The Filling (or Merry Christmas to my husband)

IMG_7128[1]

The filling’s the good part. You know, the stuff that fills pastries and donuts and cakes. At least that’s what my husband likes. No, it’s not salty or savory that tempts him for my man’s got a sweet tooth.

Yep, Jason likes the filling…

He’s especially fond of the fluffy goodness that fills cream horns. Or the gooey, syrupy insides of a chocolate covered cherry. And I can’t forget the thick sweetness that oozes out of a doughnut. That’s good, too. Oh, he likes it.

No, Jason doesn’t ask for much. If I just give my husband some good sugar, he’s happy.

I wonder if that’s what drew him to me in the first place. Because my name, Pamela, is supposed to mean “all sweetness” derived from the Greek words pan (all) and meli (honey). And when we first met, I may have seemed that way.

All honey and pure sugary sweetness…

That’s even what we called each other for the longest time. “Sweetie.” That was my name for him and his for me. Somewhere along the line, though, the name waned…

No, Jason doesn’t call me Sweetie anymore. Nor me him.

Alas, it seemed to fit in my early twenties. Because my insides seemed to be filled with delight. And I thought I was. Filled with goodness, that is. But if I want to be honest, something else dwelt inside me. Something not so pleasant. Bitter, even. And most assuredly, it was dark.

Yep, that’s what filled my insides.

My filling was made up of darkness.

And crazily, I didn’t even know it.

A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. Luke 6:43-45

There’s been a lot of “filling” in my life this past month. Eyes filling with tears of frustration. Rooms filling with shouts of rage and stomping feet. Sighs and grunts and scowls and frowns and slams when things don’t go accordingly…

And I’m not talking about my kids here.

No, this has been my behavior. And apparently I’ve been so nasty, my husband didn’t even want to be around me one evening. It seems he’d had enough. As I said, he has a sweet tooth and bitter doesn’t go down easily.

I confess, it hurt when he said something. But sometimes that’s what the truth does. It hurts. And Jason wasn’t loud or mean. He didn’t reflect my own ugliness. Instead, he simply made an observation. And he only did so because I asked what was wrong. And because he doesn’t lie, he told me the truth.

It was my demeanor.

Don’t you know I looked that word up the next day. Turns out it means the outward behavior or bearing. Among others, synonyms are attitude, appearance, conduct.

Basically, Jason called me on my terrible attitude. And that night after everyone else fell asleep, I cried a little. But then I felt mad. Inside, I justified my actions. I was entitled to my bad mood, wasn’t I? Because life is so darn busy… especially for a wife and mother.

It’s all the filling.

The laundry basket continually fills. As does the counter and sink. And emails keep cluttering my inbox while toys keep filling the floor. The calendar is dotted with blotches of ink in the form of unexpected tasks, like doctors and dentists appointments. And let’s not forget Christmas. Because Christmas brings its own truckload of additional things to do. It fills December and the weeks leading up to it…

And all this, usually, is accomplished by the woman.

And so that night, I cried. But then I stewed. And when I crawled into bed, I moved as close to the edge as I could. Nevertheless, Jason’s words wouldn’t leave me. Earlier he’d said, “But you are the mom.”

And he’s right. I am the mom. But more than that, I’m the wife.

I’m Jason’s wife.

IMG_7130

A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14:1

This isn’t the first time Jason’s spoken to me about my dark demeanor. He mentioned it over five years ago when he told me I was like an animated corpse. He told me he never knew which wife he was coming home to… the happy Pam or the other one. And he asked me to stop lying to him. Because when I told him I was fine when I wasn’t, I was lying.

As was my typical response, I withdrew in cold anger. And then, there was a lot of self-justification talk inside my brain. But deep down, I knew he spoke truth. Even back then. Because that’s just what my husband does.

Within days of that particular conversation, I heard a Bible teacher speak about a woman in the Old Testament. She was described as the woman who thought she had all her needs met but hadn’t. She was the woman who thought she was fine, but was not.

No doubt, she was a description of me.

At one point, the woman from long ago was asked, ‘Are you all right?” Basically, are you well? She replied everything was. She was all right. In effect, she was complete, well, whole, and at peace. But she most assuredly was not.

It was this teaching that became pivotal in my life. Because from that point on, I began to peer into the dark hole of my heart. And I’ve been wrestling with that darkness ever since.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Last month, I thought I overcame the darkness. See, I attended a very significant weekend retreat. It was a spiritual thing and I placed all my hope in it. I believed that once I walked away from the event, I’d never encounter the dark again.

At least not like I had.

But I did.

Within days I was back to my old self. Dark and bitter and ranting and raving. I was heartbroken. And dare I say it? I was upset with my Lord. Because I believed He led me that way. I believed He promised light.

But light seemed so far away…

And that’s when God spoke truth into my blackened heart. When I was at my darkest.

See, I read the above verse from 2 Corinthians three times in two days. I knew it was a direct invitation from Him for me to read that particular passage of Scripture. And when I did, my eyes were opened.

