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

In Pieces

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

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

Let me explain.

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

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

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

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

And the real love I have for him.

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

But only by a couple of years.

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

Jesus Christ.

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

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

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

But that was then.

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

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

So much I couldn’t know.

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

But now, I know.

Now I know truth…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To bind up the wounds of my broken heart.

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

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

Yes, I love Jason in pieces.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His real love.

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

God is love.

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

Your One True Love.

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

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

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

I know Him.

And I know me.

I’ve come to know us both in pieces.

Bits and pieces.

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

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

 

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

If the shoe fits…

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

Jason says I strut. I said, “Nuh-uh!” I emphatically denied it because there is just no way I strut around. Only confident people do that. Bold ones. People who feel good in their own skin. And usually, I don’t.

Feel good in my own skin, that is. Oh, for more reasons than I want to get into right now. The point is, this woman doesn’t strut.

Impossible.

However, after contemplating the strutting issue further… I just have to wonder. Can it be possible?

Do I strut?

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New shoes brought up the topic. My son’s Christmas money was burning a hole in his pocket and he’s been waiting to buy new basketball shoes for weeks. So Saturday was the big day. Sprawled out on the couch, he wore them till past 10:30 pm.

He assured me he was comfortable, though.

And Monday, his new shoes heavily influenced his choice of pants. Athletic, of course, with pockets. The pockets made it easier for him to insert hands and hitch up his pants legs so he could admire the shoes as he walked.

My husband and I smiled at each other as we watched him. I made a remark about Levi’s strutting around and Jason thought it would be a good confidence builder. His reasoning: if Levi feels good in what he’s wearing, he’ll be more confident.

That’s when he said it. “You strut.”

As I previously stated, I said, “Nuh-uh!”

Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come. Proverbs 31:25

Annabelle got a new pair of shoes on Monday. Jason brought them home and she glowed. She wore them practically all day yesterday, running back and forth, giggling and preening. Definitely toddler strutting if I ever saw any.

It was plain to see. Annabelle felt so good in her shoes. Just like Levi.

And just like me.

Because unbeknownst to me, I’m the very same. Without realizing it, I strut around like my children. Wrapped in something that makes me feel better about myself, I must walk differently.

Alas, my husband was right. As usual.

I do strut.

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It was my growing years that caused me to agree with my husband (even though I didn’t want to). Because I’ll tell you what I know about clothes. And shoes. They for sure have power to make you feel good. Or bad.

I know because it’s the road I walked. When I was a young girl, I didn’t have what other kids had. Now don’t get me wrong, I was never in need.

Ever.

There was always a roof over my head and food in my belly. And there was always clothing on my back. Just, it was usually second-hand (before second-hand was cool). And I can recall my clothing from kindergarten on with such clarity. So many of my tales begin with, “I was wearing” or “You were wearing…”

My girlfriend thinks it’s a photographic memory but I know the truth.  I remember so well because pain was involved. Or shame. I was embarrassed of my circumstances or my appearance and it totally colored my world.

And my memories.

The flawed white blouse that had to be fastened with a safety pin. The corduroy dress with big red buttons up and down the back. The green jumper with hideous mustard tights. The red, white and blue ensemble that would make a “monkey out of me,” so I was told.

And fifth grade brought me powder blue tennis shoes with three stripes (peach, pink and white). Mom was so happy to give them so I hid my frown. I knew they weren’t right. Not compared to what my friends had.

And so I was weighed and measured by my own standards (or the world’s). And I was found wanting.

I wanted what I did not have.

I wanted what wasn’t mine…

Always.

I got a kick out of Annabelle yesterday. Despite being tickled with her new shoes, she wanted what wasn’t hers. She wanted Levi’s. And she did her best to walk around in his shoes. Alas, his shoes were just too big for her to fill.

When Annabelle tried to walk in her older brother’s shoes, she’d easily get tripped up.

And today, I realize the same thing goes for me. It’s dawned on me that I’ve been trying to slip my feet into other people’s shoes for some time now. I wanted to fill their roles and trod their path. But finally, I understand.

Their way is not my way.

And really, their shoes are not my size. Perhaps too big for me to fill right now. And more importantly, God has a pair of shoes just for me.

Custom made and a perfect fit.

