Stolen Marbles

Doing the right thing is simple until I start to rationalize. Then I get into dangerous waters. The scripture from Mark 7 this week is a stark reminder that it’s what’s inside that matters most. I’m thankful the Holy Spirit convicts me when what’s inside doesn’t go along with what’s right.  When I find myself saying I know, but…then I know I need a heart check. I recall a night long ago when I learned an important lesson in making things right and not waiting around to do it.  God knows I’m human and make mistakes; He also knows those mistakes are wonderful opportunities for growth.  It all began with some marbles I believed I had every right to steal.

Although I can’t recall the specific month or year, I remember a cold evening when daddy and I woke up the neighbors in the middle of the night to return a bag of stolen marbles. It was after midnight because mama and daddy were asleep, and they always watched the eleven o’clock news before going to bed. I had been crying since nine, and it seemed an eternity passed before I finally got the nerve to wake up daddy. That was not something I did lightly!

I slipped into my parents’ bedroom and began crying hysterically.  When I finally composed myself, I began confessing to my father. I had stolen Eugene’s marbles and had to take them back.  Daddy must have sensed my sincerity and was used to my odd behavior, but I’m sure he was taken aback when I woke him from a sound sleep babbling on about marbles.

The story spilled out as I told the details between sobs. Eugene was much older than me and picked on me mercilessly. He was the neighborhood bully and my friend’s older brother. He deviled us all day and won most of my marbles while we played. I saw his marble bag and made up my mind to take it.  With much malice and forethought, I stole his marbles and took them home. My revenge wasn’t as sweet at eleven as it had been earlier in the afternoon, and a sense of dread overtook me as I realized what I had done. I had to get those marbles back to him, and I couldn’t wait until morning.

I braced myself for what I knew was coming and was shocked when daddy didn’t send me back to my room.  He didn’t yell or tell me to keep the *#%&  marbles and go to sleep. Neither would have surprised me, but what he did next threw me for a loop. He calmly got out of bed, put on his coat, pulled on his shoes, and told me to put on my shoes and coat and get the marbles.  I ran to my room, did what he said, and met him in the living room.

Daddy and I walked across the street in silence.  He had a hold of my hand, and I had a hold of the marbles. When we got to Eugene’s house, daddy let go of my hand and rang the doorbell. We waited on the porch while the house came to life.  Lights came on and Reverend Couch appeared at the door.  He was in a confused and ruffled state, and I forgot for a moment the somber reason for the visit as I took in his appearance. I had never seen him without his trademark white suit and straw hat. I suppose I thought he slept in it:)

Daddy preceded to tell Dexter that I needed to speak with Eugene. We waited on the porch again while Dexter went to get his son. I realize now that he must have thought Eugene the criminal rather than me.  He was twice my size and had a mean streak.  I also imagine Dexter might have been a bit unnerved having Foy Holden on his doorstep after midnight with his little disheveled daughter in tow.  Daddy also had a reputation in the neighborhood, and there was no love lost between him and the reverend. At the time, however, I was only concerned with the punishment that was coming.  My guilty conscience got me to this place, but I knew I’d be on my own as soon as as the facts were in the open.

When Eugene showed up at the door, I began to think about what he might do to me. He tormented me daily for doing absolutely nothing, and I could only imagine what he was going to do to me when he found out I stole his marbles.  I began to wail out my confession and fell into a state of hysteria.  I finished, hung my head, and waited for the worst.  Reverend Couch was known for his fiery sermons, and I was sure to get one now. No one said anything, so I said I was sorry and gave Eugene the marbles.  Daddy and I turned and crossed the street.  Dexter and Eugene went inside the house.

I remember looking up at daddy.  He wasn’t looking at me, but he was grinning from ear to ear.  My burden was lifted. Was a pardon possible since I had confessed and done the right thing? Could daddy actually be proud of me? I realize now that daddy was grinning because he got Eugene in trouble and rattled the reverend’s cage.  There was nothing daddy enjoyed more than that. Whatever the real reason for the grin, I thought it was because daddy was proud of me.  I’m sure he was glad I did the right thing and was proud of me. I’m thankful he got out of his warm bed and took me across the street in the middle of the night. I slept like a baby when I got back into my bed and learned a powerful lesson about confessing and not waiting when it comes to doing the right thing.

