An Unwilling Wife, a Reluctant Mother

IMG_2726I’ve been mad at Jason lately. And when my better half asks what’s wrong, I don’t want to say. Like this past Saturday. I didn’t want to give him an answer because I know.

Oh, I know.

My reason isn’t a good one.

Because truth is selfishness lies at the bottom of my meanness. Inward focus the cause of the inky blackness that permeates my heart and soul, eventually seeping out and darkening the paths of those I love the most.

Like my husband. My kids.

Yes, darkness pervades my atmosphere when I try to retain pieces of what I consider to be my own. When I attempt to hold back big chunks of my life. All for myself. Just for me…

Time’s probably the biggest source of contention. Because when I feel like I’m losing it, I become resentful of everything that takes from it. This is where my poor husband comes in. Him and his recent inquiry.

“What’s wrong,” he asked.

And what a pitiful answer I offered. See, I weighed out my time verses his and he came out ahead (way ahead). At least in my mind he did. And though the rational part of my brain fully comprehends my scales are off (way off), I quietly stew over my perceived losses anyway.

This is what I tried to explain to Jason last weekend. And not so eloquently, I might add.

Because I knew. And I know.

I know how awful this sounds. But it’s the awful truth. And this is where I’ve found myself more than once this past month. Ironically, in the days leading up to Mother’s Day…

Me simmering and stewing and wishing I could do something else. Something in particular. But I can’t because I’m hindered. Slowed down by the things in life that keep me from it. Namely, being a wife and mother.

Because these roles are most prominent in my life. My first calls to duty. My family is of utmost importance. They are.

But God help me there are times I want to do something else. If only for a little while. I want to get to that other thing that draws me. The thing that makes me feel full of purpose. And important.

Yes, if I could just remove my wife and mom hat for a little chunk of time, I could accomplish all the things I set out to do. Or if only each day offered more minutes to do both…

My family and the million items on my to-do list.

Maybe then I’d be a happy camper. And maybe then I wouldn’t be so unwilling to accomplish wifely tasks. Not so reluctant in performing motherly duties such as feedings and wipings and cleanings and so on.

Guiltily, though, I’ve been unwilling and reluctant. And why? Because I’ve been placing my stuff over my husband’s and children’s. My desire to do something more has caused me to be greedy. A spirit of generosity overtaken by a spirit of withholding.

Stinginess.

And the piece of me that clings to what’s mine is a piece of me my family doesn’t have access to…

Because when I pine away for the thing I can’t get to, I don’t give my family my all. Instead, they get my darkness. Thus, Scripture is proven.

She who tries to save her life – and time – loses it. Because most definitely, the tighter I cling, the quicker my life force ebbs away. And blackness prevails. Just like a tomb.

It happens every, single time.

Sigh.

Friend of God

So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. James 2:23

I’ll tell you what. God never ceases to amaze me in how He brings home a point. And how He can weave together different threads of truth from different sources to create the most beautiful tapestry of revelation.

He did so this week. It started Sunday. An elder at church mentioned Abraham and how all the nations are blessed through him. It tickled my ear. On Monday, I heard about Abraham again. This time through a Bible study when he was referred to as a friend of God. And yesterday, my devotional book. It said, “Having a friendship with God is no small thing.” Abraham was the subject matter.

God had my full attention by then. I knew I had to investigate further. And I’m amazed at how He used this one term – friend of God – to shed light on my current issue. My struggle with selfishness.

See, I wondered what it took to be God’s friend. Because I’d like to carry that title, too. But the thing is, the relationship is costly. And it was more than belief that made Abraham a friend. It was how he acted on that belief…

Genesis 22 gives us the story.

God called and Abraham answered, “Here I am.” That’s when he heard the unthinkable for God called him to take his son, his only son, the one he loved, and offer him up as a sacrifice.

Can you imagine? God instructed Abraham to kill his son and he set out to do it. Scripture says it was a test. A test in that Abraham was called to put to death the thing he loved most.

When Abraham told his servants to hang back (it was a three day journey), he told them, “the boy and I will go over there to worship.” Worship is what he said. That’s how he described laying down the life of his only son.

Thankfully, God stepped in at the very last minute and provided another sacrifice. But the point is, Abraham was willing. He was willing to do the unthinkable because God commanded him to. That’s how full of faith he was. And that action is what made him a friend.

Abraham’s willingness to obey.

And the act of obedience is why all nations of the earth receive blessing through Abraham. “I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars… all nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed My command.”

Yes, belief led to obedience in Abraham’s life. And this is part of what God wanted me to see.

This is My command: love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. John 15:12-14

You know, Jesus has friends, too. But no different than Abraham’s relationship with God, it’s costly. Because if we want to be His friend, we have to obey His commands and that’s not so easy to do.

Like when He says to love one another as I have loved you. Well, He loved us to His death. He laid down His very life for ours. And that’s a hard act to follow. And when He tells us to pick up our cross daily, He means we’re to die. Every single day.

