Kindergarten Math and the COVID-19 Factor

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At my first defense, no one stood by me, but everyone deserted me. 2 Timothy 4:16

Sheltering in place has allowed for a whole lot of extra around the house. Yes, I’d say the percent of increase has gone through the roof in certain areas. But also, so has the percent of decrease. And I can only attribute the ups and the downs to something I call the COVID-19 factor…

Which in its simplist form, is staying at home.

No doubt, the COVID-19 factor is directly related to all the recent additions and subtractions to my life. As to exact percentages, I can’t say for certain but I can assuredly name the changes…

First, there’s stress, the rate of increase directly proportional to the increased time my children spend in the house. And I know how this can sound… selfish. Ungrateful. But for today, it’s truth. My stress level has gone through the roof and it has to do with the increased level of noise coming from their direction.

If Annabelle shrieks one more time, “I’m serious, stop, stop, stop, I can’t breathe,” I may lose it. And frankly, I’m proud of myself for not having done so already. Which brings to mind another through the roof increase…

The loudness of my voice. Oh, I’ve shrieked myself once or twice but overall, I feel a real sense of accomplishment. See, I’m keeping it level more than I used to. Even when it appears my daughter can’t breathe again because of the kids’ newest game, “Scarers.”

Other shenanigans having the propensity to send my voice into the back reaches of my neighbor’s yard, and into the outer atmosphere, are “Pushers,” “Shovers,” and “King,” all of which involve physicality and knocking each other about.

If my calculations are accurate, the extra noise from the extra time my kids are in the house attributes to at least 32% of the increase in my stress (and my loudness).

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The COVID-19 factor (staying at home) means extra. More food consumption, more laundry, more needs only I can address, and more talking. Sometimes both kids talk at the same time, one right over top of the other, which decreases my ability to hear.

And there are other decreases like personal time and space. Yes, Annabelle’s supplies replaced the easel I recently topped the yellow table with in my office and Levi’s work moved my writing binders right off my desk and onto the book shelf.

And though it sounds like I’m complaining (yes, I think I am), I can’t help but contemplate the whole lot of good that’s accompanied this COVID-19 factor. Other increases and decreases…

Coffee dates and occasional lunches are 100% decreased. And though the initial workload for my at-home job skyrocketed, the steady subsequent decline, coupled with additional time at home, has allowed for noticeable progress on the house.

My work productivity has increased exponentially. I washed my car inside and out, cleaned two years of grime off of my windows, and dusted six years of dirt out of those hard to reach areas. And I finally planted a flower garden. I’ve never done that before.

I put an entire downstairs together after our basement finishing project and now, everything in my home has a place. There are no spare heaps or piles. All items are where they need to be, and my home is in order for the first time since we moved in nine years ago.

And the truth is, had we not been forced to sit still, I don’t know how long it would have taken me to accomplish all that I have. I attribute every bit of the increased work productivity to staying at home.

It was because of the COVID-19 factor.

Yes, the COVID-19 factor (staying at home), has changed everything. There’s been additons and deletions. And with all outside distractions cut off, including people, everything that needed to be tended to on the inside has been tended to. And I’m not just talking about work and house-hold projects.

I’m also talking about my heart. Because although there’s someone here with me all the time, an isolated and lonely feeling appeared anyway. It happened as March closed out and April made her entrance.

Without fail, a sense of rejection and abandonment assails my soul with a regularity I can count on. Spring ushers in this low period and because it coincided with the shut-in, home projects and homeschool, I experienced something new that soothed me more than anything ever had.

Or ever will.

It was the discovery of the COVID-19 equation, which I’ll get to later. And because of it, I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. Ever.

At least I hope not.

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I tell you, I don’t know who’s learned more through Kindergarten math, me or Annabelle. Because though she’s been learning simple addition and subtraction, the titles of her worksheets have been speaking to my heart. Especially this one here…

Take away stories.

If I were to put a name to my story, perhaps there wouldn’t be a better title. Because if I had to put a name to my wound, the one that never healed, this would be it. Take-away.  Because once upone a time when I was young, something was taken away from me. It happened when I was left behind.

More than once, those who should have loved me the most decided to take someone else the the party of the year. Someone else was deemed more fun, and I was left at home, alone, at sixteen and again at seventeen. And though this sounds petty in light of the plight of the land, this is what happened to me. It’s what damaged my heart in an irreversible way and I swear, it damaged me all the way up. Till April.

A mere month ago.

It was the second time that really did it for it was a double whammy. The details aren’t important, but suffice it to say, I felt utterly forsaken. Left behind and left alone because the one I depended on left me hanging. She didn’t stand by me when I needed her to and it broke my heart.

For Annabelle’s math purposes, the take away story is simple. Two take away one is one. But my heart tells another story. It says when one leaves another behind, you have one left… A left over.

That was my incurable wound. Because of it, any little bit of confidence and security I might have possessed was stripped away. This is what Annabelle’s math homework brought to mind when I saw particular words highlighted at the top of the pages.

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I’m thankful to God because the past few weeks of homeschooling have allowed me to put a name to my hurt. God helped me dissect it in such a manner that I can name it, define it, and see it for what it really was and is.

And more, He healed my heart through the very wound itself. Honestly, I don’t know if I can find the words to describe just how God used the very thing that hurt me to heal me…

It was the COVID-19 factor. Staying at home. The only reason I found healing is because I stayed home

But see, for so long it was the place I avoided. I’ll tell you why. If I was home, it meant I was unwanted. Home meant I was left behind because there was someone better to go out with. Being home implied I was not “fun” like those my beloveds chose. Yes, staying at home meant I was not loveable.

Thus, at eighteen, I made being the life of the party my aim. I figured if I could be as fun as the chosen ones, I would be, too. The girl who made everyone laugh and knew how to party was the one who received love.

And so, if I could help it, I went out. At nineteen and as a young twenty-something, I never stayed home. Because as long as I was out, I was “chosen.” And as long as I was out, I didn’t feel the hurt.

Only when I stayed home, did the ache return. And only when I was alone. Or lonely…

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I spent a year in Korea when I was in my early twenties. The best part was never being alone. I had a group of ready-made friends through work and my living quarters and oh, how I loved my girlfriends…

And though there were lots of parties (one every night if you wanted), what I loved best was the girl time. Drinking coffee and shopping at the commissary and laying out in the sun on the far reaches of base in the most secluded spot and going to the gym. The list goes on…

I loved being a part of a crew and knowing they loved me and I them. I felt confident and secure as long as we were together. Surrounded by my new friends, I started to feel loveable.

Alas, I found myself pregnant. It was the Spring of 1995. A heartbeat had been added to mine, and yet, I decided no. I didn’t want the child and aborted. Why? Honestly, I didn’t think twice. When asked, I said no to a sonogram. I rushed ahead in my decision and allowed the doctors to take away the little one whose heart beat inside me…

It was a true take away story. Two minus one equals one left alone.