Because it’s the story of Paul who had a thorn. Three times he pleaded with the Lord to take it away but the answer was no. Jesus said no because His grace was enough…

And that was the first time I realized the darkness may never, ever leave me completely. My epiphany being that the dark may be my thorn. Because I’ve asked the Lord to take it away again and again. Even at that spiritual retreat. I had another pray over me… to take away the darkness and to restore sweetness to my soul.

But today, I’m quite sure He said no. Just as He answered Paul. Because darkness is my particular weakness. It’s my sickness.

The amazing thing, though, is this is the very thing that drives me to Him. And when I go to Jesus, in all my blackness, He lovingly tells me, “My grace is sufficient for you, Pam. For My power is made perfect in your weakness.”

“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4

One of my problems is I tend to focus on the wrong things. I become anxious when I stare at an overfull calendar. And I become weary when the filling of baskets and sinks are never ending.

But as Jason said, I am the mom. And he is my husband. Yes, my nest is full but that’s a good thing. My family’s a blessing. Gifts from God for He fills my life with good things (Psalm 103:5).

If only I would focus on what truly matters. Like them. And cuddles and kisses. And words of encouragement and time on the floor. Playing and snuggling and letting all that other stuff go.

Alas, I hold so tightly to the reigns. And because of my own careless actions, it seems as if I’ve been tearing my house (or nest) apart. No, home has not been much of a home. Not for my loved ones or even for me.

Because excessive activity brings on the darkness. Brought about by doing more than I should and not enough of what I should be.

But you know, I have hope. Because I’ve walked this way many times before. And God never, ever lets me remain in the dark for too long. No, He always pulls me through it. He loves me too much to let me stay there.

I’m coming to realize, though, that this may be the very place He’s been leading me. Here in this dark…

Because finally, I know I can’t do life on my own. No, in my own power I am weak and foolish. But here, in my weakened state, I finally place my dependence on Him.

And in my weakness, I find the strength and power only He can provide.

“So because of Christ, I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in pressures. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”                           2 Corinthians 12:10

Jesus extends an invitation in the book of Matthew. He says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” These words have been like a balm to my tired soul on more than one occasion. This past week, however, I made a new discovery.

It’s in that word burdened…

See, it means to load up (properly, as a vessel or animal), i.e. (figuratively) to overburden with ceremony (or spiritual anxiety):—lade, by heavy laden.

 

Burdened references a vessel. And that’s me. An earthen vessels filled by Jesus. But the thing is, I can be overburdened by ceremony. And that makes me chuckle today. Because surely December is a season of extra “ceremony.”
And so I realize that though Jesus promises me rest, I have to do my part by following His instructions. Because the rest I yearn for comes only when I take His yoke upon me and learn from Him.
I’ve just not done that. Not this month, I haven’t. And most certainly not with regard to extra ceremony. Do you know, I even thought I’d have time to make butter this past week. Thankfully, Jason talked me down with his sensible, “Really? With all you have to do, you think it’s a good idea to make butter?”
Needless to say, there’s store bought butter in the fridge.
And his words bring proper perspective back to my life. Thus, I comprehend I’ve been overloaded a couple of months now. But the other part of that is I’m the load master. I’m the one who adds to the burden. And that’s when I tend to fall apart.

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness” – He has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ. Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

 

According to 1 Peter 3:7, I (meaning the wife) am the weaker vessel. Not less than my husband, mind you, but weaker in some regards. And this passage specifically speaks to the wife as contributing to the usefulness of her husband.

This convicts me. Because I’ve not been doing that. No, my terrible demeanor has not lent itself to being useful.

The word for vessel, though, is also used in 2 Corinthians 4:6-7. Men and women alike are the vessels. And men and women alike are weak. Sick and feeble. That’s what the word “weaker” means.

But see, this is just who Jesus came for. For it’s not the well who need a doctor, but the sick. And it’s not the righteous for whom Jesus came, but sinners.

Thus, He came for me.

IMG_6950

Know how He did that? He sent me Jason. It was through him I caught my first glimpse of God. Of His mercy and grace. I just didn’t know it back then.

See, Jason should have run when he met me. I had baggage. He knew things about me that would have caused others to flee. But Jason? He accepted me. Moreover, he loved me when no one else would.

And he still does. When I’m at my most unloveable, he continues to extend grace. Like last week when I spied a gift tucked away under the tree. He put it there for me when I was acting out the most…

IMG_7119

I’m not surprised to find my husband’s name means “healer.”

Yes, Jason means healer.

And he’s just what I need. Because I can make myself sick. Fraught with franticness. But Jason, he’s constant and steady. Consistent. Sensible. And he speaks truth to me. And though what he says may sting for the night, come morning… I usually realize he’s right.

And when I do, brightness is restored to my eyes and sweetness to my soul.

At least for a little while.

Fill your horn with oil and go. 1 Samuel 16:1

Here’s what I know. Things were created to be filled. God created the earth and He filled it with light. He created man and gave instructions to fill the earth. Man populated the world and God sent His Son to dwell among us. And then, when Jesus ascended to heaven, He promised the Holy Spirit would come.

