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.

Out, damned spot!

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My husband came home with this bar of soap months ago and I was immediately captivated by what the label promises, for it’s a stain remover. According to the directions, you wet the bar, bring it to a lather, and then rub the soap directly on the stain. After washing, I imagine clothing will come out of the wash as white as snow… all traces of the dirt and the grime gone. And in contemplating this soap’s cleansing power, I’m not surprised that a play I watched (at least twenty-five years ago) surfaces to the forefront of my mind. The venue was Folger Theatre, the play was Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and the line that stuck with a fourteen year old girl… “Out, damned spot!”

Today, I have to wonder if Lady Macbeth would have profited from use of this bar’s cleansing agents. Do you remember her? She was the wife of Macbeth, a brave Scottish general. But unfortunately, Macbeth sought wisdom from three witches. They proclaimed that one day Macbeth would become King of Scotland. And so heady was the revelation, that Macbeth was overtaken by his ambition. His wife, Lady Macbeth, spurred him to action as she exhorted him to make it happen. And so, Macbeth killed King Duncan. He took the throne for himself. And so, naturally, both Macbeth and his wife were overwhelmed by a guilty conscience. Because trickery placed Macbeth in his kingly role, he ended up killing again and again so that he could keep his lofty position. And so, through this dark tragedy, we witness Macbeth and his Lady escalating to the heights of arrogance, falling into the depths of madness, and ultimately, their lives culminated in death.

Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene was a powerful display. See, her guilty conscience plagued her even in sleep, causing her to roam about through the night. The defilement from deep within her bubbled forth as she cried out during slumber… “Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One; two: why, then, ’tis time to do ‘t. Hell is murky! Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? The Thane of Fife had a wife; where is she now? What! Will these hands ne’er be clean? Here’s the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh! Oh! Oh!”

No, I don’t believe a bar of soap would have helped Lady Macbeth. For it wasn’t simply the issue of blood on her hands. Because that blood, that damned remaining spot that clung to her, was just a tangible display of what lie deep within. The issue was her heart, for that’s where her demise began. A seed was planted. A seed that promised loftiness and headiness. And as ambition grew, the roots of self-seeking went deeper. And then there was fruit. Lady Macbeth thought her family deserved to be in that role. Her husband was meant to be king and she was meant to be queen. And she was willing to do whatever it took to get there. And roots deeply entrenched in her heart bore the fruit of arrogance. And self-seeking. And lies. And deceit. And trickery. And ultimately, murder, which was conceived in her heart, became her reality. And the guilt consumed her.

No, I am not surprised that Lady Macbeth was brought to mind this morning. Because in reality, my heart bears the image of hers. For hate, which has clung to the outer recesses of my heart is, in truth, no different than murder. In God’s eyes, murder and hate are one and the same. It’s the way of Cain and the way of Esau. It is sin.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. Matthew 23:27

Journals. I read through fifteen of them last week and everything is in there. Again, and again, and again I saw the plague of my own heart. And when faced with the evidence (the handwriting on the wall so to speak), I just have to say, “Out, damned spot!” When I see in truth that which has stuck with me for at least three years (and in reality, so much longer), I just have to cry out, “Out, damned spot!” But it’s not Purex soap that will remove that spot. For soap will only clean the outside, making for a pretty appearance. And it appears that I’ve been doing that for so long… cleaning up my outside, with a plastered on smile, but neglecting the weightier, internal matters. I’ve been like a whitewashed tomb, whiting myself. Just like the Pharisees. They washed their hands and their cups, but their insides were black as night. As dark as death. Whitewashed tombs.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51:7-12

No more. For I am dog tired and bone weary of the way I have been for so long. And you know what… this time I have hope. Real hope. Because last week was cathartic. It was cleansing. It was purifying. Last week was a time for me to address the real issue. I got down to the heart of the matter, for it’s a matter of the heart. And this morning, I knelt broken before Him. For I know my sin… and I know what I am. I am a sinner. But the hope is… I know who He is. And it is only through Him that I can be made clean. Only through Jesus Christ can I be made as white as snow. Without the soap. Because for the deeper, internal cleansing, we need His blood. His blood washes our hearts. And because of it, we can say, “Out, damned spot!” And with full assurance, we can know that He’ll remove that stain.

“What a sigh is there! The heart is sorely charged.

Do breed unnatural troubles;

infected minds to their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets;

More needs she the divine than the physician.

God, god forgive us all!

Look after her; Remove from her the means of all annoyance, and still keep eyes upon her.”

                                    -Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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