Country Roads

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Beautiful words stir my heart. I will recite a lovely poem about the king, for my tongue is like the pen of a skillful poet. Psalm 45:1

Every now and then my heart is so filled, I can’t contain what’s inside. Today is one of those times. Because I realize how very blessed I am. And how good God has been to me…

It started this morning. I got a late start. Slept in a bit too late. And I felt miffed because my son rose at 2:30 a.m. and stayed awake till I rose at 6:00. The reason? He drank about a liter of Mountain Dew yesterday evening. And all I could think before school was how tired he’s going to be today.

But he didn’t complain. Happy to go to school. And when we had morning prayer, his words were so sweet and so sincere, I nearly cried.

After dropping Levi at the high school, I took hold of my little girl and breathed in her essence. I squeezed her tight as I lifted her to the ground and grasped her little hand. “Mommy, walk with me today.” And I gladly did, sending her off with a kiss.

Afterward, I needed to grab a couple of items for a ladies’ group meeting in my home. I had nothing to offer which necessitated the long way home, so I could come across a particular store. And as I cruised down the country roads of my youth, my heart soared higher and higher with every curve.

Then I arrived at my destination…

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I just love this place. So eclectic. So country. And man, it stirs a longing within me. Both the store and the roads remind me of a calling God placed within me at least six years ago. I seemed to have heard Him whisper, “Sit on the porch.” I even voiced it to my husband, “I think God wants me to sit on the porch.”

I’m sad to say, I didn’t heed His call. Instead, I entered the busiest period of my existence. No doubt, 2013 through 2017 brought me full calendars each month. I heard God again in the Summer of 2017. “Rest,” was the urge. And I tried. But in all honesty, I kept my toe in the pond. I couldn’t come to a complete standstill despite my best efforts.

And here I am today. It seems I’ve heard Him whisper yet again. As I traveled along a country road passing by various houses that prompted the sweetest of memories… Jack’s house, and Kathy’s and Sarah’s. Yes, I visited all those places when I was young. But not now. No more visits because there’s never enough time.

And so I hear God’s words fresh. The message? Be still. Quiet down. Take your time. Smell the roses. Watch the sunsets. Enjoy life. Lavish your family with love. Sit a spell. Go visiting. Practice hospitality.

Oh, my heart stirs this morning as I remember what He told me so long ago. And with gladness, I plan acquiesce to His prompting.

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As I said, I love that store. Laurel Mills, for those of you who are wondering. I love everything about it… how the tables on the porch invite you to sit a spell. A shelf offering books for the lover of words. A church pew for meditation. And praising.

And just look at that doorway. Thousands upon thousands must have traveled across the threshold. The wood deeply grooved by feet of all sizes. How it moves me. The passing of feet and the passing of time.

And that’s what really moves me to speak this day. Particularly, how my feet have passed through the days…

The Lord speaks; many, many women spread the good news. Psalm 68:11

This verse first popped out 7 years ago. What a turning point in my life. It was September of 2012. That was the true beginning of my spiritual journey with God, no doubt. Because what a journey He’s taken me on.

However, I digress. That Scripture. Many women spread the good news. But what good news?  Well, how about the first part of the verse. The Lord speaks. That right there is plenty good news. Indeed, God speaks.

The first time I heard Him, through His holy word, was nine years ago through the the prophet Jeremiah. “I will bring you back to the place I deported you from.” My heart soared then. I knew God would bring me back to my hometown and these country roads. And He did. God fulfilled His promise.

This is what causes my heart to overflow now, though. One, the beauty of this land I live in. I’ve traveled around and lived in many places. I just have to say, though, there’s not many like this county of mine. My homeland is stunning. The pastures and livestock and cornfields and trees and skyline. I don’t have enough words to capture it.

But the best part? I was raised here. Lived here till I was nineteen years old. Born and raised. And when God brought me back home at thirty-seven, I was a spiritual infant. Nothing more than a baby. I didn’t realize that, though…

And that’s what brings me to my knees in gratitude and praise of my God this day. That He saw fit to bring me back for my second raising. Raised twice in the most beautiful place I can imagine.

I thank Him for that today. That the second time around, He raised me up. A daughter of God. For truly, I am His girl. As precious to Him as my children are to me.

And even more.

Yes, I traveled multiple country roads this morning. And I visited a store that brings longing to my heart. It makes me yearn for a simpler life.

I ache for the days of my youth. How we’d just jump in the car and go to my aunt’s house. No call necessary, you just went. Endless Summer nights of playing in the fields. No agenda and no plans and no busyness. Nothing but time on our hands. Visiting. People. Life’s just not like that anymore.

No, the world clamors for our attention. Do more. No, do more, more, more. But God calls me to do less. Do less, less, less. He urges me to be with Him more. More, more, more. Like when I travel country roads. And oh, He was with me as I drove. And He was with me when I bought the pumpkin nut bread and half and half. Yes, God walked with me over that worn threshold. And He was with me when I brought my stuff out to the car.

That’s when I noticed the Bibles. One on each child’s seat. That’s because Levi will go to youth tonight. And Annabelle? Well, she saw us reading one this morning and decided to take one to school.

So my heart yearns for this. More of this. More of God’s word. Yes to more, more, more. I want more time with God and more time for teaching my children His ways. So they’ll learn to hear Him when He speaks.

For indeed, He does. And that is such good news. The Lord speaks in many places…

Often, for me, it’s as I travel down solitary country roads. When my body is stilled and my mind is free.

So I listen to Him today. And I throw off the world’s expectations of me and place all my expectation on Him. And I expectantly wait for the next word He will speak to me.

Older women (or my life as a country song)

September happened. It was a big month in our household. There was Labor Day, Jason’s birthday, me and a friend hosted a ladies’ event called Something Beautiful followed up by a beach trip. This all made for incredibly packed days. Oh, so busy.

Also, I chipped this cup. My hurried state caused me to carelessly unload the dishwasher. It’s the family rules mug. The thing is, when it happened I wondered if perhaps more than a piece of Porcelain was broken. Common earthenware. I wondered if just maybe, the rules themselves had been broken…

Covenant vows, even. Alas, the notion was a a passing flicker and quickly faded.

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Yes, September happened. This photo showed up in my Facebook feed along with it. I can’t help but wonder if God wanted me to see it. Because I stared when I saw it. I just looked so different then. My smile reached my eyes. I looked happy. And thin. And I can hardly believe it… I had only one chin.

And I know this may come across as vain, but I think I look pretty then. Beautiful, even? Because youth has a way of making one shine. And six years ago, I was younger. I’d just turned forty.

In reflecting on the me of 2013, I know I was younger, bolder, and confident. I had something to say and wanted to be heard. More, I wanted to be seen. I wanted to insert me into the world because I’d taken up a platform. It had to do with the woman’s role. And it had to do with being on the outside. Way beyond my walls..

Yes, in my smiling eyes, everything important happened out there. Where one could be seen.

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Funny thing about being seen. As I planned that ladies’ event, Something Beautiful, I recognized the irony of it. I knew I’d never felt more un-beautiful in my life. And also, I did not want to be seen. Mostly because of my outward appearance.

See, my contours have changed. I’m not as angular as the 40 year-old me. I have wrinkles and bags under my eyes while my waist heaps over my pants. I have bulges where I never did before. Oh, there are lines in unsightly places and veins mar my legs.

So this past Sunday, shamefully, I skipped church. One, September had taken its toll. The busyness left me so tired. And honestly, thinking about what I could pour my body into was too much to bear. So I drank coffee instead.

Later, I motivated myself to stuff my rolls into clothing and rolled into town. There was a baby shower and I had to finish off the gift. That’s when I found a beautiful box of stationary. And I bless God for this gift. Because it serves as a reminder.

See, Ecclesiastes 3:11 was the theme verse for the ladies’ event. Something Beautiful had a lot to do with being beautiful, but from the inside out. Letting your outer match your inner. And this box was God’s gentle way of reminding me of what’s truly important. Goes back to the broken vows I mentioned earlier. And my insides…

Not my heart, though. What’s inside my walls.

Stand by Your Man…

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She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:12

September is always a big month. A seasonal time of reflection. More often than not, I find myself melancholy and enter a period of repentance. This is what September means to me.

Thus, I can’t help but reflect on a particular verse. Because in two days time, it’ll be the anniversary of Jason’s proposal to me. It happened October 4th, 1997. Yes, this man of mine got down on one knee and asked me to be his.

And that’s not surprising, really.  Because back then, I would have moved heaven and earth for him. I revolved around Jason. I’d follow him to the moon and back and pretty much did. Yes, I bent over backwards to please him. I was a woman who stood by her man. At least I did, then.

But the truth is, I don’t do that anymore. No, somewhere along the line, it became more important to do all the back-bending and flips out there in the public forum. That’s where all the credit is. And to be completely frank, I’ve given more time and energy to those on the outside than to those on the inside. I easily turn down a request from my loved ones but no rarely escapes my lips when someone from out there asks.

