the mama I want to be

I have three blank pages left in my journal. And that always excites me. There’s just something about cracking open a new notebook that fills me with expectancy. Not only that, I’m supposed to hear a well-known Bible teacher speak this weekend. And I just know I’ll hear from God. Because whenever I hear one of this lady’s messages, it’s as if the voice of God parts her lips to deposit fresh words directly into my listening ear.

Specific words…

Just for me.

And me being me, I put two and two together. The upcoming conference along with a new journal seemed to underscore my thinking. For surely I’ll soon have a new word and a new direction. BUT…

I don’t know if the weather is going to cooperate. Flash flood warnings may keep me from attending the conference.

What of that?!?

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My current journal dates back to mid-July. I cracked it open just before attending the She Speaks conference (a huge writing event). I was full of expectancy back then, too, as I lovingly wrote out a portion of Proverbs 31 on the front….

At the time, I wanted this to be true about me. All of it. I longed to be cloaked with strength and honor as laughter cascaded from upturned lips. And when I opened my mouth, I wanted wisdom and loving instruction to fall gently on those closest to me. Oh, how I wanted to shrewdly watch over my household. And for my son, Levi, to rise and call me blessed.

Yes, I wanted it to be true then.

And I want it to be true now.

Instead, I am me.

And me being me, I just have to think this Proverbs 31 woman can only be true in fairy tales. Because who can really do all that she does?

She

Who is she, the P31 woman? Well, the heart of her husband trusts in her. And because she is she, he doesn’t lack any good thing. She rewards him with good and not evil all her days. Furthermore, she rises while it’s still night and provides food for her household. And she’s sturdy. Her arms reveal strength.

Despite being super busy at home, the P31 woman finds time to reach out to the poor and extends a helping hand. And it’s true for her. All of it. Strength and honor are her clothing. She does laugh at times to come. And when she opens her mouth, wisdom is found as she sends forth loving instruction.

No, she’s never, ever idle. Her household reflects that. And when her sons rise up, they do in fact call her blessed. For she is indeed a woman to be praised.

Because that’s who she is. The P31 woman.

And I want to be her.

Instead, I am me.

And me being me, I compare myself to her…

Her

What does the P31 woman look like in modern times? Well, she’s ultra-cool and always looks trendy. No matter what. Good hair and shoes. No blemishes or bulges to hide.

Her laundry is always under control and her family has exactly what they need in closets or drawers. And amazingly, you can eat a piece of cake right off her floor. It’s that clean. How about that.

Yeah, her shopping cart is filled with all the right foods. Organic, no less. Veggies and whole wheat and fish and such. And when she makes a meal, the family sits together. Grace is always said out loud and bowls are passed. The family shares their highs and lows and she really listens. And when something is askew in her child’s life, she always has the right words to make things better.

Of course she recycles. It’s her responsibility. And of course her kids participate in all the programs and sports. It’s her duty to help her children become well-rounded and sociable. And despite keeping an overloaded calendar, she always seems to look rested. She stays calm and peaceful. Always.

And when her kids act up (if they act up), she knows exactly how to handle them. If the need arises, she surely knows how to administer discipline.

And for this reason, her children respect her.

They rise up and call the modern P31 woman blessed.

Oh, how I’d like to be her.

But instead, I am me.

And me being me, my life resembles none of the above. At all.

Me

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My shopping cart doesn’t look so good. Like tonight when we went to prepare for the potential flash floods and hurricane. Yep, all the necessities there.

And my house hasn’t been so clean lately. I do my best to keep stray things off the floor and yet, small pieces appear hourly. Just days ago, Annabelle found a tiny bit of dried leaf and tried to eat it. She then started gagging and choking. Honestly, I don’t think she could breathe.

So I fell on the floor beside her and she kept making retching motions. I patted her back and started screaming out, “Jesus!” And finally, it came up along with throw-up. Down her shirt, on my arm and pants. Afterward, she was fine. Me? A mess. Because I totally panicked.

A few weeks back, Levi had an ENT visit. And me being me, I tried to ultra-prepare. I actually charged an old cell phone so Annabelle would have something to entertain her while I tended to Levi and the doctor. Well, turns out you can still make a 911 call even if the phone doesn’t have a plan.

Annabelle delighted over the electronic device when the voice said, “911, what’s your emergency?” Of course, the doctor chose that moment to walk in. And me being me, I stood still for a second not sure of what to do first.

I grabbed the phone, “I’m so sorry, doctor, my daughter just called 911” The voice repeated… “What’s your emergency?” I explained. Of course, I’d tell my thirteen month old daughter that 911 is for emergency calls only. “Yes, yes, sorry and good-bye.”

