Jesus Christ, the Cross, and Braveheart

In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:25

I drank from my new cup today. I just love it. One, it’s from a dear friend and two, the message is not only timely but inspiring…

Find Your Fire.

I was given the cup just before April. My friend said it was because I inspire others to do it. And once upon a time, prompting women to grab hold of their God-giftedness was my chief passion. To encourage one to just stop. To exit busyness… and not enter it again until they know what their passion is. What ignites them. Fires them up… what causes them to burn. Do more of that!

In the New Testament, the Greek word is charisma. You find it where Paul encouraged his protege, Timothy, to fan into flame the gift of God that was inside him. And in early March, I was all over these passages…

More, I remembered my fire and planned to act on it. However, fiery passion fizzled by the end of the month. Nonetheless, this notion of finding your fire remains one of my life messages. Likely because I’ve struggled with it so. All too often, I neglected the very gifts God graced me with while attempting to take hold of someone else’s. That’s why the message on this cup resonates.

Last week, though, another idea took root…

Because recent findings suggest another layer to finding fire. And through Jesus Christ, the cross, and a Mel Gibson movie, God teaches me that sometimes fire finds me. Even if I don’t want it to…

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad – for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering… 1 Peter 4:12-13

Yes, that cup was timely. Because in my estimation, the latter part of March was particularly trying. And though I realize what I’m about to share reveals my weakness, I do so anyway. Because the Apostle Paul shared first. Clearly, though, my “fires” significantly pale in comparison (2 Corinthians 11)…

Nonetheless, I did feel some heat.

It wasn’t from something big, though. No, for me, it’s the layering of small things. One upon another until finally, I felt a sense of despair and darkness. It stemmed from my daughter coming home from school with a high fever followed by my son wiping out on his dirt bike, eliciting a trip to the ER. And because I hurt one of my friend’s feelings just before going to the hospital, tension weighed heavily on my heart. The next day entailed prep for an “adult” test no one wants to do, only to come home and take my daughter to a sick-visit because fever had turned into to a deep cough.

I know, small potatoes. But as I said, I can be so weak. And as I sat on the couch one morning, helping my son to bind his ankle, it was as if my own heart were bound instead. Tied up by the layering of mishaps.

And just when things felt lighter, when ankle swelling lessened and coughs subsided, I found Annabelle covered in some sort of insect bites. Yes, I know, such a little thing. But I swear at that moment, it felt the heaviest of burdens and nearly too much to bear. I actually voiced my discontent….

“God, please, not another thing.”

Today, I realize my heart was begging for mercy. And in my eyes, I knew exactly what that would look like. Alas, the last few weeks have served to teach me a lesson. One I hope to never forget. Because turns out my idea of mercy and God’s don’t always align. Perhaps that’s why He pointed me to His Son and the cross. And for good measure, He spoke through the lines of a movie called Braveheart.

Thus, through the weeks leading up to Passion week and Easter, I’ve been mulling over the lives of those who not only found their fire, but managed to keep it burning when fiery trials found them. Indeed their passion enabled them to live, and die, well.

They endured whatever came their way…

And it’s what God wants of me.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

March 29th is the day I pulled out my Passion CD. Prompted by a failed morning (I’d slammed the devotion book on the breakfast table about five times trying to get my bickering kids’ attention), I listened to Jessi Colter and Shooter Jennings as they cried out, “Lord, please have mercy… on my troubled soul…” I played it over and over because it fit my dark mood.

And before starting my work day, I pulled out my Bible and immersed myself in passages about Christ’s suffering and how we’re to arm ourselves with the same attitude. And that’s when I was comforted to know that Paul, who did have that mindset, cried out for mercy. But see, God had previously spoken of him, saying I’ll show him how much he must suffer for My name. And that he did. There was a thorn, a messenger of Satan to torment Paul, and he asked God to remove it three times.

God did not.

I then read about my Lord Jesus, and realized even He cried out for mercy. Matthew 26 paints the picture of how His soul was crushed with grief to the point of death. He bowed and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from Me. Yet, I want Your will to be done, not mine.” And again, He prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And a third time…

Paul asked and so did Jesus. Three times each. But in the end, they were both armed to suffer. They drank from their cups. They could because they were so inflamed by the fire inside them. Oh, they had passion…

And the two are intertwined. Passion is linked with suffering. Greek definitions in the New Testament prove that. And an online search underscores the meaning of passionate. It means a willingness to suffer for what we love or it describes an activity, goal, or cause we’re willing to suffer for. It’s our hill worth dying on.

And perhaps because it’s nearly Easter, this speaks so loudly. Because that’s what Jesus did. We were His hill worth dying on. He was so passionate about us and for us, He suffered a tormented death on a hill called Calvary.

Christ’s fire, and obedience to God, carried Him through.

“You do not know what you are asking,” Jesus replied. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” the brothers answered. “You will indeed drink My cup.” Jesus said. Matthew 20:22-23

I’m so weak. The past few weeks have proven that. Perhaps that’s why I found myself watching Braveheart two times. The first for entertainment purposes and the second because I saw a parallel between God’s Son and the character of William Wallace. The viewing was not accidental, more of a God thing, causing me to pull out my journal and jot down various lines.

See, they set me to thinking about what mercy really is. And what God really promises. Especially at Easter. How easy it is to focus just on the new life part. Resurrection so much easier to view than the suffering that leads to it. And Mel Gibson’s character reflected this beautifully. I confess, the movie was so violent, I had to turn my head several times. But the speeches he delivered held me riveted…

“What will you do without freedom? Will you fight? Run and you’ll live… at least a while… would you be willing to trade all of this… to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom?”

Freedom was his passion. His hill to die on. Even when nobles tempted him to compromise, he stood firm. He answered that the noble man’s position existed to provide the commoners with freedom. He refused to align with the oppressive king. And when he was finally captured and imprisoned, he refused to give in still. And yet, the beautiful princess begged, “Mercy is to die quickly.”

His response? “If I swear to him (the king), then all that I am is dead already… Every man dies but not every man really lives.” And once left alone, he prayed before his appointment with torture…

“I’m so afraid. Give me the strength to die well.”

And so this fire for freedom carried him through. He was stretched and pulled. He was tempted. “Beg the king’s mercy and you shall have it. Kiss the royal emblem and you will feel no more.” But like Jesus, Wallace didn’t open his mouth before his oppressors. He was silent as they ripped into his flesh. And because he wouldn’t, the crowd finally cried out for him.

“Mercy,” they begged.

But see, the character of William Wallace knew what true mercy was. And he knew that giving in for the sake of ease wasn’t it. And so, when he finally mustered the strength to voice one word, he bellowed out that which carried him through his death. “Freedom,” was his cry.

And it was his fire.

If we die with Him, we will also live with Him. If we endure hardship, we will reign with Him. If we deny Him, He will deny us. 2 Timothy 2:11-12

Though a movie, Braveheart was based on a true story. William Wallace found himself bound, led away, and killed because he did not bow down to an unjust king. So similar to Christ. And therein lies the key to both living and dying. See, Jesus Christ was bound, but not held back. William Wallace, too. Both bound physically, but spiritually free.

But what about me?

See, I have this erroneous notion that my path should be smooth. And when things crop up that hinder and obstruct or weigh me down, I can go dark. Life can feel so heavy. But what does Christ invite? He says if we want to follow Him, we must pick up our cross daily. And I’ve never lifted a cross, but I daresay it weighs a lot.

But this is it. If Jesus Christ, who is my Lord and Savior, suffered hardship, why should I expect my path to be any different? In truth, if I want that Easter resurrection, I better prepare myself for the suffering that leads to it. Because this, too, is a promise from God.

Other voices war with His, though. And the one that confuses me is the same that whispered to Eve in the garden. “Did God really say? You won’t die!” And when Jesus described how He’d suffer and die, the same voice spoke through Peter, saying, “Heaven forbid it! This will never happen to you…”

Do you see it? The prince of this world says we shouldn’t suffer. That we should not die. And his voice lingers in my ear still, “Did God really say that? Shouldn’t things be smooth?” Thus, he offers a false version of mercy to me.

But God did say it. He promised a hard road. And when I begin to cave to this notion that things should always go smoothly, I need to remember Jesus’ response. “Get behind me, Satan.” And may I remember the invitation to pick up my cross and die daily. And when I begin to falter, may I have the courage to utter a prayer like William Wallace…

“Lord, I’m so afraid. Please help me to die well.”

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12

God has a way of tying things up. It happened this morning as I feasted on the words of a song, which reminded me of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These men were literally bound and thrown into a hot furnace because they refused to bow down to a false king. They would not denounce their faith by worshiping another god.

When threatened, they remained confident in God’s deliverance but said…

“But even if he doesn’t…”

That’s it. These men knew God would either deliver them from the fire or through it. But even if he didn’t, they were assured of where they were going. Thus, they refused to compromise. No begging for mercy or kissing the king’s ring. Instead, their inner fire carried them through a fiery trial. That’s when a miracle happened…

Three men were thrown in, but the unjust king saw four. God didn’t leave them. And they were unbound, walking around inside the furnace.

I tell you, I’m no Peter or Paul. I’m not William Wallace and nothing like Christ. But three Old Testament heroes encourage me this day. I comprehend my bindings may be different for there’s no physical restraints. But sometimes I feel them. I’m bound and hindered as obstructions cross my path.

But I see it now. In order to walk freely in the midst of my fires, I have to die well. I do so by dying to self, giving up all my desires and plans to God. That way, the devil has no hold over me. I simply have to lay down my life first, before I’m bound. Because experience teaches me that holding to my life is a slow death. But to die quickly is mercy.

This is how I can pick up my cross and follow Jesus. It’s a mindset and it’s how those who went before me died well.

Only, it’s not that easy to do.

You were running your race so well… who has held you back from following the truth? Galatians 5:7

It occurs to me that Paul often likens our spiritual journey to that of a race. He pushes one to fight the good fight and finish the course. And there are times I think I’m running well.

Not the last few weeks, though. No, they’ve felt heavy. And the devil tempted me to cry out for mercy, or at least my version of it. Thus, I opened my mouth in complaint. I doubted and distrusted. Instead of enduring, I gave in and up by way of a terrible attitude. And when I felt like I couldn’t take one more thing, I asked God to stop it.

Please, not another thing!

I begged for mercy. But you know what? He reminded me He already did. God had mercy and had mercy on me (Jeremiah 31:20). And once upon a time, I hadn’t obtained mercy, but now I have (1 Peter 2:10). Indeed, mercy came through a man named Jesus Christ (Luke 1:78). And God assures me that the path of Jesus is the course I take.

Thus, if our journey is a race, it strikes me how Jesus ran the first leg of the relay. And today, He reaches back and passes on the baton. In reaching forward, I take hold of that for which He took hold of me. And I close my fingers around it…

My baton.

