If you build it, they will come…

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

Lindsey included a message…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labels

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We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:12

I stuck this hot pink sticky note to my computer yesterday afternoon. It says Labels and they’re what I use when working from home. Several days ago I used my last and if I don’t write myself a reminder, I won’t remember to pick up new.

And that’s it, basically. I need new labels. Tonight, though, I can’t help but smile as I see that word penned by my own hand…

Labels.

Because it’s not just the 1/3 Cut Avery filing labels I’m in need of. No, there’s another kind of label that’s stuck to me most of my life. Every bit as much as that pink note is stuck to my computer. And in truth, it’s the other type of label that needs my full attention today.

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la·bel (noun): a classifying phrase or name applied to a person or thing, especially one that is inaccurate or restrictive.  

synonyms: designation, description, tag; name, epithet, nickname, title, sobriquet, pet name, cognomen

la·bel (verb): assign to a category, especially inaccurately or restrictively.

synonyms: categorize, classify, class, describe, designate, identify; mark, stamp, brand, condemn, pigeonhole, stereotype, typecast; call, name, term, dub, nickname

I can tell you the first time I felt labeled. And though I don’t remember my age, I know I was young. It happened when I was with my dad.

See, occasionally Daddy, who was a house painter, had to take my brother and me with him to work. And the house we frequented the most was a brick plantation home within view of our small apartment. And a lot of those memories are good…

Like the heat of the morning sun as it warmed the top of my head. And the excitement that bubbled its way to the surface despite my being painfully shy. And the sound of our feet on the pavement as we padded across the highway.

We’d follow Daddy down the road, along the gravel driveway, and to the sidewalk where the smell of boxwoods threatened to overtake us. And I delighted as a hundred kitties (or so it seemed) swirled through my legs, hindering my progress to the door. Inside the home, my eyes had to adjust to the cool darkness that enveloped the kitchen.

And me.

Onward we’d trudge, following Daddy to where he’d station himself for the day. Likely this is where he’d issue his instructions. Stay out of sight, stay out of the way, and be quiet. But once he began painting, my brother and I were left to our own devices. Free to roam the property and play (as quietly as we possibly could).

Yes, it was on one such occasion I first felt the pang of being labeled. Indeed, I felt classified there…

It happened in the brick plantation home I could see from the yard in which I played.

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Let me tell you what I know about kids. I don’t care how quiet you tell them to be, there’s sure to be noise. And I don’t care how large the house, they’re sure to be seen. Mine are. And so were we. My brother and I were spotted more than once.

I remember someone asked the lady of the manor, “Who are those kids running around?” Her response, “Oh, they’re just the painter’s children.” Now, to be fair, there’s a chance she didn’t use the word just. As I said, I was young and the years may have clouded part of my memory.

However, that’s how I heard it. I was “just.” Or “only.” Not esteemed enough for an introduction or to be called by name. Simply, I was the painter’s daughter. And in her eyes, and perhaps mine, Daddy was the hired help.

And that’s when the first label stuck. And though the word wasn’t spoken, it felt as if the word “insignificant” were attached to me. Just as securely as that hot pink sticky is affixed to my computer, that faulty label secured itself to my lowly self-image.

Yes, in that large house for perhaps the first time, I felt unimportant and inferior. Deemed less than by the world’s measurement system. My name not even worth mentioning…

For I’d been labeled the painter’s daughter.

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As I grew, other labels were slapped on. People’s careless remarks attached themselves to me causing me to value myself less and less.

“Jennifer can pick that up but you can’t.” I was deemed weak. “Just because your two best friends are popular doesn’t mean you are.” I was designated as tolerated. “Your hair is so boring. Just do something with it!” I was classified as dull and uninteresting. “That was stupid, why’d you say that?” I was identified as stupid. “I can read you like a pamphlet.” The meaning clear… I was shallow.