Annabelle shrieked the whole time so I gave her my necklace. Another illicit toy, as I call them. This she managed to break so a hundred little beads went all over the floor of the exam room. And the doctor? He didn’t even acknowledge the chaos. Just examined my son and carried on a conversation with me as I hunched over the floor picking up beads…

indulged

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I’m taking this Bible study called Unglued. The last chapter mentioned the negative labels we carry and encouraged the reader to think of some. I thought of bad mama. That’s the badge I’ve worn for years now. Ever since Levi was young.

And though my house can be messy and my shopping cart could use a few more veggies, those aren’t the reasons I wear that badge. No, it has to do with discipline. Or rather, the lack of discipline. See, I just hate to say no. In every way imaginable.

It began when I was young. I never said no to my friends when I wanted to. Even when I knew something was wrong and feared the consequences, I chose to go with the flow. No just wasn’t part of my vocabulary. Not as a child, or a young woman, or even now as an older woman.

At forty-two, seems as if I still have trouble saying it. To myself when I want to indulge in a treat. Or to someone I want to please when I know I’m too tired or my calendar is too full. But most importantly, to my children. I’ve been remiss in using this most powerful word with them. No.

Like Annabelle and her illicit toys…

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I use whatever I can to buy me a few minutes. A watch or a toothbrush. Something to occupy her time so I can do the thing I need to do. Or want to do. I’ve resorted to phones and remotes if it’ll afford me five more minutes. However, I don’t always want her to have those things.

And so later, when I want to say no, she’ll be confused.

And then there’s Levi…

respect

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He’s the one. See, he’s already nine years old. And the truth is, he doesn’t seem to respect me very much. A few weeks back, I was on a rant… No, it wasn’t loving instruction that fell from my lips. Rather, shrill condemnation and fury. Because I was at my wit’s end.

“You don’t respect me, do you!” (me to Levi)

“No.”

“You don’t?” (surprise on my part he admitted it) “Why don’t you?”

“Because you say I don’t.”

That’s when my senses returned. He was simply repeating what I had said. So I asked if he knew what the word meant. No, he didn’t. I told him that if he respected me, he’d care about what I have to say. That my words would mean something to him. That I’d matter. And he assured me they do. And I do.

And yet, his actions and mannerisms seem to convey otherwise.

Unlike the P31 woman, my son does not rise up and call me blessed. But the thing is, I haven’t given him a reason to.

find out what it means to me

I’ve indulged my boy. From the beginning. As a tiny tot, too much TV when I needed more time to answer work emails. And as he grew, I let him get away with more than I should have. I had a light hand. Very few spankings. I said yes when I should have said no. And as time progressed, he started listening less and less.

So I got louder and louder. I began demanding that he respect me. I swear, I’ve even stamped my foot. Just like a child.

So unlike the P31 woman. So unlike the she and her I want to be.

But so much like me.

And me being me, I hear the voice of God. He whispers the word respect in my ear. For it’s tied to discipline. And the word no.

And the wonder of it all is, it means love.

Because when you use the word no, you’re really saying I love you.

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Do not despise the LORD’s instruction, my son, and do not loathe His discipline; for the LORD disciplines the one He loves, just as a father, the son he delights in. Proverbs 3:11-12

In perusing the pages of my journal, I found the word RESPECT no less than four times. So I decided to look it up in the Bible. I was led to Hebrews 12:9 which says, “Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them.” And so I see. Truth. But this isn’t the first time I’ve been here.

About six months ago, I was right here contemplating all this. My son and how I handle discipline. And back then I knew what to do.

However, I forgot what I learned…

See that you do not reject the One who speaks… Hebrews 12:25

Truth is the relationship I have with my son is so much like the relationship I have with my heavenly Father. A mirror image. I want my boy to listen to me. To acknowledge my words. And most importantly, to do what I say. But so does God.

And God told me then and He tells me now… discipline your child!

Say no!

Because no means I love you. When I say no to the donuts, I practice self-discipline and love myself. When I say no to overstuffing my calendar, I’m loving my family. And when I say no to my son, I’m loving him.

So I have a choice… I can indulge my children. Or discipline them.

I can’t help but think of her. The P31 woman. What would she do? Makes no difference, I guess. For I’m not her. I’m just me…

me being me

I’m disappointed about the weather. See, I really want to go to that event Saturday. Poised for a fresh word from God. A new journal at the ready. I wondered about that today, though. I thought why would God give me a new word when I still haven’t got the last one right. Because it was at least six months ago when He told me to discipline my child.

But you know… that’s what I did.

Today, I was firm with my son. And a weight was lifted. Because I know I did the right thing. The thing God bids me to do. Thus, I showed respect to my Father. And one day, my son will thank me for it. Because he’ll know he’s loved.

And if I continue the way I’m going, it might all come true after all. I may actually become the woman I read about. The mama I want to be.

Me will become she

And like her, I’ll open my mouth with wisdom. Faithful instruction will be on my tongue. And my children… for it’s all about them, anyway.

They will rise and call me blessed.

