Place Cards

Daddy made an observation this morning about Annabelle. And though his remark was casual, it resounded in my heart. He spoke a deep truth and didn’t even realize it…

“Now! Annabelle’s at the table. That’s better than her high chair.”

Huh, I thought. This is it. Within Daddy’s simple statement, I find the heart of my struggle. But also, therein lies the key to moving forward. For my battle has everything to do with placement. Fighting for my place in life… in the worldly realm and in His. Let me explain.

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Earlier this morning, Annabelle cried out. Seems she found herself in a precarious position for she managed to pull herself up to a high place. Problem was she couldn’t get down on her own. No, I had to rescue her. Fortunately, though, she realized she’d fall flat on her face if she tried to. My wise little one year old sensed danger and had the foresight to call for reinforcement. She needed the strong arms of her mama.

Too bad I’ve not been as smart as her…

We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God… 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

I stumbled across the above verse three years ago. And I thought, “This is exactly what I’m supposed to do.” I thought God had given me charge to pull down that which stands in opposition to Him. To Christ. And I was. And am. The problem, though, is I got off-track.

See, I thought it was abortion. In September of 2012, that’s where I found myself. Uncovering a buried up past. And the days leading up to that point, and the months following, were profound. Awe-inspiring. I stood in a place called revelation and glory. Indeed, I stood on holy ground as the presence of God surrounded me.

https://pamandersonblog.com/2013/07/02/the-weight-of-glory/   https://pamandersonblog.com/2013/10/21/a-holy-place/

Back then, there was no question in my heart. About placement, that is. My mission was clear. Tear down that which was set-up against God and His throne. Alas, I ventured on from that place much too soon. Slowly but surely, I began to seek higher ground.

And so, as time progressed, my mission changed. Though I thought I was to speak up and renounce abortion, my objective changed. For over time, I became the target.

It was me.

I became the high-thing standing in opposition to Him. My baby girl shows me how…

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Just look at her. Annabelle was trying to get off the floor even then. She used her little arms to pull up to a kneeling position. Then standing. And within months, she could climb right up onto that piece of furniture. And there, she could sit on her throne and look out.

The only issue now is she cannot get down. She’s not strong enough. Or agile enough. If she tried it, she’d fall. Hard. Thus, she needs a rescuer.

Like me…

Annabelle is a picture of me.

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Three years ago was a heady time. Oh, what a thrill to be awash in God’s glory. For He poured Himself into me and I was filled with fresh revelation again and again and again.

But for a girl like me, that can be a very dangerous place. Because there, standing on holy ground, it’s too tempting to exalt oneself.

See, my battle has been insignificance. Inferiority. Invisible for too many years. But then, He saw me. God chose to reveal great truths. To me. Surely that meant I was special. Worth something. And not just in His realm, but the worldly realm.

And so…

Just like Annabelle, I peeled myself from the prostrate pose of worship and used self-seeking arms to pull up. Before I knew it, I was kneeling. And before I realized what happened, I found myself standing up. Standing on holy ground. And unlike Moses who had the presence of mind to remove his sandals, my feet remained shod. Way to casual with a holy God.

From there, I tried to gain a foothold. I used the force of my legs to propel myself upward yet again. And finally, I sat down on the throne of my heart… without a doubt, I displaced God from His rightful place.

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?” Joseph 50:20

I dared stand in the place of God. And worse, I dared sit in His place. Casually. And rather than casting down abortion as I so thought I was supposed to do, I used my lofty position to cast down everyone else instead. Everyone but me, that is.

So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them:  “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place.  But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:7-11

In looking back, I see I’m not as wise as Annabelle. I didn’t know I was too high to get down on my own. Not a clue I needed to cry out for a rescuer. The writing conference I attended in July opened my eyes, though. Trying to find my place at a table is what did it. Seeing that I wasn’t going to cry out on my own, God gave me a nudge…

Right off my throne.

I arrived late to dinner and chose a table at the back. No less than six people sat side by side leaving five unused chairs opposite. I selected the one in the middle which left me flanked by two empty chairs. I mustered up courage and spoke to the only man there.

“Is this seat taken?”

He hesitated. Just a brief pause but enough to hurt my fragile ego. After a less than enthusiastic offer, I sat. Alone. Those at the table completely engrossed in important discussion. I took a second look at that man because he looked familiar. And as fate would have it, and by fate I mean God, he happened to be my 9:00 a.m. appointment for the next day. I was going to present him with a book idea. And I felt sick.

Because he didn’t even notice me. Not at that table. Oblivious to my existence. He was engrossed in conversation with a lady I later realized was important. In the worldly realm. Because she had status. A position with a publishing company.

And so I swallowed down the herb of bitter with my meal. In my heart, I deemed the Christian realm to be no different than the world. In truth, there are those who matter and those who don’t. At least that’s how I saw it that night. Because in my most vulnerable of places, I was wounded. And it was then, I fell off my throne.

It felt just like God was pecking me on the shoulder and telling me to take a lower seat.

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Look at my girl. This was just months ago. Mouth filled with eggs. Her place was not at the table back then. Her high chair was off to the side and I’d pull it as close to us as I could when we dined. She didn’t seem to mind.

But finding myself in the same position, I did mind. And worse, I was mad at my heavenly Father. Because I wanted Him to acknowledge me. Moreover, I wanted Him to acknowledge me in the presence of others. To honor me. I wanted Him to put me on display…

“See her. This is My girl. My beloved. My chosen.”

At that conference it felt as though God pushed me off into the corner. And perhaps He did. Because wanting to be set apart in a special way kept me removed from everything. In truth, I was sitting in the high chair of mind. The truth revealed as a speaker said, “Remember me, God?”

My heart echoed her words.

She said, “Don’t they know who I am?”

My heart whispered the same…

“Do not come closer.” He said, “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 33:4-5, 6

All these years I’ve been struggling to find my place in life. I’ve been vying for other people’s notice because for some reason, I’ve bought into the lie. That if other people think I’m worth something, then I am.

