In Pieces

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This is Annabelle’s Valentine to us. “I love you to pieces,” it says. Of course, someone wrote that for her (she’s only three). My thoughts today, though? I wondered if “I love you in pieces” would be more clear in conveying a true love message. At least my message…

Yes. That sounds right. I love you in pieces.

Let me explain.

It started yesterday with Stevie Nicks when her song “Crystal” came to mind. So darn beautiful. And some of the lyrics are so moving. Haunting and stirring all at once.

“Special knowledge, holds true bears believing. I turned around and the water was closing all around like a glove, like the love that had finally, finally found me. Then I knew in the crystalline knowledge of you…”

I’m sure she sings of her love for a man. Here on earth. True love, perhaps. Real love. Because no doubt, these words tell of a woman in love. And it being nearly Valentine’s Day, I’m not surprised the song came to me. Uncanny in its timing.

Thus, it prompts me to look back at my own love story…

And the real love I have for him.

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This picture came from Jason’s step-mom’s house after she’d passed on. Cissy kept the photo in a little white frame shaped like a heart. I kept it on my chest of drawers till the day it was knocked onto the floor. That’s when the porcelain heart shattered into pieces. The heart was broken and the picture came out exposing what lay underneath. It was this image of a slightly younger Jason and me.

But only by a couple of years.

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Truly, this is where our love story began. Here. I met Jason in Georgia and followed him home to North Carolina. I was the visitor who never left. And because of Jason, my man, I met another guy who I later fell in love with. His name?

Jesus Christ.

But the love I feel for Jesus now was slow in coming. Real slow. It didn’t happen 21 years ago when I voiced a prayer in February. Yes, this month marks 21 years since I was saved.

Funny thing is after I said that prayer all those years ago, nothing happened. Nothing miraculous occurred in my heart. Thus, I didn’t really want to tell anyone about it. Because what would I say? What could I say? I prayed a prayer and nothing happened and now I’m going to church.

And I have to chuckle as Stevie Nicks croons, “do you always trust your first initial feeling…” Because if I’d trusted my first initial feeling after praying that “sinner’s prayer,” I would have left church and never looked back. As I said, I didn’t feel a thing. Zilch.

But that was then.

Twelve years later, something did happen in the month of February, though. I’d been a Christian for over a decade and yet, it was the first time I felt a heartbeat. A thudding like I’d never noticed before. It was just before Valentine’s Day and I knew God wanted me to tell my story.

In truth, there wasn’t that much to tell back then. I strung together my words and formed a love story… a picture of a relentless God pursuing me. And finding me. And it was true, as best as I could tell it. But there was so much I didn’t know back then.

So much I couldn’t know.

Frankly, it’s absolutely shocking how much I didn’t know when I opened my mouth twenty one years ago to ask Jesus to forgive me of my sins and save me. Incredible I didn’t know what lay buried inside me the first time I gave testimony of my Lord and Savior nine years ago.

But now, I know.

Now I know truth…

Before you were formed in the body of your mother, I had knowledge of you. Jeremiah 1:5 (BBE)

Today was the first time I read that particular version of the above. And maybe it’s because I was already moved by the lyrics of a soulful singer proclaiming special knowledge, but this Scripture really touched me in a new way. It was so personal.

See, I was a Christian nine years ago when I first gave testimony of Jesus. However, I was stale. In truth, I didn’t really know Him. Not as I do today. So I prayed to. It was roughly eight years ago when I purposed to know Christ. To become more intimately acquainted with Him (Phil 3:10).

And God answered that prayer. He did so in bringing me back to my hometown. Because here, I couldn’t pretend anymore. No, when you’re back to where you came from, all those things you thought you left behind come finding you. They come to the surface.

God had special knowledge of me. He knew what it would take for me to come to know Him, so He brought me home to where the mask came off. And He knew that when I came to know Him, I’d also come to know myself. And this was key to me loving my husband…

I had to know who I was, and am, in order to love Jason the way a wife should.

Yes, may you come to know His love – although it can never be fully known – and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Ephesians 3:19

I think back to the young girl I was in the picture Cissy kept. Truth is, I didn’t even know who I was when I married Jason. I had no original thought or direction of my own. I even let the pianist choose a song for our wedding because I didn’t know what I wanted. And I hated it. Though I didn’t know myself, I knew enough to know the song wasn’t me.

Another thing I didn’t know was that I possessed a broken heart. It was shattered into pieces and I hadn’t a clue. Not twenty one years ago when I prayed a prayer, or nine years ago when I gave a testimony, or even as recent as a couple of years ago. Oblivious to what lay inside me.

No, I didn’t know me and I for sure didn’t know I had a broken heart. Thus, there is no way I could love Jason fully. I just wasn’t capable of true love. Not the real, sacrificial kind.

But God knew what I needed. He knew I needed a Savior. And mostly, I needed saving from myself. Thus, He sent His Son. For me. The Spirit of the Lord God was upon Jesus. He was anointed and commissioned… to bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted.

To bind up the wounds of my broken heart.