Only, in getting a good grip, it realize it feels just like a cross. It’s mine to bear. And now, it’s my leg of the race. But to run well means to run in the same manner as He.

Therefore, since God in His mercy has given us this new way… we never give up. 1 Corinthians 4:1

By last week, I thought I was finally getting this lesson down. I even had one of those God moments when I was pointed to Psalm 103:1-2. I savored how God redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. The passage stood out because I’d been ruminating on mercy. But hindsight reveals God’s humor for that very night, I broke my crown.

The next day brought an unexpected dental visit. Shots and a temporary crown. And I smiled at the circumstances. Indeed, God crowns me with His mercy, even if through the dentist’s office. Not my plan.

But this week brought new fires. Another fever knocked out church and school. By Tuesday, both kids were home. And by last night, my countenance had fallen. The same old thing. Heavy and dark. Feeling bound. I had to apologize to my husband. I told him, “I didn’t die well.”

And I didn’t. Instead of picking up my cross, I held to my life. It was a slow death. But see, the race isn’t over yet. And the good news is, I can pick up my baton again. Because God assures me His mercies are new every morning.

Thus, I look forward to tomorrow. That’s when I’ll pick up my new coffee cup. I just love it.

And when I contemplate its message, I pray I remember His. And that I’ll be encouraged to not only find my fire, but to keep it burning when fiery trials find me. Yes, I pray my passion will carry me through, enabling me to live, and die, well.

And that I’ll endure whatever comes my way…

For it’s what God wants of me.

Good Mourning

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

I’m not going to lie, I can be selfish. So selfish. Sometimes, I just can’t help it. Working from home and spending most of my time here breeds inward focus. And so, not surprisingly, I viewed every word I read last week in context of me. When I found myself in the book of Job and Ecclesiastes, it was for me.

Me, me, me.

However, Friday turned my eyes another direction. And through the gift of God’s Spirit and hindsight, I quickly saw those holy scriptures in reference to someone else. And I comprehended the content wasn’t so much about me after all. No, in the bright light of Saturday mourning, I realize the reading was also for him…

It was for Robert and for his brood. My family.

And for that reason, I offer up the following.

Aunt Margie

I received word about my aunt this past Friday. She was declining rapidly. And like most, I found myself wanting to do something. But what? My answer was food. Comfort food. I could take a bite to eat and so, I made that my plan.

Thus, I brought a few items and went to see Margie. And I think she heard me. Told her I loved her but deep down, I felt like a hypocrite. Because why does it usually take a time like this to draw family together? What about when life is running smooth and fast. Why not then?

And so, I grieved not only what was happening, but loss of a whole other sort. And sadly, my aunt’s spirit left this earthly realm sometime through the night. When I heard the next morning, every thing I’d read came flooding back to me. Yes, deep verses I’d skimmed over came surging to life through the filter of mourning.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11

I swear, I experienced John 14:26 recently. Because the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, came to me. He brought to mind everything He said last week and most poignantly, He reiterated a passage from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes.

I went there a week ago because of our tree that was cut down and uprooted. Unfortunately, we’d planted it too close to our septic system and we needed to address it before it did damage. And Jason tried to save it. Planned to move it, but the root system was so big and his tractor couldn’t do the trick.

That’s what initially sent me to Ecclesiastes 3:1-2. But see, my eyes were fixed on the part about there being a time to plant and a time to uproot. It was important to me, spiritually speaking. And so, my eyes skimmed right over the line preceding it…

There is a time to be born and a time to die.

Lo and behold, my devotional book sent me right back there the next day. Two times within two days, I read those verses. And when a separate source sent me back there again, I still didn’t see what I was supposed to. But today, I do. Every bit of it. See, God knew I’d need those verses. And because I’m a little dense, He had to point it out three times before I got it.

But now that I do, I’m assured there’s a time for everything. A time to be born and a time to die… a time to weep and a time to laugh… a time to mourn and a time to dance. And perhaps most important for today?

Well, maybe it’s the part about a time to keep silent and a time to speak. Because God teaches me there’s a time for both. Perhaps my job, as one who wants to come alongside those who grieve, is to learn which is which.

Thus, I grasp what I’m supposed to…

I’m certain God wants me to learn how to grieve well. He wants me to show good mourning to those who mourn deeply. And because God is God, He shows me how through His word.

Margie and Robert

I guess I shouldn’t be awed that God sent me to the book of Job on Friday morning, but I am. The morning before I received bad news, I was immersed in the suffering of Job, a man who lost everything. When his friends heard, I’m sure they felt like me. What to do? And like me, they made a plan.

Job 2:11 says they made an appointment together to come and to sympathize with him and to comfort him. I see three steps, number one being they came. The word means to go in or enter and that’s just what they did for when they saw Job from afar, they lifted their voices in weeping. They entered into his grief.

When they drew near, they simply sat on the ground with Job and for seven days, and no one spoke a word to him because they could see his pain was very great. And how amazing is that? And how very unlike us today. Because maybe we’ve lost the ability to sit in this manner.

I can only speak for myself, but silence is awkward. And as a people, we’re fixers. I am. I want to go and bring some comfort. I want to make things all better with my pot of comfort. But sometimes, that’s not what’s needed. Sometimes, the pain is so great that nothing will help. And sometimes, the best way to come alongside one who grieves is to just give them our silence.

But more, to be a good mourner, we enter into their pain with them. That’s what Jobs’ friends did. And Friday night, I can’t help but wonder if I skipped that vital step.

Because in all reality, a casserole can’t bring comfort to a broken heart.

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of every man and the living will take it to heart and solemnly ponder its meaning… Ecclesiastes 7:2

This is how I like to remember my aunt. Oh she was lively. But this wasn’t who I visited Friday. And as I grieved the impending loss, my heart broke for every one within those walls. Because though Margie was still with us, the house I entered was one of mourning. Saturday afternoon, I opened that screen door once more…

And you know, I was surprised to discover there’s a verse about such a home. I confess, though, I find it hard to take in the words offered through Ecclesiastes 7:2. Nonetheless, I find truth. Because indeed, in facing the loss of a loved one, a person cannot help but contemplate their own life and times.

And how ironic that Spring touches the air. I’ve seen robins on the ground and peepers have already peeped. And it all feels so familiar. Because on the cusp of the season that offers hope and new life, we find loss instead. The same happened ten years back. My cousin passed in the Spring followed by another aunt soon after…

Now my father is left with four sisters and it makes me so sad. And thinking about all this, that’s when I finally cried. Alone in my car, I wept aloud.

Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (sharing others’ grief). Romans 12:15

Romans 12 teaches us how to live. There I find instructions for living. We’re admonished to use our gifts. We’re exhorted to live and love. And we’re instructed…. rejoice and weep accordingly. Weep. It means sob, mourn, or lament. And as I prayed this morning for those who grieve, I was halted mid sentence because I remembered such truth…

“Jesus wept.”

This is the shortest verse in the Bible and I had to look it up. Because there I find my example. Jesus showed good mourning, for He came to His friends. But then, when He saw their grief, He wept with them. He entered their pain. Oh, it’s true Jesus brought comfort, but He entered into their grieving first.

He came, He grieved, and He comforted, and this is what God shows me today. More, He wants me to grieve as Jesus did. Because me? I like action. A plan. What can I do?

Thus, in all my pondering, I can’t help but wonder. Can it be in our haste to comfort, we skip this most vital step? Oh, we rush to those who mourn and we’re quick to offer food. But do we know how to enter into grief with them? Do we dare enter their pain? And if we don’t, maybe it’s time we learn to.

Again, I’m speaking for myself here.

I hesitate to share this picture because his suffering is great…

His friends know him as Bobby, but he’s Robert to me. And this man poured into me when I was little. He saw I maybe had a little talent and encouraged me at his table. He’d hand me a pencil and a pad and give prompts… “Draw a fox.” Then he’d praise me for it. And when I joined the Air Force, he wouldn’t let me leave until he grilled me the biggest steak you ever saw. I truly love him.

And because I do, I so want to help. But what, I wonder. See, sausage gravy can only go so far. And because I write, that’s what I’m prompted to do. I offer up a message and send up a prayer. I ask God that those who come near would enter his pain. And if they dare lift their voices, may it be in weeping or prayers. Because see, like Job, he’s had such great loss. Let no one speak a word to him until the time is right…

Because as God reveals, there’s a time for everything under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. There’s a time to cry and mourn. And indeed, there’s a time to speak and a time to remain silent. So that’s my prayer.

Lord Jesus, please send good mourners to my uncle Robert. Those who are led by your spirit and know how and when. Send those who embody what we learn through Your word, through the pages of Job and Ecclesiastes.

And for those who’ve read these words, I ask you to please pray the same. Ask God to send people who without having to say a word, can show good mourning to my uncle Robert.

Amen.

The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. Job 1:21

In closing, I saw this picture on Facebook yesterday. I think it’s glorious. The love captured there. New life and old. The never ending circle. It causes me to cry. And it makes me think of this verse. Oh, it’s a hard one to swallow, and surprisingly, it was voiced by Job. After he lost everything, this is what he said.

It came to me Saturday morning after hearing about Margie’s passing. Because see, the day before I’d received word of an expected birth. Someone in my sphere was gearing up to have a baby. My thought? While someone’s water is breaking, ushering in new life, another’s heart is breaking, while life recedes.

What a picture this brings.

I told Jason it reminded me of a song by Live called Lightning Crashes. Now, this song is twenty-eight years old and I’ve not heard it on the radio since I was in my early twenties. But don’t you know, it’s exactly what I heard Saturday after leaving my aunt’s house. And though it’s not one I’d typically use in one of my blogs, I think it’s appropriate for this one.

Because after listening to it ten times yesterday, I finally heard what I was supposed to. For over and over, this line is repeated, “I can feel it.”

And I do. I can feel it. I feel their grief. But I think God teaches me this is what good mourners should do. They don’t just go and comfort, they also enter into the house of mourning. They enter into the pain. This is the lesson God wants me to take to heart. And through the book of Job and Ecclesiastes, and an unlikely song, I hear what He’s saying.

And for that, I give thanks.

And like Job, I echo his cry. Blessed be the name of the LORD.

Sometimes the devil wins…

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“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:15

Christmas happened. December 17 came, and from that moment on, it’s been a mad dash. Preparations and presents and baking and a trip and the aftermath. I don’t know about you, but it usually takes me a week or two to bring order back to my life. It entails an overhaul of each room, removing items no longer needed, and also, movement of furniture.

I emptied closets and cabinets making room for the new. And I had to smile when I realized both my mom and my mom-in-law gave me footcare items. As you can see from the picture, my feet desperately need them. The polish has been on my toes since July and my heels are as rough as 40 grit sandpaper.

