Friday, August 26, 2016

Scraping Certain Memories Out The Back Door


My grandmother never wasted anything, not a plastic butter container, not a milk jug, not a scrap of fabric. What didn't clutter her kitchen counters, cluttered her storage spaces. She didn't throw away anything, not even leftover scraps from a meal. Surely a sheer reflection of the Depression. Because a scrap of fabric could be used to make a quilt, a milk jug could store water for electrical outages.

Watching her scrape off the plates, all extra food going into a tin plate, is a sweet memory. "I'll throw it out to the dogs," she'd say, and wipe her hands on the front of her flour-covered blouse. When all the plates had been cleared and washed, the counters and tables all cleaned, we'd take the tin plate, heaped with food scraps, and head to the back door. The screen door would screech open, and the dogs would come running. There was no disguising or mistaking her scrap-pile... the dogs ran to it and so did the swarming flies. Stomach-turning remnants covered the ground.





Memoriesit's what we bring into the storehouse of our hearts and minds. It's a precious commodity, something we keep. Something we hope to hang onto all our lives, until our last breath.

But we have good, and well, we have bad.

And sometimes it seems like the bad just grows and grows, like yeast has been added to the disagreeable ingredients. Just gets fatter and fatter, busting and bursting out the doors and windows of our minds and hearts. The guest overstays his welcome and takes up too much space. The guest gets bossy and decides who'll eat where, who'll sit where, who'll sleep where, and who'll need to make accommodations for the night. He pushes out all the good.

And he just eats and eats away at your nerves, your confidence, your faith, even your memory of good.

And we look around and see that our counters are covered and cluttered with leftovers, dirt and grime, and a stench that can't be described, unworthy of description. Even the cow-trails remaining are threatened. Leftovers needing to be thrown out to the dogs and the flies.

We can't always choose what comes in and out of our lives, but we can choose what stays, what stays inside. We can choose what needs to be thrown out.





Like standing at my front living room window, at only eight years old, watching my daddy drive away ... away forever from my family. Tears pouring out my eyes, I cried, "Daddy, Daddy, I love you." Oh, my daddy.

Like feeling the sting of rejection. The 8th grade boy who walked by my middle-school desk and said with a scowl, "You have long, skinny fingers. And your hair looks like Medusa."


Like grieving over a huge mistake. Only a kid and ruining my life.


Those are leftovers, throw-out memories. Not throw-away, just throw-out. We'll never be entirely free of them. But our good memories don't deserve to be pushed out the door. Our good memories deserve the guest of honor place at our table.

And O Soul Within, some ground-breaking news, that's what we'll make up our mind to do. We have to be intentional in this life, tend to the memories, because another has unhealthy intentions for us.

O Soul Within, gather those leftovers, one by one. The ones that stink and destroy. Scrape them into the tin scrap bowl of honor. Because that tin bowl deserves a place of honor, too. It's the temporary storage that keeps our countersour hearts and mindsfree and clean. Free of all the dirt and grime, leaving room for all the cleanthe China, the teacups, faith, Christ-esteem, space, lovely space.





Take those steps, one by one.

Open that back door and bask in the beautiful sounds of the screechy screenthe gatekeeper to our hearts, the one that stays closed and only opens when you choose. Only opens when the bad needs to be thrown out or used ... blessedly used for good. Not used for bad. And that's why they aren't throw-aways because sometimes God uses our throw-outs. 

Scrape it out, sweep it out, let it drop, let it fly. Toss it to the bottom-land, like nobody's business. Let it stay. Let the dogs come, let the flies swarm. Because that's the back door. The scrap pile. No one else needs to go there, because it's nobody's business. Only your selected few come through there.





And then you smile, walk back into your clean kitchen, take a deep breath, and bask in the wonderful sights and smells of the new, the apple pie scent wafting, the fresh bread baking, the sun shining in through the front window, rays so vivid and beautiful you could reach out and touch them

Like knowing your daddy loves you with all his heart and remembering how he tells you often, how you'll always be his little angel no matter how old you get.

Like being named Homecoming Queen your senior year, and the one who called you all those names wants to escort you.