My husband knows this better than anyone. When I don’t feel enough appreciation, he’ll humor me by patting my hair and speaking softly, “Oh, praise Pam. Praise her!” Then we both laugh. I realize how silly I’m being.

But Jason’s words are telling. Because really, should it be praise Pam? Or praise God? And why isn’t it enough that God sees me. Intimately. And privately. Because He does.

Shouldn’t that be enough?

The LORD said, “Here is a place near Me.” Exodus 33:21

I can’t lie. My experience in July hurt. Trying to find my place at God’s table amongst all those more qualified than me nearly did me in. Nearly. The fact my offering was rejected struck an already raw nerve. Because what I had to offer was deemed not good enough. Thus, I wasn’t good enough.

And not only was my gift discarded by those at the table, but also by my Father. At least in my mind, it was. Today, though, I know this was a lesson. A necessary step. Truth to be applied to my heart.

It has to do with placement. Finding my place in life. But more importantly, finding my place with Him. See, God doesn’t share His glory. He doesn’t stand aside so His children can stand in His place. And that’s what I was trying to. And had been doing. I didn’t even know it.

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And as for God’s table, it’s not exclusive. Room for one and all. Whether the world deems you to be special or not.

It’s a process, walking with God. And just as Annabelle is growing up, so am I. I made a special place for her at our table recently. I realize God did the same. He made room for me. A place card etched with my name.

Only, sitting in the highchair of my mind, I didn’t see it. Sitting up too high, I overlooked it. But it was there the whole time.

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Today, I have to smile. And I let Daddy’s words tickle my ear…

He says, “Now! Pam’s at the table. That’s better than her high chair.”

And a laugh escapes my lips. Just like Annabelle. In every way.

How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Exodus 33:16-17

my enemy danced…

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the Funyun story

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

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

“Can I have one?”

“No.”

“Please let me have one.”

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

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

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

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

Nonetheless, that’s exactly how I felt.

Begging for crumbs and pilfering through dirt…

the explosion

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

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

Finally.

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

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

“You better be careful,” he said.

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

dancing with the devil

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

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

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

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

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

One, two, three, four.

One, two, three.

One, two.

And, one.

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

I quit

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

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

“What do you mean, you quit?”

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

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

I don’t believe

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

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

“I don’t believe You love me!”

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

His answer was no, though.

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

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

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

the end of me

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

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

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

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

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

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

grace

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

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

Him and only Him. And so I’m ready.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instead, I found grace.

In the most unexpected place.

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

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

It’s sufficient for me.

Unfaithful

The fact I polished off a family size bag of Cheetos this week almost deterred me from working out last night. Because I thought, what’s the point? I already screwed up royally. I cheated again on my diet. Forever unfaithful to the healthy lifestyle I seek to nurture. Forever cheating with Cheetos… or whatever other salty/crunchy snack lies in wait on my pantry shelves.

Sigh.

Alas, I exercised anyway. I worked out and was drenched in sweat by the time I finished. And it felt good.

But then, I went home. And unavoidably, the hours of temptation arose. From nine p.m. on marks the hours of my downfall. Because when temptation beckons after dark, and everyone else is asleep, there’s no one to stop me. Or see me. And I just can’t seem to exercise self-control. Chester the cat (this week’s love) is just too darn cool. And too hard to resist. So I don’t.

I run to him…

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After binging, I always feel upset. Guilty. And hypocritical. Because I’m trying to teach my son what is good and healthy and what’s not. I tell him what to eat and not eat. And yet, I don’t follow my own advice. This is 100% do as I say and not as I do. And though I try to sneak things in at night, sometimes I leave clues behind. They’re discovered the next morning.

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The above picture is from last week. Before entrance of aforementioned family sized Cheetos. We buy my son those big bags of smaller bags for lunch. Levi says he prefers the soft cheese curls to the hard ones so that gave me license to dig through his lunch supplies seeking out Chester.

But don’t let that little bag fool you. This was the first of several. I started with one but my voracious appetite for snacks wasn’t satiated. So as I tossed away the trash, I grabbed another. Then repeated the process. Laid out on the couch, I devoured these little bags of chips.

I got chip-faced.

But afterward, I felt shame.

Sigh.

Yesterday my husband noticed a look on my face. “What’s wrong?” I confessed later when I emailed him a small grocery list. I told him I ate the whole bag of family sized Cheetos (the one he specifically said, “these are not for you.”)

cheese, milk, cat litter, gain dish soap

And the reason I looked the way I did this a.m. is I’m ashamed. Past three nights I’ve been chowing down on family sized cheetos, which are all gone now, by the way.

I keep feeling sick but no wonder.

Jason’s reply is priceless…

So just one bag of family sized Cheetos then?  Or 2?

Oh, I love him. Funny guy. And how well my boys know me. Both of them. For my own son has told me, “Don’t eat the whole bag.” Or “Save some for me!” Or “I got some first because I know if you get them there won’t be any left.”

Despite my trying to stealthily eat at night, I’m found out.

Moses saw that the people were out of control, for Aaron had let them get out of control, so that they would be vulnerable to their enemies. Exodus 32:25

So I had this interesting conversation with a friend yesterday. She’s been fasting one day a week and she told me that when hunger comes, she focuses on a situation she’s going through. And she says she finds clarity. She also told me when she eats something unhealthy, like cake, she feels so lethargic. It spoke to me.

See, I’ve been so tired lately. More so than usual. Three cups of coffee have turned to four or five a day. And that’s not good. So I realize I’ve been caught up in a vicious cycle. I eat too much. Carb overload. To compensate, I depend on caffeine. And around and around I go.

Basically, because my eating is out of control… I am out of control. And you know what… that makes me vulnerable.