Yes, as I slide into the back side of forty, this is where God leads me. He has me seriously consider Proverbs 31:12. Particularly that word good. The bigness of it being it’s the same used in part of the ladies’ event. And it means just what you think… good, pleasant, agreeable, welfare, etc. But also, it can mean beautiful. Two times in Scripture, the word is used to describe a woman’s appearance. 

She does him good. She does him beautiful. She is agreeable and pleasant. But in September, I did not emulate this verse. And Jason called me on it.

That’s because no one knows better than Jason how I bent over backward for the ladies’ event. And please don’t mistake me, I’m glad I did. However, I let everything get upended at home. I had so much to uncover from afterward, it left me feeling pressured.

Thus, I cracked when Jason requested something extra of me. Oh, I didn’t say no but I let him know how inconvenienced I was. Not in words, mind you. Just my demeanor. Coldness. Silence.

Not at all like the woman I was way back when. And most assuredly, I was not beautiful inside or out at that moment. Sadly, my actions nearly nullified everything about the event… Something Beautiful. Almost.

And so, as I close in on my forty-seventh year, I comprehend what God wants…

He wants me to bend over backwards at home. Like I did when I first met Jason. He wants me to stand by him and support him. He wants me to treat those I love the most like the ones I treat on the outside.

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The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1

Look at us. I knew I’d see my friend this past Sunday and I wanted another photo of us side by side. Because we were beautiful in our younger days. But God, He tells me we’re even more beautiful now. In a hundred ways….

And though I can’t speak for Carolyn and what she’s learned through the years, I can speak about her heart. Because in the words of Willie and Waylon, she’s a good hearted woman. Life’s thrown her curve balls and stumbling points but those seasons have created a softness inside. She always sees the best in people. She sees the best in me.

And when I think of our outer shells, I can’t help but wonder if our not-so-firm skin and less-than-angular contours mimic the softness inside. Our hearts being more tender than they were…

Because I think I am. Six years have made me older and wiser. And softer. Because I’m more pliable. And when I make a mistake, I realize it and own it quicker than I once did. Like the day Jason asked me to do something and I resisted. I apologized for my actions within an hour. The old me would have held to my rights and plans for days allowing the coldness to shroud our home. Plucking down my walls with my own hands.

But the new me? The older me?

Basically, I’ve come to comprehend I was nothing more than a self-made woman back then. I put all my effort into making me into what I wanted to be. Something more. And there’s nothing wrong with striving and goals.

However, all my goals had to do with what I considered the big things. Important things. All being outside my walls. Oh, I struggled with my maker for years and years, asking Him “why have you made me thus?” (Romans 9:20) I resisted His purpose for me, which is mainly domestic. At least for now. Because ultimately, that’s what He built me to do…

Yes, sometime in the past year, I submitted to God’s design. Instead of being a self-made woman, I became a God-made woman. And there’s relief in that.

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“It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a helper (one who balances him – a counterpart who is) suitable and complementary for him.” Genesis 2:20

I love how Scripture fits together. Take Proverbs 14:1 for instance. The wise woman builds her house. The word build is also used in Genesis when God made woman. He built a woman for the purpose of helping the man. Yes, God built me to help my husband.

Help meaning to aid or succour (assistance in times of hardship or distress). It comes from another word meaning to surround and this speaks to my heart today. Surround him…

A woman will encompass (tenderly love) a man. Jeremiah 31:22 

Because once upon a time, I surrounded Jason. My life revolved around his. I’d have done anything for him and I did. But then we got married. And that’s when I began to struggle. Jason’s time against mine. His plans against mine. All my plans being those that made me into what I wanted to be. A self-made woman all the way…

All leading to something outside my walls.

Ultimately, my plans conflicted with God’s. Thus, years and years of struggle with my Maker. But finally, this year came about. I raised my white flag in surrender and submitted to His will and to what He makes me…

Which is a wife and mother. These first. Above all else.

This is what God made me to be. It’s what He created me to do. He wants me to back-bend and roll over and surround those He’s entrusted to me. Joyfully and with all my heart.

Older women… 

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There’s a country song that’s been rolling around in my head. Read some of the lyrics…

Older women, are beautiful lovers
Older women, they understand
I’ve been around some, and I have discovered
That older women know just how to please a man.
Everybody seems to love those younger women
From eighteen on up to twenty-five
Well I love ’em too, but I’m tellin’ you
Learnin’ how to really love, takes a little time.
So baby don’t you worry about growin’ older
Those young girls ain’t got nothin’ on you
‘Cause it takes some livin’, to get good at givin’
And givin’ love is just where you could teach them a thing or two.

 

Call me weird, but I see Scripture in that song. It’s a bit like portions of the Titus 2 woman…

Older women… teach what is good and right… encourage young women to tenderly love their husbands and children.

A few years ago, I thought this verse was odd. Why would older women have to teach the younger to love their husbands and children? Well, now I know. And I believe the me of 2019 can speak wisdom into the me of 2013.

Because back then, I did not love my family as good as I could. I couldn’t because I gave too much of me to the outside leaving leftovers for those inside my walls. And that’s what much of Titus 2 touches on…

The younger woman is encouraged to be a maker of a home. It comes from a word meaning house/build. The maker of a home is domestically inclined and works at home. This is how a wise woman can build her house and love her family. It doesn’t mean she can’t go out or work outside the home. But I think it means a woman makes home a priority.

For years, I did not. What a hard truth to learn. And how many years it’s taken me to realize it.

But since I do now, I feel like my life somewhat resembles that country song. It’s taken some livin’ to get good at givn’ love. And I’m really getting there. And this is where I could teach them younger women a thing or two…

So what are my words of wisdom? You give the best of you to those inside your walls. Love them first. Then, after you love them good and well, go beyond your walls and love the others.

That’s what I’d say to younger women. And in truth, this is what makes us women truly beautiful inside and out. When we’re just as lovely inside our homes as we are on the outside. At least, this is what God has been teaching me these past few years.

I have to wonder. Is it too late? My broken rules and vows? Is it too late to do my husband good all the days of my life?

Though I cannot go back and change what’s been, I can surely change what’s to come. And I can surely do him good all the rest of the days of my life. I can. And the past few days give me hope it’s all true.

First, take a look at my little girl. This was Sunday (the day I skipped church because I felt so hideous). Well, she had on a t-shirt and shorts. After she saw me, she went back to her room and came out with the white blouse on top. She imitated me and truly, imitation is the greatest form of flattery. How precious that she wanted to look as I did.

Afterward, my son told me I look nice (he never does that). And then I found two sets of stationary with the messages “He has made everything beautiful in its time,” and “Beautiful inside and out.”

I praise God for that. I do. Because despite my mess-ups (namely the one immediately following that ladies’ event with my hubby), He assures me a hundred ways I’m beautiful.

The best way, though, was through the lips of Annabelle. When I told her she was beautiful the other night, she quipped, “I know.” When I asked how, she said it’s because I love her. But she also said, “Because God made me.”

And ultimately, this is how I know I am beautiful. For I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). God-made. Built to love my children. Built to love my man.

You know, I’ve come to this conclusion again and again. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about all things domestic. And experience teaches me the last thing my husband wants is another blah, blah, blog. Words not backed by action.

So this time, as a belated birthday and early anniversary gift (of sorts), I plan to give Jason my life as a country song…

In deed, I hope to be a good-hearted woman standing by my man all the rest of my days as an older woman. Because as the song goes, we make beautiful lovers. This is my vow to my husband. Till death do us part.

an unexpected pregnancy

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

A friend texted me recently. “How are you my friend?” And I could have lied. I could have said “I’m fine, how are you?” Instead, I chose truth. I told her I’d been in a terrible mood for days. That I just felt nasty.

And that’s exactly how I was on December 2nd. A better description would have been dark for I was oh, so black inside.

What’s worse, this seems to be a pattern of mine. Cyclical. A seasonal migration route that ushers me through a land of gloom. Because somehow darkness envelops me every year about this time. On the cusp of Christmas, no less. And after reading a post of mine from five years ago (a Christmas heart), I realize just how much of a pattern, or rut, this is.

But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish… The people who walk in [spiritual darkness] will see a great Light; Those who live in the dark land, The Light will shine on them. For unto us a Child is born, to us a Son shall be given… Isaiah 9:1,2,6

It was the Christmas tree that prompted my post from five years earlier. And not surprisingly, I brought our tree home two days before my friend reached out. And this act, which should be a festive occasion, added to my darkness.

See, I had high expectations. Visions of my children and me smiling and laughing while we hung our favorite decorations. Reminiscing about days gone by. I thought there’d be music and cocoa… that my husband would sit in his chair and adoringly watch us.

But none of that happened. My husband got the tree up and then I stepped in for the rest beginning with lights. They didn’t work, mind you. Not one strand of colored lights were complete. Half lit and half dark. Kind of like my mood. This felt like a delay and so out of necessity, I changed course. White lights instead.