That lesson is even more powerful as I recall it today, and I thank God for placing the memory in my path this morning.  When I wake in the middle of the night thinking about something I should be doing or something I shouldn’t be doing, it is still a good idea to wake up my Father, confess what’s on my heart, and not wait until morning to do the right thing.  It puts a grin on God’s face when I tell Him what He already knows and has been waiting for me to confess. Lesson learned, again! Thank you God:)

God’s Kneading

God used kneading bread to help me see differentiation in a new light. It is not only being myself, but also being one with God and others. Before I can do that, I have to let go and trust God with my heart. Fusion confuses and was the basis for my unhealthy relationships.  I have come to know and experience love with God’s help.  So many see being single as being alone. I understand exactly and would have agreed wholeheartedly with them a year ago.  I haven’t changed my status in regard to relationship, but God has changed my heart. Christ died that I might become one with Him as He is one with God.

That is exactly what happens when I love the way He wants me to.  Whether single or married, oneness with God creates beautiful intimacy.  I’ve spent a lifetime trying to find someone with whom to have that intimacy, and it turns out that He was right here all along.  God got lost as I attached in unhealthy ways.  Being married to the wrong person is the loneliest feeling in the world, and I thank God for helping me find the courage to change directions in that regard. There is nothing more beautiful than the union of two kindred spirits. Marriage is God’s design, and it is what He desires.  It took me twenty-nine years to realize that God wants what is best for me, and He did not sanction what I had in my marriage. That learning allowed me to let go of what I thought was right and trust Him with my heart.    

Christ’s precious and perfect love lets me connect without fusion and experience a freedom I cannot achieve without God. I can’t describe it, but I can borrow a phrase from Oswald Chambers who calls it “at-one-ment.” Atonement is being one and being connected at the same time. It’s achieving a deep intimate closeness with God and others while remaining who I am meant to be. It’s what Christ modeled, and I have gotten a taste of it as He has helped me leave wrong relationships, connect positively, and be who He created me to be.  There is an amazing sense of peace and connection that comes when you let go of  fusion and connect in ways that allow your heart to experience the freedom God desires.

While kneading the bread for communion tomorrow, I realized you just know when the dough has been kneaded enough.  The sticky mess is transformed into a satiny smooth ball when it is ready to rise.  Those who know and love me know that I love making and eating bread. The kneading is the best part because the dough is warm in my hands and smells heavenly. I love feeling the change that takes place within my hands as I knead it.  It’s hard to tell someone who doesn’t make bread regularly when to stop kneading. Put simply, when it stops hanging on to the counter, it’s ready to rest and rise.  The same is true for me, and I’ve been reluctant to let go lately.  I know I can’t live the life God desires until I let Him knead me to the point where I can let go and let Him get my heart ready. Then, I can rest and rise and love Him and others as He desires.

Today is Labor Day 2012. On Labor Day ten years ago, God gave me the courage to leave my marriage of twenty-nine years and walk the path He had in mind for me. I climbed out of the abyss in which I found myself, made my way through a dense fog, and finally made it to the summit where I could see love in God’s light. I’m not the person I was ten years ago. In fact, I’m not the person I was yesterday! I thank God for the change He wrought in my heart.  He’s been kneading my heart for almost forty years, but it’s feeling pretty satiny smooth right now:)

The Power of Touch

During a recent mission trip, I was touched by the power of touch. I had the privilege of giving shoulder massages to mothers who had just come out of drug rehabilitation. As I began rubbing, they began talking, telling me their stories.  Sharing our stories is one of the most powerful ways we touch others and allow them to touch us. I told one mother with a one-month-old daughter that I was not a professional masseuse. She turned, looked up at me, and quietly said, “I just want someone to touch me.” I was humbled and deeply touched by her words. It takes so little to make a big difference. What a privilege to touch and love her. For a few moments, God intimately connected us. That’s what He does when we open our hearts and give Him our hands♥

I’m a hugger, and all who know and love me know that I love to touch and be touched.  I don’t know if I’ve always been that way, but I am now! There is something special about physical contact, and I need it to survive.  I wasn’t surprised to find that animals must also have it. Studies show that being touched lowers our blood pressure, improves our outlook, reduces stress, and connects us to one another in a special way.  Animals will not survive without it even when they have all the food, water, and safe shelter they need.  I imagine people are the same, but there are no official studies to prove it. There are, however, many examples all around us of those who need to be touched.

God created me to connect and to love, and I cannot find the peace He desires until I reach out in love and honest communion to touch those around me.  That not only means those who are nearby, but those across the world.  Through World Vision and Compassion, I am able to connect to children half a world away.  That is a miracle in and of itself! Touching takes me a step closer to God who is One Who touches this world in a very physical and personal way. Love cannot be contained, and it will not survive in a vacuum. Love and touch go together.  So often, I find that a hand on my back, a hug, or simply someone holding my hand changes the direction of my day. The lack of touch does the same.