Afterward, a friend told me to go home and lie down. She said I should rest. You know what? I never, ever did. Because there was no way anyone could make me stay home. To me, it was a punishment. Home meant everything it meant at sixteen and seventeen. Unwanted and unloved.

And if I stayed home, alone, while everyone else was out, the ache returned. That lonely rejected feeling I suppressed over and over. So, I kept moving. For years and years and years.

Oh, I made sure to keep myself busy. One, to keep the hurt at bay. And two, I had to be out. Out, out, out. Because only when I was out, could I be loved. Even after I was fully grown, with a family of my own. Those feelings remained…

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The COVID-19 factor (being forced to stay at home), has truly allowed for a whole lot of extra. Like understanding. Yeah, I’d say that’s increased 100%.  And hindsight. It is the year 2020, and hindsight surely is that. Because I can see now.

I was co-dependent. At five and eleven and sixteen and nineteen and twenty-two and all the years after. I needed a friend to love me to make me feel worthy. And if I didn’t have that person, well, I felt so bad about me.

But after reading the story of Martha and Mary at least 20 times, I saw something this past week for the very first time that moved me to the core. It was how Martha spoke to Jesus and the hurt revealed in her words. She said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me all alone to serve…”

I’d always focused on the serving part before. But perhaps the reason she was so busy is found right there in the preceding words. She was left alone. It’s the wound I sustained at an early age and carried into my adult life…

Left meaning to abandon, to have remaining, to forsake, leave behind, to be left. Alone meaning remaining, sole or single, mere, without a companion, forsaken, destitute of help, merely.

My wound spelled out through the definitions of these two words. I was forsaken because I was merely. Not enough. I was left alone without a companion because other companions were deemed more worthy. Thus, I was compelled to act a certain way. In my early twenties, I partied hard. In my early thirties, I served hard. And for years afterward. All in hope of receiving the same reward.

Love.

And I can’t help but wonder if Martha’s obsessive serving was born out of a wound, like mine, that hadn’t healed. Lord, my sister left me alone…

The Lord has promised that he will not leave us or desert us. Hebrews 13:5

Yeah, God spoke to me through Martha’s take away story. But also, He spoke through another woman who was left alone. She’s the adulterous woman mentioned in John 8…

Some religious men brought her into the center of court to put her on display and to demand an answer of Jesus. “The law says we stone her!” They demanded, “What do you say?” Jesus ignored them and simply stooped down, writing in the dust.

When they persisted, Jesus straightened and said the one without sin could throw the first stone. After He stooped again, they all left…

Until Jesus was left alone with the woman.

She standing before Him in the center of court. And that’s when Jesus stood up again. When He was left alone with her. Or when she was left alone with Him. And I’m not surprised to find the very same meanings for the very same words in this woman’s life. Those that were in Martha’s and in mine…

Three women left behind. Remaining, forsaken, abandoned, and caused to be left over. Alone, sole, single, and mere. And who knows. Perhaps this is why the adulterous woman felt compelled to sleep around.

Maybe she’d been wounded, and left to her own devices, she sought the love and warmth in the circle of another man’s arms. And in the end, after her wound and sin was exposed to the world, that’s exactly what she found…

Because left alone with Jesus, Him standing by her side, she encountered love instead of condemnation. He simply said, “Go, and sin no more.”

Oh, how that speaks to me this day. Because this is exactly what He did with me last month. It was April, the time of my season. But also, it’s an anniversary. The month of what I did at twenty-two. I was so very low. Overwhelmed by that cyclical sense of rejection and loneliness. No doubt, exacerbated by being at the house. For I was home, the place that accuses me of being mere and unwanted.

And unloved.

It was here the voice of my accuser found me, when all other sources of comfort and distraction and dependency were taken away. But this turned out to be my salvation. The very best of take away stories…

Because when the devil reminded me of my past and what I had done, I found I was not by myself this time. Though it seemed I was alone, deserted and forsaken, there was another standing by my side. And He answered for me. I didn’t even have to open my mouth.

But see, it had to happen just this way. When every bit of extra was removed. That way, I’d understand. Healing wasn’t from any outside source of comfort. No other person, no other thing, just Jesus. My healing came only through Him.

And had it not been for the COVID-19 factor, staying at home, I wouldn’t have discovered the beauty of the COVID-19 equation, which is adding one. See, His name is Jesus and He is the +1 we should always add.

Because He is right here with us in the midst of it all. As for me, though, I had to be at home to comprehend it…

I had to be alone.

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“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:47

For so long, I avoided home because it allowed the hurt place in me to rise. But how like God to heal me here, at home, where I first sustained injury. Not at church or at a friend’s house or on a coffee date or in a counseling session…

It happened at home. Just the two of us.

But you know, He’s been trying to get me to sit still here for years. Hindsight tells me it goes all the way back to 2010 when I first came back home. And when I first began to sense what He was saying, I tell you, it felt like punishment. Like I was being disciplined.

But I had it so wrong. It wasn’t that at all. No, the truth is, God simply wanted to love me. He wanted me to receive what He was offering, lavishing me with His love…

But me? I could only bring myself to accept His mercy. It was January 31, 2014 when I found forgiveness for the abortions of my past (there were two). I had no doubt.  Through Jeremiah 31:20, God assured me, “I will surely have mercy on you.”

The word surely and mercy are the same. It’s mercy squared. Mercy + Mercy. Double mercy for my double abortions. Later that day, a bracelet I’d worn while in Korea disappeared from my arm, never to be seen again, proving my past was gone. And later, I heard my daughter’s heartbeat at her first sonogram. Proof of my future…

I was forgiven and I knew it. And yet, somehow, I missed the first part of the definition of the word. In addition to mercy, it means to love, love deeply… to have tender affection. It means to fondle. This is what God wanted to do in my life.

But see, after so many years of being beat down, life teaches women like me (and Martha and the adulterer), that we don’t deserve love. No, we have to work for it. Serve for it. Perform for it.

And that’s why God’s love didn’t touch me. I missed it because I kept striving for it. Proving myself loveable. On the outside. Out, out, out. Never at home.

So God tried. For a whole decade, He tried to still me. Finally, the virus attacking our land forced me into staying home. And while homeschooling my children, I find He’s been homeschooling me. Thus, after sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His teaching, I comprehend truth.

I realize I have to sit before I can stand. But more, I know He’ll stand with me when I do. And only through the support of His love can I move forward. This is how I overcome the voice of my accuser (Rev 12:10-11). Through God’s love, and His take away story…

For God so loved, He gave the life of His Son for mine.

And by the blood of the lamb and by the word of my testimony, I have victory.

