Operation Happy House (aka The Crazy House)

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Every wise woman builds her house, but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14:1

My friend posted this sign on Facebook. It happened to coincide with Operation Happy House. A home renovation project that began with a thought. It probably originated months back when I looked around and wondered why my house was so dull. And dark. Because I love color. Bright color. It was then I wisely deemed my dark surroundings played a large part in my dark countenance. Thus, I decided it was time for a change. I wanted the sun. Sunshiny yellow or orange would brighten my walls and lighten my mood. Here comes the sun became my motto. Yellow would fix me…

So not long after when my husband announced it was time to re-do our floors, I was all for it. More than ready. But I find the pig in a pancake series holds true in real life. Especially with home modification. See, if you give a pig a pancake, she’ll want some syrup to go with it. Likely, she’ll get all sticky and need a bath and will want to use your bath bubbles. And so on and something like that. Well, as for a home remodel, if you give a pig a new floor, she’ll want to paint the old cabinets because they just won’t do. And if you paint the cabinets, she’ll want a new wall color. Yellow. It had to be yellow… the color of the sun. And then, when you give her a new wall color, she’ll definitely want a new rug for the floor. And so on. This is where I’ve dwelt for months now. Consumed by color and placement. Faintly, in the far recesses of my mind I heard God’s warning…

Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins? Haggai 1:4

But see, God wasn’t talking to me. He couldn’t be. Because I was going to fix up my house. I was going to fix me. The color of the sun. A bright reflection of His glory splayed across my walls and across my face. No, I must have heard incorrectly. And so, a month or so back, I began my endeavor. I started with the cabinets…

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Don’t worry. They’re not this color – creamy white went on top. I just wanted the other colors to peep through. Next, I painted my desk… yellow of course.

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And then, perhaps I went a bit overboard. I started painting everything in sight.

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Green and teal, yellow and orange. My husband said our house was going to look like a playhouse. And you know what… he may be right. For when you add in all the other colors of my house, it will in fact resemble a kid’s haven. All the colors of the rainbow. Jason began to affectionately (I hope) call it the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Come inside, come inside… if you dare.

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Needless to say, I’ve been busy building up my house. Or at least that’s what I thought I was doing. However, last night gives evidence to the contrary. Because I had a meltdown. A big one. Maybe one of the biggest ever. In fact, I was downright UGLY. So ugly.

But first, let me explain. Last Sunday, I was elated. Walking on air. Pumped. Because I was still in the beginning stages of the venture. My household was completely packed up. The old floors had been removed poised for floor installation the following day. And the icing on the cake? I saw a sign I wanted on HGTV. I loved it. And lo and behold, a mere hour or two later, I found such a sign for my very own walls… It was perfect. It seemed as if God were blessing our undertaking.

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Then came the week of the actual project. It was tiring. We lived in my mom’s basement. There was a lot of back and forth and juggling. Annabelle was out of her element and slept fitfully. Levi spent the week with Me-Maw and Pa-Paw, so he received extra attention. Extra spoiling. And I became tired. So tired. Come Saturday, it was time to move back in. And I was bound and determined to unpack every single box.

But my husband warned me. Let me just say how much I love him. A bit sarcastic. Very dry humor. And handsome to boot. However, no one can make me angrier. No one. And Saturday, he made me mad. MAD. Because he was the voice of reason. When I told him my plan to finish the house, he said, “Pam, that’s crazy.” He told me how tired I would be. He reminded me I would be up all night with Annabelle, for she had been sleeping fitfully. He told me how cranky I would get… And so, I felt mad. Nevertheless, I decided to heed his warning and stop around 8:00 pm.

Which lead to yesterday. The meltdown. My bit of craziness last night. Putting my house back in order ended up taking all weekend. Finally, the last item was in place. The floor was swept up, and it was time to unwind. But before I could relax, my plant leaked water all over the new floors dripping through to the basement. Next, the power went out. And me being me, I thought I could still take a shower. Turns out, you can’t. Once I was good and lathered, the water went out. Apparently, the water pump is electric.

But finally, finally, all was good. Annabelle went down early so I was able to fall asleep on the couch around 8:00. I was going to turn in early. And because Annabelle was finally in her crib after a week’s hiatus, surely she’d slumber through. Turns out she didn’t. When 8:45 rolled around, she did too.  The boys turned in and Annabelle woke up. And me? How was my countenance? Well, not sunshiny yellow like my walls. In fact, it was dark as night. For I was mad. MAD. I was tired. Overworked from the week of beautifying my home. Exhausted from building up my house.

I gave Annabelle a bottle to settle her and ever so quietly, placed her back in the crib. I had just settled on the potty only to hear, “Mom?” I remained silent. I did not want to wake my baby. Again, my son called out “Mom?” If I stayed quiet, surely he’d stop talking. Didn’t he know Annabelle was finally asleep??? Again, “Mom!” And that’s when it happened. I snapped. I yelled louder than my son called out. “Shut up!! I’m sitting on the pot!” Shut up is what I said to my son. Loud. Oh, there’s more to this debacle but you get the picture. And last night, after the fiasco, I was the picture of remorse. I was filled with grief.

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!” Matthew 7:24-27

So what happened? Where was my happiness? My joy? The walls were painted orangy-yellow. The furniture was in place. The new floors were swept. However, the house renovation culminated in me becoming a raving lunatic. The end result was not what I expected. I wasn’t fixed!

Finally, when my senses returned, I went to my son. My firstborn. It was 9:30. Past bedtime. I asked if he wanted a story. Amazingly, he said yes. I selected a picture book and the first story turned out to be the parable of the two foundations. One on rock, one on sand. And I heard God this time. He was talking to me… Is this a time for you to live luxuriously in paneled houses while my house remains in ruins? A portion of Psalm 127 reverberated through my heart, “Unless the LORD builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain.” Yes, all my activity had been in vain. Because my foundation was shaky. For the entire last week of Operation Happy House, I neglected spending time with God. And the result was a brittle, frail, erratic, impatient woman. A crazy lady… see, my collapse was great.

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Ever hear the expression, “Charity begins at home”? Well, charity is another word for love. And though it’s not scriptural, it’s truth. See that picture above… those are my kids. My loves. And for some reason, those I love the most get the worst of me. See, I had good intentions. I wanted to be happy. I thought outside influences, like colors, would do the trick. But they didn’t. And because I was hell-bent on getting my happy house in order, I ignored the one thing I should have been doing. Quieting myself before the Lord.

See, I want to build up God’s house. I really do. But in order to build up His household, I have to start with my own. Because truth is, my kids are part of His house. They’re my first mission. And when I let myself get out of whack, they suffer. My house, which is God’s house, lies in ruins. I must begin with them…

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

See, color on the wall won’t do the trick. It’s the color of my heart that matters. For what’s inside eventually spills out. If I want orangy-yellow… the brightness of the sun and the reflection of glory… I need to put Him inside me. Truth is, He’s already there. I just need to tap into Him. His glory. That’s when I’ll find my happy.