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Here comes that dreamer! Genesis 37:19

I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing lately. Along with the New Year, I’ve been going through some recent journals. Out with the old, in with the new kind of stuff. What goes and what remains…

Just after the New Year, that’s the question I asked myself. “What remains?” Know what I found out? Through scouring thousands of words, I discovered my dreams remain. Because that’s what I wrote a year and a half ago.

My dreams remain.

My dreams were undone then and they’re undone now. Unfulfilled. And so, they’re still with me. My new thought? These remaining dreams are custom made for me. They’re the way I should walk. For there are shoes out there only I can fill.

Because He made them just for me.

A perfect fit.

For dreams result from much work and a fool’s voice from many words. Ecclesiastes 5:3

It’s the road you’ve already walked. That’s God’s dream for His children. Whatever brought the most pain will be how God uses you from this moment forward. I believe to my soul He’ll use your biggest struggle in ministry to Him.

And though my struggle was a trivial one, I had to overcome it nonetheless. The memories are just too vivid.

Yes, it has to do with clothes. And shoes. Totally superficial but supremely powerful. Because these material items can cause not only a toddler and a nine year old to strut, but also a full grown, forty-two year old woman.

That’s what clothing can do.

Oh, slipping into my friend’s acid washed Guess jeans at 15 was a heady feeling. Someone even commented, “What’s up with her today, she’s full of herself!” And I was. They hadn’t a clue it was wearing another person’s clothes that made me feel so luxurious. Couldn’t comprehend that a name brand was cause for my strutting.

Other times, though, I wanted to shrink away because of my apparel. At 22, I was ashamed when I slipped on my thin denim jacket after a party. The host was so concerned. “You can’t walk home in that! You’ll freeze! Here, wear my coat…” No, no, I told her. I assured her I’d be fine.

And I was. Only embarrassed that I didn’t own a proper coat.

Which brings me to today. And my utter surprise at the flood of tears that came out of nowhere. Darn near sobbing while driving down the highway. Brought on by the cold…

Or memories.

Or maybe it was a dream undone.

Joseph remembered his dreams. Genesis 42:9 

It’s been so cold here lately but my child is fortunate. Not only does he have new shoes, he also has a nice warm coat to keep him snug. So he’s just fine. But what about other children?

In facing these frigid temperatures, I wondered about them today. Little ones who may not be as fortunate as my own. Perhaps there’s a little girl out there who shrugs on a thin, denim jacket because that’s all she has. And when someone exclaims over it, she assures them, “No, no! I’ll be fine!”

But it’s her pride that causes her to say she’s fine.

And in contemplating her pride, and mine, I was overcome by emotion. Tears assailed me for the kids who don’t have what my son has. Children who have less than him.

I cried because they’re cold.

But also, I cried for their shame. Because that’s what I’m familiar with. The shame.

But today, something changed inside me. I burn. A long forgotten passion was reignited by the embers of childhood memories.

And I remembered my dreams. The ones He gave me…

Dreams no more than a few years old have been relegated to paper. They’ve become nothing more than empty words in a composition book, copied from one journal to the next.

Waiting for me to act on them.

To walk in them.

A person who promises a gift but doesn’t give it is like clouds and wind that bring no rain. Proverbs 25:14

My husband is a speaker of truth and usually, I get mad at him for it. That’s because he’ll tell me the truth even if it’s something I don’t want to hear.

Like saying I strut, of all things.

But recently, he said something else that hit a raw nerve. He called me on my words. Or rather, the empty ones. My endless words that say one thing but are proved otherwise by my actions. It was just an observation on his part. He noticed I did something I said I wasn’t going to do anymore.

And I was grieved to my soul over this. Not because he said it but because it’s true.

The thing is, I’ve always been a big talker. Going all the way back. I was going to move to Florida and attend college there. My time in the Air Force was going to be cultural and full of excitement. I was going to sell greeting cards and open a coffee shop. I was going to visit Guam or Japan or Thailand when I lived in Korea. And after the military, I was going on a grand European trip. I was going to use the GI Bill for a degree… nursing or teaching or physical therapy (WHAT?).

Oh, I was going to do a lot of things. But not one of them happened.  And sadly, the pattern continues. This time, though, it’s not my stuff that’s not getting done. It’s His stuff.

The God given dreams and visions placed in my heart long ago were placed on the back burner.