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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 

 

 

 

In the light

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From one man He has made every nation of men to live all over the earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live, so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. Acts 17:26-27

I’ve written extensively about the Summer/early Fall of 2010. Because as far as my relationship with God goes, that time period was a turning point. And all the years leading up to then brought me to that appointed time and place. It was in Pinehurst, NC, when I really turned to Him. Heart, mind and soul. It was a time when I sought God fervently. I threw myself into His word desperately seeking God. But alas, I turned away too quickly. And here I am today. And now, in my new boundaries, I again am desperately seeking God. And so, I live out Acts 17:27. See, in reaching out and seeking God, I found Him. And the truth about God & me is… well, in finding God, I also found myself. Because I approached Him, and I stepped into light. His light. And so, everything exposed by the light is made clear, for what makes everything clear is light (Ephesians 5:13). In seeking the truth about God, I also find the truth about myself. Thus, darkness.

Micah 7:8 is such a beautiful verse. It moves me. BUT, if I go just a bit further – things become clear.

Do not rejoice over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will stand up; though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light. Because I have sinned against Him, I must endure the LORD’s rage until He argues my case and establishes justice for me. He will bring me into the light; I will see His salvation. Micah 7:8-9

Yes, there lies the truth about my darkness. There lies the truth about God & me. And isn’t that the whole point of this blog. Telling the truth. For whatever He tells me in the dark, I shall speak in the light. Whatever I hear in a whisper, I shall proclaim on the housetops (Matthew 10:27). See, I can color it any way I want to… issues, patterns, habits, strongholds… but when it comes down to it, a sin by any other name is still a sin. This is what has been revealed to me… in the dark. All of this is beginning to make sense now. In February, start a blog (me… a blog… crazy!) And I thought that perhaps the blog would be what I had previously written… that they may know. But soon into this writing endeavor, it was clear that I had to look back. I had to go the way I came… and not that they may know, but that I may know. That I may know. The truth.

Set up road markers for yourself; establish signposts! Keep the highway in mind, the way you have traveled. Return, Virgin Israel! Return to these cities of yours. How long will you turn here and there, faithless daughter? For the LORD creates something new in the land – a female will shelter a man. Jeremiah 30:21-22

Yes, go back… the way I traveled. And that’s what I’ve been doing. Retracing steps… the steps that led me to Him in the first place. And what I see clearly is perpetual sin. See, when God shows you something about yourself – over and over and over and over again – that you should turn from, but you don’t… well simply, that’s sin. That’s dwelling in sin. And it’s a choice. And my life is proof positive that the result of choosing sin is darkness. How funny. How often I’ve written about the darkness and depression that surrounds me, and holds me, but I just didn’t know why. Well, He shows me. He has shown me. Over and over again. Through His word. And I can turn this way and that until finally, finally… I relent. And then, I repent. There’s that word. A touchy word, right? No one wants to hear it. But, it’s what the prophets of old proclaimed. It’s what John the Baptist shouted when he prepared the way for Christ, and it was the first thing our Lord and Savior preached when He began His ministry. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near! How lovely to hear that it has come near. He is near, God is near. For in Him we live and move and exist (Acts 17:28). It’s in the 17th chapter of Acts that I read, “God now commands all people everywhere to repent.”

Darkness, desert land, dry land, wilderness wandering… yes, I can color it any way I please, but if I want to tell the truth about God & me (and I do), then my darkness comes from my sin. This is my truth. But as the prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned.” Yes, morning has broken on my path, and all things are made clear. And I am tired and weary. So tired… of myself. He’s told me over and over again, go beyond me. And yet, I’ve stayed right here in my own little hole with perhaps a little too much introspection (it can make you selfish, you know). And I’ve still not turned to Him… to what He’s told me to do. And so, there lies the key to my darkness. It’s sin. And I am ready to turn from it. Because I don’t want to dwell in the darkness anymore. And this is what repentance is… turning from what you know you shouldn’t do (the darkness), and turning to Him and what He says to do (the light).

It was not long ago that I thought, “a woman shall encompass a man.” It’s referenced above (Jeremiah 30:22)… “A female will shelter a man.” This is Jesus. Mary carried Him in her womb, and he was birthed into the world. God in the form of man. And the Son of Man walked perfectly… a blameless man. He was tempted in every way that we are, and yet, He knew no sin. And yet, He took on all sin. That’s the whole point of the cross. The cross is the biggest turning point in one’s life, because it was there that Jesus took on the sin of the whole world. He died for that sin so we wouldn’t have to. And do you know what happened? From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land. As Jesus hung on that cross, cloaked in our sin, the darkness covered the land. He cried out, “My God, My God, why have forsaken Me?” See, God cannot look upon sin. But then, when Jesus finally died carrying our sin to the grave, the veil in the temple was split into – from the top to the bottom. It was this veil that separated the priests from the Holy of Holies. It was that most inner sanctuary of the temple that housed the ark of the covenant, and the mercy seat. It was there that God’s presence would appear. But, upon Jesus’ death, the veil was split. In so doing, through Jesus, we have direct access to the Holy of Holies. And His light.