Oh, and this one was particularly good. It was during mail call while I was in basic training for the Air Force. The TI called out, “Peyton!” Then repeated, “Peyton? Do we even have a Peyton in here?”

Yes, I was there. But true to form, I faded into the background. And another label was added… faceless.

Maybe Daddy’s instructions to me as a small child were just that good. For he said, “Stay out of sight, stay out of the way, and be quiet.” And for many years, that’s what I tried to do.

But as for you, do you seek great things for yourself? Stop seeking! Jeremiah 45:5

I was a wallflower most of my young life. It came natural to me. That’s because I inherited a few things from my Daddy. See, by nature, he’s quiet and reclusive. Oh, people would have classified him as the life of the party in his younger days. And that’s what I would have said, too.

However, I know the truth now. I know he’s really quiet and shy. And I get that from him.

Eventually, though, the young woman I became no longer wanted to be quiet and shy. No more did I want to stay out of sight. Instead, I sought visibility. I craved significance. Likely because it’s what I never had. Or it felt like I didn’t. And it’s what I highly esteemed.

Alas, the spotlight seemed to be reserved for the people I gravitated toward. They were loud and funny and popular. The center of attention. And I wanted all this for myself. Yes, these were the labels I coveted and set out to acquire…

Labels like witty, funny, important, sought-after, significant, deep. Or how about known. Just to have my name out there. Worthy enough to be mentioned in leading circles.

Shamefully, I made this my aim. Seeking value and renown. Even into my early forties, I found myself trying to be someone I’m really not. Always striving to be more than me. More than who God created me to be. Hoping new labels would cover up the old ones I didn’t like. The ones that seemed to stick to me no matter how hard I tried to peel them off…

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you [from captivity];
I have called you by name; you are Mine!

“Because you are precious in My sight,
You are honored and I love you,
I will give other men in return for you and other peoples in exchange for your life.” Isaiah 43:1,4

I’ve read the above Scripture multiple times in my life. And it’s weighty. Powerful. And on more than one occasion, I knew God was speaking this message directly over me. But it never took. The labels I find within these verses just wouldn’t stick with me. Or to me. Likely because the old ones were too gummy. Unlike the hot pink sticky note on my computer, the old labels wouldn’t peel off easily.

Not till now, they didn’t. Not till last week.

Because for the very first time, I think I understand what that word redeemed means. In all my years as a Christian, it finally rings true. And I can say it and mean what I say…

I am redeemed.

Yes, God has redeemed me. The thing is, I never fully realized my need for redemption until recently. Only when I comprehended I was held captive… a slave to the world’s value system. All my life, really.

That’s because culture’s line of measurement was deeply ingrained within me. Going all the way back to the little girl I was who overheard a manor woman speak about her. And perhaps I placed too much importance on her casual remark. In all likelihood, she didn’t mean a thing by what she said. I’m sure I just took it that way.

The point is, it stuck. And layers of labels were added. I let them all stick to me. And each one chipped away at my sense of value. My self-worth.

Finally, though, God’s words sank in. Finally, I believed what He was telling me. I believed Him when He said He calls me by name. I believed Him when He told me I’m His. I believed I’m precious in His sight. And that I’m honored and loved.

The biggest miracle, though, is those old labels finally came loose. Peeled right off last week as I made room for the new ones I received.

New labels were affixed identifying me as redeemed, called, named, His, precious, seen, honored, and loved.

These are the labels I was in desperate need of. So much more than I need a box of Avery labels for new files…

And now, because I finally believed what God said, I know my true worth. I know how significant I am to Him. I am oh, so valuable. I know because He tells me through His holy word. Through the prophet Isaiah.

For He said He’d give men for my life. And He did. He gave One man in exchange for mine. It was His own precious Son…

For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ… 1 Peter 1:18-19

That word redeemed means to ransom. And today I’m beginning to comprehend just how much God paid for me. For Jesus’ valuable, costly, honored, esteemed, beloved blood purchased me. That’s how valued I am. That’s how much I’m worth…

To God.