The LORD then said to Joshua, “Stand up! Why are you on the ground?” Israel has sinned. They have violated My covenant that I appointed for them. They have taken some of what was set apart (for destruction). They have stolen, deceived, and put the things with their own belongings. This is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies. Joshua 7:10-12

I just love the Old Testament. And though it’s about God’s chosen people, the Israelites, so much speaks to me today. I look at Joshua, Moses’ successor. How God appeared to Him. He said to be courageous. That He was with Him. And Joshua led the people to take the city of Jericho. The walls came tumbling down…

But you know what. On the heels of victory, Joshua and the people suffered defeat. Failure. A set-back. But it boils down to one thing. The people were unfaithful to God. They made other gods. In Exodus 32, they fashioned a golden calf. In Joshua 7, it was the spoils of war… items set apart to be destroyed were secreted away instead.

And really, this is what I’ve done. Eating is one of my gods. I bow down to it. I adore it. I allow it to control me. Rather than mastering my eating habits, I’ve allowed them to master me. A slave to carbohydrates. And Cheetos Chester. And to King Utz and Lord Lays.

When my household goes down, I go up. To the high place of my pantry. And I sacrifice my health to the god of overeating.

God help me.

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This is one of my battles. Always has been. Ever since my youth. I love salty/crunchy. My mid-section always an issue. Up and down. In the 9th grade, a boy actually commented on my tummy. “If you could get that under control, you’d have a really good body.” In the 11th grade I added about 10 pounds. That’s when an old acquaintance said, “Pam, you’re fat!” It hurt.

Ever since then, it was one failed attempt after another. Diet pills and exercise spurts. The above was taken one year after the birth of my son. I had some baby weight. I decided to do Body for Life. My husband helped me with before pictures…

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I dropped 12 pounds in a couple of months. I felt so good. Healthy. Energetic. Alas, the pounds came back with ten more. And so I’d try something else. Atkins diet. Hydroxycut. Jillian Michaels DVD’s. Up and down. Back and forth…

Up till now. Oh, I’ve lost ground by gaining pounds. More than ever. Most definitely, I’ve been unfaithful to God… choosing another lover. Cheetos. And I almost didn’t work out last night. But I did it.

Regardless of my failure, I took a small step forward. Afterward, I had the courage to say no to Chester. Or whatever other salty/crunchy snack tempted me.

And I find a small victory. Because the sluggishness of my carb coma seems to be wearing off today. And I find clarity. Awareness. I’ve been trapped in that cycle far too long. That vicious cycle. Going in circles.

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I choose to move forward today. Onward in my journey with new resolve. Because I don’t want to go down this way. I don’t want food to trip me up any more. Food the cause of my sluggishness. Excess calories weighing me down in every way.

I just get so tired. So very tired. Lethargic. Till I’m immobile and on the ground. But today I hear my one true God. His voice cuts through the din of other false voices… my tempters.

He says, “What are you doing on the ground? Stand up!”

And in His strength, and only by His strength, I shall… I have to.

And not just for my sake. And for His sake. It’s for theirs… I have to stand up so I can be there for them. My babies.

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This won’t be easy. For it’s been a battle. My weight and me. Most of my life, really. But the choice is an easy one to make… it’s them or Chester.

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So this day, instead of Chester, I run to God. I peel myself off the ground and run to my children. Onward in my journey.

letting things go

It always comes to this. Circles. Endless circles leading me back to the same thing. Again and again. It has to do with letting things go. It began in high school. That’s when I let my grades go. They started to slip when I began pursuing other things. Namely, the opposite sex. Because really, that’s the only thing that mattered to me. I simply wanted the love of a boy. Thus, school work slid to the back burner.

Next, my self-esteem went out the window. That’s what happens when you allow yourself to be taken advantage of. You feel like such a door mat, you believe you’re just as lowly. Unworthy. And seriously, if you don’t respect yourself, how can you expect respect from the people who surround you. So first, grades. Next, self-worth.

Eventually, you lose your reputation. It’s inevitable. Because one bad choice after another leads to a bad name. So you try to hide who you really are. You shove things down and pretend they never happened. You try to forget and strap on a mask. You hope that if you play the part, you’ll really be the part.

But that’s when you lose yourself.

Because after all is said and done, you don’t know who the heck you are anymore.

The girl you were is gone.

And in the end, you’ve lost all.

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I agonized over whether or not to include the above. Because the “F” word is in it. But I had to use it. The words are just too powerful to ignore. All that about openly bleeding and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. And how it’s actually the things that kill you that make you.

So I ask myself, what led to my ultimate demise? Did something specific “kill” me (metaphorically, of course)? Because if that’s true, I believe I’ll find my purpose right there. In my death. In the midst of my trouble, I’ll find the real me. The girl I was meant to be.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I’m reading a book called The Mended Heart by Suzie Eller. This morning’s chapter was about grief and experiencing loss. The testimonies she included had me in tears (not unusual); a woman who lost her eight year old daughter another who lost her husband. Both to cancer. Both losses were much too soon. And both were equally heartbreaking.

And so in light of what these women endured, it’s tempting to minimize my own loss. For more than one reason. But I am encouraged by J. Raymond’s words above. I’m emboldened to bleed openly. And to be honest. Vulnerable. For God’s sake. And for my own.

So I look back. I revisit the place where my life ultimately took a turn for the worse. It’s where I hit rock bottom. And where I let everything go. Including me.

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I’m pointed to the military. I spent four years in the Air Force. No surprise, I allowed my heart to be trampled in Oklahoma. But despite my woes, there was a bright spot. Her name was Carmen. My best friend. The very best. We shared everything and I was happy as long as she was by my side.

Next came Korea. Such an unusual experience. And as with my first station, there was bad and good. The good being my close friends. How quickly we formed our attachments. Because we were all thrown together. We shared bathrooms and refrigerators and the intimate details of our lives.

There was Cheyenne and Stacy. Then came Tina and Loree. And Nicole. And oh, I loved them all. I adored being surrounded by my friends. But it was there, really, where I started to slip. In the midst of such love and supportive friends, I lost control. Of everything.

Overall, the bad outweighed the good in Korea. The bad being unhealthy relationships culminating in two abortions. Thus, Korea became a dark blot in my memory. A time I chose to leave behind. And unfortunately, because my friends were intricately woven into that era, they didn’t make the cut.

In the end, I let them go. One by one.

Sadly, this was the pattern of my life.

