The Christmas Let Down

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I wonder if anyone else felt it… that anti-climactic feeling once all the gifts were opened and the paper was trashed. A feeling like that of all the air whooshing out of a balloon leaving nothing more than a limp, lifeless piece of rubber in its wake.

See, for weeks and weeks all this air gets pumped into the doings of Christmas. And like a balloon, Christmas, and all the expectations of Christmas, grows bigger and bigger…

Yes, anticipation looms large. So much hope. So much to look forward to.

But then something sticks a pin into all your thinness. And all too soon, the build up of Christmas gets expelled in one heaving rush leaving you motionless on the couch in a confused state wondering if it’s ever going to be different. Because it seems as if every year the wonder of the season gets lost in a crumple of tissue paper and cellophane. And inevitably, something will overshadow what should be a joyous occasion.

Or perhaps it’s just me.

Maybe I’m the only one who encounters the Christmas let down. The feeling of expectation being unmet…

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you for such a long time?” John 14:9

The gifts did it. Something about the presents this year just popped my bubble. Or my balloon.

It started the week before Christmas. That’s when my son had a taste of the let down. When my brother’s family and mine met for a meal and a gift exchange with my Dad.

See, I’d picked out something for Daddy to give to my son. And I knew it wasn’t stellar. Had a sense of doubt as Levi specifically told me he was outgrowing Lego’s. But I thought I knew better. No, we were going to try Lego Technics and surely he’d like those. They were a step up.

But he didn’t like them. Not at all.

Oh, he’d been so excited to open his bag. I watched his face intently the whole time and when I saw the flash of disappointment as his eyes met mine, I felt the same. Because I’d picked it. I chose a gift for my son but I’d failed.

Yes, I know… Christmas is not about the gifts. Not at all.

But this is my son. I’m his mother and I should know him. I should know him well enough to easily select a trinket that would bring him delight. Shouldn’t the parent know how to give good gifts?

Anyway, that’s where it began. Levi’s disappointment in his gift. And my husband and I knew we had another one just like it under the tree for Christmas morning. A big, expensive box of Lego’s that wouldn’t do. Because it was a larger version of the Lego’s Levi didn’t like. That he specifically told me he was outgrowing.

And so, we had him open it. We let him return those Lego’s along with the others. Furthermore, we allowed him to choose his own gifts at Wal-Mart days before Christmas. A LOT of Nerf stuff got shoved into a bag and stuck in the corner with instructions to not touch till December 25th.

To further compound things, I felt like Levi was getting the short end of the stick this year. I thought I’d lavished Annabelle with so much that I needed to do a little extra for him. The result was my son got more material items this year than he should have. His pile was HUGE.

I was so ashamed. Even thought we should return some but Jason told me we just couldn’t do that… that you don’t give gifts only to take them back.

So basically, I wasn’t feeling great come Christmas evening. Sad that too much effort and time had gone into toys and gifts. Guilty I purchased more items than I should. And that my son picked over half of them. Angry because I didn’t put enough emphasis on what really mattered.

But you know what? It was something I received that shed light on my general feeling of malaise. Yes, the root of the Christmas let down was revealed when I, like Levi, opened a bag. And surely when I peered inside, my eyes reflected the same disappointment he’d felt days earlier…

Because what I saw wasn’t me. Not at all. Not my color, not my style. And when I looked at it, I thought, “Don’t you know me? After all this time, don’t you know me by now?”

And this is what I stewed on Christmas night as I lay on the couch. This is what darkened my countenance and what caused my husband to ask, “What’s wrong with you?”

Simply, I felt let down because my expectations had been high. And they were unmet. But mostly, I felt sad because I didn’t feel known by someone I love.

But He replied, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, I do not know you [we have no relationship]. Matthew 25:12

I read the above words this morning and they moved me. They made me sad. Sad for the ones told this but also a bit sad for how I’ve handled Christmas. Because truth be known, I believe I may have been the cause of a let down a time or two. Even this year. I really think I could have done better.

With my son. The Lego’s. With my husband. The shirt he returned. And with others. I think I could have put more thought into what I wrapped up.

But the reality is the key to a good present is wrapped up in relationship. It hinges on intimacy. It’s really knowing who you’re giving the gift to. And on the first day of 2018, this becomes one of my goals. A resolution, if you will.

Yes, this is the year I want to make time for more intimate moments. I want to be a better listener, fully present, and more observant. I want to really know my people…

All of them.

The ones God’s blessed me with – near and far.

I want to be intimate with my people. Available. And when Christmas rolls around in 2018, I want to be ready to give gifts they will like. No, I want to give gifts they will love.

Because I’ll know them – inside and out.

For my determined purpose is that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him… Philippians 3:10

I did get some good presents this year. Yes, there were a few items I simply loved. And I believe that’s because the givers know me. They really do. They understand me. And I swear, it was almost as if the hand of God directed them in what they gave…

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One was from my mom. It was this picture of me and my kids. It says happy. Did she know how appropriate it was? That it’s where God has led me in my journey with Him thus far… leading me to be happy right where I am in my motherhood. His urging me to stop pressing forward too quickly looking to the next thing.

The busy thing…

Instead, He gently holds me still with my children. Because this time is fleeting. It’s important. Later, I can do that other stuff. For now, be happy where I am.

And my husband gave me some Rodan & Fields product I wanted. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t specify, “I want this…” Jason simply listened and secretly purchased what I wanted. He bought me something He knew I would like…

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He also gave me a Bible. It’s purple. The Amplified version. I was thrilled because my last one fell apart. I literally wore out my Bible. The funny thing is, Jason gave me another 21 years ago. Inside he penned, “The keys of life – and beyond – can be found in this Book.” Turns out he was right. I can’t wait to delve into this new one to see where God leads me…

And finally, I got this sign.

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Oh, there were other gifts, but these are just a few of my favorites. And my friend who brought the above knew I’d like it. She told me once before she doesn’t give gifts just because there’s an occasion – she gives only if she finds the right thing for the right person. And I like that…

Anyway, she can’t know how much the present means to me. Because it confirms my “word” for 2018. The word I feel certain God gave to me. And I’m so grateful to see it…

Because I didn’t receive a word last year. In 2015, it was “rally” and 2016 was “battle.” But this past year, nothing. Finally, in October, I felt a stirring in my spirit as I kept seeing strengthen.

Then my friend brought me this sign.

Oh, I knew strengthen was confirmed by the word established.  Yes, I truly believe God will do this for me in the coming days…

I’ll even be able to carry a sign. One that says, “Pam Anderson, established 2018.” Just like the signs I see on the beautiful estates that dot our countryside.

I believe this because of what I read in the 5th chapter of 1 Peter. What promises I find there… but first, Peter warns of an enemy who roars around like a lion, fiercely hungry, seeking someone to devour. A picture of what took place with me.

Because I’d rallied and I’d battled but I ran away in defeat. Retreated in the face of attack. And it appears I allowed my enemy to gobble up all God’s promises. Because I just forgot about them.