Yet another take away story, for the power of my past no longer has a hold on me. It no longer remains and I am free.

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Yes, the COVID-19 factor sure has caused a lot of extra around here. Extra stress, extra noise, extra projects, but also, there’s a whole lot of extra love. In every capactity. Percent of increase through the roof…

And sure, my kids have pushed my buttons many times. And the schoolwork, if I’m being honest, has caused me angst more than once. But through me teaching them, He teaches me. I’ve learned so very much.

But I’m not the only one who’s understanding has increased. My little girl suprised me a month back when we talked about prayer…

“Where two or more are gathered, there I am with you.” I asked Annabelle how many people were at the table and she said four. I said no, because there was me + Levi + her. Immediately afterward, though, I smiled and told her she was right…

See, she got it. Even before I did. At five years of age, she understood to apply the COVID-19 equation, which is +1.

You always add one for Jesus.

As I said, I learn so much through teaching them. Even in March, God was showing me then. He is with me always. I am never alone…

But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength… 2 Timothy 4:17

the English assignment

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But I protested, “Oh no, Lord God! Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am only a youth.” Jeremiah 1:6

Maybe it was two years ago when I stumbled across the question, “What’s undone?” And it seemed to be a charge to me. From God, no less. So I pondered and I meditated. I studied and I scoured my journals and memories. I sought to find the one thing that remained incomplete in my life.

I came to the conclusion it was me. I was the undone thing. Totally unfinished.

However, today I think it’s something else entirely. And it goes back. Way back to my sophomore year in high school. For in  1989, there was an English assignment I half way completed. An oral report. But words weren’t my strongpoint. Speaking caused me immense discomfort.

If I found myself with an audience, I clammed up. And if I were forced to open my mouth, I’d stutter and stammer. There was the time in Geometry where I repeated “um, um” no less than twenty times. I felt put on the spot as I stood up front, all eyes on me. And the more the teacher quizzed, the emptier my brain became.

Oh, and there was Art class. Teams of four were to make a presentation. And though underserved, I received an “A.”  This due to an oversight, luck, or the mercy of my teacher. See, the first three spoke articulately and intelligently but I just stood there nodding along. And when a question was directed to me, I answered “Ditto.” That was all I had to offer.

And then there was that English Assignment I mentioned. Of all things, I chose abortion as my topic. At sixteen, I stood in front of my peers and argued in favor of abortion. And quite poorly, I might add. Because I didn’t really prepare for it. No, procrastination was my game plan back then so I don’t think much research was involved.

I stood up, opened my mouth, and simply regurgitated something I’d been spoon-fed. I said it wasn’t really a baby. Nothing more than a blob of tissue. And my argument? An acorn. I said just as an acorn wasn’t really a tree, same thing went for pregnancy. That’s all I can recall about that assignment.

My totally inadequate argument. 100% incomplete. And thus, it remains undone to this day.

Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the technique of deceit. Ephesians 4:14

I tell you, I never had a mind of my own. I was a sponge and soaked up the mindsets of those surrounding me. And so my young life confirms it… you are indeed who your friends are. Or at least I tried to be. Thus, I was unstable. And naïve. Tossed about by every wind of teaching. Fickle for sure.

But one day, I grew up. I think that might have been yesterday. Or sometime within the past couple of years. Because finally, I began to develop a mind of my own. And the timing of it all doesn’t escape me. See, I began to form my own opinions and passions and convictions about the same time I began seeking God with my whole heart.

That’s when God’s wind filled me rather than the wind of every teaching. It blew out all the false notions I’d adopted as my own and miraculously, I found my voice. Oh, it was lovely. To have my own mind. Moreover, to be able to speak it.

But you know, growing up and speaking your mind can be a hard thing. Because truth is not everyone’s going to like you for what you have to say. In fact, you may find rejection instead of acceptance. Backsides instead of faces. And for a girl like me, that hurts. A lot.

Alas, this is part of growing up. For the fact is the closer you walk with God, the harder things will be. Wind no longer at your back like when you went along with the flow… rather, you find the winds of change battering against you (Mark 6:48). Thus, the hardest part of walking with God, for me, has to be going against the grain. And the wind. At least with regard to the winds of every human teaching…

I am young in years while you are old; therefore I was timid and afraid to tell you what I know. Job 32:6

Part of growing up is doing the right thing. Speaking out against injustice. And for me, I think my part has to do with babies. Because last night, they were all over me in my sleep. I dreamt about sonograms and the unborn. Problems within the womb. The dreams likely due to a video I saw on Facebook just before bedtime.

A woman discovered she was pregnant with conjoined twins at twenty weeks. However, the doctor advised she should abort. He didn’t think it would be possible to separate the girls. And yet, now they are two years old. For the mother could feel her children kicking when she heard unwanted words. And thankfully, she said no to the doctor. And abortion. She said yes to her children, instead. Now, they play at her feet…

So I find myself back at abortion one more time. It’s where I was twenty years ago. Two times in the Summer of 1995, to be precise. And I think about that oral report I flubbed in 1989. So today I can’t help but wonder if I’d properly prepared back then, would I have done what I did six years later.

Perhaps if I’d fully prepared for my English assignment at sixteen, I wouldn’t have done it at twenty-two.

Just maybe I’d have made another choice.

“Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work.” Jeremiah 1:5a

God doesn’t make accidents and he doesn’t make junk. As such, He knew what He was doing when He made me. And in my book, the fact I share a birthday with Roe v. Wade is fraught with significance. Abortion made legal the very day I was born. It seems we’re conjoined, abortion and I. And it seems to be part of my life. Part of God’s plan for me…

To use my past and speak out today…

And share what I know.

But even deeper, I think God wants me to complete the English assignment. Though I didn’t complete the task in 1989, I can for sure do it now. And perhaps I was created for this very thing. The English assignment becomes my “for such a time as this” moment. For in finishing my homework twenty-six years later, I believe I’ll find some closure on this matter. The subject of abortion.

And in the writing, perhaps like the twins I watched last night, I’ll find we can be finally part ways. Abortion and I no longer conjoined.

No longer one.

I too will answer; yes, I will tell you what I know. For I am full of words, and my spirit compels me [to speak]. Job 32:17-18

In my day, the cost of abortion was around three hundred dollars. Now, it’s considerably more. According to Planned Parenthood’s site, you can have one for approximately fifteen hundred dollars if it’s during the first trimester. Of course, the second trimester (months four through six) increases the number.

And from what I understand, you can have an abortion up to 26 weeks. Per Planned Parenthood’s website, though, you may have difficulty finding someone who will do so. Of course, they will help you find a doctor who will:

It can be difficult to find a health care provider who performs abortions after the first trimester. To find one of these providers, call The National Abortion Federation at 1-877-257-0012. Please keep in mind that after about 24 weeks of pregnancy, abortions are usually performed only for serious health reasons.

