White Washed Tombs

I took a drive today to a place I once lived. Something once so familiar now screams of distance and abandon, of days long past and reminders of how far I’ve come.

Even the sky is dim framing the homes fallen to disrepair, forgotten or ignored by the “noble” ones; still occupied by dreamers or those who’ve given up, a little of both, who am I to say?

The middle of the street interrupted by medians that were created a few years ago by those seeking to rejuvenate or beautify the otherwise dismal. Live oaks and palm trees stand like proud pillars lending shade to the mass of flowers beneath. Anything to train the eye to ignore the reality and focus on the seemingly lovely.

Money spent to cover up instead of resolve. Funds allocated to appearance instead of wholeness and recovery. An attempt to buy hope for the broken instead of introducing the need to the one who IS hope, the answer, the truth.

Maybe that’s what we’ve become. White washed tombs who hide our need behind proud pillar smile and flowery words. Broken and bound within but perfumed and covered by manicured skin and rote responses, “I’m doing great! How are you?” “Blessed and highly favored” though the words lack sincerity and genuineness.

My heart breaks for the broken ones, the ones hidden behind showcases of beauty. Can we acknowledge the need and do something or do we drive by and focus on the flowers? Am I willing to allow my eyes to see? Am I broken for others and pouring out in prayer and kindness? Am I offering my hands and my heart or am I content with the covering?

Not just on the street among the drug bound and needy, but in the grocery store when I see someone who needs a smile and a word of encouragement. To the cashier whose day consisted of complaints and busy people. In the church where the people so often hide who they really are for fear of rejection (struggling with secret sin but too afraid to admit it and find healing)? Do I walk by and join the others, refusing to go deeper into the fray? Will I not be moved to compassion for another?

Am I a white washed tomb, who appears to have the answers but never provides a solution? Am I real? Do my words show the genuineness and compassion of a loving, infinite, savior and comforter who longs to mend the broken-hearted and restore the weak.

Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours. Here I am, send me.

Refresher

Your word, oh Lord, awakens my soul

Like water washing over the tired and dusty crags that shape the landscape of my heart

I searched within and found myself wandering, lost somehow in the maze of my mind

Like a light your thoughts toward me jumped from page, to guide, shining the path toward safety

In you, I am refreshed

In you, I am free

In you, the smile forming on my empty lips is genuine and easy

O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise. Psalm 51:15

An Angel in Sock Monkey Slippers

She’s an angel in sock monkey slippers.

Her smile amazes me.

She sees the world in color without fear of what others may see.

She’s come along way since her little blond curls and her belief that apples made her superman.

She’s stronger than most and wiser than her peers.

She’s brilliant and discerning.

She’s conquering her fears.

 

She’s an angel in sock monkey slippers looking for the right angle.

I love her determined focus when she sees an opportunity.

I love her sense of humor, her integrity, the sound of her laughter.

I’m very proud of the young woman she’s becoming.

 

She’s my angel in sock monkey slippers.

We can drive each other mad at times.

Still, I love our time together, fake accents and spontaneous singing.

I love talking with her about random things.

I love that I get to be her mom.

Dream on Sock Monkey!

 

 

Gotta’ do what you gotta’ do

Whoever said pregnancy was magical must not have dealt with morning sickness. I have, in my four pregnancies, experienced varying degrees of first trimester ickyness. This time hasn’t been too bad until the past week or so. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that folks ask how I am feeling and up to this point, I’ve been able to say that I’m feeling great despite a little fatigue and the occasional nauseated moment. So since I was bragging, I am getting hit with the big guns. I am not feeling so good these days! Even as I sit here and type, I feel more and more rumbly in my tumbly. I’m sure this post will be cut short and revisited before it becomes complete as a result of this.

I realize that this is a completely normal part of a healthy pregnancy so I try not to complain about it too much (though my husband may disagree with me about the quantity of my whining). I also know there are little things I can do to stave off the nausea. The most effective is for me to eat something which always makes me laugh when I think about how ironic that is. When I feel the least like eating and the most likely to be unable to eat, I must eat in order to feel human again. What an awful trick?!