Unfortunately, I allowed that enemy to shake me. I lost my confidence and became unstable. I swear, every weakness I ever had was sifted to the surface. But you know, that ended up being the best place to be. Because that’s exactly where Christ’s strength is made perfect… in all my weakness.

Further, I’m encouraged that if I resist the devil, firm in my faith, God will perfect me. He will stablish me (make me stable). Yes, God will strengthen (make strong) and settle me (establish).

God’s promises. I will be established and strengthened.

And so, as I usher in this New Year, I am highly expectant. For this is the year! And I know where to start. It begins with the foundation of knowing Him.

I mean really knowing Him. Relationship and intimacy.

So I make Christ my aim. I purpose anew to know Him and I do this by pulling out my new Bible. I soak in His words. And while I do this, I comprehend what a pure gift it is… each word from God so perfect because He knows me that well.

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Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God]. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Yes, it’s true I ended the holiday season with a Christmas let down. But I didn’t stay down for long. Because there are those who know me so well. They lifted my spirits. And these, among others, are the ones I want to be more intimate with. Because I want to love them as well as they’ve loved me. I want to give good gifts as they’ve given me.

It begins with intimacy. Attentiveness. And listening well. That’s why they knew how to pamper me with loving gifts. And it’s their very gifts that point the way to go this year.

A Bible, a picture and a sign.

One contains words of life – the keys to life and beyond. One gives a gentle reminder, to find happiness where I am. And the last confirms His promise to me. His gift of stability and strength. Oh, it’s coming.

And what amazing hope this is for the year to come…

Hope for me, Pam Anderson, a woman established by God.

And with that, the Christmas let down diminishes altogether as a puff of air fills my balloon. And it’s all Him. For all Scripture is God-breathed. It’s the very breath of God that inflates my balloon…

But not just my balloon. Because as His breath enters my body, my whole spirit soars with Him. And I am filled with anticipation. Buoyant with expectancy…

It’s a New Year lift up, is what it is.

Yep, that’s what I encounter as I welcome 2018.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of lights… James 1:17

 

 

What’s your platform?

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I’ve been wanting to share something for a while now. It has to do with the “platform.” But circumstances and timing delayed the message. Now, though, I can’t help but wonder if Thursday had to happen first. Because that’s when I snapped this shot of my little Annabelle…

And surely God provided me with a picture of my younger self through this image. Oh, I may not have looked this way outwardly when I took my stand some four and a half years ago, but undoubtedly, it’s how I felt inwardly.

For I was full of vim and vinegar when I chose my platform. Passion and fire and zest. Woefully, I was full of some other stuff, too. Mostly myself. I was full of me and what I knew…

I just didn’t realize that.

It was just as my daughter’s shirt proclaims. I thought I was Ms. Smarty Pants and I wanted everyone to know it. Starting with my church.

 

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Little ones learn quick, that’s for sure. Like in the pictures above. The first time Annabelle saw that mister she grabbed a hold of it and started singing into it like it was a microphone… as if her voice would be amplified.

And Thursday when I told her to put the lid on the Rubbermaid box, she resisted. No, she said. “I need somewhere to stand.” And that’s when I stopped my cleaning and reached for the camera. Because this little girl of mine decidedly chose a platform for herself. Somehow, she already knows that to be seen and heard, you need a place from which to stand and a means to get your voice out there.

And this is where I was not that long ago. And it’s where I continue to find myself. Subconsciously, I am seeking a platform. A place to project my voice. A place of visibility. But more importantly, it’s a high place a seek. Because the higher I am, the easier it is to be seen.

And so much easier to be heard…

Platform: 1. A raised level surface on which people or things stand. A raised floor or stage used by public speakers or performers so that they can be seen by an audience. 2. The declared policy of a political party or group – an opportunity to voice one’s views or initiate action. 

Four and a half years ago, I wanted to share my heart. And I thought my motives were pure. I did. I never realized my true intent, which was to showcase newly acquired knowledge. As I said, I believed myself to be Ms. Smarty Pants.

However, I was at a new church and barely known. So it mattered naught that I was full of fire and passion and determination. I just couldn’t find a niche. No foot hold available as there were no women’s Sunday school classes, just mixed groups. And no women’s Bible studies, only children’s activities.

So there was nowhere for me to open my mouth. I couldn’t release the pressure built up within…

Thus, I felt stifled. And though I exhibited a smooth exterior, inwardly I rolled with anger. White-hot rage, really. And before I knew what had happened, I developed a platform. A cause for fighting. My hook?

Women’s rights.

Especially the right for a woman to be heard. Because I felt like we weren’t. Not where I found myself in the Winter of 2013. There just didn’t seem to be much opportunity for a woman. But finally, a Women’s service gave me the chance I was waiting for. That’s when I was asked to share Scripture.

It was a simple task, really. Just pick a Bible verse or two and read it. But me being me, I was driven to do more. I wanted to tell everyone every thing I knew. And I thought the time had come to do so. Thus, I took my stand upon the platform of my choosing. I issued the call.

To women.

Open your mouths and speak.

The Lord speaks; many, many women spread the good news.

This is probably one of my most humiliating memories. And without a doubt, this is the beginning of my fall. Oh, it’s exactly as Oswald Chambers says… “sudden elevation frequently leads to pride and a fall.”

Because this is the moment my heavenly Father began to discipline me for prideful behavior. And this is where He began humbling me. Lower and lower I descended. It just took me some years to figure it all out.

See, I took a stand. I started with Psalm 68:11…

And because my speech wasn’t motivated by love, I was nothing more than a sounding gong when I pointed out how the King James Version, along with other versions of the Bible, omit women from this text.

I wondered why and hoped they would to.

Next, I went so far as to backhandedly insult our Sunday School class. It was a couple’s study and I mentioned how I’d heard multiple times, “Now, this part is really more for the men…” I voiced my dissatisfaction. I implored, “But what about the women?”

So, I exhorted the women who sat in pews to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. I reminded them that Jesus appeared to Mary first. A woman. And He gave her a charge. One of  “Go and tell.”

Do you think I resembled Annabelle in that picture… I wonder if I made wild gestures throwing my arms wide, hoping to draw the crowd in to my argument. Hoping they’d see things my way.

Afterward, I was pleased with my performance. Thought I’d done well. Had no clue it was a spirit of divisiveness and gender rivalry that motivated my speech. And that what I’d really done was stir things up rather than build people up.

No, I was much too caught up in the excitement of it all. Thrilled I was able to use the platform to further my cause. Hopeful I’d initiate some female action. Because I extended the call.

To women.

Take your stand and be heard…

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

I’ve written about this before. I’ve shared about my haughtiness prior to speaking, telling a couple of gals I couldn’t just sit still for two years. This upon hearing of the church’s rule. A person could not lead a study till they’d been a member for two full years, and that was my heart’s desire… to lead women’s Bible study.

