You’ve Got My Attention!

You've Got My AttentionDistracted drivers kill over 3000 people every year, and they injure over 300,000. Their actions say that driving isn’t important enough to merit their attention. The average car in the United States weighs around 4000 pounds and is traveling anywhere from twenty to eighty miles per hour. It doesn’t take a degree in physics to understand that driving is dangerous business and demands all of my attention all of the time, especially if I am carrying precious cargo. My driving habits changed dramatically when my granddaughters got into my car. Love makes a big difference in the attention equation.

Distracted lovers are as prevalent as distracted drivers, but I don’t have any statistics on how many hearts they break. Checking the time, answering a call, sending a text, or taking attention away from a loved one says they are not important. They either learn they are not worthy of your love or you are not worthy of theirs.

I’ve struggled with unworthiness my entire life. I’ve always believed I wasn’t worthy of God’s love or anyone else’s. I knew God loved me because He had to, but my experiences with human love taught me I didn’t merit the attention love requires. As a result, I’ve always settled for less than God desired for me because I didn’t embrace His vision for me. My heart was molded by the way it was treated early on, and I connected to those who would love me the way I believed I deserved to be loved. I found myself in the arms of those who didn’t have the time or attention love needs to grow as God desires.

I wonder what would happen if our cars demanded our attention. What if they pulled off the road each time we were distracted? When Tyler was a toddler, he used to hold my cheeks together and get right in my face when he wanted my full attention. Mylah says, “Look at me. I’m talking.” Maybe we could get an app that would do the same on our cars and phones, or maybe we could simply stop for a second and think about how it makes us feel when we are in the presence of someone who isn’t present.

God is always fully present, but we rarely give Him the attention He deserves. He could very easily demand our attention, but He knows demanding attention is worse than not getting it. His world is filled with distracted lovers who run to Him when they need something or when they are hurt but forget all about Him when all is well. I am as guilty as anyone in that regard.

The world fills our journeys with distractions, but God fills them with beautiful opportunities to love. We must decide whether to love and let go of distractions or go with distractions and leave love behind. I can’t imagine I leaving this world wishing I had checked the time or my phone more often, but I fear leaving it wishing I had loved more.

Driving takes time and attention if it is to be done in a way that doesn’t hurt others. The same is true for loving, so take time today to stop and make sure those you love know you love them by giving them your full attention. God knows we miss so much when we are distracted, and He also knows that a loving presence is one that is focused upon the one being loved 🙂

What Am I Missing?

Breaking the Mold

Breaking Free
“Breaking the mold” is an idiom that means to stop doing something the way it’s always been done. Molds take a long time to make and a longer time to break.  My heart was molded to believe it was not worthy of love at a very young age, and it conformed to the limits of that mold for fifty-six years. It took a lot to break the grip that mold had on my heart, but God knew my heart and knew exactly how to go about breaking the mold without breaking my heart.

Labor Day has always been a turning point for me. I left my marriage of twenty-nine years on Labor Day 2002, and the holiday marked the beginning of a new school year for eighteen years of my life. It is fitting that God chose this weekend to show me that His Son’s precious love is the only thing powerful enough to break the mold holding my heart captive.

The changes this month have been hard on my heart. God knew it was time to break free of the mold on my heart, but I wasn’t prepared for the pain. He began chipping away at that mold the week mama died. He could have broken my heart’s mold with a single blow, but He knew that would damage my heart beyond repair. Instead, He shocked it awake and took it on a five-year journey that would let His Son’s precious love do what only it can.

Hindsight is crystal clear, so I see God’s plan now even though it made no sense to me at the time. He allowed me to experience love He knew would break the mold that encased my heart and free me to be who He created me to be. The breaking was more painful than anything I’ve ever known. I was as empty and exposed as I’ve ever been, but there was a beautiful difference this time. Fear was not part of the pain. For the first time, I wasn’t afraid. That was due, in part, to being numb and not caring what happened, but a bigger part was trusting God in a way I never had before. I had no choice, and that is usually when I listen and trust Him most.