I instructed Jason to give Annabelle a bath while I strung the lights still thinking we’d get to the decorating. However, one lesson learned from five years earlier is that it’s no good to decorate when tired. So I waited. I thought Saturday morning would do.

First thing, I set the scene. Music and ornaments and kids. And we began well. Within twenty minutes, though, my son was finished. Further, he advised I shouldn’t hang any more otherwise it would look like a hodgepodge of stuff. As for Annabelle, she really enjoyed it. But her endurance lasted as long as Levi’s. And she broke a glass ball. And she spilled a cup of water all over the end table soaking the books. And my children decided wrestling and fighting were more fun than decorating…

And that’s when I lost my cool. Or should I say I let what was inside come out. Dark and black all over the place as I began barking orders at the kids and fussing about the noise.

In the end, I finished the tree all by myself. I worked up to the very last minute when I had to force myself to stop in order to shower and get my son to his basketball game on time. And as I drove down the highway, I quietly cried. My heart filled with regret because of how the morning played out. Remorse over my actions… the way I exploded all over my children.

So very sorry that this is the memory my kids will carry. Not one of delight and joy and peace and calm. But one of anger and harsh words and rushing and blackness.

This is the pattern my natural self gravitates toward every, single year. And like that Christmas five years ago, I feel myself being pulled to the very same spot. For then, I desired to cultivate a Christmas heart. And that’s exactly how I feel this the 4th day of December. I desire change on my inside. In my heart…

But this year will be different. For I hope to give my family the best gift I can offer. Yep, this is the year I hope to cultivate a Christmas heart. And my prayer is that my Christmas heart will last beyond the lights and the trimmings and the trappings. For years to come… written 12/5/13

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I can’t tell you how sad I was when I read those words. It was that part about for years to come. Because you know what? There was change. I sought the true meaning of Christmas and I found it. I really did.

Alas, that change seems to come and go. It’s been somewhat intermittent. For I find that with life, and the pressures contained therein, my light grows brighter and dimmer accordingly. The higher the pressures, the lesser the light. And when things get really tight, I find my bulb blows altogether. Just like the colored lights I wasn’t able to use…

Honestly, I’ve been blowing my top quite a bit the past few weeks. I’ve not felt calm and collected. Instead, I’ve felt hurried, stressed and compressed. That happens naturally about this time of year with the holidays. However, something else happened recently that added a little extra to my life. Something unexpected.

And if these past few years have taught me anything, it’s that I don’t handle the unexpected well. I never have. Thus, in the cultivation of the Christmas heart, I find this lies at the heart of it all. How I react to life. It’s my reactions to the pressures and trials and troubles…

Basically, it comes down to what I do with what I don’t expect.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Listen carefully, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son. And she will call him Immanuel (God with us). Isaiah 7:14

I read a book a few weeks ago. It was a random read but I swear I think God was preparing my heart for today. For this particular Christmas. Because the theme was how unwed pregnant women (or girls) were treated long ago. How they were sent away and shunned by the family.  How the girls were often made to go to a work house and hide away the duration of their pregnancy only to be forced to give their child away. Even if they didn’t want to…

Which brings to mind Mary. Yes, in contemplating Christmastime and the mother of our Lord and Savior, I try to enter into where she found herself. Betrothed but not yet married. And pregnant. And to use a term coined by society to describe women in this situation, she found herself “in trouble.” For she had an unexpected pregnancy.

I find her reaction remarkable. See, Mary had plans. She was to marry Joseph and begin her new life. And yet, when an Angel appeared to her with the shocking revelation, she didn’t falter. She didn’t rail against what would surely cause pressure and tribulation. She didn’t come apart at the seams because her plan wasn’t going to go just as she hoped…

Instead, she said “Let it be unto me…”

Let it happen as you said. Let it be done to me. No matter the consequences, she submitted to what came her way. Even that of an unexpected child. In truth, Mary chose life in that she denied her own life. She put her agenda to the side in submission to the greater plan God had for her.

And fortunately, though Joseph thought about it, he decided not to “put her away quietly.” He dared to take this woman as his bride. A woman the world would say got herself into trouble.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

This week was the first time it came to me that Mary was pro-life. It’s the first time I realized she really did have a choice… even back then. And God help me, I see it always, always comes back to this. Even at Christmas.

For the cultivation of a Christmas heart comes down to what I do with a child. More particularly, it’s what I do with my own children. And how I react to the unexpected scenarios that come along with having a child. The extra that may come my way.

It goes all the way back to August of 2006. That’s when I had my baby boy. And I truly adored him. I still do. However, I’ve not always chosen wisely where he was concerned. I still don’t. See, I began working at home when he was just two months old. And the pressure of balancing motherhood with housework and a job (at home) was really stressful. And I’m sad to say I placed everything else before him most of the time.

Emails and laundry and whatever else came my way. I eked out time for him here and there. And now, he’s 12.  And I swear some of my hugest regrets revolve around him. Not giving him the best of me…

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Even now, pressures rise. For in addition to Christmas and decorating and wrapping and regular home life and work, my son made the basketball team. But it turns out there’s more to it than just taking him to games and practice (daily). One must sign up for concessions and snacks. In itself it’s not a lot. It’s just a little extra I hadn’t thought about, though. Something to add to all the other.

More, the past couple of months have thrown some other “extra” my way. Levi’s been sick and out of school several times and there’s already been snow days and busted pipe days. Days when my regular stuff goes to the back burner because of the extra that comes when your child stays at home. And I can’t forget the appliance that busted in Levi’s mouth necessitating an additional trip to the orthodontist.

Oh, there’s other stuff, too. Like the car that side-swiped me as I drove my daughter to her doctor’s appointment which meant extra – dealing with an insurance company and recorded statement, etc.

And this is where I find the most “extra” that’s been added to my schedule in recent days. It’s my daughter.

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Annabelle’s four and she started preschool in August. It was so exciting. And can I say it? Liberating. Because my days opened right up. Both my children were in school and I had time on my hands. More, I had a plan! I was going to write a book by Thanksgiving. I was going to drop thirty pounds and get healthy by walking every day. Yep, that’s what I was going to do.

However, something just took place with my girl that changed all that. There was a fever on October 20th which led to two ER visits followed up by a six-day stay in the hospital. And though she’s really fine now and is following up with a cardiologist (Kawasaki Disease), we’ve decided to keep her home from preschool out of precaution. For just a bit.

That means extra. And though my mom helps a lot, Annabelle’s home much more and that means my job gets pushed to the side. Things I could easily do two months ago seem to pile up now. Like work and laundry and other to-do’s.

And since Annabelle sickness, she’s somewhat regressed. She’s a bit more needy… more demanding. This adds up to extra time wiping in the potty and spooning soup when she really could do it on her own. And she when she wakes in the middle of the night, she calls for me. Most nights, I’ll sleep with her. Because she was so sick. We coddled her. Kind of hard to break that…

Anyway, all the extra has caused a thinness inside me. The veil between dark and light merging into one. I find I’m interrupted in a hundred ways which causes me to be impatient. The icing on the cake is I’ve been sick. Awaking with an hour long coughing fit nightly causing me to sleep in later than I want. This, of course, edges out my “quiet time” with the Lord.

Yes, I’ve been sleeping till the last minute and work sets in the minute my feet hit the floor. Quiet times snuffed out by the delays and interruptions and stalls of life. In trying to balance mom-hood with the hundred things life calls me to do, I invariably choose wrongly. All too often, I try to do everything else first in an attempt to get ahead eking out only a little bit of time for my children.

This unbalanced life inevitably fills me with regret and remorse all serving to darken an already black demeanor.

This is truth. Most of the bad mood I mentioned to my friend in a text has to do with me getting things upended. Priorities messed up. It has to do with choosing unwisely. Leaving what’s most important undone.

And it always has been this. All the way back to Levi’s infancy. And honestly, it goes back to even before.

Listen closely, I have set before you today life and prosperity (good), and death and adversity (evil)… therefore, you shall choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants. Deuteronomy 30:15,19

I blew my top yesterday. A little disagreement I had with my son culminating with me yelling, “Bull crap!” Loudly. Needless to say, the drive to practice was gloomy. Dark as night.

And later, I realized this all took place in front of my little girl. When I left her with her grandma, she didn’t hug me so tightly as I walked away. Instead, she kind of backed into me giving me an odd look.

Now though, in the light of day, I realize it was me. It was the way I reacted to something unplanned. An unexpected conversation with my son and I lost it. But it’s more than that. It has to do with the busyness I must balance in life. It has to do with prioritizing. Putting first things first…

Like my kids.

See, it’s a pattern life throws at me. And perhaps a test? For November and December are busy on their own accord. Throw in a few unexpected extras and it becomes all too easy to blow one’s top. At least it is for me. And that’s the cycle.