Funny thing is, the night before I packed up my house I listened to a well-known Bible teacher. She taught on the blessing of Asher out of Deuteronomy. Asher. It means blessing, but also, happy. It means happy. Through that teaching, I learned something big. It has to do with the Proverbs 31 woman…

Her children arise and call her blessed.

It’s there in that word. Blessed. That’s Asher. That’s happy. And that’s what I want. More than anything, I want my children to arise and call me happy. Last night? If my son had the words in him, I think he would have arose and called me something else.

And so, my heart aches for this today. I want my children to witness a happy mother. And to know that they are the biggest part of my blessing. My joy. Will I ever, ever learn? See, I know what to do. I know what makes me happy…

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And I know what makes me crazy. And yet, crazy is my default. I get so busy. Hell-bent on accomplishing my stuff. Set on building up my house my way. With yellow. With paint. My happy house. My play house… As Jason said, it’s the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse… come inside, yes, come inside. If you dare.

Unto her…

Nativity

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given… Isaiah 9:6

“You have to decide… do you think God is a giver or a taker?” That was a question posed to thousands of women on September 15, 2012. And on that day, if I were to have answered honestly, I would have said taker. Despite all I had ever read about God, and all I had experienced of God, in the darkest recesses of my heart I believed the worst. I believed He was a taker. I just didn’t realize that’s what I believed.

And in truth, I continue to process that thought even now. Two and a half years later. That deep down irrational notion that God, who is the creator of all life, could be a taker of life. And that thinking brings me directly to the heart of Christmas today.

Yes, I’m brought to the inner chambers of God’s heart by the above verse I’ve heard at least a hundred times before. It’s a verse that adorns Christmas cards every year. But today, it’s new to me. Because I read it as if it’s written directly to me…

For unto me, a child is born.

Unto me, a son is given.

By God. The ultimate Christmas gift. And so today I see truth. I’ve been illuminated and find He’s a giver after all.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:4-5

It’s December 4th and Christmas is a mere three weeks away. And for the first time I feel utterly unprepared. And furthermore, I feel uninspired. In fact, I feel downright cynical. I even told my husband this week… my heart is as black as night.

See, over packed stores turn my stomach and I find holiday ads to be revolting. Especially the one that shows a gadget you can attach to your sink called a sponge bath. A $40.00 contraption adorns shelves nationwide for the one who has everything under the sun.

This would be the ultimate gift, no? A device one can use to bathe their kitchen sponge. Translation… we have so much and everyone else has so much, new devices must be thought up. New gift ideas created yearly so that the uninspired shopper may be so inspired. Yes! This is what I can give. Surely my mother doesn’t have one of these! A sponge bath.

To me, well, a gift like that says I have no earthly clue what to give you so I just picked up this thing. And in truth, I’d rather give nothing at all. Like I said, I feel cynical. Nasty. And surely, I’ve insulted someone by this. To the one who likes the idea of a sponge bath (for it does kill bacteria), I really am sorry. I am. Me? I’m just feeling ugly.

And why should that be? It’s Christmas time. Why do I have the blues? And why do they call them the blues anyway? Because if you were to gauge by my feelings, I’d say they should be called the blacks. For that’s how I feel. As I said… my heart is black as night.

And so, I evaluate. Know what I come up with? Guilt. I am consumed with guilt because I have no earthly right to feel the way I do. Anyone will tell me I have it made for I have so much. I am truly blessed. In fact, I’m hesitant to write this because I’ve been taken down a notch or two at least once before. In addressing my darkness (I am a moody girl, it’s true), I have been exhorted by others.

Or reprimanded.

Oh, I’ve been chastened by the well-meaning soul. Basically, open your eyes. See what you have. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. And that’s why the ensuing guilt.

Oh, that God would help me to see truth. Oh that He would help me overcome the darkness. Because I know…

I know I have so very much.

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And so today, I write. For despite today’s dark demeanor, I have to say this year has been one of the most wonderful yet. Because just about a year ago, I found out I was pregnant.

Unto me, a child was given.

She lived inside me for forty weeks until finally, she made her way into my arms. And God help me, despite this sweet, precious gift… I still get the blues. Or the blacks. And I know why.

It’s called loneliness.

It first presented when I had my son eight years ago. I became home-bound, isolated, and lonely. Depression descended like a shroud. And I find myself here again but this time, I have a daughter. Home-bound once more. Isolated and lonely. And those times, I’m most vulnerable. When I have too much alone time, it’s just not healthy.

And so in evaluation of today’s black mood, I wonder to myself… why write? For it’s Christmas. Why mention the darkness at all? And I choose to do so now because of One reason. I know the truth.

I know there is a Light.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every many who comes into the world. John 1:6-9

Sadly, if I were to pose the question I heard over two years ago, there would be someone else. If I asked do you think God is a giver or a taker, there would be another. Because I can’t be the only one who’s gone down that road of thinking.

So I write for her today. The isolated, lonely soul. My words are for the one who deep down believes God is a taker. Oh, she’s out there somewhere and she may not even realize she thinks that way. All she knows is she’s bitter. Or resentful. Or fearful. Or maybe just plain old melancholy.

No difference for it all fuels the guilt… I know.

So amidst the hustle and bustle of this season, I pray she pauses to ponder. Why? And if she does, maybe she’d discover what lie in the deepest, darkest chambers of her heart.

Oh if she’d just take just a moment to analyze her guilt and uncover the truth. That she’d come to realize the guilt is not from God. For He doesn’t give guilt.

Yeah… my hope this year, at Christmas time, is that the woman who needs to know the truth will know it. That fear and guilt is rooted in a lie. I pray she comprehends darkness does not have to be her truth any longer. For God is a giver of light. And life.

For He gave the ultimate Christmas gift over two thousand years ago when He gave His one and only Son.

May the woman who walks in darkness realize this most amazing truth…

For unto her, a child is born.

Unto her, a Son is given.

Unto her! God gave it all. May she grasp the gift that was given on her behalf and finally, finally, get it. No, God is not a taker, after all. He is a giver. And because He gives, she can, too.

Oh, may she get it. And may I get it, too. Finally. Because not only do I write for her, but I write for myself.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:3-4

Yes, I’m hesitant to touch on darkness because I feel guilty. I know in my heart of hearts I shouldn’t feel black as night. Not now. Not ever. For God has given so much.

And my cynicism of the season in no way reflects the truth of the season. See, a sponge bath cannot convey in the least what lie at the heart of Christmas… or what lie at the center of God’s heart. In truth, there’s nothing I can buy off a shelf that compares to God’s gift.