They’ve been simmering on low all this time.

Waiting for me to turn the heat up.

She opens her hand to the poor
    and reaches out her hands to the needy.
 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
    for all her household are clothed in scarlet. Proverbs 31:20-21

God speaks when you listen. Sometimes, it’s through a string of words from your loved one at just the right time. Like with Jason.

He reminded me of my empty words which brought to mind unrealized dreams. He next told me I strut. It’s clothing that does it. Or shoes. And gosh it’s cold outside. Which brought forth an unbidden memory of a denim jacket from long ago. Because it was cold then. As it is now.

And there are those who have needs. Real needs.

And so words and recollections were strung together, creating pearls of wisdom. Understanding. And purpose. And that’s what God awakens me to today. My purpose. In Him.

He nudges me… Wake up, sleeper! Rise and shine for the day has come!

And I see truth. It’s not too late. For it’s a new dawn and a new day and my dreams await. They’ve never gone away. My dreams, or His, remain within me. Custom made for me. A perfect fit.

So I slip them on and they feel right. My dreams are just my size. Like a comfortable pair of shoes. And you know what they say… if the shoe fits, wear it.

But more importantly, I say you walk in it.

You walk forward in the shoes God designs for you.

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In closing, I write this as a challenge to myself. Because my husband was right. I often say one thing and do another. And the blog is huge part of that.

One year ago, I was positive I needed to back off and I did. However, I jumped back in too soon. A few months later, I again felt I should stop. But I didn’t. And haven’t. And so, in contemplating the out with the old and in with the new kind of stuff, I ask again…

What remains?

No doubt, my dreams remain for they’re part of me. It’s the direction in which God points me. But the blog? I think uh-uh. No, that door is closing. Because it’s served its purpose. The truth about God and me has been uncovered.

And through it, I remembered my dreams.

That’s the way I go now. For another door awaits.

Thus, it’s with great anticipation I slip on my shoes. And I boldly walk into my future. The one God has waiting for me.

I better be careful, though. Donning this new pair of shoes feels pretty good. And if I don’t watch myself, I may end up strutting.

Just like my son.

And my daughter.

Just like Jason says I do…

Once more, my husband is right.

The one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked. 1 John 2:6

The Strongest Woman I’ve Known (a tribute to Cissy)

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This past week didn’t go as planned. We were supposed to visit Cissy today. Jason’s step-mom. We had Christmas presents for her. There was a fluffy robe, flannel pj’s, and a calendar chock full of our kids’ photos as well as a few of her…

At least that’s what we planned to do. Instead, we received a call Tuesday afternoon. Jason’s sister said Cissy was not expected to last the day. So we threw our things in a bag and left town as fast as we could.

We hoped we’d get there in time. We wanted to say good-bye. That didn’t happen, though, for she left this earth much too soon.

And so our week was not what we thought it would be. And instead of dropping off gifts, we ended up bringing home more than we took. Items tucked into a box…

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This is what we have left of her now. Memories of our time with Cissy. And it’s what I’ve pilfered through this evening. As the photos sifted through my finger tips, scene after scene played out in my mind…

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I thought about Cissy most of our drive home today, too. Between bathroom stops and calming my toddler, I did. And along with tears, there were smiles. When I thought of all those cozy things that brought her image to mind, the ends of my mouth curved upward…

Tissues and magazines and newspapers and reading glasses. Smile. And pajamas and slippers and lotion. There’s warmth. This is how I remember her best. Cissy sitting in her comfy chair with a kitty nearby.

And I grin when I think of our first meeting. See, she wasn’t home when Jason introduced me to his dad and I was downright terrified. That’s because Dwight wasn’t a man of many words. At least not at first, he wasn’t. And at our introduction, I didn’t have any of my own.

No, flanked by two non-speaking men, I sat trembling in my brown corduroy jumper staring blankly at the TV screen. I searched the far recesses of my brain for something interesting to say but found nothing to offer. I don’t think I could have been more uncomfortable.

But then, Cissy.

Thank the Lord she came home. Totally outgoing and filled to the brim with questions, she had an abundance of words. A friend to everyone, I don’t think she knew a stranger. And God bless her, she even sat sideways on our way to dinner so there wouldn’t be a pause in the conversation.