Yes, Jesus wants us to put ourselves to death. Our wants and our desires come second to His command. But who wants to do that?

Who wants to sacrifice their very life? Because we love ourselves too much. We love our time and our stuff which causes us to hold back big chunks for selfish purposes.

At least I do…

If just for a little while.

But He says no. He commands the opposite. To love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Really, to love them more than ourselves. Because that’s exactly what He did when He died on the cross.

And that’s the heart of it. This is what God wants me to see.

For He’s commanding me to love other people as I love myself. No, more than I love myself. Specifically, my people. My husband and my kids. He calls me to be a willing wife and devoted mother because they come first. Their wants, their desires, their needs.

So unlike Abraham who was called to sacrifice his son, God calls me to sacrifice myself. My life in place of theirs.  This is the price of being Jesus’ friend.

And I want to be His friend.

Thus, belief prompts and act of obedience which in turn is my spiritual worship. And worship is how Abraham described sacrifice.

Me, too. This is how I worship my God…

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:2

God gives examples. Threads of truth woven into our lives to give insight. Like this week when He gave me Abraham, His friend. And He gave me Jesus, His Son. I look to their lives as a pattern for my own.

But you know, He also gave me my mom. And she knows exactly what it means to sacrifice one’s life. Because that’s just what she did. She gave up her life for mine. And for my brother.

She gave up huge chunks of time so that our future would be secure. Her wants and desires came second to our needs. Every single time.

She sacrificed her happiness. Her life. Her all.

Yes, unlike me, Mom was selfless.

And in return, I have life. And she is my pattern.

She is my mother.

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I wish I could say I’ve followed my mom’s example. But I didn’t. No, for so long I was selfish and didn’t even know it.

Like in this picture when I was pregnant with Levi…

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And I have to laugh when I see it. So carefree. So devil-may-care. That’s because I hadn’t a clue what was coming. I had no idea what a hard road motherhood is. I didn’t realize how much of myself I’d have to put to the side. The countless sacrifices and daily deaths…

At least for a season or two.

Or three.

And I’d be lying if I said I was a natural. Frankly, being a mom hasn’t been easy. Because at times, my selfish nature quells up and it’s hard to push it back. I want what I want when I want it. And when it seems far off, darkness presents.

That’s when reluctance makes an appearance. An unwillingness holds court. Like this past month.

But God grabbed my attention and He illuminated my selfishness. That ugly part that takes away from those most dear…

Like my husband. My kids.

And I know I’m on the right track. Because I want to please them. I want to put aside my stuff in favor of theirs. I want to be a good wife and good mom. So once more, light overtakes the dark and stinginess gives way to generosity.

Thus, what Jason told Levi is really true. It’s a fact I love my son more than anyone else in the whole world could. Because I’d give my life for him. I’d die for him. That’s what mothers do…

And if I’m willing to sacrifice my life’s blood, then time is easy to release… the chunks of “mine” I tried to cling to.

Thus, I put away my faulty set of scales and lay down my life for theirs… again. See, this dying thing is an everyday occurrence. I have to find fresh resolve to do it. But in doing so, I find great reward.  Because obeying makes me not just a friend of Jesus but also, a great mom and wife.

And through this act of obedience, I am blessed. As are they… those closest to me.

My husband and my kids.

Because I am a most willing wife. A wholly devoted mother.

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. Proverbs 31:28

Lord Business

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“My Father is still working, and I am working also.” John 5:17

February 8, 2014. That’s the night I saw the Lego movie. I know for certain because that’s the evening I received Annabelle’s middle name. Wynn. Oh, I can recall the details of February 8 very well… the delicious feeling of my secret while at dinner with friends. See, I was pregnant and they didn’t know. And the best part was my girlfriend was expecting her first grandchild at the time. As she sat there delighting over her daughter’s news, I quietly sat delighting in my own. That tidbit made the secret all the more juicy.

And so, after dinner, we watched the Lego movie. Honestly, I was not happy at first. I remember thinking, “I have to sit here for two hours for this?” It just didn’t seem to be my kind of movie. However, God used it to teach me something anyway. I don’t know if I got the lesson then, but I got it a week back when Levi watched the movie here at home. It has to do with Lord Business.

Spoiler alert… if you haven’t seen the movie and plan to, stop reading now. I’m going to divulge some details about a character named President Business a/k/a Lord Business. See, he controlled everything. He was the man in charge. However, the people in Lego land were deceived. They saw him as a business man in a suit but behind closed doors, he showed his true appearance. His pride and controlling nature on full display when he changed into his Lord Business costume. The ensemble came complete with elevated legs/shoes.

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Every single day was alike for the citizens off Lego land. They woke up and went through the motions of the day religiously. Nothing ever changed. And they liked it that way. They sang, “Everything is awesome…” Monotonous. Tedious. Boring. One day after another… exactly how President Business wanted it. What the people didn’t know is that he was actually Lord Business and he had an evil plan. He had something called the Kragle (Krazy Glue with some of the letters missing) and he was going to glue everything in sight. He was going to cement all the pieces in a perfect way. According to his pattern. He was delighted for it would be beautiful to behold. And nothing would ever change. Everything would stay the same forever… no movement.

