Never Disappointed

“I’m disappointed in you.”

Ever heard that from your parents?  Said it to your kids?  Felt like that’s what God would say to you?

Evidently, there’s a child-rearing Bible study out right now that justifies the use of the above statement with children.  The very idea gives me what my Granny would have called the “heebee jeebees.”  My parents, thanks be to God, never said those words to me.  Somehow I still always knew when I’d made a mistake. I’ve been talking with my 14 year old about this when she recently expressed she thought God was disappointed in her.  My heart broke to find she actually thought that, and yet the more I think it through, the more I wonder how many people use this method, and further, how many think God uses it on His kids?  Think about some things with me:

How effective could the statement, “I’m disappointed in you.” actually BE?  I say, not effective at all.  Unless, of course, you are attempting to accomplish humiliation, irritation, and ill feelings between you and your child.  Perhaps some say this phrase and really mean, “I know you can do better.”  or “I wanted better things for you.” or “I expected you to make a better choice, and I’m surprised you chose this way.”  But when “I’m disappointed in you.” comes out, what it REALLY communicates is:  “If you performed better, I’d be happier with you.”  and “I’m in a certain class, and you, because of your choices, no longer qualify to be in my upper crust group.”  and “I’m embarrassed by you because you aren’t as good as me.”  and “You’re just not as good as I thought you were.”

If I desire to parent my children as God would parent me, then I can’t say “I’m disappointed in you.”  You see, God, no matter how big my mistake has been, hasn’t been disappointed in me.  He hasn’t been disappointed in you.  Disagree?  Then I would ask you, how, if Jesus knew of your every sin when He died on the cross for you, could he possibly be disappointed?  Disappointment, by its essence, includes an element of surprise, an element of expecting one outcome and actually receiving another.  Yet God in His omniscience knew every bad choice you and I would make and still gave His only Son to be sin for us, to bear our punishment.  He knew EXACTLY the outcome.  You and I have never once surprised God, even with the most outrageous of our antics.  And without some element of surprise, you can’t have disappointment.

But I’m not omniscient like God, right?  Right. I still feel upset when my kids make bad decisions. However, unless I think that God has waited until now to create the first three perfect humans since Jesus and given them to me to be my children, then I must expect that these precious ones WILL make mistakes.  I should expect that they’ll have the same drives, same temptations, same flaws that all humans have and will, on occasion, fail to measure up to standard as they fight to handle their frailty.  More than wanting my children to know how upset I am that they messed up, I want them to learn from their mistakes, and I want them to know they don’t have to be perfect to be LOVED.

How very grateful I am that God is teaching this idea to me, His daughter.  His grace wasn’t given to me because I earned it, but because He loves me.  I’m so glad He isn’t waiting until I’m good enough to give me His approval, but gave it to me for free, based on the perfection of Jesus Himself.  I’ve striven many years to be “good enough,” to be as perfect as I could be, and yet I’ve always come up feeling like my best just didn’t make the cut.  What a freedom to be loved by God in spite of my flaws!  With that belief, I’m free to be me, to love God back, and continue getting to know Him through my own good and bad times.  The temptation to just quit, since I’ll never measure up anyway, is gone.  I’ve already “measured up” because of Jesus, so now I can get to know God and myself and explore who He made me to be.

I want that so much for my kids.  I want them to know that kind of love.  I want them to know the One who IS that kind of love.  I want them to climb higher than I ever dreamed they could, because they have the confidence to try, knowing they’ll be loved whether they succeed or fail.  That’s what I have in God, it’s what my parents lived for me, and what I want my own babies to know above all else, even as I try to believe it myself.

 

 

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Screaming Hussy

Yesterday a resident at the assisted living home where I work came to me for help.  He asked if I had a dictionary.  I had none, but there was a thesaurus on my desk, so I offered it to him.  “I just want to look up the meaning of a word,” he told me.  This gentleman has very poor eyesight, so after trying to read the tiny word and its synonyms, he asked if I’d read aloud to him.  The word?  Bimbo.

This gentleman is also VERY hard of hearing.  He must be spoken to loudly and slowly.  So, I proceeded to read the synonyms for “bimbo” to him.  I sat there, screaming “HUSSY, SLUT, WANTON, JEZEBEL, JADE, WENCH…” and so on.

Then he asked me to repeat it, of course, more loudly and slowly.