I tell you, though, in seeing the lotion and solutions, another thought occurred to me going beyond self-care. It had to do with the above verse… how lovely the feet. That word means belonging to the right hour or season. It means timely.

And so at the end of December, I wondered, is it time now?

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7

This message rings out from the Old Testament, as well. It resonates in that the definition for “bring good news” can mean to publish. And those who know me best know this is a heart-felt dream of mine. Not only do I hope to complete a book, but I want to publish it. Oh, I’ve been chasing this dream of mine ever since the Fall of 2011.

In fact, that’s what I was vigorously doing up to December 17. Then, I hit pause on my dream and settled into everything else, expecting to get back to it just after the 3rd of January when school started. Alas, snow days bookended the one day my kids went that week. Nonetheless, I found my heart so full of God’s goodness by Friday morning, I wanted to share.

Indeed, it felt like it was time. I wondered… a blog, Instagram, Facebook? Perhaps a card for the two women in my sphere who are dealing with something exceptionally hard?

I needed an outlet for my good news. But because a snow day’s busy with extra, passion waned and life carried on. Ever since, though, I’ve found myself wanting to share at dawn’s first light. Busyness and duties forever eclipse that early morning high, though. And inevitably, good morning news gets overshadowed by the weight of everyday pressures.

It just happened yesterday. My heart so full was black as night by evening. And the woman who stood at the kitchen counter heating up leftovers, barely glancing her husband’s way when he got home, seemed to be the very same one who stood there ten years earlier. Yes, after everything God’s brought me through, it seemed as though I hadn’t changed a bit.

Indeed, the devil won the day. Because not only did I have a terrible attitude, I also gave way to doubt. I thought how can I share good news when my very demeanor seemed to shout, what good news? Thus, I felt disqualified…

And judging by last night, I’d say the time most assuredly had not come.

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

My grandfather, Eddie, was a Bible thumper. In his day, he was a lay preacher, and later on, he preached from his chair in the living room. And when he lay on his bed reading that old black book, he’d sometimes call for me, asking how to pronounce a difficult word. These were my first tastes of God.

Now, forty years later, I find myself following Eddie’s footsteps. I preach from my driver’s seat and from the living room. To whoever will listen. The dream of publishing plays into this. Yes, when I first felt the prompt to write, I wanted to share what I knew. And hearing Psalm 68:11 for the first time seemed to solidify the call. Because it’s right there in black and white…

See, the King James Version uses the word publish instead of “spread the good news,” and I tell you, I aimed to do it. There was a problem, though. Seems I set out to proclaim the good news before I actually had any. That’s because I hadn’t internalized anything I read from God’s word.

And the woman who stood at my counter last night?

Well, proper perspective assures me she’s an occasional visitor now. But in 2011, and for many years afterward, she was pretty much a permanent fixture. Oh, I was dark. And yet, I believed myself qualified to spread the gospel.

No doubt, I’ve been moody ever since that first snow day. That’s when the darkness outside my window reached inside my heart and took root. And my journal gives evidence of everything I carried to bed with me the night before…

Anger, hardness, brittleness, sharpness. I felt numb and had given way to a feeling of resignation. But I sat in my chair anyway last week. It’s just what I do. And before I even opened my Bible, a phrase came to mind. Hold Fast. It’s something I heard at a Beth Moore conference long ago. “H.O.L.D.F.A.S.T. God has set His love upon me.

And so I sat there and meditated. I knew the reason for my blackness and I knew the way out of it. It has to do with submission. The surrendering to God’s plan. And because I felt so bad, I prayed I would yield to God instead of giving way to the darkness. Nothing extravagant, just a one-line prayer.

And when I noticed the picture I recently placed on my side table, my heart began to shift. Because it seemed God was whispering to me the very words written out by my mother. She gave me a poem for my birthday, twenty-two years back.

A daughter is a precious gift; she shines as silver in the sun, and gleams like gold caught in the moonlight. Fine chains are woven of these two, but stronger still, and holding fast are chains of love that hold us tight. MLC

I saw what God wanted me to. I knew He was telling me that not only do chains of love hold me tight to Mom, but also to Him. I am held fast to God, my heavenly Father. And oh, what treasure I find in the definition for Father: for those who through Christ have been exalted to a specially close and intimate relationship with God, and who no longer dread him as a stern judge of sinners, but revere Him as their reconciled and loving Father.

I had to see this. More, I had to internalize it for real and for good. And had I not moved my room around, I would have missed it. Thus, I comprehend the shifting of furniture wasn’t random. No, a strategically placed poem served to point me to the deepness of my Father’s love. And that’s when I felt a shift.

For a while, in my surrendered state, the blackness dissipated. And the land blanketed by snow seemed to give testimony to the white flag I’d hoisted in my heart.

The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it. Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold. Psalm 68:11, 13

Me and God had a moment Wednesday because He reminded me of His Fatherhood. But through my daily Psalm on Thursday, He stressed my daughterhood. For I am His little girl.

And there’s that verse. The one about publishing. This time around, though, I noticed the verse after. And it’s here I find good news highlighted through the word yet.

Though you did (fill in the blank), yet, you will be as silver and gold. The God of all creation was rereading my mom’s poem to me, but this time through His holy word. He confirmed that yes, I did many things in the past. And yes, I continue to do things. Like my bad moods. And yet, I shine like silver caught in the sun and gleam like gold caught in the moonlight.

God confirmed His Fatherhood and my daughterhood. And by Friday, my heart was full of this good news.

And I wanted to share.

“Daughter, your faith (…in Me) has restored you to health; go in peace and be (permanently) healed from your suffering.” Mark 5:34

Just look at that. God, I love this picture. I wanted to share it Friday because it captures the Father’s love and a daughter’s adoration. Alas, busyness set in and I never got to it. Thus, it appears the devil won the day. But you know what? Sunday hadn’t happened yet. And I had to experience Sunday before I could share this message.

Because that was the day I put my own little girl first. I tended to Annabelle’s heart by taking her to church for AWANA…

I tell you, God met me there in a hundred small ways. When we prayed for the two little girls who are so sick, Annabelle’s teacher asked for healing and that God would make them miracles. She had no idea she was voicing the very words I’d read that morning through Psalm 71:7, “I am as a sign and a wonder (miracle) to many.”

And the picture she’d drawn to depict what creation must have been like? Well, it immediately brought to mind the cards I intended to mail on Friday. The ones I never sent to the little girls’ moms.

The biggest encounter came from my conversation with the pastor. I shared with him about Fathers and daughters. Then he shared with me about the woman who had a bleeding issue (Mark 5). He said it was the only time Jesus addressed a woman as Daughter, and I could hardly wait to get home and read it.

Daughter. It means daughter of God, acceptable. Rejoicing in God’s peculiar care and protection. And I tell you, Sunday is when that verse came alive in a way it never has been before. Because I’d just experienced such peculiar care from Him. So intricate in His dealings with me…

And I hope to never forget it.

Daddy’s Girl

I painted the above of me and my Daddy a couple of years back. And this past November I used it at the beginning of the section of something I was writing called Painter’s Daughter. Lo and behold, I found a coat that looked just like it in Annabelle’s size at the thrift store. At the time, I had no doubt God gave it to me. See, He was confirming His Fatherhood then, too.

Which begs the question of why? If He confirmed it in November and confirmed it years before, why did He have to again Friday? I think my answer is found in the bleeding woman’s story. Because her 12-year issue made her unclean, she was unacceptable to the religious leaders of the day. Untouchable…

And yet, Jesus stopped to interact with her. He tenderly called her Daughter, marking her as His own. Though she was unaccepted by the world, she was accepted by Him.

And though it may not be a church leader who sets a high bar of expectation, I am my own worst enemy. I demand perfection, thinking I must be a certain way before delivering God’s message of good news. In my mind, I cannot make mistakes. Like yesterday’s very bad, dark day. In every way. In my mind, I wasn’t fit to share because I just can’t get it right.

I’ve been bleeding out over this issue and it’s hindered me off and on for years. It causes me to shut down and when I do, the devil wins.

But this is contrary to the gospel because I’m basing acceptance on my goodness and what I do. The very, good news, though, is being acceptable to God has everything to do with what Jesus did. That’s it. And no doubt, the devil delighted when He was raised on a cross. How dark it was that Friday…

And it must have seemed like the devil won. But see, Sunday hadn’t happened yet. And when it did, after burying my sin along with the sin of the world, Jesus came up out of that tomb alive. And my faith and belief in Him, and what He did, is what makes Psalm 68:13 true. That though I (fill in the blank), yet, I am as silver and gold.

A little girl, accepted by God, her heavenly Father.

Seems I needed a reminder of that good news. And how like God to make sure I got it this time through the painting below. Yes, I recently moved it. And no longer does it hover over my jewelry box, where I keep all my adornments. Instead, it sits above my quiet time chair. And what a visual…

Because it tells me that in His sight, I am more precious than gold…

Since Friday morning, a couple of invitations or requests have come my way relating to Facebook. And they seemed timely. Doors opened for sharing the gospel on the heels of my elation. But for reasons known to God and me, I declined both. For now, at least.

The second was really tempting, though, because it was an opportunity to share what I’m writing. Since sanctity of life Sunday is coming up, it seemed a good spot to talk about the book because it’s a pro-life message. Or choose-life. And sadly, that’s my story. Because at twenty-two, I did not.

As a young woman, I found myself pregnant and when I first realized my condition, thick snow covered the land. A snow day, if you will. But back then, I wouldn’t be stopped. Nothing hindered me from progressing because I chose me. And therein lies the rub…

Because today, I do get stopped. All the time. And a snow day most specifically halts my plans because I have children. Their wants and needs will always trump mine. That was the battle last week. Surrendering to the day. To God’s will. Thus, God’s word, and the verse Annabelle is learning through AWANA, resonates all the more.

“For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son…”

Yes, God sent a Son to lay down His life for God’s children. And because I’m a follower of Christ, my actions should look the same. God sends me, a daughter, to lay down my life for my living children. That means putting their stuff before mine. Them first. That’s what choosing life looks like for me at forty-eight.

But God help me, I slip up. Darkness descends whenever those selfish mannerisms the younger me possessed present. It happened just last night. But unlike the old me, I don’t dwell there. Light always slices through the dark. That’s why I know…

I have changed. And that, my friend, is good news.

“Little girl, I say to you, get up!” The little girl immediately got up and began to walk… Mark 5:41-42

Indeed, the fifth chapter of Mark is one I won’t forget. The bleeding woman speaks because like her, I’ve got some issues. But if you keep reading, you find another story. This one of a sick little girl. She was at death’s door when Christ took her by the hand. He told her to walk, and she did.