However, it’s Christmastime. And God points me to mother Mary. For there, I find hope in the example she provides. It’s how she reacted to the unexpected. Even if the unexpected was a child she didn’t plan for…

And I realize this is exactly where God is leading me this Christmas. Because I have my little girl. And though I didn’t expect her to be home right now, she is. Unplanned with all the extra she brings.

What will I do with her? How will I react to the unexpected in my life from this day forward? Like Mary, will I put my agenda to the side in submission to the greater plan God has for me? The greater plan being my kids…

Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise (the Messiah) from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet [in a straight line] into the way of peace and serenity. Luke 1:78-79

It’s true, some of my greatest regrets revolve around my children. I hate to say I used to feel as if my children and their needs interrupted me from everything I needed to do. Like my job. The housework. My plans.

But the light of God’s word opened my eyes. I’ve found a new perspective. And though I often slip up and get things out of whack, my greatest revelation these past few years is that all those tasks were interrupting me from my greatest role. Mom. Everything else was keeping me from my children. And so, the kids weren’t the interruptions. Instead, the tasks were.

And with all my Christmas heart, I wish I’d known this then. That I’d done things differently with Levi when he was small. Chosen better. More wisely. I can’t help but feel as if God has given me another chance, though. Because I have my little girl here with me. Today. It’s not too late to choose well.

I can choose her and Levi. I can put them first. See, there’ll always be things vying for my attention. Life (and the hundred things to do) verses my children. Therein lies the struggle.

And though I haven’t done it perfectly these past twelve years, and I’ve made some big mistakes already this past Christmas season… the reality is it’s only December 4th. And though my former years paint the picture of a proven pattern, God came to break the mold. And the old. And He did. He broke the cycle by sending a Child.

He sent a newborn. So I can be reborn. Which I am. And therein lies my hope. I find it in the hope of a child. Not just my own, though. Hope lies in His.

I hope in God’s Son.

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It sure seems as if Christmas began with an unexpected pregnancy. Oh, indeed, prophets foretold of this immaculate conception. However, it was unexpected to Mary. And how she reacted to something extra in her life is inspiring. Her demeanor becomes my aim. A pattern to mold to. It’s how I can cultivate a Christmas heart.

Because finally, I see it’s all about the Child.

The interruption of a Child who disrupted the plans of a young couple. That’s what happened on Christmas over two thousand years ago. And a young woman named Mary and a carpenter named Joseph handled it beautifully. Gracefully.

But ultimately, it comes down to me. And how I handle Christmas. The main question being what will I do with this Child? Not just my own children, who provide enough extra in life. But what will I do with this Child and the extra He brings?

The Christ child born on Christmas day.

When He comes my way and disrupts my plan with the unexpected, what then? Will I revert to my old pattern? Will I fuss and fume and blow my top exploding blackness all around me? Will I choose darkness and cursing?

Or like Mary, will I choose life in submitting to God’s plan. Will I choose acceptance and let my agenda go? Will I put first things first? Will I respond as Mary did, the cry of my heart echoing hers?

“Lord, let it be unto me.”

This time, I have a feeling I will. I really do. Because when I went to pick up my little girl from Me-Maw’s, there was a smile on my face. And my to-do list is still quite large. There’s still a hundred things vying for my attention. But see, there’s been progress…

And though I’ve messed up, every day provides a fresh start. And by conforming to the new pattern, the one provided by Mary, I think the Son will rise in my heart. And in my life. And that Light will envelop not just me, but those I love most…

Namely, my husband and children. And this is exactly what I desired five years back. A Christmas heart. One my family can enjoy for years to come.

And next time, when my friend texts to ask how I am… well, I think I’ll have a different answer. Next time, I think my mood will be lighter.

In Him was life [and power to bestow life], and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it [and is unreceptive to it]. John 1:4-5

Good News

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But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. 2 Peter 1:20-21

I felt a stirring in my spirit this morning. It was unmistakable, really… that old familiar urge to write. And yet, I have to tell you the truth. I feel quite empty this 7th day of December. I’m not sure I have it in me. Because needs and wants that fill my life have left me feeling quite depleted.

Hollow, even.

That’s not surprising, though, for the craziness of Christmas has taken its toll. Life is full. Perhaps too full. Heaping over and spilling onto every spare inch of white space on my calendar. The schedule is full, the lists are lengthy, and the chores are never ending.

And yet, I feel moved by God today. A whisper upon my soul. The dishes can wait, He says. Paperwork will be there later…

Just tell the story.

Because of every single thing I do this season, sending forth the good news is the most important thing. Rather, it’s the only thing.

For the good news of Jesus Christ our Savior is the very reason for the season.

And so, I write.

Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. Hebrews 1:1-2

Every now and again, God will speak with such clarity. He pieces together songs and verses and circumstances so that His people will hear Him. That’s what happened to me this week.

It started yesterday when I read something out of the 2nd volume of Kings, chapter 4. It was about a widow whose oil was multiplied. She had nothing but one single jar of oil and yet, she was willing to give it to a man of God.

The prophet spoke to her, “What can I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” He gave instructions. She was to obtain empty jars and not just a few. And after she did, that one jar of oil filled the empty ones. Every single one.

This morning, I was directed to the 2nd volume of Kings once more. This time, it was chapter 3 and I read words I’d never seen before. Words that seemed to reiterate what I’d absorbed the day before. Because there were some men who were without water. Thus, they approached the man of God. And like the widow, they were given instructions. “Dig ditch after ditch in this wadi. You will not see wind or rain, but the wadi will be filled with water…”

And that’s when I saw what God wanted me to. Empty jars and empty ditches. Both being filled miraculously.

And this is the wonder of Christmas.

The fact that we are the empty vessels. And He comes to fill us. And when we’re filled, we house treasure. Our contents are priceless. This saving knowledge.

Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

What we house is good news. It’s in us. Alas, when life becomes too full, we have a tendency to forget. At least I do. And sadly, long lists and chores and scheduling can leave us feeling empty. Hollowed out with nothing left to offer…

No strength (or time) to even dole out a few words of hope.

Like within a Christmas card.

This is where I found myself this morning. I had no intention of writing cards. Instead, I had every intention of allowing busyness to overshadow the good news of Christ.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law… Galatians 4:4

Not so long ago, I was full. Spilling over, even. Yes, my heart was filled with a good theme as I recited my composition for the King. My tongue was the pen of a ready writer (Psalm 45:1).

And because I was overflowing, sending forth the good news came easily to me. It’s what I loved most. Purposely spreading the good news…

The good news being that God loved and He gave. For when the fullness of time came, He sent forth His Son. And He came for us.

Jesus came to earth… for us.

In the form of a newborn babe.

He came so that we’d have life, and have it in all its fullness (John 10:10). And He says He will come again. When everything is ready, He will come and get us, so that we will always be with Him where He is (John 14:3).

This is His promise.

O come, o come, Emmanuel…
To free your captive Israel.

This morning, “come” is the message of my heart. He came and He’ll come again. But more importantly, He comes today. The fullness of time is right now because He came for each of us already. All we have do to is receive Him.

This day.

For look! He stands at the door and knocks. If we hear His voice and open the door, He will come in to us (Revelation 3:20).

Jesus tells us He will come in to us.

He will fill us.

And this is what Emmanuel means… God is With Us.

God in us.

From empty to full just like that. A true Christmas miracle.

Joy to the World
The Lord has come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room…

There was no room for Jesus and Mary at the inn that first Christmas. That’s why the stable. That’s why we put out our nativity scenes. It depicts our Savior’s birth…

Because the inn was full. Filled to the brim. Heaping over with patrons. Every bed taken, every corner stuffed.

And this is the message God whispers in my ear today. It’s true I am busy about many, many things. Every nook and cranny of my life is filled. Because it’s the Christmas season and there are things to do, places to go and people to see.

And all that is good. So very good.

But amidst all the activity, He urges me to pause. To clear out some of the clutter and make some space. Because my Lord and my Savior is knocking at the door of my heart. He wants to come in. And He will come in.

He promises.

If I will just make room.

And that’s good news.

Good news for me and good news for you.

My heart is overflowing with good news. Psalm 45:1

I love to write. Especially for Him. But somewhere along the way, I lost my “oomph.” Busyness being a huge part of the reason. See, life is full. So very full. But also, it’s good. For He fills my life with good things (Psalm 103:5).

The problem comes when I fill it with all the extra. Too much extra-curricular allows little or no room for Him. No wiggle room for His spirit to move.

Or for His spirit to move me.

But today, I heard Him knocking and He filled me with His spirit (Ephesians 5:18). And He reminded me that it’s He who fulfills His purpose for me (Psalm 138:8). And like mother Mary, I am blessed for I believe. I really do believe there will be a fulfillment of the things for which He has spoken to me (Luke 1:45).

And His purpose for me? For all of us?

It’s simply to make room for His Spirit. To follow His lead. And today, the Spirit leads us to Him. He beckons us to come. He summons the faithful to behold Him.