And He did.

And so it appears some horns are filled with sweet cream while others are filled with oil. Me? My horn is filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit. This is my filling. So rightfully, I felt confused about my lingering darkness for the longest time.

But now I know why. See, I carry around in my body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in my body (2 Corinthians 4:10). Oh, there are times, I’m like an animated corpse. There are dark days for sure. But inevitably, God restores life to my deadened soul. He resuscitates me. Every time.

The wonder is my life becomes a picture of the resurrection. For I go into a dark tomb. But when I exit, I find I am fully alive. Gloriously alive.

Just like Jesus.

Thus, my life gives testimony to Him.

IMG_7162

Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. Proverbs 16:24

In closing, I have just as many good days as I do the bad. They’re not all so dark. But from now on when darkness descends, I’ll know. It’s my thorn. His grace is sufficient for me.

And for those days when I’m feeling happy, I’ll relish them. And I’ll be assured I’m not all that bitter. Part of my filling is surely sweet.

And though my husband no longer calls me “Sweetie,” nor me him, we do call each other “Honey.” And you know what? Honey is just as sweet as sugar.

So I guess my filling’s not so bad after all.

And as long as I give my husband some good honey, he’ll be satisfied with me.

For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. Psalm 107:9

Best Friends

IMG_5780

I bought this frame from a thrift store months ago. It just sits in the top of my closet because I couldn’t think of who I’d want to put in there. My face alongside another, smiling so bright. Who is my friend… the one who knows me completely? Inside and out. The one who knew me then and knows me now and still wants to be by my side.

Before I moved back home six years ago, there was no question. There were two women I considered my best friends. The only issue would have been which one? Because they were both so close to me. Closer than any sister could be. And we’d spend hours (HOURS) on the phone. No particular reason. Just chatting because that’s what best friends do. Just to hear each other’s voices. To feel close.

But that doesn’t happen anymore. For some reason, the two I considered to be my “best” are no more. Phone calls few and far in between. Oh, they’re still in my life but something’s shifted. Busyness, perhaps? Or life just leading us along different paths.

Whatever the reason, it makes me sad. And sometimes a bit lonely.

And the frame? It just sits. Because I don’t know “the friend” I should put in there with me…

A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

I was never one to have lots of friends. I always had one or two that were special, though, Jennifer being my first. And what a joy it is to see her face at my son’s school… the very school I attended. Yep, when I registered him for kindergarten, there she was bouncing down the hallway as if she’d never left. She happens to work there and even though we’re not close anymore, shared memories warm my heart.

Fourth grade brought me Hannah. Amy and Cindy in the ninth. And later, it was Sarah. We were so close, spending all our free time together. She was just like a sister.

Next came Shannon and we joined the Air Force together. A miracle that we attended the same tech school. And when I felt lonely at my first assignment, I’d just pick up the phone and call. My phone bills astronomical because we talked several times a week. For hours (HOURS). And when we ran out of things to say, we just sang to each other. Even if it was the theme song to an old TV show like “Alice.”

“I used to be sad. (da-da). I used to be shy. (da-da). Funniest thing, the saddest part is I never knew why…”

The Air Force brought me new friends. Carmen and Cheyenne. Nicole and Stacy. And then, before I knew it, I was married. Alas, old friends were left behind as life moved me in other directions.

And here I am now. Uncertain as to who my “best friend” is. And then I am overcome with guilt for even having such a thought. Because there’s so much happening in the world that trumps loneliness, right?

“If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be complete. 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. This is what I command you: love one another.” John 15:10-14, 17

Oh, it’s true I no longer pick up the phone and talk for hours with someone I consider my best friend. But you know, that’s allowed something wonderful to transpire over the past six years.

See, I no longer spend countless hours in chit-chat with a gal-pal. Instead, I’ve been moved to pick up my Bible and spend countless hours with Him. Yes, feeling lonely drove me to seek a new Friend. And He is the One who is truly closer than a brother (or sister).

Along the way, I’ve developed such a friendship with God that I cannot go long without seeking His voice. I just can’t. When I don’t hear from Him, I begin to wither inside…

And so, I consider those occasional bouts of loneliness blessings, really. Because if I continued to spend hours calling my best friends as I did when I was younger, would I have ever called on Him? Would I have made time for both? I really can’t say.

 

But what I can say is I know Him. Personally. And He calls me His friend.

Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Today I had one of those God moments. I felt compelled to look up 1 Peter 4 because I was tracking something, however, the above verse stood out instead. Lo and behold, not an hour later I saw the same verse on my calendar for March 22.

God spoke right there in “love one another.” He means our friends. Our companions. But also, our fellow man. Other people. For Jesus said we are to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. The greatest commands.

Unconditional love. And that’s so hard to do.

But you know, a particular friend comes to mind when I read about this kind of love. We met when I was five and she’s one of my oldest and dearest friends. Last week happened to be her birthday and I missed it.