Letting things go.

“If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” Kahlil Gibran

For me, letting go had everything to do with chasing love. Because that’s all I ever wanted. And so I cut away me. I fashioned myself into what I thought a particular person wanted me to be. From the very start. In high school, I liked heavy metal. In Oklahoma, it was rock climbing. I assumed another’s tastes so that I’d be appealing.

But the tragedy is, I never knew myself. I never knew my own heart before I began giving pieces of it away. And in the end, I whittled away so much of myself, there wasn’t anything left of the girl I was. Not one thing original about me.

God has given you one face, and you make yourself another. William Shakespeare

I did the same with Jason. I fell in love and I wanted him to be mine. So, I tried to take on his likes as my own. I strapped on a mask called “good girl” and never looked back. Today, though, I realize my error.

I cut away too much. Too much of me. And too many friends. Nearly all of them.

And today, I grieve their loss.

But look at Jesus. Look at what Jesus thought of His wounds: “Here, Thomas. Look at My wounds. Touch My scars. These are the proof of My resurrection. I bear the marks of death, but I am alive!” Jesus knew His wounds were beautiful. At the places where I am broken, the power of Christ is authenticated in me for others. Where I have submitted to the crucifixion, the power of the resurrection is put on display. I can say, “Look at my wounds. Touch my scars. I have death wounds, but I am alive.” I can wear my wounds without shame. They tell a resurrection story. Jennifer Kennedy Dean, Founder of The Praying Life Foundation

I had such a thought today. It was staggering. And so deep, I know it didn’t originate with me. No, with all my soul, I believe God deposited truth in my ear this day. It has to do with everything I’ve let go. From the get go. See, I lost my self-worth early on. I’d lost every ounce of self-esteem before I even considered abortion.

But a miracle took place after I lost all. I encountered my husband, a man who continually tries to build me up to this day. He affirms my self-worth. He tries to restore my brokenness and loves me unconditionally. Through him, I encountered God. And through God’s word, I find evidence of how very much I matter to Him. My life matters.

But I still don’t believe. Why? Why do I choose to stay where I am wallowing in my lowliness? And this is what He whispered today… could it be that if I dare believe He values me, that I’ll finally have to accept the truth. That all lives matter. Because if I finally take God’s words to heart and trust that I matter, then that holds true for everyone else. All lives matter.

Including my unborn babies. The ones I got rid of. The two babies I chose to let go.

And this thought stopped me in my tracks. It brought forth a cry I didn’t know I had in me.

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:7

This is truth. I am worth more than many sparrows to my God. But by accepting this fact, I have to truly face what I did. And that means I have to grieve. I have to mourn the loss of two lives.

What’s worse, death came by my own hand.

And I don’t know if I can live with that.

So, I am halted.

I stay right where I am. Paused.

Unable to take another step forward. Not till I accept God’s truth. That I matter to Him. And so did my babies.

Mended Heart Challenge

  • Designate a specific time and place to express your grief with Jesus.

I read the above this morning. My mother-in-law has been telling me I need to participate in a post-abortion recovery retreat… when the time is right. That time may be coming. Because this keeps coming up. Endless circles lead me here. Again and again.

I had babies and they are no more.

And I haven’t grieved their loss. My loss. I don’t think I deserve to. Because I’m the reason.

But deep, down, I grieve daily.

And so, I go back to that post I saw on Facebook. About the things that kill you making you. And I reread Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s words:

“Look at my wounds. Touch my scars. I have death wounds, but I am alive.” I can wear my wounds without shame. They tell a resurrection story.

It’s abortion. This is my wound. I carry the scars of a womb that remains eternally pregnant (Jeremiah 20:17). And unless I am resurrected from this death I carry around in me, I’ll be of no use to God. People will never see the life of Christ in me. Not unless I rise from the opening of my tomb…

And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through His Spirit who lives in you. Romans 8:11

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If I could just go back to the girl I was at sixteen. To the time I first began letting things go. Like my grades. And then my self-worth. I’d caution her. I’d tell her know your heart. I’d say take time to know yourself. I’d assure her that she matters. That’s what I’d say.

Oh, little girl, be strong in who you are before you start giving pieces of yourself away. Because some things are irreversible. Some things you can never, ever get back.

Yeah, I’d tell the younger me to really think about it.

I’d say consider carefully what you keep. But more importantly, consider what you let go.

What is good?

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“You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” Job 2:10

What is good? The question plagues me today as I watch my daughter painstakingly pick crumbs from the floor. Despite my setting an array of delicacies before her, bits of fried egg and small squares of buttered toast, she swipes it all away. No, it’s the floor she wants. And as she crawls along, she searches out bits and pieces. For she seems to favor the scraps and crumbs she discovers underneath the table. Or behind the chair leg. And silently I pray… Oh, dear God, may it really be teeny tiny bits of food she gums and not something else.

And so, I muse over her eating habits. How she seems to prefer trash from the floor to the good things I place before her. And it becomes clear. What I think is good and what she thinks is good are two different things. Mind-boggling to say the least.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

I’ve given a lot of thought to this. What is good? And after contemplating my baby girl’s eating habits, the answer I come up with is full. To be full is good. Because at life’s basest, isn’t that what we hunger for? Fullness. We want and need to be filled with something. And so it’s that something we seek. It becomes our focus. Our aim. When I have ____, I will be full. I will be happy. Life will be good. And if we don’t have the thing we crave, we deem life is not so good.

At least this is the way I’ve operated most of my life. I want what I do not have and thus, I miss all that I do have. The goodness and fullness of life, and God, passes me by…

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A year or so back, I felt something was lacking. So I audaciously prayed. Boldly, I made my petition, “Now, withhold no good thing from me.” And I fully expected to get the good I wanted. Though my words were vague, the request was specific. It was something I yearned for. And I was 100% positive God would answer me favorably. That He would reward me with what I sought. Because I was being good (in my mind). So very good. And isn’t good for good a promise of His… He doesn’t withhold good from those who walk uprightly? Psalm 84:11.