Their site is oh, so helpful regarding the feelings a woman may experience afterward. Anger, regret, guilt, sadness… for a little while. And serious, long-term emotional problems are rare (according to the site) and could be attributed to several factors. Number one being you had emotional problems before the abortion.

Speaking from experience, my long-term emotional issues didn’t present till later. Much later. Not till after I married and decided to have children. And amazingly, what I once considered to be nothing more than an acorn, or a blob of tissue, or a group of cells, or an embryo, I considered to be a baby. From day one of my pregnancy. No, not an embryo. But my baby…

Funny that as a young woman I could easily discard what I considered to be a blob of tissue, and yet ten years later, I deemed him to be a baby. My son valuable to me before I even saw him.

My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; and my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began. Psalm 139:15-16

I think about my English assignment. That if I’d taken the time to investigate pregnancy and abortion at sixteen, I may have learned that though a baby begins as a ball of cells… the sex is determined as soon as the fertilized egg is implanted. And by the time a woman misses her menstrual cycle, the baby already has a bit of a head and tail developing. Even then, the heartbeat is visible. Just when she suspects she’s pregnant.

And that by the time a woman considers abortion, the ear canals are developing and the heart beats 80 times a minute. That at three weeks late, arms and legs are developing along with kidneys and a mouth. One month late (which is 8 weeks pregnant), there are lips, nose and eyelids. Little webbed fingers and toes. And the baby moves as his heart beats 150 times a minute.

At nine weeks pregnant, a woman can hear her baby’s heartbeat. Just one week later, bones and cartilage are present. Knees and ankles and flexing elbows and teeth. And her baby has digestive juices and urine. At thirteen weeks, he may suck his thumb and his vocal chords develop! Two weeks later, he practices swallowing and breathing.

At sixteen weeks, his eyes work. He frowns and squints. At seventeen weeks, he has fingerprints and noises startle him. One week later, he yawns. Perhaps tired from his nervous system developing. At twenty-one weeks, he moves and he has taste buds and sleeps.

At twenty-two weeks, the little guy can see and hear.

At twenty-four weeks, his face is fully formed.

At twenty-five weeks, there’s brainwave activity… he responds to what he hears.

And yet, the wind of teaching tells us it’s okay to abort this baby. Totally acceptable to dismember his little arms and legs and pull them out of the security of his home… the womb, which should be the safest of all places. Politically correct and acceptable to our society to cast him out.

But if we speak out against it, we’re fools. Ignorant. Intolerant.

But see, he can hear the noise of the vacuum. Perhaps it startles him. And he can see the tools coming his way. In fact, one woman who previously worked at an abortion clinic walked away from it all. It was the day after she had to assist with the procedure. And when she saw a precious baby try to move away from tortuous instruments (via ultrasound), she couldn’t condone it one more day.

And today, she uses her voice to speak out against it…

She tells what she knows.

Speak up for those who have no voice,
for the justice of all who are dispossessed.
Speak up, judge righteously,
and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy. Proverbs 30:8-9

I think most people have heard or seen the Planned Parenthood videos that surfaced in July. Three months ago. I was inflamed. The remarks of Dr. Deborah Nucatola outrageous, “I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.” And why? Because people want intact hearts and livers these days. Research.

“We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part…”

Yes, as many intact livers as possible. She went on to explain lower extremities were in demand, too. But according to her, that’s simple. Easy, even. She imagines they want it for muscle.

One thing Dr. Nucatola said really stood out to me, though. “Calvarium – the head – is basically the biggest part. Most of the other stuff can come out intact. The kind of rate-limiting step of the procedure is calvarium.” I was struck when I heard it. For Calvarium (skull cap) sounds so much like Calvary. And at Calvary, there was a cross. The one Jesus died on. For the sins of the humanity…

And so, Dr. Nucatola was right in her statement. Calvary is the biggest thing.

Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). John 19:17

And because of that, I have hope today. For though I did what I did at twenty-two, my sins have been wiped away. My tears, too. And one day, every tear will be wiped away. No more crying. No more suffering. And all this heartache will fade away in the face of Jesus. Oh, what a day that will be…

No more innocent bloodshed.

No more killing.

And finally, no more throwing away babies.

But as for today, we live in a luxurious world where babies are not valued. Easily discarded. Ultra politically correct is how the wind blows these days. And if you dare face the wind head on, you run the risk of a reputation. You’ll be deemed a Bible-thumper. Intolerant. And bigoted.

Nevertheless, that’s my task today. God bids me to go straight into the wind and speak out about what I know. And really, He just wants me to finish the English assignment from my sophomore year. For in doing so, I’ll end up completing both tasks. And I believe I just did that.

What was undone has been completed.

It is finished…

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be silent and a time to speak… Ecclesiates 3:1, 7

My good friend and I talked about procrastination yesterday. It’s been a part of me for a long time now. All the way back to my school days when I used to wait until the last minute to do homework. And in recent days, it has to do with this post. See, it was mid-July when I felt impassioned to write it. And when those Planed Parenthood videos came to light, the undone English assignment surfaced. I’d forgotten all about it till then.

But I got side-tracked. Derailed, even. And here I am three months later…

There’s good news, though. See, it’s never too late to finish up what’s undone. Not with God, it’s not. For His mercies are new every day. And His patience is infinite. I know because that’s just what He’s been with me.

Oh, so patient as I’ve struggled with the winds of change. Upholding me by His right arm so I was never utterly knocked down. Going before me, shielding me from the most violent East wind.

And I was unbalanced for a long time. Easily swayed one way or the other depending on what direction the wind blew in. But one day I found my footing.  For I grew up. And as a big girl, I was able to stand on my own feet. Perhaps that was yesterday. Or sometime in the past couple of years.

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Makes no difference when it happened, really. The point is, I’m all grown up now. And I found my voice. And along with my voice, I found my stance. I chose a side called Pro-Life based on the proof of life within the womb. My womb. Not according to what the world says.

And turns out, being pregnant has nothing to do with an acorn at all. Not one thing.

Amazing, really.

distressed

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dis·tress [disˈtres]

NOUN: extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings me to what God showed me this weekend…

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

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

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

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

Reclaimed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Restored

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If I can just allow Him to finish the process.

If I could just realize I’m already there…

Repurposed

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

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

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

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

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

A repurposed piece.

Like a distressed chair…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like with a chair.

An old, distressed chair.

Using the things I love.

letting things go

It always comes to this. Circles. Endless circles leading me back to the same thing. Again and again. It has to do with letting things go. It began in high school. That’s when I let my grades go. They started to slip when I began pursuing other things. Namely, the opposite sex. Because really, that’s the only thing that mattered to me. I simply wanted the love of a boy. Thus, school work slid to the back burner.