Jesus took our sin to the grave. And we can be forgiven that sin. But first, we must turn from it. We must repent. In so doing, we exit the darkness and enter His light.

“This, then, is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.” John 3:19-21

Morning dawns

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God is within her; she will not be toppled. God will help her when the morning dawns. Psalm 46:5

It’s coming… the morning of my soul. I know it to be true, for He speaks to me through His word. And He helps me along my way. You see, I’ve been reading through my old journal… my first journal. And not coincidentally, it ends on July 19, 2011. Two years ago. And what I find written in my own hand is somewhat condemning. Because I find that I listed out strongholds. And what held me captive two years ago still holds me captive today. In that regard, not much has changed. This morning, I actually wrote out the word strongholds, bolded and doubly underlined. I know what they are. I know what I’m up against. And so, I know what my fight is. But you know… that’s half the battle right there. Knowing.

Do you know what a stronghold is? According to the dictionary, it’s a well-fortified place… a fortress. And so, it’ll take strength to overcome what holds me. Strength that I don’t possess. But, it’s not by human strength that I’ll overcome… and God tells me that He’ll help me. It’s through His strength, that I’ll gain victory. It’s Psalm 46 that gives me hope. I write out the Psalms every day, but I personalize them. I write them out according to how I feel. And you can imagine how encouraged I was when I came across Psalm 46:7 this morning. It was after I had written out my strongholds when I read… The LORD of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. And again, repeated in verse 11, the LORD of Hosts is my stronghold. Yes, it may be true that I have some things to overcome in life. And although they’re strong, He is stronger. He tells me to not fear:

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Some may think, how do you know that to be true. If I am writing about perpetual darkness, and still remain in the same rut I was in two years ago, what’s changed? How has God helped me thus far? And I can answer with assurance, infinitely. Immensely. For within the past two years, I am coming to know my God in a way I never have before. He’s not just something I do or think about at church on a Sunday. He’s with me. He’s real to me. He’s in my thoughts. And He speaks to me… I hear Him when He calls. And despite the bad… the strongholds that still hold me… there is good. So much good. In reading my old journal, I find that I have overcome one of my strongholds. I have gained a victory, and it was through His strength. And so, I am confident that I will gain ground in the other areas of my life. For He is within me. I’ll not be toppled. And it’s His righteous right hand that holds me up.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?  Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39

Do you see? It is Christ who is at the right hand of God. It is Christ who will keep us upright. It is through His strength I can do all things. So I echo what I wrote last night, “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will Rise!” Micah 7:8. I know I will. Because when I look back over the course of my life, I can see. I am not who I once was. I have changed. And it’s because of God. No matter how many times I stumble, He lifts me. And the reality is, if I let Him fight the battle for me (rather than in my own feeble strength), victory will come. This is part of the journey… letting God fight for me.

The truth is we have many battles. We have many enemies. This is just life. But He is with us. Let Him fight for us… let Him be our strength:

“Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged before the king of Assyria or before all the multitude with him, for there are more with us than with him. He has only human strength, but we have the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” 2 Chronicles 32:7-8

Light of men

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With me, it began with His word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:1-5. How beautiful are His words. And how beautiful is He, for He is the Word. And He is the life. He is the light of men and He shines in the dark, for darkness could not hold Him.

The Word. God’s word. I feast on it. And thus, I feast on Jesus. But I haven’t always. No, for so long I nibbled on bits and pieces of Him. But eventually, bits and pieces grew to a steady diet. And now, I cannot get enough of Him. Because the more I read, the more I know about Him. And His word is transforming. See, through the pages of Scripture God begins to speak to us… directly and individually and specifically. And that’s where it all began with me. Reading the word. Reading Jesus.

It was three years ago that I had had enough. Enough of me. It was a turning point, really. And so, I sought God fervently… through His word. And He spoke volumes to me. For it was through the pages of Scripture that I found out what I needed to do to move from where I was. In order to move away from me, and the darkness, I had to purpose to know Him in my heart. I had to determine it, and then, move towards the light… towards Him. Because if I wanted to know God, it wasn’t just going to magically happen. I had to participate…

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10

This verse was a life-changer. But three years ago, I had a different version of the Bible. And then, I read it in light of God. Father God. But now, I see. To know Father God, I must first know His Son. That’s the only way to know God, for Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. And that’s what this journey is all about. See, upon finding Philippians 3:10 so long ago, I didn’t really know what I was asking for when I claimed that verse. Honestly, I simply purposed to know God… aside from His Son. But, oh, to know Christ is to know God. For they are One and the Same. And to know Christ… I mean really know Him… we must follow Him. All the way. And when we do, we begin to put off our old self. We begin to transform as we put on a new self who is renewed according to the image of Him who created us. Colossians 3:10. But this can be painful. For in order to be resurrected, we must first die. And just as Jesus suffered, so shall we. And not just in an eternal, end of life kind of way. No, it’s a daily thing.