Several individuals walked past, including a brand new resident’s family.  What to do???  Nothing for it, I forged ahead and continued screaming, “HUSSEEEE…”

It seems to me that often life brings situations when doing what we are called to do makes us look foolish, even crazy.   Sometimes others might think we’re odd when they catch a glimpse of us going about our God-given tasks.

I’m not easily embarrassed, so it’s not that I was bothered all that much by the words I was saying.  However, I do love to maintain the illusion of perfection, and what, I ask you, is perfect-looking about a woman screaming at the top of her lungs, “SLUUUT, WENNNCH…”??? Part of my job is to maintain some sort of professionalism and yelling such words is hardly professional.  However, a more important part of my job is to love the people God brings my way.

As the meaning of the word was heard, an enormous grin passed across this man’s face.  He began to chuckle, since he now understood the punchline of whatever he’d been told that got him wondering about the word “bimbo.”  Imagine a man who, since he can hardly see and hardly hear, has almost no social interaction.  He lives most of his days in silence, finding it too frustrating to continuously ask others to slow down and speak more loudly.  A man who once had a successful law career, a wife, and no doubt an interesting life, now hardly has any interpersonal contact.

But not yesterday.  Yesterday, we laughed like old friends.  We shared a silly moment, and I got to see a rare smile and even rarer mirth from this guy who normally gets by on necessary contact, but almost never enjoys a friendly chat.  Sometimes loving another person isn’t the normal sugary sweet stuff.  Sometimes taking advantage of the opportunities God gives us to love means we might end up doing something seemingly foolish.

Yesterday, I loved someone by screaming, “SLUT!!!” at him.  I ignored what I feared others might think, gave this one person my undivided attention, and in turn, made his day and mine.  It’s the funniest thing I’ve been called upon to do in a while, but it’s had me thinking ever since how much I want to be able to seize opportunities to love, even the weird opportunities.  I want to do what I’m called to do, what I’m MADE to do, no matter how it looks to passers-by.  I want to have the guts to own my life, use my gifts, and pour out all I have.  No holding back.  Even if it means screaming “HUSSY!”

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Offense and Defense

Origins NOLA has been studying the books of 1, 2, and 3 John.  Again and again as I’ve read these books, my attention turns to one subject:  Love.

God is love.  Love one another.  We love because He first loved us.  All these ideas are repeated throughout 1st 2nd and 3rd John.

The bottom line is, believers should be marked, above all else, by their love.  As I’ve been pondering this subject, I’ve been asking myself:  How am I doing in this area?   If Jesus’ main command to me as a believer is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself,” then it’s high time I take stock of my ability to love.  One thing I’ve found is that I’ve never really spent much time purposefully searching for ways to grow in my ability to love.  I wouldn’t say that meanness is a defining trait of mine, but that’s not the same as being a person who loves excellently.  I know how to be a nice girl, but that doesn’t automatically mean I’m great at love.

As we were talking Sunday, discussing the idea of loving others, it occurred to me that when it comes to showing love there are two main directions, if you will.  I’ll call them offense and defense.  (Thanks to my Dad, my brother Bud and beloved New Orleans Saints for a good grasp of the game of football.)

Offense love I’ll define as active, purposeful things done to show love.  Defense love I’ll define as countering whatever comes our way with love.  Showing love through reactions, patience, and the ability to recognize and capitalize upon unexpected situations where love is needed.

Saving my pennies for months to surprise my husband with something special?  Offense.  Dropping my plans to listen to a friend who calls?  Defense.  Planning a special day for my daughter? Offense.  Setting aside my book when my little boy asks me to watch his latest trick? Defense.

There are times in loving that I take the initiative, the offense if you will, and make some love happen.  Then there are those constant moments when love should be the rule that governs whatever situations come along, a sort of defense played as life brings along bad days, stressful times, or needy individuals.

I’m planning to explore these ideas a bit more.  I’m excited at the possibilities that come to mind when I think of improving my “game” as I seek to obey Jesus’ command to love.  I’ll be writing a few more blogs on this subject, but for now I wonder if anyone has some thoughts for me…  Which is more difficult for you, offense or defense love?  Why?  And, why do you think there isn’t more specific direction about HOW to love?  Has anyone else been going along as I have, sort of assuming love would come naturally to a believer but not really purposefully seeking to learn HOW?

 

 

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Hulk

Lately my sons have picked up a fascination with the Incredible Hulk.  Through the miracle of Netflix, they’ve been watching the old school show from the 70’s and 80’s that I remember watching with my brother and sister as kids.  We loved it then and my boys love it now.  I don’t know about my brother and sister, but I guess I always thought we had our very own Hulk at home, our Dad!  Somehow mom figured out how to paint Bud green one year and he was Hulk for halloween! And of course take one look at my brother’s website and you’ll see just how Hulkish he actually IS!  The ol’ Hulk has influenced our lives in more ways than one.