Next, my self-esteem went out the window. That’s what happens when you allow yourself to be taken advantage of. You feel like such a door mat, you believe you’re just as lowly. Unworthy. And seriously, if you don’t respect yourself, how can you expect respect from the people who surround you. So first, grades. Next, self-worth.

Eventually, you lose your reputation. It’s inevitable. Because one bad choice after another leads to a bad name. So you try to hide who you really are. You shove things down and pretend they never happened. You try to forget and strap on a mask. You hope that if you play the part, you’ll really be the part.

But that’s when you lose yourself.

Because after all is said and done, you don’t know who the heck you are anymore.

The girl you were is gone.

And in the end, you’ve lost all.

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I agonized over whether or not to include the above. Because the “F” word is in it. But I had to use it. The words are just too powerful to ignore. All that about openly bleeding and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. And how it’s actually the things that kill you that make you.

So I ask myself, what led to my ultimate demise? Did something specific “kill” me (metaphorically, of course)? Because if that’s true, I believe I’ll find my purpose right there. In my death. In the midst of my trouble, I’ll find the real me. The girl I was meant to be.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I’m reading a book called The Mended Heart by Suzie Eller. This morning’s chapter was about grief and experiencing loss. The testimonies she included had me in tears (not unusual); a woman who lost her eight year old daughter another who lost her husband. Both to cancer. Both losses were much too soon. And both were equally heartbreaking.

And so in light of what these women endured, it’s tempting to minimize my own loss. For more than one reason. But I am encouraged by J. Raymond’s words above. I’m emboldened to bleed openly. And to be honest. Vulnerable. For God’s sake. And for my own.

So I look back. I revisit the place where my life ultimately took a turn for the worse. It’s where I hit rock bottom. And where I let everything go. Including me.

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I’m pointed to the military. I spent four years in the Air Force. No surprise, I allowed my heart to be trampled in Oklahoma. But despite my woes, there was a bright spot. Her name was Carmen. My best friend. The very best. We shared everything and I was happy as long as she was by my side.

Next came Korea. Such an unusual experience. And as with my first station, there was bad and good. The good being my close friends. How quickly we formed our attachments. Because we were all thrown together. We shared bathrooms and refrigerators and the intimate details of our lives.

There was Cheyenne and Stacy. Then came Tina and Loree. And Nicole. And oh, I loved them all. I adored being surrounded by my friends. But it was there, really, where I started to slip. In the midst of such love and supportive friends, I lost control. Of everything.

Overall, the bad outweighed the good in Korea. The bad being unhealthy relationships culminating in two abortions. Thus, Korea became a dark blot in my memory. A time I chose to leave behind. And unfortunately, because my friends were intricately woven into that era, they didn’t make the cut.

In the end, I let them go. One by one.

Sadly, this was the pattern of my life.

Letting things go.

“If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” Kahlil Gibran

For me, letting go had everything to do with chasing love. Because that’s all I ever wanted. And so I cut away me. I fashioned myself into what I thought a particular person wanted me to be. From the very start. In high school, I liked heavy metal. In Oklahoma, it was rock climbing. I assumed another’s tastes so that I’d be appealing.

But the tragedy is, I never knew myself. I never knew my own heart before I began giving pieces of it away. And in the end, I whittled away so much of myself, there wasn’t anything left of the girl I was. Not one thing original about me.

God has given you one face, and you make yourself another. William Shakespeare

I did the same with Jason. I fell in love and I wanted him to be mine. So, I tried to take on his likes as my own. I strapped on a mask called “good girl” and never looked back. Today, though, I realize my error.

I cut away too much. Too much of me. And too many friends. Nearly all of them.

And today, I grieve their loss.

But look at Jesus. Look at what Jesus thought of His wounds: “Here, Thomas. Look at My wounds. Touch My scars. These are the proof of My resurrection. I bear the marks of death, but I am alive!” Jesus knew His wounds were beautiful. At the places where I am broken, the power of Christ is authenticated in me for others. Where I have submitted to the crucifixion, the power of the resurrection is put on display. I can say, “Look at my wounds. Touch my scars. I have death wounds, but I am alive.” I can wear my wounds without shame. They tell a resurrection story. Jennifer Kennedy Dean, Founder of The Praying Life Foundation

I had such a thought today. It was staggering. And so deep, I know it didn’t originate with me. No, with all my soul, I believe God deposited truth in my ear this day. It has to do with everything I’ve let go. From the get go. See, I lost my self-worth early on. I’d lost every ounce of self-esteem before I even considered abortion.

But a miracle took place after I lost all. I encountered my husband, a man who continually tries to build me up to this day. He affirms my self-worth. He tries to restore my brokenness and loves me unconditionally. Through him, I encountered God. And through God’s word, I find evidence of how very much I matter to Him. My life matters.

But I still don’t believe. Why? Why do I choose to stay where I am wallowing in my lowliness? And this is what He whispered today… could it be that if I dare believe He values me, that I’ll finally have to accept the truth. That all lives matter. Because if I finally take God’s words to heart and trust that I matter, then that holds true for everyone else. All lives matter.

Including my unborn babies. The ones I got rid of. The two babies I chose to let go.

And this thought stopped me in my tracks. It brought forth a cry I didn’t know I had in me.

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:7

This is truth. I am worth more than many sparrows to my God. But by accepting this fact, I have to truly face what I did. And that means I have to grieve. I have to mourn the loss of two lives.

What’s worse, death came by my own hand.

And I don’t know if I can live with that.

So, I am halted.

I stay right where I am. Paused.

Unable to take another step forward. Not till I accept God’s truth. That I matter to Him. And so did my babies.

Mended Heart Challenge

  • Designate a specific time and place to express your grief with Jesus.

I read the above this morning. My mother-in-law has been telling me I need to participate in a post-abortion recovery retreat… when the time is right. That time may be coming. Because this keeps coming up. Endless circles lead me here. Again and again.

I had babies and they are no more.

And I haven’t grieved their loss. My loss. I don’t think I deserve to. Because I’m the reason.

But deep, down, I grieve daily.

And so, I go back to that post I saw on Facebook. About the things that kill you making you. And I reread Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s words:

“Look at my wounds. Touch my scars. I have death wounds, but I am alive.” I can wear my wounds without shame. They tell a resurrection story.

It’s abortion. This is my wound. I carry the scars of a womb that remains eternally pregnant (Jeremiah 20:17). And unless I am resurrected from this death I carry around in me, I’ll be of no use to God. People will never see the life of Christ in me. Not unless I rise from the opening of my tomb…

And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through His Spirit who lives in you. Romans 8:11

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If I could just go back to the girl I was at sixteen. To the time I first began letting things go. Like my grades. And then my self-worth. I’d caution her. I’d tell her know your heart. I’d say take time to know yourself. I’d assure her that she matters. That’s what I’d say.