Yep, Cissy kept the banter going and she made everything alright from that moment on. And in light of Cissy, Dwight wasn’t so scary to me anymore. And over time, my love for him pushed that unfounded fear right out the door anyway.

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Yeah, those are all good memories. So much to smile about. But there are other things, too. Sadness and tragedy. Utter heartbreak. For Cissy had it rough. Unbearable, really.

And when I found the following note the day after Cissy’s passing, written in her own hand, I decided I’d print and frame her words to keep as a reminder.

For if any woman would know about difficulty, she would.

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Cissy said we’re to learn important lessons from the things that are most difficult. And one would assume she was referring to her battle with cancer. A three year grueling ordeal.

But in truth, I believe her battle began long before that. Because I think life’s hardest blow hit when her beloved died suddenly. Without warning. A massive heart attack claimed the man she’d never get over. My husband’s father, Dwight, passed quickly in 2008.

One week beyond Jason’s birthday…

And none of us got the chance to say good-bye.

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The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

I have to tell the truth. On Tuesday, I had plans. I was in the middle of a project and there was one delay after another. Namely, my daughter wouldn’t take her morning nap which pushed everything back.

I just wanted to do the thing I’d been trying to do all morning. And when I encountered resistance, I felt anger. My attitude went south way too easily.

And therein lies the lesson of Cissy. And tackling difficulty. It has to do with attitude. Her attitude. Which was a good one.

Staying positive. And hopeful.

That’s the example she left us.

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Cissy was a strong woman. Independent and driven and full of purpose. She was that way long before she met Dwight. But alas, her Prince Charming swept her off her feet and love came knocking.

And I just love the story she told. About how Dwight had a business trip that took him away for a few days. But while they were apart, she sensed a change in him. She just knew he was going to end their relationship. A good-bye before she was ready…

And so upon his return when he asked her to sit with him on the porch so they could talk, she resisted.

No, I’m tired. I want to go to bed.

She just didn’t want to hear him say it was over. But Dwight was persistent so they sat, Cissy thinking the end had come. That’s when a song started playing…

“Sha la la la la la, live for today.”

That was Dwight’s queue. “Hear that song, Cissy? Will you marry me?” And what she thought was going to be an ending turned out to be a beginning.

And along with Dwight, she gained two step-children and eventually four grandchildren.

However, happily ever after didn’t happen. Or at least it didn’t stay that way.

DSCN4132This picture was taken a month before Dwight died. And this was a month before Cissy’s heart broke right in two. And I swear, she had every reason to be bitter.

Because her husband was gone.

But see, Cissy was a strong woman before she met Dwight. Independent and driven and full of purpose. And though life knocked her down and she never got over him, she did get back up.

Cissy found the strength to stand on her feet again. And it was this strength that carried her through her three year battle with cancer. The disease kicked her down more than once, but she stood again and again and again.

She battled unlike any woman I’d ever seen. She fought harder than anyone could have. I swear, Cissy was the strongest woman I’ve ever known.

When I told her so several months back, she said that’s what Dwight used to say, too.

The strongest woman I know.

That’s what Dwight would say…

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You know, God has a way of tying things up. Of drawing loose ends together. He did so for me this past week when I found this card on Cissy’s desk. It’s what I sent for her birthday earlier this year.

And I read the words I wrote to Cissy. I told her how I’d been focusing on the struggles of life. I said, “And what I realize is if anybody knows what it’s like to struggle, you do. You have to do battle every day.” 

Funny thing is, that’s where I found myself on Tuesday. Just before I heard the news about Cissy, I was thinking about struggle and battle. Even writing about it. Because I felt some resistance in what I was trying to accomplish.

But you know what? My attitude got really bad. I felt angry and bitter over something so teeny-tiny. If there was a skirmish, I lost for sure and my mood was the source of my downfall.

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And then, there’s Cissy. A woman who lost her husband before he was 57 years old. A woman who was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma in 2012 at Thanksgiving when she was only 56. She went through one hardship after another with her illness.

And yet, her attitude remained positive.

Always.

She did not complain.

Never.

She hid her pain.

So well.

And she remained hopeful.

Always.

Her faith never, ever faltered. Ever. And though cancer eventually took her life, it never got the best of her. And though cancer claimed her body, Cissy never lost the battle. She fought the good fight…

She fought and fought till the very end.

