Bibbity Bobbity Boo!

I’ve spent a lifetime wishing things were other than they are. I love watching my little granddaughters pretending to be princesses and fairy godmothers, but I twinge a little each time because I am reminded of my nagging need to be someone or something other than who I am. I say need instead of want because that’s just what it was. Getting lost in childhood fantasies is fun when playing; but when fantasies followed me into adult life, they kept me from living the life God had in mind.

I’ve often treated God like my Fairy Godfather instead of my Creator, and that has strained our relationship. As a teenager, I imagined that my real father would come for me one day. That fantasy resurfaced in the dark days before I left my marriage. I was looking for someone to rescue me, and I just couldn’t ask God. His patience amazes me, and I wonder at times why He didn’t pull out a magic wand and zap me! I used to see Him as a Smiter, and part of me believed He was the one behind the hurt. I was getting what I deserved! I smile when I think of that now because I realize how ridiculous it was for me to see God that way.

I was taught to fear God, so I kept a safe distance during my adolescent and adult life. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I knew from my childhood what happened when I got daddy’s attention. I didn’t think I could handle God’s wrath since I couldn’t handle daddy’s. Seeing God as my father instead of my Father shaped my relationship with Him and caused me to retreat into a safe world where fairy tales did come true – eventually – if I was good and waited long enough. It sounds so ridiculous when I type it out, but it was harshly real to me then. I am only just beginning to see that all hearts hurt. It comes from living and loving in an imperfect world.

I’m all for fantasy, and I love a good dose of Bibbity Bobbity Boo occasionally; but fairy tales are for entertainment and not meant to be models for finding happiness. Snow White and Cinderella are happy in their messy lives before their princes arrive, and that was the message this morning. Living and loving where I am is what God desires. Little Mylah loves Snow White, and she cracks me up singing “I’m Wishing” because she says, “I whoosing.” Whoosing is a great word for what I found myself thinking yesterday. I allowed my heart to drift back into those adolescent fantasies, but God called me back before I got lost in the woods.

I asked the girls what they wanted to play before we had dinner yesterday, and they said they wanted a magic wand. We couldn’t find anything suitable, so I made wands with ribbons and colored pencils, put on the princess dresses, and popped in the Bibbity Bobbity Boo video. Their little serious faces tickled me, so I got out my phone and captured one of the many renditions I was privileged to witness. Once again, God made me laugh at myself while learning an important lesson. Research shows that humor makes learning stay with the learner. I used it in my classroom for thirty-three years and believe it works. God knows I love to laugh and learn at the same time, and He used two very convincing little fairy godmothers to transform my thoughts.

I plan to keep enjoying fantasy, fairy tales, and fiction on the big screen, in books, and during playtime but keep my relationships centered in reality. I’m sure God will be glad to see me put up my princess dress and put on something a little more comfortable so I can love Him and those in my path the way He knows will bless Him and me.

Little Fairy Godmothers

Photo Credit Walt Disney

Photo Credit Walt Disney

Breaking Up the Clay

Sandy died on the night she graduated from high school in 1969. I haven’t thought about her in a very long time even though she was my dearest friend. Sandy Barnes was a beautiful girl, but her inner beauty was what I remember most about her. She was soft spoken and sweet and had a genuine smile that welcomed me into her home and her life. She lived across the street, so we were always together. She was a year ahead of me in school, and I looked up to her and loved her dearly. She was killed in a car accident on the way to the beach. It was a tradition to head to Myrtle Beach as soon as graduation was over, and she and Judy did just that. Judy, who lived two houses down the street, was critically injured in the same accident. She didn’t die, but she was never the same after that fateful evening. They were hit head on by a driver who was sleeping. My neighborhood and my heart were never the same.

Images of clay have been on my mind all week. I saw the familiar red dirt that produces a substance perfect for molding, but terrible for growing. I’ve always connected clay to my heart. Broken pots strewn on the floor and delicate vases abandoned on a shelf all trace their origins back to the sticky red mud that holds, hardens, and inhibits growth. The theme of my lessons this week has been growth, so it fits that God would bring that annoying clay to the surface. My father struggled with and cursed the red clay in our yard, and I found myself doing the same. I was sick of those images and asked God, “Why clay? What is it with the clay?? I’m sick and tired of wrestling in it and want to get out of it. I’ve had enough!