And this is what I can testify to now. Because I know He came for me. He soothed my broken heart. And He’s fixing it piece by piece. That’s why I think the Valentine should say, “I love you in pieces.” Because every single day a piece of my heart finds healing. And every day a piece of me is healed, I’m that much better at loving my man.

I can’t lie… the process has been slow. But every year it gets better. I love my husband more and more and I love him so much better than that broken, young woman ever could have.

Yes, I love Jason in pieces.

Each day, my love for him grows, measured in bits and pieces.

As for the gift of special knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophecy in part (for our knowledge is fragmentary and incomplete). But when that which is complete and perfect comes, that which is incomplete and partial will pass away… Now I know in part (just in fragments) but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known (by God). Portions of 1 Corinthians 13

Turns out, my testimony today is not so different than the one I’d given nine years ago. It still tells of a relentless God who pursued me. The One who found me. And when I hear Stevie Nicks sing of the love that finally found her, I can’t help but think of God.

Because not only did He find me, He really saved me. I just couldn’t name what He’d saved me from all those years ago. Because it hadn’t happened yet. I didn’t know Him and I didn’t know me and I didn’t know my broken heart.

But that comes in time. If I convey any message tonight, may it be that. That sometimes, it’s not an immediate fix. Sometimes, it takes years and years. And that’s okay.

One of the most comforting verses in the Bible to me is 1 John 4:16. It says “we have come to know (by personal observation and experience) and have believed (with deep consistent faith) the love which God has for us.”

Come to know isn’t immediate. And that’s how it happened with me. I came to know Him over the course of time. And He loved on me bit by bit. And oh, how He’s been loving on me this past year. Yes, it’s true that God’s healing my broken heart. Only, He does so in bite size pieces. Slowly, He’s mending me through His true love.

His real love.

That’s what He’s doing for me. That’s what He wants to do for you. Because that’s just who He is. He is love.

God is love.

And if you haven’t found this God yet, the One true God who is love, I pray that you do. I pray this Valentine’s Day, you find real love for perhaps the very first time…

Your One True Love.

God showed how much He loved us by sending His One and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)

As for me, there’s a little more healing yet to come. Alas, a few broken pieces remain. However, I remain hopeful. Ever hopeful.

And as for Jason, I could definitely love on him better. I still have those days. But it’s coming. Some good full loving is coming. That’s because I have special knowledge of the Lord. Oh, it’s not crystalline. I still look through a mirror dimly. But, I see better than I once did. And now, I know. At least in part, I do.

I know Him.

And I know me.

I’ve come to know us both in pieces.

Bits and pieces.

And with each piece, I love not just my husband better, but the whole wide world…

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

 

If it ain’t broke…

The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick – who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

I saw a random video last week and it startled me. A clip from an HBO show in which three parties took turns responding to college students’ questions. A pretty girl stepped up… “Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?” There were a few fluffy answers such as diversity and opportunity and freedom. But one guy shocked everyone in the room. He said America is not the greatest country.

The man used statistics and facts to backup his reasoning. He continued by saying he didn’t know what in the f*** people were talking about when they say America is the greatest country. He had my unswerving attention by that point, I can tell you. Thus, his summation was loud and clear, practically reverberating in my ear. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. Without a doubt, I knew God wanted me to take note of that statement.

On the heels of this video, a question arose in my mind. “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” I learned it’s a philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and knowledge of reality (according to Wikipedia). Basically, can something exist without being perceived? For instance, is sound only sound if it’s heard?

An interesting concept in light of the recent America speech I absorbed, so it’s a direction I’m willing to travel this morning. Because I wonder… if a problem isn’t perceived, is there one? Or better yet, rather than contemplating the state of our country and the trees outside my backyard, how about focusing inward instead. To matters of the heart. Because therein I find a new question… If a woman doesn’t perceive her own heart is broken, is it broken at all? And if the bearer of said heart never heard the clanging of it’s shattering pieces, did it make a sound at all?

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I was fine a month ago. Ready to take on the world. Confident, expectant, and excited. I had just finished all my preparation for a writing conference… a book proposal and a one sheet. It was all consuming, but a necessary step. See, I think there’s a book inside me. One that will help other women who need healing. Women who battle feelings of inferiority and insignificance. Because that’s my story. And one month ago, I thought I’d overcome it all.

But after meeting with an editor, my confidence waned. And by the time mid-afternoon rolled around, I felt like the air had been let out of my tire. Most assuredly, I was not looking forward to dinner and the evening session. Alas, I’d already dropped a big chunk of change on the trip so I had to go. I was late to dinner so every table was pretty full and I had to find a place amidst a sea of strangers. I asked if anyone was sitting in a seat and though the person seemed reluctant, it was offered.

Minutes later, a pretty, thin woman sat next to me and I realized she’d been saving my seat for someone else. But she was gracious. And as we chatted, I couldn’t help but notice how incredibly laid back and utterly relaxed she was. Ultra cool and nerves didn’t seem to touch her. In contrast to my publisher’s meeting, hers went well. Very well. In fact, she planned to blow off the evening session so she could polish off her book proposal. Yes, her editor wanted to see hers. Not only that, the conference was kind of an afterthought. She decided to check it out while she was home for a visit. Not so with me. I put a great deal of thought into it… should I or shouldn’t I?