I previously shared about the WMU Director asking me just before the service if she should ask the invited speaker what Scripture I should read. Oh, the shock my face must have registered. No, I said. I’d already prepared…

The woman had no clue I’d typed up a full page of notes to which my husband inquired days before, “How much time do you have?”

But there’s more to it. The most humbling side of the story. And it’s what I haven’t told before. Not to this degree. Because it goes to the heart of what my Father has been trying to teach me all along.

About womanhood and a woman’s right.

And more importantly, about my role in His kingdom.

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It’s about my kids. It’s always been about them. And my role as mom. Even this women’s service from February of 2013 was about that. See, my son had been so sick the night before. His fever had spiked to over 103. And I sat up with him and worried and cried and called people. Because it just wouldn’t go down.

And in my pride, I felt it was a spiritual attack. Just the devil trying to keep me from church.

Thus, when morning came, I left Levi home with his daddy. The fever was gone so I thought it was okay. Moreover, I believed I had very important business to tend to at church. I had that sermonette to preach. A platform to ascend. My face to show and my voice to project.

In effect, sadly, I chose platform over my child.

When the preacher asked where Jason was, I felt ire. How dare he question me! Didn’t he know I had an important task that morning? In defense of my husband staying home with my child, I told him I had to read Scripture.

And I did. Afterward, I heard my first teaching on the Titus 2 woman. But her words didn’t register with me…

They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, pure, good homemakers… Titus 2:3-4

I do recall an uneasy feeling. But also, I remember feeling justification when she spoke of the Titus 2 man. Because when she read the portion about his being worthy of respect, she posed the question to the men of our congregation, “Do you demand your respect or do you earn it.”

Inside, I did a fist pump. Yeah, I thought, you tell them! Because the truth is, I was so angry. I was filled with rage with several of our male members. Men who wore suits and appeared arrogant and haughty to me.

And yet, I never saw my own arrogance and haughtiness. I never realized God was posing the question to me. Through that speaker’s mouth, He was inquiring …

“Pam, are you demanding respect or are you earning it?”

Well, I was demanding it. I was in a new place, virtually unknown, and it wasn’t God I was pointing to when I read Scripture. I was pointing to me and what I knew. And that’s exactly what I used my platform for.

Hear what I have to say and respect me for my knowledge. Me. A woman.

Thus, I missed the Titus 2 lesson altogether. The one about being a good homemaker and loving my children…

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I’m ashamed to say it took some time before the lesson took. Because the picture above was taken at the ER last May. Just over a year ago. Know where I was? Not there.

See, I had an important task to attend to. Let me just say it had to do with being known, furthering my circle, and developing my platform. And just as before, I felt attacked. Thought it was the devil trying to keep me from something I needed to do.

So I sent my son to the hospital with his daddy.

I didn’t go.

And today, I know the truth. It wasn’t the devil and it was not a spiritual attack. It was a test. Pure and simple. Would I choose me? Or would I choose my children. Unfortunately, I chose wrongly…

I chose my platform.

a quiet and gentle spirit…

God brought me to this phrase weeks ago. It stood out because it doesn’t describe how I’ve been acting. See, I’ve been seeking a platform. A place from which to be heard. And growing up, I wasn’t heard. No, I was much too quiet and shy. Thus, I thought one should be bold and loud and aggressive to garner attention.

So, I made it my aim to be that way. So I’d get noticed and heard. And I tasted a bit of that. However, I later found myself in a church where I was literally put into a corner. I didn’t like it.

So, I looked for ways to raise myself up. Blogging helped. That got me the notice I desired. So I ascended a tad higher through that venture. My platform broadened. But you know, this is not the way of Jesus.

And what struck me recently is…

Jesus did not seek a platform!

He did not seek an audience. Instead, the crowds were drawn to Him by His gentle and quiet nature. It was His lowliness that appealed to the masses.

The gentleness possessed by Jesus is the opposite of self-assertedness and self-interest. His humbleness means He did not rise far from the ground. He was assigned to a lower position and devoid of haughtiness. And that quiet spirit? It means to properly keep one’s seat.

And that speaks loudly today. Because I don’t think I’ve been keeping my seat. Instead, I’ve been seeking elevation. Exaltation, really. I wanted to be lifted up on high, raised to dignity, honor and happiness (definition of exalt).

And Jesus was that, too. Indeed, He was raised up. However, when He spoke of His raising, He referred to His death.

As for Me, if I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw people to Myself. John 12:32

Yes, seeking a platform made me so unlike Him. The exact opposite, really. Because I tried to raise me higher. And Jesus, He allowed Himself to be lowered down from the heavenly realm, emptying Himself of His majesty by taking on the form of man. And lower still, he descended into the depths of the earth to taste death.

For us.

So we won’t have to. Not ultimately. And why?

For love. For God so loved…

And that’s Jesus’ hook. It’s the platform on which He stands. Love. And it’s this that draws man, and woman, to Him. And it’s His love – for us – that causes us to want to hear His voice.

“Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.” Andy Stanley

It’s true I chose a platform over my children more than once. My heart was, and it still is, for God’s women. I want to encourage them to open their mouths boldly to proclaim His word.

The thing is, though, by embracing the woman’s right to speak in the Winter of 2013, I inadvertently ignored my first and most important womanly role. That of mother. How ironic is that?

And in a way, it made my stance pro-choice. For undoubtedly, I had a choice that February day. Stay home and be mother to my son, raising him properly and tending to him as he mended.

Or I could raise myself…

She opens her mouth with wisdom and loving instruction is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:26

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No doubt, God has a sense of humor. Because He revealed to me that the above is my platform. At least for now it is. Oh, it garners enough visibility, for my daughter sees me clearly. And when I open my mouth, I am heard.

“Do you need to pee-pee? Do you have to poop? Wipe yourself. Hurry, now” And God reveals I have other platforms…

 

The bed from which Annabelle calls to me, “Mommy, come lay with me.” There, I soothe her with sweet whispers and kisses. The chair in which I make amends with my son when I make a mistake. Just this week, I pulled him onto my lap forcing his eyes to mine as I admitted my error.

The table where we have devotions. My voice rings out and my children listen. The fuzzy pink rectangle of my daughter’s rug where we play house. The flat of the ottoman where we do puzzles…

All these are very necessary platforms for this season of my life. Because I have kids. Oh, I am woman, that’s true. And I have a voice. But first and foremost, I am mother and they’re mine. My first audience. The most important one.

If anyone sees and hears what I have to say, may it be her…

 

And may it be him…

 

So, what’s my platform? That’s the question I’ve been pondering for weeks and weeks now. And I believe I already have the answer.

It’s shown in the pattern of Jesus’ life, but also, it was confirmed through a children’s movie (Moana) this past week. Within one scene, I comprehend what the foundation of every platform should be built upon. No matter the cause.