Oh, little girl, be strong in who you are before you start giving pieces of yourself away. Because some things are irreversible. Some things you can never, ever get back.

Yeah, I’d tell the younger me to really think about it.

I’d say consider carefully what you keep. But more importantly, consider what you let go.

Deep Thoughts

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“A lot of people want intact hearts these days.” Dr. Deborah Nucatola

Years and years (and years) ago, I used to watch Saturday Night Live. And I just loved the deep thoughts portion of the show. Dry, funny quotes written by someone named Jack Handy. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I rolled with laughter. And the crazy thing is, several of those sayings have stuck with me for over two decades now. The one I’ve been pondering lately, though, goes like this…

To me, it’s a good idea to always carry two sacks of something when you walk around. That way, if anybody says, “Hey, can you give me a hand?” You can say, “Sorry, got these sacks.”  Jack Handy

At nineteen, I found this to be incredibly funny. But today, I find it a deep thought indeed. In essence, “Sorry, man… got these two sacks. So no, I can’t help you. I’m too busy helping myself.” Yep, this deep thought came to mind at the bus stop the other evening when Levi told me about a fight at school. He said it was scary when the seventh grader hit a sixth grader. Teachers intervened.

But Levi, for future reference, wanted to know what to do in situations like this if an adult isn’t around. He thought he should go and help the one being hit. And shamefully, before I could stop myself, I said you go get someone else to help. Basically, don’t involve yourself, my son. You walk away and find another. I quickly withdrew my rash words but the truth is, I’m really uncertain as to what would be right in that situation. Should my little boy step up and try to stop a fight potentially getting hurt himself? Or run away and find someone better equipped to handle the problem? It’s a thought worth exploring… a deep thought, indeed.

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Ironically, the above is in the front of my journal. I jotted it down on July the 15th. Guard your heart… the irony being my heart was ripped in two one short week later. Not just once, but twice. See, that was the week I watched some abortion videos that had surfaced. Oh, the video caught my eye the previous week; however, I simply didn’t have time to watch. I was too darn busy. I was in the midst of planning for a big writing conference, chasing my dream, keeping house and children, working from home, and preparing for a week long road trip. No, there was no time for keeping up with current affairs in early July. So in essence, I was carrying some sacks. My own sacks. And my load seemed heavy enough.

But finally, everything was complete. As I spent the week with my in-laws, time was in my hands instead of baggage. So I finally watched the videos. The thing that hit me hardest was a comment made by Dr. Deborah Nucatola. She said a lot of people want hearts intact these days. And you know, I find that to be a deep thought indeed. I’d have to agree with her statement. Because in my opinion, people want just that today. Intact hearts. Not altered, broken, or impaired. A heart should be uninjured, sound and whole. Untouched and unblemished. Because really, who wants to endure a broken heart? But you know… there’s a tragic end to pursuing an intact heart. We run the risk of becoming unfeeling. Cold and aloof. In trying to keep our heart by keeping it from the world, it can become hard. And callused. Like stone.

Oh, it begins innocently enough. And early on. A heart break. My first was in the fifth grade. There was a boy I liked so much but it was clear. I was not chosen. Another came in eighth grade. And ninth. And eleventh. And twelfth. And at twenty. And twenty-two. And twenty-two. And twenty-two. No, that’s not a typo… sometimes your heart can break many times a year. For various reasons as many things can pierce a heart. And so, in an attempt to protect our hearts, we remove it – and ourselves – from life. Because if we’re reserved, just maybe our hearts will remain intact. Whole. But before we know it, a heart can become a boulder. Immovable. Surrounded by thick walls. Nothing can penetrate the protective barriers…

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

I’ve been thinking about that saying… “You can’t get blood from a stone.” It means you can’t extract what isn’t there to begin with. And so I think about the heart of stone. The intact one. And I’d have to agree. No, you can’t get blood from a stone. Not even from a heart of stone. But a true miracle can take place… if only. If only we allow ourselves to reenter life, we’ll find our heart can change. Because what we thought was sound may not be so sound after all. A heart that has the appearance of being whole may actually be shattered. And unexpectedly, what was hard and unmoving comes to life. Real flesh and blood. And when the heart gets cut, it bleeds. I know this to be true because it happened to me.

It was July 24. I thought I was prepared for a writing conference. I thought I was sound. What I didn’t know is I had become callus. Hard. Removed from life. But in reentering the world, my heart became softened. And that night my heart broke right in two. I had to choke back sobs at the dinner table. Afterward, I hurried off to my hotel room and cried like a baby. Just like a newborn. And I couldn’t stop. Tears rolled down my cheeks. And I felt just like I did at twenty-two. And at twenty. I regressed all the way back to that first heartbreak. The time I was not chosen. Unloved. Honestly, I felt just like a little girl. (https://pamandersonblog.com/?s=just+like+a+little+girl )  And before I knew it, two pieces became thousands. A heart splinted. Most definitely not intact.

So here’s what I’m thinking today. What’s the state of our hearts? Are they intact? And if they are, now this is just a thought, maybe they shouldn’t be.  The deep thought for today is perhaps a whole heart should be broken. Because how can it not be? If we allow ourselves to venture beyond our boundary lines and immerse ourselves into the world at large, we’ll begin to see such heartache. And suffering. And inevitably, our hearts begin to hurt alongside the hurting.

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God will not despise a broken and humble heart. Psalm 51:17

You know, my son coined a deep thought yesterday and he didn’t even know it. It’s what he said about his baby sister. See, she’s almost one and she’s been reaching up. She pulls herself up and holds on to something for stability. But she’s fallen so many times. So many boo-boos, tears rolling down her cheeks. But the thing is, the hurts don’t stop her. She continues to pull herself up. And yesterday morning, the most amazing thing happened.

Annabelle had been holding to the coffee table but she let go. There she stood for a total of five seconds without holding on and without falling. That’s because she grabbed hold of something else she wanted. And because all her attention was focused on a phone, she was able to let go of the other thing. Levi said, “She just had to let go of what she was holding to.” And I thought, yes! So simple but so deep. A deep thought, indeed.

Instantly, I thought of the originator of deep thoughts, Jack Handy. And what he said about sacks. See, Annabelle couldn’t have held that phone with both hands if she continued to hold on to a table. The same thing goes for me. I can’t hold onto something else, or someone else, if I continue holding my own sacks… a/k/a baggage. And that’s just not acceptable. I can’t use the following excuse… “Sorry, my friend, I got these sacks here. I can’t help you.” So today I take Levi’s deep thought to heart. I make a choice. And I let go of what I’ve been holding to. My stuff. And in releasing my load, I find I’m able to take hold of something else. Something better.

