Sometimes, It’s Best to Tip Toe

At the heart of pleasing others is the need to be necessary. At the heart of the need to be necessary is the desire to be loved. No amount of pleasing or needing can take the place of love. Believe me, I’ve spent a lifetime learning that painful lesson. If others need me, then I’ll be loved. If I please others, they will need and eventually love me. Small wonder my heart is in the shape its in. 

Pleasing leads to lust, and lust leads to hate if allowed to run its course. It is a natural progression seen over and over in life. I eventually come to hate that which I had to have. I’m thankful God lets me learn the hard lessons of pleasing and being pleased on my own. If He didn’t, I imagine the hate would be directed at Him. Like a spoiled and ungrateful child, I would blame Him when I didn’t get what I wanted.

I found myself throwing stuffed animals this afternoon after a particularly trying day. The girls were tired and fussy, and so was I. I was hurt, and I did what all spoiled children do when they are hurt. I lashed out, and I felt pretty silly afterward. I’m glad no one witnessed my fit and that Mickey Mouse and the Pink Panther can’t talk. Lillyann asked me later, while we were watching Dr. McStuffin, if I thought it would be fun if toys really did come to life.

I told her that they might be upset by the way we treated them. She gave me a questioning look, and I explained that we lose, break, or sometimes don’t bother to play with toys, and they would probably tell us to play with them more or be careful with them. She didn’t see me throw the stuffed animals, so I think she must have thought I was referring to her treatment of her toys. I could tell she was thinking about it, and so was I.

Toys and people need love. That was the point of the Dr. McStuffin episode we were watching when Tyler came down to join us. The girls made a bee line for him and smothered him with kisses and hugs. He enjoyed the attention and agreed that nothing made him feel better. I felt the same way as I was getting the girls to sleep. There’s nothing better than hugs from sleepy children. They love with abandon, and there’s nothing more healing.

Transitions are so hard, but I know they are necessary if I am to love as God desires. It’s not easy to make the steps necessary for the transformation God has in mind, but a friend shared a post from AARP Arizona that said, “Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tip toe if you must, but take the step.” That image was just what I needed to stop throwing stuffed animals and quietly tip toe in the right direction.

The lessons this week have been about being grateful, and it was humbling to realize how ungrateful I am when it comes to all God has given. I hope to be more mindful of His gifts, especially His Son’s precious love. I’m also thankful that Pink Panther can’t come to life because he’s almost as big as I am and might just toss me on that top bunk if he could!!

Pink Panther

Flesh & Faith


Imaginal cells begin to line up in the body of a caterpillar as soon as it goes into the chrysalis. These special cells will eventually become a butterfly. They signal the immune system to begin consuming the body of the caterpillar because it is no longer familiar to the creature. A deep connection to the caterpillar remains in the butterfly because without the body of the caterpillar, transformation would not take place. Anodea Judith’s description of the process resonated with my heart and brought a wholeness that allowed me to breathe deeply and be grateful to the flesh that allowed my spirit to grow in a new and beautiful way.

“With loss, there can be a loss of innocence. And the paradox is that with losing innocence a new found wisdom is gained. In this new wisdom, there is an even greater inner connection to this innocence, allowing the possibility for wholeness.” (“Waking the Global Heart” p. 35)

I’ve always been fascinated by butterflies and used their beautiful transformation to teach middle school students to be themselves. Deep down, my soul has always longed to become the creature in my imaginal cells. I know people don’t have the same cells as a butterfly, but I see a beautiful comparison when I think of Christ’s love trying to form me into the creature God created me to be. My sinful nature has to be consumed like that caterpillar before His transformation can take place.

Lent proved to be a bigger challenge than I expected this year. As I prayed about what to give up, I knew God wanted me to stop trying to please everyone. That included Him!! He doesn’t want to be pleased; He wants to be loved. I really didn’t think it was an appropriate gesture for the Lenten Season, but I knew it was what God desired. Old habits are hard to break, and I was shocked by how much of my time and energy went into making other people happy. I also decided to do something nice for myself each day during Lent. That proved to be an even greater challenge. Why was it so hard for me to do for myself what came so naturally with others?

The answer was not an easy one to hear, but it was one I had to hear before I could move forward. I still did not believe I was worthy of love, particularly God’s. I’m learning that isn’t true and never has been. I have a wonderful family and great friends who love me dearly whether I do anything for them or not. I’m beginning to see myself in the light of Christ’s love, and that precious love is slowly eating away all that isn’t the me God created me to be.