God heard my prayer and answered in a way I didn’t expect. What appeared was a totally unexpected and deeply disturbing memory that pulled the roots of my heart right out of the clay. It was terribly painful, but I didn’t turn away from the pain as God showed me how my heart became encased in clay. I thought it had something to do with daddy and his battle with the frustrating soil, so I was floored when Sandy’s face appeared.

Sandy was the first friend I lost to death. Her brother struggled with heart problems, and I often worried that Tommy might die after we had a rough ball game or strenuous wrestling match. The thought that Sandy might die never crossed my mind, but she did. In one terrible moment my view of death, dying, and my body changed forever. I begged and pleaded with my parents for weeks to let me go to the beach with Sandy and Judy. I cried, pitched fits, and promised to do anything they wanted in return. They would not budge. I was not going, and that was that! I hated them for not letting me go and made sure everybody knew it.

When momma came to tell me Sandy was dead, she was a mess. I know now she was thinking it could have been me. I couldn’t process the information. I was numb and empty and sorry. Guilt weighed heavily upon my heart because I was glad I hadn’t gone with them. My husband once described to me how he felt when a friend was killed beside him in Vietnam. Amazing relief and then horrible guilt for feeling relieved. That was exactly how I felt. Numbness took up permanent residence in my heart, and I went about for weeks feeling nothing at all. As I prayed and absorbed the image before me this morning, I knew the clay had begun to harden around my heart the day after Sandy died.

Sandy’s grandparents lived a few houses down the street, and they were having a wake for Sandy. I wasn’t really sure what that was, but mama said it was a “sitting up” with the dead. Sandy’s grandparents were old fashioned, and mama said I needed to go. I didn’t want to, but I forced myself to walk down the street and into the Ward’s living room. I was frozen in my footsteps when I saw Sandy’s casket sitting right in front of me, and it was open! Dear God! What kind of sick tradition was this!! Something was inside that horrible casket, but it wasn’t Sandy. My numbness got deeper as I stood staring at a body that bore no resemblance to my lost friend. I stayed because I couldn’t move. I wanted to run and never stop. A part of me did run out of that house, and it has been running ever since.

Sandy’s funeral was the first one I remember attending. I know I had been to other funerals, but I don’t remember anything about them. I was a flower girl and had to be at the church long before the service began. I wore a light pink chiffon dress and a Jackie Kennedy pill box hat. I had on white gloves that I threw away as soon I got home. I sat on the front row on the left side of the church. The middle section was for family, and Sandy’s casket was closed and sitting in front of the altar. The flower girls sitting together wondering what we were supposed to be doing. No one said anything to us, so we sat quietly.

A man with the funeral home came in to open the casket. I looked down at the floor wishing I was someplace else. He came over and asked if I would help him. I went with him and figured I was about to find out what a flower girl is supposed to do. What happened next is something I put out of my heart and mind for forty four years. I was good at putting unpleasant images out of my head and heart and could easily travel away from my body when things got to be too much for my heart. As I stood in front of Sandy’s casket in my pink dress and white gloves, I avoided looking in the casket. That wasn’t Sandy, and I refused to look at those distorted features. Her color was terrible, and her make up not like her at all. I felt myself getting dizzy.

With a matter of fact tone, the man brought me back to reality by asking me to lift the veil on Sandy’s hat while he fixed her nose. What? Did he expect me to touch her? He repeated his request as if it were the most natural thing in the world for me to do. In shock, I reached down and lifted the veil while he rearranged her features. It was clay! It wasn’t Sandy’s face at all. It takes me a while to understand the obvious, but it hits hard when I do finally get it. I couldn’t look away as this artist worked on his masterpiece. He talked about the heat and how hard it was to keep the nose in place. Blah, blah, blah… I drifted further and further into my own clay until he told me to go sit down.