To come and adore Him.

O, come let us adore Him…

So, this underscores the message of my heart and of this electronic “Christmas card.” It’s for all of us to come. To come and behold, to come and adore, but also, to come and play our drums (whatever that may look like in our individual lives). Whether we play or write or sing or dance or bake or serve, give it to Jesus.

Because in truth, He will multiply it. He will make it more.

Just like with the oil and the water.

And if you happen to feel like I did this morning, depleted and hollowed out by the endless needs of life, bring the empty vessel that you are. Because He can fill you. He will fill you. He promises.

Yes, whether empty or full, just come to Him. For He came to us first. And He’ll come again. But most importantly, He comes today.

Come, they told me
Pa rum pum pum pum
Our newborn king to see
Pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring…

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:14-15

lap of luxury

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When I was really little, I didn’t want much. And because I was somewhat sheltered, I retained my innocence. I was satisfied with my lot in life. At least for a while.

No, I wasn’t embarrassed that my backyard was asphalt or my playground a cow pasture. Or that our apartment on the backside of a store consisted of only a small kitchen and living room, one door-less bedroom and a teeny-tiny bathroom sans bathtub.

I simply hated it, though, when Mama (that’s what I called her back then) wanted to wash my hair. Sometimes I’d hide under the bed as long as possible, the coolness of concrete against my cheek. If I wasn’t jerked out, I’d eventually succumb to my fate and army crawl out so I could step up onto a pile of books in front of the miniscule sink. But I’d struggle a little with Mama as she washed away the dirt and grime.

None of this bothered me. And the only reason I objected to my brother’s bed being at the foot of Mama’s and Daddy’s was because I had to sleep on the couch. All by myself. I’d lay there overcome by terror awaiting an attack from the boogie man.

So I’d say, at four or so, I was happy. Contented. Back then the most luxurious thing I craved was attention. And I got that from Grandma. All of us grandkids did. It seemed as if we were her sole purpose in life for she loved us so.

Indeed, Grandma’s lap was a place of luxury when I was small. A coveted spot where you could be special. If only for a moment. And the center of someone else’s world as you were lavished by love.

It’s Grandma’s lap I fondly remember this day. How for a sweet moment in time, that’s all it took to make me happy. And I wonder when things changed. When was the day I exchanged her lap of luxury in search for another one… the kind the world could afford me.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21

My roots are blue-collar all the way. Working class to the core. One grandfather was a farmer and the other a housepainter. My Mammie was a housewife and mother to a huge brood of youngins. And Grandma? Before she was widowed, her husband was a farmer. And much too soon, Grandma was left with four kids to raise all by herself.

I can’t imagine the strain. And I don’t know when she began working for the hospital but that was her means of income for the longest time. Because that blue polyester uniform is attached to so many memories I have of her…

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Here’s the thing, though. I don’t remember Grandma complaining about her lot. Or pining away for a better life. She was always sensible and when one of us got upset, she’d soothe and comfort and settle things down. She had no need of silver spoons and golden coins for it didn’t take much to make her happy…

Bingo once a week and a basket full of yarn for crocheting. The Young and the Restless on the tube and a shopping trip to the thrift stores. Grandma was content.

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And I was, too. Till one day, I decided I wanted more out of life.

The leech has two suckers
    that cry out, “More, more!”

There are three things that are never satisfied—
    no, four that never say, “Enough!”:
the grave,
    the barren womb,
    the thirsty desert,
    the blazing fire. Proverbs 30:15-16

I believe most folks want more for their kids. That’s the dream, right? Making things better for our offspring. But I question that today. Because if each generation handles life in that manner… when is better enough?

See, my Grandma had a hard life and yet, she was happy. Content. And though my mom faced great trials, she too found contentment. In the end, she ended up with more than Grandma had. My dad, too. And in looking back, I see my parents gave me and my brother more than they ever dreamed of having.

It’s Christmas that stands out. Daddy would bring home a cedar tree and place it in a 5 gallon bucket. Oh, the scent would fill our nostrils as it filled every nook and cranny of our small abode. Sonny and I’d eagerly watch as Mama covered the bucket with wrapping paper and string the tree with lights. Then our turn came to decorate.

Later, when gifts were piled underneath, I’d count them. And Mom knew to have the same number for each of us. Value meant little in the face of quantity. It could have been a pack of gum, but there darn well better have been an equal amount of presents. I’d shake them and press them and wonder…

One Christmas, though, as I was covered up to my neck in paper, I dared ask… “Is this is?” That was the year of the Golden Dream Barbie. And what an affront this must have been to my mom. But she didn’t yell. Instead, she was gentle as she called me to her and sat me in her lap. She shared with me about her own Christmases, and how very little she received.

And though I felt sad for her, I don’t think the lesson really took. Not till now. In the face of my own children. Because I’ve been trying to give Levi more than I had. And let me tell you, he has a lot. Spoiled, even? And I’m noticing a problem. The more I give, the more he wants.

Moreover, my son seems to think everything is replaceable… that there’ll always be another one coming his way.

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It was a gun that opened my eyes. Levi just bought it a couple of weeks ago and I found it covered in mud. And though I applaud his creativity in making a fort and using his imagination, it pains me I didn’t think to tell him… “Bring your toys inside!” Because without my instruction, he wouldn’t think to on his own.

Now, the gun doesn’t work. The firing noises silenced by the downpour of rain. When I mentioned it, he said it was only four dollars and he can always get another.

And so today I see there’s a problem. We’ve wronged him. In our attempt to give Levi a better life, we’ve inadvertently given him the idea that items have little or no value. Easily replaced. No need to take care and appreciate what we do have because there’ll always be another.

And I’d have to say, this mentality is the epitome of living in the lap of luxury. Because luxury always affords you another…

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Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. Numbers 11:31

I love to read about the Israelites in the Old Testament. Particularly the 15th and 16th chapter of Exodus. Because on the heels of receiving freedom at the hand of God, we find the people grumbling and complaining early on in their journey. I can relate.

Oh, they were thirsty and hungry. All too quickly, they forgot the miracles. They chose to focus on the one thing they wanted. Discontentment set in.

God provided manna, bread from heaven, but it wasn’t enough. Eventually, the people remembered all the good foods they partook of in Egypt. Before God. Leeks, melons, cucumbers. And meat. Oh, they wanted meat. So they voiced it. Basically, they were sick of their lot in life and what God provided. They wanted more. Something different. Something better.

God gave them their desire. He told them He’d send meat so much so it would come out of their nostrils. And it did. Quail making them sick. Some even died there in the midst of their journey. In their graves of craving.

And that term strikes a chord with me. For I know I spent most of my life right there… mourning my lot in life and grumbling and complaining. Always wanting more and more and never getting enough. Refusing to accept what God lay before me. Resisting to rest in the gift of the day.

Grieving instead, alongside my tomb. Wasting my life as I pined away for what was out of reach…

I died in my grave of craving.

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I tell you the truth, I journeyed for years seeking the lap of luxury. I lived life just like my son. I guess he learned it from me.  Because my parents gave me more than they had. And Grandma gave me more than she had. And God gave to me. Everything. He gave me everything He had…

So I lived carelessly. Recklessly. I always thought there’d be another coming my way. I discarded things way too easily. I didn’t place enough value on what life, and God, handed me.

And because I walked it, I can say this. Not always, but sometimes the lap of luxury makes no room for babies. At least for me, it didn’t. Or I didn’t. Because in seeking more out of life, I thoughtlessly gave up what I had been given. I threw away the gift of motherhood, making no room in my womb. For sure, at twenty-two, I made no room on my lap. Placing no value on the life inside me, I threw it all away.

Because one day, there’d be another.

Right?

And after all, tomorrow is another day.

Right?

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:13-14

Funny thing about my name. Pamela means as sweet as honey. But for so long, I was anything but. Sweet turned to bitter as I grumbled and complained. Luxury complaints as my husband termed them. Things like, “this mattress has plastic on it,” as I grumbled about my sleeping arrangements at our high-dollar lake house.

And then there’s my son. Lukewarm water easily spewed from his mouth as he said, “My water is warm.” And the ultimate? We rented a jet ski for four hours. We didn’t think two would be enough. Turns out three was plenty as Levi became bored with the activity.

Oh, my son… definitely following my lead. Always wanting something different. God help him to not follow my path. Or God help me to help him not to. From this moment on.

For I always sought that lap of luxury. I didn’t realize there was already one in reach. Like hers. Grandma’s lap. What a treasure. And how I missed it. I completely overlooked what I had looking for something more. But one day, God said enough.

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God called to me…

“Pam!” And because I was listening, I heard Him at the open door of my tomb. For I am His daughter and I know His voice. He told me everything I ever did and what was to come. And indeed, I am blessed for I chose to believe what He foretold.

It’s true, I saw the risen Lord. He rose alongside the hope that rose in my chest. And I rose, too, from my grave of craving. He filled me with His wind and His Spirit caused me to move on from there. That’s when He commanded me.

