Love and Balance

Love and balance go together. Finding the center, where God’s love abides, keeps my heart in balance. Pastor John shared his work on intersections with me, and it became the framework God used to teach a lesson in balance.  I’ve missed the mark and lost my balance when it comes to love.  I’ve never been treated like a bride, but I realize that’s because I’ve never seen myself as one.  The first step to being seen differently is to see yourself differently.  As God changes me, I’m beginning to see myself as He does.  God used an evening gown to show me that I am not only a bride, but also His beautiful daughter.  I’ve never felt as balanced or beautiful in my life as I did when I put on that dress! I love it when God uses visual aids and props to get His message across, and He used both with this lesson!

Balanced love and healthy relationships occur when I am centered. The center, or intersection as Pastor John would call it, is the destination. Getting close to God is essential, but if I get so close that I lose my connection to others and my sense of identity, then I am lost. If I get so far into myself that I don’t need God, I lose my connection to Him and to others. The center is where God and I meet and is a place of peaceful balance. It allows me to love God, myself, and others in a way that brings wholeness. I know I will move up, down, right, and left as my heart navigates this journey, but understanding each level will help me stay balanced.

Listening to me is not the same as hearing my heart. God and those dearest to me hear my heart. I go to dear friends when my heart is hurting, and I go to God when I come to the end of my rope. He waits patiently, hears my cry, and wonders why I keep forgetting He is God and already knows the deepest desires of my heart. He helps me to search the depths of my heart where He waits for me. When I join Him there, He helps me reacquaint myself with all I have forgotten or perhaps never knew about myself and Him. That makes a difference in the way I see myself and allow myself to be treated.

God used a beautiful gown to help me see myself in a new light. A large part of the learning has been about loving who I am. What a revelation and transformation God made with my heart when I went for my fitting. I was alone when I tried on the dress. Rita ran to Michael’s and planned to be back before my fitting. As God would have it, Laura was finished early and ready for me forty-five minutes before my appointment.

Silly me had just learned from Rita that the alterations would run from $70 to $100 depending upon what had to be done, and Laura told me that it would take four weeks for the work to be completed. Once again, I felt stupid but gave it up to God and decided not to let it ruin my day. I was excited to try on the dress and felt just like Cinderella. I was a little sad that Rita wasn’t there; but God was, and Laura looked and behaved just like a fairy godmother. I’m sure that was intentional on God’s part:) I put on the dress and immediately felt beautiful. I didn’t have on any make-up, and my hair was wild-as usual! I went out to hear what had to be done to the dress and braced myself to hear how much it was going to cost me. I wish I had a photo of Laura’s sweet face when she looked at me in the dress. Her eyes lit up, she smiled sweetly and said, “I don’t need to do a thing to that dress! It’s perfect just as it is.” I could see and hear God and knew He was saying that He loved me just as I am.

I have never felt more beautiful in my life. It’s the way I should have felt on my own wedding day. I felt like a bride as I walked around with Laura looking for the perfect shawl. Folks from another wedding party were watching as she had me try on shawls and wraps and jackets. I could have kissed her when she said, “None of these will do!” Surprising, since she does work there and was speaking loudly enough for others to hear:) She looked me right in the eye and told me firmly, but lovingly, that I had to find a large scarf with black and tan and beige to match my shoes. I grinned and looked her in the eye and said, “Like the jacket you have on!” She looked down, laughed out loud and said, “Exactly!!”

It didn’t surprise me, but did catch Rita off guard when we walked into Dillard’s and saw the perfect scarf marked down from $28 to $8:) She said wow in a very quiet and very humble way. I looked up and said, “Thank you God:)” Before I went to bed, I just had to put the dress back on with the shawl. I had my computer out and decided to take a photo just to see how it looked. It was late, and I was ready for bed with my hair a mess and no make-up. What I saw surprised me even more than when I was in the shop with Laura. It was just God and me, and it was so sweet and intimate as He told me to look and see what He saw.  

In my living room all alone, I found the abandon to do just that.  All I could think was God truly has brought beauty from the ashes. Cinderella was appropriate in that her very name implies the ridicule she got from others for the ashes on her face. Ridicule for me has mostly come from me as I have allowed others to define me. God made Himself perfectly clear yesterday as He lovingly showed me Who He is and who I am. I saw myself in a new and beautiful light. I’m a bride, His bride, and He loves me. I best not forget that in the future. It was just what a daddy should make sure his beloved daughter understands before he gives her up to her groom.