Laugh if you like, but those old Hulk shows have really got me thinking.  I’ve observed a few things:

1)  I think it’s interesting how the Hulk turns a negative emotion (anger) into his superpower.  Anger has been the downfall of many people and has ruined many relationships.  I think anger is feared by many because it is difficult to control, so we don’t allow it any expression at all until we’re at explosion.  Anger is a painful emotion and I know I find it easier to stuff it down than try to deal with it appropriately.  What would it mean if we could allow a potential fault to actually become an asset when used properly?  The Hulk’s always about righteous indignation, in that he turns green in anger only to save the day and defeat the bad guys. Could this principle apply to other flaws as well?  Could my other potential problems like my love for too much sugar be channeled into something positive?

2)  I can’t help noticing that the crux of Hulk’s superpower is the ability to force things to happen.  Someone won’t cooperate?  No prob for the Hulk.  He simply picks them up and places them where he likes.  Airplane cargo door in the way?  He just rips it off!  Someone trying to run him over?  He just stops the car.  What a dream!  To be able to simply make it happen.  Now, there’s no way I’ll ever come close to that in physical strength.  But what about mental, emotional, psychological strength?  I don’t often need to rip off airplane doors, but there sure are plenty of times I’d like to be able to have the mental determination to get that next book written in spite of all the distractions in my life.  I’d like to be able to overcome the fatigue that turns me into someone I don’t want to be.  I’d like to be able to “grit my teeth” emotionally and power through the walls I’ve put up to protect myself.  I’d like to be so darn irresistible that… well, I wouldn’t be resisted!!  I stare in fascination as a big green Lou Ferigno powers through another harrowing situation and deep down I want that type of strength too.

3)  The Hulk’s always been my favorite superhero.  Better than Superman (too pretty), Spiderman,(too mysterious) Batman,(too self-important).  There’s something wonderful about the Hulk’s inconceivable strength matched only by his tenderness with those in need of saving.  Reminds me of my daddy, my big brother, and yeah, of God.  There’s something great about that strength used on behalf of someone weaker.  There’s something so comforting about being protected in that way.  I honestly think this concept drew me to God as a child, the knowledge that He is so big, so omnipotent that no evil is a match for Him.  I’ll always need God in that way, and always find such joy in the knowledge that though all power is His, He chooses to speak gently to me, to carry me tenderly, and to use His incredible strength for my good but never to hurt me.

Perhaps it’s twisted that my brain runs in all these directions while taking in a campy old superhero show with my little boys, but it does.  So why not subject you to my Hulkish thoughts?

Aw, David Banner, I like ya pretty good when you’re angry.

 

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Termite Theology

It’s time for house church.  Picture this:

We were gathered around the dining table, two couples, a single mom, two kids, two toddlers, and a teenager.  On the lazy susan at the center of the table sat my laptop, with our dear friend’s face on the screen.  (She’s homebound and so we Skype her in for church.  We spin her around on the lazy susan so she can see who’s sharing in the discussion.) Kids were sleepy and cranky, Dads sleepy too from long hours at work.  Everyone was distracted it seemed.  I was presenting our lesson and it seemed like no one was paying attention or interested.  Then it happened…

Termites invaded our church time.  (In New Orleans, we are blessed seasonally with swarms of termites.  These pesky creatures swarm (think plagues of Egypt) and are especially fond of light.)  In the midst of what seemed to be a particularly chaotic church time already, we began to see termites flying around us.  People around the table began smacking their hands together in an effort to annihilate the intruders, but to no avail.  They just kept appearing! I looked down and saw, to my horror, that there was just enough space between our door and the threshold to admit a veritable flood of termites, drawn by the light over our dining room table. 

At this point, we descended into all-out armageddon as we tried to stuff something in the entry point and kill the termites already invading us.  Everyone was on their feet, kids alternately screaming and giggling, teenager totally grossing out.  A few dead termites landed on my Bible as I tried to figure out what to do.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to laugh.  I wanted to stomp my feet in frustration at the absurdity of a termite swarm on an already out-of-hand evening.  I wanted to quit.

I fought the tightness in my stomach and the lump in my throat, barely controlled the irritation in my voice and finished the lesson in our much darker living room.  I was relieved when it was over.  It had felt like nailing jello to a tree! 