It isn’t easy to go through the transition God desires; but if I don’t, I’ll always be a butterfly trapped inside a caterpillar’s body. The pain and struggles are worth the new life that will come. I thank God for giving me a glimpse of His glory and teaching me that faith is the key to transformation. As the immune system begins to destroy the caterpillar, the new creature has to let go of its flesh and hold on to its faith so God can do what He does best. The same is true for me. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says it best.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 

 

 

Preprayed

Yesterday was my mama’s birthday. I told the girls she would be having her birthday party in heaven. Lillyann said, “We can’t go, but God will be there.”

I smiled and said, “Yes! And Gigi Susie will be there too.”

Lilyann said, “And Meatball!!” Meatball was a little English bulldog who died several years ago. I told the girls that she and mama’s childhood dog Mig would definitely be there.

“But Gigi, does God know it’s her birthday?” Lillyann asked with a concerned look on her face that indicated we needed to tell Him. I had to smile because I’m guilty of thinking I need to fill Him in at times myself:)

“God knows everything!” I answered. She immediately relaxed and proceeded to sing with little Mylah. As I listened to them, I knew mama was giggling and enjoying every note. I told the girls they reminded me so much of mama and showed them a picture of her with Tyler. They pointed and told me that was their daddy!! I told them my mama was his grandmother and pointed to a picture on my wall of my mama’s grandmother. Children need to understand their roots. The prayers of my loving ancestors never go away, and I want them to know that love is stronger than death. It’s what Easter is all about.

My granddaddy, Flave Holden, was a preacher, a prayer, and an enthusiastic piano player! I feel his prayers often and am reminded of his playful nature. Granddaddy played like a child and loved showing us new things when we visited his farm. I love to pray for my son, his wife, his girls, and all the children who will follow them. A prayer uttered with true love from the heart carries more power than any weapon forged on earth.

Remembering mama yesterday morning took me reminded me to let prayers from my past surround me and to keep praying for those who are here and yet to come. I met with a group to pray on Monday night and had a powerful time of prayer with my small group last night. I left both sessions filled with the Holy Spirit’s peace. Prayer connects me to God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, those with whom I pray, and those for whom I pray. It changes my life and puts all things into perspective.

When I pray, I need to have the attitude Lillyann had when I told her God knows everything. She believed and went right on with what she was doing. The lesson yesterday was to pray and then believe as a trusting child. Do I live and pray as though I believe God is God, or do I need more convincing? My questions and worries belabor and delay God’s will and work, but more importantly, they show a lack of confidence in Who He is.

The most important prayers are those Jesus and the Holy Spirit utter for us continuously. When Lillyann asked me yesterday what Jesus did all day, I told her that He prayed for us. Knowing the path is preprayed brings peace that passes understanding. Imagine someone telling you that your expenses were completely paid for a wonderful vacation. Now, multiply that by a billion and you come close to the joy of knowing Christ’s love has us covered for eternity. Jesus prayed, prays, and will always pray for us, and the Holy Spirit is always with us. It’s the perfect plan for imperfect people. This Easter, let’s pause to celebrate Christ’s love that reaches beyond the grave and grows stronger each time we share it with one another.

Know No

No No!No is a hard word to say and an even harder one to hear, but God made it clear this week that it’s necessary to say no and hear no if I am going to walk in His Kingdom. I have a hard time saying no because I like to keep the peace and hate conflict of any kind. I also feel the need to please everyone. There’s nothing wrong with doing good things for others, and love means wanting happiness for those I love; the problem is my need to make others happy. There is a big difference, and the lessons this week were about discerning the difference.

The week was filled with no’s that taught important lessons in truth. The truth is hard to hear, but freedom depends upon it. The deeper lesson was that truth and decision are essential for my journey.  Obedience involves hearing and heeding no when God says it. He knows best when it comes to no. He hears it every day, and it breaks His heart. Earthly parents do their best to know when to say no. God knows exactly when I need a no, and He knows how badly it will hurt before He says it.

On Monday, I told my sister I wouldn’t be house sitting for her next month. The thought of a gorgeous home with a pool near the ocean for a month is very tempting, but God said no. I didn’t want to say no to my sister, but she was more than gracious when I did. She really just wanted to give me some space and a place to get away for a while. Not all the no’s this week have been that simple.

I have the tendency to let people run over me because it’s easier than standing up to them. I was faced with an angry confrontation that blindsided and left me reeling. I don’t appreciate others telling me who I am or what I should believe, and God helped me say no to that kind of abuse. That no was hard to say, but it felt great and freed my heart in a wonderful way.

Just as I was feeling good about my new found freedom to say no, it was said to me. God knew I needed to hear it, and He knew I needed to hear it in a way that would humble me. I don’t imagine we are ever prepared to hear no when it means giving up something we truly want, but that’s the only time no shows true obedience. I did what I often do when confronted with information my heart isn’t ready to hear; I slipped into denial and moved on to anger.