A demi-god was worried about his hook being destroyed. He was angry and yelled, “Without my hook, I am nothing.” My spirit awakened in that moment. Know why? I heard Scripture…

If I speak the languages of men and angels, but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-2

This is truth. Unless a platform is motivated by love, it will be faulty and unstable. A platform not worth standing on because ultimately, it will fall. This is the lesson God teaches me today.

He shows me that without love, my platform is nothing. All my words and all my faith and all my works. Nothing. All my talking just the noise of a Ms. Smarty Pants.

But love. Well, that changes everything. And so, I begin there. My platform built upon love. His love.

Because my words aren’t forever and prophecies will end. As for languages, they will cease and knowledge will come to an end.

But love never fails. Thus, a platform built upon it won’t either. It’s stable and secure. One I won’t fall off of…

Just like the one I find on my kid’s bathroom floor.

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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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No Accidents

We just had our family vacation. The beach. And I must confess, this was the worst year ever. For shallow reasons, I suppose. Simply, I never felt as ugly in all my life. My hair is not so great (I’ve been chopping on it myself) and all my clothes are too tight. To top things off, the sunblock broke my face out.

So, I just didn’t feel so good about myself. Still don’t. No, this is not how I expected to turn out by the Summer of my 44th year. A woman with fat rolls, pimply skin and a bad haircut. So not beautiful…

Yep, my outward appearance caused me to feel so unsightly. I even voiced it to my husband.

“I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin,” is what I said.

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One thing life’s taught me is there are no accidents. I don’t believe in coincidences and timing is everything. Like the book I began reading on the way to the beach (Without Rival by Lisa Bevere). I really needed that first chapter.

The author challenged the reader to ask herself, “Who am I?” She said to pause before God and have Him whisper three words over her. And it was to be about who you are, not what you do. Well, I silently told God He’d have to tell me because I really didn’t know.

A few things came to me but I wasn’t sure if it was God or me. So afterward, I kept my heart, mind and soul open for clarification. I waited to see if He’d whisper one of those words over me a second time…

You know what? He gave me another word instead. It happened at the movie theater of all places. And through the voices of actors. (Spoiler alert if anyone plans to go to the movies soon… I’ll try to be vague).

See, there was an orphaned woman who didn’t know who her father was. And in a dramatic scene, she fell through the air only to be caught by this man she was on an adventure with. When she discovered a particular marking on his arm she knew the truth. This was her father.

So she peered into his eyes and said, “Who am I to you?” Yes, she echoed the very words I whispered to my heavenly Father just days before as I traveled down the Interstate.

“Who am I… to You?”

The actors replied? “A treasure.” He said she was a treasure. That’s when I knew God was speaking to me, His daughter. He told me I am His treasure. No question. No doubt. Because as I said, there are no accidents in life. I don’t believe in coincidences and timing is everything.

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. 1 Peter 3:3-4

I have to say, when you feel pretty down about yourself, being told you’re a treasure is an instant upper. Nothing changed about my outer but my inner felt better for I was assured by my Father. I have value. I am treasured. Nothing at all to do with fat rolls and pimples…

Friday came and with it, one of my daily devotionals. It was called “Lasting Beauty” and it seemed quite timely. Not an accident. It included the above verse and by the time this week rolled around, I felt like I had my words. I self-assuredly proclaimed to myself, “I am treasured, valuable and beautiful!”

Yes!

But you know what? I think I got the last part wrong. I don’t think God was telling me I’m beautiful. Instead, He was pointing me to someone who was beautiful. I found it in the verses that followed…

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. You have become her children when you do good and aren’t frightened by anything alarming. 1 Peter 3:5-6

I tell you what, I’ve read that passage multiple times over the years but never, ever saw the last verse. The one about being frightened. It just never registered.

But this week, I’ve been studying our matriarch, Sarah. And she was beautiful inside and out. We know this because we read it in Genesis. She had outward beauty. However, it’s the inward that intrigues me now. And in truth, this is what God was pointing me to all along. Even when He told me I was His treasure.

“There can be no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in life… we are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety.” A.W. Tozer

I’m sure I heard God right. I am His treasure. But you know what? I have a little treasure, too. Her name is Annabelle. And the beach trip I said was so bad because of my outer? Well, if I dig a bit deeper, I find truth. I know it has to do with my inner. It’s all the fear I carry.

Especially with water.

The very first day, I was nearly overcome by anxiety as I watched Annabelle walk around the edge of the pool. And I could never fully relax when she was in the water. I can’t even tell you how sick I was as I watched the ocean waves roll…  Oh, I was just nauseated with my fear.

I’d follow my little treasure down to the water and hold her hands tight. She was not allowed to go by herself. Not even to her ankles. If it wasn’t me, Me-Maw or Daddy had to hold her tight. See, if our grip was tight enough, there’s be no accidents. As long as we never let go…

But even as I stood there gripping her hands tight, I was frightened. Alarmed. Scared to death of losing her.

And being near the water is just a small portion of the fear. There’s germs in public bathrooms. She could get hit by a car in the parking lot. The spot on her chest that’s just an infection could be cancer. The tick my kitty carried inside could have Rocky Mountain Spotted fever…

Oh, God help me, the list goes on and on and on. Countless things that could happen all leading to one thing. The death of my child.

And so, I’m led to Sarah, my matriarch who was beautiful. She had a gentle and quiet spirit and she was submissive to her husband. Abraham. And herein lies the key. Here’s why I think that line about not being frightened by anything alarming is in that 1 Peter passage. Because Sarah could have been scared to death!

Was she?

“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” Genesis 22:2

Sarah was an old woman when God opened her womb. When God said she’d become pregnant, she asked would she now have delight in her old age?

Delight is what she said.

Alas, God gave Abraham a test of faith. And for the very first time, I consider Sarah in this scenario. And I never have before. But no doubt it was a test of her faith no less than her husband’s.

So imagine with me for a minute… There’s Sarah with her long awaited son, the one she loved more than anything, and her husband comes along and says he needs to sacrifice Isaac to God. How do you think she reacted? How would any of us mothers react?

“You want to do what? No way am I letting you take my boy. NO WAY! Are you crazy?”

Do you think she clung to Isaac? How broken she must have been when she released his hand to her husband and to God’s will. Wondering if she’d ever see him again.

But see, she knew God’s promise. God promised the blessing would come through her own son’s offspring. Through Isaac, the one to be sacrificed. So surely she must have had the faith to know that good was still coming her son’s way.

Good still coming her way…

And so, she permitted her husband to take Isaac. She released her grip. She must not have reacted as I would have. Instead, she must have been quiet and submissive to her lord’s will. Yes, she let her son go and wasn’t frightened by anything alarming.

That’s what Scripture says. The book of 1 Peter says this is how the holy women beautified themselves in days of old. They did not fear.

It had nothing to do with fat rolls, pimples and a bad haircut. It had nothing to do with ornate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Sarah’s beauty had everything to do with her quiet spirit and fearlessness. It had to do with her spirit of submission…

Even if death were the outcome.