In hindsight, we’ve laughed a lot over our little invasion.  But I’ve been wondering to myself just why it got me so irritated.  I think there are still a few old habits and ideas stuck inside me.  Ideas that I picked up in a brick-and-mortar church but really have no bearing on church done at home:

1)  You must sit very still and quiet as the preacher preaches his sermon.  You must not get up to go to the bathroom unless absolutely necessary.  A reverent quiet must be maintained in “the Lord’s House.”

I think this is one of my main obstacles to being positive and confident about what we do to worship at home.  The reverent hush in a church building is a precious thing, dear to my heart and comforting to the soul.  That said, the rules and regs of church are really simple etiquette for any type of formal meeting or performance.  The same rules apply for a play at the theatre, an opera,  or even a matinee movie.  As we worship together at home, there really is no need for the type of formal behavior expected at a traditional church meeting.  Yet I stress out when we can’t maintain absolute quiet, or I feel like no one cares when all eyes aren’t trained on me as I’m attempting to share a scripture verse or Bible lesson.  Why is this? 

2)  Noisy, wiggly kids shouldn’t be disrupting the church.  They should be escorted out or maybe taught in children’s church.

This again comes back to etiquette for a formal meeting or performance.  At home, we are teaching our children about worship, about God, and about how to follow Him, and I want them to be included in our “services.”  Yet I can’t escape the fact that I’m not going to accomplish the totality of their spiritual training in a two hour meeting each week.  What did the early church do with their children?  As I consider this idea, a scripture comes to mind where God commanded the Israelites to teach His commands to their children.  He instructed them to talk of these commands as they come in and go out, as they wake and go to bed.  I think I’ve had it backwards.  Teaching my children about Jesus is something I need to do 24 hours a day.  I must do it at bedtime, wake up time, mealtime, bathtime, and playtime.  If the children miss something at our church services, or can’t quite sit through the whole time, well, what’s the big problem if I’ve spent every possible waking moment teaching them of Jesus at other times? 

3)  You must “get fed” every week by the preacher’s sermon.  Sunday services are your source of spiritual growth and so if you don’t receive adequate encouragement, exhortation, learning, and so forth, then your preacher is probably doing something wrong.

I hate the phrase “get fed” when it comes to church.  Part of my spiritual training by my parents and even my childhood pastor and his wife included the instillation of enough scriptural knowledge to enable me to “feed” myself!!  I feel it’s a poor excuse to say “I’m not getting fed” as a way to blame one’s lack of spiritual growth on the church one attends.  That said, I also know that there was a time that Jesus commanded Peter, “If you love me, feed my sheep.”  I know that there are those in my home church who need leadership and teaching.  So during a chaotic moment when no one seems able to focus or when termites are swarming, I feel inadequate as teacher.  I know that the scripture commands us not to forsake meeting together, and further exhorts us to continue doing so to encourage each other. (Hebrews 10:24-25)  There are times of great learning that occur at our home church, and yet I return to the idea that, much in the way a child is spiritually trained, discipling of other believers should take place constantly, not only during one weekly timed meeting.

4)  You need “good worship” in order to really connect with God.  If your music doesn’t compel people to stand, sing enthusiastically, lift their hands or shed a few tears then you haven’t “let the Spirit flow.”

This one’s a doozie!  The phrase “good worship” is like nails on a chalkboard to me.  As an experienced church musician, I know, love and appreciate the church music.  I also know that chill bumps are induced as much by well-timed dynamics, well placed acapella measures with triumphant instrumental re-entry, or well-chosen instruments as they are by the “flow of the Holy Spirit.”  Don’t get me wrong.  I love to worship God through music.  It’s biblical, it’s wonderful, it’s fulfilling.  There have been times I know the Holy Spirit has enabled me to play or sing a song in a very supernatural way, and I know I could not repeat it of my own ability.  I just can’t help feeling ashamed of the direct correlation placed in today’s church between the quality of music and the “flow” of the Spirit.   I know the scripture tells us to play skillfully on our instruments to the Lord.  I know there is merit in giving God the best of our abilities.  Yet sometimes I’ve worshipped through music, with sobs, with tears, with mistakes.  It didn’t sound good, but it WAS good.  There’s a difference between “good worship” and professional sounding music.  At home, all the trappings of mics and drum sets, sound boards and screens are stripped away.  Music takes some of its most primitive forms as our little group finds ways to use it as we worship together.  Again, I wonder, shouldn’t music be more prominent in my DAILY interactions with God, my family, and those I disciple.  Shouldn’t it go beyond the performance during a service?