The Greek word for walk intrigues me because it means to make one’s way, progress, make due use of opportunities. And I can’t help but see this in light of the good news. See, feet aren’t just made for walking, they’re used to bring good news. And when you do, they become beautiful.

Even feet sorely in need of a pedicure…

Beautiful. It means timely. Now. No matter what. And so I deem yes, it is time. Because it’s always the right time to bring good news. The key is, you have to have some to give it.

And though the devil won yesterday’s skirmish, he won’t win the war. And though darkness creeps in, it won’t utterly consume the light. I know so because this is my story. It’s my good news. I’m free to share it because it has nothing to do with me and my goodness.

Instead, it has everything to do with His.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Acts 3:6

Watering Holes

I felt compelled to share last week but delayed. And the stirring, which began on Thursday, was enhanced by Friday afternoon. Maybe even to a fever pitch. However, a busy weekend was followed by even busier days. And by Tuesday night, I was done. Exhausted. Spent. I had nothing left to offer. No more was I inspired to pour out my heart…

That’s why today, I smile at the verse I read first thing this week. Perhaps a mild chastening from my heavenly Father in that John 9:4 exhorted me, “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned to us by the one who sent us.” Because that’s what the previous week’s compulsion to share felt like. An assignment. But one I neglected to carry out. And because the past few days happened, I no longer wanted to do it. Passion waned as all my creative energy depleted.

I felt empty, not full. Dry, not satiated.

But then, today happened.

And he who waters will himself be watered… Proverbs 11:25

I chose to meet my friend this morning. We were supposed to yesterday but my new job required all of me, so I postponed. We met a day late. God’s word, though, assures me our walking date was right on time. That’s because last night had to come first.

And, oh, I relish the quiet hours I spend alone in the evening. After all my people go down, I either watch an old sitcom or immerse myself in my current mystery novel. But last night, I didn’t want to read my “Cat who…” book. Instead, I just sat there staring into the not so distant dark outside my window. Eventually, my tired hand reached for the living words housed inside my Bible. I just really wanted to hear from Him because the preceding days felt so heavy…

There’s the world. The chaos and the discord. Tragic events left and right, afar and within reach. Sicknesses and divisions too close for comfort and too close to home. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

So I opened my favorite Book and the pages fell to Jeremiah 31 . At first, I honed in on a favorite passage. But then I glimpsed a phrase that moved my parched spirit…

“For I (fully) satisfy the weary soul, and I replenish every languishing and sorrowful person.” Jeremiah 31:25

I needed to hear this last night. I savored the definitions of satisfy (saturated, take one’s fill, slake thirst, satiated). And I meditated over the meanings of replenish (to fill, be full, be full of). And before I knew it, one verse pointed to another, and to another, leading me straight to the truth of my situation.

I was empty because I chose to be. I expended myself, neglecting to pause and fill on the most necessary thing. And it’s cyclical. Summer, always pressing, is followed by the first days of school and followed by birthdays. Excess busyness. And the extra causes me to make cuts in other areas. Like late nights infringing on my mornings with God. Later and later I stay up, lessening and lessening those precious moments in His word. With Him…

The pattern ends with me hitting a wall because I keep hitting the ground running. I start pouring out before pouring in. I attempt to fill needs from an empty vessel. Empty bowls and empty cups and empty backpacks and empty stomachs and empty closets. Then there are things that need emptying, like full inboxes and full hampers and full dishwashers. Endless emptying and filling, filling and emptying.

And yet, filling on the one thing that can truly fill me is minimized.

By last night, my innermost being echoed the psalmist’s sentiment, “I pour out my soul to God, and I remember how I used to… ” Yes, not so long ago, I used to wake when it was still dark and fill on His word. But for days, I had not. And my soul was left parched. But He reminded me last night. He told me how He fully satisfies dried out beings. And how He replenishes thirsty souls.

And it happened. It’s absolutely true that God poured out His Spirit into my empty one last night. And for today, I am refreshed. Replenished. And my friend’s actions during our seemingly one day late date seemed to underscore everything He revealed. Because without asking, she brought me a full glass of water. She knew what I needed and refreshed me.

But you know, my replenishment had more to do with our time together than it did with the contents of that cobalt vessel.

And one who gives others plenty of water will himself be given plenty. Proverbs 11:25

Last week, before losing my oomph, I wanted to write about Rebekah jars. After reading Genesis 24, I had all these thoughts swirling around about how I should be filled with God’s spirit, but how hard that is when I’m full of myself. Yes, I admit, I have a problem with pride. And yet, I was moved by Rebekah’s actions when asked for a drink…

She quickly lowered her jar and offered its contents. The aha moment being that I’m the jar. A clay vessel formed by God’s hand, to be filled with good things for the outpouring onto others. However, I must be full to accomplish that. And more, I must be lowered. Humble. The best example I find is in Philippians 2, which tells how Jesus lowered and emptied Himself. And further, how He gave His very life for us. His blood poured out…

But during His time on earth, even Jesus took breaks. Solitary moments alone with His Father. A time for filling to equip Him for His time of emptying.

And as to Rebekah, her lowering prompted me to look into wells during biblical times. Seems young women typically had the daily chore of drawing water from wells. Not only would they gather water for their families into earthen vessels, but the time was also used for socializing. For meeting people. Talking. In my eyes, ancient wells were the equivalent of a modern day watering hole.

And so, what strikes me today as a forty-eight year old woman, is that a young woman’s need for female companionship was tended to while she took care of her family responsibilities. And what was important then is no less important today…

The lesson is that while I take care of my family duties, filling and watering my people, I must also tend to my own needs. And one of those, in addition to time with God, is time with friends. In fact, I’ve discovered this particular need is essential to my well-being.

Because after quality time with a dear friend, I walk away feeling full. Satisfied.

More, I am inspired.

We have this precious treasure in earthen vessels… 2 Corinthians 4:7

I realize I’m fortunate. I work from home, so flexible hours allow me time to schedule a walk or occasional lunch. Like this past Friday, when I met two of my girlfriends. One reached out seeking counsel and thoughts, wanting to pick our brains. Though I didn’t have much to offer verbally that day, I’ve had time to ruminate since.

And the advice I now offer to my dear friend, the who stands at a crossroads…

Do what fills you. Do what’s fulfilling. Don’t add one thing to your calendar that empties and leaves you feeling dry.

Yes, that’s what I’d tell my friend who is facing something really hard. Now I know, some tasks women face are unavoidable. There are unwanted things we have do in life every day. But the reality is there are some things we don’t. In fact, a lot of what we do, we don’t have to. And too much unnecessary doing leads to excessive emptying.

This is what life, and especially the last few days, have taught me. That if I want to add something to my calendar, in addition to my responsibilities, then it must be life-giving. Fulfilling.

It should be something that fills me in a way that’s beneficial to me and to those I’m surrounded by.

a filled me…

Funny thing we talked about Friday was women’s work vs. men’s work. Perhaps that’s why one of the definitions for vessel in 2 Corinthians 4:7 really stands out today: specially, a wife as contributing to the usefulness of the husband.

Well, we all had our thoughts on that issue. And a few differences of opinion as we each lead different lives. Accordingly, our roles and responsibilities on the home front vary. But you know, after this past week of meditating on jars and wells and filling and emptying, I’ve come to the conclusion there’s one task that applies for all of us women.

And no, it’s not ironing or cleaning or cooking. It’s that of collecting water. Living water. That type of women’s work affords the most benefit to our husband. Because no doubt, women are vessels made for filling. And we will be, whether good or bad. And inevitably, what’s inside comes out because that’s what women do… we pour out. We empty ourselves from the moment our feet hit the ground.

That’s why we must be filled…

With things that make us happy. With fun things, like time with friends. Coffee dates and lunches and walks. But also, with things He calls us to do. Because assuredly, an assignment from God is fulfilling.

First and foremost, though, we must spend time in His word. Time with God. Because that’s where the filling starts. The good kind. Yes, this task is essential in order for a woman to accomplish all she must do.

This is what God reminded me of last night. And what He reiterated through my friend this morning. He wants to fill me with good things, but it’s a daily filling. Because I can’t continue pouring from an empty vessel. Thus, I choose to fill up on Him. In doing so, I find the replenishment I need…

And I am satisfyingly full.

“But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14

Did God Cry?

Something happened this morning. I was doing my last-minute inspection before rushing out to the car when I heard a loud thump outside the door. And though there was no scream or shriek, I knew without looking. I knew it was my little girl. Annabelle. See, the deck is slick from frost and I didn’t think to warn her as she went out…

I took a quick glance at the stove once more – off, off, off, off, off – just to be sure the house wouldn’t be set to fire by gas burners while I was away. Then I went out to see.

Though she was down on those wooden steps, she wasn’t crying out, which somehow made it worse… she just silently writhed while grabbing hold of her back. It broke my heart. When I got to her, a quiet moan escaped, and her face revealed pain. Yet, she held back. Since she held her tears in, I gathered her into my arms and cried for her. And I held tight as long as I could. Alas, it was 7:03 a.m. Time for carpool and I had two boys to get to our designated spot.

Where Annabelle fell – picture taken after she was dropped off at school

On the way to drop off, I kept glancing in the mirror to check on Annabelle. While she was silent as a mouse, I had to choke back sobs. And I wondered why the emotion. Because my crying seemed disproportionate to what actually occurred.

Thus, I deduced my tears had as much to do with my own tumble as with Annabelle’s. And because of His mercy and grace, I think God gave me a glimpse into His own heart, and how He felt when I went down…

As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you, and you will be comforted in Jerusalem… when you see this, your heart will rejoice and your bones will flourish like new grass. Isaiah 66:13-14

Some years back, I sensed God calling me out of everything. Most specifically, the light. He wanted me to come out of view of the watching world and yet, I resisted. I wanted to stay right where I was in the midst of it all. Incredibly visible.

But see, God knew what was coming my way. Like Humpty Dumpty, He knew I was headed for a great, fall. A spiritual and emotional one. In my mind, God was calling me out of view because I was being chastened. Punished, if you will. But this past year, I came to comprehend the truth of it all. It had more to do with God’s surpassing love for me…

He was trying to protect me so people wouldn’t witness my downfall. See, it may be true a fall can hurt physically. But if someone sees you take a nosedive, the inside pain can be almost as unbearable.

I think that’s what happened with my little girl. Oh, so sensitive she is. And that’s why I cried this morning. Because I knew her humiliation. She fell hard and someone else saw it happen.

How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Matthew 23:37

I could hardly wait to be alone with Annabelle. I wanted to talk to her about what happened. She confirmed she was embarrassed but smiled so big at me. I think she was happy I understood. And as soon as we got to her school, I pulled her onto my lap and held on. I told her over and over, “I love you so much.”