Like feeling the tiny fingers and toes of your newborn, 18 years ago, and counting them one by one. And knowing your mistake may very well have led you here, to this child, to this beautiful place.






  

Like knowing with all your heart that God knows what's best and directs your steps, and even uses your past.

Prop open the front door, and hang the welcome sign. Bring out the white, clean tablecloth, unfold it a tad, and thrust it out. Open wide. Spread it out over the dining room table in your spacious heart, and place the best China because ... well ... it's time for a new meal, for a real meal, for a feast. A beautiful, clean, new feast. With guests of our choosing. Only guests of our choosing. Welcomed guests.

With remnants of love, blessing, and honor.



~~~

Do you have difficult, painful memories? Have you struggled with letting them keep a prominent place in your mind and heart? Do you have any thing you need to toss out?


Monday, August 15, 2016

Because Sometimes A Baby Bird Still Needs Its Mama


Baby Bird, the orthodontist said it was time to remove your wisdom teeth. If you don't, when those teeth come in, they'll mess up all the work your beautiful braces have accomplished. 

But wait, hold on, slow down ... you just lost your front teeth.


Yes, this is how I still view you, some days. This growing-up thing and leaving-home thing is not easy on this mama's heart. Sometimes hard choices have to be made. You start college August 29th. Let's get those teeth pulled now. 

I've been watching you test-fly, Baby Bird. Pushing you out of this nest, even to the edge, has been the hardest thing this Mama Bird will ever do, because I'm a home-schooling, hovering, helicoptering mama. Unashamedly. Why should I be ashamed? I love you. I need you. God has used you incredibly in my lifeto give me reason to wake up each morning, to seek His face, to fall on my face. 

And I'm not sure whoever said to push your baby bird from the nest would be my friend. That could cause injury. I don't think I like that person very much. 


















Because I tend to love the taxi method. Can we just keep taxiing down the runway for a very long time? Taxi down, skipping, wings touching. So I can stay beside you. But I'm not as young as I used to be, and honestly I can't keep up with you. And I'm also completely out of breath. But eventually, you have to hit the end and soar on your own. 

On your own, you walk back in the oral surgeon's office to have your wisdom teeth pulled. I'm pretty hurt and disappointed that they won't even let me go back with you, that I can't hold your hand. They won't let me be there for your first IV. The hovering, helicoptering thing has to be stifled. And I have to act Christian-like.

When I sit down, panting, I notice a text and bird-call from Grandma Bird, wondering if I'm okay. Because a mama still needs her mama. I'm going to make it, Grandma Bird.

I know baby birds have to soar on their own. Find what their own is, find their own home. I don't need any reminders. And thank goodness I still have your little baby sister. But you're a beautiful flyer. I love your wings, watching you test your wings, and the way you soar. I love the strength I see in you, and I'm sure you'll soar higher than I ever could, than I ever dreamed I could.





Daydreaming, I sit there waiting and reviewing the previous days of watching you drive off in your car on a test-run with your sister and your friends to go see a movie. It's strange being left behind. But it's okay. I didn't want to see that movie anyway. 

And you're a strong, independent woman. 

But as I've been cleaning out feathers from this nest that you still inhabit, that isn't quite empty, I wonderdo you still need me?

No, Grandma Bird, I haven't heard anything yet.

The oral surgeon tells me you're all finished. When I sprint back, heart-fluttering, and step into the room, you've been crying. Your red-rimmed eyes give it all away. 

The air swooshes from my lungs. What have they done to you? That pivotal moment when Mama Bird morphs into Mama Bear.

The doctor touches my back. "It's okay. She was scared when she woke up. That's normal. It happens. Especially if they're afraid when they go to sleep." I barely remember anything he said after that. And get your hand off me. 

I rub up and down your legs, loving on you. And when you're finally able to walk, we start taxiing down the exit runway. I get you into the car, into the backseat. You were so brave, brave little test-flyer. But I can tell something isn't right inside. Looking through the rear-view mirror, I see tears bubbling up in your eyes. 

"Mama," you say, "I had an awful feeling when I woke up from the anesthesia." A look of horror comes over your face. "It was awful, Mama. I was so scared."

You need me. I put the car in park, jump out of the front seat, and climb in beside you in the back. Jet speed. I hold you as minutes tick by, until all the tears dry. I'll always hold you till the tears dry. Till you're ready to soar again. Till you don't need me anymore.

Grandma Bird, one thing about it, this event was traumatic.





One thing I've learned is that we can't soar forever. Sometimes we hit the ground. We land. Sometimes a rough landing requires a time to rest. A time to recharge. A time to heal. And when you hit the ground, I'll always do my best to be here for you. 

For as long as I have breath.

So before school starts, before you soar, and while you're grounded with chipmunk cheeks, an ice pack, and two shiners, I'll take the few moments to keep you under my wing, basking in the softness, warmth, and love of you, of it all




Like cuddling on the couch with you.

Like playing Princess Uno.

Like making homemade chocolate milkshakes, that great-grandma bird taught me how to make, and hearing, "You make the best, Mama."

Like walking outside on a dark night and hearing, "Mama, take a selfie with me."

Like watching you struggling to swallow pills, rooting for you, and knowing ...

Baby Bird, I'll remember these moments forever.