There seems to be a theme here.  A theme that would apply whether one worships at a traditional church or in a home or wherever:  Spiritual growth, training, and worship is a LIFESTYLE.  Church meetings, wherever they are, are simply one PART of what we should do as followers of Jesus, most specifically for the purpose of encouraging each other. 

This definitely lessens my stress when I think about trying to structure our home church meetings.  They are a valuable tool in our spiritual growth, but not the “be all, end all” of our interactions with God.  I knew that embracing home church would be a lifestyle change for me, but I can’t help wondering if embracing the idea that our spiritual lives should permeate our WHOLE lives in an all-consuming way might enhance the church experience for anyone, no matter what their church situation.  If church is our only method of spiritual practice, then when church meetings go awry (as they often do at any church) we are left with nothing to fall back on.  But if church meetings are simply a wonderful tool to assist us in our spiritual growth, not our only source of spiritual nutrition, then we are much more free to be ourselves, worship together, and handle the occasional termite invasion. 

Those termites might be pesky alright, but they’ve sure given me some theology to consider!  Let ’em swarm!

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Femininity Forgotten? (A lesson in alliteration)

Somewhere in the avalanche of my life it’s here.  Maybe I lost it in the piles of practical shoes in the bottom of my closet.  Maybe I left it at the security checkpoint in the airport, or the self-checkout line at Winn Dixie.  Perhaps I dropped it as I ran to catch my two year old boy, or maybe it fell out the window as my car whipped around the corner just in time to get my nine year old to school.  It could be under the papers on my desk, or maybe I forgot to save it on my computer.  It’s probably beneath that baby weight I still haven’t lost, or lying beneath the mountain of ideas and thoughts labeled “save for later” that I keep in the back of my mind.

It’s my femininity.  My mystique.  My girly, giggly, high-heel-shoe-loving, red-nail-polish-painting, hot-tea-and-honey-drinking femininity.  The part of me that sleeps in lace and shaves her legs every day.  That little itch to go shopping, try on clothes at leisure, make cupcakes and light candles.

I’m not sure exactly when or where, but at some point I let my femininity slide to the back burner.  It’s always there, mind you.  I’m not saying I’ve been less feminine.  I guess I’ve just been allowing my femininity to manifest itself in a different, less desirable way.  More fussing than flirting.  More lamenting than laughing.  More stress than sweetness.  More stomp than sashay.

Aw, sure I have plenty of reasons why.  Plenty of excuses about time crunches, weariness, stress, money worries, and crazy schedules.  But all that never seems to go away.  There’s really no reason I should stop enjoying the gift of being a woman.  It may mean making time for the fru-fru, or stopping to smell the roses—literally.  But whatever it takes, there must be some prettiness preserved, some girly-ness glorified in my day to day existence.

It’s odd, I let the fun part of femininity fall by the wayside during times of overload and stress, but that fun femininity may be the very thing that relieves or at least makes the chaos more enjoyable!  Really, what stress can’t be lessened by a bubble bath or a pedicure (or both)?  If I must rush out the door, wouldn’t I rather do so in a cute pair of shoes?  Is there any outlook that isn’t improved by the right lip gloss or a spritz of my favorite scent?  Why not write my to-do list in pink ink?  Why can’t the practical be enhanced by the pretty, the everyday be shrouded in just a bit of mystique?  Why not trim the trials in a little lace?

God made me a female and I’m glad He did.  I just sometimes let the pressures crowd out the pleasures when it comes to being a woman.  So this is a reminder for me, and any others out there who may need to recall the fact that being a girl is glorious, femininity is fabulous, womanhood wonderful.  My femininity isn’t exactly something that can be forgotten.  But it can be flattened a little if I let it.

And I don’t want that.  I want the sugar and spice, swirl-around skirts, patent leather pumps, and polka dotted purses.  I’m glad I know what cucumber water is, and how to keep mascara from clumping.  I’m glad I can be sincerely grateful to God for gel nail polish and purse-sized hand sanitizer.  So bring it on, crazy life!  I’ve got laughter and love, lotion and lipstick.  I’m female, and THAT is FUN!!

 

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A Crazy Reckless Legacy

It was late at night and everyone else was asleep.  She crawled out of her bedroom window to meet her boyfriend.  She was 16.  He was 26.  They drove to the next town and got married.  It was crazy.  It was reckless.  It made her mama really mad.  I didn’t know them at their start, but I was there 60 years later when they were parted by death.