Alas, what I thought would happen didn’t come to pass. And so, I confess, I became bitter. Cynical, even. Filled with doubt as my hope and expectation waned. Simply because I did not get my way. Hollowness presented. I was empty and hungered all the more. Hangry best described me. Because I was most assuredly not full and I was not happy about it. In essence, I remained hungry for the thing I deemed to be good.

And so I’m brought back to my daughter. Annabelle. She gets hangry quite often. A delightful (not) mixture of hunger and anger. I contemplate how she and I see good so differently. But me being mom, I know what she needs. Not crumbs from the floor, she needs sustenance from my hand.

And so I get it. My a-ha moment of the day. I’m just like my daughter. And my heavenly Father being Dad knows exactly what I need. Not crumbs from the floor. No, I need the food from His hand. The goodness He sets before me.

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good… Genesis 1:3

God created light and He deemed it to be good. So He gives me light. He created the land and sea and deemed them to be good. So He gives me earth. He created vegetation and it is good. So He gives me the fruit of the tree. He created the sun and the moon and stars and every creeping, crawling, flying, swimming thing. He deemed it all to be good. So this is what He gives me. And He created man. In His image He made them male and female. And these He deemed to be not only good, but very good. So He gives me fellow man. All this is good. And this is all I need…

Fellowship with God

Relationship with man

Sustenance

And light… the Light

God gives good things like His light. And as I bask in the glory of His illumination, I see truth. That God gives and gives. It’s exactly as His word proclaims: For God so loved, He gave. And just because it appears He’s holding out on me by withholding something I desire, it does not mean He isn’t good. Or that He’s being mean. Or that He’s punishing me. Because how could I ever forget what He ultimately gave… His Son. Or what His Son did. He gave His life. Proof of love.

Oh, but I do forget! Again and again. Forgetting what took place over 2000 years ago, I look to future greener grass beyond the fence line. Just as my daughter does when she peers out over the edge of her high chair. No different than her, I continue to seek out what I don’t have. But what if? Suppose the one thing I think is good may just be a crumb. Nothing more than scraps from the floor.

And so, in light of that, I’m able to take my eyes off what I don’t have so that I can gaze upon what I do have. All the things God has stretched out His hand to give me…

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I notice the dappling sunlight upon my dewy grass. And there are sunflowers to rest my eyes upon. And a chicken coop at the edge of our trees.

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There are seeds to harvest,

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and vibrancy of color…

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A comfortable bed to lay my weary head at night,

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 and hot coffee to stir my senses in the morn.

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The coolness of fall hovers on the edge of the horizon as leaves cover the ground,

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and there are stars. A million, nighttime stars.

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I have children… nine and one.

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Annabelle’s Pa-Paw drops by regularly along with other family members.

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And last, but for sure not least, I have the love of a good man…

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

Yep, this morning, I mused over eating habits. Annabelle’s and mine. And as I take all this inside me, I wonder how I could ever prefer scraps from the floor when God places His goodness before me. And so I ingest clarity. For a table has been set in my honor. And as it slowly comes into focus, I know this is but a small handful of God’s gifts. Comprehension dawns in my soul and hunger abates. Because I realize… I am full. But not of scraps. No, God didn’t allow me, His daughter, to fill up with bits and pieces from the floor. Instead, He gave me the very best. His best. In His omnipotence, my Father filled me up better than I ever could have.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever. Psalm 23:5-6

No, my life may not be filled with everything I’d like to have. But it’s full of other stuff. The good stuff. My cup runneth over indeed, for my heavenly Father stretched out His arm and fed me. Thus, I find the answer to my original question. When I wonder what is good, I say God. God is good. And how well my soul knows it.

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God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for our food.

The Good Life

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The king asked me, “Why do you seem sad? Since you aren’t sick, you must have a broken heart! I was very afraid. Nehemiah 2:2

I ran into a lady yesterday who battles cancer. But she wasn’t downcast. On the contrary, she was all smiles. Positive. Hopeful. I’ve also noted several postings on Facebook recently requesting prayer. Yes, the “C” word again. Cancer. Amazingly, though, the common thread amongst these posts is hope. Expectation. And the good to come.

And then, of course, there’s someone special to me. A woman I’ve known for almost twenty years now. Her battle is the same. Cancer. That’s her fight. I think about her often. Just about every time I post a blog, in fact. Because like her, my focus is on internal medicine. And healing. But there’s one major difference… my illness is sickness of heart whereas hers is a disease that threatens to overtake her body. We both need to heal. Just differently. And so with every post, I think about how greatly she suffers. And how my trivial matters pale in comparison to what she endures daily.

Her difficulty is marked in my journal. July 21. “She suffers greatly.” Funny thing is you’d never, ever know it though. Because two days after this entry I visited her in the hospital and thought she seemed to be faring well. However when the nurse asked, her pain scale number proved otherwise. But I hadn’t a clue. Other than a number indicator, there was no evidence.  Which puts me in mind of the lady I saw yesterday and her smiles. Her positive demeanor. Hopeful expectation of better days to come…

There is an occasion for everything and a time for every activity under heaven… a time to be silent and a time to speak. Ecclesiastes 3:1,7

I’ll tell you the truth, I suffer from foot in mouth disease. If there’s a pause in the conversation, I feel compelled to fill the lull with words. And unfortunately, anything will do. Whatever comes to mind usually makes its to my mouth. Utterance before I can bite my tongue. But you know, I’m coming to understand that sometimes silence is preferable to sound. And there are moments when I should simply bite my tongue. Perhaps until it bleeds if necessary. Because truth is words are not always the best course of action.

Because here it is. I believe one of the worst things we can do to someone who suffers is offer careless words. Empty or false ones. Or worse yet, hopeless ones. Or how about walking on eggshells? Treating someone as if they may break. As if they’re fragile. Speaking to them in a manner that’s condescending. Patting them down like they’re children. And today, after viewing a video of a random woman who fights cancer daily, I worry I’ve been guilty of this very thing. Spouting out something to fill a void. The uncomfortable silence that can sometimes surround the “C” word. Perhaps a voiced encouragement was actually discouragement instead.