I felt that for the first time in my life that evening, and it was transforming. God changed the way I saw myself, and He did it in the sweetest way ever. I love that my hair was disheveled, my face was scrubbed clean, and my feet were bare when I took the photo. Those who know and love me best know that is just the way I love to be. Suddenly, I felt changed from the inside out.  I know in the very depths of my being that it is not only okay to be the way I am; it is, as Laura and God reminded me, a perfect fit for me! I am His beloved and beautiful daughter. 

Here’s the photo I took with my computer:

Here are charts God helped me to fill in.  They helped me, and I pray they help you too.

 

Love & Balance

God

7 Know

6 See

5 Speak

Loves Too Freely              4 Experience Love              Refuses to Love

3 Do

2 Feel

1 Be

Self

*At level one, nothing but self matters. Love is about self, and I do not need God. There is satisfaction in that I don’t need anyone else. It is very satisfying, but very lonely.

*At level two, the connection is still about self, and sex is the way love is expressed. Lust is confused with love. Self is not as satisfied as I connect to others but expect them to make me feel good.

*At level three, the connection is fused and confused by doing. Enabling takes place. It is all about what I do for others. Love and action are confused. The satisfaction is about being needed, and that depends on others acknowledging my sacrifice. Self is not satisfied unless praised. Not really about others, and getting away from self.

*At level four, there is balance and self-differentiation. God, others, and self come together in a balanced mix. He is who He is, I am who I am, others are who they are, and love flows through all in a way that causes a close connection without fusing. Self and God are satisfied. It is a place of joy and peace.

*At level five, I put my feelings into words and express my love for God and others beautifully, but it is imbalanced because there is a distance between me and others. I’m closer to God but further from others. I talk about love, but I do not experience it as God desires. Self is becoming less important and is not satisfied.

*At level six, I see love in others, but I am more distant from them. I am closer to God and more in tune with Him. I feel very near. I have images and visions of His love, but love is not manifested in my life or self. I need others less and less and spend more time with God alone. Self is even less important and less satisfied.

*At level seven, I know God deeply and am in His presence in a powerful way. I feel one with Him but further and further away from others and self. I don’t want or need others, and I am lost in the process. It is a beautiful feeling, but a lonely one. Self isn’t important any more and is in the way. Not satisfied and frustrated with limitations of self.

Balanced love and healthy relationships occur when I am centered. The center, or intersection is the destination, not the top. Getting closer to God is essential, but if I get so close that I lose my connections to others and my sense of identity, then I am lost. If I get so far into myself that I don’t need God, I lose my connection to God and to others. The center is where He and I meet in perfect harmony and become one. That allows me to love Him, myself, and others with all my heart. I will move up, down, right, and left as my heart navigates this journey, but understanding each level will help me stay where God wants me to be.

Here’s another little chart that helps me stay balanced.

God

devotion

generosity love honesty

affection

Self

Love is a beautiful combination of generosity, affection, honesty, and devotion. God gives beautiful balance to our hearts by bringing us to the center where He resides♥

Motivation to Change

Change is a difficult challenge because it involves choice. Security and pride have kept me from embracing the change God desires for me. Surrendering starts the transformation, but getting to the place of surrender is the hard part.  

Security is linked to safety, and I cling to what I know in a desperate attempt to remain safe and secure. The irony is that my tendency to stick with the known threatens the very safety I was try to protect. When I settle, I lose sight of change. I’m afraid I’m guilty of doing that far too often.

To give God the chance to change me, I must first be willing to step out of my comfort zone. Rearrangement, not change, occurs when I refuse to make that move. Stepping into the unknown puts me in a prayerful state of mind and requires faith in God and a willingness to admit that I am not Him. That is exactly where I need to be, but as in so much of life, it’s that first step that keeps me from growing and changing as God desires.

Moving away from the comfort of what I know is very difficult, even when I know is wrong and is hurting me. I stay in a bad situation simply because I worry that I may end up in a worse one if I attempt to change. More often, I am simply afraid to admit that I am wrong. Do I think Christ whined to God when He left heaven to be my change? Can I imagine Christ wondering why I couldn’t just follow the law set down before me. Did he think it unfair because He had done nothing wrong and didn’t deserve to die for me? Would He have asked God to think of an easier way? I cannot imagine any of those scenarios. Christ knows better than I the difficulty of stepping out of a comfort zone. He left the beauty and security of God’s presence to make possible the single most powerful change ever. All the advancements made by man pale in comparison to the change that occurred when Christ returned to Heaven.