That girl was my grandmother.  It always amazes me that the statuesque lady I knew did something insanely rebellious like elope at the age of 16.  It’s hard to picture that classy woman climbing out of a bedroom window.  Did my Papa catch her?  Did they squelch giggles and run hand in hand to the old truck?  What did she wear? 

However it went down that first crazy night, here I am because of them!!  They stuck it out and made it last.   They built a family and left a legacy.

Fast forward  around 80 years from their elopement and you’ll find me, their granddaughter, three years ago today…

ELOPING!!

It was crazy.  It was reckless.  It made some people mad.  But we’re still here!!

That sixteen year old girl grew into a major hero in my life.  I’ve always wanted, and tried, to be like her.  I’m most flattered when someone says I am like her in some way.  I know she had a daring side.  She crawled out of a window at sixteen for Pete’s sake.  She knew about taking a risk, she no doubt felt the passion and swirled in the vortex of a crazy attraction.  But she also knew commitment.  She knew how to stand her ground through life’s ups and downs. She knew her God and called on His name for her family. 

And guess what?  I do, too.

We may not get the sixty years they had.  (We started a little later than they did!) But we have the same kind of love and the same determination and most of all we know the same God.  We’ve crammed a lot of stuff into three years.  A surprise baby, two moves, serious illness, financial disaster, parenting a teenager and toddler simultaneously, wrestling with our faith and hosting a church in our home.  We definitely did not take the easy way.  Sometimes we feel like giving up.  But we won’t do that.  We’ll hang onto the crazy, reckless, passionate love that started all this.  We’ll look to God and keep going.

It’s definitely not the wedding that matters. (Even though I thought a crazy elopement was tons of fun!) It’s the marriage.  And marriage is what we are living every day.  Three years down, many more to go.

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Memory Magic

Recently I attended a solo opera “Paul to the Church At Philippi” performed by Dr. Ed Steele.  It was actually my second time to see the performance (my first was a birthday present to myself!) since Dr. Steele came to perform the opera for our Origins network of house churches.  The music, written by Dr. Steele, is the perfect accompaniment.  He had no need of a lyricist, since the text is word for word the entire book of Philippians.

My tears started flowing as the first few verses were sung and recited.  When I heard the words “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…” God reminded me that He was talking to me, and that He is far from finished with the good work He started in me personally.

I glanced around the room and noticed something else that moved me nearly beyond what I can express.  A few guests had joined us for the performance.  One was an older gentleman, a good friend of mine, a minister, and a leader in our state among other ministers and missionaries.  I happen to be aware (most others in the room were not) that this awesome man is struggling with memory problems.  In my career in assisted living, I deal daily with the effects of dementia and short term memory loss, and they are heartbreaking, frustrating, and debilitating to say the least.  I glanced over at my friend and saw that as the words of Philippians were recited and sung, his lips moved along, not missing a beat.  His grin was ear to ear, and he nodded in affirmation at words that held deep meaning for him.  The words flowed freely from his memory with absolutely no hesitation.

I was already in a puddle, but melted further still as I saw played out in the flesh the truth I already know:  God’s word stands forever.  Even this moment, the words come to mind that I memorized as a child:  “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of our God shall stand forever.” (Isa. 40:8) There’s something LIVING about the words of scripture.  They come back at the Holy Spirit’s bidding, they appear at just the right time, they apply centuries after they were written, and in every different situation.  I loved seeing and knowing that God’s Word and His Spirit are not limited by our minds or our ability to remember, think clearly, or express ourselves.  In my own times of deepest despair I know I’ve been able to cry to God, (not necessarily able to say anything intelligible) read and remember His Word.  He’s always been there, and always will be.

This, I love knowing.  I love knowing that my friend who struggles to remember some day-to-day things has God’s Word planted deep in the recesses of his brain.  I love knowing that if and when those words do fade from his memory, they will be no less true, and God’s Holy Spirit will remain, bringing comfort where there may be no words.  I love knowing that God is able to permeate every layer of our conscious and subconscious and is not subject to our limited abilities, not sickened by our illnesses, not destroyed by our mistakes. 

This comforts me beyond measure and inspires me to memorize even more, to stuff every possible word into my own gray matter so that it’s there for God’s use and at His disposal.  I’m reminded of more words from Deuteronomy that Jesus Himself used in his own battle with Satan: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  Those words are alive.  They are real, and they are good.  Give them a try!