Then Job answered: I have heard many things like these. You are all miserable comforters. Is there no end to your empty words? What provokes you that you continue testifying? If you were in my place I could also talk like you. I could string words together against you and shake my head at you, but I wouldn’t. I would encourage you with my mouth, and the consolation from my lips would bring relief. Job 16:2-5

People who suffer greatly have a lot to teach people like me. Like the woman I encountered yesterday morning. So inspiring. She talked of celebrating life. And dancing at a wedding. And a dear friend of mine who lost both her parents way too soon, and who was once at death’s door herself, speaks of this often. She wants to enjoy the life she’s been given. She said someone who has it too good doesn’t appreciate what they have. They can’t even recognize the good life when it’s staring them in the face.

And then there’s my loved one. She’s the one I thought of this morning after watching a video about cancer. See, she told me in July she’s up for the fight. And I believe she really is. Because I swear she’s the strongest woman I know. She’s thankful for each new day. And she’s hopeful for the days to come. Yes, this woman knows better than anyone what the good life really is. I think that’s what “C” word taught her. Cancer.

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So my thought today is… what can I possibly say to this woman? My loved one. In light of what life has taught her already, what wisdom can I possibly provide? What feeble words can I offer? In truth, I should just hold my tongue. Because I should be the one listening. To her. To what she says out loud and to what she keeps inside. Because her very life speaks loudly. Yes, it’s true the road she’s traveled has been marked with suffering. But it’s made her wise. So wise. See, she knows very well what the good life is. And most importantly, she embraces it with both arms. It’s those fighting arms of hers. They don’t release their grip. She holds on and looks to better days. To the good life.

This is what my loved one teaches me. Today, she inspires me to close my mouth and open my eyes instead. Because in the silence, I see the truth that stares me in the face. And I recognize it’s the good life I’m looking at. It’s what I choose to embrace today.

Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. Job 2:12-13

https://www.facebook.com/HolleyKitchenCancerLifer/videos

Deep Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Let everything that breathes praise the Lord. Hallelujah! Psalm 150:6

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This is me four years ago. It was the end of August. My son’s fifth birthday. And I was full. Full of praise and fully expectant. Fully alive. I was happy. That’s because I had an awakening of sorts. My dim spirit was revived as God lifted me from the mire and the muck and made me new. Formed from the dust of the ground, He breathed the breath of life in my nostrils and I became a living being (Genesis 1:7). And a seed was planted in my heart. A calling. A prompt to write coincided with the fresh wind that filled my lungs.

August of 2011 is when I first felt it. And in the following months, I typed up endless words that surged from my heart and soul. Day and night. My energy was boundless. I wrote and wrote for no less than two years. Then I formed a blog. I wrote and wrote two years more. When He inspired me, I moved. Because it was a dream He gave me. And ultimately, that dream – and God – moved me to a huge writing conference last month. I felt assured I was supposed to be there. And yet, my heart felt dulled. My spirit suppressed. When the other women praised God with wild abandon, I stood there with hands to my side. I mumbled the words of the songs till eventually, my lips stilled altogether. I became lifeless. Breathless. And inexplicably, my heart broke right in two.

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The hand of the LORD was on me, and He brought me out by His Spirit and sat me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them. There were a great many of them on the surface of the valley, and they were very dry. Then He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel 37:1-3

I began chasing God four years ago. He was my goal. And the wonder is I found Him. And when I did, I came to life. And when His breath entered my dry bones, He awakened me to my purpose. A calling. Writing was a passion buried deep within but I’d forgotten about it. Didn’t know it lie in wait. And so for the very first time in my life, I was full of conviction. I knew the direction I was headed. However, I kind of put God to the backburner as I began chasing the dream instead.

It was the dream that led me to Concord, NC. And it was there, four years after implantation, I thought I should pluck the dream from my life. Because I quit. The writing conference tripped me up. The message I heard was come away and rest. Be alone. Quiet myself. So I thought I should put writing away altogether. You know, take a year off. Perhaps I just needed to catch my breath.

But then I came to this week. I saw something like this on Facebook…

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Truth is life will always be busy. There will always be storms of some sort. Some misty, some torrential. The art of life, though, is balance. And nimble feet… learning to dance through the puddles when you encounter them along life’s highway. And so I realize my thinking was faulty. Because putting away the very thing God placed inside me to do is not the answer. I will always have moments in which I need to catch my breath. But the wonder is, He is always there ready to give me air. When I am weak, I become strong. Because He is my strength. My source of life. My renewal.

I will cause breath to enter you, and you will live. Ezekiel 37:5

A loved one said something so dismal yesterday. He said he was discussing life with another family member and they don’t believe the golden years exist. In aging, everyone seems to be either sick or tired or depressed. And that makes me so sad. Because this is my family! And where is their hope? Where is their drive to live? Without God, and His life force, is there purpose at all? Are they really living or simply existing?

See, I believe life is a choice. You have to choose how you’re going to live it. And a piece of me knows just where my loved one is coming from. Because at times I feel sad and depressed, too. Like recent days. Just last week, my husband wanted to know when his wife was coming back. That’s because my demeanor has been reminiscent of my “animated corpse” days. This is how I was described two years ago. ( https://pamandersonblog.com/2015/03/04/a-corpse-bride-2/ ) Back then, I wasn’t living – I purely existed. Just a dry bag of bones. Seems the dryness returned…

This Summer, though, I think I just veered off course. I put away that which makes me feel most alive. And writing makes me alive. Because in this season of my soul, it’s one of my purposes. It’s what God places before me. And denying the thing He has for me to do sucks the life right out of me. And for those times when I feel I just don’t have the time to do the thing… He makes the time. If only I put Him first, He seems to pave the way. Puddles and all.