Because Christmas is all about His gift. No present measures up to that. For unto us, a Son was given

And when the light of that truth sinks into a cold, dark heart, life is given. So instead of all the other pretty packages, maybe this year we can unwrap His gift. It’s the One wrapped in light.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2

This Christmas, may we overcome the darkness that sometimes pervades the season. May we push those blues (or blacks) right out the door. Oh, that we would overlook all the trappings and recover the heart of Christmas. May we all really get it. Finally.

For God is a giver.

He gives and gives. May that inspire us more than anything else this Christmas. And may that be the One reason we give.

What the cave looks like.

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My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. Philippians 3:10-11

The heart of my journey really began four years ago. That’s when I purposed to know God.  For my determined purpose at that time was that I would know Him, that I would become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, and that I would perceive and recognize and understand the wonders of His person (Philippians 3:10, AMP). Beautiful and inspiring words. However, I conveniently overlooked the last portion of that verse. The part about being conformed to His death. So basically, when Philippians 3:10 became my heart prayer, I didn’t fully comprehend what it was I was asking for. I didn’t realize that in order to know Him the way I wanted to, I’d first have to know His Son. Essentially, I’d have to first taste death. While in this body. The hope being that I would be resurrected here and now. And so, to know Him as I so purposed, I would have to rise from the dead just as He did. But that would have to take place here on earth.

I didn’t know this four years ago. And because God sent me to my land of promise after the above became my prayer, I thought I had already attained a resurrected life. For I was lifted up and on top of the world as I made my triumphant entry. But, in contemplating another triumphant entry, the triumphant entry, I can easily spot the differences. For He rode into town on a donkey. Me? I straddled a high horse as I made my entrance. He came to die. Me? I came home to live. Funny that He died and rose to eternal life, whereas I held tight to my life, resulting in a slow death.

At some point in the past couple of years, I realized I had to die to self. But you know, I really died long before then for I had succumbed to death in another manner. It’s the book of James that describes such a death with the rich man withering away in pursuit of his activities. And although my activities were not necessarily bad things, I just allowed them to consume me. Like being a workaholic. Or how about begin a perfectionist? Or trying to fit too many things into a schedule? Or one of my greatest loves is sleep. I could easily sleep my life away. But the thing I have felt the guiltiest about is how I handled the first few months after settling into our home here. My son was always up before me. My little four year old had to get me out of bed. And so, guilt assailed me. And yet, I could not seem to get my priorities straight. That’s when depression set in. And as we’ve all heard, sleep is a sign of depression. So more sleep ensued.

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This is what happened in my home. I slept. And felt guilt. And sank into such a rut. And the more I walked in my rut, the deeper the grooves became. Before I knew it, walls of dirt surrounded me growing higher and higher as I dug out my pit. And before I knew it, the last pile of dirt was thrown on top. And there I was… lying in a heap of guilt. In my own home, my sanctuary, my cave, my hide-out. It was here that I died a spiritual death for my bedroom became my tomb. But this wasn’t the end of my story. In fact, it was just the beginning of new life. For God didn’t let me stay where I was.

My life began to turn around in my bedroom. Because when I couldn’t stand myself one minute more, I relented. I began to set my alarm clock so that I would wake before my son. And before he stirred, I sought comfort from Scripture. In this room, my heart began to beat again as I sought to be near God. And within these four walls I finally came to terms with God and His ways. Here I came to know Him as I so purposed four years earlier. Yes, it may be true that I died here. But more importantly, it’s here that He brought me back to life. And it’s here that He bids me to rise today.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11:32-44

A miracle occurred in Bethany when Lazarus, who had been dead for days, emerged from his tomb. No different than the miracle that took place in my bedroom. For though I entered it one way, over time, I came out differently. Transformed. And in looking back I can honestly say I am not who I once was. I may have fallen asleep and into a tomb of guilt, but I rise up a new creature. But, oh, I still slip up as evidenced by Mother’s Day. As a lover of sleep, the one thing I wanted as a gift from my family was a nap. A glorious lie-down. And so, I told my son… 99 minutes! Afterward, I’d play badminton. But first, my nap. So we set the timer on the microwave (thus the 99 minutes – if I could have made it longer, I would have). And I lay there. I drifted off easily, but awoke too soon. I heard little fingers on that timer. Beep. Beep. Beep. But not the normal timer. I heard a little sing-song voice say, “The timer’s off.” But I knew it was too early. No way had 99 minutes passed. So I told him, “It’s not time!” He decided to play I-pad on the bed while I dozed. Once, twice, twenty times more, I was jostled awake by his body as it jerked along with the characters of the game.  My own body shuddered with inward sighs. Then, the roar of a lawn-mower followed by a drone of a weed eater, both outdone by the blower. Loudness. My little one checked the clock. I heard a whisper, “Five more minutes.” Then his footsteps on the basement steps rivaled by the clacking of badminton rackets. “Three more minutes…”

No, I wasn’t a happy creature Mother’s Day afternoon. It must have been apparent as my little one looked down at me, “Oh, you don’t want to get up because you’re so comfortable?” My response was to flop over onto my back with my arm outstretched. “Oh no, she’s dead,” he said in a playful voice. But in hearing this, I arose. Because I am not dead. And I couldn’t deny it any longer… for when I heard the clack of the rackets, I knew my time had come. It made no difference that I really had five more minutes. Because when you’re called forth, you’re called forth. Kind of like with the tomb. It may feel like we need a few more minutes. But when it’s time, He calls.

As sure as I heard the rattling of the rackets on Mother’s Day, I hear Him now. He calls to me, “Pam, come out!” And so, it’s time. I remove my grave clothes and walk forward.

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The other side of motherhood.

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This picture makes me smile. Because she’s just like me. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Seinfeld and the crazy characters the show portrayed over the years, but this girl sticks with me. I refer to her as the “frankfurter girl.” Because that was her ultimate breakdown. She would cry at the drop of a hat. Literally. And when she dropped her hot dog, tears ensued. She cried over just about everything. Another episode that hasn’t left me is the one where Jerry, the comedian, tried to be utterly serious and dark at his friend’s request. And it’s these two, the frankfurter girl and serious Jerry, of which I cannot help but see a resemblance to me. Way too serious and too much waterworks. Not enough joy and laughter. And I so miss my laughter. It used to burst forth from the depths of my belly. My mom even had to tell me to stop once. She thought I was choking. Often, I’d laugh so hard tears sprung from my eyes. But now, it’s another kind. Frankfurter girl tears. Evidently, I’m not as dry as I thought. But rather than springs of living water flowing from within, it’s wellsprings of tears that spew forth.

But you know, I already know why the tears. And I’ve known for quite some time now. Basically, I cry because dying is hard. That’s what I’ve been trying to do. Die to self. But it hurts. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do. And despite progress here and there, pieces of me still hold to what I consider my own. And as I read in the book of Luke, I find this is a killer. For whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. Holding too tightly to my wants, my agenda, is killing me. I’m snuffing the life right out of me and quenching the Spirit. And the fight has been lengthy. In truth, the battle began in earnest over seven years ago. Coincidentally, that’s when I had my son.