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I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. John 17:4

So what does this Lego movie have to do with the spiritual life I try to write about? To sum up… everything. Simply, everything. It’s what this blog has been leading me to this whole time. Freedom. But to tell, I have to go to the beginning… to the garden where God created man in His own image. Male and female. He formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life in his nostrils. Man became a living soul. And on the seventh day, God completed HIs work. He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. He blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it He rested from His work of creation (Genesis 2:2-3).

And there’s my lesson right there. For I count the word work three times in that passage. And us, the work of His creation, do the same. We create. We work. And He wants us to work. However, today I question some of the work we do. What is it we actually accomplish in all our busyness? Is the work of our hands inspired by Him, or have we gotten caught in a rut? Do we move and perform by the Spirit’s inspiration? Or is our service perfunctory? Do we find ourselves in the same circumstances the citizens of Lego land found themselves? In danger of being stuck? Cemented to something God doesn’t even want us to be affixed to? Or do our actions bring Him glory as all our works should? And if they don’t, could it be our actions cause us to bow down to Lord Business instead… all our work glorifying the business of church rather than God Himself? Do we marvel at the work of our hands rather than the God of all creation? Delighting in our earthly sacrifices and not in Him? And if that’s where we find ourselves, how can we unstick ourselves?

And God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth…” Genesis 1:28

God said to fill the earth. He didn’t tell His creation to stay in one locale, for He wanted His people to spread out. But in the eleventh chapter of Genesis, something else occurred. For His creation said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky.” And their motivation is clear… “Let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise, we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” The people didn’t want to move. Or to change. In fact, they wanted to stay right where they were. Kragled to a specific locale. So they decided to build. And not only that, it had to be tall. Up to the sky. Everyone would know who they were. Pride elevated their goals… their intentions as lofty as the legs President Business put himself into when he became Lord Business.

Flash forward to a new scene. Jesus and the disciples. And Peter had just had the mother of all revelations. He knew the truth… “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And this is when Jesus said, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church…” The next thing you know is Jesus took the inner three along with Him up a mountain. Peter, James and John were alone with Jesus when something amazing happened. He was transformed before them as His face shone like the sun. Even His clothes became as white as the light. Then suddenly, Moses and Elijah were with Him talking.

Always outspoken, Peter was inspired to voice his lofty aspirations. “Lord, it’s good for us to be here! If You want, I will make three tabernacles here.” Peter beheld Jesus in all His glory and so he wanted to do something. He wanted to create. To build. “Let us make…” But before he could even formulate his thoughts and plans and put them into action, a bright cloud covered them. There was a voice: “This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him. Listen to Him!” And so the work Peter wanted to do was halted in its tracks. It’s not what God wanted.

The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

What Peter wanted to do wasn’t bad. And if I had been in shoes, I’d probably have wanted to do the same. I’d want to build and create something tangible to give credence to the event. I’d have wanted to run down that mountain and tell everyone… “Guess what happened!” But Peter couldn’t do that. Because Jesus told his disciples to keep quiet. About the revelation of all revelations… Jesus Christ, Son of God. And also about the glory witnessed by the inner three. What a secret to keep.

Today, I wonder about Peter’s motivation. And me being me, I think I have an idea of what he may have been feeling. Because I know how I would have felt. Perhaps a bit lofty? Special, even? Maybe even as high as Lord Business when he placed himself in those elevated legs. Maybe that’s what prompted Peter to begin with. He wanted to erect a building. He wanted to get busy working. Because God had just revealed something huge. What a revelation. Not only that, Jesus gave him a new name… Peter, which means rock. He was told the church would be built on “this rock.” Built on a revelation. On a person… the person of Jesus Christ. And Peter’s natural inclination was to get busy. To work. To create. And why wouldn’t he? He, like us, is made in God’s image. A creator. A builder. A worker.

She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.” The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 11:39-41

Here’s what I’m thinking. Yes it’s true there’s work to be done while we walk God’s earth. Because the fields are white, we must pray the Lord to send laborers. Those who will work and serve God. However, before we can do the work of God, a work must take place in us first. It has to. If the inner doesn’t happen, the outer means nothing. If the inner doesn’t occur, then we may end up like Martha. Bitter and resentful. Serving out of compulsion. Working because we feel like we have to. Bowing down to Lord Business instead of glorifying God above. Laboring as a slave, and not serving out of love. I know because this is what happened to me.