As I put Sandy’s veil back down, I got some of that orange makeup on my white glove. I wanted to take it off, scream, and run from the building, but I went back to my pew, sat down, and put my hands in my lap. I don’t remember anything else about the funeral or the weeks that followed except that I erased the whole affair. This morning was the first time in forty four years I remembered the incident. Time, distance, and maturity helped me see the event in a new light. I didn’t ever connect to anyone as closely as I had connected to Sandy. I was afraid to get too close, and I found myself loving those who couldn’t, wouldn’t, or didn’t love me back. I kept my heart at a safe distance, not because of daddy but because of Sandy. Safety became all that mattered when it came to my heart. Don’t get too close and you won’t get hurt. I learned from Sandy’s death that it’s best to be safe and not sorry. Don’t take chances, and don’t venture too far away from my safety zone. If my parents hadn’t forced me to stay home, I’d be the one in the casket or in the rehabilitation center learning to walk and talk again. God’s ways are higher than mine, and I marvel at the way He transformed my foundation today. He shattered the old clay into a million pieces because that’s the only way to get rid of the hateful stuff. If you wet it down, it dries harder than before. If you burn it, it gets even harder. It has to be broken, but God waited until I was ready for a new foundation before breaking apart the old one.

I’m ready to get my body into the rich soil God has in mind for it. Soil is the foundation of the body and comprises the first chakra if you keep up with that sort of thing. When balancing the first chakra, I must envision it as it is before God can transform it into what He wants it to be. I have to want to be healed and be ready for the changes. The images of clay and fertile fields were never about my heart. They were about my body and my being. God knows I have to start at the bottom and work my way up, and He did an amazing job of excavating today. I realize I need to forget the horrible image at the casket and remember the many years of beautiful friendship and love Sandy and I shared. I also know I have to connect with others as I connected with her. She was an amazing young woman, and I wondered this morning what her children and grandchildren would have looked like. I know she would have been a great wife, wonderful mother, and a sweet grandmother. God showed me clearly that I was still feeling guilty for being alive and needed to forgive myself and move on. I know Sandy would want me to let go of the guilt too. God gave me a sweet memory of Sandy and I when we were very young. I was grounded and couldn’t leave my yard. I wasn’t supposed to play with anyone, but Sandy brought her dolls to the corner of my yard, right next to the street, and we sat and played for hours. It was the type of thing she was always doing. I plan to hold on to those memories and remember the feeling of letting someone get very close.

I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to be rid of that guilt, but I believe daddy would say it best, “I’m glad you’re out of that damn red clay and back in the rich fertile soil where you belong!” I agree daddy; I agree 🙂

That Damn Red Clay

Rich Soil

Childlike or Childish?

This morning after breakfast, Lillyann reminded Mylah that it was Valentine’s Day. Her excitement was contagious, and little Mylah asked, “What is it??” Lilly quickly responded, “It’s a day we love people and eat candy!!” Mylah shared her sister’s glee, and I grinned from ear to ear. I love children, and I suppose that’s why I’ve never really grown up. Growing up is important, and spiritual maturity isn’t an easy process. God’s lesson this week was a sobering one, so I think He put Lilly’s wisdom in the path to lighten up the learning.

In 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, Paul does not mince words. God didn’t mince any this week with me either. Paul is frustrated with the Corinthians, and it shows in his admonition to them.

“But for right now, friends, I’m completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You’re acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast. Well, then, I’ll nurse you since you don’t seem capable of anything more. As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way? When one of you says, “I’m on Paul’s side,” and another says, “I’m for Apollos,” aren’t you being totally infantile?” (The Message)

Ouch! Those are not easy words to hear, but they are words that are necessary to hear if I am to grow into the spiritual maturity God desires for me. Growing up doesn’t mean losing childlike faith. There is a big difference between being childlike and childish, and Paul is talking about the childish behavior that still plagues Christians. We often look like a bunch of spoiled brats to those outside the faith, and that is a stumbling block when it comes to God’s will for His world.