But not to the world. No, the world has another type of measurement system. And in truth, the world cannot comprehend what holds real value. The world can’t and those enslaved by it can’t.

For Isaiah 53:3 says the world despised and rejected Jesus. The world turned from him. Its people did not appreciate His worth or esteem Him. And as to His value, Judas betrayed him for only 30 pieces of silver… valued at the cost of a slave (Zechariah 11:12-13).

But God knew Jesus’ true value. And for those of us who have been redeemed from the world’s value system, we know, too. And because we understand His true worth, we can begin to comprehend our own.

Honor [esteem, value as precious] your father and mother… Ephesians 6:2

There’s this proverb (20:20) that says “whoever curses his father or mother, his lamp [of life] will be extinguished in time of darkness.” The definition for “curses” is to treat lightly, to regard as insignificant.

And I realize this is the sin of my young life. It happened when I adopted the world’s value system. In essence, I cursed my father in that I didn’t think I was enough. I always wished I’d been more than I was.

Because I’d been deemed a house painter’s daughter.

No formal education. No degree to my name. No real career path. But now I know that’s the world talking. Culture’s measurement system at it’s best. Not God’s estimation of me. Or my dad…

And so today, for Daddy’s recent birthday, my wish is to pay him honor. Like in Ephesians 6:2 above, I want him to know he is esteemed and precious and valued in not just God’s sight, but my own.

And because Exodus 20:12 commands me to honor my father, I want him to know the definition for that word. It means to be heavy, weighty. I read that as significance. I want Daddy to know he is just that. Significant…

To God.

But also to me, a house painter’s daughter.

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Show proper respect to everyone… 1 Peter 2:17

God ties everything together. Like with that word respect in the above verse. It means to estimate, fix the value, honour. It comes from a word meaning to prize. And I believe God did something for me and for my dad a couple of years ago with regard to this definition…

He showed me just how clearly He saw me as a little girl in that brick plantation home. And just how clearly He saw my dad as he painted all those years around this county of ours.

See, there was a benefit for the local food pantry. It was to be held at an estate in which my father spent several years painting. Turns out the owner of the property was a local man who left for some years and returned later on. His wish was for local people to attend the dinner…

And I never would have thought to attend only, he mentioned my father by name. In the newspaper. He personified the above verse by showing respect to my dad, and a few other tradesmen, by mentioning how their great skill aided in the beauty of his home. And that act alone seemed to be a direct invitation from God.

So I went. I had the opportunity to meet this gentleman and told him who I was. I said, “Hi, I’m George Peyton’s daughter.”

And his eyes lit up as he spoke of my dad. And my eyes lit up, too. Thankful for what he said. And thankful that God knew I needed to hear it.

Because see, he most definitely is not “just the painter.” He has a name and he is significant in the eyes of His Redeemer. Oh, Daddy is precious in His sight. Honored and loved.

And not just by God.

All this holds true for me, too. His daughter…

My name is Pam.

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In closing, if Daddy is anything like me, he may have acquired a few labels over the years. I want him to know the old ones are just like hot pink sticky notes. Really, they peel right off.

And the new labels can be stuck right on…

house painter’s daughter

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Does the clay say to the potter,
    ‘What are you making?’
Does your work say,
    ‘The potter has no hands’?
Woe to the one who says to a father,
    ‘What have you begotten?’
or to a mother,
    ‘What have you brought to birth? Isaiah 45:9-10

It all comes to this. My heritage. 42 years old and I see the truth of what I’ve been doing. Fighting God on my very existence. The core of who I am. Forever trying to rise above my station in life… and what He created me to be. For I was born a servant. And that’s what He bids me to be today. Servant.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. However, I’ve not wanted that. Resisted my destiny. I denied my heritage and hoped to be something more.

So I quarreled with my Maker. I bucked under His yoke.