The bitter end.

The strongest woman I’ve ever known never once gave up.

She never did.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12

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I wish I could be more like Cissy.

Unfortunately, I all too easily become bitter when I let myself. Over small things. Like not saying good-bye. I just felt so mad that we didn’t get that chance.

But you know, Cissy didn’t either. She didn’t get the opportunity to tell her beloved Dwight good-bye. Some time after his passing, though, the oddest thing began to happen. There were feathers.

Cissy would find feathers in the most obscure places. All over her home. And there was no reason on earth they should have been where they were. No where they could have come from.

Cissy believed they were from Dwight.

And that’s one of the things that makes me smile today. Because on Wednesday, I chose a globe with a bird in it for myself. I’d made it for Cissy’s mother a few years back and didn’t think anybody else would want it. I dusted the edges and sat it on Cissy’s counter but left it behind.

And the oddest thing happened.

When Jason’s sister brought it to me two days later, she asked if a feather had always been in it. But there hadn’t been. I would have seen it when I cleaned it up. And yet, on Friday, a feather was inside.

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Know what I think?

It’s from Cissy.

I think this woman who was tough as steel left an imprint as soft as a feather upon this earth. Thus, I’ll think of Cissy whenever I see it. And I’ll smile. Just like I do with tissues and magazines and newspapers and reading glasses and pajamas and slippers and lotion.

And I’ll become resolute as I recall Cissy’s words. That we are meant to learn important lessons from the things that are most difficult.

And this coming year, I’ll try to follow her footsteps.

Striving to be strong just like her,

battling courageously,

fighting the good fight.

That’s what I’ll do.

If I make a New Year’s Resolution at all, it’ll be to be like her.

The strongest woman I’ve known.

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Me and Cissy, October 2012

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:34

 

 

 

when cuteness ends…

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This morning I can’t help but wonder when cuteness ends. Because though I chuckled, the behavior displayed by my 13 month old was borderline not cute. She had been too quiet so I took a look. That’s when I discovered she’d pushed my son’s bedroom door open a few inches (a no-no because there’s just too much temptation). However, she didn’t propel herself inward till she saw me looking at her.

When our eyes locked, she took off. She turned from me and crawled away at lightning speed.

I couldn’t help but smile because she’s just too darn cute. I said, “No, no,” as I picked her up. But then, the ugliness appeared. A tantrum from hell. Yes, I said hell because hell hath no fury like a baby scorned.

Annabelle’s head went backward as she arched her back. And she growled. She shrieked. All I could do was lay her down on my living room floor where she proceeded to thrash about like a little animal caught in a trap. And I chuckled.

But then, laughter fell from my lips. And I wondered… cute? Or unacceptable.

Because really, when does a child’s bad behavior become un-cute.

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Look at my boy. Most definitely, cute. God, how I love him. But you know… we’re going through a tough time right now. We seem to have words every, single day. Heated words. I rise thinking this day will be different and I’m going to remain calm. And yet something sets me off. Always.

The other night it happened at bedtime. We got through the whole day unscathed so it was with a sigh of relief I lay down beside him. However, as I read from his book, I could tell he wasn’t paying attention. No, utterly distracted as he rubbed his eyeball raw. He rubbed and rubbed and rubbed making a statement without saying a word. So I tried to engage him.

“Do you know the song they’re talking about? Blueberry Hill?”

Silence and blank stare on my son’s part accompanied by more rubbing.

“Do you know it? It’s an old one… “I found my thrill, dum, dum, dum, dum-dum-dum, on Blueberry Hill.”

More silence. More blankness. More rubbing.

So I lost it. I told my boy (loudly) I was not reading him a story and how dare he ignore me. How dare he completely disregard my words and sit there without answering me. And there were other words. Choice words. Too many to remember, really.

But my demeanor was most telling. Chilling. Ice-cold. See, I made the decision to withhold myself from my little boy. At least for the night. Because I decided I was not going to lay by his side after lights out, which is what we normally do. No, I wanted to punish him in that instant by keeping something important from him.

So I withheld the only thing I could in that moment. I removed myself from his presence and left him in a dark room.