I was vividly reminded on that mission trip that not everyone is touched and many who are touched are victims of abuse. The fingers of this world are too rough, as Langston Hughes reminds me in “The Dream Keeper.” I need to touch those who are not touched and allow others to touch me.  There is no medicine in this world that heals the way an embrace from my son does.  I thank God for the beautiful loving man he has grown into. It doesn’t surprise me because he was a beautiful loving child:)  When Lillyann and Mylah kiss and hug me, my heart becomes whole. I get hugs from loving people all throughout the day.  What a blessing it is to receive hugs from former students as they come into my path and to feel the warm embrace of a friend who truly knows my heart.  It is heaven on earth and makes walking in God’s kingdom now possible.

When I left teaching and went to work at the church, I decided I would treat myself to a massage once a month.  Trish was my masseuse, and we became very close.  Physical touch creates intimacy, and Trish’s touch was so healing. She could wipe away stress and bring my body to a place of sweet peace in the space of an hour.  Once, as she was massaging me, I started to weep.  Tears literally poured from my eyes.  It wasn’t the same as crying, and I wasn’t sure what was happening.  I told her I was sorry; she said not to worry and just relax.  I found out later that stress can be carried deep in our muscles, and massage can bring it to the surface in a powerful way that causes weeping.  I felt so good after that session and learned a great lesson, as well. Touch releases emotion in me when I am touched and when I touch.

It isn’t easy to touch and be touched.  Some folks do not like it, and I have to be aware of that as I reach out. That is where that loving presence comes into play.  Listening is the most beautiful way to touch, and having someone heart your heart is the most wonderful way to be touched. The Holy Spirit is God’s touch. It is a touch that transforms my heart and allows me to touch others as He touches me, and that is what walking in God’s kingdom is all about. God’s touch has taught me to touch and be touched as He desires, and that has changed the way I live and love.

What’s in a Sixteenth?

As a child, I was fascinated by the fact that I was one sixteenth Chickasaw. I wasn’t sure what that meant even as I heard the story tracing the connection to my great-grandmother’s husband’s family. It gets complicated when we try to trace our heritage. I guess the child in me knew how silly it was, and the wonder in me wanted to know why we didn’t have the same information on the English, German, Danish, and Scotch-Irish ancestry. How much of each was I? I always wondered what the other fifteen sixteenths were:) I learned the why when mama explained it to me without meaning to. Mama was a beautiful woman, and her native heritage manifested itself in her features. Her mother, Lilly Belle, had a long braid down her back that she rolled into a bun each morning and untangled each night. She had even more of those native features that intrigued me.

Mother was angry after a visit to see daddy’s family. I realize now those visits were difficult for her because we only visited daddy’s family when we took our trips to the mountains. Visits to the Banning side were few and far between, and I know that hurt mama. I already told you how wonderful Granddaddy Holden was, but his wife Anna was nothing like him. She wanted children out of her sight and had no tolerance for their nonsense. She had been confined in a wheelchair as long as I knew her. She almost died when daddy was a young man, and the story goes that her hair turned snow white and she couldn’t walk after the illness. It left her a bitter woman, and her anger spilled over into the lives of those around her. I suppose that bitterness was at the root of the comment she made when she first laid eyes on me. Mama told me in her own anger that Anna took one look at me and declared that there was no colored blood on their side of the family. I’m not sure why mama told me what Anna said, but the more I learned about the world and its need to define and qualify, the more I understood. I knew why folks had kept track of how much of my blood was Chickasaw and why they weren’t as concerned about what those measurements were in regard to the ‘white’ blood.

I don’t know what it is to be discriminated against and surely cannot begin to imagine what those who have been and are endure. I am very proud of and thankful for all of my ancestors because they are part of who I am, and I have grown to love who I am.

Daddy hated that I always left my shoes by the door upon entering the house. It wasn’t out of courtesy, but because I had waited all day to get the hateful things off my feet. He would fuss about it constantly and tell me that my feet were the sixteenth of me that was Indian. I was glad about that and wished the rest of me was. I’ve always disliked clothing and shoes, but it had more to do with confinement than blood. My heart was in a cage, but my body didn’t have to be! As I grew older, I delved into Native American history and got carried away with the Battle of Little Big Horn and Custer’s last stand. I even wore my hair in braids and wore moccasins. Again, part of the fascination was surely that it was a way to irritate daddy. Another very real part was my desire to discover who I was.  I knew I was different; mama and daddy both agreed on that. Maybe it had something to do with the sixteenth that was Chickasaw.