A picture of the Jesus to come.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8

I just have to smile at all this. Because I am amazed at how God moves and speaks in one’s life. I am in awe of how he uses different sources and materials to speak. And how he gently points out something that’s not right on the inside. Like what’s inside me.

Yes, I’m right back at fear. Just like I was when my son, Levi, was this age. Oh, how I feared for his safety. Still do.

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And water is one of my greatest foes. That’s why vacations are so bad for me. When water’s involved, I am ugly on the inside. All twisted up.

How evident this was when we spent Thanksgiving at the beach. The four of us went for a walk and the surf rolled Annabelle. I was angry because I didn’t want her that close to the water so Jason and I parted not so nicely. Me with our daughter and he with our son.

When Jason and Levi didn’t immediately return to the house, I became nervous. Then frantic. So frantic I left Annabelle with my mom and went walking. I walked and walked but they were nowhere. I confess, I believed they’d been swallowed up by the ocean. Gone. Death taking them from me…

When they finally loomed on the horizon, I quickly went to them and burst into tears. Overcome by anxiety and fear.

And so this is my lesson. This is what God wants me to see. I have allowed fear to overcome me. And this is why beautiful isn’t one of my three words. Because I haven’t beautified myself in the manner of Sarah.

Unlike my matriarch, I allow myself to become frightened by what’s alarming. And to me, water is terrifying.

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There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear… 1 John 4:18

It started with a word. God whispered treasure over me. And that, I am. No less than my daughter is to me. Moreover, she is a delight. And this happens to be one of the words I wrote down in my journal as we traveled to the beach.

I thought perhaps God whispered precious, sweet and delight over me. Later, I added treasure and beautiful. All these I thought God might be speaking over me.

And through a movie, he assures me I am a treasure. And through the words of my spiritual mother, I know I’m a delight. Because that’s what Sarah called her own child. Yes, that’s what God’s speaks over me today, His daughter.

As to beautiful, that’s not one of my words. Not yet, anyway. But it has nothing to do with being thirty pounds overweight and broken out skin. Instead it has everything to do with my insides.

It’s what I’ve been housing inside me. All this irrational fear and the worries of a thousand what-ifs. But He’s so good to me. He patiently instructs me and shows me how I can be beautiful.

See, the path to beauty is found in the way of Sarah. And I have hope that one day, I’ll be just that. When I’m freed from all my fear. When I’m no longer frightened of the alarming could-be’s..

I will be.

Beautiful.

In contrast to that, there is an invisible Jerusalem, a free Jerusalem, and she is our mother – this is the way of Sarah. Galatians 4:26

 

 

 

An Unwilling Wife, a Reluctant Mother

IMG_2726I’ve been mad at Jason lately. And when my better half asks what’s wrong, I don’t want to say. Like this past Saturday. I didn’t want to give him an answer because I know.

Oh, I know.

My reason isn’t a good one.

Because truth is selfishness lies at the bottom of my meanness. Inward focus the cause of the inky blackness that permeates my heart and soul, eventually seeping out and darkening the paths of those I love the most.

Like my husband. My kids.

Yes, darkness pervades my atmosphere when I try to retain pieces of what I consider to be my own. When I attempt to hold back big chunks of my life. All for myself. Just for me…

Time’s probably the biggest source of contention. Because when I feel like I’m losing it, I become resentful of everything that takes from it. This is where my poor husband comes in. Him and his recent inquiry.

“What’s wrong,” he asked.

And what a pitiful answer I offered. See, I weighed out my time verses his and he came out ahead (way ahead). At least in my mind he did. And though the rational part of my brain fully comprehends my scales are off (way off), I quietly stew over my perceived losses anyway.

This is what I tried to explain to Jason last weekend. And not so eloquently, I might add.

Because I knew. And I know.

I know how awful this sounds. But it’s the awful truth. And this is where I’ve found myself more than once this past month. Ironically, in the days leading up to Mother’s Day…

Me simmering and stewing and wishing I could do something else. Something in particular. But I can’t because I’m hindered. Slowed down by the things in life that keep me from it. Namely, being a wife and mother.

Because these roles are most prominent in my life. My first calls to duty. My family is of utmost importance. They are.

But God help me there are times I want to do something else. If only for a little while. I want to get to that other thing that draws me. The thing that makes me feel full of purpose. And important.

Yes, if I could just remove my wife and mom hat for a little chunk of time, I could accomplish all the things I set out to do. Or if only each day offered more minutes to do both…

My family and the million items on my to-do list.

Maybe then I’d be a happy camper. And maybe then I wouldn’t be so unwilling to accomplish wifely tasks. Not so reluctant in performing motherly duties such as feedings and wipings and cleanings and so on.

Guiltily, though, I’ve been unwilling and reluctant. And why? Because I’ve been placing my stuff over my husband’s and children’s. My desire to do something more has caused me to be greedy. A spirit of generosity overtaken by a spirit of withholding.

Stinginess.

And the piece of me that clings to what’s mine is a piece of me my family doesn’t have access to…

Because when I pine away for the thing I can’t get to, I don’t give my family my all. Instead, they get my darkness. Thus, Scripture is proven.

She who tries to save her life – and time – loses it. Because most definitely, the tighter I cling, the quicker my life force ebbs away. And blackness prevails. Just like a tomb.

It happens every, single time.

Sigh.

Friend of God

So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. James 2:23

I’ll tell you what. God never ceases to amaze me in how He brings home a point. And how He can weave together different threads of truth from different sources to create the most beautiful tapestry of revelation.

He did so this week. It started Sunday. An elder at church mentioned Abraham and how all the nations are blessed through him. It tickled my ear. On Monday, I heard about Abraham again. This time through a Bible study when he was referred to as a friend of God. And yesterday, my devotional book. It said, “Having a friendship with God is no small thing.” Abraham was the subject matter.

God had my full attention by then. I knew I had to investigate further. And I’m amazed at how He used this one term – friend of God – to shed light on my current issue. My struggle with selfishness.

See, I wondered what it took to be God’s friend. Because I’d like to carry that title, too. But the thing is, the relationship is costly. And it was more than belief that made Abraham a friend. It was how he acted on that belief…

Genesis 22 gives us the story.

God called and Abraham answered, “Here I am.” That’s when he heard the unthinkable for God called him to take his son, his only son, the one he loved, and offer him up as a sacrifice.

Can you imagine? God instructed Abraham to kill his son and he set out to do it. Scripture says it was a test. A test in that Abraham was called to put to death the thing he loved most.

When Abraham told his servants to hang back (it was a three day journey), he told them, “the boy and I will go over there to worship.” Worship is what he said. That’s how he described laying down the life of his only son.

Thankfully, God stepped in at the very last minute and provided another sacrifice. But the point is, Abraham was willing. He was willing to do the unthinkable because God commanded him to. That’s how full of faith he was. And that action is what made him a friend.

Abraham’s willingness to obey.

And the act of obedience is why all nations of the earth receive blessing through Abraham. “I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars… all nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed My command.”