The clear message this week was that God needs for me to move past milk and get to the meat. Another verse in the path this week was one describing a weaned child sitting on his mother’s lap. I love the image in Psalm 131:2

“Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.” (NASB)

A weaned child sits on his mother’s lap with a quiet soul. I’m afraid I’ve been sitting on God’s lap like a hungry infant searching for satisfaction. there is a big difference. I can’t point any fingers at the Corinthians because I’m right where they were. We all are, and I’m learning that seeing and accepting that I have areas which keep me from the joy and love God has in mind is the first, and most difficult, step when it comes to growth. Childlike means understanding I need help and cannot do it on my own. Childish means thinking God should do it for me. They are very different attitudes.

I know God will help me reach the spiritual maturity He desires, and I also know I will kick, scream, and cry along the way. It’s our human nature to want to stay in the flesh rather than step into the spiritual, but Christ left a Helper who will guide my spiritual formation. He is the Holy Spirit and knows exactly what I need.

I plan to follow Lilly’s advice today because I know that Jesus would appreciate her simple wisdom. I think the world would be a much better place if we all loved people and ate candy today. Here’s wise little Lilly looking a bug with childlike wonder 🙂

Lilly:)

Make Up or Makeover?

God’s is always working on my heart, but I always get in His way. Last night, I had a long talk with Him and gave Him the go ahead to do whatever He wanted with my heart. It was like leaving the house with expert designers and trusting them completely. As I drifted off to sleep, I had no expectations for the first time in my life. By putting limitations on God, I’ve ended up with a new coat of paint but never the makeover He wanted to give me. Fresh paint is nice and looks great for a while, but underlying problems quickly resurface. God gently reminded me last night that temporary make up isn’t the permanent makeover He knows I need. He asked me to trust Him and get out of His way. I agreed and drifted off to the most peaceful nine hours of sleep I’ve ever had.

I woke to an image I wasn’t expecting. I’ve seen enough Extreme Makeover shows to know that’s the norm when folks let go of what they have in mind and trust the experts to do what they do best. I shouldn’t have been surprised when God wowed me in a wonderful, but unexpected, way. The image was a couple I know kissing in front of their fireplace. I watched as they loved and embraced one another tenderly. My heart was freed in a way I cannot describe. God knew I was ready to see what He wanted, and that signaled an important turn in the transformation He worked in my heart. He made me realize that I truly do want the best for those I love. My wish was for the happiness of another, and that’s what Christ’s precious love is all about.

Selfish needs and wants never satisfy my heart. Like make up applied to the face or a new outfit put on the body, temporary changes make me feel better for a little while but don’t go deeply enough to cause true change. Selfish wishing and wanting keep God waiting, but letting go allows Him do what He does best. I can say I love and mean it, but I don’t truly know love until I let God show me Christ’s selfless love. Love that flows freely and allows self differentiation. Love that doesn’t smother with its embrace. Love that wants the very best for the one loved. I finally get it, and it feels great!

Some make up, a beautiful outfit, a coat of fresh paint, and some new furniture make me feel good for a little while, but God’s makeover makes me feel like a butterfly coming out of her cocoon. The change is beyond what I could ever imagine on my own, but it’s exactly what God has had in mind the whole time I’ve been crawling around on my own. He knew I would get it once I saw what He was doing. He is God after all, and He is amazing!! My heart belongs in God’s hands, or should I say my heart takes off from God’s loving hands when I let go of it and let Him give it wings.

Transformed Heart

My Heart is Strong

The heart is the strongest muscle in the body, so it’s no wonder we associate it with love. The body surrounds and protects the heart in an amazing way. The ribcage is tough, but flexible, and does a great job of protecting the heart. I’ve attempted to fashion a similar cage when it comes to love, but I haven’t had much success.

Whatever covers I created, the end result was always brokenness. God made it clear to me this morning there is only one place for my heart, and He created it. The heart must have a body, and God created the perfect one for my heart. That may seem like a silly lesson to you, but it made perfect sense to me after the clay pots, plowed fields, and wooden vases I’ve imagined on my own. I’ve always seen my heart as being outside my body and needing protection because I learned at an early age it was best to keep the heart and body separate. God knew I needed to see my heart in a new light and bring it back to where He wanted it to be. God used the body of Christ to help me understand His lesson. Christ’s body is the perfect place for His heart, but it has the same problem as I do when it comes to love. The body of Christ tries to fashion the same types of cages and containers I have, and the results are the same frustrations I’ve felt when it comes to connecting. Christ’s precious love belongs in His body of believers; it needs to be shared, not protected.