Christ’s precious love grows quickly when given space, and that was the message God had for me this morning as I saw the roots of His love reaching down into the depths of my soul and the beautiful branches reaching up and out in a way that made me forget all about the broken mold out of which it was growing. I wish I had an image that captured His this morning, but I don’t. The little tree breaking through the concrete is where my heart is now, but I know with the Holy Spirit’s help, His love will be reaching down and out and up as the tree below.

Reaching out up and down

Thank You God for breaking my brokenness and opening my heart as only You can.

A Different Darkness

I love sleeping at my sister Linda’s house. I sleep ten hours and wake feeling great every time I visit. Many factors work together to create an environment perfect for sleeping, and my sister’s unconditional love is the biggest one. Another factor that intrigues me is the darkness. The room is void of light when the blinds are closed, and that is exactly what my body and mind need for a great night’s rest. Research shows I need lots of light during the day and darkness at night if I hope to achieve healthy melatonin levels and a circadian rhythm conducive to rest.

When my journey leads to a new path, I find myself in darkness. Fear normally comes as I leave my comfort zone. It’s like entering a tunnel with no end in sight. My heart underwent a big change a few weeks ago, and the path lead to unbearable darkness. I’ve never felt more alone or afraid in my life; I pleaded with God to find another way. He reminded me that He would never leave me alone and knew what was best for my heart.

God’s timing is always perfect, so I wasn’t surprised when the new path came as I was preparing to visit two of my sisters. God knows their love helps me find my balance. No one knows me like my sisters, and no one loves me the way they do. Their love is always great medicine for my body, soul, spirit, and heart. God also knows how much I love Topsail Island and how it affects my heart, so He made sure the weather was picture perfect the entire week I was there with my youngest sister Edie. The rhythm of the water rocked peace into my soul, and my sister loved me in a way that restored and renewed my heart.

I stopped at Linda’s house on the way to Topsail Island and again on the way home. God used the dark nights at Linda’s and the sunny shores at Edie’s to teach an important lesson. Darkness is different when fear is gone. Perfect love casts out fear, and that was so true during the ten days I spent with my sisters and God. I’ve come to the end of paths before, but I’ve never had the peace I had this time. My heart hurt, and I cried a lot of tears during those dark nights; but there was joy each morning, and I never once felt alone. As Lillyann would say, “God is always with us. Right Gigi?”

Right indeed little Lilly! God is always with us, and He knows exactly what we need. New paths are hard to start, but knowing God is there gives my heart the courage to move in a new direction. Living and loving will always require my heart to leave the familiar, but the darkness of a new path need not be fearful. My heart hasn’t adjusted completely to the new lighting, but its focus is upon the One who knows the way and assures me that I do not have to worry about what’s ahead. I only need to know Who I’m following. Christ’s precious love is a beautiful light in a dark tunnel, and it always will be. Sharing it with others makes the light even brighter, and that causes fear to flee and hope to surround in a way that changes the way I love.

One Brief Moment

A Kid Again
A Kid Again

The following poem was in my room on Topsail Island. I can relate to the poet because the island takes me back to childhood and allows me to be the me God created me to be. I am so close to God on the island and feel a sweet sense of healing each time I go. My sister is a big part of the healing I find there. We play much as we did when we were children, and there is nothing better for my heart than finding that carefree kid in me “for one brief moment.” It carries me beautifully to the next summer.

There is an island at the edge of the great wide sea

That stands like a bridge to eternity,

Where a child long ago ruled and roamed

As conquering king and lord of the loam.

There from a dune he could look o’er to Spain

As he played in her sun and drank in her rain

With never a thought to the mainland’s cares

Or the march of time and the change of years.

Oh, but the secrets of those sands and place

Where plovers waltzed and blue crabs raced

And pelicans were all pterodactyls then

And every new face revealed a new friend.

A sand fiddler was more treasured than gold

And there was no sound sweeter than the waves on the shoal,

And every passing mast held a buccaneer’s sail

And every cloud that flew by was riding a gale.