Go! Tell others the story. And so I do.

Jesus answered, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. John 14:23

God called my name long ago just before returning me to my home. But in coming home, He calls me to really return. All the way… to Him and also to my roots. To my heritage. To a time of simplicity in which things matter more. A time in which value is placed on each day. And the small things. And everything. Because this may be the last day we have.

God calls me to not take things for granted. Like my grandma’s lap. Because it may not be here tomorrow.

God calls me to appreciate what He gave me. And He calls me to make room for more. In my heart and in my lap. Because that’s what mothers do. They make room in their hearts and on their laps for children. And pining away for all the other stuff takes up that space.

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Today the miracle is like Grandma’s, mine becomes a lap of luxury, too. A place sought after by my own children. A place where they can be the center of my world as I lavish them with love. Extravagant love. And so, I don’t have to look to tomorrow anymore. Not as I hold my little ones tight.

In truth, I find I’m content with what I already have. And like Grandma, I am satisfied with my lot in life. Simplicity. Thankful God brought be back home. And back to reality. To my reality. Amazed to find I’ve lived a lavish life after all.

But only in coming home to my roots could I discover it. And as my eyes were opened, I asked God for His forgiveness. Please forgive me, my God, for I never realized how extravagant you really were with me.

Yes, right here in the heart of my small home, and in the midst of my small town, I find I’m living in the lap of luxury…

And it’s the place I always wanted to be.

distressed

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dis·tress [disˈtres]

NOUN: extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain

VERB: give (furniture, leather, or clothing) simulated marks of age and wear

My love affair with distressed furniture began quite by accident. It happened when I lived in York, PA. Married not even a year. When Daddy came to visit, he bought us a table and chairs as an apartment warming gift. The problem, though, was a sticker stain on the table top (it was the display model). Stain wouldn’t hide the unsightly rectangular dark patch, so paint was the answer. Thick, creamy ivory.

After lovingly coating the furniture, paint stroke by paint stroke, I sanded down the rough finish. I gave extra attention to the corners and edges and that’s when the most lovely thing happened. Raw wood was exposed. A distressed finish appeared. And the darker hues underneath contrasted beautifully with the lighter topcoat.

Afterward, I added country checks to the chair backs and table sides. And by the time I sealed the product, I was smitten. I positively adored our first dining room set. So much so, I painted a hutch to match.

From that moment on, painting furniture became a passion of mine. I regularly sought out new pieces from junk shops and thrift stores. But whenever a treasure was unearthed, I involved paint. Rarely did I leave a piece untouched. And never did I leave a perfect finish. Distressed was the effect I desired.

Eventually, our dwelling was filled with seemingly worn pieces of furniture.

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Another acquisition early on in our marriage was kitty cats. We adopted three before we hit one year of marriage. And they seemed to complete our household. Or more aptly, complete and destroy. Namely, our bedroom set. An expensive one at that. It’s the set we still use today and amazingly, it’s retained it’s original finish. A flawed one…

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Within months of buying this set, our kitties clawed the slick surface and gnawed the corners. That’s how they’d wake us to announce their empty bellies. I’d rouse from slumber to find Molly perched atop our chest just chewing edges. A few years ago, I tried to blend in unsightly marks but to no avail. They still stand out. And so in February, this furniture finally made it to my to-do list. It will be painted. And yes, it will be distressed.

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This morning, I cannot help but contrast the two types of furniture that grace my house. I have my worn, painted pieces. Distressed. And I have our more “adult” furniture, as Jason once described it. These pieces are stained wood.

And you know what? The pieces that retain their original finish look pretty bad. Because over time,  the surfaces have become marred. And unlike with the distressed painted pieces, the flaws are incredibly noticeable. When I dust, though a rare occurrence, the marks stand out vividly. Against an otherwise perfect finish, scratches don’t look so good. In fact, the pieces just look old. Something I’d rather hide away instead of displaying in my home.

Which brings me to what God showed me this weekend…

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I felt distress. Angst over my little boy who sat playing tablet. Washed by guilt that I’ve not signed him up for some activity to keep him busy. And it being Labor Day, I decided to put him to work. I thought I’d introduce him to something I have passion for. Furniture painting.

In hope of keeping Levi interested, I let him choose the piece. I explained how we had to sand the chair really good so we could get to the raw wood. Otherwise, the paint wouldn’t stick. And as we sanded, my mind went to spiritual matters. I told my son we’re kind of like the process of painting a chair. That we need to allow God to strip down our finish so He could get to what’s underneath.

Levi said, “Oh, the shiny is like the sin?”

I said yes. But there’s more to it. So much more, I’m not sure a nine year old can grasp all the chair symbolized to me on Saturday.

Reclaimed

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An old feeling arose in my heart over the weekend. It was shame. And it burned hot. Like Adam and Eve hid in the garden, I wanted to do the same. It has to do with my recent writing… how I’m still not over something from my past. And how I should be okay by now.

But then, my son chose a chair for us to refinish. That’s when everything became clear. A precious gift from God as I gained clarity. Because I realize I am just like the chair.

See, God hand picked me. He reclaimed me. No different than me and Levi venturing down into the depths of my basement to make a selection, God did the same. It was September of 2012 and I sat in a sea of women. He reached down and chose me. Her. I’m going to refinish her…

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That’s when the process began in earnest. I acknowledged the truth of my past for the very first time. I brought two abortions to light by telling a family member. Seventeen years after the fact. Like the use of coarse sandpaper sloughing away the slick layers of veneer, God did the same with me.

He removed layers and layers of the topical religion I based all my faith in. It was all surface, anyway. But the truth of His words finally sanded away my slickness. No way around it, really, as my perfect finish had become marred. Scratches and flaws highly noticeable against a backdrop of my striving perfection.

But finally, He got down to what was underneath. My heart. And it was exposed. Like the raw wood of a reclaimed chair.

Restored

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The restoration process has been a lengthy one. Because stripping away deeply ingrained, harmful thought patterns can take time. And God works on each person specifically and individually. It can take years for Him to strip down a soul sufficiently. Enough so that when He adds in His layers, brush stroke by brush stroke, they’ll stick.

Like a woman I read of in the New Testament who suffered with a bleeding disorder for twelve years. Over a decade for her restoration. And renewal.

Mine’s three years in the making. Just six months after I acknowledged my past, I went public with it. ( https://pamandersonblog.com/2013/03/15/the-valley-of-slaughter/ ) But that was only the beginning. Ever since, God’s been drawing me deeper and deeper. Layer by layer. Bits of poison sanded away as He adds to me His goodness.

Ten months after going public, God came down and touched me. He forgave me for the past I carried. No question. No doubt. It was January 31, 2014 when He coated me with His mercy, mercy. In fact, His compassion had been there all along. Always there for the taking. God just had to get me out of the way first ( https://pamandersonblog.com/2014/05/20/the-visitation/ ).

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And yet, it seems I’ve been stalled ever since. Well over a year on pause and unable to move forward. Like a project undone, I petered out at mercy. However, my weekend project gives me renewed hope. That a second coat of paint is coming. It’s just a matter of time.

See, the color Levi and I chose was too bright. Shockingly orange. Or salmon. Thus, we decided to cover it. Levi was reluctant, but I explained how pretty the hints of lobster would be peeking out under a darker hue.

So that’s what we did. Or I did. Because like me, Levi petered out at the orange. At mercy. He hadn’t the stamina to keep going on Saturday. But I did. I kept going till nightfall.

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For me, that second coat of paint is when the project really gets going. There’s added interest. And depth. And afterward, the fun begins. Because you take out a finer grit of sandpaper and smooth. And remove. And what’s left is truly unique. An original. A one of a kind for the work can’t be duplicated.

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For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10

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I confess, I wanted to hide away after my last post. I felt ashamed I hadn’t made more progress. However, this weekend I was reminded of how far I’ve actually come. Because it’s only been three years. That’s when the process initially began. Because before then, my abortions were non-existent. I pretended they weren’t real. But one day, I couldn’t go further. At least not with God.

And here I am today… silent no more. And here I am today… covered in God’s mercy.

It’s that grace thing that trips me up, though. For some reason, I can’t grasp the concept. Mercy’s easier for me to accept. God withholding what I deserve. Punishment. But grace? That’s God giving me what I don’t deserve.

Both attributes stem from God’s love. Both make up His goodness. Just different shades. Or hues. One is just harder for me to grasp.

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Here’s what I do know. When I get into a painting project, I make a mess. I become the mess. I track paint from here to there. It gets in my hair and on my face. Clothing and body parts. Before I know it, I’m covered in shades or salmon. Stained with midnight blue.

But you know, that’s the best part of the process. The spiritual one, that is. Because the same thing goes. Three years in, I find I’m drenched in God’s mercy. And next? It’ll be grace. His grace.

