d wear it for everyday. Like the time he was told to go out and check on his brothers. Why, they must have seen him coming from a mile away. And they hated him for his showy coat. Because truth is, it was proof that Joseph was the favored child.

So there was Joseph with his colorful coat. But what good did it do him? In fact, his coat may have hastened his demise. Because first, he was thrown into a pit. And then, he was thrown into a prison. His outerwear couldn’t keep him from harm. Being the best in Daddy’s eyes didn’t soften his fall. But ultimately, Joseph learned a lesson. For he was humbled. And he learned how to lead. In the end, he became great. Truly great.

Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

You’d think I’d learn from Joseph’s story. That his fall would serve as warning to me. Because doesn’t pride come before the fall? Like with Joseph. Well, actually, he was thrown down, but it was a fall nonetheless. But every now and then, rather than heed the caution of Joseph’s saga, I throw caution to the wind instead. Because deep, deep, deep down, I still want it. Honestly, I want glory. My glory. Deep, deep, deep down there’s a piece of that little girl inside who grew up feeling small. And she wants to feel big. Larger than life. So she constructs her tower and hopes it will reach the sky. For she wants to be the best. The greatest. At everything. And not only that, she wants everyone in sight to know she’s the best. God help me, this is the truth. Despite how far I’ve come and all I’ve learned, I still struggle with the inferiority complex.

As God’s child, this is what I’ve been cutting my teeth on. See, what I’ve strived so hard for sets me up in direct opposition to Christ. For His teaching is totally opposite of what I’ve been trying to accomplish my whole life. I find we’re at cross purposes. A war within my heart. Me wanting to be more. His wanting me to be less. Me wanting to hold to my life. And His telling me to lose mine. Me wanting it to be all about me. His proclamation that it be all about Him. It’s been a standoff. Right here in my hometown.

See, God brought me back here as a grown woman. He wanted me to see the truth. That despite everything, I was still the little girl I was. My foundation hadn’t changed.  The material still mattered to me. The tangible. The outer. In my eyes, things would make me special and image was of utmost importance. And despite a closet full of clothes, I was still seeking a new coat. One that says I’m special. Favored. Valuable. And yes, full of color. Perhaps like Joseph’s…

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Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; Psalm 104:1-2

So what do I do now? Well, what else can I do but shed my tired old coat. Because really, it’s time for a new one. But before donning a new frock of my own, maybe it would be okay if I just rode someone else’s coattails for a while. See, I’m tired. So tired. As such, maybe God would just let me ride His. And you know the great thing about His cloak, right? It’s light. And when light is refracted through a prism, well, you can see all the colors of a rainbow. In essence, God’s light is made up of all the colors. And so, it seems to me that if I simply ride His coattails for a while, well, I’ll find myself surrounded by a coat of many colors, after all. And isn’t that what I’ve been striving for my entire life anyway?

Yes, I think I’ll start there. I’ll ride God’s coattails. And in doing so, I’ll begin to see myself in a new light. His light. Red and yellow, blue and green. It’ll be like a rainbow…

I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another… Isaiah 42:8

Back to Jack. Had he lived, I wonder if he’d have thought my story was worth the telling? Could it actually help someone? Well, I think that will have to do with how my saga ends. Whether it turns out being all about His glory. Or about mine. See, if I let it become about His glory, and His light, it may well be worth the breath required to utter it after all.

Baby Girl

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Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8

My children. How often I see a picture of God and me through their little faces. With Levi. And most recently, with Annabelle. Look at her… drooling and happy in her rolls. This chunky little girl has been fed and fed well. For she loves to eat. Quite different than Levi, who abhorred eating new things. With him, the table was a battleground. I can’t even describe the fit he threw when I tried to get a peanut butter and jelly down his throat at the age of two. But Annabelle, well, she’s another story. See, she’s so interested in food. She watches us intently when we feed ourselves. And whatever is put to her mouth, she’ll taste it. Even if it’s a salty olive, she’ll savor the flavor. I can almost hear her, “Oh, mama, this is good.”