And I can assure you, I didn’t think Levi’s behavior resembled cuteness in the slightest as I stomped out of his room. Not. One. Bit. So clearly, a change takes place sometime between infancy and childhood. Somewhere along the line, cuteness most definitely ends. A time when chuckles turns to huffs and sighs and stomps.

And looking back on my son’s life, I can’t remember when that moment occurred.

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Look at that woman (me). I guess I’m kind of cute. At least my husband thinks so. And surely God does because He made me. But you know what… we’ve been going through a hard time, God and me. Because He’s been trying to teach me something. For years and years and years.

And yet, I’ve resisted. I’ve been as stubborn as a mule. He speaks and like Levi, a blank stare covers my face. I lay mutely as I rub my eyes in a dumb-founded way. And worse, my actions imply I’ve been ignoring Him. My heavenly Father. Because by not taking what He tells me to heart, I reject what He says.

Does He feel as I do? Was there a point in time in which He chuckled because He thought, “She’s just too cute.” But when my tantrums escalated as Annabelle’s did this morning, did He see me differently? And later, when my cold silences settled, did He want to stomp out of my room?

Did my heavenly Father get to a point in which He decided my cuteness ended. Like I did with Levi. And like what’s happening with Annabelle.

In looking back, I’d have to say yes. I’m sure He must have.

Because something happens as you grow. You reach the age of enlightenment. Understanding dawns. And when comprehension settles in your soul, knowing right from wrong, and you pitch a fit anyway… I believe your time is up. When you know what you should or shouldn’t do and decide to do the opposite… that’s when cuteness ends.

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.  Luke 15:11-16

I’ve been thinking about the prodigal son lately. And honestly, I didn’t know what prodigal meant until today. One of the definitions means wastefully extravagant. That’s what the prodigal did… he squandered away all his father gave him on frivolous living.

You know, that’s me. Today I realize I squandered away God’s words. Precious words specific to what I needed to hear in a time of need. And though I heard what He said, I didn’t really listen. My thick heart wasn’t penetrated. Staring blankly, rubbing my eyes, I ignored what He said.

It was, “I love you.” It happened a year ago. As I delighted over my baby girl, I squealed, “I love you, I love you, I love you!” And I stopped in my tracks. I thought, “This is how God feels about me?” Notice the question mark. Almost immediately I received a message from a man who hardly knows me. He confirmed exactly what I had been thinking. A virtual stranger told me that God said He is a daddy to me… that He loved me as I love my own children.

And yet, eight months later I dared to disbelieve. I was reckless in my actions. Totally ignoring what God gave me.

Unbelievable.

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You know, my little boy is such a parrot. He mimics me in countless ways. In fact, I must be the same age he is. Spiritually, I can’t be any more than nine years old because that’s how I behave so often. Acting out when things don’t go my way. Like Levi does.

And honestly, I don’t handle his antics well. Adult-like. Because I clam up when I feel frustrated, withholding myself from those I love the most. Oh so cool and reserved. But you know, that’s not right. My behavior is totally un-cute. And today I wonder if Levi has just been mimicking me in this manner…

Like what happened the other night. See, he wasn’t happy at bed time. He wanted to watch another five minutes of TV rather than have a story. Instead, I wanted to have my own way. I said so… No, I want to read a chapter of your book.

So Levi huffed as he brushed his teeth and flopped down in bed. And he was aloof. Rubbing that eye and withholding his words from me when I tried to engage him…

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. Luke 15:17-20

Oh, my boy. He follows me. Walks just as I do and parrots me in every way. Not a week ago Levi brought me ten dollar bills. He said He wanted to give it to Daddy because he takes care of us. Sweet, yes. But why would he think to do that? Have I inadvertently shaped him into thinking he should pay his way? That he has to bring something to the table in order to receive our love? My love?

Fortunately, Jason’s a good father. He hugged Levi when he tried to offer his gift. He said, “Son, I don’t want your money. I take care of you because I love you.”

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Luke 15:20-24

It’s true, Levi’s time is up. Cuteness ended long ago. When he behaves badly, there will be consequences. The lesson for me, though, is how I dispense those consequences. Seems as though discipline has been doled out by a nine year old woman (me) long enough. My reactions on par with a fourth grade maturity level.

And it’s apparent Annabelle’s time is almost up, too. Almost. Because she’s still so darn cute she can get away with it.