I love my child, it’s true. I ache over his own struggles. I long for him. And I’d do anything for him. At least I think I would. But in consideration of doing anything for him, I have to honestly say that I don’t think I have. Not completely. Because the truth is that at the birth of my child, someone else was birthed too. For an incredibly self-seeking woman drew breath the moment my precious, baby boy first drew his own. That’s when selfishness rudely inserted itself into my heart and soul. Which is so surprising. I always thought I was generous at heart, but the truth began to emerge in 2006. That’s when the very real battle of self began. It was then, when I had my son.

Before my child, I had no cares in the world, really. It was just me and my husband, and we did whatever we wanted. But then, there was a baby. And my son needed me unlike anyone had ever ever needed me before. And I just have to say, this was a bit overwhelming to me. For I’m not a natural. I didn’t slide gracefully into motherhood. I was terrified and couldn’t sleep for fear that he would stop breathing. And I was never sure of what he really needed. Never. I believe I spent that first year guessing. And juggling because I began to work from home. God blessed me with both a baby and a new home-based job within months but these gifts also became my biggest trials. It was hard to balance a new baby with work because it was always there in front of me. And being the type-A person that I am, I had my own ideas about how and when I should work. But nothing ever went according to plan. Every day was different as the cries of my hungry infant rivaled the blip of incoming work emails. And this is where darkness began to fall.

Those first years were hard and now I have so much regret. Because my little boy learned way to early what it means to be happy and sad. This was evidenced by a visit to my hometown when he was about two or so. I felt happy, so I called him to me for a kiss. Afterwards, he waddled over to his me-maw and pulled out his pacifier to say, “Mama’s happy.” Even at that tender age, he could tell when I was up. I can’t tell you how many times I wish I could go back there to get my priorities straight. How often I’ve wished I could undo things I’ve done. Or not done. Because now I see it clearly. Despite love for my baby, there was also the love for myself. And so, I began to cling. I began to construct, but walls consisted of agenda and structure and rigidity and organization. These flimsy walls never lasted. And because my wants seemed to fall by the wayside, I became stingy with my time. I began the game of comparison… my list of to-do’s seemed more lengthy than my dear husbands (at least through the inward glasses I wore). And resentment deposited its seed. Bitterness flourished while I diminished. As I said, I have regret. So much I wish I could un-do. Or re-do.

So many moments that started off like this…

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Turned to moments like this…

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And sadly, there’s no turning back time. But I do have today. Not surprisingly, I find myself in pretty much the same place. Almost eight years later, I’m still fighting the same fight… building flimsy walls made of agenda and structure and rigidity and organization. The only difference is the ping of an incoming work email is rivaled by the wail of a seven year old. But you know, there is knowledge. You do learn as you go. For I know that I’m the very one who boxes myself in. Today, I see that the self-imposed rules and timelines I’ve surrounded myself with will not hold me up. This semblance of a schedule I try to maintain actually contributes to my downfall. For the foundation and structure I’ve so carefully laid out is in fact unsteady. And clinging to these unsound walls paves the way to instability.

Today I have realization. I have clarity. And often, revelation comes through the face of the little boy who stares back at me. In him, I see me. Oh, he loves to laugh. He loves to be silly and his laughter wells up from deep within. Wellsprings of mirth. But also, there’s another side to him. There are frowns and creased brow. There are sighs. And my fear is that I’m turning him into a mini-me. Because I box him in. I impose my agenda and rigidity and organization upon him. And rightfully so, as I’m his mother. But see, I’m a type-A personality. And as I tend to do, I go over-board. This past Sunday the perfect example…

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. John 3:8

It was picture day. Little league baseball boys all in a row having their picture snapped. But, oh, the wind. It was so gusty. They laughed and giggled as the wind made their eyes tear. They grabbed to their hats to keep them from blowing away. They were delighted. And sure enough, the wind blew hats half way across the field. I could hear my son’s laughter floating on the air as he sank down to his knees, grabbing the rolling hat. I went after him. I didn’t enter his euphoria, though. Instead, I focused on his grass stained pants. See, rather than embrace the moment and cling to the joy that was set before me, I saw only what had to be done. I saw how another load of wash would affect my carefully laid out plans. And so, I utterly missed the moment. What could have been a blessed memory becomes a dark spot in my past. Yet one more regret… one more time I wish I could have a do-over. Why, oh why, didn’t I just laugh with him?

You know, structure is a good thing. But if it controls you, it can have the opposite effect. If rigidity boxes you in, then it’s time to tear down the walls. And if life is snuffed out and the Spirit is quenched because things just don’t go your way, then priorities need to be evaluated. At least this is true for me. I know I am not meant to be boxed in. God wants me to be fluid, malleable, and yielding. It’s almost as if what God said to King David, He says to me:

Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ 2 Samuel 7:5-7

God moves. His Spirit moves. And I’m supposed to be the same. He did not order me to construct my rigid walls. He did not tell me to box myself in by unattainable goals. And He did not say to chain myself to self-imposed rules and regulations. Because He knows that will be the death of me. The wrong kind of death… Spirit quenched. And because I hold to the wants and desires that drive my laid out plans, I am still holding to my life. I’m still battling myself. This is me putting myself first. Not my son. And if I say I would do anything for him, wouldn’t I do this one thing? Why can’t I just surrender? God help me.

Yes, it’s true. Dying is hard. It’s been a seven year battle. And there have been tears and failure… skirmishes lost. But the battle is not yet over. I still have today. Despite more regrets than I can count, it’s not too late. But rather than dwell on days gone by, I can live in the moment and look to the future. Because as my son wisely put it, “There’s no reset button.” And he’s so right. I may not be able to un-do or re-do what’s done, but I can surely redeem the time that’s left. For life remains within my son. The Spirit bubbles up alongside giggles of delight. Oh, he may frown from time to time, but he hasn’t lost his smile, or his laugh, yet. And the good news is, through him, I think I’ll find my own. I shall laugh again. A spring of living water flowing from within…

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http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=blowing+in+the+wind+peter+paul+and+mary&qpvt=blowing+in+the+wind+peter+paul+and+mary&FORM=VDRE#view=detail&mid=919DA53E567AEBAFCD92919DA53E567AEBAFCD92

I, too, thirst.