But it came to me this morning… honor our friendship. Honor my friend for her birthday.

15078775_1336093879770281_3529081896686025785_n - Copy

See, Carolyn is truly one of the sweetest women I know. She shows interest in everyone she meets and doesn’t know a stranger. She can talk to anyone. ANYONE. But also, she listens. She genuinely cares about people and how they feel and this is a gift.

She used that gift on me when I was in kindergarten. I was crushed and she could sense it. She sat by my side and petted my shoulder. When she looked up at the teacher, she said, “Isn’t she precious?” And I was comforted. She loved me when I felt unlovable.

Later in life, when I was in my early twenties, she said something that struck me. She probably doesn’t even remember. We’d been talking about a mutual friend and I disagreed with his lifestyle. So I spoke meanly. I judged and criticized. I then said, “He was so nice.” Carolyn’s response. “He’s still nice.” That hushed me right up.

The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive. Proverbs 27:6

We never discussed it, but my friend’s comment chastened me. I felt embarrassed because her words pointed to my very conditional ways. I was being harsh and unkind and who am I to judge my neighbor (James 4:12)?

Carolyn? She just loved our mutual friend. And it’s an example I’ll always remember.

And so, I want my friend (and others) to know this about her. That she’s not only beautiful but she’s also kind. She does not judge, she loves. And she’s who came to mind this morning when I contemplated love.

I thought about how she loves me.

IMG_5534

Oil and incense bring joy to the heart. And the sweetness of a friend is better than self-counsel. Proverbs 17:17

My friend, Carolyn, brought me these flowers for my birthday. I was so pleased. She showered me with her love.

Yep, she is a true friend. She knew me then and she knows me now and she still wants to be by my side. Oh, I could definitely slide a photo of me and her in that frame I bought months back.

But you know, I have others, too. Perhaps not one I’d cast in the role of “Best Friend” like I did when I was younger but my life has changed. Busyness and responsibility does not allow me to spend countless hours on the phone as I once did. There just isn’t time.

Nevertheless, I still have friends. There’s women in my life. Ones I knew then and ones I met later on. And I feel grateful for every single one of them.

Which brings me back to that frame. Perhaps it’s not meant to be filled. Perhaps that blank spot serves to remind me of not just one special friend, but all the women I know. That at any given moment, I could place several faces in there alongside mine.

Yes, perhaps I’m not meant to have only one or two “Best Friends” like when I was young. Instead, maybe I’m supposed to love every woman who crosses my path with fervency. And unconditionally. Like I love myself.

And like He loves me…

A friend loves at all times… Proverbs 17:17

In closing, I just have to say Jesus is my Best Friend. Yes, He is the truest of all. Because He laid down His life for me. And greater love have no man, or woman, than that.

And really, He’s the only One who knows me completely. Inside and out. Better than I even know myself. He knew me then, before I first drew breath, and He knows me now, warts and all. Moreover, He knows who I’ll one day be. And yet, He still wants to be by my side. Always.

And with a Friend like that, loneliness is nothing more than a mere memory. It no longer exists. And so, that theme song from “Alice” I used to sing to Shan? Well, it becomes my own anthem. I lift my voice and sing to Him…

“I used to be sad. (da-da). I used to be shy. (da-da). Funniest thing, the saddest part is I never knew why…”

my enemy danced…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the Funyun story

Know what Funyuns are? It’s an onion flavored corn snack. A treat. Salty/crunchy, so right up my alley. It’s what my two cousins had in hand as they sat outside my Mammie’s house when I was about five. They sat on a bench together with the bag nestled between them… within their reach but out of mine. They smugly munched away.

I was on the outside in every way that day. And it burned. Not a part of their group and not a partaker of their snack. I hungrily looked on as they gleefully withheld from me. And though they saw me salivating a short distance away, they didn’t offer me a one. No, I had to ask for what I wanted. Begged, really. The conversation went something like this…

“Can I have one?”

“No.”

“Please let me have one.”

“Well, we’ll let you have one but you have to eat dirt first.”

So I did. Or at least I tried to. I crammed a handful of dirt in my mouth for just a few seconds before spitting it all out. I sullied my mouth in order to gain a moment of satisfaction. A treat.

And what did I get in return for my labor? One stinking Funyun. They tossed it in the dirt beside me. That was my reward. And so I picked it up from the filth and ate.

Yep, it’s this Funyun story that’s played out in my head again and again in recent months. And I used to laugh about it. But the truth is, it hurts. Because I was reacquainted with that feeling just a month ago. Mind you, my situation was nothing at all like the sought after Funyuns. And I had no real cause to feel as I did all those years ago.

Nonetheless, that’s exactly how I felt.

Begging for crumbs and pilfering through dirt…

the explosion

Several of those closest to me have said on more than one occasion I’m too hard on myself. And in this season of my life, I’m finally coming to see things their way. I’m ready to admit the truth.