When I had time to absorb the hurt and realize God wanted the best for me, I knew the no was just what I needed just when I needed it. God is faithful to show me what is best, but I don’t always want to see it. I suppose it’s human nature to be hurt when I don’t get what I want, but God will take me beyond my own nature if I listen to His no and pray for discernment and direction.

I know God knows best when it comes to no, and I learned this week that saying it and hearing it as God desires is the way to find His way and walk in His Kingdom now. A friend reminded me that God is willing and able to help me in every way. Knowing God is the first step in truly knowing who I am. He certainly helped me know no in a new way, and that’s a lesson I hope I never forget.

Beloved

Photo Credit:  Ann Voskamp

Photo Credit:
Ann Voskamp

God’s lessons this week were defining ones that led me to His love. The dry bones in Ezekiel 37 prepared my heart for the fleshing out God knew I needed. All lessons begin with truth, and that can be very painful. Such was the case this week, but God sent His rain to renew the dryness and bring new life to my heart.

The first lesson in identity was an easy one. I was a cheerleader for a very brief time as a young girl and hated it. I’m a happy, spirited person, but I’m not a cheerleader. When I was called one this week, I realized I still have no desire to be one. The second lesson was tougher but not too painful. I decided to give up my need to please others for Lent, and it’s proving to be very helpful. I was able to say no and mean it. It was great to tell Pollyanna I no longer needed her services.

My Zumba instructor helped me see myself as a dancer, something I’ve always wanted to be. God bid me to be the singer He and I both know I am. I first saw myself as a singer during Holy Week 2009. God had my heart revisit that week to remind me of how wonderful it felt to sing in front of others. He taught another lesson from that week that wasn’t as pleasant. Mama died the summer after Holy Week of 2009 when I started down a slippery slope God and I both knew would break my heart. Lessons in who I am took on new meaning when I came to the end of that path yesterday.

God didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. However, He did make sure I saw the truth in a way I would never forget. He tempered the tough learning by showing me who I am. I’m not a father and never will be, but I felt my father’s presence in a powerful way yesterday. Daddy and God worked together to teach a lesson that broke my heart as it has never been broken before. I know it broke God’s and Daddy’s heart as well, but I also know they are glad to see me see myself in a new light.

Lessons in identity are never easy ones. Seeing myself in the light of God’s love is like be in the center of a 360 degree mirror. God knows me better than I know myself and loves me more than I can imagine. He and Daddy reminded me of that yesterday, and both made it very clear that I am to accept nothing less when it comes to love. Thank you God, and thank you Daddy.

 

Watching Over Me

Sunset Watching Me

This evening, as I watched the sun setting, I tried to capture the beauty before me. Instead, I caught the sunset watching me. It’s been a difficult week, and God knew I needed a smile. I marvel at His ways, and I pray I always will. He knows me better than I do, and I know He will fill my heart with more than I can begin to imagine.

This sweet image took my heart to Psalm 121. God is always watching over me, and His love changes everything.

I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever. (NLV)

 

 

 

A Long, Dry Spell

OasisI felt like dry bleached bones in the desert when I found myself in God’s powerful presence yesterday. In that encounter, I learned pain is preferable to numbness, and nothing is worse than separation from God.

The images in Ezekiel 37:1-14 have always intrigued me, but those bones came to life in a powerful way this week. Verse 14 says,  

“‘I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it,’ declares the Lord.” (NASB)

Romans 8:11 was also a vivid reminder of God’s power.

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (NASB)

These scriptures and the story of Lazarus in John 11 surrounded my heart with a refining fire unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. So very thankful for the promise of His redemption in Psalm 130:7.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is lovingkindness,
And with Him is abundant redemption.” (NASB)

My heart has been bruised, battered, broken, and abandoned; but it has never been burned the way it was consumed last night. Dry bones and the death of Lazarus have a new meaning most clearly expressed in Romans 8:5.

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,” (NASB)

Life can only come from God. I’m easily animated; those who know me know it takes very little to excite me. I love that about me and pray it never changes. God didn’t break my spirit with His lessons this week, but He brought me to an important crossroad and made me decide whether I wanted the life He had for me or the one I had in mind.

I’ve never believed I deserved love, and that has gotten in God’s way. When I made it clear that I wanted His way, He burned away all that was in His way. The emptiness was numbing, and I was taken aback by the stillness. I look forward to a beautiful fleshing out that will replace the dry numbness of these sun-drenched bones as the Son drenches my heart with the sweet living water of God’s Word.

There is life after death. In fact, there is no life without death. I didn’t like the refining fire, the dryness, the separation, or the terrible numbness of God’s lessons this week; but I love knowing that He is clearing my heart for a reason. God’s lovingkindness is an oasis in the desert. My spellcheck says lovingkindness isn’t a word. I have to agree; it’s much more.