For you are called to freedom, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. Galatians 5:13

The inner must happen. And that happens only when we sit still at the feet of Jesus. It’s what God told Peter. It’s what He tells me. “This is My Son. I delight in Him. Listen to Him!” But this takes time. It’s secret and quiet… as secret as a baby knit together in her mother’s womb. Naked to the eyes of those around you, a story of you and Jesus unfolds within your own heart. A miracle takes place inside. And it’s delicious. You hear His voice. And as you listen intently, you begin to transform. Over time, your face becomes as bright as the sun. And as your heart melds with God’s, you stop trying to find satisfaction and delight by the work of your hands. Instead, you delight yourself in Him. Only Him. And without even trying, His work becomes your work. Naturally. Without lifting a finger, you begin His work. And it has nothing to do with business, or busyness, at all.

At least that’s the way it happened with this working girl. A slave become a daughter. And perhaps the best way to describe how that feels is the Lego movie theme song. Because it’s true…

“Everything is awesome
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team
Everything is awesome when we’re living our dream…”

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What choosing life looks like…

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The above is similar to something I saw on Facebook recently. And there was a challenge… repost if you’re against abortion. And I thought about it. But I hesitated. And then I just scrolled on. Because honestly, I wasn’t up for it. See, I’ve been in a funk. My new baby is here and I’ve been pretty busy. Sleep has been interrupted and my hormones are all over the place. ALL OVER THE PLACE. I have crying and laughing episodes within minutes of each other. In fact, this  past weekend I just sat on the couch and cried and cried. Tears streamed as my husband and son sat near me. But they weren’t alarmed. No, there was no cause for real concern because this is just the norm for me. At least for now it is. My son even says, “Mom, you’re so sensitive.” And so, I am. Sensitive. Ultra-sensitive.

You know, there’s no real reason for my funk. On Saturday, after a very trying car ride into town, I tried to use hormones as an excuse. But my husband called me on it. And rightfully so because what in the world do I have to complain about? I have been blessed. Incredibly so.

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See what I mean. Look at who rests in my arms. And gaze upon the boy who sits by my side. They’re my children and the joy they bring is evident upon my face. At least it was that day. Truth is, I’ve strapped on those inward goggles. I’ve been a bit homebound lately, and so, me and my little corner of the world is all I’ve seen. And despite blessings beyond compare, I’ve felt some sadness. Perhaps a bit of post-partum depression. But this morning, I seemed to have woken up. And it seems I am to revisit a subject I prefer to remain closed. But every now and then, He prompts me. And so, here I go again…

Choose life.

Choose life. I’m sure you’ve seen this phrase displayed upon yellow license plates along with children’s cartoon faces. Here, I’ll show you…

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It’s the Pro-Life movement’s cry. Choose life! And though on this plate, the faces are cartoons… in real life, they’re flesh and blood. Real live children. But I won’t enter the debate of when life begins. That’s for another rainy day because in truth, we believe what we believe. Some say life begins at conception while others say a specific number of weeks. Me? I dare say life begins before time began. Life began the moment God thought you into existence. But that’s not the issue I want to probe today. It’s this catchy phrase – choose life – that captures my attention. See, it comes from Deuteronomy 30:19 and the rest of that phrase says, “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.” And you know, because of my past I can testify to that statement. Because I chose not to. Choose life, that is. Rather, I chose what the world says is okay. And the end result was death. In more ways than one.

Nineteen years ago, I made a choice. I was in another country and felt pretty much alone. And because I decided to do what’s deemed legal, I made another choice. The choice not to research what was going on inside my body. I had no clue what was taking place inside my womb. And so, I chose to remain ignorant. Because ignorance is bliss, right? I’m not sure if I was offered a sonogram or not. If I was, oh, that I had chosen to see. Oh, that I had taken a closer look. But instead, I made an appointment that forever changed my life. The doctor placed his hand on my belly and said, “Go to sleep, Pam…” And so I did. And it seems as if for the past nineteen years, I’ve been dozing on and off. Hitting the snooze button more times than I ought to have. But this morning, God woke me up. He said, “Get up!”

And so, here I am. Getting out of bed. And using what He gave me… my voice. Because it’s my right. Freedom of speech. And because I’ve lived through my choices, I feel I should say what needs to be said about abortion. In a non-condemning and non-self-righteous kind of way. Because I’ve heard it from others folks… those who perhaps haven’t walked through it. Well, sometimes they come across in a way I hope not to. But I walked that way. I know firsthand what it does to a woman. That it brings death and curses with it. And though I’ve come very far with it, rising above the ashes of my past, there’s a bit more to process. A nugget remains buried deep. But for today, I’ll do what I can. I’ll encourage others to go another route. The route that brings blessing. The path of life. May they choose it. For this is what choosing life looks like…

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I was brought to tears this morning. Of course, that’s not surprising. As I said, my hormones are ALL OVER THE PLACE. However, these were tears of joy for a dear friend of mine. Today is a big day as she’s adopting a baby. And while praying for her, and the mother who decided to give her child away to another, I remembered. That poster I chose not to display on my Facebook wall came to mind. And I remembered something else… that November is adoption awareness month. And I saw something beautiful. For there is a selfless woman who’s making the right choice. She decided not to abort her baby, but placed her little girl up for adoption instead. And today, I celebrate the life she chose. And not just a newborn baby’s life, but also my friend’s. For new life has been breathed into her longing heart. It’s what she wanted most… a baby of her own. A little one to call her “Mama.” And so, her dream comes true today. All because a woman made a choice. She chose life. And because she did, both she and her descendants shall live.