Sometimes when the breeze blows ’round just right

And the moon shows up with his ole pal the night

With the whiff of hushpuppies riding the air

A veil covers time and once more I am there;

At that edge, by the sea where I long to be

Where the blue and the deep ever call to me,

And the wind still blows in from the distant Spain

And for one brief moment I find that child again.


Worth the Effort?

Worth the Effort?I love searching for shells, smooth stones, and sea glass on Topsail Island. I keep my treasures on a wooden tray in my bedroom because the girls love playing with them. Looking at the shore for shells relaxes me as nothing else can. I love cleaning and sorting my stash because I wonder at the beautiful diversity before me. The entire process heals my heart and soothes my spirit.

I had to laugh while Edie and I were out searching. She’s younger and far more agile than I am, so she bends and stands back up easily. She was bending over, finding beautiful shells, and handing them to me at a rapid pace. I found myself watching her rather than the shore. I wasn’t getting my normal stress relief, but I was getting a kick out of her generosity. When I began pointing out shells and telling her to pick them up for me, she cut her eyes at me as only she can; but when she saw my grin, she knew I was messing with her. We both laughed and experienced an even better kind of stress relief.

Combing the beach takes a lot of effort; in fact, there are those who do it for a living. A decision has to be made in regard to each object in the sand. Is it really worth the effort bending over and picking it up with cost me?

God made it clear this week that He loves all His children and bends over backwards to pick up each and every one of them. He starts with the broken ones because they need His love the most, but He never wonders for a moment whether or not they are worth His effort. He knows they are!

I was humbled when I realized loving like God would mean picking up every tiny piece of shell on all the shores in the world. I couldn’t do that on one stretch of Topsail Island in a lifetime. I can, however, make an effort to pick up some of His broken children by being a loving presence in their lives. It takes effort, but it is worth bending my heart down and picking it back up again to experience the kind of love God desires for my heart. We wiggle out of His hands or bite like those pesky little gnats on the beach, but God picks us back up and loves us anyway. He always will, no matter what.

I could spend a lifetime searching for the perfect shell, but God knows I won’t find it if I pick up every shell on every beach in His world. They is no such thing as a perfect shell or a perfect person. He did, however, have one perfect Son, who made the effort to bend down in loving obedience so He could pick me up off the shore. I wiggle when I’m worried and bite when I’m angry, but He loves me anyway. He holds me especially close when I’m hurting because He understands my pain like no one else can.

I plan to tell Lilly and Mylah about all the shells, stones, and pieces of glass I found while at Topsail Island; but I want them to understand that shells, like people, need more love when they are broken. I think we’ll make a little shell hospital so we can wrap up the little hurt shells and give them the extra love they need.

Aches & Breaks

Healthy HeartAches and breaks don’t happen or heal the same way. Unexpected trauma breaks bones and hearts. The pain is immediate and unbearable, and shock leaves us reeling and wondering what happened!

Aches are seldom a surprise because they occur when I push my muscles beyond their limits or put them in awkward positions. I know the ache will come, but that doesn’t stop me or make the pain more bearable. The pain of an ache is slow and prolonged. Rest is best for aches and breaks, but neither hearts nor muscles want to stop doing what they are designed to do.

Heartbreaks are worse than heartaches because hope is lost in the break. The yearning of an ache hurts very deeply, but it doesn’t destroy hope. That’s the beautiful difference between the way heartbreaks and heartaches heal. My heart has been broken twice, but I’ve only experienced heartache once. I wanted to numb the pain, but I knew that would only prolong the healing and keep me from dealing with the hurt. Muscles, bones, and hearts do eventually heal, but only with God’s help. Pain is part of the process and cannot be avoided. No one knows that better than God.

Hearts and muscles grow from being stretched and broken, and the pain that comes from heartbreak and heartache will make my heart stronger if I don’t let it keep me from loving again. I can sit out when it comes to love and never hurt again, or I can give my heart the time it needs to heal and step back into love knowing that heartaches and heartbreaks are part of loving.

God is love, and He knows best when it comes to matters of the heart. He knows the pain of heartbreak and heartache better than anyone. His heart is broken every day, and He experiences heartache each time one of His children is hurting. He knows, and I am learning, that there is only one cure for heartaches and heartbreaks. Love and time heal all wounds and leave my heart stronger than it was before. There is a great deal of truth in the saying “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Escape or Rescue?