Yes, belief led to obedience in Abraham’s life. And this is part of what God wanted me to see.

This is My command: love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. John 15:12-14

You know, Jesus has friends, too. But no different than Abraham’s relationship with God, it’s costly. Because if we want to be His friend, we have to obey His commands and that’s not so easy to do.

Like when He says to love one another as I have loved you. Well, He loved us to His death. He laid down His very life for ours. And that’s a hard act to follow. And when He tells us to pick up our cross daily, He means we’re to die. Every single day.

Yes, Jesus wants us to put ourselves to death. Our wants and our desires come second to His command. But who wants to do that?

Who wants to sacrifice their very life? Because we love ourselves too much. We love our time and our stuff which causes us to hold back big chunks for selfish purposes.

At least I do…

If just for a little while.

But He says no. He commands the opposite. To love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Really, to love them more than ourselves. Because that’s exactly what He did when He died on the cross.

And that’s the heart of it. This is what God wants me to see.

For He’s commanding me to love other people as I love myself. No, more than I love myself. Specifically, my people. My husband and my kids. He calls me to be a willing wife and devoted mother because they come first. Their wants, their desires, their needs.

So unlike Abraham who was called to sacrifice his son, God calls me to sacrifice myself. My life in place of theirs.  This is the price of being Jesus’ friend.

And I want to be His friend.

Thus, belief prompts and act of obedience which in turn is my spiritual worship. And worship is how Abraham described sacrifice.

Me, too. This is how I worship my God…

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:2

God gives examples. Threads of truth woven into our lives to give insight. Like this week when He gave me Abraham, His friend. And He gave me Jesus, His Son. I look to their lives as a pattern for my own.

But you know, He also gave me my mom. And she knows exactly what it means to sacrifice one’s life. Because that’s just what she did. She gave up her life for mine. And for my brother.

She gave up huge chunks of time so that our future would be secure. Her wants and desires came second to our needs. Every single time.

She sacrificed her happiness. Her life. Her all.

Yes, unlike me, Mom was selfless.

And in return, I have life. And she is my pattern.

She is my mother.

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I wish I could say I’ve followed my mom’s example. But I didn’t. No, for so long I was selfish and didn’t even know it.

Like in this picture when I was pregnant with Levi…

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And I have to laugh when I see it. So carefree. So devil-may-care. That’s because I hadn’t a clue what was coming. I had no idea what a hard road motherhood is. I didn’t realize how much of myself I’d have to put to the side. The countless sacrifices and daily deaths…

At least for a season or two.

Or three.

And I’d be lying if I said I was a natural. Frankly, being a mom hasn’t been easy. Because at times, my selfish nature quells up and it’s hard to push it back. I want what I want when I want it. And when it seems far off, darkness presents.

That’s when reluctance makes an appearance. An unwillingness holds court. Like this past month.

But God grabbed my attention and He illuminated my selfishness. That ugly part that takes away from those most dear…

Like my husband. My kids.

And I know I’m on the right track. Because I want to please them. I want to put aside my stuff in favor of theirs. I want to be a good wife and good mom. So once more, light overtakes the dark and stinginess gives way to generosity.

Thus, what Jason told Levi is really true. It’s a fact I love my son more than anyone else in the whole world could. Because I’d give my life for him. I’d die for him. That’s what mothers do…

And if I’m willing to sacrifice my life’s blood, then time is easy to release… the chunks of “mine” I tried to cling to.

Thus, I put away my faulty set of scales and lay down my life for theirs… again. See, this dying thing is an everyday occurrence. I have to find fresh resolve to do it. But in doing so, I find great reward.  Because obeying makes me not just a friend of Jesus but also, a great mom and wife.

And through this act of obedience, I am blessed. As are they… those closest to me.

My husband and my kids.

Because I am a most willing wife. A wholly devoted mother.

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. Proverbs 31:28

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 Soup Nazi

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I cooked up a blog last week. Or began to. I thought I’d title it The God Thing because when I started writing, I thought I was doing the God thing. Turns out I was wrong.

See, last Wednesday was hectic from the get-go. I’d been out of state over the weekend, a long road trip on Monday, and a late night on Tuesday. So come Wednesday morn, I was tired. And behind. The icing on the cake came with a phone call from the school announcing a two hour delay. Problem was my child had already boarded the bus and I was unable to find out what would happen to him… would he be returned or go on to school?

So, without knowing the fate of my child, I put my other child down for a nap. That’s when I finally invested in some quality me time. I sat down on the potty and relished the silence. Alas, much too soon, I heard the deep roar of a bus engine and the whoosh of air brakes. Then a horn.

Honk, honk!

Seems Levi was home.

Thus, my moment on the toilet was abruptly called to a halt. I ran up the driveway sans shoes while frantically waving my hands. I’m here, I’m here, they indicated. Needless to say, I felt utterly rushed and not at all peaceful by the time 7:30 rolled around. And yet, my morning had just begun. I had so much to do…

The God thing

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The God thing for me on Wednesday was to make soup. It was the last session of a women’s Bible study and we were to luncheon afterward. And though I knew I should get started immediately, I decided to meet with God instead. My daughter napped, my son watched a cartoon, and I went behind closed doors hoping to hear a word from God.

And so it must have been 8:15 when I started the soup. But I’d forgotten how long it took to peel potatoes. And wash and chop celery. And onions. And before I knew it, it was time to take Levi up the hill to the bus for his second boarding. And I had to scoop Annabelle out of the crib before I was ready to do so.

Before I knew it, it was 9:17. And the potatoes had just started to boil. And I was plying my daughter with Lil’ Crunchies to buy more time. See, I had to get the soup done by 9:45. And yet, there I stood in loungewear. And Annabelle was clad in a diaper only. And she was eating junk food for breakfast. Just so I could make soup to take somewhere else.

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That’s when I had a defining moment. I thought no. No. I will not rush myself silly. I will not live in chaos. So I made a phone call. I apologized profusely but canceled last minute. I would not bring soup as I said I would. And for the briefest of moments, I felt good about my decision. Wise, even.

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For I put my family first. And I met Annabelle’s needs. Because when the soup was ready, I spooned out a bowl for her and she loved it. “Ummm,” she said. Later, she ran around without clothes and was as free as a bird. Happy, even.

And so was I.

Briefly.

But all too soon, darkness entered my bones.

The Defining Moment

One who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound judgment. Proverbs 18:1

Truth is, I felt wise for only an hour or two. But then, regret darkened my soul. And guilt. But I couldn’t pinpoint why I felt the way I did. Because when I said no to the Bible study, I was sure I’d made the right choice. That I was doing the God thing by staying home with Annabelle.

But by the time nightfall settled, I had the nagging sense there was more to my decision. Deep down, something was lurking. The next morning, I discovered what it was.

On Thursday, Psalm 139:24-25 stood out on to me. Likely because I’d recently prayed it. Search me, oh God! Know my heart! See if there’s any offensive way in me. I voiced the words aloud as I wanted to know if there was something separating me from God. Because I’d been feeling a barrier. Like something was blocking me. Turns out there really was…

It was me.