~~~

Do you have a moment that you'll remember forever? 
And I was just teasing about our oral surgeon ... he was great.

One week later


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Gentle Applause To A Generation Not Crippled By Acne



Daughters, I'm so impressed with you. I want to be just like you when I grow up.

Standing at the glass back door, I overlook the shimmering water in my swimming pool. Perfection. I can't believe I have that in my backyard. I'm so pulled to open that door, step outside. Oh, how I've longed to take one of those pictures of my feet propped up at the pool on a hot summer day. But one has to be outside, in the sun, by the pool, to do that.

One day, Daughters, one day.




One has to slip on the bathing suit, the horrid reminder. Of all those years of pain, of fear, of embarrassment. The reminder of imperfection. Of being different. 

What happens when you wish your self away? The very skin you're in.


Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,
“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”
And,
“But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”


But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. --Hebrews 10: 33-39

Do you hear that, Daughters?

















Years spent wishing away acne-prone skin, especially on my back, can cripple a person. My confidence, confiscated. The lack of confidence still follows me around today, like a shadow. Go away, shadow. 

Years thrown away.

I've shunned the outdoors for years, only able to bear it with joy alone. We have the most amazing swimming pool, with a hot tub and even a fireplace. The view is incredibly beautiful and serene. We're so blessed. Who wouldn't long for that?





Who wouldn't long for freedom?

I slip into my memories of yesterday. But some reminders are not longed for in the heart.

Starting in high school, for years, I didn't want my bare back revealed. Being in the drill team made that extremely difficult. Going to my changing area, I'd try to hide, hurry to change, cover myself. Cover my shame. 

Keep your back turned from everyone. Don't let them see.

A visit to the dermatologist for slight facial breakouts led me to the threshold of help, but I was too embarrassed to tell them about my back. 

"Do you have any other problem areas?" 

"No, I don't." 

Fear and embarrassment, even youthful foolishness, lingered.

I'll never be free.

In my very own prison. The prison that moves when you do. Secret miseries running deep through your pores into your very soul.

I hated to wear bathing suits, tank tops, bridesmaid gowns. No, don't make me put my hair up. Torture. The beautiful topknot with ringlets hanging down only reveals my ugliness. Let my hair hang long, covering my back. Covering my embarrassment. Covering my shame.

Don't see. Don't look at me.

Shrinking back. Destroyed.

And who knows the pain of acne? Like needles sticking into my back. The slightest touch brings pain, to my back, to my heart. 

Years of on and off antibiotics, only to have it come back once off the medication. Persistence could define me.

Ushering out my appendix, along with an ovary, ushered away acne. Praise be. After all these years, praise be. After 30 years, I finally love the skin I'm in.

My daughter fights the same thing. How amazing that even though she's adopted, God made her just like me. She comes to me. Her dress is gorgeous. Zipping up her dress, I notice the speckles of acne on her back, her shoulders. Acne that persists once off antibiotics. 

"Daughter, do you want to wear a light jacket? To cover the bumps?" My handicap trying desperately to cripple her. Generational bondage. Bondage that yearns to imprison others. I think I'm trying to help.