“I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them, My people, and lead you… You will know that I am the LORD, My people, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put My Spirit in you and you will live…”  Ezekiel 37:12-13

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You know, when I attended that writing conference last month, I was beat. Absolutely worn out. Dry. My time with God all but withered away so busy was I chasing my dream. And when I found myself surrounded by 800 women, singing and praising God, I just couldn’t bring myself to join in. It felt false to me. Like I was a fraud or something. After that conference, there was a retreat to plan for. Then a three day family vacation to the lake. By the time the above picture was snapped, I was utterly exhausted. And time with God was severely lacking.

But this week, I renewed my focus. And my aim. My direction became more clear when a certain Scripture captured my full attention yesterday morning. It was Psalm 42. As a deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for you. The words of a Psalmist. Deeply distressed. Disturbed. Downright depressed. However, in the midst of his trouble – or puddle – he said he would yet praise God. In other words, he would praise God anyway. No matter the circumstances.

This is my lesson. No matter the storm, or how deep the puddle, I should do the same. Oh, I may have a bad day or two. But you know, I will praise Him yet. It’s my purpose. It’s what I’m supposed to do. And if I don’t do it, His word assures me even the stones will cry out. That which doesn’t have breath will sing His praises. And here I am, full of breath but at times silent. Hands and arms stilled. But today I know the truth. I am breathing. And that in itself is worth praising. It’s just as Psalm 150 says… “Let everything that has breath praise His name.” And so, in writing, that’s what I aim to do. I praise His name. Hallelujah!

Jesus was a Handyman

I‘ve been working on a flyer for a ladies’ retreat my friend and I are planning. It’ll be a half day event for women. A little time for revival. Refreshment. Reflection. And rest. Maybe rest more than anything. It seems to be what my heart yearns for more than anything here lately. Peace and quiet. Anyway, inspiration for the occasion struck six months ago after watching a video. “A Day with Beth Moore.” Someone suggested I mention who she is on the flyer, though. So I did what I usually do. I went to Wikipedia. And for some reason, I was surprised to find the word evangelist. Author. Yes. Bible teacher. For sure. But evangelist? I’d just never seen Beth Moore in that light before. So I opted to leave evangelist out of the description.

If I want to be truthful, I’d have to say evangelist is a word I shy away from. And to be blunt, it can sometimes leave a bad taste in my mouth. Evangelist. Probably because I can put a face with the name. An oily one with slicked back hair. Or I can recall a Bible thumper who thumped me on the head just a little too hard. And frankly, there have been some television evangelists who’ve inspired me to turn the TV right off. So I didn’t want the word to deter any potential attendees from the event. Nope. I decided to leave off evangelist. Author and Bible teacher seemed safer.

However, the word came back to me today. More than once. Evangelist. So I wanted to find out if it’s in the Bible or if it’s a title we later created. But it’s there. Turns out it’s not such a bad word after all. Used twice in the New Testament. It means “a bringer of good tidings. the name given to heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles.” So that’s not so bad. An evangelist is simply one who brings a message. Good news. According to dictionary.com, a herald formerly referred to a royal messenger. Especially one representing a monarch in an ambassadorial capacity during wartime. And I just loved that. Because I couldn’t help but think of Jesus. Who He was. Royalty. And who He came to represent. God. And the condition of our land. War. And the words He spoke in His ambassadorship…

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted… Isaiah 61:1

Though Jesus technically wasn’t an evangelist, He evangelized nonetheless. Because He brought good news. Moreover, He was the good news. But it was another portion of Isaiah 61 that resonated most. Something I heard echoed by James Taylor today. When the familiar intro to Handyman filled my living room, I just wanted to savor the words. More so today than ever. So I told my son to hush (perhaps not so nicely – patience running thin). And in the listening, it was almost as if Jesus called out to me. He said, I fix broken hearts, I know I really can. And it connected. All the dots. Jesus being a carpenter. His coming to bind up the brokenhearted. Revelation dawned. Seems that Jesus was a Handyman. A fixer of broken things.

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I just have to say, I may be in need of a little fixing right now. I’m feeling a little broken down. Because I’m tired. I’ve been burning both ends of the candle for weeks and weeks and weeks. Staying busy till close to midnight most nights. My son out of school and awake till at least 10:30 or 11:00. My infant daughter waking through the night (again). Up by 6:15 and as soon as my feet hit the floor, I iron clothes because the basket is full and the closet is empty. So I’m missing something I used to have. Because with the end of school, routine has gone out the window. Along with peace and quiet. And I miss it. Or more specifically, I miss Him. And the time we used to have.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

I couldn’t help but notice all the moms at church this morning. Several stuck out in particular. Mainly the ones with the toddlers and babies. “Littles” as my cousin calls them. One looked exhausted, one harried, one continually on the move. And me. I spent most of the morning pushing Annabelle back and forth in her stroller. And it was a good morning because she let me do it. But it’s these mothers I think of today. I wonder if they feel broken down like me. Worn thin. Stretched tight. Pulled too many directions. Perhaps their hearts are in need of repair, too.

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. John:4:28-30

Yeah, I’m preparing for this women’s event. There’s the video. Food and drinks. Decorations. And music. So in the planning, it was “Come to the Well” by Casting Crowns that came to me last night. Or was it the night before? Honestly, I can’t say for certain. Time blurs together now. But the song put me in mind of the Samaritan woman. And Jesus’ interaction with her. See, she was broken, too. She needed some fixing. Basically, He came to her. He brought good news. And offered living water. Refreshment. A picture of evangelism.

Afterward, the woman left her jar. Her worries and her busyness. She went and said, “Come see.” And I just can’t help but think this woman had to be one of the first evangelists. Because she went to tell about a Man she met. His name was Jesus. She became a herald of good news. And because she did, many came to meet Him.

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5

I think about this event. About Beth Moore being an evangelist. And now I know that’s exactly what she is. Because basically, she brings good tidings. Seems that long ago, her heart needed mending. But there was a Man named Jesus. A Handyman who came to bind up the broken hearted. And after her heart was repaired, she told others about Him. About how He healed her. And after He’d whisper sweet truths in her ear, she’d share what she learned. And all her friends came running. To Him. It’s like the song by James Taylor. And like Jesus’ words in Isaiah. A Handyman.