Proverbs 18:19 enlightened me to a problem. It reads, “An offended brother is harder to reach than a fortified city. And quarrels are like bars of a fortress.” So my realization was this… An offense kept me from attending Wednesday’s study. A hectic morning was simply an easy out. An excuse so I wouldn’t have to deal with the real issue. My heart issue. For I was offended.

It happened at the previous Bible study. After sharing a bit of my testimony, one woman gave me wise counsel and I felt a blaze erupt inside. Instead of welcoming her advice, I resented it. And because I allowed the remark to become offensive, I became defensive. I tried to justify my feelings as a barrier went up. Then I shut down. And shut out.

One week later, this is what I held to. An offense simmered and stewed on a low boil. And ultimately, it led me to withhold what I could. I withheld me along with my soup. A wall erected between me and the women I love. Isolated and harder to reach than a fortified city. An internal quarrel were the bars of my fortress.

Reality? Saying no to chaos last Wednesday was not the defining moment. That was a lie. Because the truth came on Thursday when I realized how tightly I held to my offenses. And how it caused me to lose my grip on what matters most… relationship with people. And relationship with God.

No Soup for You!

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I used to watch Seinfeld every night. Oh, I bet I’ve seen every episode at least four times. One of my favorites involved the soup Nazi. This man served up the most delicious of soups however, he was not very nice. Rigid. And in order to get a serving, customers had to walk just right and talk just so. And if they deviated from his rules just the slightest, he’d withhold. “No soup for you!”

So this becomes my ultimate defining moment. For this is a picture of me. I am no different than the soup Nazi. You better walk my walk and talk my talk. Or else! No soup for you! If you look at me funny or say something that doesn’t sit quite right, I’m liable to take offense. Skin way too thin. This is what God wants me to know about myself. He wants me to see I allow myself to be offended. Way too easily.

And this is what fills my heart.

Offenses. Little ones. Big ones. From last week, and the week before, and the week before that. All the way back. Burned on, encrusted offenses. I swear, I’ve been mad for years. But see, eventually what’s simmering underneath shows. It comes to the surface.

What’s your Stew?

Oh, my potato soup was pretty darn good that first day. It even tasted good on Thursday. But by Friday, after the third reheating, it turned dark. Jason stirred it around and asked about the color. “Why’s it so dark?” Problem was some of the burned soup made it’s way to the top as I stirred. It darkened the light. Just like with me.

My heart has been darkened by offenses. I’ve held things underneath where no one can see them but they cause rifts. Separation. And eventually, something stirs up the burnt pieces. And as blobs of darkness mix with the light, every part of me becomes darkened. Dimmed. Light snuffed out.

Funny thing is, I was recently asked a pertinent question. “What’s your stew?” It was nearly two months ago when I heard it but I’d forgotten all about it. Beth Moore asked through the video, “What are you stewing in?” What are you holding tighter than God?” And yesterday, God prompted my memory. He caused me to look at my notes.

And there I found it. The question reiterated…

“What’s your stew?”

Mine? It’s potato soup. I cooked it up a couple of weeks back and I decided to hold it. I held it back along with a string of offenses and internal quarrels. And today I know it’s keeping me from life. Bars of a fortress built upon thin skin. Separating me from every good thing. From fellowship and connection. With women. But more importantly, from God.

Holding offenses keeps me from God.

This has been my stew.

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Today, I trade in my stew for something better. By letting go of my offenses, I tear down the walls of my fortress. I let go and place my trust in Him. In what He calls me to do. I allow myself to be vulnerable. And approachable. And teachable.

And this is the God thing I started to write about. The defining moment. But it had nothing to do with me staying home to avoid chaos. And tending to Annabelle’s needs. I wanted it to be that and if it where, it would have been okay. But instead, it was about my potato soup. And withholding it.

And withholding me…

But today I say no. No more shall I rely on the bars of a prison composed of offenses. I thought they kept me safe. Instead, they simply kept me inside. Isolated. So I break through the chains and thrust open the door. I demolish the barrier that keeps me from grabbing hold of what God wants me to. Because what He has for me is on the outside. Beyond my walls.

Thus, I venture out again…

I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. Psalm 91:2

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.

lap of luxury

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When I was really little, I didn’t want much. And because I was somewhat sheltered, I retained my innocence. I was satisfied with my lot in life. At least for a while.

No, I wasn’t embarrassed that my backyard was asphalt or my playground a cow pasture. Or that our apartment on the backside of a store consisted of only a small kitchen and living room, one door-less bedroom and a teeny-tiny bathroom sans bathtub.

I simply hated it, though, when Mama (that’s what I called her back then) wanted to wash my hair. Sometimes I’d hide under the bed as long as possible, the coolness of concrete against my cheek. If I wasn’t jerked out, I’d eventually succumb to my fate and army crawl out so I could step up onto a pile of books in front of the miniscule sink. But I’d struggle a little with Mama as she washed away the dirt and grime.

None of this bothered me. And the only reason I objected to my brother’s bed being at the foot of Mama’s and Daddy’s was because I had to sleep on the couch. All by myself. I’d lay there overcome by terror awaiting an attack from the boogie man.

So I’d say, at four or so, I was happy. Contented. Back then the most luxurious thing I craved was attention. And I got that from Grandma. All of us grandkids did. It seemed as if we were her sole purpose in life for she loved us so.

Indeed, Grandma’s lap was a place of luxury when I was small. A coveted spot where you could be special. If only for a moment. And the center of someone else’s world as you were lavished by love.

It’s Grandma’s lap I fondly remember this day. How for a sweet moment in time, that’s all it took to make me happy. And I wonder when things changed. When was the day I exchanged her lap of luxury in search for another one… the kind the world could afford me.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21

My roots are blue-collar all the way. Working class to the core. One grandfather was a farmer and the other a housepainter. My Mammie was a housewife and mother to a huge brood of youngins. And Grandma? Before she was widowed, her husband was a farmer. And much too soon, Grandma was left with four kids to raise all by herself.

I can’t imagine the strain. And I don’t know when she began working for the hospital but that was her means of income for the longest time. Because that blue polyester uniform is attached to so many memories I have of her…

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Here’s the thing, though. I don’t remember Grandma complaining about her lot. Or pining away for a better life. She was always sensible and when one of us got upset, she’d soothe and comfort and settle things down. She had no need of silver spoons and golden coins for it didn’t take much to make her happy…

Bingo once a week and a basket full of yarn for crocheting. The Young and the Restless on the tube and a shopping trip to the thrift stores. Grandma was content.

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And I was, too. Till one day, I decided I wanted more out of life.

The leech has two suckers
    that cry out, “More, more!”

There are three things that are never satisfied—
    no, four that never say, “Enough!”:
the grave,
    the barren womb,
    the thirsty desert,
    the blazing fire. Proverbs 30:15-16

I believe most folks want more for their kids. That’s the dream, right? Making things better for our offspring. But I question that today. Because if each generation handles life in that manner… when is better enough?