We are all made of carbon, and our blood is one color, the same color as Christ’s precious blood that fell to the earth and seeped deeply into its very core. I do wish we all could embrace that color as the color we are and not have the need to qualify. It is so freeing to see my body as a beautiful creation and not worry so much about its ingredients. Can you imagine for a moment sitting down to a meal lovingly prepared by a world renowned chef and only thinking about the ingredients. I may want a recipe later so I could copy the creation, but I would never be able to. Try as I might, I cannot recreate that which has already been created. I cannot recapture a moment or even a delicious meal because the people with whom I share it and all the circumstances work together to create it. The world constantly tries to recreate God without success.  I’ve been trying to recreate myself my entire life. I’m happy to be in a place where I love myself just as I am. We sang that hymn today, and it was a beautiful blessing. The message from Mark 7:1-23 was “What’s in Your Heart.” It really is the only thing that matters, and God blessed me as I heard the message and sang the sweet hymn.  It’s a wonderful feeling to know that God doesn’t need for me to recreate me or Him. It’s best to be still and enjoy what He’s already prepared and not worry about the how. (no pun intended:)

Putting the Pieces Together

God helped me see the importance of finding the edges and staying centered when it comes to love. As I adjusted to life after mama’s death, my heart needed direction. Learning and love go hand in hand and are what the journey is all about. God knows how much I love to learn, and I pray I always will.  The best lessons always come from my mistakes, and that is especially true in matters of the heart.  I’ve always loved with my heart wide open and pouring out in hopes of being loved. I now see the futility of that plan.  God helped me find balance in a way that makes perfect sense now that I get it:) I was searching for the center without knowing where the edges were. Mama loved jigsaw puzzles, but I only tolerated them. She often had a puzzle going and taught me to get the end pieces finished first and the rest would fall into place. 

God used that image to help me find the edges of my heart so I could work my way to the center. When it comes to love and my heart, I’ve been searching for the edges all my life. It’s funny that I find that funny considering all the frustration it has brought me:) God is a master teacher and uses humor effectively, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve also learned to laugh at myself and see the humor in the situation.  My motto when it comes to mistakes is, “Eventually, this will be funny!” Sometimes it’s funny in five minutes, and sometimes it takes a few decades! I’ve wandered in many directions and fallen off a few cliffs, but I always managed to work my way back to the path.

Daddy told me I was like Billy in the Family Circus comic, and he was right. In fact, he used to laugh sometimes when I would take a difficult path and remind me that when I was tiny, I told him I was going “way awound” when I was wandering around the yard instead of taking the straight path to the neighbor’s house. I have spent much of my life going “way awound” when it comes to finding love. From God’s perspective, I know my journey closely resembles those little dashed lines in Family Circus. I also knows He finds the humor in my convoluted path.

Knowing the edges is important, and the image of mama and her jigsaw puzzles helped me move forward, or should I say work my way to the middle of the puzzle I’ve been piecing together for decades. The pieces are beginning to make sense now that I have a framework. I have a framed puzzle that a dear friend gave me when I left the middle school. It is 24” by 36” and is comprised of 50 hearts. They are ordinary objects shaped like hearts. Clouds, flowers, leaves, rocks, and so on… She knew  I was obsessed with looking for heart-shaped objects, and she was especially touched by the heart-shaped leaf I found after a special hike. She took the leaf and laminated it for me; I had it professionally framed, and it was beautiful. It decided to give it to the gentleman I had been dating for two years; we had found the leaf on our first date, and he had taken a beautiful picture of it. I searched for the edge and in all honesty told him how I felt. The honesty was too much, and the relationship ended. He didn’t love me, and that broke my heart. I realize now that it was important for me to be honest, but his reaction to my honesty was not what I expected and caused me to run back to the safety of my cage. 

Lilly had a similar lesson when she reached for a hot cookie right out of the oven and got burned. My heart felt like her little hand, and I learned not to do that again. Thank God, I have learned since then that honesty and love do go together beautifully. If honesty doesn’t sit well in a relationship, that is a sure sign that love isn’t present. Live and love and learn. My heart is filled with hope because my God is a god of hope. I plan to keep reaching out because it what hearts are designed to do. Sweet the way He used a puzzle to solve a puzzle:) I love it when He does that!

 

Finding Balance

Mylah taught a lesson in balance as she tried desperately to keep up with her big sister Lillyann. I was keeping them both while Gina was in class, and we were playing animal hospital. I explained to Lillyann that we all had to play together so she decided that Mylah would be the cook, and she would be the doctor. Lillyann had her beanie baby animals spread out on the floor.  They had little blankets on them, and she was tending to their wounds.  She removed ticks, fixed cuts, bandaged broken wings, and much more to the little bat, blue jay, tiger, and puppies.  She worked intently,  as I helped Mylah in their little kitchen.  Mylah handed off cups, plates, and little plastic food as Lillyann rushed in to get them for her patients.  Lillyann’s pace was rapid! Mylah barely got one item in Lillyann’s hand before she was back for another. It took both of us to keep up with the demand for food!