Getting Off the Coaster

I was caught up in the roller coaster rescue last week because I’ve always been afraid of getting stuck on one. God used the image of riders hanging for five hours in a sharp turn far above the ground to help me see my heart was in a very similar predicament.

I can’t scream loudly enough to stop a roller coaster if I want off. I can easily catch the attention of the person controlling the Merry-Go-Round and get off; but the noise and excitement of a roller coaster drown out any pleas for help, so I’m stuck until the ride stops.

Five hours seems like a long time to be suspended in the air on a hot summer day, but God reminded me that it’s much worse for my heart to be left hanging by a thread. My heart broke when I heard Robin Williams committed suicide last night.  I imagine he simply saw it as a way to escape. I’ve been tempted to escape myself rather than allowing God to rescue my heart.

Pain will always come with living and loving, and no one understands that better than God. My heart stopped in a very dangerous curve this weekend, and I found myself screaming for the ride to stop and for someone to get me off the roller coaster. God bid me to take His hand and trust Him to rescue my heart.

What’s great for a carnival ride isn’t necessarily great for a heart. The word carnival gets its meaning from the 1540’s when folks would make merry before Lent. It literally means “flesh, farewell.” Staying on the coaster is staying in the flesh and enjoying the thrill that comes from all those unnatural highs and lows that come with the flesh. Spirit offers a very different high which lasts longer and is much stronger than the flesh. God made it clear that the ride He has in mind for my heart is much better than anything I can imagine on my own, and His rescues are always better than my escape plans.

I know it will take some time for my heart to make the transition God desires, but I also know His transformation will be just what my heart needs. While my heart heals, I plan to keep the promise He makes in Psalm 30:5 very near my heart.

“weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” NIV


Tears of a Clown

Robin Williams
The world lost one of its greatest comedians when Robin Williams lost his battle with depression today. My heart hurt when I heard the news, and I thought back to a song that touched my heart back in 1967. “Tears of a Clown” was a number one hit in both the US and England. I could relate to the lyrics and sang it at least a thousand times while in high school. I still find myself singing it when the world gets me down.

In case you aren’t familiar with the song, here are the lyrics written by Smokey Robinson to go with music scored by Stevie Wonder.

“Now if there’s a smile on my face
It’s only there trying to fool the public
But when it comes down to fooling you
Now honey that’s quite a different subject
But don’t let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
Really I’m sad, oh I’m sadder than sad
You’re gone and I’m hurtin’ so bad
Like a clown I pretend to be glad

Now there’s some sad things known to man
But ain’t too much sadder than
The tears of a clown, when there’s no one around
Uh hum, oh yeah baby

Now if I appear to be carefree
It’s only to camouflage my sadness
And honey to shield my pride I try
To cover this hurt with a show of gladness
But don’t let my show convince you
That I’ve been happy since you
Decided to go, oh I need you so
I’m hurt and I want you to know
But for others I put on a show, ooh yeah

{repeat CHORUS}

Just like Pagliacci did
I try to keep my surface hid
Smiling in the public eye
But in my lonely room I cry
The tears of a clown
When there’s no one around, oh yeah, baby baby
Now if there’s a smile on my face
Don’t let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
Don’t let this smile I wear
Make you think that I don’t care
When really I’m sad…I’m hurting so bad…”

Like Pagliacci, the cheers of the world encourage me to hide my hurt and forget my pain. I didn’t know Robin Williams personally, but I spent countless hours laughing with him. The mention of his name made me grin, and his movies made me laugh out loud each time I watched them. I hope I will continue to enjoy his incredible work, but I can’t help but cry tonight as I think of the pain he endured while keeping us laughing.

It’s not easy to keep the world happy, especially when your heart is broken. We all pretend to be glad when we are sad at some point in our lives, but for some it is a never-ending battle. I spent far too much of my life putting on a happy face and ended up missing a great deal because of it. I’m learning it’s best to be real and let people see my tears. When I do, I find that hurt is part of everyone’s journey. I’m learning to cry out to and with others, and it’s changing my heart.