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Blast From The Past!

In honor of my amazing sister and all those times that there’s nothing left to do but throw back your head and laugh… I love you, Angie!!

>Weird (by Becky)
January 2, 2007 in Uncategorized, Where I’ve Been with 4 Comments

>I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to notice how my life constantly teeters on the edge of the ridiculous. Does that ever happen to you? I try my hardest to be a civilized, respectable, cordial woman; but the absurd is ever-present, always lurking just below the surface, reminding me that high class is just out of my reach. As a young girl, even as a newlywed I had wonderful visions of a clean, civilized life where I would have well behaved children, a well-kept home, a well-maintained figure, and a well-known career. Of course, I would have an attractive husband, I would be well-spoken and well-read. I would engage in intelligent conversation, be witty and charming, and go around doing grown up civilized things like having meetings, going to lunch with friends, shopping, cooking wonderful dinners, and driving a clean smelling car. And you know, that is actually how I picture myself most of the time. I ignore the laundry piles, pizza boxes, crumbs, and elastic waistbands; and picture myself just one step away from achieving my dream. I would be happy in my deluded concept of reality, except the most random things pop up to keep me aware that though I have some aspects of my dream in the bag, other parts of my life would make great displays in Ripley’s Believe it or Not museums.

Case in point: Friday, my sister and I were sitting at a restaurant. We had taken my brother to the airport and were enjoying a nice civilized lunch, savoring time together while I’m in my hometown for a visit. We were looking forward to seeing a movie together later in the evening. We were laughing, joking, and engaging in grown-up conversation. For a few moments, we had it! We WERE the dream. Two intelligent, attractive, classy women lunching together like civilized adults. My sleek, civilized cellular phone rang, and I answered. My husband was on the other end ready to lower the boom of the absurd. “I have some news you need to know,” he said. He proceeded to inform me that my daughter had spent the day before we left town with a friend who now has head lice. Immediately, I shifted from high-class adult to red-neck, white trash queen of the ridiculous, ready to fight off the constant barrage of random craziness my life continues to throw at me. Our intelligent conversation shifted from the politically correct use of the word “thin” referring to Mary in a sermon, (how did he know she was thin anyway?) to how many packs of lice treatment kits we would need to treat all the people at mom and dad’s house. (We figured two packs would do it.) Then we lost all couth as we hooted about how our movie plans were now “Nixed.” (As all the moms out there will know, Nix is a brand of lice treatment shampoo.) We were getting punchy and people were starting to stare. I don’t know, I just somehow never imagine myself at lunch with another intelligent adult, strategizing about the fastest, most preventative way to treat ten people for head lice, then laughing my head off about it. Sure, I might pass up movie plans for a better offer, but certainly, it never occurred to me that I’d sacrifice my movie plans to form a head lice treatment assembly line. Sorry, but head lice eradication was never a part of the dream.

There I was as my dream self, having a perfectly normal lunch, and it quickly descended into the ridiculous. The evening only got more absurd. We drove home, making a pit stop at the drug store for the lice shampoo, and began the treatment. It was starting to seem normal. No one had any sign of the bugs, but we weren’t taking chances. We got into a good groove shampooing one kid while the next kid was rinsing and the next combing out. We were spraying furniture and stripping beds. Again, the phone rings. This time my sister picked it up and got the news that my nephew had gone to the back of our property on his four wheeler and was stuck. We had just discovered him missing when it came his turn for the shampoo. We continued carrying out the lice treatment while now trying to calm our parents down and find a kid who just buried his four wheeler. Somebody showed up to pull out the four wheeler, (around our neighborhood there are plenty of good ole boys with 4×4’s just waiting for a chance like that) we stripped the muddy kid and put him in the shower as last to be treated for lice. By that time, we had lost all vision of the dream. We allowed life to spiral all the way down to utterly absurd. We loaded up everybody and went down to Jerry’s Restaurant (which isn’t actually called Jerry’s, but the guy who owns it is Jerry) for the Friday night fish fry. We took up a whole room in the place and gave at least one waitress a night to remember. We yelled out stuff no one ever plans to say, like “Get your mouth off the back of that chair,” and “Siddown! This room ain’t a race track!”