As we shared our tales, she made a remark about certain type of women with their large jewelry and loud ways. And there I sat, from the very same region, with my very large earrings dangling. Her ears and wrists were bare and she donned a simple necklace. In contrast, I felt like a big oaf. Frumpy. Old. Foolish. And as she slid away from me to interact with another person at our table, I felt it all. Sharply. My heart was pierced. I was rejected in favor of another. Unwanted. Not chosen. And this was the point I regressed to a ten year old. Smiling when I felt like crying. Trying to look like it didn’t matter when it mattered more than anything else.

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Finally the infernal dinner was over and it was time for the evening session. And can you believe it? They opened with “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cindi Lauper. This being a hit from my fifth grade year. I swear it was 1983 all over again. Only this time, I wasn’t in the cafeteria surrounded by cooler kids. I was sitting in a nice banquet room surrounded by women way more competent than me. More appealing. That’s when tears singed my eyes. My lashes concealed them and the smile faded from my face. I stood there, stone faced, while 800 women danced and sang and laughed.

Oh, blessed relief when we sat down for business. And the speaker was good. Inspiring. And incredibly, she brought a smile to my face. A laugh from deep within. But then she got serious. She recounted a story of a friend’s heartfelt prayer. The woman cried out, “God, remember me?” And that’s when my insides fissured. That was the moment I knew my heart was broken indeed. Moreover, it had been broken for a long, long time. Ever since 1983. In reality, I wasn’t fine like I thought I was. Never had been. I was not the woman I depicted in my one sheet. And rather than being in a position to help women heal, I found myself in need of healing.

Sticks and stones…

We’ve all heard it, right? Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt me. What a lie that is. For sure sticks and stones break bones but words are so powerful. Because they break your insides. And careless words from another can haunt you for the rest of your life. At least if you allow them to. It appears that’s what I did.

You know, my husband is so good to me. He’s always trying to build me up and pays me compliments pretty often. But the thing is I never believe him. I always shrug them off. No, you’re just saying that. No I’m not, I look awful. This is what comes out of my mouth because it’s how I think. Self-worth eroded by years of derogatory statements.

The first fell in the fifth grade. And another negative comment was layered on that one, and then another and another. Things like, “Why’d you say that, Pam, that was stupid?” And “Is that what you’re wearing to dinner?” And there’s the one who changed the lyrics of a song to, “Pam’s a loser, baby…” And the one who said, “I’m not going to blow smoke up your rear,” when I said I’d lost weight. And when I shared the news of my engagement, a loved one said, “We didn’t think he’d take you!” All these piled up, one by one, till they simply covered me. I was buried under a mountain of criticisms. And underneath them all, I felt like a big nothing. A loser. Insignificant and small. Invisible in a sea of lovely ladies.

That’s how I felt the night I discovered my broken heart. Invisible to everyone. And then, a speaker voiced my inner cry. She said, “Remember me, God?” I came undone as my shattered heart was revealed. And I was stunned.

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I bought the above book the day after my heart split wide open. Just this morning I read, “Honey, sometimes God lets you remember for a reason.” It spoke to me. Because He let me remember my pain. Why? Perhaps so I’d remember the power of words and their effect on me. And so I’d use them to build up the women surrounding me rather than tearing them down. Or perhaps it was so I’d know truth. That my heart was broken and I didn’t even know it.

But how could I know my heart was broken? See, it didn’t happen all at once. No huge traumatic event to tip me off. It simply happened over the course of many years. Gradually worn down. No, it wasn’t violence or tragedy or death that broke my heart. Just one sharp jab after another.

So today I see clearly. And though the bulk of those belittling comments are from the past, quite obviously they’re part of my present. Because after all these years, harsh words still have the power to diminish me. Rather than listening to God’s voice, I’ve been listening to the voices of years gone by. Words that broke my heart. I’ve been deceived. And in a sense, my heart is the victim of fraud. Conned into believing I’m worthless.

So, I’m brought back to my initial question. If a woman doesn’t perceive her own heart is broken, is it really broken? Yes. YES. Just as I couldn’t perceive my own reality, it didn’t make it any less realCould this be another woman’s reality? Yes. YES. Because like me, she may not know. Camouflaged by numbness or a melancholy demeanor, the heart may appear to be intact. See, the slow process of erosion blinds a woman to what’s taking place inside her. There’s no huge clanging sound as it happens. Nothing to alert her. No, sometimes a breaking heart doesn’t make a sound. Not to us.

However, imperceptible to human ears, the crack of a human heart resounds in God’s own. He hears it and acts. Because one day, He jars the woman loose. That’s what He did for me a month ago. He cut through layers of numbness so I’d remember my pain. And when I perceived it, I knew I had a problem. That’s step one. Because the first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. See, if it ain’t broke, you can’t fix it. But when you know it’s broke, you have no choice but to do something about it. And when you realize you don’t have the power to fix it on your own, you find yourself turning in a new direction. Inevitably, your broken heart points you to the One who can fix it. To the One who can fix you.

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted.” Isaiah 61:1