The LORD is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Truth is I have to take my hands – and eyes – off of me and my junk if I want to look to someone else. Because only when I’m not so focused on me will I really notice those around me. The one who suffers. She who is in pain. The griever. Oh, no doubt there’s risk involved. I will likely ache with them. Or I could get hurt in the process. For sure there will be tears. Rolling down my cheeks. And quite possibly, my heart will break. But you know, I think that’s exactly where God wants me. My heart not intact. Broken alongside my neighbors. Broken alongside His.

But when I find myself there, brokenhearted, that’s when I’ll be most useful to Him. Because I’ll be able to connect with the hurting world that surrounds me. And miraculously, that’s when I’ll be closest to God. Because His word assures me… no doubt when I feel like my heart is breaking into a million pieces, He’ll be right there beside me. And that, my friend, is a deep thought worth pondering.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

 

The Wisdom of Cathy

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Sons are indeed a heritage from the LORD, children, a reward. Psalm 127:3

Is there anything more deadly than a dream? Because a dream can eat someone alive. Especially an unrealized one. And I should know since it proves to be a pattern in my life. See, I want something really bad. There are moments it totally consumes me. So much so I can’t think of anything else. I can physically be in the room with someone, but be completely absent. Because in my head, I’m just dreaming my life away. Fixating on the one thing I want but don’t have. And how I can get it. It’s exhausting.

Yes, I’m a dreamer for sure but in more ways than one. See, occasionally I dream Scripture. And when I do, it seems pertinent to my life. The most recent was a year ago. Last February, I heard God’s word fall on my ear… “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth.” And so, I was excited. I heard from God and in my mind, it had everything to do with my newest dream. The one thing I want desperately, but don’t have.

But tonight happened to be one of those nights. And I see how very wrong I was. Because I had a revelation. As a matter of fact, it was kind of like the mother of all revelations. And it had to do with that Bible verse from one year ago. See, I watched some random video on Facebook tonight … a man’s wedding vows. Levi saw and asked about my own wedding. He wanted to know if we ran under sparklers, too. I decided to show instead of tell, so I pulled out my wedding album. And the following picture stopped me in my tracks.

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There it is. It’s the Scripture I dreamt. Go and be fruitful. And tonight, I realize God wasn’t confirming my newest dream. Instead, he was reminding me of my old dream. The original one. The one that’s already been realized. It goes all the way back to my foundation. To the little girl I was before I even left home. At the very core, I simply wanted to be loved. And my dream came true through a boy named Jason.

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I was so happy here. Our wedding just weeks away, the dream was within my grasp. In truth, I thought no further ahead than the day of our union… the future just a fuzzy notion. Something I didn’t dwell on for at that time, I had no other dreams. Essentially, all I wanted was to be loved. And so, it came to pass…

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Two became one. And for a while, I was content. Newlyweds. A new town. A fresh start. Life seemed exciting. But before long, I said how about a baby? And so, my husband brought me a kitty. He said, here’s your baby. And again, contentment. At least for a while.

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However, it wasn’t long before I began to yearn anew. This time, I wanted to return to my hometown. But alas, that didn’t happen for at least ten years. But midway, I became pregnant. And holding to the pattern, I was content. For a while.

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When I look at that photo, I see a joyful woman. And my baby boy did make me happy. However, I wanted something. Badly. At times, it’s all I could think about. I dreamed of Virginia. Going home. That’s what I pined away for. And so, despite having the love of a man and a beautiful baby boy in my arms, I still withered away inside. Simply because I wanted what I didn’t have.

Levi was four when my dream of Virginia came true. But damage had already been done. See, he knew the difference between happy and sad by the time he was two. That’s because he learned it from me. And here we are today… four years later. Truth is, Levi’s learned more stuff from me. But not good stuff. See, another dream has set up in my heart. And just like every other dream of mine, it consumes me. Like a fire. It causes me to be impatient. Hurried. And distracted. All because of a dream. All because of wanting what I haven’t got.

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

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I previously mentioned February is a big month in my life. Specifically last February. A lot of it having to do with the baby girl growing inside my womb. And there was the dream. God’s words. He said to be fruitful. Multiply. Silly me thinking it had to do with my newest dream. And foolish me for not realizing the truth for an entire year. See, it has to do with something my aunt Cathy has said to me more than once. She tells me I’m blessed.

Funny thing is, there I sat last February with a group of women and opened up to them. I spoke of my struggles (shallow at best). Of knowing in my head I’m blessed, but just not feeling blessed. And there I was with a baby growing inside me. And the truth is, children are a blessing of the Lord. They are a gift. How was it that I could sit there with a baby growing inside me and not know how blessed I was? And am? How can that be?

You know, Cathy knows exactly how blessed I am. That’s because she lost one daughter much too soon. And the other won’t have any children. Not now. Cathy will never have grandchildren of her own. And so, she knows very well what a blessing babies are. Me? I’ve been coddled. Spoiled. I’ve had it too good. God’s ungrateful child never, ever relishing the day before me. God’s child forever looking to the next thing. The unfulfilled dream. The promised land around the bend. That’s been my life. Looking to one unrealized dream to the next. Not comprehending what dreams I have right before me. Around me. And in me.

Yes, this is the wisdom of Cathy. She says I’m blessed. And tonight, I’m starting to realize it…

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This is the hard truth. Children are indeed a blessing from God. And my mother of all realizations came tonight when I realized that He filled my womb before Jason was even a thought in my mind. Once and once again. Though I was making huge mistakes and living wild, He still tried to fill me. Remember? My original dream? I simply wanted to be loved. And God? He placed love inside me. He was trying to give me my heart’s desire. Someone to love me unconditionally. But both times, I threw my babies away. Forever gone. All because I was selfish. Inwardly I cried, “It’s my life, my right…”

And so here I am tonight. And I wonder what’s different? Because I have a dream. I hold tightly to it. I don’t want to let go. No different than the twenty-something girl I was, I find myself inwardly crying… “It’s my life. It’s my right.” And because my newest dream looms in front of me, I can barely see anything else. But they’re there… an eight year old and a six month old. And truth is, if I don’t release the hold on my dream, and on my life, I’ll end up snuffing the life right out of them. Just like I did with my unborn babies. Because holding to what’s mine makes me rigid. And impatient. And so much more. The ugliness inside inevitably makes its way to the surface. And my outbursts can dim their sweet spirits. Yes, I really believe I can diminish them. Just as I did my other two… only difference being Levi and Annabelle survived my womb.