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“If I’m thirsty, I don’t want you to bring me a glass of water. I want you to sympathize. I want you to say: “Gloria, I too know what it feels like to be thirsty. I, too, have had a dry mouth.” I want you to connect with me through understanding the concept of drymouthedness.” – Rosie Perez as Gloria

I watched a movie so long ago and though I don’t remember many scenes, it was the above speech that sticks with me. The character was thirsty and voiced it. And of course, her partner wanted to fix her ailment. An easy remedy, he thought, as he set out to get a glass of water. But that’s not what she needed from him. She didn’t want him to minimize her complaint and offer a quick fix. What she wanted was empathy. She wanted to know that someone else felt just as she did. And when I consider why I set out to write, I think it’s for this very reason. One, I thirst. I long. I ache for more. And it’s in my heart to share. Second, I know I’m not the only one. I’m not. There’s someone else who hears my complaint of thirst. And rather than offering me tap water to shut me up, she nods her head in agreement. She looks me directly in the eye and says, “I, too, thirst.” And this comforts me. For I know I am not alone in my state of dryness. She, too, understands the concept of drymouthedness, for she is my fellow sojourner in the wilderness way.

At times, I’ve questioned what I do. In fact, I’ve shrunk back because of comments and what other people may think. Because in the course of the past year, there have been so many ups and downs. Mainly downs. And the last thing I wish to do is dishonor God. I dare not sully His name by reflecting badly on Him. For here I am, a child of God, and it seems as if I do a lot of complaining. And whining. And bellyaching. So, does this bring Him glory? Am I actively working in His kingdom plan, or by sharing my heart, am I errantly acting against it?

But this morning, it’s His very word that gives me confidence. It’s the Holy Scriptures that come to mind, and through those precious words I see people just like me. I am not the only one. And through the Psalms, I find the empathy I crave. Amidst beautiful words of hope and encouragement, I also find despair. And agitation. And fear. And heartbreak. And oddly enough, it’s those words that comfort me the most. For I know there were others who traveled before me in the wilderness way.

As a deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for You, God.
I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while all day long people say to me,
“Where is your God?”

I remember this as I pour out my heart:
how I walked with many,
leading the festive procession to the house of God,
with joyful and thankful shouts.

Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God.
I am deeply depressed;
therefore I remember You from the land of Jordan
and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls;
all Your breakers and Your billows have swept over me.
The Lord will send His faithful love by day;
His song will be with me in the night—
a prayer to the God of my life.

I will say to God, my rock,
“Why have You forgotten me?
Why must I go about in sorrow
because of the enemy’s oppression?”
My adversaries taunt me,
as if crushing my bones,
while all day long they say to me,
“Where is your God?”

Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God.  Psalm 42

If I were to encounter the writer of Psalm 42, I think I would shake my head in agreement. I’d look that person directly in the eye and say, “I, too, thirst.” Because I understand. The writer of this Psalm was going through a dry spell. He had tasted the living God, and nothing else would satisfy. But for reasons I don’t know, he felt desolate the moment he set pen to paper. He was depressed and his insides ached. And clearly, he felt as if God had forgotten him. But when I look deeper, I see more. Despite the heaviness, hope remains. He cried out to God in sorrow because he knew God alone was his help. And though times seemed dark, the lightness of days gone by encouraged him. He reflected on previous encounters with God… and His faithful love. It’s evident the writer was distressed, but God was still his God. And God was still his rock. Oh, he was dry alright, but he still had hope. For in his valley low, he recalled mountain highs. And he knew… highs would come again. And so, he praised Him still.

The Psalm writers didn’t hold back. They poured out their hearts but it wasn’t all light and glory and joy. They wrote about reality. Struggles. And I’m so glad they did. Because through them, I know I am not the only one. I know that they, too, thirsted in a dry and barren land. And that gives me hope. For through their steadfast faith, I am encouraged to hold fast to my own. And through their unswerving hope, mine which was lagging is bolstered. And just as they reflected on the mountain highs, I am inclined to do the same. I remember Him. I know He is faithful even when I’m not. And so, I am once again expectant. I endure the dry spell and wait. For the mountain high will come again.

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FacDkraAvlI 

 

 

 

You’re not me…

At times, my son would belt out, “You’re not me! You don’t know what I feel. You don’t feel like I feel.” Or something very similar. And rather than feel empathetic to his plight, I always feel angry when he says this. Because I’m the mom. Obviously, I know I am not him. And obviously, I don’t feel exactly as he does. I know this. I guess my ire is induced by the fact that he doesn’t realize that I do in fact know. I know. But as I was reduced to tears this morning while applying my green eye shadow, the same thoughts coursed through my mind. “You don’t know how I feel!” To no one specifically… just a silent, desperate cry to my bathroom walls. “You don’t know!”

I’ll soon descend to the basement for an all day cleaning fest, so the eye shadow is definitely not a necessity. But today, I feel vulnerable. I had my hair cut shorter yesterday, and with my neck exposed, I feel like I need a mask. And not just because of the extra skin that’s visible, but I feel as if my heart is on display, too. I’m wearing it on my sleeve, and so, the mask is to cover not just a new vulnerability… but a dull ache in my heart. Inexplicable, indescribable, heartache. I don’t know why. Just tears and sadness. And loneliness. More so than usual, as I was choked up and tears spewed while I was on the phone with my employer this week. I can assure you, this was a first. All I could do was mutter, “Oh, good grief,” followed by a curt, “Bye.” He must have been dumbfounded. And perhaps, embarrassed by my emotional display. A bit of drama on my part?

I am weary from my groaning; with my tears I dampen my pillow and drench my bed every night. My eyes are swollen from grief; they grow old because of all my enemies.” Psalm 6:6

The truth is, I am depressed. And since this is something I come back to (over and over again), I can actually sense the darkness before it envelops me now. But for the life of me, I can’t seem to escape! I just let it surround me rather than run for my life. And because I get depressed, there is shame. Because I know. I know! I have no earthly right to feel as I do. My two aunts who lost their children would tell me so. My friends who see me with a great husband, an adorable child, a great property and the best job in the world would tell me so. As a matter of fact, it was Thursday evening that my brother said, “You’ve got it made, you just don’t know it.” He was referring to my job. And he’s quite right. But inside, I’m screaming, “You’re not me! You don’t know what I feel. You don’t feel like I feel.” Just like my son exclaims to me. And just as I feel indifferent to his plight, so would my brother be to mine. Because the truth is… I am blessed. So blessed. And yet, I am depressed. I feel lonesome.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Facebook is one of the loneliest places in the world. Because for the one who begins to feel sorry for herself, she can be thrown so deep into a pit, she can barely see out. And with each glance at the images of happy, filled lives, more and more dirt gets heaped on top of her. And with each visit to Facebook, she can begin to feel embittered by what she sees. Can anyone relate to this? Is there anyone out there who feels like I feel? Is there anyone who has every blessing – someone who God has graced with a wonderful life – and yet, bitterness abounds? I feel there is. Because as much as this blog, this journey to the center of my soul, is just that (a journey to my innermost being), I feel there must be others just like me. And that, just as I am discovering the truth about God and me, there are those who are discovering the truth about God and themselves right alongside me. There must be.