But today I stop. Instead of struggling, I accept. And embrace. For I am a servant…

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
    We are the clay, you are the potter;
    we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8

Daddy painted houses and until my mom went back to school, she was a waitress. And my grandma was a house cleaner at the hospital while the other, Mammie, was a housewife who tended to a large brood of children. One grandfather was a house painter and the other a farmer. This is my stock. My roots.

My heritage is blue-collar all the way.

But the truth is, I’ve fought my birthright all my life. Because from the get-go, I understood the difference between us and them. Those who don’t matter and those who do. At least according to the world’s set of scales. The one I adopted as my own.

And I’m sad to say, this made me ashamed of who I was. And am. Because when I looked to the rock from which I was hewn, I always wished it had been different. That my family’s station was more than it was.

Deep down, I felt it all. 2nd class. Inferior. Servant. The Help. Low. Thus, I felt respect was unattainable. Ultimately, that I had a name not even worth mentioning. Likely stemming from a time I accompanied Daddy to work. I must have been five or so. We lived on the backside of a store and the big brick plantation home across the highway was our destination.

It was exciting to walk across that road. Mine and Sonny’s feet working to keep up with Daddy’s longer strides. The feel of the gravel driveway crunching underfoot till we came upon the sidewalk. The smell of boxwoods overpowering and synonymous with money even to this day. Again, in my mind.

Oh, the thrill of a hundred cats swirling about my shins as the dame of the house was a cat lover. These outside kitties within reach, but those of the kitchen untouchable. Majestic on their high perches. One atop a refrigerator and the other on the counter. Imposing animals as they reigned over the cool, darkness of a room at least a hundred years old.

After entrance to the grand house, Daddy would leave us to our own devices as he got to work. And my brother and I had the whole of the estate. This became our playground. Up and down, in and out, we roamed. One day, a visitor to the house noticed us and asked. The mistress answered, ‘Oh, that’s just the painter’s children.”

And it stuck. Just. The painter’s children. Lowly in station. And not worthy of a name.

So I spent most of my life trying to be more than that.

Fighting my destiny and God’s plans for me. Hoping to make a name for myself.

“Set up road signs;
    put up guideposts.
Take note of the highway,
    the road that you take.
Return, Virgin Israel,
    return to your towns.
How long will you wander,
    unfaithful Daughter Israel?
The Lord will create a new thing on earth—
    the woman will return to the man.”. Jeremiah 31:21-22

At eighteen, I left my hometown. There was a short stint in Florida with my best friend but it didn’t work out. I returned within 2 months. I left home a second time one year later when I joined the U.S. Air Force. There was no quick return that time as a four year tour turned to nineteen years away.

And though I never thought I’d want to upon my departure, eventually I longed to return. I ached for my family and the soil of my homeland. With all my heart, I wanted to put down lasting roots amidst my people. And when least expected, God gave me what I desired most. It was exactly five years ago when He returned me home for good.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ Luke 15:17-24

Amazingly, I discovered the truth about God & me right here in my hometown. Because I realized I was the same girl I always was. Though I came home at thirty-eight believing myself to be someone different, and something more, a new creation… I was still a house painter’s daughter at heart. And all that implied.

Truth remained far off throughout the years because God’s word was distant. Unknown. Not desirable to me…

Made no difference that my aunt Shirley gave me a Bible when I was eighteen. No, I never cracked the cover. And even though my friend Celeste gifted me with a Gideon’s Bible from the airport just months later, God’s word was afar. While in Korea, a mere acquaintance left a Bible on my doorstep. Oh, I must have been twenty-two. That one stayed in its plastic cover for a long, long time.

Finally, though, I received a Bible from someone who meant a great deal to me. God’s word became important to me when it was a gift from my husband. We were dating at the time. December of 1996. Jason’s words grace the front…

The keys to life, and beyond, can be found in this book. With love, Jason

This is the Bible I first opened. And though sporadic at best, I began to read it. Short bursts of God’s words. Over time, they began to spring to life. I just couldn’t get enough of Scripture as it leapt off the pages into my hard heart. I was voracious.