I think most of us have heard, “WWJD.” What would Jesus do? Some people wear it on a bracelet, or a necklace. And it’s a nice thought… Jesus would help someone in need, or He would be kind to an unlikeable person, or He would heal the sick. You know all those great things Jesus did. But in reality, Jesus came to die. Ultimately, that’s what He did. He died for us. He put His life last, and put us first. That’s what Jesus did then, and that’s what He would do today. He died, and He expects us to do the same. The truth about God & me? I don’t want to die. Not all the way. Not like He did. I’m too selfish. The truth? All this darkness that surrounds me? Well, there’s layers to it. And one layer for certain is my selfishness. The darkness in which I dwell? Well, I’m still in the tomb. But that’s okay, for I know that I know that I know that He’s working on me. I will be resurrected. And here on earth, too, not on the other side of eternity. It’ll happen here where people will witness my resurrected life. Like Lazarus. Whatever suffering I may endure is simply me dying… to me. Following Jesus unto death. It’s what He would do. It’s what He did. For us.

It was Sunday morning as I walked up the steps to my church that a random thought came to me… “A woman shall encompass a man.” It wasn’t much later that my Sunday School teacher took us to Jeremiah 31. Although we read about the New Covenant, my eyes fell to verse 22… For the LORD creates something new in the land – a female will shelter a man. This is the verse that came to me earlier… different version. That day, I thought God was just telling me His eye was upon me. He saw me. But now, I wonder if it was something more…

Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.  A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child,she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. John 16:20-22

Labor is painful, but a new life bursts forth. Anguish and pain will turn to rejoicing. In the same way, dying to self is painful. But, new life bursts forth. We’ll receive beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning. WWJD? He would suffer, and He would die. But He would also burst forth – new life. Remember… He told us these things so that we would have peace. He said we would have tribulation, but to be of good cheer… for He had overcome the world. John 16:33.

You see, with me, it began with His word. And through it, I found that life was in Jesus, and that He was the light of men. I found that He shines in the darkness, and that darkness did not overcome Him. And it will not overcome me, either. For I’m following Jesus. I, too, shall overcome.

Do not rejoice over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will stand up; though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light. Micah 7:8

In the dark

Storm

I’m not sure how many more blogs there will be. Because it seems as if this blog has been a journey. And perhaps at some point and time, I may actually find my way. I’ve had that feeling several times now. Once, I even typed up a “Gone Fishin'” blog, and was ready to “hang it.” But, more words came. And I guess the reason I mention a possible ending is because of all the darkness. I keep going back to “dark times.” But you know, I think I already know the answer to the darkness. I’m quite sure God has told me what to do about that. But oddly, I see ahead to more twists and turns of this blog. And as I’m being led along, it appears that I’m in a holding pattern of sorts… for now. See, the light shines and beckons me. And if I can just make it there, I’ll be okay. I creep closer and closer, and drag myself to the edge of light, but then something sends me off in another direction. Delayed.

You know, I wrote a book in the fall of 2011. It’s my story… all about God & me. And at first, it was titled, “From Darkness to Light… that they may know.” But the funny thing was, the light was still out of reach. Because on the heels of writing it, I sank to such a depth of darkness, it took some time to rise above it. And so, it was last summer that I rewrote my story. As a matter of fact, I believe it was in July… one year ago. And so, the second draft was called, “My True Deliverance… Wilderness Wanderings of a Modern Day Woman.” And here I am today, still writing my story. But this time, through blog format. And what’s apparent to me today is that I’m still walking in the dark. And despite my best efforts, I persist in wandering through the desert. And so, I wonder. Perhaps what I originally thought was an offering to God… a standing stone to memorialize what He has done for me… is actually my “Farewell.” Because I am writing about what’s closest to my heart and mind. It’s everything that’s important to me… and it’s what I want for my son, and for my family, and for my friends to know. It’s everything I would want to pass on to those I care the most about. My fare ye well, so to speak.

This is what the LORD says: 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

Do you know what the Arabah is? It’s desert. And this is such a picture of me. For there is still this part of me that places my trust in human flesh. There is still part of me that turns from God. And so help me, I cannot see the good when it comes. I have been dwelling in a parched place, a lonely place, a dark place… but it’s really my own doing. But you know what. I feel more hopeful right now than I have in a long while. I feel the stirrings of revival down deep in my soul. And I can sense the warmth of His light filtering through haze. Yes, hope is taking root. And it’s good.

You know… God called His people out of Egypt. He delivered them from slavery, and made Moses their leader. And after a dramatic deliverance from the Egyptians through the Red Sea, God led His chosen people through the desert on a journey to the land of promise. And at first, the people sang praises to God. But it only took a few days before praise turned to complaint. And then, complaint turned to distrust and disobedience, which kept them wandering the desert for 40 years. And it was through their wilderness wanderings that the children of Israel discovered just how much they needed God.