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But you know what… tonight’s different. Because God reminded me of my original dream. Children. He said be fruitful. And the dream’s been realized. Right in front of me are two little dreams come true I’ve taken for granted much too long. And tonight, I think I’ll finally be released of the inward battle cry that’s held me so long. “My body. My life. My right.” Tonight, I say no more. For I’ll gladly give my life up for theirs. And laying aside the false dream I’ve been chasing, I’ll hold tight to what God has given me already. Their names are Levi and Annabelle and they’re living dreams. Through them, I’ve been blessed. This is what I believe my aunt wanted me to see. For she’s told me on more than one occasion, “You are so blessed.” And she would know… for this is the wisdom of Cathy.

Proof of Life

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I used to be Pro-Choice. Pro-Abortion. And to follow up with words that are sure to offend many, I chalk that up to ignorance. I chose not to know. I was uniformed and chose to stay that way. I made a decision that would affect the rest of my life without investigating what was actually taking place inside my body. But today, because I’ve birthed two babies, I know something significant about the 18th day. For that’s when the heart beats. And by 21 days, blood whose type is different from that of the mother’s, is pumped through a closed circulatory system (J.M. Tanner, G. R. Taylor, and the Editors of Time-Life Books, Growth, New York: Life Science Library, 1965). That baby has its own blood type. Individual from the mother. That baby has a heartbeat… isn’t that proof of life?
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And because it’s February, I ponder another sort of heartbeat today. See, this month is significant for it’s the month of my birth. Spiritually speaking, I turn eighteen this year. I suppose that means I should technically be an adult in God’s kingdom by now. Because in the winter of 1997, I became His child. Eighteen years ago. But for so long after becoming His, I doubted I actually was. Today, I chalk that up to ignorance. Because I chose not to know what was actually taking place inside my body. And in my spirit. And in my heart. I chose to stay uniformed. For years and years.

But after 12 years of wavering and doubting, something happened. I felt a thudding in my chest. It was my heart. But this was a new heart beat… a pounding so hard, I could feel it throbbing through my ears. And inexplicably, I was moved to act. Prompted by God, this heartbeat was followed by movement. Physically. Just like the babies that grew within in my womb, I did the same. The miracle, though, is this happened outside the womb. Proof of life. Proof that I was actually His. Proof I was alive in Him.

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So today, I ponder the importance of February. A month of more than one birthday. Or anniversary. For it begins with the conception of my new life in Christ 18 years ago. Followed up 12 years later by a heartbeat. His heartbeat inside me. Proof of life. And then after another four years, this blog was birthed in February. Two years ago, I began to pour out my heart for all to see. Some things written can only be explained by God. Because it was stuff I had covered up for so long. Old stuff. Despite my intentions of keeping some things hidden, they bubbled up to the surface anyway. Unexpectedly. Prompted by Him. God. My Creator. My muse.

And so, here I am today. It’s my spiritual birthday and I ruminate over all these things. And you know… it occurs to me that this blog has been kind of like a sonogram. Because for two years now, it’s monitored my spiritual movement. Everything’s recorded. My ups and downs. My progress. My heartbeat. Time spent developing in His womb. I can observe the labor… when pangs came closer and closer together. That was the time of my delivery. See, it was just over a year ago when I was delivered from my past. I felt reborn. Shiny and bright. A new creation.

So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away–look, what is new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17

So here I am in the month of my spiritual birth, and I consider my life up to this point. And what I do. And why I do it. And the blog is one of those things considered. Why write? Two years ago, it seemed clear to me. And I marvel at my words and my conviction…

Yes, I am a regular woman called many things. But the most important title I have? Child of God. I am His child. And although I became His sixteen years ago, I am just now learning what this means. And that’s the whole purpose of this blog. Because if I am just now figuring out the basics so many years later, I just have to wonder… are there others like me? Ordinary we may think ourselves, but I am starting to see, life does not have to be that way. Our lives can be extraordinary, and yes, interesting. Because God is in our midst! February 2013

God in our midst! I wanted others to know what I did. To experience God like I had. To feel what I felt. God in our midst. But today, I see things a bit different. See, rather than Him being in my midst, I feel as if I’ve been in His midst. I’ve been in Him. In Christ. In His womb. He’s been making me this whole time. A new creation.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

Yesterday I came across a picture. As always, Facebook is a fount of information. But I have to say, this picture stopped me in my tracks. It was breathtaking. Well, at least to me. In truth, some will be offended by the following image. But I find it beautiful. Stunning. Because it is the picture of new life.

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This picture shows truth. New life is messy for a baby doesn’t come out of the womb all clean and smelling like powder. And the thing is, it’s the very same with us spiritually. For God’s children don’t come out of His womb all clean and smelling like a rose. In fact, they come out quite messy. They need cleaning up. And the process can be lengthy. For some, it can take years. Like with me. See, I was His child for seventeen years before I felt new. And clean. Shiny and bright. The making of me took place over a prolonged period of time. And in fact, He’s still making me…

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It’s through these February musings, I understand what a gift my daughter Annabelle is. In more ways than one. See, her middle name is significant. In fact, I’m quite sure God’s the One who blessed her with the name of Wynn, which means holy, blessed reconciliation; joy and peace; fair, pure. And in blessing Annabelle with this lovely name, He in turn blessed me. Eight days after hearing her heartbeat. Eight days after encountering His grace with regard to my past, I received a new name through the daughter I carried in my womb. Annabelle Wynn. Blessed reconciliation. She became my proof of life. Confirmation that I am in truth His baby girl. Just as much as she is my own. I carried her in my womb and He carried me in His. God in my midst? No, for it seems as if I were in His midst instead. For He’s been all around me this whole time. Encompassing me. Making me over. The created by the Creator. A new creation.

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Today, I’m pro-life. But not just with regard to abortion. See, I’m pro-life for Christian babies, too. The ones who are still developing in His womb. See, the process can take some time. Labor can be such a prolonged effort. And as for me… His eighteen year old daughter who has grown at least a little since first becoming His… well, it’s my job to be patient. To be kind. To be encouraging. While others are waiting for their proof of life, I must not judge. And point fingers. Because if I’m not careful, I could kill a developing babe by my thoughtless words. Without realizing it, I could snuff out the new life He’s creating in the person right next to me. Because His babies take time to develop. And just as God continues to make me, He continues to make them. His creations. Because that’s what He does… He creates.

Six days it took God to create the earth and all that’s in it. On the seventh, He rested from His work. And then, there’s the eighth day. The eighth day is significant for me. It happened last February. That’s when He confirmed I was His baby girl. It’s when He gave me a new name. And He used my own baby girl to do so. Annabelle Wynn became proof of life for me.

See, we’re His children… beautiful in our wonderful mess. For in time, He cleans us up. And before we know it, we’re made new. Shiny and bright. Glorious. Reborn in His image.

So God created man in His own image;
He created him in the image of God;
He created them male and female.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth… Genesis 1:27-28

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=7G7PD7NX