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or lack compassion for the child of her womb?
Even if these forget,
yet I will not forget you.” Isaiah 49:15

From the very beginning, Annabelle wanted to be at my breast. Our second night, she spent two or three hours at my chest suckling. Finally, I called the nurse for Annabelle outlasted me. I feared I’d fall asleep. I was told about “cluster feeding,” which was a new term to me. Perhaps because Levi didn’t. Cluster feeding. It was a time for Annabelle to spend hours on my chest… one, to stimulate milk production. But really, it was more about her feeling secure. She’d just exited her home… my womb. And her new surroundings were dark. And cold. She wanted to be where she could feel my warmth… where she could experience my heartbeat. She simply wanted to be close to me.

For us, the cluster feed went on for the first two or three weeks of her life. Me exhausted. She happy only if she were on me. If I tried to lay her down, her cries followed. Quickly, I’d pick her up. I’d hold her tight once more. And she’d quiet.

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Over time, as her appetite increased, she grew rapidly. The still infant that she was became a moving, writhing being. And what I noticed about feeding time was her hands. For as soon as she began to move them, they began to get in her way. She’d put them up to my chest only to interfere with her suckling. Sometimes, I just had to hold them tight so she could feed without interruption. But finally, after getting enough milk, she’d look up at me with a contented look.

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Yes, it’s true, Annabelle was a healthy eater. She still is. Food brings her such comfort. “Oh, Mama, is it good.” And in her extended feeding sessions, those cluster feeds, I see a picture of me. More particularly, it’s a depiction of God & me. And what took place a few years back.

See, I came home in the fall of 2010. And truth is, I thought I knew everything about anything. Honestly. I was a big know it all. No one could tell me anything. They just couldn’t. See, I knew it all already. But something happened in the fall of 2011 that caused me to look back over my life. And as I did, I began to consume voluminous amounts of God’s word. I mean for hours at a time. There were times I had to pull myself away to get to the tasks of my day. All I wanted to do was sit there. Feeding on God’s word. The more I consumed, the more I wanted. Basically, I was cluster feeding. No different from Annabelle in the early days of her infancy. Just as she wanted to feel my warmth, I wanted to feel His. I wanted to lay my head against His chest and experience His heartbeat. Simply, I wanted to be close to Him. And in truth, I just didn’t know that’s what I was doing. Only in hindsight can I see it. Me suckling at the breast of God. Me not being able to get enough. Me crying out when I was pulled away. Cluster feeding. “Oh, mama, is it good!”

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3

You know, I recently went through a home overhaul. And my husband lovingly termed our home as a big playhouse. The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, he called it. That’s because of all the colors. Red, orange and yellow. Blue, green and turquoise. Just about every color of the rainbow can be found as I gaze about me. I told him it was fitting. Because of Annabelle. We’ll have a toddler before we know it and she’ll love the bright colors. Funny thing is, after the project was over and I was putting everything back in its place, Annabelle’s car seat caught my eye. And there I saw it. The inspiration for my house makeover was right there in her seat. All those colors. Red and orange and yellow and green and so on…

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Today, I have to laugh at this. See, I said the colors on our walls were fitting for Annabelle. But now, I have to say they’re just as fitting for me. God’s giant toddler. I walk around on shaky legs. I’m just now finding my footing… in Him. I stumble and fall more times than I can count. It’s all right there in front of my eyes. Me and Annabelle, a picture of God & me.

You have encircled me; You have placed Your hand on me. Psalm 139:5

Just over three years ago, my life began to change dramatically. It was a time of stillness. I lay at God’s chest. As He held me in His arms, I savored the milk He offered. I drank it like my life depended on it. Oh, there were times my hands got in the way. For I became busy… the flow of milk interrupted.  But He held my arms tight until I could drink once more. And I gulped and slurped and took in as much as I could. Like Annabelle, it would run out of the sides of my mouth. My milk sliding down her chin… God’s word eking out of me. For three years now, I’ve been cluster feeding.

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These are recent photos of Annabelle. She’s just shy of 6 months and already over 20 pounds. As I said, she’s a healthy eater. Look at those rolls. Look at that chubby baby. Oh, how my heart melts every time I look at her. Again, a picture of God & Me. For He looks at me the same… and oh, how His heart melts when He sees my rolls. He knows I’ve been eating. A lot. Feasting on His word. And I’m growing… just like Annabelle. His baby girl.

Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature—for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil. Hebrews 5:13-14

You know, Annabelle’s been teething. And cutting teeth, well, it can be a little painful. But see, the time’s coming. She’ll soon be ready for something more substantial. Solids. And she’ll need her teeth to tear into something a bit more meaty. And once more, I see me. For these past few years have been painful at times. But now I know why… I’ve been cutting teeth, too. I’ve been feasting on milk but the time is coming… I’ll need my big girl teeth in order to tear into something meatier. See, like Annabelle, I’m growing up.

You know, it’s through my children. Their little faces provide a picture of God & me. For I’ve discovered their lives tell my own story. And right now, I’m like Annabelle. Fat and happy in my rolls. This chunky girl has been fed and fed well. For I love to eat. See, I’m so interested in food. In His food. And whatever He puts to my mouth, I taste it. I savor the flavor. And I bet He can hear me when my insides cry out, “Oh, mama, this is good!”

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The Lesson of Rocky Raccoon

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“Rocky Raccoon, Rocky Raccoon, he was a fool unto himself. And he would not swallow his foolish pride…” Paul McCartney

I’ve been thinking about something quite a bit lately. Or more accurately, I’ve been thinking about someone. And through ruminations of her, the tune of Rocky Raccoon came to mind. This morning, though, I realized I didn’t even know the lyrics. So I googled it. And after watching a video of the Beatles, I just about fell over. Well, I would have fallen over if I hadn’t already been down. See, I’ve been feeling pretty low. And therein lies the significance of this song. At least to me. In my eyes, the lesson of Rocky Raccoon is how he fell down… pride going before his fall. But more importantly, it’s how Rocky would manage to get back on his feet. See, there was a man named Dan, who stole Rocky’s woman. But rather than swallow his pride by letting things go, Rocky planned to shoot his rival. However, he’s the one who ended up on the floor. Rocky collapsed. And the thing that could restore his life? Why, it was a Bible left by Gideon. The Bible would help with Rocky’s revival.

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Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

I actually have a Gideon’s Bible. And though I didn’t open the cover of a Bible for years, eventually I did. And as time wore on, I began to love the words inside. The above verse is one of my favorites, comforting in that God’s word is a lamp and a light for my feet. And ironically, I just wrote about my son finding his feet. But not long after, I discovered it’s not my son’s feet I need to worry about after all. In reality, it’s my own feet that need help. For Levi’s not the one who stumbled, I have. I’ve fallen down and it seems I can’t get up. And though it may be true God’s word lights my path, the thing is I have to choose to go the way He directs. But for some time now, I’ve refused. As always, pride took precedence and preceded my fall. Like Rocky, I just didn’t want to swallow it down. I even voiced aloud, “I don’t want to take the high road.” And so, belligerently, I didn’t.

Pride is surely one of my pitfalls. And when I think back to the shy girl I once was, I’m amazed I can be that way now. So arrogant. So self-righteous. And that’s how I felt Monday. See, after writing, I always feel good. Purposeful. And after meeting with a ladies group Tuesday evening, I felt even higher. However, my demeanor changed within hours of returning home. And by Wednesday morning, darkness fully set in. One, my writing didn’t elicit the response I expected. In fact, someone quite close to me called to advise me. Or shall I say counsel me. And later, I was led to Hagar of the Old Testament. Her story so much like mine in that she was prideful for she looked down on someone. And when she ran away from home, the Angel of the LORD asked her two questions as she journeyed through the desert… Where have you come from and Where are you going? I felt God asked the same of me. My reply? Pride. As always, coming from pride, and more importantly… I wasn’t going anywhere. Because pride tripped me up, I was stalled in my journey.

Oh, there’s more to Hagar’s story. See, she trod the desert once more. The second time with her son, only he was in trouble. Ishmael lay dying under a tree but Hagar had nothing to offer him. She herself was low. At her most desperate hour, God appeared to her. He said, “Get up, help the boy up, and sustain him…” And so yesterday, I heard God loudly. Clearly. And He was firm. He told me to get up! Because as long as I remained down, I couldn’t help myself. Much less anyone else. And my medicine? The thing that would restore my health? Pride was my pill. Unless I choked it down, I would never be able to stand. And if I couldn’t stand, how in the world could I help another to?

Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. James 5:16

You know, I call this blog the Truth about God & me. And I hope to do just that… be truthful. And though I write hoping to lift up others, most of the time I think the words are for my own benefit. For I see the truth through writing. But today, I can’t help but wonder if there can be too much truth. Because I’m going to write about that someone I’ve been thinking about. She’s someone I love. Fact is, I just love women. I want to be around them and I want to help them. Honestly, I fancy God will use me in women’s ministry someday. I believe He’s the One who placed the desire within me. In fact, it’s why I felt so good Tuesday night. Because I’m leading a women’s Bible study, I felt like I was finally moving forward with God… that someday was in reach. And yet within hours of returning home, darkness blinded me. Today I know why. See, it’s that woman I love. Because despite our building up a rock solid friendship through the course of many years, it seems the foundation has been shaken. And though we shared everything for so long, now, we hardly speak at all. The weird thing is, neither of us has said anything or acknowledged a conflict. And yet, it’s there. I feel it… tension. Is it real? Or is the wall that separates us imaginary and constructed only in my mind? So, for me – a woman who desires to be used by God in women’s ministry –  this just doesn’t make sense. Even more so, it makes me hypocritical. Because if I have such love for women, why not her? Why can’t I just pick up the phone…

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:22-24

Fact is, I’ve refused to budge. In fact, I’ve closed my heart to her over something silly. I feel justified in something I did even though I’m pretty sure it hurt her feelings. But is that ever okay? And rather than acknowledge it and talk about it, a wall was erected. That’s why I said… I don’t want to take the high road. No, instead, I chose pride. I trod the dark path. And so, I fell. But there is a lamp. God’s light seeps through and I see what I’ve done. I tried to serve Him Monday and Tuesday, but today I know that I can’t do that. I can’t offer Him a gift when there’s something between me and my friend. And so, the verses above light my path. He shows me the way I have to travel if I want to move forward. It’s my choice. I can take the high road, which leads to life. Or the low road, which leads to death. For that’s exactly what my prideful path is leading to… the death of a friendship. Something, or someone, has got to change… And today I know that’s me. Today the hardness of my heart has been breached and light spills in. And I so I swallow my pill. And more than anything, I want to be reconciled to my sister. I long for harmony in our friendship once more.

For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. Ephesians 2:14

Illumination began this week. It started with my son. And consistent with how God teaches me, He led me through my children. First, Levi’s little feet led to my own stumbling size nines. And then, there’s my baby girl… Annabelle. Today I thought how happy she is when she spends time on the back side of the house. See, that’s where the morning light streams in. Oh, how she loves to lay on our bed or on her changing table cooing and smiling in the bright sun. But on the front half of the house, where we spend most of our time, it’s dark. So much so, there’s always a lamp or two on. In fact, Levi so loves lamplight, he’ll turn on three or four when he’s home. And finally, between the dark and the light of my home is a wall… a load bearing wall. And this particular wall seemed a revelation to me this morning. It leads me back to Rocky Raccoon.

You know, the woman I’ve written about likes Rocky Raccoon. Years ago, she picked it for us to sing at karaoke. Back then, we stood side by side. Arm in arm. We were best of friends. But recently, it feels as if there’s a wall between us. And all this? Well, it’s my attempt to knock it down. I want to replace a wall of hostility with another kind of wall… a load bearing wall. One we can construct around the two of us as we stand side by side once more. A wall we can build together strong enough to bear the heavy weight of life. And a wall that will keep her and I in the light of God’s word, while keeping darkness at bay.

And so, may I apply the lesson of Rocky Raccoon. It’s true he fell, but he had Gideon’s Bible. God’s word would bring about his revival. And there’s hope in that word. For revive means to come back to life. To live again. To be quickened. To be restored to health. And though my pride knocked me down for a time, I won’t stay there. And though I’ve been clinging to the dark, light beckons me forward. Because today, I want to live. I want to be healthy. And in order for that to happen, our friendship must be restored. It must be revived. It has to! And so, I choose life and swallow my pill… I choke down pride. And that’s when it happens. I’m able to rise to my feet. That’s when I ask for her forgiveness. Because I want healing. And you know what? I think she does, too.

Oh, the ways of God. And oh, how He illuminates what He wants me to see. From my children. To His word. And yes, even through Rocky Raccoon… that man who was a fool unto himself. But see, Rocky had hope. For he had Gideon’s Bible.

My son, pay attention to my words;
listen closely to my sayings.
Don’t lose sight of them;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and health to one’s whole body.
Guard your heart above all else,
for it is the source of life. Proverbs 4:20-23

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