And oh, I do. More than I could ever imagine. So much so, it hurts. That’s what loving someone can do. It opens you up to pain.

I knew Annabelle was okay by the time I left her at the school door, though, because she was already discussing recess activities and how she might not be able to play tag… if others touched her where she bruised, it could hurt again.

I told my precious daughter it was a good idea to sit out. Because I saw the bruise. I know how bad it hurt. And I have to say, as I left her at the door, that purple stain from her back was emblazoned on my own heart. And when I got home, I cried as if I’d taken a beating myself.

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,

Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5

Something happened this morning. However, it goes deeper than my little girl falling on the steps. It has to do with the pain I felt inside my own heart. I cried till I was hoarse. And as I quieted, I had to ask God, why? Why was I so affected by it all…

Then a verse came to me. It has to do with Jesus and the beating He took for us all. That’s when God revealed truth. See, every bruise I ever received by this cold, world (both inside and out) was emblazoned upon the body of God’s own Son just before He was raised up on a wooden cross. He took all my pain. Jesus felt it.

More, God felt every bit of it, too.

And in contemplation of what took place at Calvary, I have to believe God cried. Because that’s what I did. How could He not for His Child was in pain?

And no doubt, the beating Jesus endured caused both kinds of pain, inside and out. Oh, how the rejection must have scored His heart just as deeply as the cords cut His skin. And because I’m a mother, made in the image of God, that’s how I know God cried, too.

Oh, how He must have wept. Maybe even till He was hoarse.

Bottle of beads, made by Annabelle, the “m” for “mama”

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8

I tell you, being a mom is so hard. It opens you to so much pain. Because who wants to see their child suffer?

And this morning, I realize just how God feels when I hurt. Oh, how it must have grieved Him to see me cry all those times. Oh, how He wanted to gather me under His wings to protect me, just like a mother Hen. And oh, how He wanted to draw me onto His lap for comfort.

He feels just as I do when I see my own children hurt.

God loves me so very much, He takes note of every tear I shed. And when He wipes away those salty drops, He places them in a bottle.

As for me, I can’t collect the tears of my children. No, Levi’s and Annabelle’s salty drops evaporate. But I sure do feel them. And I sure can love them through the pain. Because that’s what God created me to do… I am a mother.

Made in the image of Him who loves me.

In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

Jesus didn’t have a senior superlative

…Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:24

It’s cyclical with me. Spring is my season of rejection and I feel it acutely. Piercingly. A sense of loneliness and abandonment fueled by underlying feelings of unwantedness. And underneath it all, there’s a hint of betrayal. Invariably, these notions plague me when flowers begin to bloom and trees begin to leaf.

At Springtime.

This year, the feelings began circling towards the end of March. And by the first of April, the darkest of thoughts eclipsed all sound judgment and mind.

Quite aptly, it was April Fool’s Day and no doubt, I was a real April fool.

The unwanted feelings peaked as I unpacked umpteen boxes that had been stored for nearly two years. That’s when I unearthed a journal dated 1989. I was sixteen and what struck me is my present-day mindset uncannily echoed that of the younger me. At least it did that particular day…

As I said, these feelings are cyclical. Seasonal.

And Spring happens to be my time…

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So from now on we regard no one from a human point of view (according to worldly standards and values). 2 Corinthians 5:16

Words penned thirty-one years ago were full of self-loathing. And strangely, despite how far God has brought me, a similar refrain thrummed through my heart and mind last week. The unending chorus wore me down…

“You’re not wise, you’re foolish. Not strong, weak. You’re dull and boring. You’re insignificant, overlooked, and less than everyone else. Second choice by far, unloved, and nothing at all.”

Believe me. I know how silly this is. And immature. And in the throes of Corona Virus, I debated sharing at all. How petty compared to the worldwide crisis. And yet, perhaps my faulty thinking was a by-product of this shelter-in-place. At home with nowhere to go, inward eyes and too much self-focus can be a slippery slope.

I’m too embarrassed to mention what led to last week’s line of thinking. However, that’s where I ended up on April 1, 2020. A full-blown pity party for one all because I allowed myself to entertain a sixteen-year-old mindset. The same outlook (and inlook) I housed a number of Springs in which my heart sustained directed hurts I never really forgot.

As I said, the balmy months are my time. 

And because I wallowed in cyclical feelings of lowness, I wasn’t inspired to make dinner. Instead, I asked Jason to bring home take-out and I’m so glad I did. Because God used a Chinese fortune to snap me out of my momentary lapse of reason.

And by the time April 2 dawned, I was ready to shut down the self-pitying thoughts I’d nursed the day before.

The very good news is this year, my “season” lasted the shortest of whiles. And with each passing year, I find there’s more progress. Better yet, I suspect in a year or two, these seasonal feelings of mine may pass me by altogether.

In fact, I’m sure of it.

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Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. 1 Corinthians 3:18-19

If Spring is a season of sadness, what I know now is March is my time of “coming out.” Multiple occasions this past decade, I sensed God’s leading to sit still or come out of activity (and out of view) during the third month.

And I’ve tried. Halted my doings for a short while only to go back to what I’d been doing before, and all the more. But I really thought this year would be different. Believed I’d learned all my lessons and that there would be no stopping me in 2020.

But then COVID-19 happened. And is happening.

And because this virus has shut down nearly everyone and everything, I find I’m obeying God’s cyclical command to “come out” in March without meaning to. In a sense, my hand’s been forced…

to stop.

Like many, I’m shut-in and life has drastically changed. No doubt, this sickness terrorizing the land has interrupted many a plan, including mine. But you know, I’m thankful for the pause. No, not thankful for the disease, mind you. I wish it had never come. But in the midst of madness, I find gratitude for the delay has changed my focus.

See, I was on a set course in February, eyes locked onto one thing. And with schools closing, that one thing went out the window. Way out. But then it was like a lightbulb came on. Illumination allowed me to recall the very few goals I set at the New Year. One or two things well, most specifically, my children.

Yet, in the midst of my plan, I had forgotten they were the plan. My kids. But COVID-19 helped me remember. How could I not because they were looking to me every, single day for guidance.

Thus, I formed a daily schedule. In setting up morning time for God and prayer, I remembered a binder I put together months before. It contains focus words for Levi, one per month.

Needless to say, none had been contemplated. Not one. Instead, the notebook sat dusty on a shelf. But the new shut-in itinerary compelled me to resurrect it from the ashes and I thought we’d go in order. However, in a roundabout way, we landed half-way through the book. Wisdom is where God planted us…

I thought it was all about my son. Alas, due to recent childish actions, I quickly understood God’s word choice had more to do with me than Levi. And that’s why the Chinese fortune resonated.

Because it speaks of wisdom. Or lack thereof. And that little piece of paper brought to mind one of the most comforting passages of Scripture I ever read. One I tucked away in my heart many years back.

Through it, God soothed my soul anew. But mostly, He snapped me out of my foolishness.

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

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I studied Genesis 3 yesterday morning. I contemplated how the serpent deceived Eve when he told her, “You will be like God.” This statement caused the first woman to look harder at a tree she’d been commanded not to partake of. And because she realized the fruit could make her wise, she gave in to the temptation and scarfed it down.

In studying, I found a nugget of truth hidden within the definition of God. The devil said she could be like Him, so the word means just that – the Supreme God. But also, it can mean rulers, judges, divine ones, gods, and goddesses. Perhaps this was part of the temptation.

But most intriguing, I find this particular word can be used as a superlative, passages describing things to be great, mighty or exceeding.

Superlative stood out because in recent unpacking, I came across my keepsake box. Letters and pictures and yearbooks and such. I thought about how I didn’t receive a senior superlative. Oh, I’m not the only one and I know it’s not important. Not really. But at eighteen, it sure felt that way. Especially because our graduating class was so small. 63, I think.

Anyway, superlative means the highest quality or degree. It means surpassing all others. And perhaps that’s what stung so when I was young. I didn’t surpass anyone in anything. At least not in anyone’s eyes. And maybe that’s what can sting a bit now…

I can’t help but wonder if this was the first true temptation for the first true woman. And surely it’s tempted millions and millions who’ve followed her. I know it’s what tempts me…

Yes, I’m convinced the devil deluded Eve by enticing her to be more. That fruit could make her great and mighty and exceeding, surpassing all others. And when you get down to the meat of it, the implication is that you should be more than you are. That’s what the devil was really saying…

In a sense, he proclaimed Eve to be less than in telling her she could be more than. It was a lie used in the garden, a deception that’s endured through the ages, and what he continues to use today.

The fruit still dangles.

“You should be more,” he whispers. However, today’s tempting fruit doesn’t promise wisdom. Quite the opposite, really. And this particular temptation made me an April Fool last week. 

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We do not have the audacity to put ourselves in the same class or compare ourselves with some who (supply testimonials to) commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they lack wisdom and behave like fools. 2 Corinthians 10:12

I fell for it last week. The serpent beguiled me. Fooled me into the comparison trap. And like Eve who covered up her nakedness, I felt like doing the same. Wanted to cover up everything I disdained about me…

But that’s when I remembered the most beautiful lesson from Genesis 3. See, Adam and Eve hid away after sampling forbidden fruit. They didn’t want God to see them. And though they were ultimately banished from the garden, there’s tenderness in God’s question…

He asked, “Who told you you were naked?”

You know, I think He asks the same today. We can fill in the blank. “Who told you you were __________.” We all have a word we can put in there, my list consisting of everything I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

As to who told me? Well, it was the world. The world told me all the days of my life I wasn’t enough. And if I let it, it still speaks loudly.

It began when I was small. “So and so can do that but you can’t.” Or, “Just because your best friends are popular that doesn’t mean you are.” I can still see her little eyes boring into mine.

That’s where it began. The world entered and I heard every shout. “Pam can’t and Pam’s not.” Negative statement layered upon negative statement. And there were good things, too. Only, the bad far outweighed anything good I ever heard.

Five years back, this all came to the surface. Back then, I didn’t even know it was in me. But March came about and it was like Jesus said, “Come out!” I heard Him in a dream. The only problem is I misunderstood. He meant to come out of everything (activity, view, my head, the world), but I went all the way in. And within months, everything inside came spewing out. A journal entry said it all…

“I hate me.”

And I did. Oh, I despised me. It was July 2015. When I told my mother-in-law, she said I should ask forgiveness. At the time, I didn’t understand. But today, I do. I get it now. Because in hating me, I hated God’s creation. In rejecting me, I rejected His plan for me.

But more, what I’ve come to comprehend in recent days is that hating me is no different than hating Jesus. Because everything I ever disliked about me happens to be some of His qualities…

What I hated about me, and what I’m still tempted to hate, is what the world hated in Him first.