Why yes, I have been too hard on myself. And yes, I have set the bar too high. Indeed, I’ve set unrealistic goals impossible to attain through my current station… as a busy mom of a nine year old and a baby, I simply cannot do everything I want to do. Not now, at least. Understanding dawns and I’m at peace with it.

Finally.

But for years and years, I didn’t. And I tried. I strived for the one thing I wanted. Perhaps ever since the day I ate from the dirt. For over thirty years I’ve struggled to attain the one thing denied me. Until last month, that is. See, it all came to a head. There was a climax of sorts. An explosion as the truth erupted from my fissured heart.

And when I dared voice what lie within, I trembled. I quaked in terror. And when I told my husband, he asked me incredulously, “Is that what’s in your heart?” He shook his head…

“You better be careful,” he said.

His words lay heavy on me. As did my own.

dancing with the devil

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat. Luke 22:31

My enemy danced on the dark night of my soul. It’s true. And likely, he’d been dancing for months. Because I let him deceive me. I entertained the accusations he whispered in my ear. “Now Pam, does God really care about you? Look at what’s happening… you’re trying to do all this stuff for him – cramming an already tight schedule – and yet, he won’t even give you a good night’s sleep? Surely, if he loved you he’d give you what you wanted.”

And so, he led and I followed. The devil’s such a good dancer, I couldn’t help myself.

One, two, three, four, twirl…. why isn’t Annabelle sleeping through the night? She had been before! Why now when it’s most inconvenient?

One, two, three, four, dip… what in the world! Doesn’t God know I have to do so much tomorrow… why is she up from 1 to 3 a.m.

One, two, three, four.

One, two, three.

One, two.

And, one.

My enemy had me. I was dancing along with him. His whispered words became my own vocal ones. And worse, they filled my heart. A heart deceived. Falling for the one who told lies. Believing the lies he told.

I quit

Truth is, I quit God this past Summer. I petered out. It began in June. That’s when my time diminished. And yet, that’s when I had the most to do. A deadline. Self-imposed, of course.

Naturally, this is when Annabelle began waking through the night. The pressure was on. I did my best to stay even-keeled but failed miserably. There was late-night cussing. An exploded diaper as it hit my kitchen floor. Hard. When Jason roused, I yelled out “I quit!”

“What do you mean, you quit?”

A logical question. I shrugged or said I didn’t know. But I did know. Because that was the night I quit God. In my heart, I did. Because I thought I was doing all this stuff for Him. I thought the deadlines were for Him. I thought I was knocking myself out for Him.

And so the fact He didn’t give me a full night’s sleep for weeks on end pushed me to my limits. I was angry. Worse yet, I was angry at my God. Because I felt He was denying me the one good thing I wanted. And needed. Sleep. I needed the sleep to do the things I wanted to do. For Him.

I don’t believe

The dark night of my soul came the end of July. That’s the night I told God I didn’t believe He loved me. I know, I know. This is shocking. And terrible. And so ridiculous. A flat out lie.

But this is truth. This is what I said. It’s what I meant. I believed it as I lay on the couch in the midst of darkness and Annabelle’s cries. My insides boiled. I said it more than once, too. Loudly. Vehemently.

“I don’t believe You love me!”

I accused God. All because God didn’t give me the one thing I wanted. He said no to my requests. I repeatedly asked for Him to quiet Annabelle. To soothe her. To let her sleep so I could sleep.

His answer was no, though.

And it caused me to stumble in the most grievous of ways.

Ultimately, I denied Him. I denied Christ. For Romans 5:8 tells me that God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. For me.

And the realization that I denied Him caused me to weep bitterly.

the end of me

What happened this Summer was inevitable. All of it. It had to happen because it led to the end of me. The end of striving and overachieving. Because I was forced to ask a question, “Who am I really doing all this for?”

Is it really just for Him? And His glory? Or is it for me and mine?

Thanks to this Summer, though, I have a clear understanding of why I do what I do and what makes me tick. Or what makes me go tick-tick-tick-boom. It goes back to the Funyuns. The incident that was part of my foundation. And my make-up.

See, the world’s upbringing shaped me into a woman scrounging around in the dirt begging for a scrap of something I deemed to be good. My one aim.

As a child, it was Funyuns. As a young girl, I craved love and notice. And now, as a forty-two year old woman, I just wanted a little recognition. Some appreciation for all the stuff I do. And to get that, I kept a full calendar. Thus, sleep seemed to be a necessity.

But God denied my request for the one thing I desired. My journey became more difficult. The road wasn’t paved with ease. And so I faltered. And doubted Him.

grace

I have to be honest. I worried for a while after the things I said. Because what in the world?? Today, though, I’m thankful. It all had to happen. The Funyuns, the explosion, sleeping with the enemy, the doubt and despair, and yes, even the end of me. Because finally, finally, He has me just where He wants me.

I’m done. Nothing left of me. Stripped of all I’ve been striving for. And all I’ve been longing for. Because after saying what I did, I was scared He was done with me. DONE. And that’s when I realized just how much I need Him.