So I second guess the flyer. Perhaps I should have left evangelist in the description. Because that’s what Beth Moore is. And what the Samaritan woman was. And really, I guess I am, too. Because though I may be going through a rough patch, stretched a little thin, I did meet a Man. My heart was broken and He fixed it. And He’ll mend it again. As often as I need it. That’s just what He does. See, He’s busy 24 hours a day. And this women’s event is really my way of sharing that good news. Seems that I’m doing the work of an evangelist after all. Telling all my friends about a Man who knew everything about me. And healed me. A man named Jesus who came to bind up the broken hearted.

Yes, I’ve been planning this 1/2 day event. And it’s the moms I watched this morning. And countless others out there. They’re who I think about. Who I hope to see. Because I can tell. They’ve been so busy. Tired. Stretched thin. And maybe their hearts need a little mending today. A few minor repairs for fixing. Like mine. Good news is, I found this great Handyman. I’ve seen His work. And He does wonders.

 

Dandelions Abound

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I can’t believe I’m doing this right now. It’s 8:30, my dad will be here in just a couple of hours and I’m not ready. Beds unmade, dishes strewn across the counter, baby toys underfoot as I walk, and me clad in pajamas. But here I sit… compelled to write. About dandelions of all things. See, I was surprised to see them yesterday.

This is what happens to the woman who works from home. And raises a baby at home. Things take her by surprise. Because she’s so wrapped up in her small world, all she sees is what’s right in front of her. Her mess. Her face in the mirror. Her unending to-do list. She easily slips into a selfish existence… because she is all she sees. Meanwhile, real life passes by on the outside as she obsesses over the unreal that takes place on the inside. Or more accurately, inside her head. Everything beyond her walls goes unnoticed. Like the appearance of dandelions.

Had bare cupboards not forced me to leave my dwelling yesterday, I wouldn’t have seen them. Dandelions everywhere. How surprised I was to discover hundreds of them alongside the road. Almost as if they popped out overnight. Of course, they could have been there for a week and I wouldn’t have noticed. And they were pretty…  little dots of yellow all along the highway. This morning, though, I see them in a different light. They seem almost competitive, interspersed among the jonquils. Oh, daffodils may tower above the dandelions as they reach upwards to the sun, but I’d say dandelions won the fight. See, there were so many of them. Taraxacum easily outnumbered the jonquil…

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Dandelions. Do you know why they’re called that? I had to look it up yesterday because for the first time I wondered why lion makes up part of its name. And according to the great world wide web, the English name, dandelion, is a corruption of the French dent de lion meaning “lion’s tooth”. It refers to the coarsely toothed leaves. Hmm… I never knew that. But in taking a closer look at the dandelion, I do see teeth. Similar to a lions…

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Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

So, here’s what I’m thinking. All these dandelions are pretty at first. But you know what? They’re really just weeds. Weeds that will take over your yard. As the lovely yellow petals fade, they become shriveled and dried. Eventually, they become this sphere of seeds that blow in the wind… spreading all over. And before you know it, your grass is filled with weeds. Big ole tufts of fully rooted, coarse leaves. Resembling the mouth of a lion, of all things.

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And you know… these dandelions seem to be a picture of what’s taking place all around me right now. Threatening in a way. Just as yellow dots overtake our yard and brush our feet, I feel as if they’re a picture of the hounds of hell popping up everywhere… nipping at my heels. Little lions roaring about seeking what they can devour. The devil’s minions blowing their seeds across my path. And in my brain. As I said earlier, too much self. Too much of my little world. Too much me. Oh, nothing big. Nothing serious. Just minor aggravations. And because I’m all I’ve been taking notice of, I’ve allowed the weeds of life to overrun my spiritual garden. Just because I let them.

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Yes, dandelions are pretty at first. Easy on the eye. But what’s left behind is ugly. And this is how the enemy works. He puts something in our path. In our mind. He takes a good thing and twists it. Something may be one thing, but in the hands of the master of deception, it appears to be something else. Especially when we interject a little too much self into the picture. We can’t see the good thing clearly anymore… taking things out of context, reality is distorted. Over analysis makes our brains foggy. At least this is what happens to me. And before I know it, bad thoughts leave me shriveled and dry. Words of life overrun by shrill complaint. And before I realize what I’ve done, I’ve blown seeds of malcontent in whatever direction my mouth faced. Spreading weeds. Resembling lions teeth. Seeking what they could devour. Killing, stealing and destroying good grass. And oh, so subtly, I become the devil’s pawn. And today, this is what really takes me by surprise. Just like the dandelions on the side of the road.

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Thankfully, I know the truth. I know that dandelions are just weeds. And as for the wiles of the devil… just weeds. I know that in the end, he loses the battle. Oh, I may allow him to gain ground in my life occasionally. But when my eyes are open, and they are, I can fight back. And the great thing is, I don’t have to do it alone. For there’s Someone who has my back. He’s a Lion, no less. The Lion of Judah fights for me. And as for the enemy, someone I care about once pointed out that he’s only like a lion. Not a real one at all. He just pretends. And schemes. And deceives. Appearance is his weapon of choice, for that’s always been of great import to him. Yes, he’s a dandy prancing about acting like a lion. He can be roaring and loud. Or subtle and smooth. Really, he’s just a dandy-lion that just needs to be pulled out of my spiritual garden. Uprooted. Or crushed underfoot…

But I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Romans 16:19-20IMG_0600

Today I have hope. Thanks to the dandelions, my eyes have been opened. To good and bad. See, I learned those weeds can actually be useful. Harvested, even. They’re edible and have healing properties. Though merely weeds, they have purpose. And so can my own weeds. My own bad, in God’s hands, have purpose. These minor aggravations can be harvested and used for the good of mankind. Somehow. Someway. He’ll use them. I just have to let Him. To begin with, I need to turn around. I need to be more aware. I need to notice what’s going on in the real world. I need to get out of my head and into reality. That way, I won’t be taken by surprise. Like I was yesterday… amazed at how many dandelions had popped up. The ones on the side of the road. And yes, even the ones inside my head.

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:20