There is truly nothing sadder than the tears of a clown, especially when those tears flood the soul and stop the heart. I have known deep sadness in my life, and I’ve considered death as an escape twice. I thank God that I did not end up drowning in my sorrow either time. I’m learning to let others know when I’m hurting or tired or need a hand. Having loving friends and family who hear my heart and love me as I am makes all the difference. I wish that were true for all who face deep sadness or battle depression. I pray I will look more deeply into the hearts of those I love and look more closely into their eyes to see if there is a tear hiding behind their smile.

Offer Up the Ordinary

I’ve been studying Romans 12 this week, and I love the way Eugene Peterson translates verses one and two in The Message.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

I love the idea of offering my ordinary life to God. My “sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life” is virtually all of my life. When I think about how much of my life is ordinary, I’m humbled by these verses. I love gathering for worship or doing something special, but I realized today that my relationship with God or with anyone is rooted in loving them in ordinary ways.

The kids went off on an adventure, so I was home alone today. I was feeling left out and a little sad at first, but I thought about Romans 12 and decided to be grateful for an ordinary day and give it to God. It was a quiet day filled with peace. Some might call it boring, but I found it to be a beautiful blessing. I swam alone, walked alone, ate alone, and read alone. It was wonderful!

God taught an important lesson today as I realized there are far worse things than being alone. It was nice to have my attention fixed upon God. I was able to see and hear things I don’t notice when busyness surrounds me. The birds, frogs, crickets, and the doggies were great company today. I felt the stress and the mess melt away with each chirp and croak. It was so freeing to relax and let go. I gave God my attention, and He bid me to stop and enjoy what I miss when I’m getting and doing.

Being part of Christ’s body is about being who I’m meant to be. Trying to be something I’m not or comparing myself with others causes me to miss the simple beauty of simply being. God gave me something extraordinary today, and that’s what He will do everyday if I’ll fix my attention on Him and offer Him my ordinary.

Bathing Suits & Boots :)

bathing-suits-and-boots.jpgDuring a sudden downpour yesterday afternoon, I caught myself daydreaming about playing in the rain. Mama used to let us play in the puddles after a hard rain, and she also told us stories about washing her hair in rainwater. I had the sudden urge to go outside and wash my hair in the rain. I was contemplating getting up and heading outside when a commotion outside my door brought me back to reality.

I got up to see what was going on and met the girls coming down the stairs in their birthday suits. They wanted me to help them get into their bathing suits quickly because mommy said they could play outside in the rain. I asked if I could play with them. They squealed with delight and said, “SURE!!!”

I got them ready and told them I would get on my suit and meet them upstairs. As I was heading up, they were heading back down. They needed boots for puddle jumping. Of course they did! I should have thought of that myself. In fact, I should have thought of going outside in the first place and invited them to go out with me!

We jumped in puddles, ran through the little river running down the drive, and got soaked from our heads to our toes. I can’t remember ever feeling as free as I did while we were holding hands and jumping in puddles.  Lillyann made the biggest splashes because she strategically located herself right in front of the deepest water. She swam in the deep end of the pool without help for the first time earlier in the day, so it was truly a wonderful day in the water. Her confidence level was peaking yesterday, and her spirit was soaring. Playing in the rain was icing on the cake for all of us as Lillyann took a big girl step forward, and Gigi took a giant leap back in time. Mylah got caught up in all the excitement and loved every moment.

Rain usually makes me sad and reminds me of difficult times. Having someone who understands my heart is having someone with whom I can watch the rain. I realized yesterday that it’s also nice to play in the rain with those who hear and see the kid in me. The girls definitely do that, and they help me hear and see her too. I love that about them.

Taking myself too seriously is a most serious sin. It bogs down my heart and keeps me from being who God created me to be. It was very freeing to let silliness have its way with me for a while yesterday, I needed to play in the rain with someone, and God gave me the perfect playmates. I know He was enjoying our laughter even more than we were, and that’s what I love most about Him 🙂

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