"Mama, I don't care about it. All kids have it." She smiles. She even beams. She doesn't care. Well, okay then. Her confidence is like the dawn of a new day.

Daughter drags little sister to me. "Mama, look. She has her first bump on her face. Isn't it the cutest thing?" Both girls are giggling, unencumbered, unembarrassed, unafraid. Beaming.

I'm amazed. 

Fearless. Flawless. Free.

Go therefore, beautiful girls. Love the skin you're in. Don't take 30 years to go out in the sunshine. Throw open wide that door, release your hands, and embrace life. Do not throw away your confidence, sweet girls. Remember the One you belong to, Beloved of the Living God. Go out into this world. Persevere, Daughters. Prop up your feet. Live and love. Bring pleasure to your King.
















Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Struggling With More and The One Safe Addiction


Standing over the kitchen sink, I run cleansing water over the dirty dishes. My daughter brings more porcelain to be cleaned. Lipstick smeared glasses, greasy pans. More and more. Cleaning the dirty. Will it ever end? 

My daughter's sweet hand scrapes across the dish. I envision her tiny hands, like the cherished day was just yesterday. Chubby thumbs pressed determinedly to all four tiny fingers, fingertips on hands bumping together repeatedly, requesting more. Quiet souls needing more and letting it be known. Teaching my girls that sweet sign language word had to be the smartest thing I ever did. I wish I could take credit, but I'll forever love that wise friend. 

Sitting at a table full of children who were crying and screaming to receive something desired, my daughter would look around at the chaos and quietly and gently press her tiny gathered fingers together, signaling "more" ... more Cheerios, more apple juice, more.

Her tender, quiet spirit blessed my heart.





O Soul, you've always had a problem with more. You know you have. An uncontrolled chuckle spurts out. Undeniable. "Give her an inch, and she'll take a mile." Guilty.

I could never stop at planting one flower. Nope. I'll know every flower name. I no longer put my hands down to work a garden.

One framed cross-stitch led to a house full. They've all been dismantled and rest in my closet.

I could never stop at one cookie. I just can't keep them in the house.

I can't stop with one Pringle. I'll snack on them all day.

I could never stop at using one coupon. My whole family thanks me for giving up that venture.

I could never stop making Mickey Mouse pancakes. When a desire for pancakes was revealed, I made pancakes every day until I was begged to stop.








I could never stop with taking one picture. Don't place the camera in my hands, please.

I could never stop with one trip to Disney World. The girls have been every year since they were six and eight.

I could never stop at writing. One blog post led to three manuscripts down, and one in the works.

If I find a song I love, I will play it over and over.

O Soul, you know how to drive something in the ground. Don't you? You know how to make everyone around you cry for relief. 

I rinse off a dish and place it in the dishwasher. A smile spreads over my face, thinking over my secret new missionbeing accepted on the launch team for Beth Moore's new Bible study, Entrusted. 







O Soul, you found the one thing that you can never tire ofstudying God's Word. You can never have too much. You can never study too much. You can never have more than enough. 

The one who breathed life into you can't be run into the ground.

At only 29, my first Beth Moore study gave me a deep love to study and soak in God's truths. God's truths are life for me, teaching me that I can survive in this world, that I'm okay. She made God's Word come alive for me. I saw a lady who genuinely loved God so much, that I said to myself

I want to love God that much. 

My daughter's precious 16-year-old hand passes the last dish to wash. More. Father, let her see more of you in me. Let her see something that she can't get enough of. Let this walk with you, as weak as it often is, be just enough to cause her to want more and more of you.




Father, thank you for entrusting my daughter in my hands. I've gotten so much wrong. But you are my right. My right for more. I keep bringing you more and more, the dirt in my life is endless. And you never tire of me. You keep cleansing me and making me new.

In the midst of this world's chaos, with all the outcries and screams, you have taken us to the banquet hall. Your love over us is breath-taking. 

Father, be our desire, the very thing we desperately need. Our one stronghold. Our greatest love. Be our addiction, the one thing we quietly cry for in the secret room of our heart. Be our cry for relief. Be our ever-waking desire, our first and last thought of the day. The thing we can't outdo. The thing we can't overdo. 