God’s calling me to open my eyes once more. To find rest in His grace. Because it’s right there in front of me. In fact, it’s all over me. Along with drops of mercy, my hands and arms are splashed with grace…

If I can just allow Him to finish the process.

If I could just realize I’m already there…

Repurposed

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Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow- to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with Me.” Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:38-39

I am a Christian. A follower of Christ. And He says to me, “Follow Me, and I’ll make you…”

That’s the whole point of the painting project I am. He’s making me into something specific. And it’s taken three years to get this far. I’ve been reclaimed and restored. But distressing is part of the refinishing project. The sanding is the cup I must drink. And what I have drunk.

My sorrow is the thing God will use for His purposes. In reality, that which I’m tempted to hide away is not really mine to cover. Because it belongs to Him. And in His hands, it’ll be blessed. This is what makes me beautiful. And so miraculously, I find my beauty is not in spite of my flaws, but because of them.

My imperfections make me lovely. And useful. To Him.

A repurposed piece.

Like a distressed chair…

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Yep, Levi started a chair with me on Saturday. But he couldn’t stick it out. He said it was too much work. And he speaks truth. Restoring an old marked up piece of furniture takes true effort. And a great deal of time.

The good thing, though, is Levi got a lesson. He understood that people can be just like the chair. That the slick needs to come off before paint will stick. And though he didn’t complete the project, he at least started it. And I have to smile as I see drops of salmon on his knee. A smattering of mercy displayed for me to see…

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A reminder to me that God’s words are true.

Certainly, goodness and mercy will stay close to me all the days of my life… Psalm 23:6 

You know, I always loved the look of distressed furniture. And now, perhaps I know why. Because there’s beauty in the process. For me, next Tuesday marks three years.

And just as God awakened me to His mercy, He’s awakening me to His grace. That’s what He’s been doing this whole time. Reclaiming, restoring, and refinishing. Me. Speaking to me in ways I can understand…

Like with a chair.

An old, distressed chair.

Using the things I love.

Set Up

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It’s about Levi. Right now, it’s all about him. Let me explain. See that toilet paper roll? This is a pretty common sight in my home. But not because of the men in my life. No, this is something I’ve done on more than one occasion in recent days. It’s because I’m so preoccupied. I think, I’ll get to it later. But I rush from one task to another and forget about it. And so, I set someone up. At least that’s the term used by the usual fall guy. Jason will tell me I set him up. And I just love him. One reason being his great sense of humor. Like the morning I went to the potty and found his precise handwriting in red on the cardboard roll. His message, “Thank you!” My husband made his point very well.

Yes, this is one of my shortcomings lately. I forget to do things. Little things, but important nonetheless. Even yesterday. I thought to myself, put toilet paper in Levi’s bathroom! But I had already walked out the door. I thought, do it when you get home! But time was rushed. And by the end of the night, there was still none in my son’s bathroom. And only a smidge in ours. After feeding my baby at 3:00 a.m. this morning, I hurriedly scrawled a note for my hubby. I left it by the coffee maker “there’s no toilet paper in the bathroom, I didn’t want to set you up.” I guess I could have stumbled downstairs to grab a roll, but the note just seemed easier in my groggy state…

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And so, there’s Levi. I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me to find a little something from him a month or so back. A precious thank you note from my boy. An imitation of his father. Right down to the red ink.

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I couldn’t help but laugh. But today, I wonder if it’s a laughing matter. See, Levi’s a little bit of Jason and a little bit of me. He learns from us. And my sobering realization last week was that I’m not doing so great. In fact, I don’t think I’ve poured myself into my little boy as I should. Because I’ve been so preoccupied.

In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Daniel 5:5

Yep, the handwriting’s on the wall. Or on the cardboard roll. And the message is clear. I’ve been weighed in the balances and found wanting. As usual, my pride lies at the heart of it. And dream chasing. And a faulty foundation laid at childhood, cemented in place over years and years. Problem is, I’ve been using the world’s set of scales, not God’s. And by the world’s standards, I’d say my worth is pretty low. And so my entire life I’ve fought this feeling of unworthiness. Shame of who I was and am… a house painter’s daughter. Shame of things I’d done. All along, I’ve been trying to be more than. I wanted to prove I was worthy.

And so, I chased a dream. Because if it came true, I’d then be able to prove to the world I’m really somebody. The dream realized would validate me. It would mean I have value.

…for they loved human praise more than praise from God. John 12:43

In plain speak, this is what chasing the dream looks like in my house. It looks like an empty roll of toilet paper. It looks like me emptying a milk carton yesterday that went out of date on January 27! It looks like me finally getting rid of kale and brussels sprouts that have sat in my fridge for a month! It looks like my husband asking for clean underwear and me looking incredulously in his drawer. I was sure there were more. But no, the drawer was empty. It looks like me telling my son that we can’t play a game because I have work emails to answer. Reason being because I was chasing the dream when I could have worked. It looks like me carving out slots of time for me when I could be carving out slots of time my family. And why? Because I chase a dream that would prove I have a purpose and place in this world. That I have value. Basically, chasing a dream has kept me preoccupied.

And then there’s Levi. See, his foundation is being laid now. And my actions will cement into place feelings he will carry with him the rest of his life. What I do now, and how I interact with him is crucial. And me telling him I have other things to do sends the message that he’s not as important as my work. Or as my writing. Or whatever else it is I’m doing. Me saying I’m too tired to read a story tells him I don’t care enough… Me putting everything else first tells him he’s second. Less than. And without even knowing I’m doing it, I’m minimizing his worth. Devaluing him by my careless actions. Before I know it, he’s absorbed what I don’t want him to. Evidenced by a cardboard roll. Evidenced by sucking in his tummy as much as he can while staring in the mirror. “I want to be this skinny,” he said. Yes, a little bit of Jason. A little bit of me. Well, quite a bit of me. But the little bit I’ve poured into him seems to be faulty. The foundation shaky. For he’s using the wrong set of scales… the world’s.

Good news is, God opened my eyes. It was Saturday at 4:00 a.m. when Levi began vomiting. It was pretty bad. All he wanted to do was lay on the bathroom floor. I asked if he wanted me to lay beside him. And so, amidst blankets and pillows and a cold tile floor, I lay by my son’s side. I held him. And it was there I found my purpose. My value. For I. Am. A. Mother. No greater responsibility do I hold.

God’s blessed me with children. They’re not a chore, they’re a gift. A privilege.  And if I simply do what I’m supposed to by training up my child, by teaching him to love the Lord God with all his heart and soul, by teaching Him to be like Christ, then I am doing everything I need to. This is my place in the world. This. See, it’s not about me, it’s about Levi. My children. And I have the opportunity to give them the right foundation. Valued because they are God’s. Not because the world says so.

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Yep, it’s about Levi. See, I fear I’ve set him up. Because as I said, he’s a little bit of me and a little bit of Jason. And my foundation has been unstable. And inadvertently, I’ve been pouring the wrong foundation into my boy. Funny thing, though. Several times this year I’ve had a thought. There are moments I feel like God set me up for a fall. That sounds terrible, I know, but He knows my heart. He knows where I’m coming from. And that’s the point. Where I’m coming from. My humble beginnings. It’s because of where I began. In my eyes, from a low station. It’s a place I feel I should rise above. And so, pride set up in my heart. And so goes the story… a fall.

Esther 4:14 is stirring to me. See, it’s about purpose. For such a time as this… In passing, I’d think, Yes! God has this grand plan for me. Something big in His kingdom. But now I know. The biggest thing I can do is my kids. My for such a time moment is here. In my home. And yes, on my bathroom floor. Because in truth, charity begins at home. Ministry within my walls. Church here. Building up the little people He gave me.

Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

You know, I feel I started from a low position. Humble origins. But coming full circle, I see this is right where I should be. Humility my garment and a servant’s heart instead of pride. Like Christ. Because here, from my lowly position I can see Him. I can look up to my Father. And there, in my Daddy’s eyes, I realize I am valuable. That He has great purpose for me. I fulfill it when I’m crouched down. On my knees. Bringing myself to Levi’s level. Looking him in the eye. For when I give my son all of me, I find I give him value. Worth. Importance. And in my eyes, he’ll see it.

Yes, today, I have hope for my boy. See, the cement of Levi’s foundation hasn’t been set up yet. It’s still pliable. There’s time to instill truth into him. God’s truth. This is what will set him up for success. And just because the world’s set of faulty scales has been mine, it doesn’t mean they have to be Levi’s. So that’s the job that lies before me today. Setting up my boy’s foundation. There’s my purpose.

Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:8

Operation Happy House (aka The Crazy House)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her children arise and call her blessed.