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For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

1 Corinthians 1:18-19

I already gave you my list.  I always felt second. Less than my peers. But when all those feelings are stripped away, I find the very way God crafted me contributes to those lowly feelings.

Because I’m quiet by nature. Deep down, I’m really quite reserved. Submissive and mild mannered. That’s the real me. But most of my adult life, I tried to be other than that. More than how God designed me.

See, the world just doesn’t seem to admire reserved. And meek people often come across as weak people, going unnoticed. This is what I hated about me for so many years.

Today, though, I know the disdained attributes are those that make me most like Christ. And if I hate them in me, that means I hate them in Him. In rejecting what I dislike about me, I end up rejecting Him,  making the words of Isaiah ring true in my life today.

And for this, I ask forgiveness…

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Isaiah 53:2-3

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God comforts me with 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. And within, I find the similarity to Isaiah 53:2-3. Most particularly, I note that God chooses things despised by the world. Things considered worthless. Because that’s exactly what Jesus was deemed.

And though He was God in human form, the devil came to Jesus just like he appeared to Eve. Yes, Jesus was tempted just as we are.

I can’t help but wonder if it was Spring with Him, too. And I speculate about Jesus’ fill in the blank list, if He had one. Because the world told Him He was a liar. It accused Him of having a demon, of being a foreigner, a drunkard and crazy. The world said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

No doubt, the world had a low opinion of this Man who was God’s chosen. And I can’t help but think if Nazareth High had a Senior Superlative page, Jesus wouldn’t have made it to the list. He just wasn’t all that impressive. Not to the world, He wasn’t.

Because this God-Man was humble and submissive, gentle and mild. He came to serve and not be served and the world hated Him for it. Because the world esteems otherwise. The world looks up to rulers and leaders and gods and goddesses. The formula’s just different.

At the heart of it, the world seeks to be God-like, not Christ-like. This is the tempation the devil dangled before Eve, before Jesus and what He still puts before our eyes.

I know this to be true because it tempts me. I want to have a superlative ascribed to me, too. Deep down, I want to be surpassing and great and mighty. Because the world loves all that…

Thus, Jesus cautions. He warns us. He tells us that if the world hates us, and it does, to remember it hated Him first.

But who in the world wants to be hated.

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You didn’t choose me. I chose you. John 15:16

On the mount of transfiguration, God had something to say about the One the world rejected. He said, “This is My Son whom I have chosen. Listen to Him!”

And that’s what I’m really trying to do. Because for too long, I listened to the wrong people. The ones who spoke loudest and usually, it was the world. But Jesus is different. He doesn’t raise His voice and isn’t pushy. He won’t force Himself on us.

And so last week, I had to decide which voices I’d allow into my shut-in state. And I think I chose wisely because I chose to shut up the world. More, I also shut me up and finally, I could hear what Jesus had to say.

The first had to do with being hated. The definition means to “love less,” and oh, how that causes an inward groan. Because this is the deepest of wounds, feeling less loved. Loveless…

Unloved.

But Jesus also had something to say about love. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Greater means stronger or more and this is what He’s been trying to tell me for so long.

This is the reason He’s been calling me out and calling me out, March after March. For my protection. He knew April and May loomed and He knew my vulnerability. Thus, He wanted me to know how He feels about me…

Indeed, I’ve suffered some hurts and rejections. And I may sustain a few more before my days are done. However, when those times come, from here on out I can stand on truth. His.

And I can remember this particular Spring, a season in which His voice overrode all others. A time comprehension dawned and I just knew…

See, the world may love me less, but Jesus loves me more.

And if there were a yearbook for forty-seven-year olds, you’d find me on the superlative page. Yes, you’d find my name beside, “most likely to be loved.”

Because that’s what I am.

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“It is finished.” John 19:30

This Spring’s been pretty significant. We finished our basement project, unloaded a building full of boxes, and this past Saturday, our final home improvement project was completed.

It was finished…

This coincided with my season, the balmy months being my time. A cyclical sadness. But you know, it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. Because cycles are made to be broken. And I’m optimistic this year’s different…

Deep in my core, I believe it. And I think the morel mushrooms my hubby found this past weekend are symbolic of April 2020.

See, Spring is also the time of Easter. A cyclical time for miracles and I believe one happened this year. The shelter-in-place lended itself to the process and because of it, I see the meaning of the day then, and the significance of it now. 

He faced such accusations before the cross. The world said Jesus did this and that… He was this and wasn’t that. And after dying on a cross, He was placed in an inky tomb. But what transpired was miraculous. The tomb became a womb, giving way to resurrected life. He came out fully alive.

Being shut in at home can be like that for me, too. I went in one way but can come out different on the other side. And I think I will. God help me, when all this is over, to be wiser.

Because I went in foolishly. I listened to the accusations and believed them. Pam can’t and isn’t. And if I chose to live worldly, those statements just might be true.

In following Jesus’ pattern, though, I decide to live other-worldly. I despise the shame, paying little attention to cyclical thoughts. Instead, I bury them in the blackness of my tomb.

Oh, death, where is thy sting?

By putting a sixteen-year-old mindset and worldly thoughts to death, I find the tomb gives way to a womb-like environment. And here, I find such tenderness. Such love. And within, I come fully alive. Resurrected life.

It’s why He gave His Son to begin with. For God so loved the world, He provided a cross, and whosoever shall believe will have everlasting life. New life…

Yes, at the cross, I know I am loved. Thus, at a cross which is foolishness to the world, I become a fool for Him. Because I chose to no longer believe as the world does. Instead, I believe like Him.

And I know the danger. The world may hate me and think me a fool. But you know, this is the kind of April Fool I want to be.

And that makes me so wise…

We are fools for Christ… 1 Corinthians 4:10

Something Beautiful

IMG_2988He has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11

I’m about to say something I may regret. Because I know how awful it will sound. Oh, I’ll sound like a whiny baby. And ungrateful. And God knows I don’t want to appear that way. Because appearances matter so much in the world we live…

Thus, seeking the world’s approval, I desire to come across as joyful. Stable. Content and oh, so spiritual. Overflowing with goodness and kindness, love and all things beautiful. Yes, I want to appear a certain way. That way…

Not as I really am. That’s why I chose to not use the above picture when I updated my Facebook profile pic. Because to me, I look too sad.

Indeed, I wanted to capture the moment and I think I did just that. Because the photo above accurately depicts me in that moment in time. For Facebook, though, I decided to lift up the corners of my mouth just a bit more. That perhaps an upturned mouth would add a hint of happiness to my eyes.

IMG_2984You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead… Matthew 23:27

Truth is the above depicts me in every way. A woman who not only desires something beautiful, but also, she wants to be something beautiful. I’m not just talking about my outsides, though. No, mainly it’s my insides. Because by the time I reached this magnificent overlook, I was totally spent. Exhausted and ugly to the core.

But I don’t want to be this way. Not at all. Thus, I’m filled with deep longing. I desperately long to be beautiful, only, from the inside out…

And yet, Summertime tends to have the opposite effect on me. And if I want to be totally transparent (and I do), I’ll just say it. I hate Summer. I hate all the extra it brings. But mostly, I hate what I allow it to do to me. 

Why do you spend money for that which is not bread and your earnings for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me and eat what is good and let your soul delight in abundance. Isaiah 55:2

This is where I’ll sound ungrateful. Because I live a life many would envy. I work from home and raise my children at home. I can be with them through the Summer and go on vacations. Yes, God has blessed me with time.

The problem is what I do with that time. Somehow it gets crammed full. And in the fullness, I become drained and empty. So much so, I don’t feel as if I have any good left inside to offer. Honestly, by the time July rolls around, it’s as if all life has been sucked out of me.

Today, though, I know it comes down to choice. Because we choose what we want to do. We can opt for life giving or life draining activities.

Me? I usually choose badly. I give in to self during the Summer. Since my days are filled with the kids, I desire alone time. That means later nights. But rather than fill my nights with good things, I lay on the couch like a slug watching Law & Order SVU reruns. But as we all know, too much of anything can be bad. Especially mass quantities of sexually based crime drama. I won’t even tell you about the dreams (NIGHTMARES) that have peppered my nights.

Then there’s food. If I lay on the couch watching bad-for-me TV, my habit is to ply myself with carb laden snacks. Chips being my vice.

That’s how I end my very busy Summer days. Late nights of violence-filled TV and binge eating. By morning, I am tired. I sleep in. My quiet time with God diminished by multiple swipes of the snooze button. And that means, I hit the ground running. Up and at em before I have any quality time alone with my Lord.

In the end, filling up on extras leave me an empty vessel. Dry as a bone. But I know it’s my own choice. It always has been. It’s what I end up doing in the Summer. A terrible pattern rutted out through the years.

Days of fullness leaving a soul of emptiness…

Let the one who is thirsty come and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17

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This past weekend consisted of a weekend get-away with family. There was pool time and lake time and hiking alongside a waterfall. But the irony is glaring. Me surrounded by water on all fronts and yet, parched inside.

A picture I snapped while while visiting the falls provides me with insight, though. My son and his cousin tried to stop the flow. They futilely placed rocks in a crevice. Alas, it didn’t work. Nothing could stop that raging water.

However, my epiphany is that “rocks” can surely hinder the flow in my life.

From His innermost being will flow continually rivers of living water… But He was speaking of the Holy Spirit… John 7:38-39

According to this passage, I’m promised rivers of living water. Supposedly, it’s to flow from my inner being. Notes in my Amplified Bible say there will be a river of water coming out of those who believe in Christ – not only will they be satisfied themselves, but they will also become a river so that others may drink and be satisfied.

But I swear, that’s just not true at this moment in time. I don’t feel anything good overflowing from me.  No, those living waters have dwindled to a mere trickle and for today, I’m left feeling dry.

Oh, so thirsty. Thus, my soul pants for the living God (Psalm 42). 

Thankfully, despite my current state of heart, I know truth. I know the river is there. It’s always available. Only, it’s what I previously stated. Summer. My bad choices. The rocks that dam the flow. And even though I plan time for good, I tend to give in to self. 

Like this weekend. I planned time with God and yet, I didn’t open up my “bag” once. The one I brought filled with my Bible, devotional and journal. No, I went days without opening His word and I tell you, I really feel the effects of my choices. 

More, I think my family does, too.

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… but be filled with the Holy Spirit and constantly guided by Him. Ephesians 5:18

I read the above this morning and it resonated. The first part says to not be drunk or over-indulge in wine. It’s speaking of excess. Instead, we’re admonished to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the living water God’s word refers to…

The Spirit.