And then… there’s me. I felt that God delivered me from a place I didn’t want to be, and led me directly into my promised land of Virginia. But in looking back, I can see what really happened. For the footsteps that led me to my hometown really deposited me into the middle of a desert land. Because that’s how I’ve been living the past three years. I’ve been dwelling in a parched land, despite being in the very place I wanted to be more than anything. I could not see the good when it came. And so, praise turned to complaint, and then to distrust, followed up by disobedience to God! And thus, I am in the dark. And thus, God feels distant. And so, it’s here… in the midst of my wandering that I realize the truth. I know how very much I need Him. Because nothing else will work. Nothing. Because when you’re in the dark, well, quite obviously… you need a light. Eventually, you simply get tired of walking blindly.

And here’s the best part… I once was blind, but now I see. And because my sight is restored, I finally realize… there’s purpose to this darkness. See, if I never experienced the dark, how would I ever recognize the light? And the darker the days, the brighter His light burns. And so finally, this wretched soul can see. Because there is light… His light. And because His light is within me, I find that my dark is not so dark after all. And I finally understand that God has been here with me this whole time. Not just in the good times, but also in the center of the storms. He’s here in the midst of the darkness… right here with me… simply waiting for my eyes to adjust.

All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain surrounded by smoke. When the people saw it they trembled and stood at a distance. Moses responded to the people, “Don’t be afraid, for God has come to test you, so that you will fear Him and will not sin.” And the people remained standing at a distance as Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:18, 20

The people feared the thunder and lightning. The dark smoke intimidated them, and so they stood at a distance. But not Moses… He knew it was God. He knew God’s nature, and did not fear the storm. And so Moses went forward… and approached the thick darkness where God was. God was in the darkness. And so, when I have those moments, I must remember. He’s with me… in the dark. And there’s purpose. It’s so that I’ll really see Him. Because when I’m at my darkest, His light shines the brightest. This is when I need Him the most.

And so, like Moses, I shall not fear the storm. Because I know God is in the midst of it. And the purpose of the dark is so that I’ll learn to trust Him. Because when I’m at my darkest, it’s then that I realize nothing else will do. Nothing but Him. Because I need Him, I’ll turn to Him. His light will draw me. For God does not intend for His children to walk in the dark. No, He calls them out of the darkness… into light.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of the darkness into His marvelous light. 2 Peter 2:9

Farewell…

stars

“I am now going the way of all the earth, and you know with all your heart and all your soul that none of the good promises the LORD your God made to you has failed. Everything was fulfilled for you; not one promise has failed.” Joshua 23:14

Joshua spoke the above words to the children of Israel. He had served God well, and led the Israelites into the promised land. But alas, he knew his time was coming to an end. He himself said, “I am old, getting on in years…” And so, he was fortunate in that he could leave behind some words of wisdom for his fellow people. Before his body returned to the earth… ashes to ashes and dust to dust… he was able to say what was on his heart. See, the above was part of his farewell address. And farewell is a term you don’t hear too often in the modern age… “May you fare well until we meet again.” Perhaps it sounds a bit old fashioned, but in reality, it’s beautiful. Because farewell is really an opportunity to express good wishes before parting. Farewell is really the chance to say goodbye. Farewell is an ending… and the time to say something to someone who you may never see again. Fare ye well… And so, Joshua chose to do just that. And before he died, he reminded his people of God’s goodness. He reminded them that God keeps His promises.

Tonight, I was surrounded by people who didn’t get the chance to say “Farewell.” Because sadly, a man died too young… it was unexpected, and so, there were no good-byes. There were no last I love you’s. And there was no opportunity for this man to say what was on his heart and mind, had the opportunity presented for a farewell speech. And so, broken hearts abound.

But you know… God is close. So close. And His word is full of promise. It says: The LORD is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18), and, Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4). And Jesus Himself said He was sent to heal the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18). And as Joshua exhorted his own people, I shall exhort mine… For it’s true that none of the good promises the LORD God has made shall fail! Everything He said shall be fulfilled and not one promise shall fail!

See, God is close… so close. And He can hear hearts breaking all around tonight. But He’s the One who can piece each one back together again… for He created the heart. And it’s God, the maker of a million stars, who can fit a million broken hearts into His hand. Because He’s so near… that’s a promise.

And as for me, I shall bid ye farewell, until we meet again…

Too full to see

The below content was written on June 23, 2013. Somehow, in rereading and updating, I’ve turned it into a draft again. It’s disappeared from my published blogs and I don’t want to lose it… thus, I’m going to publish again.

Maybe this is God’s plan, though.

See, it captures exactly how I feel this day, over four years later. I look at the eyes of my little boy and ache. Because he’s not so little anymore. And I ache because the lesson didn’t take with me. Instead of stillness, I became busier. And I missed so much. And not just the wonder of God’s creation. Sadly, I missed the wonder of my sweet boy.