One man was there who had been sick for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the sick man answered, “I don’t have a man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, someone goes down ahead of me.” “Get up,” Jesus told him, “pick up your bedroll and walk!” Instantly the man got well, picked up his bedroll, and started to walk. John 5:8-9

This morning, it was as if I awoke from a deep slumber. See, I’ve been in a funk. Tears and hormones and darkness. I’ve been sleeping. But today I hear God anew. He asked me if I want to be well. And I do. Oh, I’m sick alright, but mostly… I’m sick of me. Because I am blessed. Despite terrible choices I made long ago, God has blessed my path. And now, He expects me to get up, pick up my bedroll and walk. Because what’s past is past. And just because I made bad choices a long time ago doesn’t mean I have to dwell there. In the dark. Sleeping. Oh, that doctor may have said go to sleep, but God says wake up. He shows me I can celebrate the other choices I made. The right ones. Their names are Levi and Annabelle. And they make my life beautiful everyday. I just have to be awake to see that.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.  Isaiah 61:1-3

 

What the cave looks like.

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My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. Philippians 3:10-11

The heart of my journey really began four years ago. That’s when I purposed to know God.  For my determined purpose at that time was that I would know Him, that I would become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, and that I would perceive and recognize and understand the wonders of His person (Philippians 3:10, AMP). Beautiful and inspiring words. However, I conveniently overlooked the last portion of that verse. The part about being conformed to His death. So basically, when Philippians 3:10 became my heart prayer, I didn’t fully comprehend what it was I was asking for. I didn’t realize that in order to know Him the way I wanted to, I’d first have to know His Son. Essentially, I’d have to first taste death. While in this body. The hope being that I would be resurrected here and now. And so, to know Him as I so purposed, I would have to rise from the dead just as He did. But that would have to take place here on earth.

I didn’t know this four years ago. And because God sent me to my land of promise after the above became my prayer, I thought I had already attained a resurrected life. For I was lifted up and on top of the world as I made my triumphant entry. But, in contemplating another triumphant entry, the triumphant entry, I can easily spot the differences. For He rode into town on a donkey. Me? I straddled a high horse as I made my entrance. He came to die. Me? I came home to live. Funny that He died and rose to eternal life, whereas I held tight to my life, resulting in a slow death.

At some point in the past couple of years, I realized I had to die to self. But you know, I really died long before then for I had succumbed to death in another manner. It’s the book of James that describes such a death with the rich man withering away in pursuit of his activities. And although my activities were not necessarily bad things, I just allowed them to consume me. Like being a workaholic. Or how about begin a perfectionist? Or trying to fit too many things into a schedule? Or one of my greatest loves is sleep. I could easily sleep my life away. But the thing I have felt the guiltiest about is how I handled the first few months after settling into our home here. My son was always up before me. My little four year old had to get me out of bed. And so, guilt assailed me. And yet, I could not seem to get my priorities straight. That’s when depression set in. And as we’ve all heard, sleep is a sign of depression. So more sleep ensued.

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This is what happened in my home. I slept. And felt guilt. And sank into such a rut. And the more I walked in my rut, the deeper the grooves became. Before I knew it, walls of dirt surrounded me growing higher and higher as I dug out my pit. And before I knew it, the last pile of dirt was thrown on top. And there I was… lying in a heap of guilt. In my own home, my sanctuary, my cave, my hide-out. It was here that I died a spiritual death for my bedroom became my tomb. But this wasn’t the end of my story. In fact, it was just the beginning of new life. For God didn’t let me stay where I was.

My life began to turn around in my bedroom. Because when I couldn’t stand myself one minute more, I relented. I began to set my alarm clock so that I would wake before my son. And before he stirred, I sought comfort from Scripture. In this room, my heart began to beat again as I sought to be near God. And within these four walls I finally came to terms with God and His ways. Here I came to know Him as I so purposed four years earlier. Yes, it may be true that I died here. But more importantly, it’s here that He brought me back to life. And it’s here that He bids me to rise today.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11:32-44