Him and only Him. And so I’m ready.

Finally, finally, I let His grace wash over me. Because I need it. I need Him.

Oh, how I need Him. More than I need me. More than I need a Funyun coated in dirt. More than recognition. And yes, even more than sleep.

Because I can’t do this thing called life without Him. I just can’t.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

I can’t help but think of the Apostle Paul. What might his affliction have been? Three times he pleaded with God to remove it but the answer was no.

And I think of me. What a weakling I am to get so bent out of shape over lost sleep. However, I’m thankful I did. Because it led to my meltdown. To my explosion. And for me to say what I was really thinking. The ugly truth.

However, I didn’t find God’s wrath or punishment. Or condemnation.

Instead, I found grace.

In the most unexpected place.

In a little tan house on a small back road, a sleepy, forty-two year old woman finally accepted the gift of God’s grace. Finally. Because for the first time she stopped depending on herself and began to depend on Him. Because she needed to. She needed Him.

And finally she realized it’s true. Finally. His grace is sufficient for thee.

It’s sufficient for me.

Unfaithful

The fact I polished off a family size bag of Cheetos this week almost deterred me from working out last night. Because I thought, what’s the point? I already screwed up royally. I cheated again on my diet. Forever unfaithful to the healthy lifestyle I seek to nurture. Forever cheating with Cheetos… or whatever other salty/crunchy snack lies in wait on my pantry shelves.

Sigh.

Alas, I exercised anyway. I worked out and was drenched in sweat by the time I finished. And it felt good.

But then, I went home. And unavoidably, the hours of temptation arose. From nine p.m. on marks the hours of my downfall. Because when temptation beckons after dark, and everyone else is asleep, there’s no one to stop me. Or see me. And I just can’t seem to exercise self-control. Chester the cat (this week’s love) is just too darn cool. And too hard to resist. So I don’t.

I run to him…

th[7]

After binging, I always feel upset. Guilty. And hypocritical. Because I’m trying to teach my son what is good and healthy and what’s not. I tell him what to eat and not eat. And yet, I don’t follow my own advice. This is 100% do as I say and not as I do. And though I try to sneak things in at night, sometimes I leave clues behind. They’re discovered the next morning.

IMG_2275

The above picture is from last week. Before entrance of aforementioned family sized Cheetos. We buy my son those big bags of smaller bags for lunch. Levi says he prefers the soft cheese curls to the hard ones so that gave me license to dig through his lunch supplies seeking out Chester.

But don’t let that little bag fool you. This was the first of several. I started with one but my voracious appetite for snacks wasn’t satiated. So as I tossed away the trash, I grabbed another. Then repeated the process. Laid out on the couch, I devoured these little bags of chips.

I got chip-faced.

But afterward, I felt shame.

Sigh.

Yesterday my husband noticed a look on my face. “What’s wrong?” I confessed later when I emailed him a small grocery list. I told him I ate the whole bag of family sized Cheetos (the one he specifically said, “these are not for you.”)

cheese, milk, cat litter, gain dish soap

And the reason I looked the way I did this a.m. is I’m ashamed. Past three nights I’ve been chowing down on family sized cheetos, which are all gone now, by the way.

I keep feeling sick but no wonder.

Jason’s reply is priceless…

So just one bag of family sized Cheetos then?  Or 2?

Oh, I love him. Funny guy. And how well my boys know me. Both of them. For my own son has told me, “Don’t eat the whole bag.” Or “Save some for me!” Or “I got some first because I know if you get them there won’t be any left.”

Despite my trying to stealthily eat at night, I’m found out.

Moses saw that the people were out of control, for Aaron had let them get out of control, so that they would be vulnerable to their enemies. Exodus 32:25

So I had this interesting conversation with a friend yesterday. She’s been fasting one day a week and she told me that when hunger comes, she focuses on a situation she’s going through. And she says she finds clarity. She also told me when she eats something unhealthy, like cake, she feels so lethargic. It spoke to me.

See, I’ve been so tired lately. More so than usual. Three cups of coffee have turned to four or five a day. And that’s not good. So I realize I’ve been caught up in a vicious cycle. I eat too much. Carb overload. To compensate, I depend on caffeine. And around and around I go.

Basically, because my eating is out of control… I am out of control. And you know what… that makes me vulnerable.

The LORD then said to Joshua, “Stand up! Why are you on the ground?” Israel has sinned. They have violated My covenant that I appointed for them. They have taken some of what was set apart (for destruction). They have stolen, deceived, and put the things with their own belongings. This is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies. Joshua 7:10-12

I just love the Old Testament. And though it’s about God’s chosen people, the Israelites, so much speaks to me today. I look at Joshua, Moses’ successor. How God appeared to Him. He said to be courageous. That He was with Him. And Joshua led the people to take the city of Jericho. The walls came tumbling down…

But you know what. On the heels of victory, Joshua and the people suffered defeat. Failure. A set-back. But it boils down to one thing. The people were unfaithful to God. They made other gods. In Exodus 32, they fashioned a golden calf. In Joshua 7, it was the spoils of war… items set apart to be destroyed were secreted away instead.