See, my Grandma had a hard life and yet, she was happy. Content. And though my mom faced great trials, she too found contentment. In the end, she ended up with more than Grandma had. My dad, too. And in looking back, I see my parents gave me and my brother more than they ever dreamed of having.

It’s Christmas that stands out. Daddy would bring home a cedar tree and place it in a 5 gallon bucket. Oh, the scent would fill our nostrils as it filled every nook and cranny of our small abode. Sonny and I’d eagerly watch as Mama covered the bucket with wrapping paper and string the tree with lights. Then our turn came to decorate.

Later, when gifts were piled underneath, I’d count them. And Mom knew to have the same number for each of us. Value meant little in the face of quantity. It could have been a pack of gum, but there darn well better have been an equal amount of presents. I’d shake them and press them and wonder…

One Christmas, though, as I was covered up to my neck in paper, I dared ask… “Is this is?” That was the year of the Golden Dream Barbie. And what an affront this must have been to my mom. But she didn’t yell. Instead, she was gentle as she called me to her and sat me in her lap. She shared with me about her own Christmases, and how very little she received.

And though I felt sad for her, I don’t think the lesson really took. Not till now. In the face of my own children. Because I’ve been trying to give Levi more than I had. And let me tell you, he has a lot. Spoiled, even? And I’m noticing a problem. The more I give, the more he wants.

Moreover, my son seems to think everything is replaceable… that there’ll always be another one coming his way.

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It was a gun that opened my eyes. Levi just bought it a couple of weeks ago and I found it covered in mud. And though I applaud his creativity in making a fort and using his imagination, it pains me I didn’t think to tell him… “Bring your toys inside!” Because without my instruction, he wouldn’t think to on his own.

Now, the gun doesn’t work. The firing noises silenced by the downpour of rain. When I mentioned it, he said it was only four dollars and he can always get another.

And so today I see there’s a problem. We’ve wronged him. In our attempt to give Levi a better life, we’ve inadvertently given him the idea that items have little or no value. Easily replaced. No need to take care and appreciate what we do have because there’ll always be another.

And I’d have to say, this mentality is the epitome of living in the lap of luxury. Because luxury always affords you another…

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Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. Numbers 11:31

I love to read about the Israelites in the Old Testament. Particularly the 15th and 16th chapter of Exodus. Because on the heels of receiving freedom at the hand of God, we find the people grumbling and complaining early on in their journey. I can relate.

Oh, they were thirsty and hungry. All too quickly, they forgot the miracles. They chose to focus on the one thing they wanted. Discontentment set in.

God provided manna, bread from heaven, but it wasn’t enough. Eventually, the people remembered all the good foods they partook of in Egypt. Before God. Leeks, melons, cucumbers. And meat. Oh, they wanted meat. So they voiced it. Basically, they were sick of their lot in life and what God provided. They wanted more. Something different. Something better.

God gave them their desire. He told them He’d send meat so much so it would come out of their nostrils. And it did. Quail making them sick. Some even died there in the midst of their journey. In their graves of craving.

And that term strikes a chord with me. For I know I spent most of my life right there… mourning my lot in life and grumbling and complaining. Always wanting more and more and never getting enough. Refusing to accept what God lay before me. Resisting to rest in the gift of the day.

Grieving instead, alongside my tomb. Wasting my life as I pined away for what was out of reach…

I died in my grave of craving.

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I tell you the truth, I journeyed for years seeking the lap of luxury. I lived life just like my son. I guess he learned it from me.  Because my parents gave me more than they had. And Grandma gave me more than she had. And God gave to me. Everything. He gave me everything He had…

So I lived carelessly. Recklessly. I always thought there’d be another coming my way. I discarded things way too easily. I didn’t place enough value on what life, and God, handed me.

And because I walked it, I can say this. Not always, but sometimes the lap of luxury makes no room for babies. At least for me, it didn’t. Or I didn’t. Because in seeking more out of life, I thoughtlessly gave up what I had been given. I threw away the gift of motherhood, making no room in my womb. For sure, at twenty-two, I made no room on my lap. Placing no value on the life inside me, I threw it all away.

Because one day, there’d be another.

Right?

And after all, tomorrow is another day.

Right?

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:13-14

Funny thing about my name. Pamela means as sweet as honey. But for so long, I was anything but. Sweet turned to bitter as I grumbled and complained. Luxury complaints as my husband termed them. Things like, “this mattress has plastic on it,” as I grumbled about my sleeping arrangements at our high-dollar lake house.

And then there’s my son. Lukewarm water easily spewed from his mouth as he said, “My water is warm.” And the ultimate? We rented a jet ski for four hours. We didn’t think two would be enough. Turns out three was plenty as Levi became bored with the activity.

Oh, my son… definitely following my lead. Always wanting something different. God help him to not follow my path. Or God help me to help him not to. From this moment on.

For I always sought that lap of luxury. I didn’t realize there was already one in reach. Like hers. Grandma’s lap. What a treasure. And how I missed it. I completely overlooked what I had looking for something more. But one day, God said enough.

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God called to me…

“Pam!” And because I was listening, I heard Him at the open door of my tomb. For I am His daughter and I know His voice. He told me everything I ever did and what was to come. And indeed, I am blessed for I chose to believe what He foretold.

It’s true, I saw the risen Lord. He rose alongside the hope that rose in my chest. And I rose, too, from my grave of craving. He filled me with His wind and His Spirit caused me to move on from there. That’s when He commanded me.

Go! Tell others the story. And so I do.

Jesus answered, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. John 14:23

God called my name long ago just before returning me to my home. But in coming home, He calls me to really return. All the way… to Him and also to my roots. To my heritage. To a time of simplicity in which things matter more. A time in which value is placed on each day. And the small things. And everything. Because this may be the last day we have.

God calls me to not take things for granted. Like my grandma’s lap. Because it may not be here tomorrow.

God calls me to appreciate what He gave me. And He calls me to make room for more. In my heart and in my lap. Because that’s what mothers do. They make room in their hearts and on their laps for children. And pining away for all the other stuff takes up that space.

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Today the miracle is like Grandma’s, mine becomes a lap of luxury, too. A place sought after by my own children. A place where they can be the center of my world as I lavish them with love. Extravagant love. And so, I don’t have to look to tomorrow anymore. Not as I hold my little ones tight.

In truth, I find I’m content with what I already have. And like Grandma, I am satisfied with my lot in life. Simplicity. Thankful God brought be back home. And back to reality. To my reality. Amazed to find I’ve lived a lavish life after all.

But only in coming home to my roots could I discover it. And as my eyes were opened, I asked God for His forgiveness. Please forgive me, my God, for I never realized how extravagant you really were with me.

Yes, right here in the heart of my small home, and in the midst of my small town, I find I’m living in the lap of luxury…

And it’s the place I always wanted to be.