A miracle occurred in Bethany when Lazarus, who had been dead for days, emerged from his tomb. No different than the miracle that took place in my bedroom. For though I entered it one way, over time, I came out differently. Transformed. And in looking back I can honestly say I am not who I once was. I may have fallen asleep and into a tomb of guilt, but I rise up a new creature. But, oh, I still slip up as evidenced by Mother’s Day. As a lover of sleep, the one thing I wanted as a gift from my family was a nap. A glorious lie-down. And so, I told my son… 99 minutes! Afterward, I’d play badminton. But first, my nap. So we set the timer on the microwave (thus the 99 minutes – if I could have made it longer, I would have). And I lay there. I drifted off easily, but awoke too soon. I heard little fingers on that timer. Beep. Beep. Beep. But not the normal timer. I heard a little sing-song voice say, “The timer’s off.” But I knew it was too early. No way had 99 minutes passed. So I told him, “It’s not time!” He decided to play I-pad on the bed while I dozed. Once, twice, twenty times more, I was jostled awake by his body as it jerked along with the characters of the game.  My own body shuddered with inward sighs. Then, the roar of a lawn-mower followed by a drone of a weed eater, both outdone by the blower. Loudness. My little one checked the clock. I heard a whisper, “Five more minutes.” Then his footsteps on the basement steps rivaled by the clacking of badminton rackets. “Three more minutes…”

No, I wasn’t a happy creature Mother’s Day afternoon. It must have been apparent as my little one looked down at me, “Oh, you don’t want to get up because you’re so comfortable?” My response was to flop over onto my back with my arm outstretched. “Oh no, she’s dead,” he said in a playful voice. But in hearing this, I arose. Because I am not dead. And I couldn’t deny it any longer… for when I heard the clack of the rackets, I knew my time had come. It made no difference that I really had five more minutes. Because when you’re called forth, you’re called forth. Kind of like with the tomb. It may feel like we need a few more minutes. But when it’s time, He calls.

As sure as I heard the rattling of the rackets on Mother’s Day, I hear Him now. He calls to me, “Pam, come out!” And so, it’s time. I remove my grave clothes and walk forward.

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=i+will+rise+chris+tomlin&qpvt=i+will+rise+chris+tomlin&FORM=VDRE#view=detail&mid=9707A86F24C6E1F89DB89707A86F24C6E1F89DB8

A Dry Spell

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I’ve been dry. Which is funny because we’ve had so much rain in the past few days that it’s been dripping through the cracks in my kitchen. While a stainless steel pot sat on my floor collecting rain, and I went through multiple towels soaking up standing water off my stovetop, the jar of clay that I am proved to be a leaky vessel. For I seem to hold no water. I feel empty with nothing to offer. Inside, I’m dry. Thus, the dry spell. Dry in every way.

I read from John chapter 4 recently and the words caused me to inwardly moan. Because what I read caused a stirring of the remaining stagnant water within me. But also, it prompted me to consider why I feel the way I do. Because what Jesus promises to a woman of Samaria applies to me, too. And honestly, I just don’t feel it today…

“Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never thirst again- ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.”          John 4:13

So what of that? I’m a Christian woman, so shouldn’t I be filled with this living water? Why the dry spell? And in truth, the dryer I become, the more deadened I feel. Kind of a numbness. It takes a lot to make me laugh or cry at this stage. Like I’m an empty shell. And so, activity ensues. I begin to feel frantic and so I try to quench my thirst by feeding on heaping helpings of God’s word. And yet, nothing. Dry as a bone. An empty cistern. But then, I hear Him. He says to me, “You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” John 5:39-40.

And so, I’m baffled by this statement. Because Jesus is the Word become flesh. And God’s word is powerful and transforming. His words are life. How is it, then, that devouring the Bible in mass quantities leaves me devoid of life? That’s when I hear Him again. I am reminded of Hagar of the Old Testament. She was a woman who had her own dry spells. See, she wandered through the wilderness not just once, but twice. And the wilderness of the Old Testament is not what we think of in our land. No, the wilderness was a desert, barren, wasteland. In fact, one definition shows the wilderness land to be desolate supporting little life. And so, it was amidst Hagar’s dry spells that she encountered the Living God.

The first time she encountered God was when she ran away from home. Circumstances were unfavorable as she was tired of being mistreated by her mistress. So she took off. And that’s when she met Him. But rather than encourage her on her way, God sent her back to her old life. And furthermore, He told her to submit to the mistreatment. But then, He made her a promise. For she was to have a boy child who would grow into a man. Poignantly, this visitation took place at a spring of water. And Hagar named the place Beer-lahai-roi, which means “A Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.” So, Hagar in her dryness, must have stopped at a spring to quench her thirst. But instead, she received a word from the Living One who heard her cry out. Thus, the name of her child was to be Ishmael (God hears).

Hagar did go back to her old life. And it was some years later that she had to go away again. But this time, it wasn’t her idea. Her mistress threw her and Ishmael out. It seems as if she was meant to go away all along… just the timing was not right. And so, Hagar and her boy were sent off with only some bread and a waterskin. And they wandered through the Wilderness of Beer-sheba. Alas, the water didn’t last. And so here was a woman, dry as a bone, trying to sustain both herself and her child in a desolate land that supported little life. She must have lost all hope, for she placed her child under a bush and went and sat nearby. See she couldn’t bear to hear his cries anymore. And tragically, she was waiting for him to die. It appears that Hagar forgot her previous encounter with the Lord. It appears she didn’t recollect what He told her years before. For He said she’d have a child. And He said when Ishmael’s a man… but in her dryness, she didn’t remember. Circumstances seemed too dire. Her unfavorable circumstances loomed before her and that’s all she could see. That’s all she could dwell on.