I can trace my need to protect my heart to an early childhood when love was painful. I understand perfectly why I struggle when it comes to love, but God helped me see the Light with a lesson in trust. It’s hard to admit it, but I have never really trusted God with my heart. I’ve seen Him in the light of my own father rather than the Light of His own Son. Changing my vantage point allows me to see my heart as He does and Him as He is.

Simple lessons are not simply applied to the heart, but I don’t have to worry about my heart if I will simply trust God. My heart is strong and connected to One Who is stronger than I can imagine. Thank God my heart is an involuntary muscle or I would be dead. I don’t sit around all day wondering if my heart is pumping blood correctly, but I do worry about whether or not love is flowing as it should.

God assured me this morning that loving is an involuntary action. Christ’s precious love flows freely in and out of my heart if I take away the obstructions. Love should not be contained or controlled anymore than the blood coursing through my arteries and veins. When I attempt to control the flow of either, I end up in trouble. It’s best to let love and blood flow on their own. I trust the heart to do its job when it comes to blood flow and God to do His when it comes to love.

Strong Heart

Our Righteousness

Matthew 5:20 is a sobering verse. It’s easy to poke fun and point fingers at the Pharisees, but it’s more important to remember that the law was everything to them. They knew righteousness was important, so Jesus uses them as an example in this powerful reminder that we can never be good enough. He became our righteousness, so righteousness would not become our idol.

“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” NASB

Jesus is the only righteous man, living out and fulfilling God’s law in a way only He could. He was the Word made flesh and the Son of God. His life did not remotely resemble the lives of the Pharisees. He went with sacrifice and service instead of piety and power. What a different Messiah than the Pharisees expected. They wanted someone like them, but Jesus did not fit their bill. I could point a finger here, but I don’t dare because I expect my God and my Messiah to be like me, as well. It is the root of idolatry, and it tears the body of Christ to pieces.

Christ came to make us one by becoming our righteousness. 1 Corinthians 10:17 says it beautifully and reminds me of the unity Christ desires each time I hear it.

“Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.” NASB

Righteousness got in God’s way when the Pharisees tried to own it. Righteousness took on new meaning when Christ fulfilled God’s Word. He became our righteousness, and that changes everything. We no longer have to spend a lifetime trying to be who only Christ can be. God knows we are not perfect, so He sent His Son to be perfect for us. God sees Jesus each time He looks at us because we are one. God doesn’t expect me to be perfect, but He does expect me to love because He knows I will find Him when I do.

Lillyann asked me last night after her prayers if God was a person like us. I told her about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Her little prayers always touch me in a special way and remind me to keep my own simple. There’s nothing I love more than hearing her say, “Thank you God.” Thank you God, indeed! It’s the most powerful prayer of all, especially when it comes from the heart of a child.

Starting Point

The starting point is more important than the final destination because it defines my journey. If I’m stuck in the past, I’m never able to catch up to myself. If I keep a foot in the future, I hobble along at a pitiful pace. I do both and end up stuck or stalled as a result. If I start where I am by making peace with my present, the journey will be as God intends. I rehash my past, rehearse my future, and miss my present.

Ice and snow have made for treacherous travel this week; when I finally did get out of the house, I found myself driving around with no destination in mind. It was wonderful to be moving after being sick and stuck indoors. Then, I sat in the sun and did nothing for a very long time. It was healing to soak in the sunshine and simply be. The best traveling is done when sitting still. It’s what allows my heart and soul to spiral upward, and that’s the destination I most desire.

Culture says be productive, go places, take charge of your own future, and never look back unless you need an excuse for your troubles. In Psalm 46:10, God has a different view.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.” NIV

It’s silly to think stillness is the best way to move. Love is also a lot of silliness when you think about it. In fact, all of God’s ways are silly to the world. His ideas may be foolishness to some, but I learned this week that foolishness is the greatest wisdom of all. I plan to love when it makes no sense and be still when I feel like running. God reminded me this week that stillness is the very best starting point for any journey.