The truth about God & me is that I love Him. To the best of my ability. And that despite an ever deepening relationship with my LORD, I am still plagued by a darkness. This is the truth. And so, I have to ask… Are you like me? Do you feel as I do? Because if you do feel the same, I know. I know. And believe it or not, I think there is purpose in it. There must be.

You know, God made a promise to me through His word. And it’s a promise we can all claim. God told me that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. The truth is, I already have seen it. If I could just believe it… if I could just live it… if I could just realize it. He says… Wait on the LORD, and to be of good courage, and that He will strengthen my heart. He tells me… Wait, I say, on the LORD! And so, I shall. Because when I find it… whatever it is that plagues me… I shall be free. And when I am truly free, oh, what a story I’ll have. Yes, darkness may descend today, but I have hope that He will shed His light.

And for now, I’ll let God quiet my cries. Because He knows. He knows. He knows how I feel, for He lives in me. And He knows why I do and say what I do. He assures me. Yes, He is not me, yet… He is part of me. And He knows how I feel. He knows. And in truth, that’s all that matters.

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Mark 14:3-9

 

Isn’t it ironic?

It was just under three years ago that God’s favor rested upon me. He brought me into a land (my hometown), of which I was desperate to possess for years and years. I likened my time away to the Israelite’s years of wilderness wandering. I fancied that surely I must have felt similar to them as they anxiously awaited that glorious day… the day when God would usher them into their promised land. And it did happen… for them and for me.

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams of water, springs, and deep water sources, flowing in both valleys and hills; a land of wheat, barley, vines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without shortage, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you will mine copper.” Deuteronomy 8:7-9

Today, my heart is stirred by this passage of Scripture on more levels than I can describe. Because it speaks of the promised land… a land that I always considered my home. And when I ponder how God moved me from there to here, I now see it’s been more of a spiritual move than anything. Because my relationship with Him has utterly changed since coming back. And it’s through these last few days that my undivided attention has been on His spiritual food and drink. So when I stumbled across the above passage, it nearly leapt of the pages of my Bible. I knew I wanted to use it in a blog because of references to plentiful food and water. But, the funny thing is – or shall I say the ironic part is – I didn’t plan on using last line! Because rocks of iron didn’t flow with what I had been feeling and thinking. But my eyes have been opened… And today, it’s specifically the last part I am captivated by.

This morning, I looked up irony and was surprised by the definition I found. I·ron·y  adjective – consisting of, containing, or resembling the metal iron: an irony color. What? I had never heard of that, and it’s not at all what I expected to find. And so, this new definition immediately brought Deuteronomy 8 to mind… because I remembered… I thought, “rocks of iron.” And so, I saw the truth. Because since returning to my promised land, irony is exactly what I have been mining. Honestly, I have been chipping away at a massive boulder of iron since day one. Because I am here in this land of plenty, and yet, I am not tapping into what’s good and abundant. See, my eyes have been closed. How ironic…

Irony is having your deepest, heartfelt prayer request answered, but upon entrance to your promised land finding yourself in a place you never, ever would have imagined… the deepest of pits. Irony is being delivered to the place you always wanted to return to; however, rather than a heart filled with joy, you find a heart full of bitterness. Irony is that on the heels of God’s goodness, you find yourself further away from God than ever. And irony is finding a home that you just had to have, and yet, there were issues with the well. There were problems with the water source. See, the water was dirty. Oh, there was plenty of it… only it was filled with bacteria. And perhaps what I thought was a coppery hue was in fact irony. Because it is so very ironic that at that time, I had unlimited access to clean, living water… only, I was completely overcome by anxiety and worry over an earthly well. I didn’t have faith in God, rather, I placed all my trust in a bank, and man-made methods, and UV lights, forsaking the One who brought me into the promised land to begin with. Irony is that I was torn up over a well, of all things, and the foul water that housed it… when there were streams of living water directly in front of my eyes. I just couldn’t see it. And so, instead of digging for living water, I mined for iron. And the deeper I dug, the wider the pit became in which I dwelt. Down, down I went as the troubles and worries heaped higher and higher.  Yes, irony is that upon entrance to your promised land you find yourself in the driest of deserts.

Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind, who makes human flesh his strength and turns his heart from the LORD. He will be like a juniper in the Arabah; he cannot see when good comes but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives. Jeremiah 17:5-6

Today, I looked up the definition of well. You know, the place where you expect to find water. And once again, irony abounds. Because according to Strong’s concordance, there are two meanings. One being, a shaft in the ground for extraction of water. And two, a pit, a depression in the earth with no focus on water. How funny is it that the house I wanted to buy within the borders of my hometown had a well full of dirty water… and how very ironic that I was so engrossed by the water shaft in the ground that I ended up falling into the deepest of pits – a depression – and I had no focus on the living water that could have lifted me out.

I bet Hagar could taste the irony that surrounded her. Do you remember her story? She was the servant by whom Abraham fathered a child. See, Sarah was tired of waiting on God for a child, so she manipulated His plan according to her time table. Sarah offered her maidservant to Abraham, and when Hagar actually conceived (which Sarah wanted), she became embittered. See, Hagar was able to do what she had not. And then, Sarah began to mistreat Hagar for the very thing she wanted her to do in the first place! Ironic, huh? Hagar ran away, but encountered the living God through her desert wandering. And by a spring of water, of all places. God sent her back, but eventually Sarah had her own child. Because things became worse, and Sarah commanded it, Hagar had to leave once again.

Abraham sent Hagar and her son away, but with provisions… a waterskin filled with water. They wandered through Beer-sheba, but inevitably, the water ran dry. And this time… Hagar didn’t see a spring of water. This time, she had no hope. And so, the child lay under a tree dying, and Hagar walked off a distance and wept. And then, when things looked the bleakest, an angel spoke to Hagar. He said, “What’s wrong, Hagar? Don’t be afraid, for God has heard the voice of the boy from the place where he is. Get up, help the boy up, and sustain him, for I will make him a great nation.” Genesis 21:17-18. And that’s when it happened… God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. Do you see? The water was there all along… Hagar just couldn’t see it. Her problems had grown so high, that’s all she could see. Because Hagar was dwelling in a pit of despair, she was blinded to what lie directly before her. And when the scales fell away, she finally saw hope. Because she was in Beer-sheba, which means seven wells. How ironic that Hagar journeyed through the land of seven wells, but couldn’t one of them.

Yes, it’s true that living water is available to us all. But here’s another truth… we must first see! Because living water, like H20, can surely run dry. We have to do our part… we must get up and sustain ourselves with it. Like Hagar did. As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink. Same thing with us, spiritually speaking. We can be led to the edge of His live-giving river, but only we can take that first sip. What irony abounds in our lives… how ironic that we can be surrounded by God’s living water, and yet find ourselves dying of thirst. May it not be so.