So much for high class living. Isn’t it funny how we have a concept of the way life should be? Like my life should look like an episode of Masterpiece Theatre, when in reality it’s more like a marathon of Roseanne. For some reason I keep holding to the dream. Maybe it pacifies me to pretend I can have a civilized life. Maybe it just keeps me sane to have a glimpse of high class adulthood once in a while. I don’t know. I considered it tonight in deep thought as I drove home listening to my kids sing their own original composition “Worms are Weird.” Rest assured, kids, it’s not just the worms that are weird!!

Truth is, that though I never dreamed of preventing lice, saving an ATV, and shutting down a local greasy spoon all in one night, the ridiculous things in my life bring the most laughter and fun. If not for the completely random junk like that, I might never throw back my head and laugh embarrassingly loud. I might never come close to wetting my pants or throwing up because I’ve laughed so hard. I might not have memories of some crazy but special times shared with my family and friends. Maybe it’s time to alter my dream. Maybe it’s time to embrace the stupidity of my life and cherish it for the smile-inducing wonder that it is. Or maybe I’m just weird.

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Cut From the Same Cloth

At the end of this month, a memorial ceremony will be held and a new gravestone set at the site of my great, great grandfather’s grave. The little I know about William T. Jeffries includes a family story about his service in the Confederate Army.  He walked to the battlefield, only to lose an arm in the fighting.  He continued to help with horses, perform other duties for some time until his discharge.  I can remember as a little girl staring at a picture of the one-armed man in a dusty looking coat.  My childish mind had little concept of what it must have been like to lose a limb in battle, then go back to serve some more.  I marvel now at the determination and grit, bravery and commitment he had.  It’s not so much the cause for which he fought, but the courage and commitment with which he lived that interests me.

And I’m cut from the same cloth.

 My Grandmother, Lavada Jeffries, was a lady through and through.  She carried herself with the utmost grace and sweetness at all times.  She had a tender way about her, but was fierce in her determination.  She lived far beyond the doctor’s prediction by simply refusing to give up.  Her children can testify she was a force to be reckoned with, and was not to be disobeyed.  As her grandchild, I rarely saw her iron fist but was lavished with plenty of her sweet-smelling hugs, and heard plenty of reassuring words in her soft lilting voice.  I ate my share of her amazing biscuits and loved her vegetable soup.  As I grew older, we read our Bibles together in the morning and shared cheese toast before I left for school.

Years later after she was gone, I was in the depths of despair after my first husband confessed an affair.  I had tried to keep my misery from my dad, not wanting to stress him out since he had his own health problems, plus not sure how a daddy like mine would react to the betrayal of his girl.  Daddy knew, though.  He found a moment alone with me under the carport and I’ll never forget his words.  “I know what’s going on with you, Baby.  Your mama told me; I made her tell me.  I know it’s bad right now.  But don’t you forget whose granddaughter you are. (He nodded toward Granny’s house.)  You’re just like her.  Made from the same strong stuff.  You can do this.”

He was reminding me I’m cut from that same cloth.

My mother has been a minister for as long as I can remember.  Her world is her pulpit, especially the McDonald’s drive thru, the local thrift stores, and the patients for whom she tenderly cares.  Shirley Jeffries was into women’s ministry before women’s ministry even existed.   As a little girl, I learned to braid hair from one of mom’s friends.  We spent quite a bit of time at Donna’s house and now, looking back, I know that my mom was ministering to that lady and her two young boys through a divorce that left them penniless and a disease that left Donna disabled.  I’ve seen my parents stop along the roadside to pick up a stranded single mother.   As a girl, I was no stranger to nursing homes, funeral homes, and hospitals.  Now I know my mom, and dad too, were busy in those places, singing, loving, praying, visiting, helping people along the way.

And I’m cut from the same cloth.

These days I’ve been super concerned about my own children.  I have been lamenting the fact that I’ve failed to give them one childhood home to remember.  I’ve failed to give them so many things I hoped and dreamed they would have.  I’ve had my heart set on building a plan to stay in the same place and finally give them more than two consecutive years in the same school.  I still want that continuity for them, but a friend of mine pointed out something that helped me relax a little, and got me thinking about the kind of stock we come from.

It’s not about the house we have, and it’s not about my ability to protect my kids from the pains of life.  I can’t do that.  But I CAN show them what kind of fabric makes up their genes, what kind of blood runs through their veins.  My job is to concentrate on building that character into my children and it doesn’t take money or a house or lack of troubles to do that.  It’s more important to know the kind of people we ARE not the kind of place we live or kind of things we have.

I want my kids to look back, consider my faith and my courage, my smile and my laughter, my love and my commitment and say:

“I’m cut from the same cloth.”

 

 

 

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