Sigh.

Anyway, I read this about a week ago. Not sure why, I just did. And lo and behold, the Psalm I used within this blog came up not just once but twice this week.

First reading was yesterday at our breakfast table as we discussed Romans 1:20. That verse inspired me to turn to Psalm 19. Then this morning, coincidentally (not really a coincidence), both Psalm 19 and Romans 1:20 were referenced in a book I’m reading. When I saw those words, I was once more awed at the complexity of God and how He weaves together life to get His message across.

The message being stillness. A caution to slow down.

In fact, I heard the same from Him last week as I did laundry with my daughter. She’s three now. I had thrown socks and underwear into the bottom of the basket but laid out other items across the top so as to avoid wrinkles. In my daughter’s haste, she kept trying to get to the stuff underneath, threatening to mess up the smoothed out clothing on top.

I cautioned her, “Wait.” And then again, “Wait.” But she didn’t listen. That’s when I spoke sharply. “Wait! That means stop doing what you’re doing! You’re going to undo what I’ve already done!”

Perhaps a little more wording than Annabelle’s toddler mind could ingest, but most assuredly those words were not intended for her anyway. No, they were for me.

Yep, to my soul I believe God was cautioning me through my own lips.

“Wait,” He said. And again, “Wait.” But I wasn’t still enough to hear Him. That’s when He got firm with me. God issued His warning…

“Wait! That means stop doing what you’re doing!”

The fact is I’ve been busier than I should be. Always in motion and always going too fast. Because see, He’s doing a work inside me. A work that will require a little more time and a lot more stillness. And if I rush the process, I may undo all He’s already accomplished.

And so, I believe the message in the below blog – Too Full to See – will really take this time. I believe what God has been trying to tell me for so many years has finally – finally – penetrated my dull ears and hardened heart.

Yes, Lord, I hear what you’re saying. You want me to stop. To stand still and see. To observe. You want me to recapture the wonder of You. But also, You don’t want me to miss what’s right before me…

There’s wonder #1 and wonder #2. And their names are Levi and Annabelle.

Yes, Lord, I hear you now.

I really, really do.

Too Full to See – June 23, 2013

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The past two weeks have been full… so full. It was last Friday when I came home to a full sink, a full hamper and a full inbox. And today, I sent well over a hundred emails for work. In my kitchen, I have four full buckets of produce for canning. That’ll be my task for tomorrow. And right now, I am bone weary.

All I can see is what lies before me…

And tonight, honestly, all I feel is tired. But this morning, I felt differently. It was then I tasted a bit of God’s word. And it was what I read at daylight that’s been hovering on the outer edges of my brain all day. It’s what I’ve been wanting to simmer in all day. But I couldn’t stay there… in His word. No, I had to move on.

Chores to do, job commitments, and a son to raise. Life entered the holy hush of the morning, and it hasn’t been quiet since. Not till now.

I’ve come to the conclusion the way we live our lives today cannot be part of God’s plan for us. Our daily schedules are much too full. And for the life of me, I cannot seem to find the exit ramp from the fast lane. Try as I might, I cannot seem to eliminate the busyness. And thus, my days stay full. Thus, I can’t see!

Because life is too full to see, I don’t glimpse the wonder of a holy God.

No, all I can focus on are the dishes, and the paperwork, and the dirty clothes. And sadly, I lose the wonder of life. Because life is a blur. I move way too fast to behold the glory of each moment. And so, I’ve decided. I want it back.

I want the wonder back in my life.

The past few months, I’ve watched at least 150 Andy Griffith shows. And it’s awakened a hunger within me. It’s the call of simplicity I hear in the distance and it’s what I crave. Episode after episode, I watched Andy Taylor sitting on his front porch, slowly strumming his guitar. I watched his friends join him in song. I watched him take time to explain things to his son. I watched, and ached, for that life-style. And unfortunately, it’s truly a thing of the past.

Not often will you find people sitting around the front stoop singing songs and enjoying life. No more can we stop and smell the roses… or more importantly, the Rose of Sharon. Simply, we’re much too busy.

It was parade night last week and even that awakened something deep inside. Sadness, perhaps? Or nostalgia… because a parade is not what it once was. At least not in our small town.

See, I eagerly looked forward to the carnivals when I was a child. And parade night was the best. So many people, so many smells. Lights and sirens. And the best part of the parade was the thumping of the drums you could feel inside your chest. But the last few parades I’ve attended had no high school bands. And not many majorettes. This type of parade is becoming extinct.

And so, I’ve lost the wonder of it.

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But my son… he still has it. His eyes sparkled and shone with anticipation. He could hardly contain his giggles and ran around in circles when it was time for the parade. Yes, my son still holds the wonder of life. He still basks in the pure pleasure of each day. And this is what I want… what he has.