And as for me, the jig is most definitely up. Cuteness ended long ago. But fortunately, Abba is a good Father. He’s kind and generous. And oh, so loving. Like the one we see in the prodigal son story. When his son returned to his senses, he opened his arms wide.

And that’s good news for me. Because like the prodigal, I’ve come to my senses. Oh, it may have taken some time. But eventually I turned.

And finally, I’m moving the right way…

toward my Father’s open arms.

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Turns out I’m not as bad a mom as I think I am. It goes back to that night with Levi. Blueberry Hill and the eye rubbing.

See, I may have stomped out but I didn’t stay out. I just couldn’t. As I thought about my little boy in that room all by himself, my compassion broke through the coldness. I didn’t want Levi to go to sleep feeling bad. So I returned to him.

Without words, I lay down and put my arm over his chest. Protectively. I kissed his forehead and loved him with my presence. And gave him what he desired most in his moment of need. I gave him his mama.

That doesn’t mean I handled the night perfectly. Or that there won’t be more nights like it. But what it does mean is I love him. Forever. My love is constant. Lesson being that though his cuteness ran out long ago, my love never did.

And that goes for me, too. My antics and theatrics no longer fly. Not with God, they don’t. But despite my cuteness ending, His love remains. Constant.

A Father to me forever. No matter how I act. Or act out. Cute or un-cute… nine or forty-two, I’ll always be His daughter.

That’ll never change.

My Son, A Burnt Offering

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“There can be no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in life… we are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety.” A.W. Tozer

I often write about the journey. Because that’s just what I’m on. And not just me, but each one of us is on a pilgrimage of sorts… a spiritual trek through a temporary land. But personally, my journey doesn’t always feel so spiritual. For the temporal is what lies before me, swallowing me whole as the eternal dims in my view. It’s the tangible that I touch, and smell, and hear and taste. And so, what’s right before my eyes feels the most real to me. This is what I cling to. The things I can hold.

This week, I found myself facing something yet one more time. Something I don’t like to think about at all. But sometimes, it consumes me. Every fiber of my being is filled with terror. It’s the thought of losing my child. My son. My one and only son, whom I love. The fear began the day he was born.

I’m sure most moms face this fear, but with me, I think mine’s a bit irrational. Some may even say I’m high-strung. See, after my child was born, I didn’t know what to do with myself and couldn’t relax. I found myself creeping to his crib more than once a night to hear the sound of his breathing and to feel the rise and fall of his chest. And the poor guy couldn’t sleep. Probably because I used a sleep positioner so he couldn’t budge an inch. No, I didn’t want him to move at all.

Not only that, no blankets were allowed for some time. The thought of SIDS overwhelmed me, so I used a zip on blanket. Finally, when I relented and allowed a real blanket to share his crib, it had to be wrapped around him super snug, to the armpits only, and inside the positioner. I didn’t want it to come loose. See, I tried to bind my son and keep him from movement in hopes of warding off harm.

And then there was the video monitor. That was a necessity for I wanted to lay eyes on him anywhere, anytime. It comforted me to see him. All of this reassured me. The tangible. I’d touch him and hear him and hold him. Attached is the word I’d use. I was so attached to my son. And over time, he became attached to me.

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This week, it was an article on dry-drowning that tripped me up. And my goodness, I’ve traveled so far with this issue. I thought I was over and done with it. And yet, I read about a little one dying hours after being at a water hole. This horrified me. Immediately, my thoughts jumped to this coming summer… a future lake vacation and later, summer camp. My son will visit a lake two times. And water happens to be one of my greatest fears. I swim minimally so this is something I project onto my son. I fear for him when it comes to water play. And two days ago, the reality of dry-drowning (I won’t go into details) had me in a sheer panic. So, worry utterly consumed me. The article was before my eyes and tangible. It was real. And so, as I read the words, I became filled with fear and dread. Fear of losing what’s so important to me. My son. My one and only boy child, whom I love.

Amazing how God works. See, I read that scary article about dry-drowning but it was later that morning when I read something else. The second chapter A.W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God, is called The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing. And within those pages, Tozer visited the story of Abraham and Isaac. So, just hours after reading about a child dying, God led me to this very issue through the words of Tozer. And through His very own words located in Genesis 22. Which happens to be a chapter in the Bible I try to avoid. Because it scares me.