Like so many other things in life, the principle holds true that sometimes we need to do what is good for us regardless of whether or not we feel like it. My kids rarely jump out of bed first thing in the morning bursting with excitement about another day of school, but they need to go in order to grow. I rarely revel in the thought of a tough workout (try NEVER these days), but if I want the results I go for it anyway. I rarely find my kids begging for more zucchini or broccoli (except for my oldest who is abnormal and prefers veggies to meat at ALL times) but I know they need healthy foods to be healthy so they eat them anyway. Sometimes, I don’t feel like spending an hour in prayer or a little extra time in the word, but without prayer and study, I cannot maintain my spiritual health.

I am sitting here at lunch time trying to determine what I’m going to try to ingest to calm my queasy midsection and nothing sounds appetizing but I either eat or I continue to feel miserable. What we need may not always match what we want but that doesn’t mean we won’t end up with the desired result. God knows exactly what we need and what’s best for us. Instead of trying to beat the system and get our way, maybe we should just do what we know is best and get rid of the ‘icky’ for awhile. Sometimes we just gotta’ do what we gotta’ do.

Courage

My kids and their cousins ready to conquer the world of canoeing

My daughter is working on an essay about Courage. She asked me the other day to name someone I found to be courageous. The problem wasn’t that I couldn’t think of anyone, it was more that I can think of so many acts of courage that happen daily. To name one courageous person seems difficult in the light of so many who have given their lives in sacrifice for others or who face great odds to accomplish great things.

 

Honestly, I didn’t think too much more about the subject until this morning when I opened II Samuel chapter 4:1 “When Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, heard that Abner was dead in Hebron, his courage failed, and all the Israelites were troubled and dismayed.”  Then dropping down to verse 4 “Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son who was a cripple in his feet. He was five years old when the news came out of Jezreel [of the deaths] of Saul and Jonathan. And the boy’s nurse took him up and fled; and in her haste, he fell and became lame. His name was Mephibosheth.” 

 

Later in the chapter, we find Ish-bosheth napping (not exactly an act of heroism) and he is killed upon his bed. Poor Mephibosheth is crippled for the rest of his life because of one woman’s fear which proved to be completely unfounded in the end.

 

Fear causes us to do dumb things. It can cripple us if we allow it to. We fear what others think of us so we do nothing or we hide. We fear rejection so we don’t connect with others. We fear being hurt so we put up walls around our hearts. We fear failure so we keep our ambitions to a minimum. We’ve heard it said that the only thing we should fear is fear itself. Maybe there is an element of truth to that. When I read II Samuel 4, it is pretty clear to me that the results of fear or the lack of courage led to destruction and death.

 

So what is real courage? I think David gives us a pretty good example. In I Samuel 30, David and his men came home to find that their wives and children had been taken captive. David was “greatly distressed” (verse 6) “But David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” Then he did the most courageous thing of all, rather than reacting blindly, verse 8 “David inquired of the Lord, saying, shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them? The Lord answered him, Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all. 9 “So David went…”

 

Over and over again, we find David in overwhelming circumstances with enemies coming after him and armies surrounding him. Each time we see the same words, “David inquired of the Lord” True courage is found in true faith. David strengthened himself in the Lord and knew that without the Lord, he could do nothing. In each situation he waited for the voice of God to speak into the circumstance and then he acted in obedience. Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

 

Courage isn’t just the absence of fear. Courage is the knowledge that despite the circumstance, God has is under control and His plans are good.

 

Lord, let my first reaction to every situation be to inquire of you. Then give me the courage to do what you tell me to knowing that You are good and You will never leave me. I am completely secure in Your hands and completely able to accomplish whatever you set before me with You leading the way. Thank you that you choose to do great things through vessels of clay and dust. Thank you that you can be glorified in any circumstance when we are courageous enough to get out of your way and walk in obedience.  I love being yours!

Reinvented

In rural, southern Ohio somewhere there is a band of stuffed animals and baby dolls who were once taught the word of God. When I was a little girl, I was convinced that I would be a preacher and a singer. I would play church with my stuffed animals in the backyard. I would lead worship, then read my bible aloud to them, then expound and teach them everything a teddy bear and bunny could need to know about the kingdom of God. At the end, I’d have an altar call and pray for them and for everyone else I know.

I was at a Women of Faith conference last week and Brenda Warner said when she was five years old she stood up in front of her church and announced that when she grew up she wanted to be either a preacher or a stripper. I guess it’s not who we think we’ll be but who we end up being that matters.

There are moments, when I can’t help but look back over my life and see the good and the bad. I’ve made so many mistakes and I’ve wasted so much time. There were times, I was so far from that little girl with dreams of changing the world, one teddy bear at a time.