May we refuse to remain in a dry land, and may we open our eyes to see! May we ever dig deep, tapping into the life-sustaining water that runs within us. And when we find it, may we gulp it down…

Again he measured off a third of a mile, and it was a river that I could not cross on foot. He asked me, “Do you see this, son of man?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I had returned, I saw a very large number of trees along both sides of the riverbank. He said to me, “This water flows out to the eastern region and goes down to the Arabah. When it enters the sea, the sea of foul water, the water becomes fresh. Every kind of living creature that swarms will live wherever the river flows, and there will be a huge number of fish because this water goes there. Since the water will become fresh, there will be life everywhere the river goes. Ezekiel 47:5-9

There’s a heartbeat…

Most of us have seen the dramatic scenes in movies… there’s a traumatic event, and someone ends up lying on the pavement. A person hurriedly approaches the lifeless form, and then drops to their knees to help. An ear is pressed to the chest in expectation… surely it will be there. And then yes, we hear the proclamation. We find there is hope, for “There’s a heartbeat.” And it was yesterday in Sunday School that I realized this happens in a spiritual sense, too. Because I felt the very same. I felt a quickening of my heart that made it’s way to my ears… the kind that thuds all the way through your body… the kind that lets you know that God is in deed there with you. It’s the kind of thudding that comforts you… because it lets you know, “There’s hope, for there’s a heartbeat.”

I don’t know who’s stuck with me for the duration of this blog, but if anyone has, they have seen a rollercoaster of a spiritual journey in just a few short months. In a minimal amount of time, my life has depicted both highs and lows. It’s a life that’s reflected fullness of faith. But then, perhaps some doubt peeked through. There have been mountaintop experiences where there is fullness of life. Only to be followed up most recently with a darker period. See, I had fallen deep into a pit of gloom… surrounded by sadness, loneliness, and well… just plain depressed, I guess. I felt silence on all fronts and couldn’t quite say why. And honestly, for a short while, I felt as if God were absent. It’s as if His presence were no where to be found. Until yesterday, that is.

Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God. I am deeply depressed; therefore I remember You from the land of Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your billows have swept over me. The LORD will send His faithful love by day; His song will be with me in the night- a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:5-8

It was yesterday morning when I began reading the book of Esther, and something stood out. See, there was a king who issued a command to his queen. He commanded that she come before him, but she refused. And when he sought counsel from his wise men as to what he should do with his queen, the wise men said this, “Vashti is not to enter King Ahasuerus’ presence, and her royal position is to be given to another woman who is more worthy than she.” This caught my attention as I glimpsed a nugget of truth here. But I had to tuck it away until later because it was time to get ready for church. It wasn’t even a half an hour later that I declared to my husband that I was through with something. There was a nagging feeling that had followed me for quite some time, but I always pushed it down deep. Perhaps down deep into that pit of gloom that I found myself. But yesterday, I made my decision. Enough.

And so, an hour later in Sunday School, I was surprised by a deafening thud in my chest. Because that roaring of my heart hadn’t made its appearance for so long. And oh, was it ever music to my ears. Because that bump, bump, bump was the Holy Spirit. He touched me yesterday morning. And I so needed to feel His touch. See, I’ve been sad and lonely. I’ve been feeling separated from everyone and everything, but most importantly, I’ve been feeling separated from God. I’ve been sulking in a deep pit of gloom… but thankfully, it doesn’t matter how deep I go, He can still reach me.

It’s true that I went down for a time, but God didn’t let me sink too low. He called to me while I was in the deep, and so, I learn that He is really is faithful. Even when I’m not. Because He reached down and touched me. And as Psalm 42 proclaims, I find that He is in fact the God of my life. Because He spoke to me through His word and His touch. See, I made a decision before I left my home yesterday morning. It was a nagging thought I had carried with me for over a year now. But I kept pushing it down. And my realization yesterday morning was that God told me to do something over a year ago. But I procrastinated… why, I was just like Queen Vashti, who refused to do the bidding of King Ahaserus. My King gave me a command, and I rationalized it away for so long. And so the truth of the matter is, I’ve been living in sin. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin – James 4:17. All the silence… all the loneliness… all the depression… could this be the root of it?

There is no soundness in my body because of Your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my sins have flooded over my head; they are a burden too heavy for me to bear. Lord, my every desire if known to You; my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart races, my strength leaves me, and even the light of my eyes has faded. My loved ones and friends stand back from my affliction, and my relatives stand at a distance. I am like a deaf person; I do not hear. I am like a speechless person who does not open his mouth… Psalm 38 (various verses)

I try to write out a Psalm a day. It doesn’t always happen, but when I do so, I pen them in order… one right after the other. And the above happens to be my Psalm for today. In my Bible, it’s referred to as a Prayer of a Suffering Sinner. And so, I see the truth about God & me. It’s my sin that weighed me down, it’s my sin that caused the separation from God, and it’s my sin that caused the silence. And sin that I carried for too long caused the light of my eye to fade. Why, it extinguished my very life. But He is the God of my life, so there is hope. Because although sin may have flooded over my head and pushed me down deep into a pit of gloom, God was right there with me. For His Spirit resides in me. And it was the breakers and billows of His living waters that swept over me. Deep called to deep in the roar of His waterfalls, and He spoke to me through His touch. And with His ear upon my lifeless chest, I heard Him as He proclaimed, “There’s hope, for there’s a heartbeat.”

You are not alone!

When I was nineteen, we were three. There was Shannon and Gracie and me, and we were always together. I loved them fully, and when they were with me… I was never lonely. Because I had my best friends. And I can’t remember if it was when I still lived at home, or when I joined the Air Force that we gave each other pet names. Shannon was pretty much the leader and was christened “Wise One.” Gracie, who was petite and quiet natured, became “Little One.” And me? For reasons I can’t recall, I was “Lonely One.” I had forgotten that till just this morning. Loneliness… it touched me then and it’s touched me now. And so I see, this must be a recurring pattern in my life.

I am convinced that there are no accidents or coincidences. I fully believe that we find ourselves in circumstances over and over again… until we get it. And so, rather than sweep this unwelcome feeling under the rug by filling my life with as much activity and business as I can possibly manage, I want to understand this feeling. Why should I be lonely? As I contemplate the last two blogs, it’s apparent that I am. I am once more that vulnerable young girl of nineteen… once more, I am “Lonely One.” God has brought me to a place where I am surrounded by silence. In more ways than one. I work from home, and rarely get out amongst people. And as time passes, the once frequent voices of old friends have almost completely hushed and stilled altogether. And then there’s God. I haven’t been hearing from Him lately. And so, loneliness has nestled down into my heart once more… I am utterly, “Lonely One.”

You know, I don’t think we’re made to be alone. God Himself is three in One. He is Father, and Son and Holy Spirit. He said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” And after man was created, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is like him.” After Eve made an appearance, man said, “This one, at last, is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called woman, for she was taken from man.” It’s Genesis 2:24 that says “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.” And so, there was Adam and Eve… and God Himself chose to fellowship with them. He walked with them in the cool of the garden.. they were three.