And yet, God’s Spirit – His Holy Spirit – can be quenched by not just the excess of drink. It can be snuffed out by the excess of numerous things. Mass quantities of violence-filled TV. Large-sized bags of potato chips causing a carb-induced lethargy. And an incredibly full calendar leaving little room for the filling of His Spirit…

The end result is the Spirit’s fruit is snuffed out… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). You know, all things beautiful we want to present to the world at large. All the things I want to present…

It’s how I want to appear to the world. But more, it’s the way I really want to be. Beautiful from the inside out. Rivers of living water flowing from me…

But the reality is, I have to choose it. I have to stop making the bad choices I tend to make in Summer. I’m the one who dams up the flow.

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He opened the rock and water flowed out. It ran in the dry places like a river. Psalm 105:41

It’s true, I’ve been dry. But I’ve been here before. As I said, it’s a pattern. Cyclical. Summer time dries me. It’s the same in the Winter. Holidays can sure fill the calendar.

However, I have great hope. Because just like the Israelites who wandered in the desert knew, I know where to go for water, too. For they drank from the same spiritual drink. It was a spiritual rock which followed them, the rock being Christ (1 Corinthians 10:3-4).

And this is where I can go to be watered.

And it may be true I feel ugly inside. Mean, even. And yet my hope remains great. Because my heart has been stony before. And what Scripture and the past teaches me is that God can bring forth water from a stone. He did it in the desert and He did it with Christ. For when one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, blood and water flowed out (John 19:34).

Water from a stone, that rock being Christ.

This is what My God will do for me. I know it because He’s done it before. It’s not His will for me to remain in dry places. Instead, He makes living waters flow from a heart of stone. And inevitably, the hardness is softened by His waters which never, utterly go dry…

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Ezekiel 36:26

Oh, God is something. He speaks in hundreds of ways. Most recent being the replacement of our water pipes. This is what I helped Jason with on Friday before our trip. He had to turn the water off for the task.

And I could laugh at that now. Water cut off in the house coinciding with the drying of His living waters in my soul. However, my husband left our weekend early in order to complete the task. He wanted to get home ahead of us, his family, so we’d have water.

This is my plan, too. I’m home now and I plan to get the water back on. For my people. And I know where to go and I know what to do. No different than before, I’ll drink deeply. But first, I have to remove the rocks. All the hindrances that dammed up the flow to begin with.

See, it’s the excess. TV that’s not good for me along with food that depletes. All the life-draining forces will be removed allowing room for life sustaining efforts. This is where I start. This is where I begin anew. And this is where I get drenched. For with Him is the fountain of life.

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In closing, I don’t doubt. I know God will fully satisfy my soul with His abundance. With His goodness (Jeremiah 31:14). Because He’s not failed me yet.

And what a treasure He gives me with that word. Goodness. Oh, it means just what you think it does. But also, it means beauty in select passages. How remarkable that God will satiate me with His beauty.

Thus, what I know to be true today is that it’s all about God’s goodness. This is the something beautiful I’ve been longing for this Summer. Indeed, it’s the only something beautiful that will fill me.

In the end, though, God’s goodness will flow from me. And how beautiful I’ll be. From the inside out. Which is all I really want to be, anyway…

Something beautiful.

And the LORD will continually guide you and satisfy your soul in scorched and dry places and give you strength to your bones. And you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. Isaiah 58:11

If you build it, they will come…

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A friend of mine posted the above picture today on Facebook. I was going to send her a private note to tell her what it meant to me… however, I decided to post for all to see.

Lindsey included a message…

“Have an amazing week my friends. Whatever you are working on- don’t stop.” And today, I really needed to hear that. See, I can easily become discouraged. And more, I become overly distracted. I let busyness derail me from the one thing I know God called me to do. I let unnecessary tasks keep me from the one thing that would fulfill all my purpose.

“May he give you what your heart desires and fulfill your whole purpose.” Psalm 20:4 (CSB)

This morning’s post prompted me to remember something I’d written down in my journal. It was April 21. My handwriting was shaky and urgent, “You have all the materials… all the support your task will require. Now get started.”

Which brings me back to Lindsey’s post. “Whatever you are working on, don’t stop.” Noah didn’t. He fulfilled his whole purpose in making an ark. God said, “this is the way you are to make it.” So Noah did it, according to all that God commanded him. That’s what Noah did…

The word for “make” and “did” means to do or make, to produce or be busy. Which brings me to King David. He set his heart on building, too. His cause was a house for God. That’s what he wanted to be busy about doing however, God said no. It wasn’t David’s task. Instead, it was for his son, Solomon, to do.

So David ordered Solomon to build a house for the Lord. He exhorted him, “For the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary. Be courageous and strong and do it!”

Then David gave his son the plans… plans for the porch, the buildings, the upper chambers, etc. “All this,” said David, “The Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, all the work and details (to be done) according to this plan.” 1 Chronicles 28:19

He then encouraged Solomon, “Be strong and courageous and take action; do not fear nor be dismayed for the LORD God, my God, is with you…”

So here’s what strikes me. There’s a million things we can each one do. A million ways we can take action, all being good. Worthwhile and noble. David chose one… He wanted to build a house for God but He was not allowed to.

This resonates. See, we all want to build. We all want do do something worthwhile. But we have to ask ourselves if it’s the thing God wants for us to do. Is it our plan or God’s? Is it for my purpose or His?

Different versions of 1 Chronicles 22:16 show building or making in several ways, “Arise and be doing,” or “Arise and do.” My favorite? “Now begin the work…”

The most important question we can consider is what work? What is the one thing God would have us to do specifically… what would fulfill our whole purpose?

I think deep down, we all know what it is. It’s the thing that brings us joy and passion and purpose. It’s the thing that keeps us up at night and rolls around in our brain. And when we actually “arise and be doing” it, we feel like we’re walking on air.

Oh, it’s the thing we may have started and stopped a million times but never finished. I know I sure have… a million starts and not one completion.

However, I am reminded today with perfect clarity. I know without a doubt what God has called me to do. Further, I am exhorted (no commanded) to not get distracted again. Not one more needless task, until I finish it. For He is the one who called me to build “it.”

I remembered thanks to an encouraging post from my friend. And I hope this inspires you to remember your purpose, too… So that what God commanded you to build, you’ll keep on building it. And more, that you won’t stop building until it’s done. Because in the end, it’s His plan, not yours.

May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed. Psalm 20:4 (NLT)

Re-entry

 ‘All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.’ Oscar Wilde

I bought a small book of quotes for my mom once. It was a gift for Mothers’ Day, oh, so many years ago… before children were even a thought. I actually underlined the words of Wilde because I thought they were so great. So deep.

In hindsight, not the best quote to point out to my mom. It was the part about the man not becoming like his mom, though… that’s what struck me as compelling. It’s what I wanted to convey. But I’m not so sure it came across. And more, I’m not so sure I believe these words anymore. Because surely, my young man and my little girl are very much like me.

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Look at these nails. Annabelle painted them for me. And before the polish even began to wear off, there were imperfections. You can see that by my thumb. A big gloopy pile took extra drying time. And yet, I let the polish stay.

However, I found myself telling several people (even strangers), “Oh, my daughter did these…” as if an explanation were necessary. I wanted to explain away the mistakes. Tell why they were imperfect…

Today, though, I wish I’d kept my mouth shut. Because my sweet girl painted them for me. More, it would hurt her to know I felt the need to explain. And oh, how my heart melts when I recall the pure look of pleasure on her face with each stroke.

And as to me feeling the urge to explain my imperfect nails, well, it says a lot about me and how I think. And how much stock I put into appearance…

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Look at these nails. So much like mine in that the polish has worn away. Her little fingernails mimicking mine. But this is just the beginning. My little girl is like me in every way. Painfully so. It has to do with how she will be received. And how she looks to others.

That became apparent over the Easter break. My son and niece were in the basement talking and Annabelle wanted to join them. Most kids? They’d have run down the steps taking two at a time to join in. Not my daughter, though. Instead, she wanted me to call down first. To announce her arrival so there’d be no surprise. And really, she just wanted to know that they’d accept her into the group. That her appearance would be welcomed. That’s what pierces my heart this day…

The fact that she is just like me in this regard. Because for way too long, I was just like this. Oh, so concerned with how I’d be received. Or regarded. Will they accept me?

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For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

Annabelle reminds me of me in another way. She’s incredibly quiet. If someone speaks to her, she hides behind my legs. She remains mute. Shy to the core. This was me all the way up to the time I was in my early-thirties. I didn’t possess the skill of conversation and I didn’t have the desire to put myself out there. An introvert at heart.

And this is Annabelle.

However, things changed for me one day. I encountered the living God through His living word (Heb 4:12), and He made Himself real to me. Over and over. With each progressive manifestation, I felt myself more and more emboldened. As confidence grew, I became outspoken. I felt courageous. So unlike the little girl I was.

It was a heady feeling, I can assure you, and I began to do things I never though I would. But you know what? When you put yourself out there, inevitably, you get hurt. Something may be said to you. Or perhaps nothing at all is said, and that can hurt just as much. Or even more…

I put myself out there so much, eventually, my heart began to hurt. And before I knew it, I regressed. I began to shy away. I withdrew, closing up and shutting up. Incredibly, I was just like the little girl I always was.

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Get up; help the boy up and hold him by the hand… Genesis 21:18

The first time I read the above passage, I was so impassioned. Because I’d been going through a time of depression. I slept a lot and felt so uninspired. But my little boy needed me. He was around Annabelle’s age now when I read those words. It was the first time I felt the nudge or motivation to get up.

I wanted to do it for my son. For Levi. Because I knew as long as I was on the ground, I wasn’t in a position to help him up. In truth, if he’d grabbed my hand once upon a time, I’d have pulled him down with me. Because I was flat on my face.

But I rallied and rose. I got up and began making great strides. I was full of purpose and aim and took on so much. I was fully confident and fully courageous. Once upon a time, I really was…

And I managed to remain in that upright stance for several years.

Who is the man who is afraid and lacks courage? Let him go and return to his house, so that he doesn’t cause his brothers’ courage to fail like his own. Deuteronomy 20:8

Alas, I sensed God calling me out of the world a couple of years ago. Seems He wanted me to exit the light and enter a dark, quiet place. I resisted wholeheartedly because once I tasted the light, the dark was no longer appealing.

And yet, God persisted. Finally, I succumbed to His bidding. It was August of 2017 and I did my best to stay quiet. Unseen. I knew there was purpose, one of those being found in the above passage listed under the heading “Laws of Warfare” in my Bible.

Wow, it penetrates.

See, I lost my courage. Somewhere along the way, fear set up and not a shred of boldness remained. And so, God took me out of the line of fire. I just couldn’t handle it. Not in 2017. And for coming up on two-years now, I’ve been halted. However, my stand-still allowed for the most wonderful thing to happen.