Still, here I stand, determined that today will mean more than yesterday. Tomorrow will be a new beginning with new mercies and new opportunities. We have a choice to look back and mourn for what could have been or to pick up and do what we can with today.

I know there are those who look back and think that the past somehow disqualifies them from doing something in the present. I used to be one of them. The truth is that the past molds us into the person we are now and we are the ones chosen to accomplish that which God put in us to do. Through the grace of God, I see things differently than others might because of my experiences. I can use that vision to propel me toward the goals and dreams God put in me.

One of the greatest tools of our enemy is the ability to convince us that we are too messed up to accomplish our dreams or that it’s too late or that we aren’t good enough. As I listen to the stories of others I realize more and more that I am not the only one whose overcome great odds to become something beautiful.

God enables the willing. He isn’t constrained by our ideas of what it means to be “good enough”. He not only loves us in spite of the rubble. He is a master craftsmen who builds us into His image using the pieces we thought were irreparable. He simply waits for us to present ourselves to Him. Now is our greatest opportunity.

Storyteller

I find myself leaning in as I listen to my story as it pours from my own lips. It seems distant like a memory long washed away be the abrading fingers of time which scrape away all of the pain left to hinder my focus.

I listen intently in an effort to find life, a giant birthed out of the ashes; what was long seared to fade and fog. It is there as I press my ears to what lies beyond words, I hear your voice. “Broken pots spill more water” you say. Fill me with your river, Lord and I’ll wash the world.

 

My Poor Inner Neat Freak

I am a neat freak who is hopelessly trapped inside a messy person’s body. I find myself overcome with the desire to have a beautiful, clutter free home but the ability to keep it in such a state eludes me. This split personality frustrates me more than any other attribute I possess.

In May, we found the perfect, cozy little nest to call our home. It’s in a great location. The yard is great for the kids to play. We love it here and it was a huge upgrade from the tiny apartment we were living in prior to our move! As an added benefit, we live next door to our pastor and his wife. I work for the church and our offices have been located in my pastor’s home while our church was transitioning to a new facility so I can walk across the yard everyday to go to the office. Bonus!

Yesterday, I found myself colliding with my inner perfectionist when my Pastor called and said he had a dining room table we could have to replace the rickety one we had which never did quite fit in our dining area. It was a huge blessing! However, my house was not quite “fit for company”. I worked all day and then went to pick up the kids and rushed home to straighten up only to find out he was on his way at that moment. There was no time. In my frazzled state, my husband made a profound statement that shook me. He said, “It is what it is, why hide how we really live?” I can’t say I was happy with his comment at the time, but the truth is, we do live this way.

I can so easily find myself in a rose-colored world of denial where I run around like a madwoman attempting to hide the things I’d rather not let anyone else see. I can so easily find myself becoming comfortable with the chaos rather than mustering up the motivation to fix it. I can so easily find myself shifting the blame for my mania to those around me with things that are fundamentally true but possessing inherent faulty logic: statements like, “the kids really need to do more to help me around here. I shouldn’t have to do it all myself” which may be true, but I forget to acknowledge that I am responsible for assigning them tasks. I can’t complain that the house isn’t magically clean when I’ve not told them to do anything and I’m fighting in my own strength to stay on top of it as if I were some super ninja of organization. I can so easily find myself making excuses for my negligence (I am so busy, I work, I take care of three children, I’m pregnant and tired etc.).

Even deeper than the dirt and clutter in my home, are the implications these tendencies have in the realm of the soul. Are there areas I don’t want exposed to the world? Are there things in my heart, I’d rather not bother cleaning out, so I stuff them away to be dealt with later? Are there things that come out from time to time that would make me wince when others see them? Do I hesitate at the thought that someone may see “how I really live”?

My goal for this week is to examine myself both inside and out. I know better than to overwhelm myself with trying to conquer all my giants in less than 24 hours. I also know that starting where I am, in all my shortcomings, without beating myself up when I don’t perform up to my own standards, is better than remaining stuck beating my head against the same wall day after day. So today, I will accept where I am and take a step forward. My house won’t be spotless tomorrow and I probably won’t be posing for a write-up in Better Homes and Gardens any time soon. I doubt I’ll be receiving calls from the saints gone on before to tell me what a model of faith and holiness I am, but when all is said and done, no one will be able to say of me, that I didn’t try. That is enough to make me smile and I believe it pleases my Father as well.

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” Colossians 3:23