One day, God called out to Abraham with instructions. I wonder if he would have replied so readily if he knew what God was going to say. For on the heels of answering God, “Here I am,” Abraham was told to sacrifice his son. And this puts chills down my spine. For God called out, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” And although it’s not mentioned in Genesis, Tozer brings to mind the struggle Abraham must have gone through. He remarked on what a wrestling match it must have been between Abraham and God. And this is what brings tears to my eyes.

Do you think Abraham argued with God? Do you think he pleaded as Jesus did in the garden before He Himself was sacrificed? Did Abraham utter, “If possible, take this cup from me. But nevertheless, Your will be done and not my own?” How he must have writhed in agony and dreaded the following morning when he was to set off on a journey. Three days it took to reach the designated spot. Did each footstep fall heavier and heavier? Finally, the time arrived. And Abraham’s words to his fellow journeyers? “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” Worship. That’s what Abraham said.

Two days ago, I contemplated Abraham’s words. He was leading his child to an altar. His child was to be the sacrifice. And this is what he called worship. Abraham worshiped God in taking wood and laying it on the very back of the boy who was to be slain. The very picture of Jesus who, on His own journey to sacrifice, had to carry His own wood. Abraham carried the fire and the knife and walked on with his son to do the unthinkable. How Abraham must have inwardly wept when Isaac looked up at his daddy with trusting eyes… “My father.” In reply, “Here I am, my son.” The boy made inquiry… “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Where is the lamb? Oh, Abraham’s heartbreak for he was staring right at the little lamb. How trusting Abraham must have been as he uttered, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And that He did years and years later in offering up His own Son. His one and only in whom He loved.

The two walked on to the place God told of, and there, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood. He bound his son Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. Do you think Abraham looked into his son’s eyes as he did so? Were they filled with tears? Were Isaacs? How could Abraham have had the strength to reach for that knife? I don’t know that I could have. I just don’t. But Abraham did. He reached out for it in order to slay his son. And this act… this offering of his son, His one and only son Isaac, whom he loved, is what he meant when he said they were going to worship.

No, it’s no accident I read about dry-drowning and the story of Abraham and Isaac in one day. Because through two separate sources, something was brought to the forefront of my heart and mind. See, I thought I already dealt with the irrational fear. Over and done with. Finished. But Tuesday morning, I knew a remnant remained within. So, on the floor of my bathroom I cried out and prayed to the God who hears. For I saw what God wanted me to… the blessedness of possessing nothing.

Abraham’s act highlighted this lack of possession. For in offering his son, he was releasing the hold he had on Isaac. Or rather, the hold Isaac had on him. See, Isaac had become too much of his reality. Abraham saw him daily. He touched and smelled and heard and held his son. And because he had been holding to him for so long, this is what Abraham held the tightest. Isaac replaced God. And so, God said stop. Give what you hold dearest to me. And this is what God says to me.

It’s true, I cling to my child. Always have. I’m over-protective. Because I think my overbearing manner will protect him. I think that if I’m with him, I can keep him safe. My eyes and hands on him. Touching him. Directing him. But what I know to be true is that the more I try to possess my son – to own him and keep him – the more I am possessed by him. My little one owns me in that he fills my thoughts. My heart. And I cannot bear the thought of losing him. Thus, fear. Thoughts of keeping this little boy of mine safe consume me. Replacing God. For my son is who I see daily. Before my eyes. He is my one and only, whom I love.

And so Tuesday morning, God got my attention. Again. He called out to me and said, “Pam! Take your son, your only son, whom you love, and offer him to me as a burnt offering.” And so, once more I tried to. On the floor of my bathroom. I wrestled. I cried out, “Take this cup from me. But nonetheless, not my will but Yours be done.” And so afterward, I offered my son. My only son. To God. On the altar of my bathroom floor. And in releasing him to God, my son’s hold on me is loosened. My grip is not as tight. For I realize he was never truly mine to begin with. For He’s God’s possession. So, in releasing what’s tangible, what I can see and smell and hear and hold, I am freed to grab hold of something else. The intangible. The unseen. By offering my son, a burnt offering, I find I am free to take hold of God once more. Once again, there’s room in my heart for Him. This is how I worship God.

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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 12:1

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