In coming out of everything, God was finally able to do what He’s always wanted to do. An inside work took place. And in looking back, I can see it all. How He removed my feathers one by one. All the things I wanted to present to the world… all the things I believed were keeping me aloft.

But one by one, God plucked every activity and writing venture and volunteer spot out of my life till there was nothing left. I was completely bare. Just God and me. And that’s when I realized how much confidence I’d placed on me and my abilities. And how dependent I was on everything I allowed the world to see in me. To appear perfect. I did everything I could to keep me upright. And in the air. Until my feathers were all gone…

Grounded by God.

It had to happen. Because uncovered, I comprehended how I’d been using everything I could to hide my weaknesses. All those insecurities and fears that caused me to keep quiet, like when I was a little girl, rose to the surface. In fact, they caused me to become mute in recent years…

But see, laid bare in the nest of God’s rest, He was able to tend to me and my old hurts become new ones. He nurtured me. And cared for me. He tended to me in a way I’d never experienced. And there, in the secret place of His refuge, I found my strength returning. I saw glimmers of boldness and splashes of courage inside and out. It’s what prompts me to write now. To step to the edge of His nest… 

For I find a new feather in my wing. Unlike my plucked ones, this feather was placed there by God. It’s called boldness. Inconceivably, though, the wing grew from a weakened state. But out of my weakness, I gained His strength (2 Cor 12:9).

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The above is on the front of my journal. I started it on April 22, the day after Easter. The preceding journal is full of notes about getting up, coming out, re-entering the world, etc. Over and over, I see nudges to leave the security of His nest. And to open my mouth. For my heart sang all last month as it composed words to God and His goodness…

But I’ve resisted movement.

It was just too easy to remain here. In the secret place. Because here, I don’t get hurt. And as whole-heartedly as I resisted going in, I find I’ve been just as reluctant to leave. But then, I stumbled across this quote a couple of days ago:

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I know God allowed me to hear this because it was the final nudge. It’s what I needed to hear. Because you know…

I see His Son, Jesus. Not in the words about failing and stumbling and error. That’s not it. It’s in the reading about a worthy cause because the cross was His cause. And it’s in the blood and sweat, because He did that. In the garden. But more, I comprehend Jesus went into the arena first. And He’s my example to follow.

See, He entered the arena of the world and was hurt by the crowds. He was stricken and wounded and crushed and beaten. All for me. All for you. But He could have avoided it. And oh, how He agonized in prayer over it. And when He prayed, His sweat became like drops of blood, falling to the ground (Luke 22:44). He cried out, “Take this cup.” But in the end, He submitted to His Father’s will.

He entered the arena and so shall I. For Him. For me. But also, for them…

IMG_1753 Taking the child’s hand, He said (tenderly) to her, “Talitha Kum!” – which translated (from Aramaic) means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” Mark 5:42

Two days ago, I was ready. Oh, I was moved. God had spoken and there was no doubt. He said, “Get up! Get out! Get it back!” And I was emboldened. Ready to be brave. I wanted to leave my secret place and enter the arena of the world.

Wouldn’t you know Annabelle got sick. Up through the night and home yesterday. I lay down with her, I ate more than I should and slept in the afternoon. And can I tell you? Courage waned. And I doubted. I wondered if I heard God clearly.

But then, I remember my Christ, who entered first. And what strikes me most about His actions is that He kept silent. When insults were hurled His way or when the crowd esteemed Him not, He did not open His mouth. And I tell you, this penetrates.

Because I realize my Savior and Lord kept quiet that day and this may be the one area in which He calls me not to follow His lead…

See, He kept quiet so I would not. Jesus kept His lips sealed so I would open mine. Thus, with a heart full of His love, I do. And this is how I choose to enter the arena. This is how I go back into the world. It’s the one He died for.

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Oh, she’s so much like me. She’s quiet and reserved and scared to open her mouth. And the thought of her entering the world and what it will do to her can leave me paralyzed. It can cause me to grab her tight and never let her go.

Because how will it affect her? Will insults and ugly remarks rip her tender heart to shreds like it did me? Or worse, when she’s esteemed not or ignored completely, how will she handle it? Will she realize her incredible value when she’s not received by the world? When it doesn’t want her and she’s not welcome?

But then I realize a lot of that depends on me. Because how I handle the world will likely be how she handles it. For according to Oscar Wilde, all women become like their mothers. And from experience, I know little boys do, too. So the choice is all mine. What will Levi and Annabelle see when they view my life? What example will I provide for following?

Oh, I want them to witness a strong woman. One who may have laid down a time or two, but in the end, she always had the courage to get up. And get out. I want them to see a woman who may have lost it a time or two but always had the gumption to get it back. Yes, that’s my desire.

And I have hope that’s me. A woman who got it back. For I no longer fear being seen just as I am. Imperfect. Like the polish that adorns my nails…

Because in my imperfect weakness, His power if perfected. Thus, I embrace it. Because when I am weak, then I am strong to carry on. And I find this is the absolute best place to open my mouth.

Yes, through all my frailty, I find courage to say what I should.

And this is what I hope my babies see when they look at me. A woman brave enough to speak up. A woman who didn’t avoid the arena of life. One who allowed God to take her by the hand, lift her off the ground, and lead her back in. 

And my hope is that they go in, too. Boldly. Levi and Annabelle. Both led by a strong mom who courageously follows Jesus…

The little girl immediately got up and began to walk… Mark 5:42

Get your feet wet!

IMG_0991 (2)Verb. get one’s feet wet. To begin gaining experience; to tentatively try something new. 

I took my little girl to her grandma’s house today. It was raining. As I scooped her out of the carseat and deposited her onto the ground, I said, “Stay on the gravel. Stay on the walkway. Don’t get your feet wet!”

And as those words exited my mouth, I sensed God speaking to me. It was about how I talk to my daughter and what she hears. Because the message that goes forth is one of caution. It says stop! Stay on the beaten path. And for God’s sake, stay out of the water.

And why?

First, Annabelle would get her feet dirty. Muddy. And I want to avoid the mess. But also, if she keeps her feet dry, there’s less chance of sickness. And deep down, I feel the beaten path is the safe way to go. Guided paths are tested and tried. Less chance of tripping up.

So I tell her to stay on the sidewalk. To stay out of the wet grass. All to keep her feet dry. But on this 31st day of December, the last day of the year, I wonder if I’m sending her the wrong message.

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Today, Annabelle knew I was talking about the sidewalk. But you know, this message of caution is one that escapes my lips all too often. It always has…

When my son, Levi, was small and we walked down the driveway after school, I’d cry out, “Don’t run!” See, there’s a steep part and I worried about his falling and skinning knees or busting his mouth. And when we walked through our wooded path, I’d say, “Slow down.” That’s because Levi usually carried a stick and I didn’t want him to fall and poke his eyes out. And now there’s Annabelle.

Go slow, I say. Hold the rail. Don’t fall. And most recently, stay off the grass! So as to keep her feet dry.

But I realize this message can run deep. To the soul, even. Perhaps even stunt her growth and keep her bound. In a box, so to say. All in the name of safety. And caution. And if I’m not careful with my words, I may stop her altogether. Fear imbedded to the core by words uttered every single day…

Stop. Slow down. Don’t…

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But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”  “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. Matthew 14:27-31

I had to get my feet wet several years back. I felt as if God called me by name for a specific task. Something new. And though there was fear, I stepped out of the box (my boat) and walked on water for just a bit. And it felt good. There’s that phrase about walking on air. I think they have it wrong. Surely that heady feeling is more like walking on water.

Like Jesus did.

And like Peter. Like the disciple, though, I began to sink. I’d say within a year of stepping out of that boat, I was up to my ears in water. Drowning in a sea of old feelings that threatened to take me under completely.

But Jesus extended His hand. He pulled me to safety and an extended period of rest. Thus, I’ve been sitting on the banks for some time now. And a thorough drying off has taken place.

Alas, I sense His call anew. A stirring of my soul. Time to get up from the sidelines and move out into the water once more. But a voice plays in my ear. It’s one of caution and it sounds like my own.

It says, “Stop! Stay on the walkway. And for God’s sake, don’t get your feet wet!”

Because when you get wet by putting yourself out there, there’s a chance of danger. There’s the chance of failing. Or getting hurt. And so the bank seems safer. And yet, He calls me out anyway…

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It’s almost 2019. Another year down. And this past year has been pretty safe. For I’ve not veered off the path and I’ve stayed close to home. I’ve not ventured too far beyond my borders nor attempted anything out of the norm.

It’s been comfortable, I’d say.

But you know, comfortable is not a good place to be. Because comfort leads to complacency. And as we all know, a body at rest stays at rest. And when one sits too long, the waters become stagnant.

And though there are times God calls one to stillness, there are also times God calls one to action. And movement. To His living waters that run so deep. This is where He calls me today…

In the year that’s coming, God calls me out of the box that’s been my comfort zone. He wants me to step out of my boat of safety. More, He tells me to jump in with both feet. Because there, within His living water, I’ll find my destiny. The catch?

It’s not the safest way to go. It’s not the well-beaten path. It’s the one less traveled and one I’m not accustomed to. And where it will lead me, I don’t really know…

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Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. Psalm 42:7

God’s telling me something. It has to do with how I speak to my little girl. It’s the words I fling forth in hope of protecting her. But deep down, I wonder if they’ll do more harm than good.

Because when will they stop? When does my message of slow down and be careful end? And when will they sink into the core of her being?  Will they hinder her progress toward the One who walks on water? When He calls her out, will I let her go? Or will I cry, “Stop!”

A little caution is good. It really is. But I’m hearing God today. And He’s telling me to let go. To stop trying to control everything. To stop trying to avoid all the hurts in life. For my kids and for myself…

And if I hear Him correctly, He’s saying a little water on the feet is not such a bad thing. Not for Annabelle.

And most assuredly, not for me.

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“Stop your fighting—and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

Oh, I’m quick to caution my little one. I just want her to stay well. Healthy. Happy. Whole. I want the best for her. So, I tell her to not get her feet wet. You know, the mud and the mess. But also, wet feet can lead to sickness. And sickness, well, it can lead to more. And me telling my little one to stay dry is really an attempt to control circumstances.

And here we are on the cusp of 2019. And I hear God urging me to do the opposite of what I urge her to do. Thus, I will do my best to do the same…

I’ll try to encourage Annabelle just as my heavenly Father does me. And my hope for the New Year is that the words He whispers in my ear will make it to my lips. That I’ll say, “Go into the grass, my child, and feel the blades. Go off the beaten path and try new roads. Get out of the boat. Jump into the water and experience all life has to offer…”

And more than anything, I hope I tell her, “Get your feet wet!”

Because in truth, if your feet ain’t wet, then you’re not really living. Not fully.