I want to bottle up how he feels and drink deeply. I want to remove myself from the fullness, and the busyness, so I can see. Oh, God, please help me to see the wonder of it all. In the midst of each day, help me to stop. Help me to gaze upon Your creation with new eyes. Help me to see – to really see – the wonders of this world. And the wonder that You are…

In Habakkuk 1:5 we read, “Look at the nations and observe – be utterly astounded! For something is taking place in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it.” And that’s it right there. Look. Observe. But this takes time.

See, we can hear about something all day long. But when we have firsthand knowledge of it (whatever it may be), it changes us. If we want to live fully and abundantly, as He so intends, then we must look and see and observe. We must pay close attention to this thing called life. Otherwise we may miss it all. And that would be a shame. That’s not what God has in store for His children. No, He wants us to be like our very own offspring… full of wonder.

God doesn’t want us to be so full of busyness that we miss His awe-inspiring works. He wants us to witness just how majestic and holy and wonderful He truly is. But first, we must pause our hectic lifestyles and drink in what lies before us.

His creation.

If we stay still long enough, and open our eyes wide enough, just maybe we’ll see what He wants us to see.

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The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. Psalm 19:1-4 (NKJV)

 

Made for More

You know, God speaks through His people. And it was through another blogger, a lady named Annie, that God reminded me of why I write. I do it because I want to encourage people. I want to write about my ups and downs with God… the truth about God & me… so that others will be encouraged when they’re feeling discouraged. Annie mentioned Hebrews 10:25… And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. She said in meeting together (through Facebook, blogs, etc.), we can do just that. We can encourage one another. And so, although I recently lost my way and forgot why I was doing what I do, I am slowly finding my way back. And I remember… I write to encourage. That’s why I do what I do.

And this is what struck me today. Not a new thought, I’m sure, but it hit me in a fresh way. Probably because I was surfing through Facebook, and so many things caught my eye. All different postings, but a common theme in all. Here are a few examples… “When all you’ve got left is being strong~~~you’ve got to find a little faith to fall back on…” This posted by a friend who has two boys, both with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. “Always remember that your present situation is not your final destination. The best is yet to come,” followed by the words, “I hope so.” This from my loved one who just had her second kidney removed. She’s undergoing dialysis for at least two years, at which time she’ll be eligible for a kidney transplant – if she remains cancer free. “In this world, you will have trouble; but take heart, I have OVERCOME the world.” This shared by a friend that I know has overcome difficulty in her life. “Open house this Sunday… please share, we need to sell our house.” This posted by my sister-in-law. “Lord, I bring to You my burdens and You know my situation. You know I can’t make it without You. Comfort my heart, give me strength and help me carry on.” This on a woman’s page that I knew as a young girl. Her daughter used to be my good friend… she died in a car accident on her 21st birthday. One friend from my youth posted, “Pulled out all of the stops to make Easter everything it always has been…..problem this year is that something very important was missing…..SOMEONE very important….first Easter without my mom….missing her terribly today……” My other good friend replied to that one, as she was missing her own mom and dad. My cousin shared a poem written for her mother who died almost a year ago. And one posting struck me because of its simplicity. It said only, “Every storm runs out of rain…….” I don’t know what she’s going through, but it’s something.

God makes us, that’s true. But as we’re being made, we go through struggles. We’re not guaranteed a smooth ride just because we’re His. On the contrary, we’re promised trouble. But whether it’s something huge or something small, what we can be sure of is that God can use it. In some way. It’s the rough patches we endure that enable us to empathize with each other. It’s the hard times that allow us to rejoice in the good. It’s the struggles that refine us. And you know… it’s the rough times I mentioned above that God uses to make us into what He wants us to be. He uses our bad for His good. And the good presents itself as we’re strengthened through the battle. The good is seen when we overcome. And good abounds when we use our own struggles as a way to encourage one another. It’s after a trial that we’re made by God. And it’s either through or after the battle that we can begin to walk in the good works He’s prepared for us. That’s what the apostle Peter did. Jesus knew Peter would stumble, and so He said, “When you return to Me, strengthen your brethren.” And so He did. And so shall I.

I’m somewhat ashamed to call what I go through a struggle. It severely pales in comparison to the very real battles fought every day by those I’ve mentioned above. But nevertheless, I do struggle. Because I ache inside. No matter how hard I try, I cannot escape dark periods. I’m filled with longing, and battle something that I can’t even place a name to. The only thing I know for certain is that I fight. I struggle with the darkness that hovers on the edge of my peace… just about every day. And so this tells me… I’m made for something more. I know that God will use me somehow and in some way. Because I ache today. And there will be some tomorrow that He’ll use it. When the time is right, I will overcome. And it will be right on time, because God does not delay. He’ll deliver me when He’s ready to use me… for His purposes. This is why He made me.

And to the one who is going through a storm just hoping for that rain to stop… take heart. God will use your pain. In some way. You’re made for more, too.