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

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

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

The Prodigal Daughter

10846156_10205084650657371_1107540708525779365_nAnd in those moments when it seems I have nothing, there’s always a light to lead me home. Lauren Eline, Facebook

I know what He wants for Christmas. I’ve discovered the perfect gift for the One who already gave perfection. And it’s so simple. It was something on Facebook that clued me in. See, He leaves breadcrumbs for His children all the time. Little drops of light to lead us to where He desires us to go. And that’s how I know what He wants for I followed His breadcrumbs. I’ve been leaping from one ray of light to the next and so now, I see. They’ve been leading me home. To my Father’s house. And that’s it. All He wants for Christmas is me, and all His children, to come home. That’s what He’s been trying to tell me. And isn’t this what every parent desires? To have their kids home for the holidays?

Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. James 1:17

I am slow. So slow. Because it appears God has to show me something again and again before I get it (and again). Because we just went through something a year ago. It’s this fear thing. But His word is clear… perfect love casts out fear because fear involves punishment. And so, if I believe God loves me as His word says, should I fear? Should I expect punishment from God? And yet, I find myself going back there again and again. Just waiting for God to drop the ax. Like an errant child, I await my punishment. Most recently, the birth of my new baby set me down this path. It goes back to guilt I hold. I feel guilty for being discontent. And because I don’t think I fully appreciate what God has given, I agonize. Namely, over my children. Because if I can’t appreciate them as much as I should, then perhaps God will decide to just take them away. This irrational thought came to me a few years back…

For to the one who has, it will be given, and from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. Mark 4:25 

For a long time I thought that verse referred to things we have. Possessions. Like my kids. All that God has given. And it caused me to fear the worst. And isn’t that a crazy thought? Why should I think God wants to take away what He’s given. Why would the One who gave everything desire to take away? But thankfully, I finally realized what the writer is talking about for the passage of Scripture refers to using your light. And my life gives evidence as to how one can lose her light. See, I’m a worrier. And the more I worry, the dimmer the light becomes. And the more anxious I am, the more that light ebbs away. And when I fear, the light is nearly extinguished. Before I know it, I live in the shadow lands. I dwell in darkness because I can barely see the light. But then, I find a breadcrumb. There’s a beam of light and it beckons. Like the one I saw on Facebook last night.

The people who live in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those living in the shadowland of death,
light has dawned. Matthew 4:16

This morning I realized I am just like the prodigal son I read about in Luke 15. He asked his father for his share of the estate and his father gave it. Me? I ask my Father for His love and He gives it. And like the son who went off and spent all his father gave him, I do the same. God assures me He loves me (again and again), but I squander away His precious words. For some reason, I remain insecure despite His very clear words to me. Oh, so clear. In fact, in early November God couldn’t have spoken more directly. He was personal and intimate. And He used someone who barely knows me to convey His message. It was quite remarkable. But rather than rest in those words, I remain the prodigal daughter. I still roam blindly in the dark.

But thankfully, I have the prodigal son to look to. Oh, how surprised he must have been for He lost everything. He had nothing and dwelled with the pigs he fed. He was starving.  But finally, he came to his senses. Finally. He thought he’d return to his father and confess. He decided he’d ask to be made a hired hand… he would work for his father in order to live. But when he came to his home country, his father saw him from afar and came running. Running with open arms to greet his lost son. Dad fell upon his neck and kissed him again and again. All his son could get out was, “I’m not worthy to be called your son.” He didn’t even get out the part about working before a robe and a ring and sandals were placed upon him. He was warmly welcomed into his father’s house with a great feast… music and dancing. His father was just so happy. For his lost son had been found. His son who was dead was now alive.

And then there’s me. The prodigal daughter. I’ve been living in the shadow land of death. That’s what fear will do to you. But God, my Father, my Daddy… He told me most clearly and tenderly in November that He loves me. He said He loves my children so much more than I ever could. And He chose me to raise them. He said to not fear His will. He said I’ve been distracted by the noise around me – noise from fears compounded onto fears – worries of a 1,000 what if’s. He said I should learn to quiet myself and focus on His voice… the voice of my Daddy. The God of all creation said that’s what He is to me… a Daddy. He said when I love my children, I am most like Him. When Annabelle and Levi cry for me, in pain or in joy, I should multiply that feeling by 1,000 and I’ll begin to see how He feels for me. This is what my Daddy said. Clearly. So then, why should I fear? Because the way I felt yesterday when I kissed my daughter a thousand times is exactly what He feels for me. When I exclaimed over her little smiling face, I love you, I love you, I love you, I am most like Him. So why do I squander away His precious words of assurance? And so today, I choose not to. It’s as if I have finally come to my senses. Finally. Because Daddy told me He loves me. And today, He tells me to come home for Christmas.

 Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

He leaves breadcrumbs. Drops of light. On that first Christmas long ago, He sent His Son as a light to the world. And He’s the One who knows the way to our Father’s house. We can follow Him. And we don’t have to fear if we lose sight of our big Brother. For those times we lag behind, we have another light to follow. Because God also gave us His Spirit. Just as it hovered over the watery depths at the beginning of creation, it hovers over our fickle hearts. For those times we wander… when worry draws us down a darkened path or when anxiety leads us astray or when fear blinds our eyes… there is a flame. It’s a candle that never goes out and it sits in the window of our darkened soul. It beckons us home. And as we draw near and peer inside, we see the house is fully lit. Warm light draws us to open the door and when we do, Daddy throws His arms open wide. He pulls us close and kisses our face a thousand times. He says, I love you, I love you, I love you! He’s so happy because the daughter who was lost is now found. The daughter who was dead, who trod the valley of the shadow of death, is now alive. She finally made it. And when she does, He says welcome home…. that He’d been waiting for her.

This is what God, our Father of lights, wants for Christmas. And His call is not just for me. Because He wants all his sons and daughters of light to come home. He’s placed a candle in the windows of our soul. It’s there to light our way. We just need to look for it…

Jesus answered, “The light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light.”  John 12:35-36

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=candle+in+the+window&qpvt=candle+in+the+window&FORM=VDRE#view=detail&mid=794859AEC781670C86D1794859AEC781670C86D1

Feels like home to me

“I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” Jeremiah 29:14

The above verse is so very personal to me. Because it embodies what was most important to me just about three years ago. Within this verse, I see my two most pressing prayer concerns at that time… One, I wanted to find God, with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind. And the other was like it, with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind, I wanted to return to my homeland. I wanted these two things desperately, and now that God has answered both prayers, I believe I know why I sought them so frantically. Because on a deeper level, it wasn’t just my home or the LORD that I was seeking. It was safety. And so naturally, I longed to return to the place in which I first felt safe. A child first feels safe in the arms of her mother or at her daddy’s knees. And so, it was that nest of security that I sought… the nest from which I jumped eighteen years earlier in an effort to spread my wings. And after so long away, it was my homeland I wanted. Because absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? And because there, I would find those I loved, and who loved me back unconditionally. It was security of a homeland I was eager to find.

My mother-in-law made a remark just a week or so ago, and I find it to be true. She said that God has plans for me, but He put me where I would feel secure. And there’s no place like home, right? Wasn’t it Dorothy who sought what was beyond the rainbow, and in the end, she just wanted to go back home. And isn’t it said, “Home is where your heart is.” Don’t we see that cross-stitched on pillows adorning comfy couches in homes across our land? Yes, when you leave your home searching for the rainbow, and end up finding not gold as promised, but an empty pot, you tend to want to go back to where you started. Familiarity beckons, and what’s known calls, and comfort draws you… back to the place from which you were carried away captive… back from the world that didn’t fulfill as you so hoped.

Since coming home, I’ve learned a lot about God. More so than I have in my entire life. And the biggest lesson I have learned is that there’s a hole in your heart that can never be filled on this side of eternity. Some refer to it as a God-sized hole, that only He can fill. And it’s from experience that I believe that. Because it was only by my spending so many years away from home, and my longing for it desperately, that I learned of its inadequacy. If God brought me back too soon, I wouldn’t have realized it. And if He never brought me back at all, why, my homeland would still be that elusive promised land to me. It would still be a plot of soil that I set my every hope and dream upon… it would still be Virginia that I considered my real home today. And not Him, who is my ultimate home and my final destination.

But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:16

I’ve been home for just over two and a half years now. And the crazy thing is… home no longer feels like home to me. The oddest thing is that what I placed all my hopes on didn’t produce what I expected. And so, that spurned on my search for God all the more… here in my hometown. And it’s here that I found God… where I least expected to find Him. And what He’s revealing to me is that here will never be enough. And it doesn’t matter where here happens to be. Because it’s not there… with Him. He is the only thing that can fulfill and satisfy the deep unrest of my soul. The truth is, I don’t think I’ll ever feel fully satisfied until that Day, when I am in fact somewhere over the rainbow and in His very presence. Because what I know now is that He is home. It’s not here, in Virginia, but it’s there… with Him.

I was searching for security. I wanted a refuge. And so, I thought home. But Virginia can’t help me with that. Because it’s only Him… the eternal God is my refuge. It’s His arms that are everlasting (Deuteronomy 33:27). And so now, it’s Him that I seek… because He feels like home to me.

One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life… Psalm 27:4