And really, this is what I’ve done. Eating is one of my gods. I bow down to it. I adore it. I allow it to control me. Rather than mastering my eating habits, I’ve allowed them to master me. A slave to carbohydrates. And Cheetos Chester. And to King Utz and Lord Lays.

When my household goes down, I go up. To the high place of my pantry. And I sacrifice my health to the god of overeating.

God help me.

DSCN3763

This is one of my battles. Always has been. Ever since my youth. I love salty/crunchy. My mid-section always an issue. Up and down. In the 9th grade, a boy actually commented on my tummy. “If you could get that under control, you’d have a really good body.” In the 11th grade I added about 10 pounds. That’s when an old acquaintance said, “Pam, you’re fat!” It hurt.

Ever since then, it was one failed attempt after another. Diet pills and exercise spurts. The above was taken one year after the birth of my son. I had some baby weight. I decided to do Body for Life. My husband helped me with before pictures…

DSCN3770 - Copy

I dropped 12 pounds in a couple of months. I felt so good. Healthy. Energetic. Alas, the pounds came back with ten more. And so I’d try something else. Atkins diet. Hydroxycut. Jillian Michaels DVD’s. Up and down. Back and forth…

Up till now. Oh, I’ve lost ground by gaining pounds. More than ever. Most definitely, I’ve been unfaithful to God… choosing another lover. Cheetos. And I almost didn’t work out last night. But I did it.

Regardless of my failure, I took a small step forward. Afterward, I had the courage to say no to Chester. Or whatever other salty/crunchy snack tempted me.

And I find a small victory. Because the sluggishness of my carb coma seems to be wearing off today. And I find clarity. Awareness. I’ve been trapped in that cycle far too long. That vicious cycle. Going in circles.

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I choose to move forward today. Onward in my journey with new resolve. Because I don’t want to go down this way. I don’t want food to trip me up any more. Food the cause of my sluggishness. Excess calories weighing me down in every way.

I just get so tired. So very tired. Lethargic. Till I’m immobile and on the ground. But today I hear my one true God. His voice cuts through the din of other false voices… my tempters.

He says, “What are you doing on the ground? Stand up!”

And in His strength, and only by His strength, I shall… I have to.

And not just for my sake. And for His sake. It’s for theirs… I have to stand up so I can be there for them. My babies.

  IMG_2311

This won’t be easy. For it’s been a battle. My weight and me. Most of my life, really. But the choice is an easy one to make… it’s them or Chester.

th[7]

So this day, instead of Chester, I run to God. I peel myself off the ground and run to my children. Onward in my journey.

What if?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

See that guy? That’s my husband. I followed him home about eighteen years ago and for a while, I split my time between his hometown and mine. But whenever I drove away, I cried. That’s because I hated to leave him and didn’t want us to be separated. But more than that, fear of what next consumed my heart and mind. What if we grew apart while I was away? Suppose circumstances changed and I wasn’t able to come back to him? I was so scared of what the future held, I tried holding him tighter (notice the grip I have on his t-shirt). In fact, because I was so clingy and hugged him so tightly ALL THE TIME, it became a bit of a joke between the family.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

See what I mean? That’s my mother-in-law and they were laughing because she was imitating me. And I laughed, too. Because how could they possibly know the real reason for my clinginess. And in truth, I didn’t even know myself. I simply believed in the power of my arms… that if I clung to Jason tight enough, there was less chance he’d slip away from me. I thought if I kept my hands on him all the time, I wouldn’t lose him. One day, I gave voice to my anxiety. I told Jason my worries. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember his reply. Because he was angry. He said, “What if, Pam? What if?” He fussed about me being upset over something that hadn’t even happened. I was worked up over what might be. Anxious. And fretful. I was dark and moody over a what if that never came to pass.

And so, our story began. First came love. The picture below was taken seventeen years ago just before he proposed to me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then came marriage…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And here we are eighteen years later… needing another baby carriage!

pic10

And so today, I understand I expended a lot of useless energy fretting over things that never happened. Today, I’m right where I’m supposed to be with the family I’m supposed to have. My cup runneth over. And yet, I find myself doing the same thing all over again. I’ve been anxious. I’ve been worrying. And I have a whole new set of what if’s that set up shop in my brain. Jason recently remarked on what a scary place my mind must actually be. That in reply to something irrational I either said or did. It could have been any of the following…

I lock the basement door at night because it’s beside our bedroom door. Reason being I fear my son will stumble through the house at night and open the basement door instead of walking through our door, which would obviously cause him to tumble to the concrete floor below. And for three months now, I’ve been driving my car to the end of the driveway when it’s time for the bus. And there I sit there with my baby in my arms, tensing up with each passing car. As they whir by, I wonder if this is the one that will lose control and plow right into us. If my son runs down the paved driveway, I cry out, “Slow down or you’ll fall!” If he touches my little girl’s mouth, I cringe and cry out, “Did you wash your hands?” Germs, you know. Of course, I wash my hands about twenty times a day. And let me not go into the details of the time I was convinced – CONVINCED – that my son and I had worms! We didn’t, by the way. And I could go on and on. The list is endless.