Father, be our more. Our cleansing more.




Tuesday, July 26, 2016

I Ripped My Pink Panther: When Your Kid's Attitude Calls For A Tickle and Talk Session


"Yeah, one day I'll be able to tell you all the issues I have with you, Mom." My daughter chuckles. "I can't tell you now because I have to live with you." She sinks into the couch, laughing herself silly.

"Get over here right now." I giggle, moving to the edge of my cushioned seat and pointing my finger to the hardwood floors in front of me. "Right now."

No movement from daughter. Just more giggles.

I jump up, run to her, and tickle her till she cries.

She gasps for breath, still chuckling. "I'm just pulling your leg," sputters out through more giggles.






Uh-huh. Oh, I know, Daughter. I know exactly what you mean. Because I felt those very things as a young girl. The only differenceunlike you, I voiced many of my thoughts aloud.

The whirlwind of my parents' divorce left me tied in knots, feeling pulled apart. One arm held by my daddy, the other held by my mother. My grandmother held firmly to my leg. I didn't know how to feel about everything or anything. I didn't know how to express myself. I didn't know what was normal, what was right. I felt crucified, tormented.

And there was my mama.

I didn't love everything about my life. I just wanted my mama and my daddy back under the same roof, tucking me in bed at night and reading nightly devotions to me. Bitterness, in the awful form of anger and what felt like hatred at times, welled up inside and drizzled out.

On life's fragile edge, I grabbed my Pink Panther stuffed animal that I'd gotten at Six Flags, that I adored. Taking its right arm in one hand, its left arm in my other hand, I pulled. Its little insides oozed out. So much misery. I injured the very thing I loved.

I felt so ripped to pieces. So I'll rip this to pieces.






I loved my daddy. But I was in this city, and he was in that city. I was in this house, and he was in that house. I lived with my mama, and she took the brunt of all my painful trying-to-figure-out-this-situation.

Sitting in my room, I mourned my hate-filled words to my mother. My heart mourned that I'd injured the very one I loved.  Because I loved my mama. I hated the situation. But I was only ten. What did I know then?

And just look what I did to my Pink Panther. I cried.

Grown-up stuff is too hard to contain inside a child. It will spill.

My pillowthe catcher of all my tears. Godthe storer of all my tears. And I gave God a tremendous amount of tears to handle. Like rain.





Life is hard. Life is hard to understand. So we trust. Trust God. It's all we have, Daughter. And it's more than enough, Daughter.

At only ten, I reached over and took hold of the Bible that I'd been given by my Sunday school teacher. Given just in the nick of time. Given just when I'd needed it. And God showed me that He could be my all. He should be my all. He would be my all. I couldn't place my faith and trust in my mother or my daddyI could only love them. I had to heap all my faith and trust in God, my heavenly Father, the only one who could be the perfect parent.

Godthe restorer of my life. The one who takes all our confused and broken pieces and makes us His restoration project. The one who stitches together our torn pieces now. The one we can spill our insides to now. The one we can entrust with everything now. The one we don't have to be fragile with now or ever. The one who takes every tear and stores it now.

When we want to ask all the questions that so often go unanswered

Why?




Your pillow's stuffing will hold your tears until God can gather them, one by one, in His safe-keeping. Your tears haven't dried, they've just been collected, sweet one.

Because I know you have more questions than you're asking, Daughter. Questions only God knows the answers to, and that seems so unfair. I know. Questions I'll never be able to pull out of you because maybe you think you'll injure me. Maybe you think I'm fragile. Maybe I am, but I won't break. I've already been broken, baby. This mama is tougher than you might think.  




Because when you want to take this side of life in one hand, take the other side of life in the other hand, and pull

Remember that in between lies the body of Christthe one broken for you.

And comprises that beautiful Body of Christsomeone will remind you of that Scripture just in time. Someone will text you encouragement just in time. When you forget, someone will point you to Jesus just in time


His one arm stretched across one side. A nail pounded. His other arm stretched across the other side. A nail pounded. Take His hands. Pull and pour your heart out on His hands.

Because mercy and grace pooled and spilled out, trickling down on you ... the crimson turning the darkness of pain and confusion all white, all pure. All for you.