His first specific word to me was about my hometown. A promise. He said He’d bring me back and I believed Him. Sure enough, months later I was home. It was then that God led me to my past. He said uncover it. So His words led me step by step and layer by layer till I dug deep enough to hit roots. Further still till I hit the rock bed of my heritage. My inheritance.

I sifted through all my belongings. Yearbooks and letters. Pictures and sentiments. And eventually, I found that first Bible. The one from my Aunt Shirley. Therein lie a note from her. She encouraged me to read Luke 15… the story of the prodigal.

The thing is, I never did. I didn’t even remember the note. Likely, I’d never read it. And even if I had at eighteen, or nineteen, or twenty-two, or thirty-eight, it wouldn’t have meant much. But today, as a forty-two year old woman, her note means the world to me. The story of the prodigal most hopeful.

Because that’s what I am.

In every way imaginable. I’m returning to Daddy and his foundation. And I’m returning to my heavenly Father and His foundation. After running in the other direction for so long, I find myself turning…

Inside and out,

steps leading me backward,

to him, Daddy.

And to Him, Abba Father.

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15

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I was wrong for so long. Deep down I felt God kept the good life from me through an upbringing that denied me silver spoons and golden coins. But finally, I realize He gave me everything.

EVERYTHING.

My God and my Father denied me nothing but instead, gave me all He had. His most prized possession. His Son.

And yet, I wasted years by feeling less than because I had less than others. What a farce. But oh, I swallowed it down. I bought the lie that respect was only due the person of status. Renown. Someone with a four year degree and a title. Letters after a name.

Someone who had a name…

You ignored the Rock who gave you birth; You forgot the God who brought you forth. Deuteronomy 32:18

God has been lavish with me. Luxurious, even. But so focused on attaining a name for myself and status, I easily overlooked His blessings. Never noticed that He’s given me more than I could ever hope for. No, I chose to fixate on the fact He seemed to be withholding the one thing that would bring me what I so desired.

See, a name in lights would bring respect. And honor. At least in the worldly realm, it would. So leaving God behind, I tried to make a name for myself. Self-seeking instead of God-seeking. Sacrifice to self instead of pure offerings to Him. I left Him in the dust…

Forgetting all He did. For me.

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness,
Who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were hewn
And to the quarry from which you were dug.” Isaiah 51:1

God showed me something huge this Summer. It has to do with name-seeking and my father. See, my daddy was nameless, too. For a while. Seems his family called him boy. And though the nick-name came about because he was surrounded by so many sisters, it occurred to me to ask in July… did it bother you?

Today, though, the epiphany is deepened. I think about the lady of that great house and her remark. Just the house painter’s children. And my heart feels a pang. See, the selfish girl I was saw only what it meant to me. However, to the woman God is making me, I see it in another light. I see it with regard to Daddy.

Turns out it wasn’t just me who’s walked through life feeling nameless. Or invisible. Because perhaps Daddy did, too. This is his legacy… my heritage. It’s what’s been passed down. Namelessness.

The good news, though, is this doesn’t have to be my inheritance any longer. Or Daddy’s.

Because the truth is if the One who really matters knows our name, nothing else matters. Not at all. Oh, we may fall through the cracks of the world and its value system, but we won’t escape His notice. He sees us right where we are. And just as we are.

And He calls us by name…

I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. Isaiah 45:3

I allow this truth to settle in my bones today.

It allows me to embrace my destiny as servant… my heritage as a blue collar worker. A stay at home mom whose works go unnoticed by the world. Nameless in a sea of people, but noticed by the One who calls me by name. And for this, I am thankful. And I rejoice. For my God has been lavish with me. Luxurious, even.

Oh yes, I am a house painter’s daughter. But more than that, I am daughter of a King.

Child of God, that’s who I am.

It’s who He’s making me to be.