If Tim Cook came along and offered me a great deal on a new Mac or Donald Trump had insider information about a real estate deal, I would be all ears and willing to do whatever they suggested. Christ offers change that ensures more security than I can imagine, but I think it sounds too good to be true. Besides, I don’t deserve it. I am right on both counts, and that’s what makes His change so amazing.

God asks me to surrender and trust Him. I have to let go of what I know in order to do that. Giving up control requires faith. I would rather go in circles for decades than admit to God that I need His help. I find legitimate excuses for not changing, but God answers each with His patient love and His fervent desire for me to love Him.

When I stop struggling and surrender, God is faithful to lift my burden and lighten my spirit. What a beautiful release it is to let go and trust Him with my transformation.  I would never step off a plane in Hong Kong, signal a taxi, and tell the driver to move over and let me drive. That would be ridiculous, but I do worse each time I set out on my own and leave God on the passenger side.

Several years ago, I was in San Francisco and went to Chinatown. It was Chinese New Year, and I got caught up in a group of revelers dressed in a large red dragon costume. They were setting off firecrackers in front of each store so the owners would have good luck in the coming year. I began to panic as the firecrackers got closer and the dragon cut me off from my friends. I lost sight of my colleagues in a sea of foreign faces and began to panic. When faced with danger or lost, I cry out for help. When in a ditch, I am much more open to help or advice. The challenge of change is to have that attitude before I become lost or in a ditch. Successful people know the importance of change, but Christ asks for surrender, something successful people do not find as comfortable. Pride must go before a change, and that’s the problem.

Like a child in the backseat, I bombard God with questions as I surrender. When will I get there? How much longer before I can stop? Do you know where I am? Am I there yet? I’m hungry! I’m lonely! I’ve done a great deal of backseat driving during my life and am amazed God hasn’t pulled over and thrown me out. The good news is that He has infinite patience and will wait for me to accept the changes He has in mind. The incredible thing about God is that He could very easily take control, but He loves me too much to do that. If I think of the second ‘c’ in chance as my need to control and change that ‘c’ to a ‘g’ which represents God, then I’ll find that giving up control is not as hard as I thought. When I take a chance, God will make a change.

Pride keeps me from giving God the chance to change me. The Israelites were moaning and groaning about how good things used to be and worrying about their problems. Boy, does that sound familiar. Memory is an odd thing, and studies tell me that I have selective memory when it comes to my past. What I remember is very often not the way it actually happened. If I am looking for excuses, I remember the bad and blame others. If I fear change, I remember the good and leave well enough alone. Pride hides itself in words like tradition and esteem if I am not careful, and fear forces me to forget my faith in God.

Six years ago, one of my third grade Sunday School students taught an important lesson. We were studying God’s power to protect, and they were making little shields to demonstrate that God can protect us from everything. I ended the lesson with a question that would allow the students to recount what they had learned. I asked, “Is there anything that God cannot protect us from?” I knew the answer to that question and waited for them to respond. I looked at the sweet faces sitting around the table and waited for the long, enthusiastic “NOOOOO!!!” I knew was coming.

When Salina’s serious little yes came unexpectedly from my left, I did what any master teacher would do in that situation. I asked her to explain so I could quickly reassure her that God could protect her from whatever it was that concerned her. She very quietly and seriously said that God would not protect us from saying no to Him. You could hear a pin drop in the room as the students and I pondered her response. All eyes were focused on me at that moment, and I did what a teacher who is willing to learn from her students but wanted to save face would do, I pretended her answer was just the one I was looking for:) I said, “EXACTLY!”

My need for security, my inability to give up control, and my pride will cause me to say no to God, and He will allow  me to do just that. Whatever my reasons and however right they may seem to me at the time, I can choose to say no to God. Transformation will only occur if I choose to give God the chance to make me who He created me to be.  I am so thankful He reminded me of that six years ago and more thankful He is still willing to remind me of that today. Lessons learned have to be revisited because change is ongoing, and I am learning that relearning is a big part of giving God the chance to change me:)

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!