As I watched Mylah in the little kitchen, I thought of mama in her kitchen focused upon the task at hand and unaware of what was going on around her. When Mary Sue was in her kitchen, she was on a mission and lost in a world of her own. It warmed my heart and made me smile to see the girls playing together. Mylah wasn’t to the point of letting go and trusting her balance completely when it came to walking on her own. Her walking was sporadic, but in the little kitchen with Lilly running in and out, she had to let go because she needed both hands to keep up with her big sister. I loved watching her find and keep her balance in all the commotion. I realized balance is also easier for me when I focus upon doing for others instead of worrying about whether or not I might fall♥

Mylah scurried around little play kitchen and handed off plates, cups and bowls to Lillyann with the intensity of a missionary.  What a blessing it is to work together.  As we share the work, Jesus lightens the load. Mylah was delighted and almost fell as she bounced up and down with joy while working away. She had no idea what she was doing, but she knew she was part of something very important. She loved playing with her big sister and keeping up! That’s the attitude God needs for me to have. I don’t have to understand what He asks me to do, I  just need to enjoy doing what He calls me to do and keep up with the enthusiasm I saw in sweet little Mylah. When I focus upon God and think about others, I connect beautifully and find God in myself and others. Mylah and Lillyann were doing just that, and it warmed my heart just as it warms God’s when He sees me doing the same.

 

Letting God

Lillyann taught a funny little lesson on letting go of what I want and letting God give me what He has in mind, which is always much better. I am learning that differentiation, or letting go, isn’t about losing love. It’s about letting God get rid of all that keeps me from loving as He desires. Fusion is unhealthy and causes feelings that do not belong in my heart. God knows when I truly do let go of  that which I cannot have, He can give me what He desires. He literally used a very sweet example to teach me that as we celebrated Tyler’s thirty-second birthday.

We had just finished our meal and Lillyann wanted the little gummy bunnies she usually has for dessert. She went to where I keep them and got a pack. I told her that we had a very special dessert planned.  Gina had made Tyler a wonderful chocolate mint birthday cake, and I had chocolate mint ice cream to go with it.  Lillyann’s favorite ice cream in the world is chocolate mint chip, so I knew she would quickly put those gummy bears right back where she got them. Instead, she began to wail and say she didn’t want birthday cake, she wanted gummy bunnies!!

Tyler stepped in and told her that she was not getting either if she didn’t put the snack back. Her wailing got louder! He started to count; when he got to two, she turned off the waterworks and behaved as if nothing had happened. I had to grin and think how like her I am when it comes to what I want and what God has in mind for me. God had gotten to two with me the week before when I pitched a fit with Him about what I wanted and how unfair it was that I couldn’t have it! I am so thankful He used humor rather than fear to teach the lesson I so needed to hear.

As Lillyann looked at the rare and beautiful treat, she squealed with delight and ate heartily. With her mouth full and face covered, she chatted away about how wonderful it was. We all looked at one another and laughed out loud! No one mentioned that she almost settled for gummy bunnies, but I was thinking of how much I miss or almost miss that God has for me because I stubbornly hold on to my desires. I seek immediate gratification and think I know what’s best for me instead of trusting God who has something wonderful in mind.

I have never tasted a cake as delicious as the one Gina made, and the fact that she wanted to make something special for Tyler had a lot to do with it’s amazing taste. God showed me that His plan for me is much better than mine. He will amaze me even more than mommy amazed Lillyann and all of us with the special birthday treat. If I go with want I want, I’ll miss out completely on what He has in mind. I’ll get gummy bunnies instead of a cake lovingly prepared and topped with ice cream!

God placed Henri Nouwen in the path to finish the lesson before I went to sleep.  “True love between two human beings puts you more in touch with your deepest self. It is a love in God. The pain you experience from the death or absence of the person you love, then, always calls you to a deepest knowledge of God’s love. God’s love is all the love you need, and it reveals to you the love of God in the other. So the God in you can speak to the God in the other. This is deep speaking to deep, a mutuality in the heart of God, who embraces both of you.” (The Only Necessary Thing) Wow! No wonder I slept like a baby. His healing is beyond what I can understand, and His love is more powerful than I will be able to imagine until I am in heaven. Till then, I look forward to drawing nearer to Him and to those I love as I answer His call for a deeper love of His Word and a closer walk through intimate prayer. So thankful for a patient, loving Father.