But you know, Hagar may have forgotten, but God did not. And He heard the boy’s cries and answered. God called out instructions to Hagar, “Get up, help the boy up, and sustain him, for I will make him a great nation.” That’s when God opened her eyes and she saw. There was a well of water. It must have been there all along for she simply needed to get up and fill the waterskin. She just didn’t see it. Her despair and her fear and her hopelessness filled both her heart and her vision. She didn’t know what was right there for the taking. And the sad thing is, I don’t think she even asked God for help. I don’t think she said a word. Because it was the voice of the boy that God heard. Not hers. Unlike Hagar’s first wilderness wandering, she didn’t cry out the second time. She had lost all hope.

And so, today I hear Him. I’ve been wandering my own desert land yet again. And it appears I’ve been digging my own wells. It seems as if I’ve been trying to quench this thirst my way. I’ve been doing more, trying harder, digging deeper in God’s word, and yet, dryness. It was yesterday, my mom said that people sometimes mistake hunger for thirst. And you know, I think there’s something to that. See, I’ve been cramming myself FULL of God’s word. Hours of it. And yet, there’s still this emptiness. Perhaps what my mom said stands spiritually, as well. Perhaps I’m confusing this thirst for hunger. And as powerful as God’s word is, I need something more. I see it through that Samaritan woman in the 4th chapter of John.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. “Give Me a drink,” Jesus said to her, for His disciples had gone into town to buy food. “How is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” she asked Him. For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.” “Sir,” said the woman, “You don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. So where do You get this ‘living water’? You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are You? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and livestock.” John 4:7-12

Jesus asks the woman for a drink, which initiates a dialogue. And so, she asks questions of Jesus. See, He pointed out that if she knew who He was, she’d ask Him for a drink. But she pointed out the obvious. Circumstances were clear to see as Jesus had no bucket and the well was deep. How could He give her water? Furthermore, she had Jacob’s well. And Jacob was a great man… a patriarch. People had been drinking from his water for years. And that’s when Jesus pointed out the obvious. Whoever drank of that water would thirst again. He offers her to drink from Him.

  “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38

And so, I hear Him today. I hear Him through the lives of Hagar and an anonymous Samaritan woman. For through them, I see a picture of me. They too, had dry spells. And like them, my faith is running low right now. It’s as if I had forgotten my last encounter with the Living One Who Sees Me. It seems as if I had forgotten what He promised me. And so, my belief has waned. And despite the ceaseless wells I dig by means of activity and busyness and tasks, I remain empty. And despite my drinking from wells that many have drank from before me, I thirst again. And so, it’s here in this dry, barren place that I have no other choice. I just stop what I’m doing. And God opens my eyes to see what lay right before me. For the well of the Living Water has been here the whole time. I just didn’t see it. And because I know I don’t have it in me, I look at Him. It’s clear that despite my best efforts, I cannot satisfy this endless thirst. And so, I do the only thing I can do. I echo the plea of a Samaritan woman of long ago…

I say, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t get thirsty again…”

And then, I’m able to get up. It’s then, I can help my own boy up. It’s then I can sustain him in a dry and desolate land. But first, I must be filled myself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA92O0hxYNw

Light of men

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isn’t it ironic?

It was just under three years ago that God’s favor rested upon me. He brought me into a land (my hometown), of which I was desperate to possess for years and years. I likened my time away to the Israelite’s years of wilderness wandering. I fancied that surely I must have felt similar to them as they anxiously awaited that glorious day… the day when God would usher them into their promised land. And it did happen… for them and for me.

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams of water, springs, and deep water sources, flowing in both valleys and hills; a land of wheat, barley, vines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without shortage, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you will mine copper.” Deuteronomy 8:7-9

Today, my heart is stirred by this passage of Scripture on more levels than I can describe. Because it speaks of the promised land… a land that I always considered my home. And when I ponder how God moved me from there to here, I now see it’s been more of a spiritual move than anything. Because my relationship with Him has utterly changed since coming back. And it’s through these last few days that my undivided attention has been on His spiritual food and drink. So when I stumbled across the above passage, it nearly leapt of the pages of my Bible. I knew I wanted to use it in a blog because of references to plentiful food and water. But, the funny thing is – or shall I say the ironic part is – I didn’t plan on using last line! Because rocks of iron didn’t flow with what I had been feeling and thinking. But my eyes have been opened… And today, it’s specifically the last part I am captivated by.