I believe it was after I met my husband when I began to refer to myself as, “Lonely One No More.” See, we became one flesh, and for quite some time I was filled. But, as time wore on, I had bouts of loneliness. First, we moved away from family and it was just us. We did make friends at first, but when one moved turned into another, and then another… well, new friendships waned. My husband worked long hours and was away most evenings and weekends. My karaoke machine became my best friend, as I had a party for one just about every Friday night. My telephone was my other best friend because I made frequent calls to those I loved and missed. We were three, my Karaoke machine, my phone, and me.

Loneliness began to fill my soul as the years marched on. And so, today I’m surprised that I find myself here. Because I am in my homeland… surrounded by family members. I have a wonderful husband and a beautiful child. I have been blessed. And yet, “Lonely One” is etched on my heart. And this time, I want to know why.

Here is truth. In all the years that I spent away from family and loved ones, I was never, ever alone. Because what Jesus told His followers holds true today… “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17. I have the Spirit with me and in me today, just as I did all those years ago. And all those years did not have to be forlorn. They could have been magical! There could have been so many special moments for just God and me. I could have shared hours of intimate fellowship… with God. But I chose not to. And I think that’s why I find myself here today. Thus the silence. I believe God wants me to know… I do not need to be lonely. He wants me to take the truth out of my head and let it seep deep into those lonely black holes of my heart. And it’s not just me that needs to know this. For we are not alone. That means you are not alone!

I have a choice… I know when the dark times are coming. I can feel them hovering on the outer edges of my contentment. And I can do one of two things. I can invite loneliness to my pity party for one (and whether I acknowledge it or not – both God and my husband are in attendance anyway). Or, I can cancel the party. I can ignore what God is telling me, or, I can let the truth of what He says settle into my heart. See, my husband and I are one flesh. And I have the Spirit of the living God residing in me. And so, I am not alone. God, my husband, and me… we’re three. I can be “Lonely One No More” if I want to be. And you? Only you can answer that. But if you have God the Father through Jesus the Son, then the Spirit of the living God is in you, too. That makes you two, and two are better than one.

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Self-Serve

First comes faith… we have to believe that God is who He says He is and that He did what He said He did before we can go any further with Him. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him. And so we start there… with faith. But what next? How do we come to know God? He promised that if we sought Him with our whole heart, we would find Him, right? So quite naturally, we move on to the next step which is searching His word. Because within the pages of Scripture, we find Him. We learn about His character, about His nature, about His mighty acts. Through His word, we gain knowledge about God. That’s what I set my heart to do three years ago, and I pored through His word. In the fall of 2010, I veered off course for a while. But when I got back on track, I started searching His word with a fine tooth comb. I have a voracious appetite for His word, and it’s what sustains me. Jesus said that Man shall not live on bread alone, but from every word that comes from the mouth of God. He also declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

But within the past year, something has occurred to me. Oh, I have gained much knowledge, but what about my heart? Is it beginning to resemble His? If I’m going to be completely honest (and this is the truth about God & me), I have to say… “not so much.” Yes, I have a passion for His word. I love it. I want to read it, I want to share it and discuss it. I love His word. But what about Him? Do I simply love Him, as I am so commanded? And what about His people? Do I love them as He tells me to? Those are the greatest commandments. Jesus said to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… that’s the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. Well, as I examine my heart, I have to say I am not quite doing this. I am trying to love God the best I can… I am loving him with my mind, with the knowledge I’ve gained. But my heart? God help me, it’s not a heart of flesh yet. It’s still somewhat stony, because there are people all around me that I can be loving in tangible ways… but unfortunately, I have not moved beyond my comfort zone to reach out. I have not truly extended my hand to those in need.

I’ve referred to darkness that surrounds me… darkness that I can fall into quite easily. Well, I guess that would be called depression and I go there at times for no apparent reason. And with my mind, and all the knowledge I’ve gained, I’ve tried to fix this problem. But to no avail. I even fasted this past January for 21 days. Not from all food, but particular foods. See, I wanted it to be a spiritual thing, and for those 21 days I purposed certain issues to God. One of those issues being my darkness. But you know… even that spiritual thing turned into something for me. Because I lost weight, and I liked that. And so, the spiritual fast turned into multiple trips to the scales. That wasn’t for God. And in hindsight, I have to wonder if God prompted the fast at all. Because the truth is He already told me how to escape this darkness. It was in the fall of 2011 when I saw a passage of Scripture that so moved me I immediately copied it onto an index card and placed it in plain view for a while. But you know, I don’t think I ever acted on it. Because I still live in darkness. And I still fail to move beyond the comfortable nest of my home and church. This is what God said through Isaiah 58:6-10:

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you: the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.”

What is apparent to me is that I have been living selfishly. I have been serving myself heaping helpings of God’s word, gobbling it down and savoring every word, but then… I am the only one nourished by it. I’ve grown fat on God’s words, and feel pretty good about all this knowledge I’ve gained. I’ve sacrificed hours of my time seeking Him, reading His word and praying. I tithe and give money to World Vision. I’m doing everything I should be, right? Wrong. I follow the rules and keep my hands clean. This makes me a Pharisee and a hypocrite. Because I have neglected the weightier matters of God’s word… justice and mercy and faith. Jesus said to go and learn what this means… “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” And I believe this is what He wants for me to learn. Because until I can learn this, healing will elude me. He tells me… extend my soul. If I could just be an extension of Him, then my healing will spring forth speedily. If I could just move my eyes off of me, and onto those that surround me, my darkness will be as the noonday. See, He doesn’t want my sacrifices of tithes and prayers and Bible study. Not unless I can attend to the most simple, and yet weightier matters, too. Because these – mercy… justice… faith – ought to have been done without leaving the others undone. And let me not forget love. If I could just love as He did…. sacrificially.

I have a love for God’s word. And it’s through the study of His word that I know, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” And because of John chapter 1, I know, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Jesus is the Word of God become flesh. If I love His Word, then I do love Him. The problem is all the self-serve I’ve been indulging in.

There’s not a thing wrong with studying God’s word. We’re commanded to. However, it should change us. And it will, if we let it. It will change us if we just do what He says to do. But what He says to do is challenging. Because it means removing ourselves from our bubbles of security. It means in addition to praying for ourselves, we pray for others. It means in addition to writing out checks, we go out there and meet with those who are in need. It means to not hide ourselves from our own flesh. We all have some of those family members, right? The ones who cause trouble… the ones who have so many problems it’s just easier to turn the other way. God tells us to love our neighbor, not just in word but in deed. He tells us to get out there and get dirty. And it’s then, and only then, that our healing shall spring forth speedily. It’s only then that our light shall break forth like the morning. Perhaps then, we will all shine bright in the dark… like Jesus did.