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 

So here’s the thing. I just went through this two years ago with my son. I confronted my fears and thought I’d overcome them. And I lay them down anew this past summer. But here I am again facing the same demons. I have to ask myself what’s happened? What’s changed? And it’s so obvious. I had a baby. And she’s fragile. She’s new. And you know… I’m just not a natural mother. I’m not like those women who are so good and easy with their kids. Some women are just gifted that way. Motherhood seems almost effortless on their part… they flow. Me? I’m uptight. Nervous. In fact, the only thing I seem to be a natural at is worrying.

When I first brought Annabelle home, she went through something called cluster-feeding. She ate and ate. She was on my chest for hours at a time. I’m not exaggerating. HOURS. One night I became frantic after one of her cluster feeds because she kept pulling back and arching her back. She just wouldn’t stop crying. Then I remembered skin on skin. I stripped us both down and pulled her tightly to me. I encouraged her to eat, but to no avail. Finally, I woke my husband in a panic. “I think she forgot how to suck!” He calmly took her in his arms and stretched her across the bed, and she quieted. Turns out she didn’t forget how to suck after all. She was just through eating.

Not long after bringing Annabelle home, we realized she spits up after every feeding. This just adds to my fears. She could choke. So I try to keep her upright as long as I can. The worst spitting episode came was when my son gave her a bottle. Because he held it in her mouth, the spit up went up her nose and she did choke. Once she was able to, she cried so. And me, too. An hour later, I cried again when I told my husband. Ever the voice of reason, Jason said she seems okay now. Later, though, after hearing some weird noises coming out of Annabelle, I remembered a dry-drowning article I read. So I sat there and peered at her for hours. Again, I woke my husband in the middle of the night. “She’s having trouble breathing and has little bubbles coming out of her mouth!” I actually thought she was going to dry-drown on her own spit up. Alas, we made it through the night and she was okay. My husband was right after all.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7

Reality? After eighteen years, I still cling. I still fret. I’m still anxious. I worry about things that are out of my control. I’m secure in my marriage, so now I fear losing something else. A million new what if’s have taken over my heart and mind. And it’s absolutely exhausting. I’ve been relying on my feeble arms and my human strength in an attempt to control everything. EVERYTHING. And I imagine the worst. And today, it’s as if I can hear the echo of what my husband said eighteen years ago… “What if, Pam? What if?”

So today I must contemplate what feeds the what if’s of my imagination. What compels me to lock basement doors and hold my breath as I sit at the end of the driveway. And it’s not necessarily an accident or sickness I dread, it’s what could be the end result of those things. Fear of losing the one I love. That’s what it was eighteen years ago, and it’s the same thing today. And so, I worry about it. I think up all kinds of crazy scenarios that might happen, and try to stop them before they do. And I think if I hold on to what’s most important to me, I can control what happens to them. But I can’t do that. No one can.

In light of my lack of control, I have to consider another “What if?” See, a while back I read the question, “If God were real, and He is who He says He is, what then?” It was meant to be a challenge because a lot of us say we believe in God, but do we really? I mean deep down in our soul believe. Because if God is real, and if His word really is truth, what then? The right answer… I would not fear. I would not worry about tomorrow because I know that He is in control. But for the life of me, something won’t let me let go of fear.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18

I love the picture below. It captures all I hold dearest. That’s my family. This is my town. And look at that little angel. For three months now, I’ve been clinging to her. I hold her so tightly in my arms and cover her with kisses. And that’s not a bad thing. But the danger in holding her too tightly is losing my grip on God. And thus, faith is diminished. I’ve not been leaning on those everlasting arms, rather, I’ve been trusting in the human arms that hold my daughter. I’ve been looking to me to keep my family safe, not God. And I know I can’t do that. Deep in my heart I know I can’t control anything. So why do I keep trying?

IMG_0577

Eighteen years ago, Jason said “What if, Pam?” He was the voice of reason. And he was right because the things I feared never came to pass. And in looking at the picture above, I see the worst did not happen. I didn’t lose Jason after all. Instead, God gave me even more than I could have hoped for. The scared young woman I was had no clue what God had in store for me. For us. And so today, I pray I can remember the truth about what if. That most of the time, what if doesn’t even come to pass. That the terrible things I scare myself with are all in my head. And no matter how hard I try, or no matter how hard I cling to someone or something, some circumstances are simply out of my control.

You know, what if could happen. It could. And if it does, I just need to remember the other “what if.” Because what if God is real and He is who He says He is? Well, then… He’ll see me through it. Whatever “if” turns out to be.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=jesus+take+the+wheel&qpvt=jesus+take+the+wheel&FORM=VDRE#view=detail&mid=86FD62D60E54555D130F86FD62D60E54555D130F