This morning, I looked up irony and was surprised by the definition I found. I·ron·y  adjective – consisting of, containing, or resembling the metal iron: an irony color. What? I had never heard of that, and it’s not at all what I expected to find. And so, this new definition immediately brought Deuteronomy 8 to mind… because I remembered… I thought, “rocks of iron.” And so, I saw the truth. Because since returning to my promised land, irony is exactly what I have been mining. Honestly, I have been chipping away at a massive boulder of iron since day one. Because I am here in this land of plenty, and yet, I am not tapping into what’s good and abundant. See, my eyes have been closed. How ironic…

Irony is having your deepest, heartfelt prayer request answered, but upon entrance to your promised land finding yourself in a place you never, ever would have imagined… the deepest of pits. Irony is being delivered to the place you always wanted to return to; however, rather than a heart filled with joy, you find a heart full of bitterness. Irony is that on the heels of God’s goodness, you find yourself further away from God than ever. And irony is finding a home that you just had to have, and yet, there were issues with the well. There were problems with the water source. See, the water was dirty. Oh, there was plenty of it… only it was filled with bacteria. And perhaps what I thought was a coppery hue was in fact irony. Because it is so very ironic that at that time, I had unlimited access to clean, living water… only, I was completely overcome by anxiety and worry over an earthly well. I didn’t have faith in God, rather, I placed all my trust in a bank, and man-made methods, and UV lights, forsaking the One who brought me into the promised land to begin with. Irony is that I was torn up over a well, of all things, and the foul water that housed it… when there were streams of living water directly in front of my eyes. I just couldn’t see it. And so, instead of digging for living water, I mined for iron. And the deeper I dug, the wider the pit became in which I dwelt. Down, down I went as the troubles and worries heaped higher and higher.  Yes, irony is that upon entrance to your promised land you find yourself in the driest of deserts.

Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind, who makes human flesh his strength and turns his heart from the LORD. He will be like a juniper in the Arabah; he cannot see when good comes but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives. Jeremiah 17:5-6

Today, I looked up the definition of well. You know, the place where you expect to find water. And once again, irony abounds. Because according to Strong’s concordance, there are two meanings. One being, a shaft in the ground for extraction of water. And two, a pit, a depression in the earth with no focus on water. How funny is it that the house I wanted to buy within the borders of my hometown had a well full of dirty water… and how very ironic that I was so engrossed by the water shaft in the ground that I ended up falling into the deepest of pits – a depression – and I had no focus on the living water that could have lifted me out.

I bet Hagar could taste the irony that surrounded her. Do you remember her story? She was the servant by whom Abraham fathered a child. See, Sarah was tired of waiting on God for a child, so she manipulated His plan according to her time table. Sarah offered her maidservant to Abraham, and when Hagar actually conceived (which Sarah wanted), she became embittered. See, Hagar was able to do what she had not. And then, Sarah began to mistreat Hagar for the very thing she wanted her to do in the first place! Ironic, huh? Hagar ran away, but encountered the living God through her desert wandering. And by a spring of water, of all places. God sent her back, but eventually Sarah had her own child. Because things became worse, and Sarah commanded it, Hagar had to leave once again.

Abraham sent Hagar and her son away, but with provisions… a waterskin filled with water. They wandered through Beer-sheba, but inevitably, the water ran dry. And this time… Hagar didn’t see a spring of water. This time, she had no hope. And so, the child lay under a tree dying, and Hagar walked off a distance and wept. And then, when things looked the bleakest, an angel spoke to Hagar. He said, “What’s wrong, Hagar? Don’t be afraid, for God has heard the voice of the boy from the place where he is. Get up, help the boy up, and sustain him, for I will make him a great nation.” Genesis 21:17-18. And that’s when it happened… God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. Do you see? The water was there all along… Hagar just couldn’t see it. Her problems had grown so high, that’s all she could see. Because Hagar was dwelling in a pit of despair, she was blinded to what lie directly before her. And when the scales fell away, she finally saw hope. Because she was in Beer-sheba, which means seven wells. How ironic that Hagar journeyed through the land of seven wells, but couldn’t one of them.

Yes, it’s true that living water is available to us all. But here’s another truth… we must first see! Because living water, like H20, can surely run dry. We have to do our part… we must get up and sustain ourselves with it. Like Hagar did. As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink. Same thing with us, spiritually speaking. We can be led to the edge of His live-giving river, but only we can take that first sip. What irony abounds in our lives… how ironic that we can be surrounded by God’s living water, and yet find ourselves dying of thirst. May it not be so.

May we refuse to remain in a dry land, and may we open our eyes to see! May we ever dig deep, tapping into the life-sustaining water that runs within us. And when we find it, may we gulp it down…

Again he measured off a third of a mile, and it was a river that I could not cross on foot. He asked me, “Do you see this, son of man?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I had returned, I saw a very large number of trees along both sides of the riverbank. He said to me, “This water flows out to the eastern region and goes down to the Arabah. When it enters the sea, the sea of foul water, the water becomes fresh. Every kind of living creature that swarms will live wherever the river flows, and there will be a huge number of fish because this water goes there. Since the water will become fresh, there will be life everywhere the river goes. Ezekiel 47:5-9